Chris Jericho isn’t just the first AEW World champion, and one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time—he’s a legit renaissance man. He’s been an actor, a TV show host, a Dancing with the Stars competitor, a SiriusXM DJ, and has been belting out heavy metal and hard rock songs with his band Fozzy for 20 years. Fozzy’s 2017 album, Judas, provided Jericho with his AEW theme song, as well as the name of Jericho’s new finisher, the devastating back elbow known as the Judas Effect. Fozzy is currently working on a new album for Sony, which is scheduled for release in 2020. Before that arrives, though, he’s taken the time between his Fozzy duties and his Wednesday night appearances on AEW Dynamite to put together a new band and record a Christmas song. Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves released their cover of the classic Kinks Christmas song “Father Christmas” in November, with all proceeds going to benefit the JDRF for research into juvenile diabetes. It’s a hard-charging, pop metal cover of the punky original, and a welcome addition to Christmas playlists for all discerning metalheads.
Paste recently talked to Jericho about the Christmas Helves and their cover of “Father Christmas.” We also talked at length about All Elite Wrestling, and you can expect that in a separate post soon.
Paste: Why “Father Christmas”? What do you like about that song?
Chris Jericho: Obviously it’s a great song. More importantly it represents what I was looking for and why I wanted to do a Christmas song in the first place is there’s not a lot of Christmas songs you can listen to. There’s a good handful but I wanted to contribute my own because, more importantly, I know you’ll get airplay at least once a year if you do a Christmas song. Because every year somebody’s doing their Christmas special, “Johnny’s Rockstar Christmas Special” and you always hear the same songs over and over again because there’s not a lot of options. So “Father Christmas” is a great tune. I love ‘70s Kinks, I think it’s a very underrated era for an underrated band. It’s a great tune that fits my vocal style, the attitude is great, and it wasn’t overly covered to wear people have heard it a million times before. It ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for when I decided to do a Christmas tune.
Paste: So you put a lot of thought into the musicality of it, like what works for your voice—
Jericho: Well you always have to do that. The original song, he sings a very dirty, 1977, English punk style, which sounds great, and I just knew fit the way I sing. And also as well, make it more of a rock ‘n’ roll version, I could nail that. So it turned out that my instincts were correct and it really was kind of a perfect song. It’s fun to sing, too. And also not the easiest song to sing. That’s what I love about covering other band’s songs, is that you think you know a band’s songs until you actually try to play it. There’s a lot of intricate stuff here, inflections I’ve never noticed, attitude here that I’d never heard before, so you get a new appreciation for the song and for the songwriter.
Paste: When you do covers, what do you like more, trying to recreate that original feel, or putting your own stamp on a song that you love?
Jericho: It’s a little bit of both. I’ve never been the type of guy to completely change an arrangement just to be cheeky. When you do a cover, the idea is to pick a song that people haven’t overheard, that hasn’t been covered a hundred times, and that wasn’t a huge hit. If you can nail that then you’ll have a cover that’s very interesting that people might want to check out because it does kind of come across as an original. It’s the old Metallica philosophy—’if we play covers by all these bands that nobody’s heard of, people are going to think it’s our song’—hence all the Diamondhead covers and that sort of thing. This is obviously a song that’s a little more popular by a band in the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame that’s worldwide famous, but it’s still not one of their biggest hits. It’s not like I’m covering “You Really Got Me” or something like that.
Paste: I see it’s credited to Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves and not Fozzy. Is that just a little joke for the holiday or is this a different lineup?
Jericho: A whole different lineup of guys and girls. It’s something I brought to the Fozzy table and we’re recording and writing a new record right now, and I think the distraction to do a cover, even though it wouldn’t take a long time, it wasn’t high on the list of priorities for the other guys. So I just said for me, I’m not as involved in the songwriting process, I have th etime, I have some great musicians I know in Tampa who are more ready and willing and able to do it, and we were able to bang it out really quickly. It took me a day to do my vocals, and it took them about a week and a half to get everything else done. And suddenly we’ve got a great rock ‘n’ roll song. The thing about it, too, is that when you work with great people who haven’t had a chance to record before, or haven’t had a chance to really show what they can do, they’re going to go the extra mile, put in more effort, and get it done quickly. And that’s exactly what these guys did. That’s really cool and that’s why I wanted to call it something different. I like the idea of a solo song but I also didn’t want to say it was just Chris Jericho, so I thought Christmas Helves was a fun Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kind of thing: Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves.
Paste: So it benefits a charity for juvenile diabetes. Do you have a personal investment in that issue? Why did you pick that charity?
Jericho: I have some family members that are directly affected by Type 1 Diabetes. It’s always been the charity that I work with, and it’s a charity that gets a lot of results. The cool thing to a bad situation with Type 1 diabetes is there’s been a lot of technological advancements that have happened, so the more you can focus on it the better it is. I don’t know how much money we’re going to make off a Christmas that’s a cover of somebody else’s tune, but I figured just to keep it within the vibe of Christmas and to give something back to people who do check it out will know that they’re getting a great rock ‘n’ roll song and donating some money to a really great cause.
Paste: One of the tricks to making money off Spotify is finding a popular song that isn’t actually on there yet, and then doing your own cover of it that will pop up on Spotify when people search for it. Like Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” didn’t use to be on there, and there were a ton of covers of it on Spotify.
Jericho: Yeah! That’s a good one too. That might be something for next year to think about.
Paste: Yeah, have you thought about making this an annual thing?
Jericho: Yeah, I liked how it turned out, and it was a lot of fun to do. It’s just a matter of finding songs that you can do. Like I said, there’s not a lot of great original Christmas songs. I was just putting together a Christmas edition of my show for Octane [on SiriusXM], you know, pick a couple of Christmas tunes, and I found this great cover of “Run Rudolph Run” from Lemmy, Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons. So you can get those kind of Christmas carol, all-star lineup things, but like I said, as far as real, original rock ‘n’ roll songs, it’s a little bit of a different vibe. If I can find the right one that I really think fits and do a good interpretation of it, I’ll be more than interested in doing this again next year.
Listen to Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves’ cover of “Father Christmas” on Spotify.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.