Iced Earth – Vocalist Matt Barlow
Interview and transcription by HannTu
Live pics and interview pic by HannTu
One of the highlights of this year’s Bloodstock Open Air festival in England was the opportunity to see Iced Earth with Matt Barlow. Along with many other Iced Earth fans, I consider Matt Barlow to be the definitive voice of Iced Earth; and while Ripper Owens is a fine vocalist in his own right, the Iced Earth sound is pretty much incomplete without Matt’s soulful and emotional croon. When I was offered the chance to interview the man himself, I jumped at it, although I only had ten minutes.
The Iced Earth camp turned up late (stuck in traffic), and immediately Jon and Matt jumped off the bus to fulfil their publicity obligations, as true pros – even though they were due to be onstage in about two hours’ time. Matt looked pretty tired and flustered, but was anything but cold and distant, answering my somewhat inane questions with thoughtfulness and depth. Here’s the nine-minute interview…
Hi man, how you doing?
Yeah, alright. You’re a bit rushed here!
Yeah a little bit.
Yeah take your time anyway. Right, let’s get the standard publicity plug out of the way. Tell us about the new album.
The new record is obviously Part II of the two-part story. Basically in a nutshell, it’s about the coming of the Messiah of the Setians, which would be the initial inhabitants of Earth. With him being the Messiah of the initial inhabitants of Earth, it would also mean that, uh, basically the Antichrist for Man, coming back to get some vengeance for his people.
It mainly focuses on the main character Set Abominae and his rise, whereas FRAMING ARMAGEDDON dealt with the initial overthrowing of the Setian people by the humans, and basically they’re going off into the underground and framing what was to be, that was basically in preparation for Set to be born, and come back as part of the prophesy.
Okay, so you came in quite late. Was it quite hard to fit into Jon’s vision?
Well actually I’m very familiar with Jon’s vision as far as the storyline for “Something Wicked” goes. We delved into it on SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, with the trilogy, and I definitely had a very good idea of where he was wanting to go with it. Also, he certainly kept me up to date as to what was going on, and I also had FRAMING ARMAGEDDON to go off of, and getting myself up to speed. So I definitely had different venues of knowledge.
What was the purpose of recording, re-recording some of the old songs?
Yeah well, it’s certainly not what a lot of people believed or conceived. It certainly wasn’t a snub on him, we’re not trying to rewrite history or anything like that. Um, basically all it was was the simple fact that we were releasing a single for this record; Jon doesn’t have any kind of throwaway material, and he wasn’t going to release any more than one piece of music from the new record, because that would sorta be, you know, umm, going against the whole idea of this going as a single. So, but we did want to offer some other items. We wanted at least two for a single release, and then we had an obligation for doing a four-song, so basically we went back, re-recorded some of the other songs for a continuity thing, so we basically have an idea of where it’s going from, what it’s going into. Jon asked me for my input on which songs I’d like to do, and we basically went with those songs, and that’s how it worked out. We weren’t going to, we’re not going to rewrite history, re-record FRAMING ARMAGEDDON for a box set, we’re not trying to write Tim out…
So it’s no reflection on Tim then.
No, no, absolutely not.
Let’s go on to touring. Did it take you some time to get back into the groove of a headlining tour?
Umm, not really, I don’t know. I’ve been doing it for a long time, I sorta have performing in my, umm, it’s part of who I am, and it just fell right into place.
Jon said that the touring schedule of Iced Earth would be built around your schedule, your various commitments.
Is that still the case?
Yes, at this point it’s still the case.
But what kind of commitments? Because you’ve finished with Pyramaze…
Right, Pyramaze is done, but as far as my regular work schedule, that’s still…
The Police Department of Delaware…
Okay. Tell us about the setlist tonight.
It’ll mainly be focusing on the classic material. We’re not out here promoting the new record. At this point we’re just giving people a little bit of FRAMING ARMAGEDDON, GLORIOUS BURDEN, and kind of working backward after that…
Cos you only have an hour…
Yeah so it’s pretty tight man, really hard to give everybody everything they want, it always is.
Right, the last album you did, THE HORROR SHOW, different band, Larry Tarnowski and Steve DiGiorgio. What’s the dynamics with the new band now?
Well the dynamics are great man. We have a really good time. I mean obviously we have played with Brent before. Brent recorded ALIVE IN ATHENS with us, so I mean obviously everybody is well aware of his ability to play live. We got Troy Seeley, who is a really great guitar player, really cool guy, really kinda cool look on stage as well as Freddy Vidales, he’s got a really good presence and really builds on the band, the whole idea of what the band is about, which is basically go out there and give everybody a good show.
Will it be a lasting band, a proper cohesive Iced Earth?
Hey man, let’s hope so. I mean I certainly think we have the ability to be, so let’s hope that that works out.
Was it a shock to be asked to rejoin again? Tell us how it happened.
It was, it was a bit of one. Basically Jon contacted me after a year, after he found out that I was working with Pyramaze and going to do that record with them. Basically he was wondering if I was interested in performing again, performing music – and things just… you know, we had obviously longer discussions that I can sum up in a nutshell, and the basic idea is that we could make this work. There were going to be changes made anyway as far as what Jon had in his mind what was going on with him and the band at that time. Whatever the issues were, as far as my performance or what-have-you, I don’t know, but really not any of my business. But I was asked to come back, and we would work around my schedule and what I had going on, it’s worked out, it’s worked pretty well. I mean obviously the travelling and everything is more intense, travel a little bit more back and forth within the US, but it’s worked out.
But it’s not going to be the 250 dates a year type thing.
Right that’s the whole thing, we never had that. 250 dates a year, that was way beyond what I have ever done.
The reception towards you coming back was totally positive. What do you say to people who see you as THE voice of Iced Earth, as in refusing to accept any replacement?
Well I mean, I certainly appreciate, I certainly appreciate the support, and I understand certainly how people get into a band for one particular member or, or…but I know there are a lot of Iced Earth fans that would still be Iced Earth fans regardless of who was singing. I mean, the main thing, the music starts out, the music is the main thing, and then everything else is on top of that is icing, I appreciate the fact that a lot of people think that I’m a particularly tasty icing, but that’s pretty much, you know [cracks up]…
…pretty much who I am, you know. I certainly have my own kinda thing, my own sound I guess, whatever, like any vocalist that has any kind of, I don’t know, any kind of following. It’s probably quirkiness or whatever it is, whatever, people say I sound like Paul Stanley or whatever, and that turns on a lot of people too. But for many people that like what I do, I’m sure there’s a good portion of them that don’t.
Right, well we have to wrap this up now. Do you have any last words to say to the fans?
Well you know, I really really appreciate the support. Like you said, a lot of good things have been said about my comeback, and I really appreciate that. I really urge people to go out there and pick up the new record because I think they will be really excited about what they hear.
Alright thank you Matt!
Thanks to Adam Sagir at The Noise Cartel for setting up this interview!
Look out for the FULL Bloodstock Open Air report in the coming weeks, complete with tons of great pics of Iced Earth, Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Evile and many more!