Lockjaw – Making Massive ConnectionsTuesday, 18th July 2023
Hailing from the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, Lockjaw is aiming to become a potent force when it comes to their melodic groove metal style. Their debut album Relentless contains monster riffs wrapped around solid songwriting skills and killer vocals that balance out aggression and comfortable, clean passages that can cultivate a large following from the underground and above. We reached out to guitarist Jeff Ogle to fill us in on the band’s late 90’s origins, their promotional outlook when it comes to singles/videos versus albums, memorable live shows within the band as well as his own pivotal concert memory with Metallica, how outside business endeavors shape their musical philosophy when it comes to promotion, and insight into where they want to take the band for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Take us back to the early days of Lockjaw in the late 1990’s – fueled out of friendships in high school, did you know where you wanted to go stylistically, or do you think there was a bit of a feeling out period to arrive at your melodic groove metal/metalcore approach?
Jeff Ogle: When we first started, I’m a big Metallica fan, and those were the kind of riffs I was writing. It was right in the late 90’s, early 2000’s – Fear Factory was big, Slipknot was happening, Static X. It was very influenced by nu-metal meets Metallica. I wanted to always go big. I wanted things to have the biggest production, the biggest sound. I had higher ambitions. The thing that really held us back is we never really got to work with a professional producer. We would write a first draft or a second draft, think this was good enough, and get in there to record. I realized now looking back, we would have benefitted from a producer to get on our asses and say, this is not there yet.
My best friend Jason and I started the band. He got into bodybuilding. The main change within the band is Joe the singer, he was in a band previously from Dallas called Jacknife that were signed with Paul Bassman who managed Drowning Pool and Damageplan. We were in that whole circle, knew a lot of those guys, so when I decided to bring Lockjaw back in 2018-19, I started a record label myself, marketed it, I’m in the contracting business myself so I know how to get things out there. Chris Collier is the producer, we really connected on Metallica’s black album, he thought we could improve things, so we worked for two and a half years on this material. I wrote most of the songs during COVID-19, I wrote about 15 or 20 songs. I feel like we all came together, we want to go big, the main guys are still there. The only two who are newer are Justin, our other guitar player, and Joe our singer. The three of us, Gabe, Scott and I, have been together for almost twenty years.
Dead Rhetoric: Relentless is the latest full-length for the band. You took a methodical approach when it comes to releasing a number of singles before dropping this album – can you discuss the thought process behind this, do you believe it’s necessary to compete with the multitude of bands by consistently giving people something to look forward to in smaller bites so to speak to promote the brand of the band?
Ogle: There are two schools of thought. You can’t market it like Metallica, they just rolled out this massive campaign for their new album 72 Seasons, Lars is a genius. We signed a deal with Sony/The Orchard to distribute our release, we had already put out some singles, but they really wanted us to put out an album, as it was going to solidify ourselves, get more press, maximize our catalog. I think it’s valuable for a developing artist to stay in constant forward motion in terms of promotion. I follow a guy on YouTube called Jesse Cannon. The more you can put out, the better. Content, content, content. So that’s the approach I am taking. We will do music videos and visualizers for probably every song on the record. We are going to go big on social media, the streaming platforms, we have tour stuff lined up with some national acts. We will go to radio; I have a really good radio guy, but I want to make sure the tour stuff lines up first. An all-encompassing big piece of the pie, and we are trying to do every sliver we can.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with seasoned producer Chris Collier, who has credits with Prong, Korn, and Lynch Mob among others. What do you believe his skill set added to the final product for Lockjaw – were there specific instances where his attention to detail paid dividends in the long run?
Ogle: I never had worked with a real producer before. Chris took things times ten. Sometimes I would send him a riff, a chorus, and a verse, and jam on it on camera – and he would send me a full demo back. He’s great at most instruments, and he’s a drummer first. I love the way he plays. We connected on the black album by Metallica – as they already knew how to play thrash metal, let’s see what they can do with Bob Rock. They did this heavy metal album, with an amazing, huge, arena rock sound. I wanted the riffs, the hook choruses, arrangements. I don’t care about appealing to the deathcore guys who always want the slam riffs – if that’s what they like, cool, but I can’t listen to it every day. I felt there wasn’t enough of this music in the market. I love bands like Parkway Drive, I like Volbeat, and some people may get after me, but I like Nickelback and Five Finger Death Punch. They are arena bands. I still love the ripping metal riffs that James Hetfield does, that Dimebag Darrell did.
My hands do this thing, I don’t feel I necessarily have to be a part of a trend that’s going on right now. There are some amazing bands out there right now, Spiritbox, Bad Omens, to name a few. They are taking it to the next level, like Periphery.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think it’s tougher to break through in this marketplace, considering the way major media wants to jump on the next big thing and not necessarily develop newer artists that respect the style they wish to develop?
Ogle: Yeah, I think the industry is tied up in wanting to see something they’ve never seen before. There are only so many guitar tones, so you aren’t going to be able to see that. The crazy new stuff in 1975 was distortion and overdrive in the guitar. It went from the Beatles to Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and so on. There are only so many notes, so many chords, and it’s going to be rehashed. I don’t want to be the biggest band; I just want to write really cool songs. I’ll argue that every major artist that has broken through has had a massive connection with their fans. Taylor Swift is one of the best. She’s an amazing show person, and she has a tight connection with her fans. I care about connecting. “Silence the Fear” is about overcoming the trials and tribulations of life to push yourself to get further, without letting fear binding us down as it tries to pull us away from our destiny. “I Can’t Escape” is about alcohol and drug addiction, and people that are sucked back in under the spell. “Relentless” is about never giving up, the eternal flame. That’s why we did a statue immortalizing the eternal flame for the cover.
The whole album touches upon stuff that we are all going through during COVID. If people can’t connect with that, I don’t know what they are doing.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Lockjaw live compared to what people hear/experience from your studio recordings? What have been some of the more memorable shows/performances to date for the group?
Ogle: We are a live band. A lot of people around here are in studio bands, or studio projects, where they produce things to an amazing level, but they are never able to pull it off live without a ton of backing tracks. We are the real deal, we play our instruments, and four of us within the band can sing. 98% of what you hear is us, the other 2% is intros, fills, and we play to a click track. What you hear on stage is us. You will never hear a chorus where it’s just Joe singing, there is usually one to three of us. Sevendust is great at that. If there was a thrash metal version of Sevendust, that would be us. It’s an energetic show. I won’t play a hometown show without having some video things, LED boards, a full production.
You asked about memorable shows. We got asked by Live Nation to play at the Dickies Arena here in Fort Worth, Texas for the Freakers Ball. We played in front of 10,000 people on the big stage with Disturbed, Drowning Pool, New Year’s Day. It was the most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had live. I do a festival in town with thirty bands, we have 1,000-1,500 people for that. Dallas is a huge scene.
Dead Rhetoric: In mentioning the Dallas music scene, do you believe there’s enough diversity and appreciation for all kinds of styles of metal to help you fit in?
Ogle: Dallas and Fort Worth are two major markets, smashed up together. You can have a whole scene in both. I feel though it’s unprofessional to play those markets too often – I have a thirty-mile radius clause where I won’t play Dallas or Fort Worth more than twice a year unless it’s something really special. We do two home shows, and we fell victim to this in the past where we played a bunch of local shows, and we would burn out the crowd. We try to really build up the anticipation and excitement once and twice a year. There are diverse artists in Dallas. I’m trying to be a place of unity, a voice to have a good platform here. I want to be able to help other bands below us or at a similar level, give some advice to them. I would love Dallas to pop off as a scene like Seattle did in the 90’s.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges Lockjaw faces in terms of making a bigger footprint to establish a global following through your musical efforts?
Ogle: We are doing a good job at doing our own marketing. I talked to my marketing guy and asked him how we compare on ads to like a mid-level or bigger band. He said we are spending more money than them. They have a built-in audience, and only do select marketing to when they are on tour. How about up and coming bands? He said no one spends more than us. I want everyone to know of us, and if they like it, they are going to like it. Our social media following is growing – we are getting 300-500 new followers on Facebook per week. That’s been good.
What’s been bad is the industry, the managers and so forth, don’t feel we are seasoned enough. We have people rooting for us. You don’t need a label if you have money. I don’t care about chasing the industry. I care about having a massive number of fans that want to see us because they like the music, building a connection to the five guys that are Lockjaw. I do it all myself right now and I kind of like it that way. The industry is a bunch of business guys trying to make themselves money, and I want the best for all people.
Dead Rhetoric: You are a part of a family-owned and managed company called Premier Roofing and Contracting. How do you balance your musical activities with your career – and have there been times where your skills you’ve developed in your day job have translated or benefited from the band activities?
Ogle: I’ve been in roofing for fifteen years. We have a lot of weather damage in Texas, and my partner is one of my best friends. He runs the business in San Antonio, and I run the part of the business up here. I love that roofing is a pretty flexible job, my office is in my studio. I have a lot of customers that appreciate that I’m a musician in a band. I can work six months out of the year and do music six months out of the year. My drummer is a licensed public adjuster. He works on claims on the other side. My other guitar player Justin runs his own landscaping company. My singer Joe works with his family dealing with window restoration. We are pretty self-sufficient.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important metal albums that helped shape your outlook on the genre? And what is your favorite concert memory attending a show purely as a fan in the audience – plus what made that show so special to you?
Ogle: I will go with the concert first. The most pivotal moment of my life was when Metallica filmed Cunning Stunts in Fort Worth, Texas. I was eighteen years old, right out of high school, I took music seriously. I was a baseball player before that, and threw out my back, so that was out. When that didn’t happen, music happened. I saw Metallica a year or two before at Lollapalooza. When they did that arena show, I was in the front row. James Hetfield came out and slapped my hand, they started with “So What?”, that was the coolest experience.
Far Beyond Driven from Pantera, that album was so bad ass. I was more friendly with Dime than I was with Vinnie, he was super awesome. And Justice for All from Metallica, “Blackened” is my favorite song. Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth. Also, Killswitch Engage – The End of Heartache. Gojira – Magma. That album in 2016 got me reinspired to play the guitar again more and more. I met them recently; they are great guys. Machine Head, I love Machine Head. That’s probably a good list.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for activities related to Lockjaw in the next year?
Ogle: We are already working on the next album. Chris will be coming down to work on stuff in September – we have a ton of songs. We have a really great video guy now, a cinematic guy, that’s his style. We will produce more music videos, a lot of content, a lot of new music. Tour when we can. I bought an RV so we can tour. We will do Texas: Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, College Station, Corpus Christi, they are all thriving markets. That’s a lot – Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, expand out. We will do some runs with nationals.