Ashes of Ares

Interview date

26 Janvier 2013


Blaster of Muppets


Interview Ashes of Ares (face to face)

Hi and thank you for taking some time to answer our questions. Let’s start with a not very original question: where does the name of the band come from?

Matt : It has a dual meaning : Ares is the god of war so it can mean that the ashes are the ashes of humanity after Ares has finally done his job and convinced us to kill ourselves or it can also mean that the humanity has risen above war and Ares is no longer needed, so Ares is reduced to ash… I like this duality and the name is kind of catchy, I think.

Freddie and Matt obviously knew each other from Iced Earth. How did Van Williams and then Gio Geraca and Dean Sternberg get into the picture?

Matt : I’ve known Van since 1995 or 1996, we toured with Nevermore at the time. We did a couple of tours together in the US so we have known each other for a long time. With Freddie, as you said, we met in 2008 when I came back to Iced Earth and we spent a lot of time together on tour and we got on very well. Dean has worked with Van before…

Freddie : I met Gio on 70 000 Tons of Metal, Malevolent Creation is one of my favourite bands and he plays guitar for them, so we met and kept in touch. When the time came to choose a second guitar player for the tour, I immediately thought of him.

Could this be the line-up for the next album?

Freddie : Actually, I think that on the new album it’s just going to be me and Van… and we’re gonna hire Matt to sing… Or, you know, I’ve been talking secretly to Van and said that things were not really working out with Matt, so we might fire him and hire Tim Ripper Owens to front the band.

Matt : But you’re gonna wait until the album’s done… Freddie : And then, we’ll kick Tim out and hire Matt to do the live shows…

Matt : Hopefully, Stu’s gonna be available in a couple of years so…

Freddie : That’s just a running joke (laughs)… we’re having fun. Things were not like that in Iced Earth… It’s just a joke! Now, seriously we’re gonna see how this album works, hopefully there’ll be a second album with Nuclear Blast… and with these guys here, we’ll see what happens.

Matt : Hopefully, we’ll have more time together, more time to jam together… there’s gonna be an evolution, we’re just starting and we’re constantly evolving.

Was working with Jim Morris at the Morrisound studios an obvious choice for you?

Matt : I’ve worked with Jim on every record that I’ve done except for one. For me, it’s just a comfort zone, he knows what my voice can do and I work really well with him and I think the guys had a good time…

Freddie : Yeah, I had worked with him once and it was cool. When Matt suggested we worked with him, I was all for it.

I found that the sound of this album was a bit “dirtier” or raw than what we usually get with this kind of heavy metal. Was that intentional?

Freddie : Well, we had a small budget (laughs) !

Van : It was done pretty fast. We had a tight schedule and a release date to respect so we only had a limited time to get everything done…

Matt : We had a smaller budget than what we’ve been used to dealing with but we did everything we could within that time period to make the best record we could. I love the way the record turned out. It’s a little bit more raw or dirtier but I think it’s also a very dynamic record. When you crank the volume up, you’re gonna hear some nuances, there’s a lot of cool stuff in there…

The album’s just been released, what response has it got so far?

Matt : The fan response is cool. Of course, there are people who don’t like Iced Earth or Nevermore, or some who really like these bands a lot and are not happy because we don’t completely sound like them. We did explain to people that obviously they were going to hear things that would sound a bit like the Iced Earth era when I was singing in that band, I can’t change my voice and I’m not going to, it’s the way I sing… But you know, we’re not trying to copy what we did before, and there are new ideas that we wanted to try, we’re also going to evolve and try new things…

You’re still very involved with your job as a police officer and that’s the reason why you couldn’t completely commit to Iced Earth… Will you have enough time for Ashes of Ares?

Matt : We’re all gonna work within the schedule we can all do. We all have other commitments. We’re certainly gonna do the best that we can. I’m at the point in my career where I have a little bit more time, I get time on the job. The original idea when I came back to Iced Earth was that they were gonna work around my schedule but after a while Jon finally said to me: “the music industry has changed and we can’t survive without doing that, without touring more, etc.” which I totally understand. So I just had to leave, it was the only choice for me.

Do you plan to tour more extensively in the world and particularly in Europe next year?

Matt : Well, we’ve got a lot of plans… it’s just whether they’ll come through or not. We’ll do the best we can. Obviously, we’ll need help from the label to provide us with tour support and stuff… Like this tour. This one with Powerwolf is really great for us. It’s short but we’re going to a lot of different areas, France, England and Germany… It’s a good way to break the ice.

Freddie, you left Iced Earth a bit after Matt’s departure. Why? Was it because you missed Matt so much? :)

Freddie : Yep! That was it… I was not the newest man in the band anymore, they didn’t really like me anymore… and I wasn’t the prettiest anymore when Stu joined, you know… I just didn’t feel… (laughs). No really, there were personal issues and stuff but under certain circumstances it just stopped being enjoyable for me. Matt and I had been talking about doing something for a couple of years. I didn’t leave because of this project but I knew that once I was out I wanted to know if Matt was still interested in doing it.

Matt, you wrote all the lyrics this time, didn’t you?

Matt : On this one, I wrote all the lyrics, it’s just the way things happened. Freddie wrote a song that will be on the next album, we intend to share the writing credits…

Freddie : Well, sometimes we just made suggestions, you know, when Matt came with strange words…

Van : Yeah, like “I love waffles”… We had to say: “Matt, that ain’t gonna work”… (laughs)

Some lyrics have a very personal significance, don’t they?

Matt : Yes, well, obviously there’s “On Warrior’s Wings” that is dedicated to one of my brother officers who was killed in the line of duty. It’s very much something that goes out to people in the law enforcement or the military… But every song has meaning, even the… vampire song, “Chalice of Man”, I had this idea…

Van : What?? It’s about vampires?!

Matt : Er… yeah it is… 

Van : FUCK THAT SHIT!!! (laughs)

Freddie : Yeah, it’s about Twilight, Matt is a huge fan (laughs)

Matt : Well, in fact it’s kind of an anti-Twilight, because if there were really vampires, we’d be a buffet and that’s it, period. There’s no love, no romanticism, they’d be at the top of the food chain and we would be at the bottom and that’s what “Chalice of Man” is about.

Freddie, which instrument do you feel most comfortable with, the bass or the guitar?

Freddie : Both really. Obviously, people see me as a bass player but really the guitar has been my first instrument. I played the bass for many years in a death metal band in Arizona, but I really wrote songs on the guitar, so publicly I played bass but behind the scenes I’ve been playing guitar most of my life…

Van : Freddie is to guitar… what Mariah Carey is to guitar ! (laughs)

Van, you’ve got another band called Ghost Ship Octavius, what can you tell us about it?

Van : We’re trying to get that off the ground. It’s metal of course, there are little bits of this and that in there, a lot of different elements… There really is a wide range... There’s fast stuff, moody stuff, progressive bits... It’s really difficult to define it but it’s fun.

Just of curiosity, the reason why Jeff Loomis and yourself left Nevermore have never really been clear. I read an interview of Warrel Dane who was very upset about it, he said he missed you and thought you made a bad decision… What happened? And do you think that, after some time, a reunion might be possible?

Van : You know, at the time, things were kind of rocky for a while… There was no way we could get in a room and talk, all of us together… It was not a sudden decision but something that had been building for some time and some things were just not fixable at that point. There was no communication anymore, so we thought it was just time to leave. It was a decision to be happy again! It is what it is, I can’t really say anything bad, Jeff and I talk all the time. I haven’t talked much to Warrel and Jim, last time I heard of Warrel he didn’t talk nicely about me at all and that was a shock to me so you know… But, you know I’ll never say never… Can things actually get fixed in the future at some point? Maybe, I don’t know… If we talk, we talk. Right now, we’re all happy, I’m trying to get Ashes of Ares off the ground, Ghost Ship Octavius off the ground, I’m enjoying life and that’s what I want to do.

So, what’s next for you guys after this tour?

Matt : Rock Harvest. It is a festival but it’s also a benefit for a foundation which helps families of officers who fell in the line of duty. There’s also lots of cool other bands playing like Circle II Circle, Flotsam and Jetsam… And we also plan on doing a couple of things in the US. That’s it for now.

Do you plan on playing a couple of covers from your previous bands on that tour?

Matt : No… At this point, we play short gigs, we don’t do headlining shows, we have the opportunity of playing the album and we don’t want to do anything else…

Freddie : We worked on a cover for the RockHard Festival but we didn’t have time to play it. I’m not gonna say what it is because we might play it in the future… It’s gonna be a surprise.

Dean : I don’t think anyone will see that one coming…

Mariah Carey?

Gio : Justin Bieber…

Freddie : One Direction (laughs)

Your last word to conclude this interview:

Dean : Hamburgers! (laughs)

Van : I’m just glad to be here in France… I still haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower and it must be the fourth time I’ve been here… Gio : I know man, I haven’t seen it either…

Van : We thank the fans, the new fans… It’s nice being here, we really appreciate it. Spread the word!

Matt : Yes, thanks a lot everyone.

Gio : One direction! (laughs)

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