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Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth)

Interview with Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth
by Angela "The Hunter" at 01 July 2013, 10:39 PM

As the ICED EARTH band embarked on its tour through the world, they released a new DVD, named “Live In Ancient Kourion”, with a live video recording of their performance experience in Cyprus. Due to that bombastic release, Angela “The Hunter” had a chance to talk on the phone with Jon Schaffer, the band’s leader and guitarist, about the new DVD, later plans and more…

Alright so we are going to jump right into it. You have the new DVD  that came out just a few weeks ago, what has the response been?

Ah it’s great! I honestly didn’t respect such a strong response. I mean, the other DVD’s didn’t garner that much attention, but this one sure did. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people saying it was as good, if not better, than Alive In Athens. But it’s really not fair to even compare those two; Alive was never intended on being a live DVD release. It was just an audio recording. But that’s basically a compliment because Alive In Athens was a huge success, so for this to be getting those kind of accolades is awesome. We’ll be putting together the data this week on how well it has done. I know that it has done really well in Germany.

Why that particular location for the DVD?

I told the promoter for the show that we would be doing a live DVD for the Dystopia tour, and he said “Hey, why not Cyprus?” At that time we were looking at different places, and he ended up sending me pictures of the Koragon Theater, and thought oh yes. The crowd was great, but they were a little more mellow at that show because it’s kind of a dangerous place actually. I can see why they capped it at 1500 because there’s no barriers, so if they would have packed it with 2000 people, people could have fallen off of the edge and died. There wasn’t any metal barrier or edge of the bowl shape, so it’s a long drop off of a cliff down to rocks. It was a very steep theater too. I remember when we first got there and I walked down the steps, I kinda had an insecure feeling. But yeah, it was an interesting place for a heavy metal show. The atmosphere was amazing; really awe inspiring too.

What were some of the other locations you guys were considering?

We talked about Mexico, we had talked about Brazil, even Germany. Basically what we wanted to do was do our rounds around the world, then say “Ok, that place was amazing, instead of this place.” But I think what we are going to do for the foreseeable future, is do one every album cycle. There is so much stuff in the back catalog that fans want to hear Stu sing the old stuff, and this is the perfect way to do it. I mean, in today’s world it doesn’t make any sense to go into the studio and re-track songs, it’s just too expensive. It just makes sense to do it in a live setting. It’s a huge catalog, so there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t played live yet,

How long were you in Cyprus?

Um, two days? We got in, played the gig, then left so yeah two nights. It was very short. We got in around 11:00 at night, went straight from the airport to the venue, and then the next day was the show. And actually, i think a lot of our crew flew out at 6 or 7 in the morning the next morning but most of us just stayed around and partied (laughs) I flew out a little later with my manager.

The Iced Earth fan base is just so passionate and rabid wherever you go, but where would you say, is your most passionate fan base located?

I still say it’s Greece. It’s been that way since day one, since the first album came out. I have never really understood what it is about Iced Earth and the Greek Audience, but I would say from all of the places that we have been too it’d be hard to beat them. I mean, Brazil is killer too, I mean we have passionate fans everywhere but it just seems that the people who sing the loudest and sing every guitar part, and all of the vocal harmonies.. it just would be hard to beat Greece.

Is there any place that you guys have not played that you would like to hit up on this tour?

Yeah there’s a lot of places, I mean there are several places like New zealand, which there is a possibility there. There are places in Asia, and territories in South America that we’d like to hit, and Central America. Basically our motto is, if you have electricity, we’ll come and play. We’re willing to go everywhere to spread the word. In the Middle East there are places that we’d like to tour there to.

Speaking of the tour, you have a new album in the works to be released later this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the new album?

Well really nothing more than I have released on Facebook. It’s going to be titled Plagues Of Babylon, there is going to be a theme for 6 or 7 of the songs, that will start off the record. Think of the old days like when Rush would put out a concept album.. so that’s what it is going to be like. There will be 6 or 7 that will be related, as a theme, along with the stage show, the album cover, with the rest being individual tunes. As the times gets closer we will reveal more things, but it is going to be badass. It’s heavy, it’s dark, it’s just a really heavy record with really memorable, hooky choruses. Some of them have this sort of sadness to them, but they are still melodic. The theme fits pretty well with what we are doing lyrically. I think it’s jelling together very nicely right now. I’m stoked!

Iced Earth has been around for 20 plus years; you guys have been through hell and back in the process of staying the course. What keeps you motivated to stick with the music business?

Well I can’t dance (laughs) I mean, I don’t know. It’s my calling, and it’s what I do. I’ve never had any interest, or desire, to have any other career. I split from home when I was 16 years old not with the idea of failing; it was never an option. So I did whatever it took and worked as hard as I could to make this thing a reality. I think it’s a certain dedication that a lot of people don’t have. I get people who say “you’re so lucky” and I’m sorry but I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work and perseverance. I mean, you could say luck may play a factor but I don’t know man. Most of the guys that I know who are successful in this business work their fucking asses off, and the results show. You know, really, it’s gotta be something that you love. You gotta want it, and risk to make it happen.

Where do you see Iced Earth, let’s say, 3 or 4 years down the road?

I can see us doing a live DVD for at least the next two albums so we can get a good part of the back catalog out there. Now that we are performing and behaving like a real band, we can dedicate the time that it takes to do pre production for rehearsals before the tours. It was hard to do that before but now we have the time to do it properly, since we know ahead that we’ll be on the road for, say, 2 years or even 15 months at a time. At least for the next two album cycles, I see Iced Earth, or I see our goal is to do at least two hundred shows. With the other markets opening up, I see us going to China, so the Asian markets have opened up. Geographically we are taking this band to places it has never been before. That includes sales and status; we are definitely going to take this band farther than it has ever been. I mean, as hard as we have been working, it’s obvious that it’s working. We just opened for Volbeat, and a lot of those fans have never heard of us and they responded to us really well. I mean, they (the fans) loved it. That kind of stuff has been great for us. Just the amount of playing we have been doing has shown the word we are back, and we mean business. My goal in the next 3 to 5 years is to have our own label. I mean, we will finally be in charge of our own career. The typical industry model is changing rapidly with artists interacting directly with their fan base. The relevance of the label model is deteriorating more and more; they seem to be doing less and less while still demanding their chunk of the cake. I love forward to that day.

I could really see that happening for you guys

That’s why we are working so hard so we can build up our finances and make it happen. There will still be a lot of physical product to purchase, and we are kicking around a lot of ideas on how to make that work. We are still working on it, but I believe that in 3 to 5 years the way the music industry is going to change dramatically. I have no idea what it is going to look like, but we are going to be doing our own thing, that is for sure.

I’m surprised more bands haven’t tried to go that route.

I think they are. I mean they are aspiring to, but it’s not cheap to do this kind of thing. You need the financing; there’s probably a lot of mid-level bands that just don’t have the funds to start something like this up properly. That’s one of the biggest challenges that these bands are going to face. That is why we are planning and working as hard as we are now so we can get to that point. I think it’s worth the investment, time, and work to make it happen. We all have short term, mid term, and long term goals, and I think it is important for the long term goal for the band to try and get what we deserve. I think it will work out well, but it’s definitely a lot of work to get there.

So with everything going on, the new DVD, the new album, new tour, and I am sure I already know the answer but I’ll ask anyway, is there any little side project that also has your attention? Or is Iced Earth your only focus?

Iced Earth is my only focus right now. I mean, I just don’t have the time. I get asked about Demons and Wizards and Sons a lot, and I just don’t have the time. I mean, Sons would be easier because I don’t tour for that, only the writing and recording. But to do Demons, for instance, there is just no way because of the time involved. I mean, between the writing, and the recording, the promo tours, and then to go out and play live would take a year cycle. I can’t take a year away from Iced Earth. We have momentum going on like never before, so it would be foolish and unfair to my brothers in Iced Earth to stop and do something else. We all count on each other; we see what is going on and are excited for each other, I mean we can all feel it. We need to be on attack,attack, attack mode now so that is the priority.

And that makes the most sense. One last question Jon, where can Iced  Earth fans go to find out everything they need to know about the upcoming tour,  album,  and such?

We have our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OfficialIcedEarth, there is also the web page http://www.icedearth.com. Both will have the album updates and the tour information. and are updated all the time.

Thank you so much for doing the interview Jon! We at Metal Temple wish
 you nothing but the best on the journey ahead



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