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Into The Hallowed with Jag Panzer

Into The Hallowed with Jag Panzer

Photo by Randall Fishburn Jr

Into The Hallowed with Jag Panzer

Legendary American stalwarts Jag Panzer come raging back with their 11th studio endeavor of unrelenting and unapologetic heavy metal!  Entitled The Hallowed, Jag Panzer present a powerful concept album of absolutely epic proportions!  Now available from the Atomic Fire Records compound, The Hallowed is sure to enrapture all types of music fans looking for a thrilling auditory adventure.  Highwire Daze recently interviewed guitarist Mark Briody to discuss the concepts behind The Hallowed, upcoming live dates in Europe and the States, their new guitarist Ken Rodarte – and many other topics regarding the glorious legacy of the mighty Jag Panzer.  Read on!

We are here with Mark from Jag Panzer. Is there any overall story concept behind the album titled “The Hallowed”?
It is a concept album. And let me see if I can quickly put it in a nutshell here. It’s a group of people trying to survive in a frozen, post-apocalyptic world, and they’ve got a team of animals with them that do things like content surveillance. They’re trained animals and they’re searching for a place of warmth called “The Hallowed” that they don’t know if it exists or not. The album is told from the perspective of the animals. And then that came out with a companion comic book, which tells the same story but from the viewpoint of the humans.

Your new guitarist, Ken Rodarte, tell me a little about him and his background.
Well, he’s been with us for 5 years. He just joined the band officially, but he’s been our touring guy for several years. We had some tours lined up 5 years ago when we were looking for a touring guy, and his name kept coming up. We didn’t know him, but our drummer happened to live nearby. They hooked up and went out for a beer and got along really well. He heard Ken’s playing, he was great, his attitude was great, we brought him on tour with us, and he was another member within a few days. He really got along well with us. When we started working on a new album, we asked if he was interested in it. We weren’t really sure if he was, and he was. We started an audition process just to hear how he contributed to the songs, and his contributions were great. We brought him aboard.

How frustrating was it to wait since 2017 to record new material? I’m sure the pandemic may have had something to do with it.
It was really frustrating for me because I’m always, or not always, but typically I’m the guy the songs start with for songwriting, and I get my inspiration from going to live gigs. I go to at least one every week. I got one tonight, and that’s my inspiration for writing songs. COVID shut my inspiration down completely. I could have picked up a guitar and wrote some stuff, but I just wasn’t feeling it without that excitement of live gigs. COVID really set me back a few years.

How have the Jag Panzer fans been reacting to the new album so far?
It’s been a pretty good response. It’s probably 85% positive, I would say. You’re never going to please everybody.

There’s always a dissenting opinion, and that’s fine. People are welcome to have whatever opinion they have. But people seem to really like it. It’s a little different for some people’s ears. It’s most certainly an old-school mix, and it is definitely not mixed for your phone. But the general response has been pretty good.

What are you looking forward to the most about the upcoming Blades of Steel Fest in Wisconsin?
We have a whole string of European states before that and then US dates.  It’s always great to play in the US, and we have a lot of people, Jag Panzer fans who I’ve known online that I finally get to meet in person. Well, the thing I look forward to most, of course, is the gig with my bandmates.  Other than that, meeting all these people in the US who I’ve been corresponding with, and meeting them in person is going to be great. There’s lots of great bands to see live. I’m certainly going to be front and center for the Riot gig.

And then of course, before that you mentioned you had the European dates.  You have Wacken! What are you looking forward to the most about Wacken?
We played Wacken twice before.  Dude, it’s what you dream about when you’re 14 years old. When you’re seeing these rock stars and a huge crowd and everybody’s singing along to your songs. That’s pretty much Wacken. It’s very surreal.

Nice. I’m based out of Los Angeles, and I was wondering, when was the last time Jag Panzer played out here in Los Angeles?
Wow. It’s been twenty years or close to it. We played the Key Club, which is somewhere in Southern California.

Is there any chance that you guys might come to Los Angeles or do an actual US tour in the future?
We hope to do it probably in the spring. It’s probably going to be a while; we’ve got something else in January. Everybody in the band has different roles, and I’m the one that has nothing to do with touring. I just got a message to have my passport ready in January, and I asked if it’s Europe, and I was told, no, it is a new place we’re going. I don’t even know what it is right now but sounds like a new place in January, which means US probably spring.

Have you played any new shows since the Pandemic?
We were in Europe in January. It was a pretty short trip. It was Poland and Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, and Cyprus.

What was it like going on stage again after the pandemic?
It’s a little different, but I’ve known the guys in my band for decades, there’s that familiarity. But yeah. had to shake off the rust with that first gig.

Photo by Randall Fishburn Jr

What can fans expect from an upcoming live Jag Panzer show?
Let’s see, song list-wise, probably 3 or 4 from the new album. And then some classics. The usual things from a Jag Panzer show. There’s a meet and greet for absolutely no charge. Just come up to us and we’ll take all the pictures and sign all the autographs you want.

That’s cool! We’re going to go back in time for the next few questions. Let’s go back forty years ago to the self-titled EP and Ample Destruction. When you look back on those first two Jag Panzer releases, what do you think of them now in retrospect?
I’m very proud of them. They’re very young and innocent releases, and what I mean by that is they were made without any knowledge of the recording industry or how anything works or any expectations or anything. They were just us playing the kind of music that we wanted to listen to. Everybody in the band was a heavy metal fan and we were playing what we wanted to listen to. Those were fun times back then.

Let’s go back twenty years ago. Casting The Stones in 2004, I guess that’s next year’s anniversary, but let’s still talk about that. When looking back on Jag Panzer twenty years ago and on that album, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
That’s an excellent album. It’s very underrated in my opinion until recently, it was the only Jag Panzer album that had never been reissued, but a reissue came out this year and it’s very cool. But reviews were sort of odd. I remember one reviewer said it’s well played and they’re good songs, but “we’re trying to be Dream Theater”, and knocked us down to a C minus on the review. And that review sort of resonated with a lot of people because I would have people come up to me on tour and say, “I just heard Casting The Stones and I love it. I didn’t pay attention to it years ago because I thought it was a cheap Dream Theater clone.” I listen to it. I have no idea where anybody comes up with that comparison. I don’t hear anything about Dream Theater on that. But that’s a very good record.

I noticed that your first single “Death Row” was released in 1983, which is genuinely the 40th anniversary of that single. What goes through your mind knowing that that happened 40 years ago?
That’s a long time ago. That was really exciting for me because we had signed our record deal and the EP was done, and then our label called and said, “Hey, how are you guys doing for cash?” And we all grew up very poor. The usual statement, “We don’t have any.” He said, “Hey, I’ll print up 500 copies of a single and we’ll do a picture disc.” And we said, “Death Row.” And he said, “Why don’t you guys just sell it and keep the money.” Which was very cool. All five hundred went pretty quick. That was exciting for us.

Are you involved in any other bands or projects outside of Jag Panzer?
I am not. Most of my bandmates are. We really leave it up to each individual member to decide what they want to do. Some guys get really charged up about doing a lot of things because they get to play a lot and gain a lot of experience. For me, my musical expression is writing songs that wouldn’t really work for me being in another band because I’d want to write their songs, and if I’m going to write songs, I might as well write Jag Panzer songs. For me, it’s just Jag Panzer, but everybody else in my band has multiple things going on.

Do you have any messages for your fans out here in the Southern California area?
When our first EP came out, we lived out there, we were in Glendora. And we used to go to all the shows. I remember seeing Bitch at the Ice House. It was cool. We were hanging out and we had fun in Glendora. It was a little bit of a drive to Hollywood or Orange County, but we would make it. We appreciate our fan base from Southern California, and we’re looking to get back out there as soon as we can.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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