Metal-Rules.com Interview with
Matt Barlow, Vocalist For Iced Earth
to the interview in MP3 format
(37mins long, 8.7MB download)
Obviously, I want to start out by talking about the new album
Horror Show. First off, the typical question, when you guys were first
talking about recording your new album, you first said that you were
going to expand on the Something Wicked trilogy. [Matt Barlow:
Right….] Why did you change your mind and go with the Horror
we just didn't think it was the right time, man, to delve into that. It
is going to be a really big deal and we want it to have the right
treatment. We just weren't ready to go into that. What Jon plans on
doing is kind of, multi-media stuff attached to that, too. It's going to
be this really big story and it's his own concept so he really wants to
do something cool with it. With that, we wanted to go in and do
something and get away from the idea of doing a conceptual record. We
are certainly not shy of conceptual records but we didn't want to do
something because there is a good possibility we will re-visit the
Something Wicked concept later on down the line a couple of records from
now or something. We just wanted to do something cool and unique that we
thought would be a good vessel for Iced Earth at this point. We had
actually talked about, a couple years back, doing an EP that was based
on the monsters. This was actually before Something Wicked, before we
even did the Something Wicked This Way Comes record. But, the time never
came around to do something like that. We did Something Wicked, then we
did the live record and so one thing leads to another, and we are faced
with this thing - "what are we going to do for the next
record?" Knowing what we were going to do songs that were
very strong and onto themselves and just really try to do something
unique. Jon and I were talking about it and we sort of kicked around the
idea again of bringing up the monster theme and it was not exactly set
that we were going to do a full record based on this theme. Later Jon
figured that he could go ahead and write music for all these stories and
characters. So, it just worked out man. One thing led to another and we
went ahead and took the plunge and I think it turned out well. I think
that we went above and beyond what we had expected this record to be and
obviously we aim our sights really high and often times it's hard to
reach that goal, but I think with this one, we certainly did it.
Yeah, definitely. Although the album is called Horror Show, not
all of the tales on here are a "Blood and Gore" type of thing.
Some of them may even have an underlying message or may act as a
metaphor for your own life. So, perhaps you can talk a little bit about
that and maybe mention a song or two and what you kinda had in mind?
Well, the whole thing is we tried to stay fairly true to the basic
idea of the characters. I think, initially, a lot of these characters
were metaphors. I certainly know that characters like Frankenstein and
Dracula, these were written and they were certainly metaphors for the
time period in which they were written. There's a lot of underlining
social meaning in all of them. Some of the stories, also, were written
for screen and really kind of fell into the same category of these
literary greats like Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. But, there
is this one song that does deviate from the theme on this record and
it's called, "Ghost of Freedom" and that's really our
patriotic tribute to this record. We've sort of gotten, I guess, sort of
into a groove with our patriotism since Something Wicked had
"1776" which, it was an instrumental, but it definitely was a
very much colonial-type anthem. So, with this record I pitched the idea
of the song to Jon and he dug it. We sort of used this song as a vessel
to dedicate and to thank the people, especially the people who are close
to us. Our friends and family who have served in the military, some of
which have served in war and some of which that have ultimately paid the
ultimate sacrifice. We feel very strongly about it and it's just
something that I come from a family and my immediate family where
everyone in my family, but me, including my mother, has served in the
military. So, it's sort of a very close-to-home kind of thing for me.
Did you ever get close to signing up or anything?
I had actually kicked it around when I was in Junior High School and
things like that. I kind of ventured away from it when I was getting
into music and things like that. By the time that I had decided that I
wanted to do music and I had my heart really set in that direction, the
military wasn't looking as good to me.
Well, you chose the right path I think! (laughs)
Right, I think I did, you know. I hope so. But again, any chance that
I can get to just say thank you to the people who have done it and have
not only been drafted during war times and things, but have also
volunteered. That's a pretty amazing thing.
Yeah, definitely. My favorite song on here has got to be
"The Phantom Opera Ghost"! [MB: Cool!] I really
love the interplay between your vocals and your female guest vocalist….
Yeah, I thought so. I felt that that was a very fun thing to do.
Did you record that with her, like together, or was that done
No, it was done separately. I actually laid down my vocal tracks
before she did and I also laid down her tracks for something to follow
and then she came in and did the tracks. She also added a lot to it. It
was cool with her particular style. It was a lot of fun.
On the promo album I have here, it doesn't list her name or
where she's from….
Yeah, her name is Uni Percifellt and she's a local vocalist in the
local here in the Indianapolis area. I don't believe that she's signed
or anything to a label or contract. But, I do know she has some CDs out.
That was sort of how we tried her out, basically. She sent us some CDs
of her work and Jon and Jim both thought that they could utilize her
talents for this record, for this song.
Does she sing in a hard rock or metal band or is it something
No, its like, I guess, modern female rock. I don't know exactly what
category to put it in. I guess it is that. The name of her one record
was called, now taking into the idea that she is of Asian descent, and
the name of her record was called Disoriental, so I thought that that
was kind of cool. (laughs)
Another subject here, which I'm sure everybody is asking still
- and that's about the bass player position which was left vacant by
Steve DiGiorgio. He's already out of the band, I don't think we have to
rehash that, but looking back on it, did you guys get any indication
that he was only doing this to maybe further his own name?
Yeah, well that's what we think now, certainly...which kinda sucks. I
hope we're certainly not going to promote him and the way this went down
it was just kind of fucked up, you know. It really points in that
direction now. That's definitely what I'm going to say. We had pictures,
he had a thanks list and all this other stuff and we took it out, man,
because as far as we are concerned he was guest musician only. I really
think he was trying to do that. So, very good insight there.
So, you must be pretty pissed off at the guy obviously!?!
Yeah, and really, at this point, I'm to the point where I really
don't care. Fortunately, things happen for a reason. There's always a
yin and a yang, you know what I mean? The fortunate thing that came out
of this, and hopefully its going to be, we are keeping our fingers
crossed that this will be a cool thing is that a couple days after, our
former bass player called, or actually e-mailed, and said that he had
heard about what had happened with Steve, and that he was sorry about
things, and he wanted to be given a second shot,and we are going to do
that. He's going to be performing with us for the tour and we'll see
what happens after that. I hope that everything's going in a positive
direction with that. Jimmy was always a very loyal person.
How about your new drummer, Richard Christy? What has he
brought to the band that you probably didn't have before maybe?
Well, I think that Richard certainly brings a solid sense of
professionalism. He has proven himself with Jon touring with Demons
& Wizards. He did do one show with Iced Earth last summer with the
Wacken Open Air. Richard is just a very tight drummer, really super-nice
guy and a pro. That's something that's desperately needed for us man
because we all work on a certain level and there's really not much time
Doesn't he come from a death metal background with, was it, Acheron
Inside) or something like that?
Yeah, well, he played in Death and he played with Chuck in Control
Denied, so he's definitely seen a lot of work man.
I've read that in the past, Jon's band Purgatory, did some
horror songs for like Jason, Leatherface, and Freddy Krueger…
Yeah, a lot of those actually appeared on the Horror Show demo.
That's where the name of the record, the title of the record, came from.
They actually used to have a song called "Dracula" too. It was
a different song entirely. I'd really like to go back, but that maybe is
something they we will probably release from the archives at some point.
The "Dracula", or all of the ones that were on the
Yeah, I don't know, maybe all of them. I'm not gonna speculate. I was
just kinda throwing that out there.
Yeah, ok. So, here's some questions about the wonderful
business side of music. Regarding record label crap, is the writing on
the wall regarding your departure from Century Media?
So, the thing that I was thinking was, if it is on the wall,
then here you are promoting the new album, are you worried they might
maybe drop the ball and not do as much PR as they should?
Well, they are going to what they are contractionally obligated to
do. Contracts work both ways sometimes. They'll do what their
obligations are or they'll be in trouble. Other than that, you know, it
is just time to really move on. I think that this is understood on both
sides. They are limited and we have a much bigger vision I think.
If you don't mind me asking, does the reason that Iced Earth is
looking elsewhere have anything to do with how they have handled the
band or are you happy, up until now, with how they have been handling
Well, no, I mean, we are not really happy. The thing is, there have
certainly been elements of an uphill battle of fighting for everything.
I think that Jon deserves a rest. He's sick of having to fight for
everything that we did. They will do things to a certain extent, but its
just not enough. We've got bigger goals.
Have you already been talking to record labels or will you wait
until after the tour or something?
I would imagine that things are going to start rolling, but we are
not going to do anything until the record is out and we'll just do what
we can. We are also bound contractionally and we are not going to do
anything to screw that up. The offers are, I'm sure, out there and there
are going to be people just waiting to get on the horn with our manager
and start the process. But, we'll see what happens.
A few questions here to take you back to when you first joined
Iced Earth. I was wondering how Jon found you and what you were doing
prior to getting the vocal spot in Iced Earth?
Well what I was doing before was sort of how I got involved. I was
actually jamming in a band with my brother. We were doing demos and
stuff like that. We were sort of doing, kind of a thrash metal kind of
sound, which was a little different for that area. Everybody was doing
death metal. Everybody jamming in the whole warehouse around us was
doing death metal. Except for one other band, actually, and the drummer
for that band actually ended up playing with Iced Earth. His name was
Rodney Beasley. He played on the Burnt Offerings album. When they were
looking for a new vocalist after losing Jon Greely, Rodney recommended
Jon to check me out because I was jamming down from him back when we
were jamming. They called up and asked for a demo. We actually thought
that they were looking for a band to jam with them or to do some shows
with or something. I knew of Iced Earth and I had heard some tunes from
Stormrider on the radio but I wasn't really that aware because an that
particular time, the scene was kind of hurting in that area. But,
anyway, the long and short of it. Rodney's wife came to one of our shows
and said these guys are looking for a vocalist and they wanted me to
come and try out, they are a signed band, they've got two records out,
and I thought it certainly couldn't hurt. I went up to try out and it
was cool. They were sorta gun-shy, you know. They were working on their
third vocalist. They were sort of gun-shy about hiring somebody right
off of the bat. I had to prove myself too, I had to go learn the tunes
and really come back. So, it was a process: me hanging out with the guys
and jamming with them. It was a few months before they decided that I
was in. So, everything has worked out. Jon and I have hit it off almost
instantly. We had a good relationship then and we got a good one now.
It's been pretty cool.
So, when you first got together and met with Jon, they had you
learn Iced Earth tunes or did you do covers?
Yeah, they had me learn Iced Earth tunes. So they knew that I could
do what the other guys were doing. It was tough. I mean, I definitely
took lessons. I actually took lessons from my sister-in-law who
performed actually on the Dark Saga record. She did the operatic vocal
stuff on that record but I was taking lessons from her and doing things.
I was trying to expand my vocal range. But, things worked out man. I've
just been trying to grow and expand ever since.
A lot of people have either said or written in reviews that
they kind of hear a Paul Stanley influence in your vocals, is that an
(laughs) I think that that's just the tone, man. Yeah, that's gotta
be the tone because I wasn't really influenced by KISS. Jon was entirely
which may be the reason why he likes me. Maybe he heard that same tone
or something. I think that it's the tone thing, it happens. You get
certain vocalists who get certain tones and we just probably have very
similar nasal cavities or something that resonate a certain sound, but
that's cool man. I'm certainly honored when people say that. Definitely
Paul Stanley is one of the foremost Rock 'n Roll Singers of all time, so…it's
a cool thing.
So, who actually has been an influence for you then?
As far as metal bands, certainly, the guys that I think are very
influential and just scream what Metal is about is guys like Bruce
Dickinson, Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, and normally the guys that have the
higher end that I fight for sometimes (laughs). I've got a very
bass-baritone voice but I keep working in that direction and I do what I
do. I'm obviously not gonna try to mimic somebody but I can certainly be
inspired by them.
A lot of us fans here in North America of heavy metal are very
proud of Iced Earth because you are one of the few bands in the USA who
we look to as an example of what is right about a scene that, in North
America at least, has seemed to have lost its way. Do you ever feel that
this is pressure, or do you feel more proud when people feel that about
Man, I feel very proud because it makes me have hope that not
everybody is a fucking Automaton and I know that there are people out
there. Sometimes you start to loose faith in humanity, you just feel
like everybody's fucking brainwashed and is following this whole trend
bullshit and just listen blindly, or deafly, however you wanna say it,
and this music that they are totally being programmed into. It makes me
proud to know that there are intelligent people out there and they
understand the difference between what's being force-fed and what's
actually music that they enjoy and they appreciate. I'm not saying, you
know, that we are, well, you know, I could say that we are better than
K**n and these bands but what we are is - we are different. The bottom
line is, if you can find something with depth then all the better and I
don't find much depth in stuff like K**n. I don't really think about it
too much because I never listen to it and I don't have to. I don't feel
like I'm forced to listen to it. I do appreciate the fact that people
think that we have done something and we've stuck to our guns all of
this is true. The worst thing that we could ever do is let down our fans
and let down the people that really believe in us and are inspired by us
and we are inspired right back.
With every album there has been an increase in album sales and
popularity, I assume in North America as well as Europe? [MB:
yeah….] Well, obviously you're doing something right hey!
Yeah, we're getting out there man. We're working it. We're trying to
do more touring and things are getting better for us over here as far as
promoters willing to shell out enough cash so that we can actually tour
on a tour bus and be comfortable and do better shows. But, that's the
bottom line, that's going to be the best thing about doing this tour
besides the fact that we are getting out and doing all these shows, is
the fact that we can actually get rest and perform at a hundred and ten
percent, and not feel like we cheated somebody just because we did not
have the energy to do what we know we can do.
you mentioned touring: When I told a few people that I was going to be
interviewing someone from Iced Earth, they of course, said "Ask
them if they are playing Canada!", "Ask them if they are
playing Sweden!", "....in Australia" etc. Everyone wants
to see you guys. Do you know which countries for sure right now you will
be playing for and which ones you are planning or hoping to visit on the
Well, I know we are playing a lot of countries in Europe and I'm
fairly sure we will be able to do some shows in Canada, because we have
gotten really good success there. As far as Australia's concerned, man.
That's a long ways away and I would love if there was a promoter there
that would just say "We gotta have you over here, we'll take
care of tickets and all this other stuff just to get you over
here...." that would be great because, of course we would play.
But, we just cannot afford, we all have jobs and lives and car payments
and shit just like everybody else. We just cannot afford to pay out of
pocket for touring and promotion. That's something that record companies
and promoters are obliged to do. We are more than willing, and happy, if
people can make money off of us performing there, that's great. But, we
can't go into the hole. That's one of the hardest things to say to
people - "I'm sorry we can't play there because there is no
promoter willing to take a chance on us." I wish that there was
more promoters out there that believed in metal and that's one of the
reasons why the tide needs to change for heavy metal and it needs to be
popular. If it becomes popular, then we are going to be at the top of
our game, then people are going to be shouting "We've got to get
Iced Earth here!" and we are going to play every fucking show we
can possibly play. Because it will be there - there will be guarantees
and flight costs taken care of and all this shit that we just cannot
afford to shell out of pocket.
So, are there plans for tour dates in Canada or North America
before this year's end?
Yeah, man, we're going to be touring throughout North America
throughout October and November.
Canada will be definitely on that list then?
I'm assuming so man. I don't have confirmed dates in front of me, I
wish I did. It would help a lot especially doing phone interviews for
North America because in Europe, man, they've got tour dates out in
magazines so far in advance. But over here, its like fucking pulling
teeth trying to get tours advertised and shit like that. It's really
incredibly hard and I wish I had a list in front of me that I could say
this, that and the other, because you guys could be promoting it for us
ya know! (laughs). And the fans would know exactly when we would be
there. Unfortunately, usually it takes you a couple of weeks before the
tour before all the dates are confirmed and all this other shit. It's
crazy, man. It's not a business that you wanna get into, man.
I read about your stage-show that you will be taking with you,
or will be created for you over in Europe, it sounds pretty impressive.
Can you give the fans a quick run-down on what to expect?
Yeah, we are going to do, in lei of having a support act with us, we
are just going to do like a very large Iced Earth show. We're planning
on doing multiple set changes and things like that, that really sets the
mood for different eras in Iced Earth history. Ending up with the Horror
Show theme. We're concentrating on setting a mood so that hopefully the
fans will dig it and know that again we are just trying to do something
new, exciting and different. I hope they dig it, you know. I wish that
we could bring it to the U.S. and things and are certainly going to try
to bring some things to the U.S. but we'll see what happens.
Well, have you thought of, for us poor fuckers over here who
might not get a chance to see that cool of a show, maybe taping it?
Yeah, there's certainly a possibility of doing something like that.
It would be a great opportunity to do that, that's for sure.
With other future news here. I've also read that you will be
doing a box set and also a covers CD. Can you give me a quick run-down
and what to expect from those and when they will be out?
Yeah, the box set and the covers CD kinda go hand in hand. In the box
set, there's gonna be the first three albums remixed and re-mastered.
There's gonna be new artwork involved and a very cool treatment of the
whole deal. The cover tunes record is gonna be really an 'Iced Earth
Pays Tribute to the Guys that influenced us'. I'm just gonna leave the
rest up to mystery.
No songs have been revealed?
No, I don't think so.
Well, Iron Maiden will be in there, eh?
There is a good possibility, yeah.
A big possibility, yeah. (laughs)
When was Jon last on vacation because he seems like he is quite the
workaholic, and do you get to relax when he is off doing his Demons
& Wizards thing or are you equally as busy?
Well, I'm working in a day job so I stay busy. My wife and I, we've
got a certain lifestyle we like to maintain. Therefore, I need to work
outside the band I can't afford to live off the band yet. So, until that
day comes, I'll be working. Maybe then I'll have the time to do
something musical stuff or try to better myself as a musician, you know.
But I'm doing the day job gig and I think the last time Jon went on
vacation he actually went on a cruise, he had a really killer time. I
guess it was just pretty much partying all night and sleeping till
whenever and getting up and doing it over again. Sounds like a pretty
good time to me anyway. [Sounds like a tour] Yeah, right
So, you haven't the time to consider your own side band then?
The thing is, I've been asked this a lot too, and I'm sure people are
curious as to my ideas or my feelings about it. The thing is I wouldn't
want to do anything less than what Jon has done with Demons &
Wizards and that is to do something with friends and also do a killer
cross-promotion (like the Iced Earth / Blind Guardian). I just think
they touched a lot of people with Demons and Wizards that didn't hear of
either band because there was just different things that was going
on...a different label handling the press. In France alone, the guy that
was doing the promotion for them did such a killer job for them over
there. Jon still talks about him. He has done a killer job and he works
for the distributor of SPV in France and he just kicked ass. Our sales,
Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, were not even mentionable in France until
Demons & Wizards came out and they did really well there. They did
some shows there and soon after that Iced Earth and Blind Guardian took
off with record sales. It's just something like that. I wouldn't want to
do anything less than that. I just feel that it would be wrong to not
take that into consideration, the idea of promoting Iced
Earth....because Iced Earth I think is at a level now where we are just
getting to the pinnacle and I wouldn't want to do anything to disrupt
that or do anything half-assed. I think that I've got a lot of work
going on right now. I'm happy, I'm very happy where I am. Demons &
Wizards is something that Jon and Hansi have been talking about doing
since 1992. We've done like 2 tours together, they became very good
friends. It was just something that needed to be done. I'm sure that
they will do another record together when they both have time and that's
cool. But, long story short, I wouldn't completely rule out the
possibilities but it would have to be something really cool.
A buddy of mine always tries to get me to fit in a question for
musicians about the gear that you use because he's a musician himself -
so he's very interested in the technical side of things. So, could you
give him a run-down on the kinds of vocal gear and things you use?
I use a Sure UHF wireless system which was just stupid expensive but
I guess I needed a tax write-off anyway (laughs). I wish I could just
get endorsed by Sure, that would be great. I also have a Sure in-ear
monitor system which I have yet to use live, so I'm real anxious to hear
what it'll be like.
Do you use different types of gear live as compared to what you
would use in the studio?
Yeah, well in the studio I would go in and use Jim's equipment. He's
got the killer shit there, for live I won't need anything in my monitors
except a little bit of delay or something. That's all that I'll need so
I won't need any kind of fancy effects or anything.
I was wondering if you had any final comments or news that you
would like to pass on to people?
Well.....I'm just really happy that this tour is coming up soon. I
can't wait to get out on the road. I'm really looking forward to doing
the North American leg of it. We've had a really great couple of shows
in Canada and we're really looking forward to playing up there again.
Hopefully this time it won't be as cold as the last time we played
(laughs). We were freezing our asses off up there. [You came
during the wrong time of the year man.] Yeah, it was cold, man.
It was wicked cold (laughing). I remember it was snowing in Montreal
when we played there I was like "Damn! Son of a bitch!" I
thought it got cold here. I had no idea! :-)
Other Iced Earth Stuff in
Earth - The Melancholy EP
Wicked This Way Comes
Schaffer of Iced Earth / Demons & Wizards (March, 2000)
Schaffer - Iced Earth (Dec.5, 1998)
Hails To Those Who Made This
Hails to Craig (AKA Demon of the Fall) for
providing the transcription for this interview. Thank you man!!!
Thanks to Loana and Century
Media for giving me the opportunity to talk to Matt, the metal
©2001 Metal Rules!!