Iced Earth – Jon Schaffer

August 21st, 2005
by EvilG

Iced Earth – Interview With Jon Schaffer
Interviewed on Dec. 5, 1998 by EvilG

Iced Earth, a band that has been around for nearly 10 years yet still hasn’t made a noticeable impact in the USA. Why have they been the underdogs? I’ll tell you why, they have never sold out nor changed their sound to accommodate the flavor of the week. This is no bubble gum band and Jon makes no bones about it, Iced Earth are a heavy metal band.


Metal Rules!!:
Jon, let me begin by saying thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us, we really appreciate your time.

Jon Schaffer:
Your very welcome!!!

 

MR:
Iced Earth totally rules! How do you manage to get better and better with each release? Practice, luck, the right people, dedication?

JS:
Thank you for the compliment. Practice plays some part but on that end it’s really more of a maturing process. I think as I’ve grown as a writer I’ve been able to focus more on the important things, that being structuring the songs in a more “to the point” kind of way. I try not to put so much “fluff” in the songs or at least in some of the songs. The way I feel right now is that we will always have epic qualities in our music and there will most likely be a little something for all kinds of metal fans. I personally have a wide range of musical influences from Iron Maiden to ACDC to Bad Company to even Bob Seger. We went through a period were we felt we had something to prove and would play a million riffs and shitloads of tempo changes in one song. We will still do that on some level but recently in the last few years I’ve been in the frame of mind of just laying down a groove and hitting people over the head. I love the simplicity of ACDC and bands like that who can write good “to the point” songs. This is the way Matt and I both feel about it and it’s obvious that most of the fans dig it as well. Dynamics are key elements in Iced Earth and will always be.

As for luck I don’t believe in it. I believe in perseverance and hard work. With that nothing can stop you. Of course the right people are key elements as well and dedication is one of the most important things to become successful.

 

 

MR:
I feel that Iced Earth are one of the few bands from the US that are actually playing “heavy metal”, what is the problem with this part of the world when it comes to metal?

JS:
This part of the world is completely trend oriented and corporate controlled. It’s all about big money and saturating the market with  the flavor of the week.

 

MR:
I read that you relocated from Florida recently ? in part to be closer to your core US following in the Chicago area. Why is it that metal, or at least your brand of metal, is more accepted there?

JS:
I honestly don’t know but I think the Midwest in general is a good area for rock n roll and metal as is the north east. It may have something to do with a lot of industry in these areas, in Europe the industrial cities are always the areas were heavy music is more popular.

 

MR:
Did the move north help the band? Did it affect your sound at all?

JS:
I believe it will in time. We’ve been so busy in Europe lately that we haven’t had the chance to work it yet. But 1999 will be the year to focus on the U.S.

As far as affecting the sound we will see on the next record. Atmosphere always affects writing.

 

MR:
Tell me about your new CD “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” What were your main inspirations when writing for this CD?

JS:
The same as always, life.

 

MR:
Would you say that “Burnt Offerings” a rushed album? To some 8 songs is barely enough for an album?.Would you like to change anything about your back catalog?

JS:
No I wouldn’t say it was rushed it’s pretty lengthy for 8 songs. All of the albums are an important part of I.E. history and when a record is finished there always things I wish we would have done differently. That’s how we learn and grow.

 

MR:
Where did you find Larry Tarnowski, who plays lead on “Something Wicked…”? Is he now a full member of the band?

JS:
We found Larry by putting out the word here in the Midwest. He’s from Chicago he played the solos on all songs except ‘Watching Over Me’ which was Jim Morris. And yes, he is a member now.

 

MR:
Mark Prator does a damn fine job on the drums, is there any future plans to make him a member or to use him again with Iced Earth?

JS:
Mark is a killer drummer but he is strictly a session drummer for us. Brent is the Iced Earth drummer he didn’t play on SWTWC because of personal problems.

 

MR:
This is a question probably often asked but where do you get your lyrical inspiration?

JS:
Like I said before, just from living for the most part. We mix reality with dark fantasy, the church etc……..

 

MR:
Who is the person you speak of in the song Watching Over Me??

JS:
Bill Blackmon. He was my best friend  for many years and was killed in a motorcycle accident.

 

MR:
A little more personal… Do you guys confess to any religion? I’m curious because “Burnt Offerings” is a pretty anti-Christian album :-).

JS:
No I don’t confess to any religion. I believe in the human spirit and in a higher power. However I have a real problem with the church and the scare tactics used to control people.

 

MR:
What happened to Randall Shawver? Or to Gene who sang on one CD only (the second one if memory serves)?

JS:
Things weren’t gelling anymore and it was time to make a change.

 

MR:
As for Matthew Barlow, what did he do before getting brought into Iced Earth, and is his voice a natural talent or is daily practice necessary?

JS:
Matt was in a band with his brother called Cauldron. Matt has a lot of natural talent, but he has been trained professionally.

 

MR:
Do you guys have any plans releasing a live-album?

JS:
Yes, we will record it in Athens, Greece in January.

 

MR:
I read on the official Iced Earth Homepage that by now you should have  toured in US with Mercyful Fate. Will this tour continue outside of the US?

JS:
It never happened.

 

MR:
What do you guys think of other bands like Nevermore, Sentenced, and the new Bruce Dickinson (god)??

 

JS:
Nevermore is cool and they are very good friends of ours. Sentenced are killer and also good friends. And Bruce = GOD.

MR:
I read this on the official Iced Earth webpage (Iced Guardian):

The creative forces behind Blind Guardian and Iced Earth are now writing songs for the soon to be legendary side project “Demons & Wizards” with a working title for their first CD “Destiny Prevails”. Get Ready!! 1999 is the year!!

This is the first I’ve read about this!!! Sounds mighty interesting?First is it for real? If so, why is it happening and how will it differ from Iced Earth?

 

JS:
Yes it’s real. Hansi and I have wanted to do this for years and now it’s going to happen. Hansi is a much different vocalist that Matt so it should be very interesting.

 

MR:
If you were put face to face with a 14 year old Marilyn Mansonite kid who thought that Manson was metal and had never heard of Iced Earth, what would you him/her?

JS:
I’d say check out the melody, it’s lacking in a big way in this 90′s metal bullshit.

 

MR:
To you, what defines heavy metal? Some seem to think the ingredients are just a distorted guitar and some aggression?it is more than this though correct?

JS:
Metal is a way of life, once your in you never leave.

 

MR:
Are you happy with your level of success in the USA, in Europe, in the world? Would you like to make Iced Earth a household name, or are you content with your current level of success?

JS:
No, we have along way to go in the states, Europe is killer for us but we can still go farther there as well. When I started the band the intentions were to be as big as Maiden and Metallica and we are not stopping until we achieve that.

 

MR:
It is my experiences that if someone is an Iced Earth fan then they are not just into a few or your songs, they are REALLY serious fans and are dedicated to your music. I would think that a smaller dedicated following like this would be more rewarding than having a legion of brain-dead musical trend followers??

JS:
I agree totally. We’ve built this thing from the ground up and our legion is growing all the time.

 

MR:
What was your first guitar? Are you loyal to any one brand/model?

JS:
A piece of shit acoustic, I don’t remember the name. I play B.C. Rich and Gibson Guitars.

 

MR:
How does it feel to being the only original member left? Would you of liked the original line-up to have stayed together?

JS:
Iced Earth is my baby. I live it sleep it and breath it. I think the changes were necessary for the band to grow.

 

MR:
What were the best and worse personnel changes?

JS:
Matt was the best for sure and the rest isn’t really that important.

 

MR:
Anything else you’d like to pass on to readers of Metal Rules!!??

JS:
Keep the metal faith alive. It will come back, everything moves in cycles. We will do everything in our power to keep it alive. And we couldn’t do it without you the fans. Thanks and we love you for all the support over the years.

 

MR:
Thanks man so much for your time!!!! Hope this awakens a few minds to you and your music!!!

JS:
Thank you man and take it easy!!!!!!!!!!! Later!!

 

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