Jag Panzer Biography
Last updated: 03/22/2003 04:56:59 AM
Jag Panzer was formed in the early 80's by high school students Harry Conklin, John Tetley, Mark Briody and Rick Hilyard. Known by the name 'Tyrant', the young musicians became popular on the local club circuit by playing original songs along with metal classics by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Rainbow.
Tapes of the band's original music were often requested, so the guys decided it was time to enter a recording studio. Late one evening in May 1981, the band booked 3 hours at a small 4-track studio and emerged with their first demo - a cassette featuring one song entitled 'Tower of Darkness'.
Studio recording proved to be very enjoyable for the musicians, so they booked time 5 months later at a larger 8-track studio. This studio session would yield two songs which would become Jag Panzer classics -
'Battle Zones' and 'The Crucifix'.
This new two song demo caught the eye of fanzine editor Andrew Banks. Although the fanzine, Heavy Metal Times, was published out of Texas, Andrew Banks happened to be living in Colorado Springs at the time.
The band met with Andrew, struck up a friendship, and gave him an armful of demo tapes to take with him on a trip to Los Angeles (home of several newly formed U.S. indie metal record labels).
Andrew returned from Los Angeles with good news - 2 record labels, Azra Records and Metal Blade Records were both impressed with the demo tapes. However, there was also a bit of bad news, it turned out that a long established California band was also called Tyrant. A name change was in order.
The young musicians mulled over contract offers from both labels while at the same time searching for a new band name. A book was found at the local library which showed a large aggressive looking tank called a
Jagdpanzer. They liked the name but felt that it may be difficult to pronounce for people in America. The 'd' was dropped in the name and the band officially became 'Jag Panzer'. The contract from Azra Records offered color covers for both releases (rare at the time, most indies did only black and white) so the band signed a deal with them for 1 e.p. and 1 album.
The band entered Startsong Studios in 1982 to record their first release - a five song untitled e.p. The band planned to re-record the 2 demo tracks plus 3 new songs - 'Death Row', 'Metal Melts the Ice' and 'Iron Shadows'. The recording sessions went well until it was time to record 'The Crucifix'. Guitarist Mark Briody did not own an acoustic guitar, he had previously rented one for the recording of 'The Crucifix' demo. This time around the music store did not have an acoustic guitar available for rent, so the band reluctantly decided to save 'The Crucifix' for the first full length album.
It was a decided that a move to Los Angeles would be most beneficial for the band's career. In early 1983, they packed up their belongings and headed for the west coast. The Los Angeles move proved to be
unsuccessful for the band. For no release on the shelves yet, little equipment and a very uncommerical sound, gigs were impossible to get. It was during rehearsals in Los Angeles that the band realized that they needed an additional guitarist to enhance their sound. A local guitarist was scheduled for an audition. He was unable to make the audition, but he didn't want to disappoint the band, so grabbed the local music want ads and searched for someone to take his place in the audition. He came across a guy that sounded perfect - a lead guitar player looking to join an all original metal band. The guitarist's name was Joey Tafolla. Joey auditioned and blew the guys away with his aggressive tone and fast fluid melodic solos. Jag Panzer was now a five piece band.
The e.p. was released in 1983 and immediately became a favorite of the underground metal scene. The untitled record become known among fanzines as 'The Tyrants E.P.'. The e.p. was released in both black
vinyl and picture disc formats.
The band moved back to Colorado in late 1983 to begin working on their first full length album. The writing went quickly and the back returned to Startsong Studios to record 'Ample Destruction'. Prior to the release
of 'Ample Destruction', Jag Panzer decided to book an all original metal show in Colorado Springs. Club owners were reluctant since all original shows traditionally did not do well unless the band was established and had radio support. Since Colorado radio was not receptive to Jag Panzer, they guys hit the streets, passing out flyers and posters for 2 months in reparation for the big concert. The night of the show came. The club owner expected 50 people but surprisingly 425 people showed up that night. The show received rave reviews from the local music press. Jag Panzer was on their way to establishing themselves as a premier live band.
'Ample Destruction' was released in 1984 to incredible reviews world wide. Letters poured in daily from Europe praising the band. 'Ample Destruction' was available only as an import in Europe, so the amount of mail from there was very encouraging. Jag Panzer decided to pursue a record deal in Europe so that 'Ample Destruction' could be released domestically there. Incredibly, no European label was interested in 'Ample Destruction' or 'The Tyrant's E.P.'. Despite placing near the top of every critics 'best of' charts, the band could not secure a European licensing deal.
Drummer Rick Hilyard left the band in late 1984. His replacement was a veteran of the Denver rock scene, Reynold 'Butch' Carlson. Reynold awesome technical ability and excellent showmanship added a new
dimension to the band. The band regularly sold out their own shows and supported international acts such as Grim Reaper and Slade.
Touring opportunities became non existent for Jag Panzer. European promoters were reluctant to book the band since Jag Panzer had no record deal there and no domestic releases. American promoters felt that the lack of airplay would make a full scale U.S. tour difficult. The band decided to concentrate on getting a new record deal. A new demo was recorded which featured songs such as 'Shadow Thief' and 'Viper'. Response to the new demo was very positive and several major labels paid a visit to Colorado to see the band. The labels were impressed with the live performance but did offer any contracts. They felt that the band lacked commercial radio appeal. Jag Panzer were unwilling to become more commercial, so there was no hope of any deal.
Vocalist Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin left the band to join Riot. Joey Tafolla and Reynold Carlson quit Jag Panzer and began work on Joey's first solo release for Shrapnel Records. Mark Briody and John Tetley begin searching for new members. Filling the lead guitar slot was easy. The band turned to longtime friend Christian Lesegue. Christian was known for his clean playing and incredible speed. The drum throne was filled by a teenager by the name of Rikard Stjernquist. Rikard impressed the guys with his fast feet, power
hitting and his love of classic indie metal. Everything was in place except for vocals. San Antonio native Chris Cronk briefly held the vocalist spot, as did Steve Montez (from Denver). Finally a vocalist was found - Bob Parduba. Bob used a sing for the Denver based metal band 'Alloy Czar'. 'Alloy Czar' were known for their killer vocals. Bob was a perfect fit for the new Jag Panzer.
The band booked time at Avalanche Studios in Denver and began recording an album's worth of material. The band solicited the album, entitled 'Chain of Command', to several labels. Interest was strong, including an offer from a major label. The band also did a series of high profile gigs around this time, opening up for such acts as Helloween and Megadeth. Although a major record deal was offered, it turned out to be a poor contract. The band didn't sign the deal. Vocalist Bob Parduba and guitarist Christian Lesague left the band shortly thereafter.
Without a vocalist and lead guitarists, the nucleus of John, Mark and Rikard decided to focus on songwriting. It was at this time that 'Ample Destruction' was licensed to Metal Blade Records for the U.S. and Metalcore Records for Europe. The e.p. was licensed to Mausoluem Records for the world. Two other record labels, Bonzai Records and Barricade Records released 'Ample Destruction' without consent from the band.
Vocalist Daniel Conca and guitarist Chris Kostka joined Jag Panzer in the early 90's. The new members brought a thrash edge to the band as opposed to the very melodic 'Chain of Command' lineup. A new demo was recorded and a deal was struck with Rising Sun Records out of Germany. In 1994 the band released a single 'Jeffrey' and an album entitled 'Dissident Alliance'. 'Dissident Alliance' was subsequently licensed to Pavement Records for a U.S. release. These releases proved to be failures for the band as fans were not receptive of the new lineup. However, the lineup did do their first tour of Europe in support of Overkill. Daniel Conca and Chris Kostka then left the band.
The three remaining band members spent the next year building a recording studio and writing new material. Two news tracks were recorded without vocals or lyrics. The band felt that the new tracks would suit Harry's voice well and asked him if he wanted to sing on these new songs just for fun. Harry added lyrics and vocals lines and the songs came out excellent. The recordings went so well that everyone agreed that the demo should be circulated. The band sent tape copies out to various tape traders around the world. Within weeks there was a strong buzz in the underground about the new Jag Panzer demo.
Century Media approached the band in regards to signing a long term deal. The label offered a decent budget and the chance to work with legendary metal producer Jim Morris. A suitable deal was hammered out and the band signed a long term agreement with Century Media Records.
Former guitarist Joey Tafolla was asked to contribute solos to the new album, entitled 'The Fourth Judgement'. Unfortunately prior commitments prohibited Joey from touring or doing anything further with Jag Panzer.
'The Fourth Judgement' was released in 1997 to stunning reviews. A full European tour was planned, but the band needed to find a new lead guitar player. The band been asking fellow musicians if they could recommend anyone. Everyone named the same guitar player - Chris Broderick. Chris auditioned and floored everyone by playing every solo from 'The Fourth Judgment' note for note. Chris's incredible stage presence and virtuoso guitar playing helped make the European tour with Gamma Ray and Hammerfall a huge success.
'The Fourth Judgement' featured an older Jag Panzer track called 'Shadow Thief'. This track had been unreleased but bootlegged many times. It was picked for 'The Fourth Judgement' because it had long been a fan favorite, both live and on bootlegs and demos. The release of this song prompted Jag Panzer fans to ask for the release of other unreleased Jag Panzer material. Century Media was bombarded with requests for these older unreleased classics.
It was decided that the next release will feature a mix of new material and the most requested of the older unreleased material. A fan poll was conducted and the older songs were picked. These songs, along with
'Iron Eagle', 'Displacement', 'The Age of Mastery', 'Twilight Years' and 'The Moors' became the newest Jag Panzer opus, entitled 'The Age of Mastery'.
Reviews for 'The Age of Mastery' were outstanding and the band embarked on several tours. The first was a headlining tour of Europe, followed by a support slot with Iced Earth in America and lastly an appearance at the Wacken Open Festival in the summer of 1999.
Following the successful tours, the band began work on it's most ambitious album to date - a concept album based on MacBeth. The band worked night and day on the material, often scrapping songs and rewriting lyrics completely. After 1 year of solid work writing and rewriting, the band was record to record 'Thane to the Throne'. Once again, master producer Jim Morris was enlisted to work on the album. Completed the first week of February 2000, 'Thane to the Throne' exceeded the band's expectations.
The hard work paid off with a brilliant piece of intense metal - 'Thane to the Throne'!
Songs started developing very quickly after the release of 'Thane to the Throne'. The band decided to take an 'old school' approach to songwriting. This meant covering a wide spectrum of the band's influences, which lead to a variety of songs being written. After 10 solid tracks were penned, Jag Panzer once gain enlisted the help of producer Jim Morris for the recording of the new album. During the month of February 2001 the band spent time in studios located in Colorado, Arizona and Florida. The final tracks were mixed at Morrisound Studios and the newest Jag Panzer opus 'Mechanized Warfare' was complete.