Iced Earth – Interview with Brent Smedley
@ Bloodstock 2012
Interview by Joffie Lovett
Bloodstock Friday, it’s nearly 7pm and I’m here with Brent Smedley drummer from Iced Earth, who just recently done their set today on the Main Stage with new singer Stu Block playing a good mixture of material old and new!
So how have you been finding the reception of the Bloodstock crowd so far?
Brent: Ahh dude it’s been killer man! It’s only the 2nd time we’ve played Bloodstock and it was awesome! I was wondering how many people would be in front of the stage when we played and as far as I could see there were loads of people, I can’t see that far without my glasses but it looked like a lot of people, and it seemed like they were digging it and it looked killer man!
It was a lot of people! I was certainly enjoying it as a long-time fan of Iced Earth as you played a good mixture of old and new stuff. So do you prefer playing in the large festival environment like this or do you prefer playing the smaller more intimate shows or is it kind of a mixture of both?
Brent: Yeah, I mean every show that we do man we give it our all whether it is a few hundred a few thousand, 10 thousand, 20 thousand, each ones different and they have their different tendencies. We played a very intimate show in Scotland last night, a very small place and to go from there to here is like Night and Day you know? But the only thing about playing a festival for me, as I’m right in the back and the fans are so far away it’s hard to get the interaction of the energy going but in a small club they’re right up on you man!
Yeah, coz I’m a drummer myself
Brent: Yeah? Sweet man!
So I feel your pain man! You’re stuck right at the back, especially on stages like this!
Brent: Yeah, exactly!
So the latest album, Dystopia, you did a few different conceptual songs on there and there’s a song about Dark City and stuff. So I’m guessing the overall theme is a kind of futuristic “end of the world” and “Dystopian” scenario, can you go into any more details about how the material came together and how it was written? Was it mostly Stu Block and John Schaeffer doing the writing?
Brent: Yeah pretty much, those two got together and pretty much wrote everything. A couple of them are based off of movies like Dark City and V. They’re all very similar theme, it’s basically about everything that’s happening in the world right now, the powers that be, the people that pull the strings, the New World Order and what not, it’s about what’s happening behind the scenes and the things that maybe most people don’t know about. The way that the general population is being controlled by a very small group of people, the oligarchy of people that are in power.
The people that really pull the strings above government and things?
Brent: Right! The people that control the currency, the exchange rates, the oil production…
Ahh like the Federal Reserve and things like that?
Brent: Exactly! Exactly those people! It’s about waking people up to that and if you can do that with reference to movies and dark fantasy, even though some of it is not exactly that, some of it is VERY REAL!
I think as well as having a cool concept like that and having the reference like that to those movies gets people more interested as well as they can relate to those movies even if they’re not fully aware of the ramifications of what the album is about they can use that as a starting point.
And once you finish at the festival here, where are you off to next? Coz were you playing at Wacken before Bloodstock?
Brent: No, not this year unfortunately. We played in a festival in Sweden and we played a couple of shows in Ireland and Scotland and now we’re here and tomorrow morning we leave for Finland to play there tomorrow and then we have a show in Belgium and then have a couple of days rehearsal and a couple more festivals and then we end in Cyprus.
Nice! So you get a nice bit of sunshine at the end of it all and take a few days to chill out!
Brent: Yeah! Sure!
And are you aiming to see any other bands at the festival while you’re here or are you fairly busy with all the press interviews and things like that?
Brent: Err no, I definitely want to see Absolver (Joffie comment: sorry if I spelt that wrong, I’m transcribing this phonetically!) If I can, I’m not sure what time they play but that’s our Bass Player Luke’s it’s his brothers new band. They actually played on the last 3 shows with us as the opener but unfortunately I didn’t really get a chance to see them play as I sort of relax do my own thing before going on but I think they’re playing in the tent and I’d like to see them and maybe Behemoth.
Yeah, I think Watain is on next and Behemoth is on after them and they’ve got a big show lined up apparently!
Brent: Yeah, I read somewhere about all the pyro they’ve got lined up for tonight!
Yeah, because they were lined up to play here a couple of years ago but then they had to cancel due to Nergal being diagnosed with Leukaemia and so of course they’ve had to wait for him to recover back to health before playing again.
Brent: Ahh that’s the guy! Yeah I read about him and what happened to him before!
Yeah, he’s had to have a lot of rehabilitation and stuff like that after the treatment and so this is kind of like their come-back show so it should be really good!
Right, so now we have a couple of silly questions to end the interview on, if you could do a collaboration with any of the bands that are on the line-up or any band in general who would you choose and why?
Brent: Iron Maiden man! Coz they’re king!
Yeah, the British do it best!
Brent: Maiden for sure and other than that probably Sabbath!
Dio or Ozzy?
Brent: Ahh for my money Dio man!
*at this point the Intro Riff to Heaven and Hell rings out throughout the Festival Site as Dio Disciples and Tim Ripper Owens get the whole crowd singing along to it, quite a nice sudden moment to break up the interview and it’s nice to know Dio is still smiling down on us and timing things to a tee with his good sense of humour!*
Brent: Ahh speaking of Dio!! Hahaha!
*both myself and Brent start laughing*
And final question and I’ll try not to keep you much longer,
Brent: No worries man, no worries!
If you had the opportunity to stage a festival such as this where you could get any line-up in history of any bands although you’ve already said two bands already, what line-up of bands would you like to get together for your Dream Festival Line-Up?
Brent: Are we talking about active bands or maybe some guys are deceased?
Any, yeah yeah!
Yeah, coz you know I’d love to see Queen but Queen just isn’t Queen anymore without Freddie Mercury obviously!
Brent: Alright, well of course there would be Maiden, I mean Maiden just as they are now. I’d have to say Sabbath with Dio, Pantera from the glory days!
That would be good actually, I missed out on seeing Pantera as they split up just after I got my tickets and they cancelled
Brent: I saw them about 12 times in their hey-day man!
Ahh no way! I would have absolutely loved to have seen them!
Brent: I’d say those three to start man; those are the first three to come to mind.
Alright, are there any questions you wanted to ask Jamie? (Metal-Rules Photographer)
*Jamie shakes his head shyly* – Bless you mate!
Ok, so how have you found the transition into Iced Earth working with John Schaeffer, as I know he can be quite protective of his material, is it a Democracy or is it more kind of a Dictatorship?
Brent: Ahh no it’s definitely not a Democracy! *Brent laughs*
Brent: I mean he’s the boss no questions asked, but he’s very open, I would say more so now. I’ve been in and out of the band for 9 years. It’s more open now as we have a real band of committed guys now, to where in the past there’s been some changes and maybe been some questionable allegiances and what not. So John’s become a lot more open to listening to the others idea than ever before.
I’ve seen Iced Earth a few times live in the past and I saw the band back on the Horror Show tour when they had Richard Christy on drums but I think this line-up that I’ve seen today has been the tightest that I’ve heard Iced Earth so far.
Brent: Thanks man!
It’s sounding really nice and the drums sound really nice out the front as I’m always screaming at the sound guy when I’m watching gigs going “MAKE THE SNARE DRUM SOUND GOOD!!!”
Brent: Sweet man!
*Brent and I both laugh*
Yeah, but it does sound good man! I think Stu as well compared with Matt and Ripper and all the other guys he does seem to be the most charismatic front man that Iced Earth has ever had!
Brent: Natural born frontman! Immediately he came in and it felt like he’d been in the band for years! He fits like a glove and I definitely would have to agree I think that this is the best line-up! And I had the pleasure of playing with Matt Barlow twice and then with Tim Ripper Owens and now with Stu Block and I think with the group of guys we have now with Stu, Troy and Luke I think this is the best line-up we’ve ever had and we’re just getting warmed up man! We’re just getting started!
So do you think they’d ever be the opportunity maybe sometime in the future if you were doing a special Festival performance such as this, and you got all the ex-singers back again to do a one off special show and each singer did a different bit of material or is that a bit of a no no?
Brent: Err; I don’t think it would ever happen man.
Yeah, it would be a good fan experience but I guess wounds would need to be healed probably?
Brent: Ahh. I mean all that is sort of past and gone but I think we’d all just let that kind of stuff just rest where it was.
Yeah, and then you can all just focus on the future…
Brent: Yeah and what we’re doing now.
Well Stu can certainly handle the old stuff really well!
Brent: Oh yeah, he’s killer man!
Yeah, coz he seems to do a really good job of getting the balance right between sounding enough like Matt Barlow but then at the same time obviously putting his own style into the singing as well.
Brent: Yeah, Stu’s awesome, he’s a freak of nature that boy! He’s amazing!
Yeah coz he seems to have the high notes of Ripper and the low notes of Barlow as well! And then he’s got his own vocal style as well, so it’s brilliant.
Brent: He’s awesome man; he’s always full of energy and ready to go!
Well thanks for your time today man; it’s been really awesome seeing you guys back on stage again today! It’s been far too long for me as I’ve not seen the Stu Block line-up on stage until today, I saw the Ripper line-up a few times and the Matt Barlow line-up a few times too, but it’s really fucking awesome to see you guys performing stronger than ever really!
Brent: Thank you man, thanks a lot!
And I hope to see you back here in the UK again soon!
Brent: Sweet man!
Enjoy the rest of the tour!
Brent: Thanks buddy!