Iced Earth

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Iced Earth is about to pay a visit to Greece for yet another show that it is destined to be permanently engraved in our minds, as it happens with every single show by the legendary band. Thus, we find an ideal excuse to talk with Jon Schaffer who was more than happy to keep us up to speed with what’s going on in the Iced Earth camp after the release of “Incorruptible”; tries to explain the special relationship between Iced Earth and the Greek audience and he shares his honest opinion about the last albums by Maiden, Metallica, Sabbath and Priest. Interview: Sakis Nikas

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Rockpages.gr: Jon, you are about to embark on a small tour in January. With the exception of Greece and one date in Switzerland, you are playing only in Germany. Why’s that…? Why didn’t you plan a bigger tour?  

Jon Schaffer: Well, we are gonna go back to a lot of those places in the summertime when we will play in the festivals. This is a part of the strategy of our new management…we are trying to maximize our exposure and minimize the amount of time on the road. That’s the plan really and we’ll see how it shakes out. We had some really difficult time in the past with the management and stuff and now with the new guys coming in…it’s been six months that we’ve been working together…we hope that things will improve for us. I think we finally found the right guys to work with. The schedule was changed…we were supposed to tour in the States in October and November and then do the short European Tour. We decided to postpone the US Tour to re-organize things with our new management team. But there’s gonna be more dates…that’s for sure. As the album-tour cycle unfolds, there will certainly be more shows.

Rockpages.gr: We talked about the album when it was released and I told you that I believed it’s far better than “Plagues of Babylon” and just a small step below “Dystopia”. How do you feel about “Incorruptible” after almost 6 months since its release?

Jon Schaffer: From sales standpoint, it’s doing really well. The passion from the fan-base has been re-ignited and that’s pretty evident. I feel great about “Incorruptible”. I don’t agree with you that it’s a step below “Dystopia”; it’s just a matter of opinion but time will tell. I believe that the album is destined to be a classic. I don’t know how the fans will feel about it in the years to come but I just got to go with my gut feeling. The fans are our bosses and we are just doing our best in any given album cycle. It’s just the way it goes, man.

 

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Rockpages.gr: Jon, I’ve been an Iced Earth fan since “The Dark Saga” days and I was totally blown away when I listened to “Dystopia” as Stu was the right fit for the band. How did you feel back then?

Jon Schaffer: I felt great! I totally agree with you…let me tell you this: Stu is not only a great fit artistically but he is also a great fit personally. That’s huge! We’re like brothers, man! I wouldn’t trade Stu’s friendship for anything. I love the fact that he is the band but the bond that we have goes deeper than the band. That’s for sure.

Rockpages.gr: And it’s evident on stage…the chemistry between you two is fantastic.

Jon Schaffer: Exactly. That’s the great thing. You see, anybody who’s near our inner circle or in our inner circle knows how close we are…it’s obvious. And the fans can pick up on that on stage. And I think you see that kind of chemistry with all of our guys in Iced Earth and not only with Stu. The other thing is that Stu is not the new guy anymore. He has done more shows than all the other Iced Earth singers combined. He is firmly established in the legacy of this band. I know that there are still fans out there that prefer the Matt era or the Tim era or the Jon era…whatever. I don’t even care about that discussion because it’s ridiculous. It’s awesome that people love the past and they are stuck to it. But Iced Earth, like always, is moving forward, man. I will do that until I say that I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and it won’t be fun anymore.

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Rockpages.gr: Jon, Iced Earth is your child. I know that the album title refers to your vision and the spirit of Iced Earth. But was there ever a time when you felt that your mission –shall we say- with the band was at stake? Maybe in the mid-00s…?

Jon Schaffer: No, I didn’t…I really didn’t. It’s always been so clear and I’ve been so dedicated that I wouldn’t let at any point any business turmoil or label bullshit to deter me. I was never afraid of the change within the band. Whatever happened throughout the history of Iced Earth was more or less a change within my spirit. That’s a very big part of the whole thing whether people realize it or not…it doesn’t matter. Most of the times, when people buy a band’s product they are not aware of what’s going on in the business side of that product or the band. The vision that you’ve been talking about, I have been staying true to it throughout the years. I was always dedicated to it come hell or high water. I’ve never been afraid of losing it. My biggest fear…well, I wouldn’t say “fear” but “realization”…when I will get to the point where I won’t have any inspiration, when I won’t have anything more to say as a songwriter then I will know that it’s over. And I am not even afraid of that because I am coming to terms that this day eventually is gonna come. I hope we still have a few records in us but I don’t really know. I don’t want to put the Iced Earth logo on a product that I don’t believe in it…you know what I mean? There are a lot of bands out there that put out mediocre records just for the sake of it. They kinda hurt their legacy and I don’t wanna do that, man.   

Rockpages.gr: Now that you mention it, I know that you are most and foremost a fan of heavy metal music. Was there ever a time when you felt let down or extremely disappointed by one of your favorite bands?

Jon Schaffer: Well, let’s just say that I wasn’t really blown away by any of the bands that I still love. I mean, I like Maiden’s “The Book Of Souls” but I truly believe that the greatest record that they have done after the reunion with Bruce was “Brave New World”. I still enjoy the others but this is my favorite one. But on the other hand, Maiden has never done anything embarrassing for us fans. I was not really happy with the last Judas Priest record (“Redeemer Of Souls”) and I hope the next one will be much better…but I didn’t hate it, you know. I wasn’t really thrilled with the last Black Sabbath record (“13”). I think it was an “OK” record but nothing spectacular. I really like some of the stuff on the new Metallica album. I think it’s a pretty good return to form. So, I don’t believe that there are any classic records out there lately from my favorite bands.

 

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Rockpages.gr: You know…that attitude that you have, the notion that you don’t wanna put out mediocre records is one of the facts that Iced Earth is so popular here in Greece. From your perspective, what’s the secret behind that special relationship?

Jon Schaffer: I really don’t know, man! I am definitely thankful and grateful for it. Maybe, there is some kinda past life element involved in there (laughs). It feels really special…I feel at home every time I am in Greece. I love everything about Greece…your spirit, your attitude, your loyalty, your food (laughs). I just wish I could spend more time there. IcedEarhSchaffer02

Rockpages.gr: Tell me about the Iced Earth Headquarters. I remember talking to you in the past, a long time ago, and it was something that you had in your mind for many years….

Jon Schaffer: Yes, it was something that I had in my mind for several years now. Like many things that I plan for Iced Earth, I always try hard to work every single detail in my mind before I turn those ideas into reality. The whole idea was that I wanted to be more independent; to be more in control of stuff that has to do with the business side of Iced Earth. I wanted to have all the equipment, all our archives in our office; to have a recording studio and rehearsal place whenever the band needed to work on some tunes or whatever. It all works out very cool for us. It’s all part of the plan as we move forward in a business that is quite brutal at the moment. It has become very difficult for a lot of bands to survive. Luckily, Iced Earth is a very healthy band despite all the difficulties out there. Eventually, it will allow us to somehow control our fate; be able to record for a more reasonable budget and keep things as much “in house” as we can. I don’t know how the business model will be in a few years but I am toying around with the idea of starting my own label and the Iced Earth Headquarters is a crucial part of that plan.

Rockpages.gr: Would you ever consider writing your own autobiography in the future?

Jon Schaffer: Yeah, I’ve been asked that a lot in the last probably 12 or 15 years. I just don’t feel I am ready for that because if you think about it, it’s something that you do closer to the end of your career. I still feel like there’s a bit of a journey out there for me and Iced Earth. Man, it’s such a long story and there’s so much history…I don’t know, man. Let’s just put it this way: I don’t see it happening at this moment of time. I don’t even have time to consider such a thing.

Rockpages.gr: The only sure thing is that when it will come out, it will be a huge seller in Greece!

Jon Schaffer: (laughs) I bet it will be!

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