Rich Ward: The Duke of Atlanta
Music Incider interviews Rich Ward -
Music Incider Magazine
The Duke? What the hell? The first time I saw Rich Ward he was with Sick Speed-this muscled guy with long blond hair flowing in the breeze, hot as hell. Playing hard thrash metal at Music Midtown. Then I did a little research, and BEFORE there was KORN there was a hip-hop metal outfit known as Stuck Mojo-a band from Atlanta that should have ruled that genre with an iron fist. -I did a little more research and found out about Fozzy and the WWE. Somebody made Ward a duke. Now we have a definitive salute to the seventies with My Kung Fu Is Good during a time when seventies funk is starting show in young bands like Diamond Nights. Rich Ward is arguably the most diverse musician that Atlanta has ever produced. With this interview-I have posted my Music Midtown pictures of Rich. Me, Rich Ward, and the eye of a big fucking thunderstorm-enjoy!
MI: What is your birthday?
Rich: January 16th.
MI: What inspired the new CD "My Kung Fu Is Good"?
Rich: I had this period of time where I had the Sick Speed band and Stuck Mojo and Fozzy and they were all trucking along and I was married and I felt like life was dealing me the good cards and then it all ended. After that I moved up to the North Georgia Mountains in a cabin atop a mountain and tried to figure out what happened. It was an early mid-life crisis for me.
MI: Who is playing with you on this new album?
Rich: My keyboard player is Eric Frampton, on guitar is Mike Martin, on drums is Bud Fontsere, and on bass is Shawn Delton.
MI: How did you get the nickname "The Duke"?
Rich: A German Metal magazine called "Rock Hard" did a big cover story on me in '96 and the one of the captions was "If Zakk Wylde is the King of Metal then certainly Rich is the Duke of Metal." After that the press started calling me The Duke in Europe.
MI: Do you ever see yourself working with 6 Speed or Stuck Mojo again?
Rich: Yeah I'm probably going to do another Stuck Mojo record. It's been enough time that all the ugly scabs have healed. We did some shows over in Europe and we got along great. As far as 6 Speed I don't have a need to do that band anymore because The Duke is the home for those type of melodic songs.
MI: Are you playing with Stuck Mojo at Music Midtown in Atlanta?
Rich: Oh yeah. They can't play without me.
MI: What is your favorite song to play off the new CD?
Rich: My favorite track is the opener "I Give To You" because it's a party song and it has a great vibe to it. It reminds me of the Elton John track Levon because it's a smile song. Even though there's a lot of melancholy tracks on the record it's always nice to get to a point in the set where you have a track where everyone is moving and swaying back and forth and smiles of faces. The lyrics on the song are really cool too.
MI: How did you end up on Eagle Rock?
Rich: That happened through my relationship with Rob Gills who is head of A&R there. He was a huge Mojo fan and he loved 6 speed. I've known him for years and he used to help do radio promotions for Stuck Mojo. He came to Atlanta and loved the album and took a copy and then we argued for 6 months back and forth until we both had a deal we could live with.
MI: How did you end up in the hands of Carol K?
Rich: I'd never met her before until Rob told me that she was the perfect lady for marketing press. He said she would understand where we were coming from and she would love where we were coming from.
MI: Tell us something that no one knows about you.
Rich: I don't smoke and I don't drink. I've never been drunk and I've never had a cigarette in my life. I don't go out to bard, I don't go see other bands, I'm just a recluse. I don't have a group of friends I go out and see football games with. I should probably look into having fun more often. I have this obsessive compulsive desire that every time I think maybe I should go see a movie I tell myself that's 3 hours I could be spending writing new songs for the new album.
MI: Do you have any messages for your fans in Atlanta?
Rich: This is where it all started for me and it all came out of here. When we started Stuck Mojo in Atlanta we didn't even think about getting a record deal. Our only goal was to get as many people to come to our shows as possible and to try and sell 20 T-shirts at a gig.
MI: Will you be playing Atlantis Music Conference?
Rich: We will be playing. I may have all three of my bands depending on how that works.
MI: How do you feel the music industry has changed over the years and how do you think it's been fair to you and other bands like yours?
Rich: Fair is a relative term... I know that certainly in the late 70's through the mid 80's music was not as homogenized as it is now. A&R guys took a little more risk back in those days. They were looking for bands they could build and bands that could do 7, 10, or 12 albums. Now a days they are looking for singles. The music business herds us around like sheep. One band becomes popular so all the labels scramble to sign bands that sound like the one that just broke. We have no individualism anymore.
MI: If you could change anything in the music industry what would it be?
Rich: The fact that there seems to be less risk taken on artists today. I'd like the music industry to stop treating every band like a box of cereal. They should be treated less like a product and more like an artist.
MI: What's the worst thing you've ever seen on the road?
Rich: The worst thing I've ever experienced was when we did a tour supporting Pantera in Europe. Mid-way through the tour I heard through our manager that there had been some fights between him and the record company about tour support and going back and forth. This all pre-dated cell phones in the mid 90's so I wasn't quite sure of what was going on. At the very end of the tour our record company guy came out and said that he was sick of us and was screaming calling our manager all kinds of names and he told us he wasn't going to provide the vans for us that we were to use to get from Dortmund, Germany to the London airport to catch our flight the next morning. My drummer and I had to end up hitchhiking all the way from Dortmund, Germany to London, England. We had no money in our pockets so we had to sneak onto the ferry to get across from France and we had to sneak onto a train.
MI: How did the death of Dimebag affect you?
Rich: It was terrible. Dime and I were good friends and I had a tremendous amount of respect for him. He was one of the good guys in the business. He was a good soul and he was one of the rare guys out there that has such a passion for music. Of all the jerks I've met over the years it seems ironic that someone would want to kill one of the nice guys in the business.
MI: What are you most proud in your life about?
Rich: I don't have anything specifically that I think I can say I'm proud of because I always feel like I can do better. Maybe the new Duke album is my proudest achievement because it was such a stretch for me.
MI: Do you have plans of bringing Stuck Mojo into Eagle Rock with you?
Rich: Probably so. They made an offer so that option is there. We're probably going to cement the deal sometime in mid-summer.
MI: Have you ever inhaled?
Rich: I have never inhaled.
MI: Where were you when 9-11 happened and how did it affect you?
Rich: I was at home sleeping and my phone kept ringing off the hook so I felt like there had to be something wrong. I was dreading picking up the phone. No one calls me at 9 in the morning because I'm a night owl so I just knew something wasn't right. Finally I answered the phone and it was my stage manager telling me to turn on the TV. I sat there staring at the TV feeling like I was watching a movie.
MI: If you could design a memorial for the victims of 9-11 what would it be?
Rich: Memorials are usually there not for the people who died but for the people who survived. I have no idea what it would feel like to have a family member die in something like that. I think the family's should have the say in what it is.
MI: If you were stuck on a desert island and could bring 1 person, 1 book, and 1 CD what would they be?
Rich: I'd have to bring my wife. For a movie I would bring Signs and as for an album I would bring Journey's greatest hits album or AC/DC Back In Black. The book I would bring is a book by a guy named Larry Elder called '10 Things You Can't Say In America'.
MI: Who were your musical influences growing up?
Rich: Iron Maiden, Elton John, The Who, Ozzy's first couple of records with Randy Rhodes, Hendrix, Queen, AC/DC... AC/DC albums were the ones I learned to play guitar to.
MI: What do you think of Six Feet Under's new Graveyard Classics 2 album?
Rich: I haven't heard it but I've read some reviews and heard it's great.
MI: Do you believe in psychics?
Rich: I do.
MI: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Rich: I have not. I'm looking forward to having one.
MI: What are your opinions on Bush?
Rich: I'm kind of lukewarm on Bush. I don't dislike him but he's not my favorite guy. The reason he's not is because I think he's handled a couple of things wrong. He hasn't stood his ground on some things and I'm a big fan of politicians who stand their ground. He's not my boy but John Kerry wasn't my boy either. As a person I like Bush. He seems to be a regular guy. It's the toughest job in the world to be the President because you can never do anything right. There's always the other side throwing stones.
MI: What do you think about the Masquerade closing here in Atlanta?
Rich: It makes me sad. That was one of my buildings. We came up trough the Rec Room then to the Cotton Club and then to the Masquerade. I wonder where the bands are going to play now.
MI: What's the story on how you ended up playing bass?
Rich: A guy down the block taught me how to play. I didn't select the instrument, the instrument selected me.
MI: What is the worst job you've ever had?
Rich: Playing in a band.
MI: If a genie came to you and granted you three wishes what would they be?
Rich: That it was the reverse on a diet... That you could lose weight eating cheese cake and you would gain weight if you ate broccoli. My second wish would be that I could sing higher. It's like being a basketball player at 5'9... You just can't dunk it. Three, I would like to have grown up 20 or 30 years earlier to experience the music.
MI: How did you end up on WWE?
Rich: It was a weird and bizarre set of circumstances. Back when Stuck Mojo was trying to figure out how to market ourselves to a different audience we were sitting in hotel room watching wrestling and in the crowd we saw people wearing Metallica T-shirts and Pantera T-shirts. So I figured we would hook up with some of the wrestling people and do a video and through that it snowballed.
MI: If you were not a musician what do you think you would be doing?
Rich: Maybe a race car driver. I'm into racing.
MI: When you're not at home being a recluse what do you do?
Rich: I'm a movie guy, I love movies. I'm not a one genre kind of guy. I like all kinds of film. It helps me to escape into a different world.
MI: What do you think about the old MTV compared to the new MTV?
Rich: They played videos when we were growing up. It actually had something to do with music. Now a days it's a bunch of goofy shows.
MI: Who do you think the best musician and band of all time is?
Rich: Freddie Mercury from Queen. Peter Gabriel or Sting or Elton John.
MI: Do you play anything besides bass?
Rich: I play guitar, keyboards, and I work my way around most any instrument. I'm not good at any of it though.
MI: If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Rich: Steve Perry from Journey.
MI: If you had a million dollars to give to charity which one would it be?
Rich: Probably one for child's illnesses. I'd like to put myself into a time where I could volunteer and put some man hours into it.
MI: Do you believe in reincarnation?
Rich: I do.
MI: What do you think you were in your past life?
Rich: I don't know. I feel for sure I've already experienced to drug and alcohol part of things because I have a weird aversion to it.
MI: What do you listen to when you drive around in your car?
Rich: Talk radio.
MI: Do you cook?
Rich: I do but I'm not very good at it. The only thing I'm good at is pasts sauces. I love creating my own pasta sauces from scratch.
MI: If you were God for a week what would you change?
Rich: That's heavy duty. I would help people make decisions with their brains instead of their emotional side.
MI: Who would you compare your playing style and vocals to?
Rich: Angus Young as a guitar player. Singing wise someone like Billy Joel.
MI: Name four of your favorite guitar players.
Rich: Eddie Van Halen, Neil Shawn, Angus Young, and Zakk Wylde.
MI: If you could open for anyone who would it be?
Rich: I'd have to say a reunited Journey with Steve Perry but if not I'll take Queen with Paul Rogers fronting it.
MI: Who is your favorite book writer?
Rich: I would go with Larry Elder.
MI: Who is your favorite song writer?
Rich: Elton John.
MI: If you were a super hero who would you want to be?
Rich: Hong Kong Fui.
MI: What is your favorite thing in the world to do?
Rich: I don't really enjoy anything more in the world than playing music and song writing. The process of starting with nothing and creating a song is my favorite thing in the whole world.
MI: You have Stuck Mojo, Fozzy, 6 Speed, and The Duke. How were they all born?
Rich: They were all pretty much accidents. None of them are contrived. They all started as a thought and a concept and were born from the method of trial and error.
MI: How did you get Chris Jericho into Fozzy?
Rich: We became friends and it evolved out of a friendship. He plays bass and sings and we decided to get together and jam and that was the catalyst from it.
MI: If you could bring back anyone from the dead who would it be?
Rich: Freddie Mercury because I never got a chance to see him play live. I never saw Queen. Even bolder than that, it would be cool to bring back one of the original founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin who had some great ideas and were willing to take risks and do what's best for the country.
MI: You've just taken a giant step in your career, what do your parents think of this?
Rich: They don't care for what I do.
MI: What are your wildest dreams for your future?
Rich: I'm not a much of a dreamer. I don't spend any time at all thinking about what it would be like to do this or what it would be like to do that. I'm much more in the now. Like Yoda said, "Never spend time thinking about what he was doing." That's kind of my life, focusing in on what I'm doing right now and how I can become better.
MI: How did you get John Stringer to do backup vocals on your new album?
Rich: We all know each other. Everybody knows each other. I wanted a guy who had a soulful type voice to help me do some backup vocals. I'm a big fan of some of these 70's rock bands that when you hear the harmonies it's not the lead singer harmonizing with himself. It's other people so it creates a denser fabric.
MI: Do you feel like American news is more honest or over seas news is more honest?
Rich: American news. Even though I feel like American news is dishonest a lot I also feel like there's even more propaganda in the news over seas. European news is extremely biased. I guess it's one of those things that depends on what side of the fence you sit on. If you're conservative you think Fox is telling the truth and if you're liberal you think CNN is telling the truth. Everybody has a slant. Journalists are no different than you and I in that they see the world a certain way and they will cover the news to reflect the way they see the world.
MI: I heard you're going on tour. Are you going to be using Stuck Mojo as your backup band?
Rich: I use some of the same players. The bass player and the drum player are with me in The Duke that back me up when I sing.
MI: Do you have a message for your fans?
Rich: Without them I'm working at Taco Bell. Praise God thank you very much.
MI: What is your favorite quote of all time?
Rich: Don't try just do.
MI: If there was a movie made of your life who would you want to play you and what would the theme song be?
Rich: I'd let Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden sing the theme song and I'd have Arnold Schwarzenegger act as me.
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