HomeInterviewsChris Jericho on 'Father Christmas,' Juvenile Diabetes, AEW, Fozzy & Kevin Smith

Chris Jericho on ‘Father Christmas,’ Juvenile Diabetes, AEW, Fozzy & Kevin Smith

Photo Credit: Adrienne-Beacco

Wrestler. Rockstar. Podcaster. Actor. Le Champion. Purveyor of the Bubbly.

Chris Jericho has a plethora of accolades, accomplishments, and nicknames to hang his near three decade career on. However, this Christmas, it’s not about titles, film credits, sold-out cruises, or world tours — it’s about the true spirit of the holiday.

Right before Thanksgiving, Jericho released a cover of The Kinks’ Christmas classic, ‘Father Christmas.’ The song isn’t meant to be a cash grab, or some campy cover for evergreen radio play — it was done for a cause extremely close to the father of three. All proceeds from the song will directly being the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a cause Jericho has worked with for years, as both his son and daughter have Type 1 Diabetes.

During this interview it became fairly evident how important fatherhood is to what some may consider of the busiest men in the entertainment business. We spoke numerous times throughout the day as he was anxiously awaiting for the results of his son’s driver’s test, If you’re wondering, yes he did pass, and you could literally the joy and relief in his voice knowing his son got a license. So, it makes all the sense in the world that Jericho would be doing something charitable with his talent for the Christmas season for JDRF.

In this interview, Le Champion spoke at length with Pop Break about his reason for covering the Kinks classic, the misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes, new music coming from Fozzy, the sold-out second voyage of the Jericho Cruise, All Elite Wrestling, working with Kevin Smith, and ultimately what his perfect day off is like.

You released a cover of The Kinks ‘Father Christmas’ for the holidays. All the proceeds for the song will be going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. What was the motivating factor to do this cover? Was it a matter of you always wanted to do a Christmas song, and thought ‘Hey why not give the money to charity?’ or was it more of a collaborative effort between you and the JRDF?

Chris Jericho: I had been thinking about doing a Christmas song for a while because it’s one of those things where you’re guaranteed airplay every year. There’s only a half dozen great rock ‘n’ roll Christmas songs and I thought it’d be something to do. So I brought the idea to the guys in Fozzy. We’re working on a new album right now. We’re writing and recording, and the guys didn’t think we’d have enough time to do it. I was like ‘Well, I’m not writing or recording right now. So I’ll do it myself.’ So I got together with a bunch of friends from Tampa who are great musicians [who would become “The Christmas Helves”]. So, it’d be a Chris Jericho solo thing which I thought it would be a fun thing to do, and a very Jericho-esque thing to do.

I always loved ‘Father Christmas.’ I always loved ’70s Kinks. I thought they were always underrated when it comes to bands from the ’60s that have that longevity like The Stones and The Who, and The Beatles. People kind of forget about The Kinks. So, I thought it was a perfect time [to do the song] to keep the momentum, bridging the gap between the Judas album and the ‘Nowhere to Run’ single which is currently in the Top 20 and then do the Chris Jericho solo song. So this keeps things moving along and forward until the new Fozzy album comes out.

As stated before, this song is benefitting childhood and Type 1 diabetes research. I believe there’s a lot of misconceptions about diabetes. Most people just assume, and I’m someone with Type 2 myself, that if have you diabetes you just ate a bunch of sugar and lead a sedentary lifestyle, and that’s it’s on you for getting diabetes. However, you’re a father of two children with Type 1. Talk about how important it is to fund research for Type 1, and how this disease impacts a child’s life.

Chris Jericho: Diabetes is a disease that everybody knows, but no one knows until they have to deal with it. It’s not just someone who ate too much sugar or isn’t in good shape. It just happens. When it does happen and you get it, it’s not like Type 2. People will say ‘Oh my grandma has diabetes.’ Well, it’s not the same thing. With Type 1 your pancreas is dead, it’s shut down. You don’t have an organ that creates insulin, so everyday you have to take insulin. Every day, every minute it’s “check your blood sugar, what’s your blood type, what’s going on?’ There’s a lot of technology where you can monitor it — 24/7 I know exactly the blood sugar for my daughter and my son via an app on my phone. But it never ends.

Is it a terminal disease? It could be. But is it something with a lot of advancing technologies going on? Absolutely. I actually think there is a real good chance they’re going to find a cure for this. So I’m doing this song for Christmas, and I don’t know how much money a cover song is going to generate. But whatever it generates, I don’t need the money in my pocket, so let’s put it out there to JDRF. More importantly it fits with the Christmas spirit. If you decide to buy it the money is going to the right place. If you stream it, it generates revenue. I think it’s a good mix, it’s a good look, and it means more to me because we’re affected directly by Type 1 diabetes.

Christmas songs are a strange animal. They’re usually either wildly cheesy, or a blatant cash grab done by a popular artist or group. You said not long ago if “I hear ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ one more time, I’m gonna stuff myself down a chimney.” What do you think is the secret sauce to create a great Christmas song?

Chris Jericho: McCartney can get away with it. ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ is so cheesy but it’s such an ear worm because it’s so catchy. Lennon called it one Paul’s “granny songs” but it’s so fucking catchy. My point was, like you mentioned, it’s either an all-star line up of guys from different bands doing a Christmas song, or a carol you’ve known for years like ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Springsteen. But to write an original Christmas tune is a very rare thing. There’s a few original Christmas tunes I listen to — ‘Father Christmas,’ and Stryper has one called ‘Reason for the Season.’ I’m sure there’s other ones by Mariah Carey and Celine Dion but I’ll throw them down Santa’s chimney as well.

Like you said they are a strange animal. The fact ‘Father Christmas’ is an original Christmas song with great lyrics that still apply to this day. We don’t need presents, we need the money. Hey Father Christmas stop with your toy trains we need the cash because dad doesn’t have a job. There’s some real emotional and social things going on as well. It fit the mold and fit the vibe of what I wanted to do. But, you’re right there isn’t a lot of choices. This is my choice for now. Someone asked me earlier if I’d do more Christmas songs, and I said I would if I could find them. I might have to resort to doing heavy rock version of ‘Wonderful Christmas Time.’

You mentioned Fozzy is in the studio right now working on a new record. Can you let us in on how this new album will differ from Judas, or will this be an extension of what we heard on that record, which was a huge breakout for Fozzy?

Chris Jericho: ‘Judas’ was the quintessential, proverbial very important hit song and once you get that it blows the doors off. ‘Judas’ was Fozzy’s coming out party. We followed that up with ‘Painless’ and ‘Burn Me Up’ and now ‘Nowhere to Run.’ Throw in ‘Lights Go Out’ and that’s five consecutive Top 30 songs, four consecutive Top 20s in the past two years.

[The new album] is a little dancier , but it’s still very hooky. Most songs have two hooks, we have the secret third hook. It’s like the old Def Leppard trick where there’s a hook, another hook, and another hook. We’re working with Johnny Andrews who’s worked with Three Days Grace, and Halestorm, and bands like those that have hit song after hit song. Once we started working with him we realized what we do well. We realized we realized we’re heavy band — not too heavy, not too thrashy — and there’s also a groove, and it’s dark. There’s dark tones, dark lyrics.

I used to write all the lyrics, now John is because he’s much better at it. Once again when you’re working Johnny and Rich Ward and the other songwriters in the band — let those guys do their thing. We’ve got a very strong songwriting team. I don’t need my ego stroked or my name in the liner notes because I wrote a lyric to a song. [Before] I wrote the lyrics because I was the best lyric writer in the group, now Johnny writes the lyrics to the song because he’s the best, and it’s amazing. What’s most important is what’s best for the song, what’s best for the band. So far it’s been really great for us.

It’s been really cool to see the evolution of the band through the songwriting team of Johnny and Rich. I think you’re going to get an extension of Judas [with the new album]. Do You Wanna Start a War? was getting us there and Judas really nailed it. Judas was the getting to know you period for Johnny, Rich, and I and now that we’re familiar with each other we’re taking it to the next level. Like I said, ‘Nowhere to Run’ is great. I’ve heard two other songs [off the new album] and they’re great.

You’re a man who wears many hats — wrestler, musician, actor, podcaster, and of course, cruise curator/creator. Congratulations on a sold-out Chris Jericho’s Rock and Wrestling Rager at Sea: Part Deux: The Second Wave. What was something you took from the maiden voyage and applied to the second cruise to bring it to a sell-out?

Chris Jericho: It’s more of the same because there’s a little bit more of a formula. We didn’t know how the first one was going to exactly work out. I just wanted it to be a representative of what I’m interested in. We did the  KISS Cruise and when I was finished with the cruise, I said, ‘Man, I can do my own.’ And what am I known for? Music and wrestling. There has never been a combination of those two before. There’s guys that have dabbled in both but this kind of is what I’m known for. So it took me three years to get the cruise up and running. The crew et cetera, et cetera. And then what do you do on it? You’ve got music, wrestling, there’s comedians, there’s live podcasts, there’s paranormal stuff.

I was really impressed with the KISS Cruise on just how much stuff there was to do. It’s almost like you can’t actually do everything that you want and that’s what I wanted to with cruise one. And it really worked. There’s a couple of things here and there to tighten up. There’s things that you don’t really foresee as far as the amount of people waiting in line for autographs and that sort of stuff. But all that was kind of a trial run. Now that we have one under our belts so the second one’s going to be much smoother. I think because the first one went so well, that’s the reason why this one sold out four months in advance. People didn’t want to miss out this time as it was just going to continue to grow.

This is not just a one and done thing, the goal is to create an annual destination vacation where you could have a real sense of community. That’s something I saw with the KISS Cruise you get people that are coming every year just like the Superbowl or WrestleMania — they don’t even care who’s on the show. They just know it’s going to be fun. They don’t care who’s on the boat, what combination of whatever.

How wild is it that you’re going to have an episode of AEW Dynamite coming from the, from the boat. I think is the first time we’ll see a nationally televised wrestling show from a boat.

Chris Jericho: We filmed some of the matches last year, put it on PPV, and the look of it was so unbelievable. Like you mentioned, you’re not going to see a wrestling show like this anywhere else. When I started with AEW one of my goals was to keep [the Jericho Cruise live wrestling show] alive. I think with the first one we’ll tape it, and then I think the idea for cruise three is to actually do it live from wherever we happen to be. It’s just one of those things that makes AEW cooler, by getting out of the area. The boat holds 2,500 people. It looks incredible when you see all these guys and girls working in the ring in front of thousands of people on a cruise ship. It’s another really a unique thing about the Jericho cruise and with AEW it’s a perfect mix. Once again, for me, I hope we can make it an annual event for AEW as well.

Photo Courtesy of TNT & All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling has been the talk of the wrestling world in 2019, and personally speaking I can say I’m a fan. Myself like many other wrestling fans find ourselves glued to the television every Wednesday night, and it’s really sparked a new found love for pro wrestling. You’re a big part of that, especially with your mic work. Your promo with Scorpio Sky a few weeks back made me realize I needed that match in my life immediately.

Chris Jericho: Well that’s cool for you to say that, and thank you. I think the reason for that is it’s organic. There’s no sitting in meetings for hours coming up with a story; it’s just basic things and a kernel of an idea here and another there. We’re making stars here. You mentioned with the Scorpio Sky, and maybe you didn’t even know you wanted that match  until we made it happen.

There’s a lot of guys out there that we’ve already started to build like Darby Allin, Scorpio Sky, Sammy Guevara, Santana, Ortiz, Jake Hager, and even Cody himself. He was never this popular…ever. And that’s just an eight weeks. Imagine what’s going to happen when we get another eight weeks under our belts. We need to make stars quickly because that’s how you build your company. I think we’ve done a great job of doing that so far and it’s just going to continue to grow the more time we have to show all these amazing talents. There’s a lot of people who’ve never seen [the majority of the roster] before and that’s going to change as people become more and more familiar with them.

You seem to be having a blast out there unless you are really great actor.

Chris Jericho: I’ve been doing this for a long time. The creative freedom is what the difference is. I loved working in WWE it was a lot of fun. But there was a lot of outside pressure — Vince’s system, the way he does thing and I get that and it’s great. With AEW I’m not saying everybody’s writing their own stuff, but I know I’m writing all my own stuff and not having it approved. Every once in a while Tony [Khan] will say he doesn’t like this or that, and sometimes I’ll say what I don’t like. Mostly it’s just guys working together putting the best show possible with zero real ego involved and no one’s going to change anything.

If I know the storyline is going to work after 29 years of doing it, I shouldn’t have to prove it to anybody. I shouldn’t have to pitch it to everybody. It’s just an idea. I think it’s going to work and that’s what we do. So I think that’s one of the reasons why AEW has been so successful because it’s very organic. The guys are in control of their own destinies as far as the stories we’re doing.

Being from New Jersey, it is by law that I ask you about your working relationship with one of our favorite sons, Kevin Smith. How was it working with Kevin Smith on Jay and Silent Bob Reboot?  That’s a big time movie, man. I know you’ve done other stuff like MacGruber, but like you seems like you and Kevin Smith like have a nice rapport.

Chris Jericho: We do. We’re very much kindred spirits. We’re pretty much the exact same age. I think he’s two or three months older than me. We have to same pop culture reference frame, the same attitude. It’s one of those things where we’ve done a few podcasts together. I came up with the idea to do a watch along of The Bad News Bears which is a movie that we both love. Kind of as a result of that he was filming a movie in Florida hasn’t come out called Kilroy Was Here. He just asked me if I wanted to do it. We’ve talked about doing a movie together but I thought it was a “Oh sure let’s do a movie together, or let’s do a record together.” I hear that all the time.

But when he actually said, “Do you want to do this movie?” I thought, great, it’s probably been a couple of lines or something. The part that he gave me, it’s a horror anthology,  the whole anthology is me. It’s all the lines and I didn’t even have to audition. He just said “I know you’re the right guy for this job” and we had such a great time doing it. He said, ‘You know, from now on, whenever I make a movie, you’re going to be in it.’ And, again, I was like, okay, cool. Once again, I hear that all the time and [then nothing comes of it].

Then one of the greatest professional days of my life happened when we were in New Zealand on tour with Fozzy. I got one email asking if we wanted to open a stadium show for Iron Maiden. Then about three hours later I got an email asking me if I wanted this part of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which was a very, very good part. You know at the credits for that film and it says, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Jericho, Val Kilmer. It’s like not bad, not bad at all. And it’s a great movie, probably my favorite or second favorite Kevin Smith film. And there’s the promise of being more with him. It is a big deal just to be involved with Kevin Smith, who I’ve been a fan of since 1996.

My final question is one I only asked Jon Bon Jovi back in 2005. But, since this interview has spanned a few sessions, and taken place while you’ve been on the phone in a DMV waiting area, and your car, I figured this would be a good time to break it out. You might be one the busiest humans alive. Some would say you’re a Renaissance Man, and please credit me when you use that in the ring. Jokes aside, what is the ultimate day off for Chris Jericho? One day that just makes you happy, and allows you to be you during your hectic schedule.

Chris Jericho: I’d be curious to hear his answer, but let me give you mine first. This is it. I got up this morning took my kids to school and then I went down to my sister-in-law who is a teacher and spoke to the kids because it was career day. I came back, picked up my kids from school because they had half day. I went with my son to his driver’s test and now I’m going home. I’m gonna do a little workout and hang out with my family tonight, watch a movie and, and that, that’s a great day off.

It’s not as rare [a day off] as it may seem and it’s true that sometimes I’m super busy. I mean this week [of the interview] I worked a day and a half. It just depends on what’s going on. But it’s pretty cool that the last year I can spend more time at home and still doing some great things business-wise. I always have my phone on and you can work from home now. You don’t have to ever leave and still get lots of stuff done. I mean, at any time of doing interviews for ‘Father Christmas,’ then doing some meetings for A Little Bit of the Bubbly. Doing the cruise stuff. Putting the next Fozzy tour and seeing who’s goning be joining us on the road. So all of that stuff is exciting, but most it was a couple of emails and a few phone calls here and there and most of the time just hang out at home. So that’s a good day off for me is the transition from work to just being with my family.

Jon Bon Jovi’s answer was, when he lived in New was drop his kids off at school. He’s like, go into Red Bank which was next to where he lived, go to Jack’s Record Shop and look at some music then hop over to Garmany, which is a clothing store, maybe pick up and pick up new jacket or new shirt. Then it was have a cheeseburger, go home, and see the kids.

Chris Jericho: That’s, I think most people that you talk to when they have a family and make their living on the road will say. The day offs are just staying at home and doing family stuff because  that’s just that dichotomy and it has to happen. You have to spend time doing that because you’re gone quite a bit. But having said that, I know people that also work 16 hours a day and come home and don’t see their kids at all. For me when I’m at home, I’m at home and I don’t go anywhere. My work is when I’m gone. So when I’m home I could actually just do home stuff.

‘Father Christmas’ by Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves is available for purchase and streaming. Click here to listen/buy. 

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


Comments are closed.

Most Recent

Stay Connected