Iced Earth - Interview
I don’t think that whatever I say here would ever be sufficient enough to describe this band. They are the gods of American Power Metal and let’s leave it that way. Their new album "Horror Show" is another masterpiece in their impressive discography and by bringing to life Dracula, Frankenstein or Damian (The Omen) this time they show us even darker side of Iced Earth. So, without wasting your bandwidth I’ll let the monster Matthew Barlow tell you more about their latest release and the Iced Earth machine himself.
Judging by the media interest, "Horror Show" must be getting pretty good reviews...
Yeah it has been. We’ve been really, really happy with the reviews it’s gotten.
It’s been three years now since your last regular studio album, was it the band’s intention to take some time off?
We’ve been pretty busy, man. We did a live record, Jon was working with Demons & Wizards and did some touring with them, so we’ve really been busy. It’s not been all fun and games.
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" was a very successful album. I think that there were high expectations with regard to the new album. How did you handle this kind of pressure?
I think you right, there were certainly high expectations, in the matter of fact, some people were expecting that we would continue the "Something Wicked" story and really do a full concept. We didn’t think we were ready to do that at this point because when that happens it would really need a proper treatment given to it because it’s going to be a big deal... but we will visit that land at some point. There were certain expectations by fans and things like that, that we really needed to provide for and we certainly always keep that in mind but we went with this idea, this theme, and we stuck it out.
You actually answered one of my questions because wasn’t the next Iced Earth album going to be a concept based on the "Something Wicked..." story? Why did you decide to do "Horror Show" instead of continuation of "Something Wicked"? Does the fact that this is your last album on Century Media play any role in making this decision?
No. I think the main reason for it was that Jon really wants it to be a really big deal, really big production with a lot of push and other things attached to it other than just the record and the music. He wants to make sure that whoever the band is partnered with is going to be able to pull that kind of thing off. He wants to be secure about that. So, in changing the plan we were looking for idea to follow and we actually talked few years ago about doing an EP based on the classic horror monsters and just calling it "Monster" and doing this as a fun thing for us and something cool for the fans. When given this opportunity as doing another studio record, Jon and I talked about it and we decided to go forward with it. Jon wasn’t exactly sure if that was going to be a full theme or not with the monsters but we ended up having enough ideas and material with these characters that it really made for a good, solid record.
Does it mean you want to go somewhere else to do this album?
Yeah, for sure. [laughs] We need to move on. We have high expectations and we would like other people to have this same kind of drive and vision that we do.
Despite obvious success with Iced Earth you went through another line-up change... Are you satisfied with Steve DiGiorgio’s and Richard Christy’s contribution to this album?
Yeah. Richard is a great drummer. We worked with him before in live situations and it’s going to be a lot of fun having the drummer that performed on the record be out there with us live and I thing Richard is a real pro and it’s going to work out nicely. Steve DiGiorgio merely performed on the record and he won’t be touring with us. We have a professional act here. We like to bring in professionals and do things right in live situations and I certainly don’t think that member changes and things like that would have a negative effect on us. They are going to happen. I think people have gotten kind of use to it. It’s unfortunate that it has happened so many times in the past but we don’t look at it as a bad thing, we just basically look at it as inconvenience, we just go on and we find what we need to do to keep the machine going. Member changes or anything else have not slowed down this machine so we are continuing on.
Yeah, but it has to be just a little frustrating? Having steady members, solid band helps to do better music...
Yeah, you right. Hopefully we are at the point we won’t have to worry about it anymore. We’ve certainly had our exploding drummers and things, spinal tap moments but it happens, man. This band is not a democracy by any means. We follow a basic way of thinking that we have a boss, entitled to our beliefs and everything and it’s great. But when we are playing, when we are on the road, recording we are here to do the job. We have certain responsibilities to do for the band and sometimes people don’t see it that way.
I know Jon is really disappointed with Steve... what’s your opinion? From what I know he was hired because he was going to tour with you but in reality he only did the album and backed out almost right away after the recording process…
That’s correct. He was a big disappointment. It was a basically a stab in a back. We were told, by a fax which is very professional very classy way to announce this, that he wouldn’t be doing the tours with us. It was a big kick in a face and obviously he was trying to use us as a promotion for himself. We are not into that. Self promotion is you prove then you promote but it wasn’t proven... I’m not going to take away his performance on the record, he’s a good bass player but he’s not very friendly.
Does it mean that James MacDonough will return to handle the bass?
Yeah, several days after the word got out, Jimmy had e-mailed Jon and said that he understood the situation with Steve and if given the opportunity he would like a second chance. So, we’re gonna do that. We’ll get together and jam, do this tour and then we will see what happens from there. Sometimes things happen for a reason and we are looking at it now and think we gonna do some good things...
You certainly stuck to your very own style, but to me "Horror Show" is much darker than your previous material, especially 'Damien'...
I agree too. I think that as well and I think it’s probably because of the subject matter that goes throughout the record. We really tried to represent those characters in a way that I certainly would do it and I think that Jon did a very nice job musically of giving these characters the dark treatment that they deserve and not making them something other than what we perceived them to be.
Also by using first person (Damien, Dracula) you make the reader a part of what happens instead of making him watch it by describing what’s going on...
I think first person is a very good tool we like to use a lot. It really brings the personal aspect of it. Third person works in a lot of ways, sometimes you can go in and out from third person to first person and really create a story that way as well, but I think you’re right with the treatment of these songs. It was really a lot of fun to do it that way.
When you wrote the lyrics, did you concentrate more on the books or movies?
Both. There were certainly inspiration from both and there are certain songs that we took artistic license on, as far as creating our own kind of stories. For instance Jon did on "The Phantom Opera Ghost". I know he’s seen several versions of "Phantom…" and all of them were different, had their own different endings, different lead ups to the Phantom, so he took it upon himself to do his own thing. He’s got his own story but still falling within the realm of what the initial story is about. There are definitely songs that we took artistic license with but hopefully everyone will understand where we were coming from. We really tried to make them more Iced Earth and really just pay tribute to these characters.
"Ghost Of Freedom" is based on your idea... how did you come up with it, because this one is a little off from whole horror theme?
Yes, it doesn’t fall within the theme. The only thing that might relate it is the word ghost. I told Jon about this idea a few months before we started any kind of pre-production and he like it. We are certainly getting into a certain thing now with the records, seem like, since "Something Wicked..." getting into a bit of patriotic feel and with this song is certainly no exception. We really tried to pay a tribute to a people that fought for freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
...was this song inspired by "The Patriot"?
The title of it, I definitely give credit to that film as an inspiration for the title. The story doesn’t follow, not even remotely, the theme of that movie.
In the middle of "Damien" there are some reversed spoken passages, what do they actually say?
It’s actually what Jon is whispering in the spoken part in a center of the song when he is speaking first person Damien and that’s just his whisper parts played backwards.
So there is no special satanic meaning or anything like that?
[laughs] Not that we know of... [laughs]
On your previous album there were some songs against the church… like "Burning Times" which was about the Spanish Inquisition. What’s your opinion about religion?
Well, I think everybody has a right to do and to worship what they like. I’m not a really fan of organized religion but that’s me. Everybody has got to live their own life and do their own thing but we try to entertain and often times we are, just like any other metal band, criticized for using anti-church or demonic, satanic reference but we’re really just telling stories. But yeah, there is a certain conflict, I know Jon didn’t have a really good time being raised in very strong religious background as far as going to religious school and things like that. There are probably some deep buried demons there but other than that I can’t speak for him personally.
Speaking of Jon, how’s his neck these days. Is he fully recovered?
He’s doing really well. He has some bad days, he still has some damage back there but the main source of his problems it’s been taken care of. I’m sure he’s looking forward to performing without being in pain.
That’s great. So, we can actually see him banging his head on the stage?
No, not anymore. He can’t do it. It would be really detrimental if he attempted to do that but I don’t think his power and aggression on the stage will be compromised at all.
Who did the female vocals on "The Phantom Opera Ghost"?
A local vocalist named Yunhui Percifield, she lives in Indianapolis. I believe she does have some records but I don’t think she’s signed to a label. I think they are self-produced.
"Horror Show" will also be released as a special limited edition CD; what it will contain?
With that there’s going to be a supplemental CD that will include "Transylvania" which is an Iron Maiden cover and also an hour long interview with Jon giving his own points of view so fans can hear him being interviewed first person and really see eye to eye so to speak.
You just mentioned your fans and I think this is a really striking aspect about your band because not a lot of musicians really pay tribute to their fans and say ‘we really respect you and we are grateful’... you do this.
Man, I think it’s ridiculous whenever guys get to the point where they think that the fans are there for them because, the thing is, they are there for the fans. They are there to perform and do the best job they can and not show up drunk and all fucked up and put on a shitty show because these guys paid hard earned money to go see them and whenever they see a fucked up show it’s like money out the window. I’ve been to those shows, I’ve been pissed off and I’ll never do that. I would never show up on the stage all fucked up and not be able to perform 110% of my capability. It just pisses me off whenever that happens. The fans need to be respected.
Being so devoted to fans, sometimes it must be difficult to decide what’s more important: your own music development or fan’s expectation...
I think if you show respect for the fans they will show respect for you as far as your development is concerned and I don’t think it’s really a concern to fans the way Jon has developed himself as a writer. I think they are there with him, they understand and they know what he’s about and who he’s about because doesn’t pull any punches, he doesn’t bullshit and that’s very important aspect too.
What are the plans for a tour to support "Horror Show"?
We are going to start out touring in September in Europe and probably October in the US having 7 or 10 day off in between.
Are you going to shoot a video to any of "Horror Show" songs?
No, we are not going to. These songs should be given a proper treatment if a video was to be made and it would cost a lot more money than we are willing to really shell out because at the end the band has to pay for it. It takes off the opportunity for us to actually gain some record royalty at any point.
I know you have footage from "Alive in Athens", any plans for releasing a video from this concert?
Yeah, we are talking about it. It’s certainly in a works. We are talking about possibly doing a DVD but we’ll probably end up doing just a video because it will be more available for people throughout Europe that maybe don’t have a DVD players. Not everybody in US has a DVD player either. It will be something cool when it comes out.
Can you tell me more about the stage show you are preparing to fit the album’s concept?
We are going to do several set changes and things like that to really change the mood of the show. I can’t really get into much more about it cause we are not 100% on the total production at this point. I wouldn’t want to say something and then turn around on it and do something differently.
Do you know who your next label is going to be?
We don’t really have any, we have some ideas but nothing is set in stone and certainly nothing that I can talk about right now. [laughs]
Final question, what’s your favorite monster?
I would say Dracula is my favorite monster for a while now so… yeah definitely Dracula.
Plagues Of Babylon
The Plagues EP
The Crucible Of Man - Something Wicked Part 2
Framing Armageddon - Something Wicked Part 1
Overture Of The Wicked
Alive In Athens
The Glorious Burden
Tribute To The Gods
Alive In Athens
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Days Of Purgatory
The Dark Saga
Night Of The Stormrider
- Mental Torment - Ego:genesis - Sep 29
- Aussichtslos - Einsicht - Sep 30
- Primitive - Metal Baphomet - Sep 30
- Hautakammio - Pimeyden Kosketus - Sep 30
- Cosmic Burial - ...To The past - Sep 30
- Wooden Throne - Under The Moon They Wander Until Fading Away - Sep 30
- Enquire Within - Rebirth - Sep 30
- Infrared - From The Black Swamp - Sep 30
- Foul Body Autopsy - Shadows Without Light - Part One - Oct 01
- Light Of The Morning Star - Charnel Noir - Oct 01
- Fear Connection - Progeny Of A Social Disease - Oct 01
- Azothyst - Blood Of Dead God - Oct 01
- Wingless - Nonconform - Oct 01
- Tempter's Sacrament - Temptation Steel Scourge - Oct 01
- Varnok - Anthropogenic - Oct 01
- Fiat Nox - In Contemptuous Defiance - Oct 01
- Demolizer - Upgrade - Oct 01
- Schavot - Galgenbrok - Oct 01
- Necroticgorebeast - Human Deviance Galore - Oct 01
- Full Of Hell - Garden Of Burning Apparitions - Oct 01