Texas metallers Lockjaw are laying the grounds for their revamped return to the music scene. Last month, the Dallas/Fort Worth quintet released their comeback single, “Silence the Fear,” following a three-year lapse, to warm reception, solidifying the rapport with their foundational fanbase, while expanding that rapport worldwide. The single will the first in a series of sparingly-released tracks intended to keep fans satiated, as well as showcase the transformation of the band’s sonic capabilities, having worked closely with big-time producer Chris Collier.
I caught up with guitarist Jeff Ogle to discuss Lockjaw’s formative period, the impact of their new material in partnering with Collier, and the enduring strength within the band’s friendship.
In the late 90s, I understand that you guys were into a lot of thrash and southern metal like Metallica and Pantera. When you were growing up, did your musical interests gradually shift from rock to metal, or did metal always inspire you to an extent?
That’s a good question! When I was in seventh grade, Metallica’s Black album came out, and in 1992, in eighth grade, Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction came out, so those were very impressionable years for me. I couldn’t believe how awesome these albums were, so I made sure to listen to them entirely.
With Metallica, it wasn’t just “Enter Sandman” that stuck out to me; it was also the stuff toward the end of the Black album, like “Through the Never” and “My Friend of Misery,” that made me think, “Oh my God, this is the greatest band ever!” Then, I backtracked to …And Justice for All. I will admit – it’s a poorly produced album, and has no bass guitar (laughs), but either way, it’s still so good. I also listened to alternative rock at the time, like Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and stuff like that.
It’s cool how both genres played a part in your early days. When you mention backtracking through Metallica’s discography, that’s something you don’t really experience nowadays. Often, people may be satisfied with accumulating songs from a bunch of different artists, but in your case, you tended to focus on the full albums of just a few, in order to get a decent understanding of what they’re about.
Yeah, dude. When I write music now, I think about that a lot. I remember it being like this quest – almost like The Adventure of Link – searching for that tone, that crunch – whatever it was. I grew up in a small town in Texas outside of Fort Worth, called Burleson. You couldn’t do a lot there, and since it wasn’t a major metropolis, you had to make due with whatever was around the corner. I didn’t have a car at the time and when I first wanted to backtrack, I went with my friend on a drive to Arlington, to a real record store; although when I say ‘record,’ I mean CDs and cassettes (laughs). I went straight to the metal section, straight to Metallica, and there was a whole bunch of discs and tapes. I got their Master of Puppets album, my friend got Nirvana Unplugged in New York, and we listened to Metallica all the way home. I’ll never forget hearing the opening riff to “Disposable Heroes.” I died (laughs); I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing!”
One of the main draws of your band is your membership largely consisting of close friends from high school. How did you originally meet these guys?
It’s kind of a convoluted story, but to keep it simple, I was best friends with the original singer, Jason, and he and I went on quests in Blockbuster to find the bloodiest horror movies. We’d watch stuff like The Evil Dead, and play our guitars along to Napalm Death. This was in high school. We’d already listened to stuff by Metallica and Megadeth, and Pantera was just starting to kick off around that time, too.
So, Jason and I had an affinity for horror movies and heavy music, and his dad was like our best friend, who’d built a jam room in the garage for us to play in. After high school, we met up with a buddy of ours – Jeremy, the original drummer. He came in one day and jammed with us, we wrote our first original song together, and it was super awesome. This was before social media, or the internet, really. We’ve kind of kept that core in the band, and we’ve made a few changes since then. There were two bands that started together – A Dying Faith, and Lockjaw. The drummer for A Dying Faith, Scott, was in the military, and as soon as he came back, he became the new drummer for Lockjaw. He’s been with us for 17 years, and our bassist, Gabe, is the original bassist. These days, Scott, Gabe, and I make up what I consider the original core of the band. This year, we brought in Joe from Jacknife, and Justin from Anathemic, who were this really cool death metal band. We’ve all been really close since the beginning, and we’re like family; we’ve been doing this for so long.
It’s not easy to find friends like this, not only those who you can get along with, but work with professionally.
Yeah, and I consider all of us brothers. I still keep in touch with Jason, even though he’s moved on with his life and career. He also has this podcast called Keeping It Real With Jay Scott, where he talks about health and wellness. He may get political at times, but he’s an awesome guy with a larger-than-life personality. The best way to put it is that all of us have been a big family, and we have a bunch of people within our circle who love and support us. Back in early August, when “Silence the Fear” came out, we held a release party, and 100 people showed up just to watch the music video with us, so we could all be together, you know?
That’s awesome! We’ll get more into “Silence the Fear” in just a bit, but before that, I wanted to go over your very first releases, when you were initially developing a local reputation, and lead up to that. What did you take away from that period?
Oh, man (laughs)!
I’m a deep diver, man!
Dude, you’re great; I’m loving this! So, with that whole early period, it was grueling, you know? Look – back then, we were in our early 20s, fresh out of high school, and totally naïve. We played our very first show on the lake, and built a stage on two flatbed trailers. When you’re young, and have eight or nine members between two bands, everyone from high school knows you as “that guy in the band.” So, that’s hundreds of friends between each of you – dudes coming out to see you, listening to music, having a few beers, or hanging with their chicks and trying to get to third base by the lake (laughs). We produced the show ourselves, and to be able to play heavy music for 150 friends and blast their ears off all night long was awesome! That was our first show.
Just before our second show, we were at a little club where our friend was a bartender. At the time, I attended Texas Christian University at Fort Worth, and each of us held service industry jobs working in restaurants. He said, “Hey, I’m gonna get you guys a gig at the Aardvark.” They had a bunch of cool bands moving through this college town, like The Nixons, Slow Roosevelt, Bowling for Soup – all these great alternative rock bands. So, we headlined at the Aardvark with A Dying Faith – or Legion, as they were known then – and people were lining up to see us. We were like, “Holy shit – we’re gonna be rock stars; this is gonna be huge!” People were screaming in the pit, and we’d sold all of our CDs and merch. Meanwhile, we had no idea what we were doing; we were just going through the motions, and I’m sure we were actually shitty as hell back then (laughs), but it was awesome!
For our next move, while grinding in the scene, we released a little EP, which, listening back, is really cringy (laughs). But we put it out, after recording it on a four or eight-track machine, and sent it to a few local DJs who had a show here in Dallas on KEGL – 97.1 The Eagle. They were huge supporters of our band very early on, and even at times when we sucked and would mess up, they’d throw us a bone. We had our CD in one of their hands, which was total shit, and we received some comments back that were like, “You need to work on this a little more,” and “You need to work with somebody.” So, after playing a few more shows, we talked to the guys in the band Slow Roosevelt, who are Dallas icons – an amazing local band, and they told us, “You need to record where we’re recording.” We went to Indian Trail Studios and recorded with Alex Gerst, who managed to give us a decent-sounding EP – we called in the Green Skull CD. Even now, there have been fans in the audience who’ve been with us since 2001, and they’d scream out, “’Man in the Middle’!” or, “’Waste My Time’!”
Yeah! These tracks used to be on Spotify, and we’ve taken them down for the strategy of presenting only our best, most recent stuff, and since they’re coming up on 20 years, we plan to re-release the EP on vinyl. But the feedback from radio and the guidance from Alex really helped us. We played more local shows and met this band called Element Eighty, who signed to Universal and had opened for big bands like Mudvayne and Sevendust. Then, they took us out on tour, and we toured all around the south and up and down the east coast and back. From there, we put out another EP in 2005 called Tampering with Reason, and by that point, we were as resourceful as we could be. Our bassist, Gabe, really became our producer. And he was still learning as we went. He wasn’t doing this at some huge studio; he was doing it on Pro Tools, once he started using it at his place. As time went on, we put out music, and fans really liked it. You know the saying, “You become the average of who you hang out with”? Well, after a while, we were hanging around with some pretty big bands. I don’t know if our music was anywhere near where theirs was, but we got to play some pretty awesome shows and started developing a crowd.
Looking back, I think we won the crowd over with our ferocity back then. We’d go on stage and just melt faces, and I guess since we looked the part, we became those people. We’d play big stage shows, and I would promote them while bringing in other big bands. We’d do things that would wow the crowd and heighten their experience, so that the next time they were thinking of going out for some live music, they’d tell themselves, “You know what? I’m gonna see Lockjaw; they put on a good show!” Our biggest problem, though, was we lacked access to professional producers, and in a broader sense, we didn’t have the same opportunities other artists do now, so we really had to grind away.
What I notice about your experience, too, though, is you had faith in those who worked with you, and you essentially allowed them a platform to achieve a higher standard, rather than abruptly jumping ship just because they probably couldn’t deliver right away. It’s a kind of patience and dedication you have toward those you connect with that seems all too rare nowadays.
It is! We’ve also had some bands that would reach out and pull us up, and that’s what I try to do nowadays. Back in the early 2000s, one of the things I picked up early on that really helped us was putting together our own shows and promoting them. I became good friends with the owners of the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth. It’s a huge place, and they’d let us put on shows there. When 9/11 happened, I put on Halloween Hellfest, and all the proceeds went to the Clear Channel Employee Relief Fund. That led to The Eagle sponsoring us, and when the station gave us all these free radio ads, guess what? We had a full house. The next one I did would be the DFW Metal Fest, which became the Ridglea Metalfest. There was another guy who took over after me, and he started bringing in nationals, which I thought was a smart idea. He was a pretty cool guy named Ted Cromer, and he ran it for a couple of years. When he passed away, I ended up continuing it in ’07, ’08, and ’09. I managed to bring in nationals, but I also paid it forward. They helped us when we were in a tough spot, so once they needed help, we helped them. After that, we took a break for about five or six years because of other careers, family, and just life happening. Then, in 2018, I came back and did more shows, and that time, we had 30 bands on three stages. I love doing that, because it creates a community, a scene, and it teaches local bands how to hustle and be seen in front of bigger bands. This year, I’m doing it again, and it’s going to be big with a bunch of bands. So, I love paying it forward, because it needs to happen, you know?
As far as the kinship within your band, what do you think allows it to endure to this day?
Dude, that’s a tough one, man. We grew up together, like all brothers, and some of the new guys that made their way into this band have been brothers already. We communicate and we’re honest with one another. If something’s great, it’s great, and if something sucks, then it sucks. When there happen to be disagreements between us, we may get a little hot-headed, but we calm down and try to work it out. One good thing about being in a band at this age is that our egos have gone out the door, and alcohol isn’t an issue anymore. Now, we can do what we do and get along well because we’re all in our right minds, you know? I think now, it’s about being honest with not only each other, but ourselves, and also recognizing that we’re working with a big-time producer. We’re just trying to see things realistically, without an ego – what’s best for our music, and what’s best for the band. I’m not going to lie, though; we’ve had quite a few scuffles back in the day, just because we’re brothers. But today, we’ve recognized the importance of our friendship and brotherhood, and especially the notion that they’ve lasted over 20 years.
That’s awesome, man. In getting to your new single, “Silence the Fear,” how did that one come about?
Well, after our original singer, Jason, left, we had another singer, Cory, for about 15 years, and wrote the bulk of the material with him as frontman. To back up just a bit, we did Ridglea Metalfest 2018, and it was a huge turnout. I got contacted by a manager, Sarah, who’s our current manager, and she’s awesome. She asked what we were doing, and assured us that there’s still opportunity for our band to grow. So, I relayed our discussion to the guys, and said, “Hey, if we did this, we’d have the chance to tour and really get out there.” Cory let us know that he wouldn’t be able to continue because of his personal life taking hold, and we understood. We ended up parting ways with him right before Covid happened.
During that time, I started writing like crazy; I think I’d written about 16 songs. Through new management, and the changes with producers and within the band, I wrote “Silence the Fear” from being deeply inspired by Dystopia by Megadeth, and I was also listening through Fear Factory’s catalog. Originally, I called the song idea “Death Factory” just as a working title. From there, we got to know Joe, who’s from this Dallas band called Jacknife, who was on the same label as Vinnie and Dime’s band after Pantera, Damageplan, and had gotten to do really awesome stuff. Joe was taking a hiatus, too, and after he became part of Lockjaw, we started writing together. His take on the song involved getting rid of the worry within you, and ultimately focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Normally, he’s a heavy vocalist, but this time, he wanted to write more melodic hooks and choruses, and we welcomed that pop formula. We wanted every song to be catchy, while not paying too much attention to trends, and “Silence the Fear” is about him overcoming his anxiety in wanting to showcase the true extent of his character. It starts out riffy, then continues with a big ensemble in the middle, and we have 20 songs that we’ve worked on together in addition to it.
You’ve obviously grown through a lot, and one thing about you that’s remained constant is your listening habits. With other artists I’ve talked with, especially when it comes to the music-making process, they tend to focus 120 percent on what they’re working on, and feel that they can’t devote time to listening to another artists’ music on the side. How do you maintain that?
It’s really interesting you mention that. For me, my whole life is a soundtrack. When I go to the gym, I’m listening to After the Burial, Within the Ruins, or As I Lay Dying. When I’m in my car, I feel like listening to Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. It never stops. Right now, I have the most expensive ear pods I can find, because I want to be able to really listen to the qualities of the music. I’m sure you can relate to that, too; you wouldn’t be doing this job if you didn’t love music.
Holy shit; you ain’t kiddin’!
Right, right! I can tell how inspired you are by it. You know, over the last year and a half, I became the biggest fan of Gojira. I saw them when they played with Lamb of God and Metallica back in ’09, and at the time, I didn’t really care for them, and was mostly there to see Metallica, but now, Gojira, and also Lamb of God, have become two of my favorite bands. I actually saw Gojira right before Covid happened, when they were part of Knotfest, and oh my God, their music just moved me – how tribal it is, and how inspiring it is. I’ve become this ridiculous fanboy of Gojira; I’m obsessed with them (laughs)! In fact, I was reaching out to their booking agent, James, to see if they’d be able to play a show in Dallas. So, I’m really inspired by them! When Covid hit the world, I think music saved a lot of people’s lives. It was really scary back then, although it’s getting a lot better now, especially here in Dallas. Hearing Trivium put out The Catastrophist during a time like Covid, I loved that. They recognized that people needed to listen to music. Lamb of God put out a new album, too, and it’s absolutely amazing. I honestly think it’s the best they’ve ever done!
I think what happened was I became super inspired by all this music that I told myself, “You know what? I’m gonna sit down and just write my ass off.” When it comes to electric guitar and drums, there’s not a lot that hasn’t, on some level or another, been done before. You’re taking the concept of tones, timing, and just making something you really like. So, the realest thing you could do, without worrying about the pressures of success, is to simply write cool shit that you want to hear, that’s going to move you whether you’re at home, at the gym, in your car, on your boat, or whatever.
I’m glad we share that perspective, and ultimately, you’re equally a fan as much as you’re a musician.
Yes, definitely! We live in a very scary, divided time right now, and regardless of everyone’s political beliefs, if they could put their phones down for a minute, ignore the social media trash, and see how beautiful the world really is, there’d be a lot more love than hate, and I understand that that’s what people really want. I went to see Megadeth with Lamb of God recently, and I was so moved seeing most of the people there no longer wearing masks; everyone was together. If anyone was still wearing one because they’re immunocompromised, or whatever the case, then I understand, and I’m totally not against that. God bless them; I’d want them to stay safe. But in general, everyone was happy seeing these bands play. I was moved to tears a couple of times, and seeing these performances reminded me what it’s like to perform in front of people – the sensation of playing to a huge crowd, showing them badass riffs, badass breakdowns, and badass choruses. That’s what inspires me, and that’s how I write music; it’s that simple.
Nice! Going back to the creative process with your new album, you worked with Chris Collier, who’s a legend in the hard rock and metal world. How did you guys meet, and what is it about his production style that has gotten your music to where it is now?
We met Chris Collier through Sarah, who was also managing this other band that you should definitely reach out to about interviewing at some point – Not My Master, an El Paso band, and actually, another one, too, Texas Taliban, who are brutally heavy and do awesome stuff. Both of them are led by Chris Kidwell, who’s an amazing frontman. I think it was Chris Kidwell who introduced us to Sarah after I had him on Ridglea Metalfest, and then through Sarah, we met Chris Collier. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but Chris Kidwell told us a bit more about him and said he could really take our music to the next level. At that same time, I was remixing and producing a song called “Deadlights,” which we have out now. The original mix was done by Sterling Winfield, who recorded Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven, The Great Southern Trendkill, and Reinventing the Steel albums. I’ve been around Pantera’s crew my whole life, since they’re from the same city as I am. Through different shows, and in passing, I’d gotten to meet with Dime and Vinnie, while Sterling would be there too, though I’ve probably talked way more with Sterling than I have Dime or Vinnie. He’s just a down-to-earth, really nice guy. So, once I ran into Sterling recently, he mixed “Deadlights.” I got the mix back and said, “Wow, this is pretty awesome! What else would we need to do?” He said, “Honestly, you need a producer. It’s a cool song, but there are guys out there who will be able to sit with you, reconstruct your music, and really bring it up to that international level. That’s my best advice to you.” It meant a lot to me for him to have said that, and his words resonated with me.
Once we met with Chris Collier, Chris listened to some demos I was working on and said, “Okay – what you’d need to do is get these songs to a level you’re comfortable with, and once you’ve hit a dead-end, have more ideas, or have any questions, send them my way.” So, once we got these songs to a good place, I sent them to him. He basically made notes on everything I was doing and evaluated me for like six months based on my efforts in my own studio. When it came to “Silence the Fear,” he did some arrangements, tweaked the drums a bit, and he’s every bit a performer as he is a producer; he’s an amazing studio musician. He worked on everything. We got the result back, and when we listened, the whole band was like, “Holy shit; this is what we could sound like? Is this even the same song?”
The difference is that stark, right?
Right! So, he’d send us the instrumentation back, and then we did the vocals – about four or five runs through, and during this process, he had it so that he was able to video chat with us while controlling the board. He mixed the song, mastered it, and now we’ve had a major product as our single. Every week or so since then, we’ve been sending him songs, and he’d send the finished products back. Right now, Chris is working with Korn, and Korn’s drummer Ray Luzier and Mick Mars from Motley Crue have a project together. He’s got so many amazing bands that he works with. When a guy like that produces Korn, and then goes ahead to work on our shit, it kind of makes me wonder, “Has Korn listened to any of our stuff?”
With a guy like Chris, one way you know you’re working with a well-rounded producer is that he invests his time with you guys equally as you do with him.
Absolutely! Chris will tell us when something sucks, but it’s out of love, and out of recognizing that we’re able to do much better. He’s like our coach. He’s built such a rapport with all these other high-level musicians that once he sees how they work, he generates that same positive rapport with us, and we’re getting better as musicians because of it. Here’s another thing I’m starting to realize – I’ve had these illusions of how people in the big leagues record, and I was way off. I’m sure these bigger musicians go in with a very simple concept of what they want to do, and they just go do it. They don’t have to layer 14 guitar tracks in order to get a big sound; they just need one good take on the left channel, another good one on the right, then make both takes tight as hell and thicken them up a bit. As I was learning to record, I didn’t know what was considered enough. I thought just because the Black album had like eight layers of guitars, that I needed to do the same as a guitarist myself. But Chris tells me when to stop. He says, “Okay, dude, this is good. You’ve given me plenty to work with now.”
Where do you think “Silence the Fear” might fit, relative to the album’s sequence?
Honestly, we haven’t decided on that, but it’s interesting you bring that up. There’s this guy on YouTube named Jesse Cannon. He’s worked with other labels as a producer and engineer and is a marketing genius. What I took from his approach is that the release strategy of major bands like Lamb of God or Metallica is different from anything Lockjaw does. Even with our national recognition, we’re not yet at an international level in the grand scheme of things. What we do doesn’t necessarily involve coming up with a 10-song album and releasing it all at once. Nowadays, you’d release a single, then the artwork around the single, then you’d either write or shoot a behind-the-scenes piece around it. Considering the algorithms of places like Spotify, YouTube, and Facebook, as far as how to keep people in those places excited for your band, it’s better to release the album within a series of singles rather than all at once, because if you do it all in one go, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to bond with your fans and talk with them while this process materializes. We’re sticking with singles now for that reason, but otherwise, we don’t know where this one might fit. Right now, we have six songs that we’re hammering about vocals for and are otherwise completed, and whichever one of those songs we happen to feel strongly about, we’ll put it out. Once it’s 70 percent of the way there, we’ll package the last three songs and put them out there. Since I’m funding this album, and we don’t have the pressures of a major label to worry about, we’re not too concerned about it.
In terms of being able to hone your craft together as well as refine it, do you feel that you guys are a lot closer as musicians, and as friends?
Yeah, absolutely! We have two newer guys with us now, and I think everybody believed it was the right thing to do once we all gelled. At this point in time, with everyone’s life schedules, it can be difficult to get together, but everyone made it a sacrifice. To put this in perspective, the Dallas/Fort Worth area is huge. These guys are driving an hour from one side to the other. I live on the northwest side of Fort Worth, and another guy lives in downtown Dallas – it takes 35 to 45 minutes for him to get here every day. Another guy sits through an hour of traffic to get here, while the other two guys live close by one another. It seems like everybody is really dedicated. We’re currently putting our live set together, and meet up at least twice a week, but we’re also in the studio maybe two to three times a week. I’m up until four in the morning sometimes fleshing out songs for this new album, but I’m also working on promotion for our next concert, talking to people involved in ticketing and design. It’s a constant thing, but everyone made it a point to recognize that we have something special here in order to keep this going.
You just love what you do, regardless of anything.
Yeah, man, you just do it! I’ve been in the contracting business for a long time, and as the saying goes, “If it’s important to somebody, they’ll make it happen.” Simple as that. We’ve had some really exciting tour opportunities come through the desk of our manager, and at our age and the place we’re in now, we have to be very particular and strategic about how we roll this out. “Silence the Fear,” in the month it’s been out, has gotten around 88 thousand total plays through YouTube, and that’s really exciting to see, considering that it’s our first music video, and that reflects the first impression the world has been getting of us. I’m trying to keep a leveled head, but I’m really excited for what we have going on down the line.
Putting this all together, what have you learned about yourself?
Personally, I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient as a writer, and as a contributor to the band. When I was initially writing songs, I was mainly approaching them as a guitar player, and focusing solely on riffs. But now, one of my really good friends showed me how to program midi drums in Pro Tools, so I’m better able to flesh out my ideas for the intros, the verses, and the choruses of our songs. But apparently, that’s also what so many other bands are doing, and I had no idea about it (laughs)! So, I started becoming better and better at it to the point where I was writing whole songs. When it comes to presenting these songs to the band, there’s always that challenge of hearing, “Well, how about we shorten this part here,” or, “Let’s change this part here.” It’s especially hard to hear after you’d spent 14 hours working out a whole song, and you’d made 470 thousand decisions already to get the song to this state, but if someone has an idea, always remember to listen. Another thing I’ve learned is just how to work better with others – not letting my ego get in the way of the process, and learning to compromise. When you’re working with a band, here’s my trick: record the intro, verses and chorus, but don’t make it more than a minute-and-a-half-to-two-minute demo. After that point, give it to your band, and let them work on it. That way, you still care enough about what you’d brought into the song on your own, but you’re not too emotionally attached to it to the point where it drives you crazy.
That’s really good advice, and you put it in summation very well. Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Thank you to everyone who has stuck by us and listened to our music all these years. I appreciate it. Everything you’ve heard so far is only a sample of what’s coming next. Having Chris Collier on the team really feels like he’s the sixth member of the band. I should add – even though Jeremy, our original drummer, is not in the band, he’s still part of the team. He did all the video work for the music video of “Silence the Fear,” and he’s incredibly creative. I’m really proud of the team our manager has built around us, and I think the fans are going to notice the difference in the level of product we put out for them. They’re going to hear something from us they thought they’d never hear, and we’re excited to show them!