On The Line with Dan Dryden

While catching up on Fozzy history over the past month, I came across a personnel listing for the band’s debut album and saw that Dan Dryden was the bassist on it. After tracking him down online, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to interview him about his involvement with Fozzy. On top of that, he has been apart of several other bands as well. He currently rocks out with two cover bands, Captain May I and My Famous Friends.

We covered various topics and he filled me in on the early days of Fozzy, the ups and downs of cover bands, what he listens to, his favorite concert, and more!

Alex Obert: Earlier in your music career, how did you become apart of Stuck Mojo?

Dan Dryden: I was in Minnesota wasting away in cover band hell. The cover band scene is huge in Minnesota. My high school buddy Big Red ran sound for my cover band in the early 90’s. We traveled all over the country and eventually met the guys in Still Rain when we toured the southeast. Still Rain was Corey Lowery (Stuck Mojo, Stereomud, Eye Empire) Clint Lowery (Sevendust, KORN) Bevan Davies (Jerry Cantrell, Danzig) Troy McLawhorn (doubleDrive, Seether, Evanescence) and Donnie Hamby (doubleDrive). Man, I thought our band was kickass, but we went and saw them and were totally blown away… just awesome. They, like us were an original band too. We’d go out and tour half covers and half originals. Both bands were playing Myrtle Beach one week so we’d go see each other perform. Still Rain eventually stole Big Red from us. I stayed in touch with Red and always kind of monitored what was going on with all the Still Rain guys. When Still Rain disbanded, Corey joined Stuck Mojo and Red ran sound for them. They became one of my favorite bands. As the nineties went on, like ’97, I was so sick of what I was doing in Minnesota. I gravitated towards Atlanta. I just wanted to be in the geographic region in which all these awesome bands I loved were coming from. The Lowery brothers, Corey and Clint hooked me up with their other brother Dustin who played drums for an Atlanta band called Belt Fed. They were great man. We made a record and toured a bit mostly opening for Stuck Mojo. I got to be friends with Rich. Corey ends up leaving Stuck Mojo and I was bummed that Rich didn’t ask me to join. We were in Orlando, Belt Fed had already played. I was drunk as shit before Stuck Mojo’s set. While Rich was changing strings, I decided right then that it was my chance to state my case. Rich doesn’t drink or do drugs so it was a questionable time for me to choose my spot. (laughs) I told him the guy he hired sucked, and that I was the fuckin’ man! Due to some other B.S., Belt Fed was off the rest of that tour down through Florida. Rich called me on the way back from Miami. The new bass player was in the van, but he must have been sitting way in back because Rich pretty much offered me the gig right there! I had the opportunity to jam with Rich and Frank Fontsere. I went in there, kicked some ass with them, and suddenly I was in Stuck Mojo. We made the live album just a week or two later, went on tour and it was awesome. That happened in March of ’99.

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Fozzy backstage at The Masquerade in Atlanta, GA

Alex Obert: And then it led to you being apart of Fozzy. Were you apart of those first gigs where Chris and Rich decided to jam on covers, without even being signed?

Dan Dryden: I was… before I was even in Stuck Mojo, Rich and I went to a WCW pay per view. I believe it was the one where DDP won the championship for the first time. We were backstage talking with everyone, just hanging out. While talking to Jericho, we found he was a huge Maiden fan, as well as Stryper and other classic metal. Rich told Chris, “Hey man, come play with my cover band, Fozzy Osbourne.” I think I’m the only one with a videotape of that very first gig from The Hangar in Marietta. It’s interesting to say the least! (laughs) We rehearsed with Chris once, I believe. The band all together rehearsed maybe four times. It really wasn’t that good, but with Chris being such a worldwide celebrity, people wanted to be a part of it… he’s such a charismatic guy. He is the best in the world, he’ll tell ya. (laughs) Man, we just got everyone’s attention. Between Rich and Stuck Mojo manager Mark Willis, they knew what to do with this momentum, and with Chris being who he was, we just ran with it.

We played a couple gigs that first weekend including Magnolia Street Pub in Spartanburg… I can’t believe I remember that. Chris, I think was still contracted to WCW, but had a little bit of an injury and was waiting out his contract before signing with WWE. I remember being in our rental passenger van driving between Atlanta and Spartanburg. We stopped to pee and get some gas station food. This group of people came up to Chris and asked him, “Are you Chris Jericho?” And he’s just like, “No.” they’d reply, “Aw man, you look just like him!” We went out after a photo shoot in Tampa where people were betting on whether he was Chris Jericho or not. He of course told them he wasn’t, so the wrong person won the bet. It was always pretty funny watching Jericho interact with people. Wrestling fans are pretty easy to fool. That was part of the problem with Fozzy in the beginning. We tried to totally separate Jericho from Fozzy, telling people that that’s not the guy. Like I said, wrestling fans are easy to fool. Many people believed he was just some guy that looked just like Jericho because that’s what we’d tell them. Unbelievable…

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Dryden at Fozzy’s first gig at The Hangar in Marietta, GA

Alex Obert: What is your opinion the famous quote that was presented to Fozzy, “Are you guys ready to become the next Metallica?”

Dan Dryden: I don’t know if that could have been possible. I certainly thought it had potential to reach the entire WWE Universe had it been handled properly in the beginning. That joke album from that joke band could have sold millions. I totally thought it was possible to be a platinum act. It was handled poorly on the record company’s end. But to be the next Metallica, no one’s done that yet. (laughs) No one’s the next Metallica yet, they’re in a league of their own.

Alex Obert: During those early gigs, which songs did you cover that didn’t make it to the album?

Dan Dryden: The one that really, really, really didn’t make it was Revelations by Iron Maiden. It’s one of my favorite Maiden songs and when Chris brought it up, I was like, “Fuck yeah, man! Let’s do that song!” We played it once and that was it. I’m sure Bruce Dickinson can’t sing that song very well at this point in his career and he’s been doing it forever. When we played it, it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t gonna make the cut. That one was a huge stinker. We did Wrathchild by Iron Maiden as well. That song may not have made it because Stuck Mojo covered that and recorded it with Devin Townsend. We did a few Maiden songs but the only one that made it was The Prisoner. I should find that videotape and have a look to see what we covered!

Alex Obert: There was a cover of Shout of the Devil being played during Fozzy: Unleashed, Uncensored, Unknown. Was that also an early recording that didn’t make it?

Dan Dryden: That song (and Wrathchild) ended up on the compilation album, Violate This, from Stuck Mojo. It must have been taken from that because I don’t ever really remember playing that or recording it with Fozzy.

Alex Obert: What was your favorite track off of Fozzy’s debut album?

Dan Dryden: I think Live Wire came off really well. Prisoner as well, I think. The two original songs, Feel the Burn and End of Days for me kind of blend together. There are certain parts I like about both those songs, but I wasn’t super thrilled about either one. I think they’re both pretty good, but I just think the band did best on those two covers I mentioned before.

Alex Obert: Do you share Chris’s dislike for Fozzy’s cover of Riding on the Wind?

Dan Dryden: Yeah, it’s pretty bad. That was the first song he tracked vocally and he hadn’t really come into his own. When you hear Chris now, his voice is more guttural. A lot of people say he sounds a little like Ozzy. When you tend to sing really high all the time in that forced falsetto voice, it usually goes away. He used to be able to go real high, just go way up there and scream. I think he sounds much better in his current lower range with the ability to go upstairs occasionally. Rob Halford, he’s really good at that high stuff. That’s a hard guy to cover with a song like that.

Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on Fozzy taking off since then and becoming an all-original band?

Dan Dryden: I pretty much saw that coming. With that second record, they added a few more original tracks. Just knowing Rich as a songwriting machine, it was inevitable to continue the original direction. It was destined to go that way. Good for them man, I think it’s worked out well. There was some bad blood between Rich and I for several years that’s definitely not worth rehashing or even thinking about. Frank, Rich, and myself were BSing after a gig down in Iowa recently. They were like, “What was that all about? I don’t even remember!” It was a long time ago, twelve plus years at this point. It’s water under the bridge. We started the healing process after Dimebag passed away. I asked myself “Why am I holding onto this grudge?” Fozzy played near my house in Macon, Georgia around that time. I went and saw them to make amends. Ever since, it’s not like we call up and talk to each other everyday, but we’re definitely in a very friendly place. Last October I acted as promoter for their first and only Minnesota gig to date, it was great! As far as them dropping the gimmick, I think that was the right thing to do. It was too confusing, I think it works well now.

Alex Obert: During your time in the band, were you apart of the gig at WWF New York?

Dan Dryden: Yeah, live on Sunday Night Heat. Of course the wrestling matches were taped. That was a lot of fun, man. Some very fond memories of just seeing the inside of that WWE machine and how it works. I remember we did this one take where we’re walking down the stairs, Chris is about to have a confrontation with this interview chick. No one told me not to look at the camera directly. So we were walking down the stairs and I’m hamming it up for the camera and then, “Cut! Cut! Guys, don’t look at the camera!” (laughs) Fortunately that spot wasn’t live television, just the music portion was. I felt like a dick, man, we gotta recut this thing cause I’m being a ham. That was a shitload of fun, man. That was a great time.

The last wrestling event I went to… it’s kind of funny, my girlfriend took me to a Smackdown taping in Chicago for my birthday, front row. Chris was working a match with Edge. Right in front of me, he takes a huge bump into the barricade so hard that it knocked the barricade back into my knees and kind of hurt a little bit! (laughs) I’ve since talked to him and he claims he didn’t know I was there at all, but I swear he saw me.

Alex Obert: I’d also like to get into the bands you’ve been in aside from Fozzy.

Dan Dryden: I got out of the music business for a couple years after I left Stuck Mojo, Fozzy and Sick Speed, which were virtually the same band with different singers. I took a couple years off and did a real estate investment thing. My old friend Tory Stoffregen called me up from California to ask me if I wanted to make a record with his band The Black Mollys. He had financial backing from a label and wanted me to record this record at Sound City! Sound City was the legendary studio that Dave Grohl just made a movie about. What a cool way to get back in the business. That was 2004, I believe. That got me back into music and touring which subsequently ended my short-lived marriage so I moved back to Minnesota. The Black Mollys toured around a bit and made a second record mixed by Michael Wagner. It was great and fun but I’m a grown up now, I’ve got responsibilities and bills and a shitload of loose ends to tie up in Georgia. I needed to make more money than I was making. Original music, unless you’re selling a ton of records and putting a lot of asses in the club, won’t make you much money.

So I joined up with this cover band that was really, really mediocre at the time but they had a great gimmick. The band was Hairball. They’d been around for about six years and I knew all the guys in the band. This band had two lead singers and they’d dress up like the 80’s frontmen they’re covering. They alternate their stage time while the band remained constant. It was a cool concept, but it was way schlocky. I called it Wal-Mart humor, to me it wasn’t funny. It was more of a spoof than a tribute. I did that for a couple years then made it huge by removing the “humor” and making it a legitimate Las Vegas style revue. I made a lot of money. More money than I’ve ever made. To this day, it’s one of my biggest accomplishments. Turning a mediocre cover band into a million dollar company. They still do it to this day. I left the band in late 2011. Let’s just say I didn’t like the people they became. That old saying about money can’t buy you happiness, it can for a while. Believe me, I miss the money. (laughs) But I’m very glad not to be standing next to those guys and not being in business with them. They’ll continue to make a bunch of money that I don’t think they necessarily deserve. If they don’t implode, they’ll continue making it for as long as they want to. Good for them! (laughs) I’m currently in a couple different cover bands. I’m in my early forties… original rock and roll for the most part is a young man’s game, I need something to do for the next ten to twenty years.

The New Black 7 is a band I am recording with. It’s country rock like you’ve never quite heard. It’s very polished, very modern and the guys in that band can play their asses off. We’re working on their third CD right now. I didn’t play on the first one, but I played on the second one called Hangovers and Heartache. On that album, there’s a cover of Motley Crue’s Kickstart My Heart, which may sound silly, but when you hear it man, it works! The drum beats, the snare, it’s like a heavy metal polka beat with country vocals. It totally works and it’s awesome. They’ve got some gigs opening up for Tesla and Country Fest in Wisconsin coming up which is huge. The main guy in The New Black 7 is Tory Stoffregen, same guy I played with in The Black Mollys. So when they were making that second record and they couldn’t find the right guy to play bass, Tory called on me to come in and nail it so I did. I like to keep my options open. I have a hard time telling people no. I just agreed to play a show with a super bad ass metal band called American Gothic opening for Soulfly in August. Cock rock, rap metal, power pop, nu rock, country rock, thrash, cover tunes… I’ll play it all.

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Dryden with Tory Stoffregen of The Black Mollys and The New Black 7 at NAMM 2014

Alex Obert: With the cover bands you’re in, Captain May I and My Famous Friends, what’s the setlist like?

Dan Dryden: I thought about it long and hard after I left Hairball because the last thing I wanted to do was playing fuckin’ Pour Some Sugar On Me. I wanted to get the best players in town and I wanted to not have the kickdrum louder than everything else and I didn’t want to dress up in stupid spandex pants. Hairball was pretty much Fozzy in the beginning, you’ve seen those pictures of Fozzy in the very beginning? Nothing but leather pants and tight spandex shirts. (laughs) Picking the songs for these bands, it’s pretty tough because we wanna play songs that everyone knows and can appreciate but not play what everyone else is playing. Songs that can transcend generations. I don’t wanna just focus on one decade, so we’ll play The Breakup Song by Greg Kihn, that’s great, everyone can enjoy that. How about Love Song by Tesla, who else plays that? Everyone knows it and everyone loves it but no one else plays it. If we do anything from the eighties, it’s gonna be more like that. Songs like Cruel to be Kind by Nick Lowe instead of I Wanna Rock by Twisted Sister. We’ll go as far back to do some Beatles stuff, we’ll do Steelers Wheels then we’ll do Seether and Neon Trees. Shit like that… it’s a pretty wide variety that appeals to a wide demographic.

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Dryden performing with Captain May I

Alex Obert: Which types of places do you play with these two bands?

Dan Dryden: Captain May I is generally the bigger street dance kind of band. My Famous Friends is a scaled down version of that. Three piece band, doesn’t require sound guy, we can play in the corner of anyone’s basement kind of thing. CMI is playing a ninety minute set at Lakes Jam in my hometown of Brainerd, MN after Bret Michaels’ set. I’ve got no problem playing the smallest armpit or the biggest stage, I’ve done ’em all before. Every gig is an investment. Hairball got so big that we were limited to where we could play because it evolved into a giant pyro show so we couldn’t perform in clubs anymore. We pretty much had to do concert halls, casino venues, and hockey arenas. That’s what they continue to do for the most part. I don’t wanna limit myself to where I can play. If we have a capacity issue, just bump up the cover. It’s just supply and demand at that point. I’ll play an eighty capacity room if you do twenty dollars a ticket. (laughs) It’s all a numbers game, that’s what I’ve learned. The more numbers you have, the more leverage you have.

Alex Obert: Getting into your music tastes, what are some of your favorite bands?

Dan Dryden: I’ve always been the guy that if I liked an album growing up, I’ll always like it. Let’s say Twisted Sister, growing up, man, I remember when it was awesome and cool the first time around. Then it became uncool, but I still loved it. I was also an equal opportunist when it came to metal. I was as big of a Poison fan as I was Testament. I’m wearing a Testament work shirt right now. When I tell you my three favorite bands right now, it may sound stupid, but I like Coldplay, I like Jet, and I like Lamb of God. Those are my three top bands. Depending on the mood I’m in, if I’m mellow, Coldplay, if it’s party rock, Jet, if I just wanna thrash out, then Lamb of God. And everything in between I’m a big fan of too. I love music.

Alex Obert: What do you have planned for the Summer?

Dan Dryden: Just nonstop gigs, man. Just gig after gig after gig. Like I said before, every gig is an investment. The more gigs you play, the more gigs you get.

Alex Obert: The last question I’ll leave you with, what’s the best live show you’ve ever been to?

Dan Dryden: Ozzfest in ’97 at the Metrodome, what a great day that was. Machine Head, Fear Factory, Pantera, Ozzy of course. It was the first time I’d ever seen the goth movement. You’ve got Machine Head tearing it up on the main stage and you’ve got all these kids wearing makeup dressed in black just sitting alongside the arena wall. I’m thinking… “what are these kids doing here?” Then all of a sudden, Coal Chamber comes up and they’re all freaking out… “The roof! The roof!” (laughs) It was just a great day, man. That was a lot of fun. Definitely my favorite show ever.

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it!

Dan Dryden: Well thank you, Alex.

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