After the final departure of Matt Barlow everyone was thinking (including myself) that Iced Earth will have not energy to continue. The last show with Matt on Wacken was indeed memorable, the end of one era. Matt was declared (by fans and followers) as living God! The one who cannot be replaced. But, then the miracle beyond any hopes happened! Stu Block (Into Eternity) has become the lead singer of Iced Earth. And one more thing has happened. The mastermind, Jon Schaffer, turned the page, and composed one album which could be easily liked with mid 90s era of this band. One could say that the latest issue ”Dystopia” is the missing link between ”The Dark Saga” and ”Something Wicked This Way Comes”.
I would like to give you my compliments about the new record! I would like to ask you now how do you look upon „Dystopia“, do you think that this is a kind of return of Iced Earth?
Absolutely! I mean, I love the record, energy binding is very positive and… we’re back man, we’re back in a big way!
How and why have you decided to compose such a different record comparing to your previous few records? I think that is a step back to, for example „The dark saga“.
Well, it seems to be just what my spirit wanted to do. I wanted to write a more basic metal record, more focused to a point from a writing standpoint and from a production standpoint. It is what it it is.
This record is definitely more aggressive, even comparing to „Something wicked this way comes“…
It’s the way I feel, I always write what I feel in whatever given time in my life and… that’s it, I can’t really explain it other than that, I do what I do. Whatever comes out is what comes out.
So far, I have noticed that you have received many positive reviews from the journalists, so how do you feel about it?
I’m happy about it, it’s great! We are waiting about what the fans will decide but so far it looks good. The band’s back, that’s all I’m saying and people are gonna have to wait and see how serious we are about it when they see us live.
Stu is the fifth singer in Iced Earth’s history, so what can you tell us about him, how did you decide to choose him? His vocals are very similar to Barlow’s in my opinion.
I think that he is doing the great job. He has the spirit that I was looking for and the right attitude. When I had him come to my studio to audition it was obvious that he had the tools and the right attitude to be coached, to be produced, to try different things that he had never tried before… and as a songwriter and a producer, that’s what I need. It was just great chemistry right after that, it worked.
When it comes to new album, you have some shorter songs which is not so common when it comes to Iced Earth…
Just because, like I said, I don’t really make decisions, I just do what my spirit tells me. It’s what I felt, that’s what songwriting is, you do what comes natural and feels right.
What can you tell us about the lyrical background of „Dystopia“?
Well, there’s a theme through some of the songs, some of the songs are about dystopian science fiction futuristic movies, and there are some of the songs that are related to „Something wicked“ story which is also definitely dystopian. There is also one that Stu wrote for his mother, she’s suffering from cancer. There is song about the movie „V for Vendetta“, it’s called „V“, also the song about „Dark city“ one but some of the songs are not related at all to dystopian theme but most of them are.
Do you have any favourite track when it comes to the new album and are you going to film some videos for it?
My favourite track is „Dystopia“, that is the first video we will release and „Anthem“ is the second one that will come right after that, those are really strongs songs but I like all of the album man, I think that it is really strong comeback record for Iced Earth.
I definitely agree and feel that „Dystopia“ could become one of the best and most important albums when it comes to Iced Earth, do you share my opinion?
I think it’s possible too. I can tell you that the best Iced Earth records have the same kind of positive energy behind them so we are definitely in a very good position to make this a classic record.
What can you tell us about the cover artwork?
Yeah, the cover art is definitely related to theme of songs on „Dystopia“, it’s actually the same theme as the last two album covers. If you read the lyrics of „Dystopia“, you’ll see that it is directly related to that cover.
You are going to have some big tours in the near future, what can you tell us about it, how many songs off the new album are you going to perform?
We are probably gonna do between 5 and 7 of the new stuff because it’s so strong. I think that even the fans who haven’t had the chance to listen to the new album by the time we’re on tour are gonna be instantly hooked when they see and hear it live. We will be playing „Dante’s Inferno“ on this tour, we are also practicing a lot of stuff from our back catalogue we haven’t done in a long time so it’s definitely gonna be a cool set for everybody.
Are you gonna re-record one or more of an older songs with Stu?
No, there are no plans to go in the studio and re-record something but we would have redone „Dante’s Inferno“ even if Matt have stayed in the band because it’s the only way we could play it live, without hired keyboard player. When we did it back in the old days we erased the quick track so any time we did that one live, we had to have keyboard player on stage with us, that’s too expensive for one song to take keyboard player on tour so that’s why we haven’t done it since so basically now we can play to a quick track and then we can have a sequence of a string tracks. But there is no reason or need to re-record more of an old songs, the only way it will happen is when there is a new live album someday.
You have recently released „Festivals of the wicked“ live album + DVD, so what can you tell us about it?
It’s a cool package, it’s not my ideal Iced Earth live DVD though. It’s a festival and there are a lot of songs that were already recorded from the early period, you know the stuff that has already been done on „Alive In Athens“. To me, the best thing is when we have a chance to do a proper Iced Earth headline show and we plan on doing that after the next studio album. Cause when you are doing festivals, you are not in control of the stage set, you are using the house crew that has been doing all the bands all day and they may don’t really know your music… „Festivals of the wicked“ is cool, it definitely has the best production that we have put out yet but it’s not what I consider the ultimate Iced Earth DVD.
And how do you comment on „Alive in Athens“ from this perspective?
Well, I think that the filming quality of „Alive in Athens“ is shitty, it’s bootleg that was never meant to be released but the spirit behind that show is far better than „Festivals of the wicked“ but the „Festivals of the wicked“ is filmed way better, it’s filmed professionally. You can’t really compare those two, it’s like comparing apples to oranges, it’s completely different.
The last show with Matt at Wacken was so emotional, there were so many people, how did you feel about that one?
It was sad but it was fun show, we had a great day and big party afterwards and it was the best was for Matt to say goodbye to the people. In that respect I wouldn’t change it a bit, I think it was great.
The final question is about your other very popular project Demons and wizards, are you going to record another album?
It’s going to happen, but the question is when and it’s the question that I can’t answer right now. My focus now is completely on Iced Earth, to bring it back on the level of respect it deserves, showing the people we are back and we mean business, touring all the territories in the world. That’s my biggest priority but Hansi and I did talk about it in the summer and we just have to figure out when our schedules line up and we have some free time and I will not have free time for at least one year and a half. Thanks for the interview man, take care of yourself!
- Answers by Jon Schaffer
Questions by Marko Miranovic