Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth)
Interview with Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 19 May 2001, 4:00 AM
Iced Earth are back in business with a brand new album, Horror Show. Jon Schaffer, the mastermind behind everything in the band, met us here in Athens and told us everything YOU might want to know!
Since we’re from an Internet Metal Zine, we’d like you to tell us about your relationship with the Internet.
I don’t have much of a relationship with it. I use it for business purposes, you know with the e-mail thing and I imagine that in the future I’ll be using it for like hours. I am working on the next Demons & Wizards album and if we get the right gear, we should be able to download music and e-mail it right over. I used it to check my e-mail, do my business and stuff but I don’t spend much time surfing.
So you only use it occasionally.
Yes and as little as possible actually. I don’t really enjoy it. I’ve got too many other things to do than sit around staring at the computer screen, you know. I’d much rather be out on my Harley riding and there’s a lot other hobbies that I love and I enjoy. Internet reminds me of work \[laughs].
Don’t you think it can be fun and informing some times?
Sure it’s informing! I think you have to be careful in what you read and what you believe but if you’re looking for real information, it’s out there so it’s good for that.
Another question related to the Internet of course is the whole fuss that’s been going on with MP3s, Napster, Metallica and stuff. What’s your opinion on this?
My opinion is that if anybody thinks that he / she can get something for free, they should fuck off! I mean this is ridiculus, it shouldn’t even be an argument. It’s stealing. You know, when people are stealing music from me or from my comrades in the music business, I have a problem with that. There’s a lot of things that I don’t agree with Lars from Metallica for example but on this issue I’m behind him 100% because, you know, I’ve been working my ass off for the last 17 years for this band and to make my music known and if people are out there stealing it, I have a problem with that. I understand the side that it’s a good promotion for the bands that aren’t known and stuff Like you know, it’s a good way to get the music out there but the scary thing is that people are trying to say like you used to copy songs from the radio and stuff. Yeah, OK. I might have, but the cassette tape doesn’t last forever and even back in the old days, where there were bootlegs and shit going on, they always sounded like shit. The difference nowadays is that you’ve got fucking killer digital-quality stuff that’s being copied. You can’t even compare today’s bootlegs with what it was back in the 70’s. It’s stealing!OK now, let’s talk a bit about Horror Show, your new album. First of all why did you choose some of the most famous monsters as a thematology?
Well, because I wanted to! \[laughs] I mean, it was an idea we had back in ’97, to do an E.P. based on the horror stuff. We were going to do like 5 or 6 songs. It was an idea but when I decided to put the Something Wicked thing on hold. For a while it seemed as a good idea to do a whole record. You know, back in the 80’s when the band was called Purgatory, that’s all I used to write songs about. By 1997 I had 60 original songs written and 85% of them were based on horror movies.Any comments about the album’s cover? Who did the cover for the album?
It was the same guys that did Alive In Athens.We read somewhere that you said - after the Alive In Athens album - that you wouldn’t be using the same figure again on a cover.
No it’s not true. That’s my character! When we do the Something Wicked concept album, that’s going to be his theme and then probably after that he won’t be around anymore. We are just keeping it fresh in people’s minds till we do it.So it’s like a temporary mascot?
For now yeah. You see, the whole thing with this cover was actually a nightmare because Century Media fucked me up on it. We talked about \[Jon pauses] well it’s a long story. Anyway, when you see the final product, the artwork that’s in the inside was what was actually going to be the cover and it has Dracula, Frankenstein, the mummy, wolf-man and phantom of the opera. You just have to see it. It’s a surprise! Will the sequel of Something Wicked be your next studio album?
No, it’s not going to be the next studio record because we’re going to be signing with a new Record Company pretty soon. So I don’t want to start off the contract with this concept album. I want to see how the Record Company works and how well our relationship will be. The Something Wicked thing is way too important to have it done the wrong way. That’s why I didn’t want to do it with Century Media. This is our last album with them.From Dark Saga and onwards you seem to keep a certain structure in the songs. I mean, you have the fast sort of song, the soft sort of song etc. An example would be Violate from Dark Saga and Disciplines from Something Wicked. Why’s that?
It just happens That was the frame of mind I was in when I was writing those records. I was not in the same frame of mind when I wrote Horror Show, so it’s different. It’s all about keeping it honest. I write what I feel whether people say Oh, you’re selling out Fuck you \[reffering to the people who say that]. They’re morons that ridiculus to even say that, to say that Iced Earth is selling out. Selling out what? We’re still a small band. I didn’t write I Died For You and Watching over me to sell out. I wrote it because that’s what I fucking felt. People can like it or not, I don’t really give a shit. That’s the way I feel and that’s my music. Take it or leave it! You know what I mean? That’s how we are, that’s how we’ve always been and for me I have to be honest with my feelings in order to put out a record that I can come and talk to you guys about. I have to feel strong about it. If it’s not real, if I’m writing songs for you and not for me then it’s dead. I’ve got to write it for me and I hope you guys like it cause it’s just the way I’ve got to do it. So then, with Horror Show it’s much angier and much in a different frame of mind than when I was writing let’s say Burnt Offerings.Do you plan to shoot a Video Clip for Horror Show?
No, we talked about it but the problem was that Century Media wanted me to pay for the video and I wouldn’t mind paying for it if they guaranteed me that they would get it on MTV or VH-1. But they didn’t! Videos don’t really help bands like us, they won’t increase our record sales and they cost a lot of money to make. They would help if they could get it into rotation for the world to see it.What really impressed us was the presence of Female vocals in Horror Show which were pretty present in Phantom Of The Opera.
The woman’s name is Uni Percifel \[we apologize if we spelled it wrong or missunderstood the name]. She is a singer for a band in Indianapolis, a local artist and Richie - the guy I hired to play the guitar on Demons & Wizards Tour - told me about her, since I wanted to find a female vocalist for this song. So I tried her and she fitted perfectly. She did the voice of the character just like I had in mind.Where did the recordings take place?
We did it all in my house man, except the drums and some of the rhythm guitar. Schaffer-Sound New Studio in the dungeon! \[laughs] That worked out really cool and I was surprised!Are you satisfied with this album, generally speaking?
Absolutely! Like always, there are things that I wish we would have done differently in the mix but overall I’m really happy with it. It came up good.Are you satisfied with DiGiorgio’s and Christy’s contribution in this album?
Well yeah, Richard is going to be around for a long time. Steve is already out, he already stabbed me in the back. He was required to come on tour with us and he lied to me. Then he didn’t even have the balls to call me and like had his manager - to whom I introduced him to, since he didn’t have one - send my manager a FAX saying that because of prior commitments, he can’t come on tour. It was like fuck you! That’s why I hired him for and told him these were the terms. He agreed just to get the gig because he wanted to promote himself and luckily before the album went to press I had at least enough time to take his photo off and to take his thanks list off. Fuck him! He stabbed me in the back dude. I’ll never hire him again or recommend him to someone else.But with Christy it’s different right?
Yeah, Richard’s cool. He’s here to stay. He’s great, he’s a good person and one hell of a drummer! He rules man! He wouldn’t do something like that to me. I really don’t have that kind of feeling for Richard at all but Steve wouldn’t even return my phone calls or my manager’s for a month, after we went to South Dakota to do a photo session. For one month we tried to call him because that’s when he started acting weird and I had a feeling that something bad was going on. I’ll tell you what. If I would have known this earlier, I would have erased his fucking bass parts and played it myself, just to not even give him the satisfaction because Steve didn’t make the album any better. So, Jimmy’s going to be coming back to do the Tours with us.We guess that Barlow and Christy are pissed off too with Steve.
Well, Richard’s not because he just stays out of this. He knows him barely well because they did the Control Denied thing but Steve played bass after it was recorded. That’s because on that album there was another bass player who played the parts and then Chuck got pissed off and erased the parts and said Steve come out and play them. So he replayed them all. So it wasn’t actually like Steve and Richard were jamming together on this album. Matt is pretty upset, so is Larry and Jimmy is obviously very happy \[laughs] he wanted to get back on the band.The producer’s Jim Morrisson once more, right?
Yeah, we did it together. We have a great chemistry together. We’ve known each other for a long time. We started recording there in 1985, so I mean we’ve had a long relationship. I’m a very loyal person and what I love about Jim and Tom is that they are honest guys and honest people in the music business, which is a very hard thing to find.Any problems during the recording sessions?
On the parts were like Steve wasn’t getting it right and I was forced to play some parts. For example that’s me playing the intro in Damien and Phantom Of The Opera because Steve wasn’t playing the way I wanted to. So those were about the only problems that occurred. I was a little nervous about doing all this stuff in the basement but Jim was very confident that we could get the tones and stuff. Generally it worked out pretty well!So let’s compare now the situation between fans in Greece and fans abroad. I’ve noticed that in the U.S. you don’t have a great appeal. What do you think is wrong with that part of the world?
Actually it’s just the fact that we don’t have much exposure in places like the U.S. and Canada. The States are starting to happen for us though. It’s growing all the time. We sold like 40.000 on Something Wicked. That’s a big step forward and I hope Horror Show will do even better. Our fans doesn’t matter what nationality they are, they’re really good fans, passionate, vocal and loyal but the thing that I noticed is that the Greek fans’ passion is so much more intense. But we’re starting to see some of that same kind of a feeling in Spain and Italy as well. Not as intense as here but it’s growing! I love our fans everywhere in the world but in Greece it seems to be some kind of connection. I don’t know you guys You tell me! \[laughs]We seem to have a loyal feeling between each other and I don’t know why! If there was the same intensity worldwide, all of my dreams would come true. I just get blown away cause I love it. About Alive In Athens. This must have been your best gig ever, right?
It was great but still the best gig I’ll never forget was the first time we played in Greece. I couldn’t sleep for a day and a half. The adrenaline was just too fucking high! I’ll never forget Is it true that you reduced the sound of the people singing in the Alive In Athens album?
Yes. We kind of had to. Now that I look back, I wish that it hadn’t been so much but the point was to have the band live, not the Greek audience!\[laughs]It was very loud and it was bleeding in every microphone on stage. So we had to pull it down, otherwise we might have had a really bad sound.Any information about your upcoming Tour?
Yeah, we’re going to start in August from America and we’re doing Mexico, South America, Europe and we’re going to finish this Tour in Greece! I want the Tour to finish with the best fans in the world! Have a kick-fucking-ass party on stage and that’s it man! I’m looking forward to it and told my manager Dude I insist that the Tour ends in Greece!, so that when we leave, we’ll all feel great!Finally, could you give a message to all your fans who will stop by and read this Interview?
Looking forward to seeing you all on the road dudes!