Unstoppable Progressive Metal Machine
CoC chats with Mark Briody of Jag Panzer
by: Adrian Bromley
A few years back, Colorado progressive metal act Jag Panzer were but a distant memory in the metal lore books with their classic album _Ample Destruction_ (1984) serving as a collector's item for metal fans.

Then in 1997, things changed. The band re-grouped, signed to Century Media Records, released the well-received _The Fourth Judgement_, and they haven't looked back since, releasing _The Age of Mastery_ in 1998, _Thane to the Throne_ in 2000 and now their latest effort in 2001, titled _Mechanized Warfare_. Does it ever stop? What is the secret to this resurgence in making music for the band?

It is Jag Panzer guitarist Mark Briody down the line from his home in Colorado who will answer CoC's questions.

He begins: "We always figure that the best time to put out a record -- when you know it is time to do so -- is when all the songs are written and in place. We don't get any pressure from the record label and we try not to put any on ourselves as well", he says. "Making records has become a lot easier for us because there are less and less obstacles with every release. Nowadays we know the label is going to be behind it, and we know what kind of budget we'll be getting. We also are really comfortable with our producer, as well as we have had the same line-up [completed by bassist John Tetley, singer Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin, drummer Rikard Stjernquist and guitarist Chris Broderick -- Adrian] for the last little while. It is getting easier to write songs in this environment and I think that shows up in the material we are currently doing."

What was the recording experience like for the band this time around?

"It was really exciting. It is getting to the point that everything I hear in my head we can get down on CD. It is getting to the point that if I want a giant choir to sound a certain way, we can make it happen", says Briody with excitement in his voice. "Even with the electric or acoustic guitar, I know I can try certain sounds and ideas and be able to capture that idea on record. It used to be a real strain in the past to not be able to get certain things down because of lack of experience or what have you. Now it is all working out great."

"Making a record is a fun thing for us, but it is a lot of hard work", says Briody about the creativity that went into the new disc. "The songs on this record are here because of a process of elimination. I usually throw out about 90% of the material I am working on. I just toss it all out. I bring the ideas to Harry [singer] and we discuss, and sometimes he throws it out if he thinks it doesn't work. Once both of us have settled on a sound or idea that will work for us, we introduce it to the rest of the band. Rarely, but occasionally, they'll toss out ideas. By the time we get to the ten or eleven songs that will appear on the new record, it has been through the hands of five people who looked it over and made comments and felt that it was worthy of being on the new disc."

He continues, "After all of that, we usually bring the ideas to Jim Morris [producer] and he offers up some suggestions of what we can do with the music. His expertise really helps make our music look better than it already is."

About the new recording, Briody comments, "I think as a whole this is by far our best record. I think there is so much variety on this record. A lot of people have pointed out to me that there is so much more variety on this record than past Jag Panzer albums. Both Harry and I have discussed all of these new harmonies and melodies for this record and how we wanted to let new ideas in. I think the whole variety, within the solid framework of a heavy metal album, makes this a great disc and really shows our progression as a band."

The topic shifts to the album title, _Mechanized Warfare_ -- an unusual title seeing that Jag Panzer seems to have always dabbled into a fantasy title or theme. Is the band becoming more modern?

He responds, "There really is no reason at all. We wanted to do something completely different from _Thane to the Throne_, which was so conceptual-filled, that we decided that this would be the anti-concept. So we purposely decided to come up with a title that had nothing to do with the songs and nothing to do with the album cover. We just assembled two different phrases that some people had used to describe out live show. One person said that our music sounds so tight that it sounds mechanized, while someone else said "you kicked my ass live, it was audio warfare". So that was the basis behind the title, really. It was something far different from what was inside."

And Travis Smith (Nevermore, Opeth) did the cover artwork. It looks cool and creepy.

"Yeah, he did a great job. I really like the cover a lot. I never want to be one of those bands where you can predict what the next album will sound like or what the next album cover will look like. There are a lot of heavy metal bands out there that I like that I look at their album cover and I know what the album will be like. I don't want that with Jag Panzer."

Briody and his band mates know that they are very lucky to be in this situation: a record deal and a growing fan base. What does he credit the band's success to, especially over the last five years?

"It is very exciting to know that our fan base is growing and to see all of these young kids so into our band. I know a lot of people may not know our music, but they know the name. Every album we are getting more fans, both young and old, coming to our shows and supporting what we do. It feels great to see all of this happening before our eyes."

"I think we have just been very fortunate as a band. We got a second chance and we went for it", adds the guitar player. "We are also very lucky that there is no fighting amongst band members. We have made an effort to avoid in-house fighting and make sure the music is the main focus with what Jag Panzer does."

"I feel very lucky to be in this situation, being able to make music and tour and what have you. This is a great thing to be a part of. I think for me personally, the ability for me to be able to throw ideas has allowed me to stay in this business for so long. I know, when I am making music, if it sounds too close to what I have done already I throw it away. I write all the time. I also enjoy recording a lot and enjoy working with new technology. That keeps me interested too. I like being able to try new ideas and see what we can do as a band."

"The way you record music now is very different from how I did when I was a teenager", explains Briody. "It is still really exciting for me to work with a digital recorder. I am like a kid in the candy store with all of the new technology being brought into the studio for us to work with."

He ends, "Every record is so fun because we have so much at our disposal. There is so much we can do to help make Jag Panzer a better sounding band. Right now I don't think I could be any more excited."

(article submitted 19/10/2001)


CHATS
8/12/2000 A Bromley Jag Panzer: Staging a New Sound
11/19/1998 A Bromley Jag Panzer: Mastering Their Metal
ALBUMS
8/12/2000 A Bromley 8 Jag Panzer - Thane to the Throne
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