Virtual Supergroup The Wheelblocks Cover Iron Maiden’s ‘Aces High’
One great thing to come out of the quarantine is that time and technology has given a number of musicians the opportunity to collaborate with other artists they might not have otherwise. One of these virtual collaborations comes in the form of The Wheelblocks, a new supergroup featuring Fozzy's Chris Jericho on vocals, Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, former Machine Head and current Vio-Lence guitarist Phil Demmel, Avenged Sevenfold bassist Johnny Christ and Three 6 Mafia drummer Josh V. They have united to cover the Iron Maiden classic "Aces High" (which can be picked up here).
It's a spirited cover that keeps the energy soaring, as you might expect from the talent of the players involved. Plus, the band members have some fun in the process of delivering their cover, with Jericho donning his goggles from the cockpit of a plane to Johnny Christ's "thirst" for some scene stealing action.
We spoke with Chris Jericho about The Wheelblocks cover of "Aces High," how the group came together and their plans in promoting the new music. Jericho also offers insight on several of his other projects including Fozzy's next record, his Kuarantine band with Bruce Kulick and the upcoming Kevin Smith film Killroy Was Here. Check out the chat and watch the video below:
What a band you guys have gathered! Can you tell me how The Wheelblocks came together? Who set the ball in motion for this group?
As everyone has been doing during the lockdown, we’ve been getting together different musicians and putting together different kinds of supergroups. So I had done the Kuarantine thing months ago, which was one form of a supergroup covering KISS music from the ‘80s and then the song “No, No, No” went to Top 40 and it’s still rising up the charts. So I realized you can really do something with this.
Right now bands are putting up material but you really can’t tour on it, so instead of just putting together a supergroup and releasing it on Instagram, let’s put one together and release a song to radio, throw a little promotion behind it and see what it does.
Keeping that in mind, I got a call a few months ago from Phil Demmel, a longtime friend of mine, and he said, “Hey I’m setting something up, we’re going to do ‘Aces High.’ Would you like to sing it?” I said, “Absolutely, so who else is in the band?” He said, “Well, we got Nita Strauss who is super and Josh V. who is also a great drummer in his own right with Three 6 Mafia.” So I asked, “Who do you have on bass?,” and he didn’t have anybody. I had just been talking to [Avenged Sevenfold’s] Johnny Christ, and I said, “Well, let’s have Johnny do this.” Avenged Sevenfold is certainly very Maiden influenced, so I figured he could do this and would know the track and that’s how this all came together.”
The way I look at things is I never do anything half-assed, and I never do anything small. So when you see what Phil is doing with this supergroup shall we say, you see it goes up on Instagram, but for me it kind of disappears after that, so let’s do something more with it. Let’s do a really cool video and send it to radio and let’s build a buzz with Loudwire and let’s see how far we can take it. Not just because of the star power involved, but you’ve got the song and the whole enormity of Iron Maiden and all those sort of things.
The Wheelblocks, "Aces High" (Iron Maiden Cover)
You mentioned Johnny Christ being your idea to bring him in. Great pick. Can you talk about your friendship with Johnny and why he was the right guy for this?
A lot of these people have been longtime friends of mine in different aspects. I’ve known Johnny probably since before the Nightmare record, right before The Rev passed away. He’s also an entrepreneur himself. He’s got his own show called Drinks With Johnny that’s an online show, and I had just done his show when Phil called me and said they were looking for a bass player, so he was kind of high in my mind at the time.
Avenged is just so Maiden influenced, and then what I didn’t realize for this video is he is just destroying for this video. He is so funny and we were actually just going to make a video of Johnny Christ. Most of these videos that people are doing, they’re just setting a camera up in the house and filming, and Johnny took it one step further. It’s absolutely hilarious.
So as a player he’s great, as a guy he’s just a sweetheart of a guy and he’s the star of the show in the video. I thought my video was going to be the one cause I went outside the box, but his steals it. It’s just really cool to have him involved.
But this is one of the positives and pluses of this Covid-era lockdown is that there would be no Wheelblocks, there’d be no Kuarantine if there was no lockdown. It gives all of us a chance to just play some cool music with our friends and create something special to give people who are locked up at home and not doing as much as they’d normally do something different.
“Aces High” is the pick here and you said that Demmel came up with that. Was that always going to be the choice or was there discussion of other Maiden tracks?
This was Phil’s baby. He asked me to do it and I was absolutely down. There was some discussion about tuning it down, and I was like, “Absolutely not. I can’t do an Iron Maiden song and tune it down.” As a card carrying Iron Maiden fan and as a singer, I thought that’d be a real cop out. So I was practicing all week and man, that’s not an easy note to hit, but it was a really cool challenge for me, and it was real gratifying to nail it.
It’s also great to help keep my voice in shape. There’s no concerts and I haven’t sang onstage since February. We’re recording a new Fozzy record, but we haven’t recorded anything since March because of the lockdown, so to go in there and sing “Aces High,” it was just a great vocal workout. It’s was fun, and I had full confidence and then when I listened back to it, I was like, “Fuck we nailed this.” Everybody was cool and we did a great job and we’re playing this amazing song from one of the greatest bands of all time.
So there was no discussion of other tracks because I was full in. I probably wouldn’t have picked a better song because it’s one of my favorites anyway.
Since you are a metal fan and well schooled in Maiden, what would be your three best Iron Maiden albums and if you can talk about why?
I’m going to go outside of the box here because you could go with the typical picks. Let’s start with my favorite is Powerslave. That was the first Maiden record I bought and to this day I still it’s the best. It also has the best cover as well. The songs on it are so good and they were really at their peak.
I also really love Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. That one is not only because it’s a great record, but that album came out right before I graduated from high school, so I have really awesome memories attached to that record. When I listen to it now, I can put it on and it takes me back to a really good time in my life.
The third one, I could go for one of the remaining big ones, but I might be one of the only people in the world to say this, but I love The X Factor. I think it’s Iron Maiden’s most underrated and most misunderstood record because people were just so consumed with the fact that Bruce [Dickinson] wasn’t in the band at the time. But as a dark, moody, introspective record, I think it’s one of their best. I can put that on at any time and get into it and enjoy it.
I think a lot of people didn’t really get into it because Bruce is gone, but if you want to try it, it’s like a Pink Floyd record or in that style with it being moody. If you’re in the right frame of mind, it’s unbelievable to listen to.
This was brought together by the quarantine, but have you given thought to would you do anymore with Wheelblocks beyond this?
Absolutely. The idea was one and done, record it, put it online. It was mixed by Kile Odell, who did the last Fozzy Top 10. I wanted it mixed properly and I told him the same thing I told him when I did the Kuarantine songs. I said, “Pretend Iron Maiden is a brand new band and this is their song in 2020. I don’t want it mixed like it’s 1985. Let’s take the song and mix it like it’s now.” It’s going to sound great on the radio as our song.
Same with the video, it was edited by a great editor out of Seattle called Dima Levanchuk. I wanted it done professionally and to make something out of this and I think that’s why it’s going to go further than just your regular supergroup-Instagram-YouTube thing. We’re going to take it to radio and put a little bit of steam behind it and see how far that goes. If we end up with a hit like we did with Kuarantine, I’d love to do more with Wheelblocks. It’s a great collection of people and musicians for sure.
You've mentioned Kuarantine in there. I know you’re a huge KISS fan. What was it like to get a chance to work with Bruce Kulick?
Only in a quarantine could you form an ‘80s non-makeup KISS tribute band with the guitar player from KISS. Bruce is a great guy and he’s very proud of his era, the non makeup era, and the good thing that works is that all of us in the band are huge ‘80s KISS fans. There’s a certain demographic that relates to that ‘80s stuff more than the ‘70s and I’m one of them. It was great to work with Bruce and he came in with all drums blazing. He’s got such a recognizable tone and he’s super into it.
Once again, here we are with a song from Crazy Nights in 1987 that was never released as a single that most people had never even heard of before and now it’s on the Top 40 of the Mainstream Rock Charts. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment to do in the middle of this weird time we live in and having Bruce involved makes it even more special.
Kuarantine, "No No No"
For Fozzy, this year has been kind of weird. I know you were working on a new record and have had to put off touring a couple of times. I just wanted to get an update on where Fozzy stands at the moment.
We have all the songs written at this point. There’s 12 songs and I just sequenced them the other day and put them in order. Most of them are still in demo form. We were rolling back in March when this thing hit, but then we had to shut down shop for a bit. At the time, it was called 2020, but now who wants to be reminded of 2020? Plus, by the time we put it out, it’ll either be late 2020 or more likely 2021.
But we’re on it again, and I think because we’ve had more time to hone in on the songs, and every band says this, but I feel this is the strongest material that we’ve had. It’s taking the Judas record to the completely next level. I feel like we’re in the big leagues, and this extra time will help us to record something really special and everyone is behind it 1000 percent. We seem to be on that wavelength as it is, so I’m looking forward to getting back in the studio. Doing the Kuarantine songs and the Wheelblocks has helped to keep me vocally in shape. I can still do this and almost sing a different style, real high and bringing G4’s to a Fozzy song. After “Aces High,” it’s like, “Holy shit, I can do that.” So it’s been great to keep in shape, and I can’t wait to get back in the studio and bang out these tunes. It’s going to be a real special record when it’s ready to come out.
Something beyond music, I wanted to ask about Killroy Was Here. I know you’ve got a role in Kevin Smith’s horror film. How did that come together?
Yeah, we filmed it a couple of years ago, like a Creepshow type of anthology, and I was happy to continue the relationship with Kevin. He cast me in the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and I had done that. But with Killroy Was Here, it really blew my mind because I’ve known Kevin for a while and I don’t live far from him in Sarasota. He had asked me if I wanted to do something when I was in L.A. and he was like, “I’ve got an hour if you want to come play with us.” That’s how he describes a shoot, and I wasn’t sure if it was some kind of cameo or a bit part.
But we did it so long ago. He had a heart attack and then there was the pandemic and Jay and Silent Bob came up and he didn’t really tell me much about it and then out of nowhere this trailer’s out now. It looks crazy. I think a horror movie from Kevin Smith in the middle of a pandemic is just a no brainer, so I’m sure he’s fielding offers from everybody. So I’m really excited about it. It was great to be in Jay and Silent Bob and that was more of a cameo, but this is more of a heavy lifting 10 to 15 to 20 minute piece that I’m kind of the star of the show with, so I’m kind of excited for that to come out.
As far as Sebastian Bach goes, I know you guys were friends and hung out for years. I just wanted to ask if you had a comment or had anything you wanted to address there.
Yeah, I really don’t know if we’re friends anymore, but I wish nothing but the best for him and that’s basically all I want to say.
Many thanks to The Wheelblocks' Chris Jericho for the interview. You can pick up The Wheelblocks' "Aces High" via the platform of your choosing here.
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