Iced Earth


23 Juin 2018


Blaster Of Muppets

Interview Stu Block

Hi Stu! Thank you for answering a few questions. Let's go! A year has passed since "Incorruptible" has been released… At the time, you or Jon Schaffer said this album felt like an Iced Earth classic, how has this record been doing for a year?

Quite well, I do believe that this album will be an Iced Earth classic. Lots of fans love it, we see the fans singing all the songs on this tour… We feel that there’s a lot on this record that we had to let out emotionally and I think that the fans are really connecting to it, it’s really been well received.

Is it the success you hoped it would be?

I can’t really answer that question… Success is in the eye of the beholder. As far as selling as many records as we wanted to, we would like to sell a million records but of course, that’s most likely not gonna happen… but we’ve been happy with the way it has been received, it has worked quite well and all in all, we’re really content with it.

You’ve tackled many different themes with "Incorruptible", there’s a tragic love story but mostly lots of things that deal with History : vikings, pirates, Native Americans, the Civil War… Iced Earth has had a focus on History for some time, do you have ideas about other parts of History you’d like to write about? How do you pick these topics?

Jon’s really the history buff in the band and I really appreciate it. Of course, I’m not as well-versed in History as him. When he finds inspiration, for example, for “Clear The Way”, he has had this idea for quite a while, it’s very organic, most of the time. As far as historical subject matters, it really depends on whether the music is speaking to him, if it fits within everything or if it just happens… it’s very organic when it happens. It’s not like right now we’re thinking “hey, we have to talk about this or that on our next album”, we always let things happen organically, it really depends on what we want to do at the moment, on the music, on how the vibe is going.

Are you now completely done with the Something Wicked story and Set Abominae or do you plan to return to this story in the future?

That whole universe is tied to so many different things that there are still things to tell for sure. I’m not Jon so I don’t really know but I don’t think he’s done with it. It’s such a great story and it’s so open to so many different universes so… You know, it happens when it happens, like I said before about historical themes, so we’ll just have to see.

When we met years ago (when "Dystopia" was about to be released), Jon told me he didn’t feel that Iced Earth had released its greatest DVD yet (with "Alive in Athens" and "Festivals Of The Wicked"). Since then, "Live In Ancient Kourion" came out, do you feel that you have finally achieved what you wanted for an Iced Earth live show on DVD?

Yeah, we were really proud of it. It was a lot of work to get that done and I think Jon is very happy that there is an official live DVD that was professionally shot. It’s a very gratifying thing to have in a catalogue, there’s a relief in that. It really went over really well, I think the fans really loved it… Who knows if we’ll do another one? I’m not too sure at the moment… We’ll have to see… there’s a lot of really special things that can happen concerning the band, we talk about these special things all the time, but we have to prioritize them and put them into action, but putting them into action takes time and money and Jon has a billion of other things he has to work on… He’s the lifeblood behind the band and there’s only so much he can do… But yeah, this live DVD was definitely a great thing, it was well received and hopefully we’ll be able to do another one.

Talking about special things, I’ve read that you intended to re-record your earlier albums, six of them, with the new line-up. Is that something you’re really going to do ? It’s really surprising… re-recording not one or two but six entire albums…

Well, you know the reason behind that… the fact that the label owns everything and that they won’t give us the masters…

Ok, I must confess that I didn’t have that piece of information…

Well, there you go. So it really has to do with gaining control back and being able to sell something directly to the fans that’s gonna help us. It’s going to be something fresh, with me as the new singer for instance, and new musicians in general. We’re entertaining this idea but we haven’t come to a decision yet, it’s something that we’re talking about. We have to gain control of our future, this might be a way of doing that…

If that happened, do you know what you’d like to change, artistically speaking, for these new versions?

I don’t know if we would change things that much… Obviously, the sound would be a bit different, the singing too, there might be some different magical things happening here and there but not too crazy you know, because people really connected to those songs and even though it would be nice to bring some new things or elements we would like to stay close to their original spirit.

Have you kept in touch with your former band Into Eternity? Do you know if anything new’s going to come out? It’s a bit of a shame nothing has been released since you left…

Oh yeah, I keep in touch with them all the time, we live in the same city. I see a lot of the guys who have been in and out of this band, I love those guys. As far as a new album is concerned, I know the band has recorded a new one but they’re holding on to it for the moment, I think it has to do with the way they want it to be distributed, I don’t really know all the details but they do have something that could be released later.

Last time we spoke, we talked about recent bands that you liked (not the classic ones such as Metallica or Iron Maiden) and I remember that you praised Volbeat. Have you discovered other great new bands since then?

To be honest, I haven’t because I’ve been listening to a lot of old vinyl. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sweet, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kansas, to some Jeff Beck or old Iron Maiden stuff… Of course, sometimes I hear of something, a suggestion by some friend for example, of course I’ll listen to that but I also try to keep my head out of that because I like to create too and I don’t want to be influenced by anything. I know there are great talented bands out there, sometimes I hear stuff that amaze me, I see some on stage during tours, but I can’t tell you much about that because I haven’t been out there enough… I’m listening to lots of different stuff you know, lately I’ve listened to a lot of instrumental jazz fusion, to a lot of George Benson too… So I’ve not been immersing in a lot of new stuff for a while… guilty as charged.

Tough question now. Incredible as it may seem, there are some people out there who still don’t really know Iced Earth (smiles)… I’m curious, if you could choose three songs to make your band known by everybody, what are the ones you would choose?

It would be “A Question Of Heaven”, “Watching Over Me”… and I would say… oh man, that’s tough… I’d like to pick one of mine (laughs)… I would probably pick “Raven Wing”.

Surprising choice, all of these songs are very melodic, not too heavy…

Yeah, nothing to crazy there, so you can get people introduced to your music more easily and then they can go to something heavier after that… I wouldn’t pick “Seven Headed Whore” for a start (laughs), you know what I mean… or something like that.

And now, let’s not talk about Metal for a few seconds. What are your favourite non-metal albums of all time?

Alright! I really like "Point Of Know Return" by Kansas, I would have to say Ralph Towner, a self-titled record which incorporates world music and jazz and… anything by George Benson (laughs). There you go.

Do you still buy CDs? Or on the contrary, have you, like many, turned digital ? From what you said earlier, it sounds like you have succumbed to the return to the vinyl trend…

I have, I have (laughs)… I’ve been sucked in to the dark side!! But I’m happy with it. I still buy CDs sometimes, I also buy music from iTunes or purchase old vinyls, but I always buy my music, I never download music for free because I know how it hurts.

Do you remember the first record you bought?

Yes, the first record I ever bought was Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” and then I got the “Use Your Illusion” albums by Guns’N’Roses. It was how it started for me, I was 13 years old at the time… and then I discovered everything else and couldn’t stop buying everything!

And the last one?

The last one was The Beatles’ “White Album”… I spent too much money on it! (laughs)

What’s next for you after the summer gigs?

Just taking a bit of time off… Working on some stuff, you know, Jon has to work on Demons & Wizards, stuff like that, he’s constantly busy with all that… So yeah, a bit of time off, and when Jon is finished with different things, we’ll get back to work.

What question are you tired of hearing?

Probably “What are your favourite albums?”, I don’t hate it, I don’t hate that question, it’s fine... people sometimes want to know that, it’s curiosity you know… And there’s also “What’s your favourite show so far on that tour?”... 

And, on the contrary, what question do you think journalists or reviewers don’t ask you enough?

Er… “How are you doing as a person?” (laughs)… No, I’m joking (laughs)…

Human questions, you know, the human aspect of what you’re going through when you sing a particular song, when you’re on tour… Do you go through ups and downs when you're touring? Do you need some time for decompression after a tour? That kind of questions. Sometimes I've been asked how some songs reflected in modern day politics or modern society and how some people connect to these types of songs, what makes them tick... I've always been fascinated with the human brain and how people deal with things, that kind of things interests me...

Do you live in the U.S.A. now?

No, I live in Canada, always have.

Ok, because you have a record called "Dystopia" and I wanted to ask you if you felt that America in particular, with everything that's been going on since the last elections, felt more and more like a dystopian society... but we can extend that question to the world in general...

I think there is a dystopian feeling that you can experience all around the world even though there are some places that step away from that whole thing. I feel like there is more and more control, you're being muted more, you're being censored more... Freedom of speech is almost non-existent, I think... And people are realizing it too. It feels like the beginning of a storm. Some people are fighting against it. It's difficult because we feel we have this freedom but in essence, we really don't. At the end of the day, we're really just slaves. We're money slaves and we're all slaves to the system. Governments know that and they know how to control us through food, medicine, TV... It's like "Oh you feel bad, take this pill and you'll feel better". They turn people into zombies, they need people in that zombified state, they want them to take in everything, to be submissive. It's sad. We have to break free from that. Some people are doing things their own way... there are so many avenues to choose from, you know. I got rid of my TV, we're not allowed to have cable in my house, if we want to watch a film, we can buy it, we can download it... TV is shit, it's all the same crap and it's all bullshit. It really is endoctrination and it's horrible. But we see that, we are more and more aware and we mustn't accept everything, so we have to try and change that. This shit is happening all around the world, not just in the US, Europe or Canada... we have to break free from that.

Thank you for your time, the last word is yours:

I just want to say that France has always been great to us, we love the French fans. We really appreciate being here... I'm really looking forward to playing tonight, it's gonna be great. That's all I have to say, man. Much love and respect to you all.

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