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new Jon Schaffer interview

Iced Earth W/ Jon Schaffer - added - September 3rd, 2008
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda

Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Jon Schaffer when he did some interviews in support for the new Iced Earth album The Crucible Of Man due September 9th, 2008 on SPV. The album continues the storyline that began with The Something Wicked This Way Comes album and then Framing Armageddon and now The Crucible Of Man. While I had a list of 20 plus questions, when you don’t know what direction the interview will go as was the case here I had to go off script. Still I think the interview went well. You be the judge. Read on.

R. Mosqueda

How is your back doing?

It’s doing great man. It’s doing very good, the last few years…I’ve been doing great, I can’t really complain. I have to be careful of what I do on stage and on the road. I just have to do a lot of stretches and stuff like that. If there’s any issues that come up I have to deal with them right away and not ignore them like I used to in the past. In the old days I used to ignore it and let it build until bad shit would happen. As I said it’s going great and can’t complain.

Has the injury put any limitations on your live performance?

Oh yeah definitely, I have to be more mellow on stage. Years ago I used to do all these wild head banging moves and that’s how I ruptured a disc in my neck on stage in Berlin in 1996. At that point I had been on stage acting like an animal and it finally caught up with me. The thing about the injury in Berlin I ignored it and I was in brutal pain. I continued to perform for four years then I began to get cortisone shots just to help with the pain, taking pain pills like crazy. It got to the point where I almost lost use of my right hand and I finally had to have surgery. They took out the bad disc and replaced it with some titanium plates and screws in there and fused everything together. I just have to be careful because I still have problematic discs. While they took out the worst one I still have two that are problematic and I just can’t hit the stage and begin to thrash my head around and do the insane stuff that I used to do. I just have to be more cautious and a little bit frustrating to tell you the truth because I can get caught up in the moment and the adrenalin rush and I find myself doing stuff that I shouldn’t be doing. It’s easy to forget, but it’s just the way it is man.

And you guys will be touring this September through October in North America right?

Right. We did a number of shows this summer in Europe. I’ll be fine man.

And you guys are kick things off in North America along the way you'll play at Progpower USA in Atlanta right? When I saw that you guys were on the bill I thought “special event” good time for a DVD or a live album. Is that a possibility? I mean you have Matt back in the band….

No. Not for that, though we did film several of the festivals in across Europe this summer. And we have plans to release a DVD called The Summer Slaughter later on. So it’s Iced Earth at various festivals and a lot of behind the scenes stuff. Along with a documentary style movie of the tour in Europe. It’s not going to be the “ultimate” production show, that something that’s yet to be made. This is going to be cool though. It’s going to be a celebration of Matt coming back and the set list is older stuff for the most part.  It’s going to be fun man; it’s going to be a lot better than Alive In Athens that’s for sure.

I have the Alive In Athens DVD and I do recall reading that you weren’t thrilled with Century Media as this was not an officially sanctioned DVD. Was it the production that you weren’t happy about or what was it?

Well, it wasn’t ever intended to be a DVD or meant for release. The show was recorded and meant to be used as snippets… I hosted a show for the German television channel Viva. That particular weekend they had a camera crew come down to Athens and follow me around the city and then the shot the show with the intention of using some of the performance footage between segments. So I was the VJ, I played other people’s videos and they showed performance clips in between. That’s what it was, it was a Viva special.

It was never intended to be a DVD; if that was the case we would have hired a real camera crew to record the show. There were just three cameras used two of which were camcorders needless to say the quality is really, really low. The editing job is fucking horrible! And don’t get me started on Century Media they are continuously cashing in on Iced Earth’s success, that’s what that is. That’s’ what the box set is, that’s what The Blessed And The Damned set is…the three products that they have released since Ice Earth has been off the label have been all a attempts to cash in on Iced Earth’s success and they will continue to do that kind of shit.

So it wasn’t for public consumption and you had no creative control I can see your point from the artist perspective.

They came out and said “we found this in the vault” and made it sound like it was something very special, bullshit! We all knew it was there, they knew that the reason it hadn’t been released before is because we had all agreed that it was the quality that we wanted that’s why it was there. It’s all greed man. I have to tell people to beware, it does not have my signature of approval because the quality isn’t there, that’s all. I think unless you’re a diehard collector you should feel no obligation to buy any of the stuff that Century Media has released since we parted ways.

Well I’m excited about this new DVD…

Like I said it’s not the “ultimate” DVD but it will be a very cool DVD. The “ultimate” DVD is a DVD that will be shot in the next year or so.

Being a fan I keep up on the Iced Earth news and visit the website regularly. One thing cool thing that you’re doing on this tour is that you’re offering V.I.P. packages for fans to buy for shows on the upcoming tour.

We have such a great and loyal fan base that we were trying to think of different ways to give that back to them somehow. We have had various attempts at fan clubs in the past that have always turned out to be a pain in the ass. Now we have a company that do thee kind of packages professionally so I really think this is really cool and the V.I.P. came from my new management. They came on board about 6 to 8 months ago and I took to them the idea of doing something special for the fans. This was an idea that was tossed around and I was all for it. It’s gonna be special, we get a chance to talk to the fans up close, we can sign their stuff and they’ll also get a special shirt. They’ll get a chance to spend some good one on one time with us. I think it’s really gonna be fun. We’re not going to have a bunch of people with cameras, we’re gonna have someone onsite that will be taking a picture of the fans with the band. We’ll get the person’s email address and when we get those online they’ll get their photo with the band.

That sounds very cool and high tech.

Yeah it is. These guys found a way to streamline this whole thing. That way you don’t have like 50 people standing around with cameras which could take a long time you know.

Did you have parts 1 and 2 of Something Wicked Concept done prior to the recording of Framing Armageddon?

As you know the story has been done for years but in terms of making it into music…all the music was written from February 2006 to February 2007. The exception being the lyrical parts and melodies on The Crucible Of Man. All of the music for both of the albums was recorded in February, April and about half the month of May of 2007 all of Crucible was recorded then, the only think that we need to complete were lyrics and a few guitar parts. That was completed after the last European tour that we did. So it was all written a performed with the same mindset, the music was designed after the titles of the songs. When I decided that I was going to do this I wanted to approach this from the many ways that I could as the author of the songs. I chose specific points of the storyline to focus on in the records, those points then turned out to be working titles for the songs and some of them ended up being b-titles. I chose the title called “The Wicked Child” and that it was going to be about his birth and that event. Then I went back and wrote the music to make it sound that way. That was my interpretation of it, that’s how I write most of the time it starts with the title. Or with a theme and it just rolls from there.

How much shifting around vocally did you have to do to the second installment of the story? Being that Matt sang on Crucible and Tim sang on Framing.

Not much, actually very little to tell you the truth. When you have two guys (Tim Owens and Matt Barlow) that are very capable singers it doesn’t really change much. I think there two parts that I had to adjust the melody that I was having Matt sing because it wasn’t a part that matched his vocal power so we’d move the melody up or down and adjusted it to his voice. A very minor adjustment, this was done maybe once or twice in a bridge section or something. Wasn’t much and didn’t require much.

Was Tim’s departure mutual? And how did you come to that his time coming off a couple of strong albums in The Glorious Burden and Framing Armageddon?

It wasn’t mutual. I love the work that did in the studio with the albums. It was pretty obvious on stage and in the live environment that Iced Earth just wasn’t feeling right.

Which was something that was completely foreign to me, because the singers that came before Matt were true believers, you can say whatever you want about the voice but the fact was when we were on stage it was all for one, one for all. I think that the audience also felt it, because the electric reactions. The thing that I noticed when we played live with Tim was that it just didn’t have…there was something missing. It took me some time to realize it and when we were on the European tour I was really analyzing the situation. The thing that I noticed when we played live with Tim was that it just didn’t have…there was something missing.  It took me while to figure it out on the European tour, as I said I began to really look at things and then talked to Tim about it. I let him know my concerns…and I really think that at the end of the day that he was not really he was not really engaged in Iced Earth. Tim was more concerned with his solo album and band (Beyond Fear), the fans could feel it and I could feel it.  It just wasn’t…people just didn’t believe it, even though he did these amazing performances, his highs are amazing and all that. At the end of the day the talent part will only get you so far you know? There just has to be a spiritual part there that has to be there to allow people to buy into it. I think that when you’re filling someone’s shoes whether it’s Matt or the guys that came before him, who were true believers you have to be just as good as them or better. That’s the thing in metal and bands like Iced Earth the reason we have such a rabid fan base is that they know Iced Earth is never going to wake up and do a rap album you know? They won’t see us do some off the cuff weirdo shit, we are a metal band and that is what you’re going to get. That’s what we do, I have driven this thing through two fucking decades and we’ve survived some serious fucking shit and we’ve always maintained on course, the fans know that. I truly believe if I was up on stage going through the motions that we would not have this loyal fan base, if I was just giving lip service to people they’d know it and they’d be gone. It’s as simple as that. So no it wasn’t mutual and there would have been a change anyway even if Matt didn’t come back into the picture. I would have completed Crucible with Tim then looked for another singer. Matt coming back into the picture was a trick of fate I think. We kept in touch and talked over the last few years though we never spoke about music. I heard about this project (Pyramaze) that he was doing and I thought Matt might be missing music again. So when I got home I called him and said “so what’s up dude are you missing it?” He said “yeah man I am,” I said to him “hey we should do something we should start another band or a project let’s do something.” One thing lead to another, because as police officer that being in Iced Earth once again would even be an option. As we talked it turned out that it could be an option and at the end of the day it seemed pretty silly to start up a new band when we have the Iced Earth thing. So within like 48 hours he was back in the band. I just had to be convinced that he was really committed to doing this. I said “if you’re going to do this I need you to do it all the way not half way.” So that was it man. I told that Matt was back and there’s been some interesting theories as to how this all happened, but I’m not going to go in to that. There’s all these fucking idiots who are running their mouths in these chat rooms and stuff. These guys base their spew age on personal opinions, biases and shit. I know the truth and I’m good with that.

Thanks for that response I appreciate your honesty and you sharing your side of the story.

The thing is man that people are going to believe what they going to believe. At the end of the day..people say a lot of shit about me, I’m aware of that. It really doesn’t make any fucking difference I know who I am and what I do, at the end of the day I sleep really well at night and I am very comfortable in my own skin. I’ve accused of treating people in this horrific way like people say then you know what? My life wouldn’t be going as great as it is. It’s just so sick how we can easily sit there and lie to ourselves, whether it’s our egos, or dishonesty or whether it’s just us being pathetic. How many people have you know that were fired and have taken complete ownership of why they got fired? Probably few to none right? The easy thing is to create a story that isn’t really true, but easier for you to live with it. You say that enough times that you begin to believe it then it becomes reality. You have then changed reality. I live my life as honest as I can, at times I have been brutally honest and I think that’s what people might not like.

Was part of the deal when Matt came back that he leave Pyramaze?

No. That was a decision that he made when he came back to Iced Earth, he couldn’t do two things at once.

Is Matt still a highway patrolman?

Yes. He’s actually a police officer in Delaware a small town in Delaware.

Would you consider adding Matt’s vocals to Framing Armageddon? Why or why not?

That is going to happen. That will be on the box set version. We had talked about doing a box set out of this and since we are doing one now, there will be a version of Framing Armageddon with Matt on vocals for continuity.

Any chance that Iced will be playing Framing Armageddon or The Crucible Of Man live at any point?

There's defiantly a chance that we could do both of these albums live, but I’m going to have to leave this up to the fans. I think we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I don’t think this is something that we’ll know until the album has been out for a year or so. If it’s something that people want we’re going to work very hard to give it to them. If something like this were to take place, it’s going to be a lot of work, if we do something like this I was it to be something that the fans are going to be excited about. If they aren’t then I don’t want to fuck with it! (laughs) Like with everything if I’m going to do something I want to do it right and I want to do it all the way man. Something like that it’s going to be a job, but it’s going to be great or I won’t do it. We’ll have to see what the demand is.

That sounds like an opportunity for an “ultimate” DVD to me.

(laughs) Me too man, we’ll see. Though I’d really like to do a DVD of a headlining show that has a taste of the entire Iced Earth catalog, stuff from The Glorious Burden, to everything man, all of the epics live. I’d like to have “Gettysburg,” “Something Wicked Trilogy,” “Inferno,” Suffering Trilogy” and all of the big epics all in one concert. That would be really cool and very special. The catalog is so fucking big and the fans are so passionate about the music. Even when we played in Europe three hours, no support acts, no solos none of that shit, we still had people complain. (laughs) There were like “why didn’t you play this song or that song?” You just can’t win sometimes! (laughs) But it’s cool because the fans are that passionate about the band and the music.

Do you have any material written for the next album?

Yeah there are ideas and riffs and stuff that might be used for the next album. I get ideas all the time, music just flows through me and when I pick up the guitar there are riffs that I may think are the basis for a song. At the same time for every usable riff or riff that I keep for a potential song there could be 150 that I don’t use. That kind of thing happens all the time. The reason that I don’t make quick decisions like this is that after being submersed in the “Something Wicked” thing is that I just need a break before I get started on the next thing, it’s really not smart to do it now. The reality is that I’ll be spending the next year or so promoting this album and to begin to think about the next thing when I know it will be a year or year and a half from now before we even begin to officially write for another record, my mind will be in a different place. I will have grown, I will feel different, I will be in a different mood and things will be different in a year or year and a half from now.  I know myself well enough that the best thing to do is to get away from it for a while and come back refreshed then start attacking. I do have some ideas but I’m not going to share them right now. (laughs)

Fair enough.  Last question I don’t know if you have a short answer to this. I want to be mindful of the time allotted and we’re just about done here. What are your thoughts on the upcoming presidential election?

I don’t discuss politics in interviews; The Glorious Burden got twisted around. A lot of journalists tried to make that album into a political album. It was clearly based on military history, in the same fashion that Horror Show was based on horror films. Iced Earth has always done concepts like that, but I think that it’s a historical time, having an African-American nominated for the Democratic Party. That’s a huge thing I think that’s really cool, having said that we’ll see what happens, these are very serious times. I think the American people have a very short memory span and that concerns me to some degree. I think it was within 6 weeks after 9/11 and people had their heads up their asses again about what’s going on. I have very dear friends of mine that are fighting in the trenches everyday and are very aware that we are still at war and just a very dangerous world. Not that we need to go around living in fear because if we do then they win, but to be blatantly stupid about it isn’t a good idea either. Here’s the thing too all these guys running for office they all run their mouths about shit. They don’t have the briefings that they’ll get once they step into the position. They all come out saying things like an armchair quarterback, “this is what I’ll do.” When they get into the position and you actually get the facts then thing change. (laughs) I just hope whoever it is that gets in there is taking the situation very seriously and they know what we are up against, because we are in a period of history that could very well be the most dangerous that we’ve ever faced. That could be due to the nature of the war, the sooner people realize that we are in a religious war the sooner we could put an end to it. All this politically correct stuff is just fucking asinine so there you go.

Thanks so much for the interview Jon.

Thank you, if you make it out to the show come up and say hello.;ucat=1&var0news=value0news

Cool interview, thanks for sharing  Wink

thanks a lot

This is why Jon Schaffer is my fucking God! I could pull so many quotes outta that to summarize it to be even more badass! Feh, I'll do it when I get some sleep! Razz Good hearing his truthful thoughts on Tim, it clears a lot up!

There's a small town in Delaware called Delaware? "Uh where do you live?" "I live in Delaware Delaware." What they do? Have a parrot name the city? "You get a cracker if you name our city" " Delaware Delaware *squawk*"

mr. schaffer I have to tell you; YOU KICK ASS!!!!

Great interview, I like it a lot...

"The “ultimate” DVD is a DVD that will be shot in the next year or so. "
2 DVD's in like a year!
Aggelos Poneros

Can't wait for the SomethingWicked box set Smile

Aggelos Poneros wrote:
Can't wait for the SomethingWicked box set Smile

me too dude, me too

Thanks alot for the interview!

IMO the re-recorind of Framing Armageddon is quite unnecessary. The 2 songs released on "I Walk Among You" didn't sound good at all, since it was written for Tim's voice. All the power was in some way gone with Barlow on vocals.
But when they release the box set I will buy it for sure!

Sentinel wrote:
Thanks alot for the interview!

IMO the re-recorind of Framing Armageddon is quite unnecessary. The 2 songs released on "I Walk Among You" didn't sound good at all, since it was written for Tim's voice. All the power was in some way gone with Barlow on vocals.
But when they release the box set I will buy it for sure!

you are right in some way, Tim was the origin voice for the "framing"...
but I think it is just about, completing the story and telling it in its complete with Matts voice...

According to the interview, he's been writing the material just as he would without Tim or Barlow, just like he normally would, and would allow one of the singers to put in their own two cents on it. I can see how he does this, due to Ten Thousand Strong sounding just like Tim's (not 100% though). On the other hand, The Clouding is no where near the perfection that Tim did on it.

Kanadwen wrote:
According to the interview, he's been writing the material just as he would without Tim or Barlow, just like he normally would, and would allow one of the singers to put in their own two cents on it. I can see how he does this, due to Ten Thousand Strong sounding just like Tim's (not 100% though). On the other hand, The Clouding is no where near the perfection that Tim did on it.

I admit...
The Wicked One

cool interview. I'm thinking about making a poll topic concerning hearing all of Framing and Crucible Live
Like each album is like 45 minutes or so, meaning 90 minute set could cover it. Cut it up a bit and it could very well be less.
like most of the ambietic tracks in Framing.
The Sexiest Metalhead

Good interview. I like it how Jon explains stuff. Cool  Smile

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