Metal-Rules.com Interview with
Matt Barlow, Vocalist For Iced Earth

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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 Show theme?

Well, 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?

Yeah, 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 separately?

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 different?

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 for bullshit.

 

Doesn't he come from a death metal background with, was it, Acheron (and Burning 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 demo?

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?

Yeah

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 you?

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 influence?

(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 your band?

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! (laughs)

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.

 

Since 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 tour?

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 on!

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 Metal-Rules.com

CD Reviews

Horror Show

Iced Earth - The Melancholy EP

Alive In Athens

Something Wicked This Way Comes

 

Interviews

Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth / Demons & Wizards (March, 2000)
Jon Schaffer - Iced Earth (Dec.5, 1998)


Hails To Those Who Made This Possible

  • 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 god! :-)


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Saturday, June 23, 2001