Jukebox: Metal recently conducted an interview with ICED EARTH guitarist Jon Schaffer and singer Stu Block. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On the departure of singer Matt Barlow:
Schaffer: “There’s a lot of love there. Matt‘s a very good friend so it was the best way for him to go out [by playing European festivals over the summer]. As much as when he came back into the band we had really good intentions, and we thought we could make it work making it kind of a part-time thing, the record industry has just changed so drastically in the last three years that to stay viable — and I still have something to say as a writer — we’ve still got to carry on, and that means we need to tour. And we’re doing that, Matt understands that, he just can’t commit to that. But Wacken [the final show of the tour] was a great way for him to say goodbye. We had a great day, man. I was sad to say goodbye to Matt, I got choked up, I got a little teary because we’ve spent 15 years of our life together, it’s a long time. It was sad, but I’m excited because, you know, what we’ve got coming… I’m re-energized, I’m completely focused and committed, and I finally have a frontman that is, because it’s been almost a decade without a very committed frontman.”
On how Stu Block came to join ICED EARTH:
Schaffer: “We got a load of tapes, and there were actually a couple of other singers we had direct contact with. One from Sweden and another one from the States. But you know, when I saw the look in Stu‘s eyes on an INTO ETERNITY video, I was like, ‘There’s something going on there.’ I didn’t know about the voice, we had to try that out, but I could see it, you know? I could just see it, and I was like, ‘That’s the kind of spirit that belongs in ICED EARTH.’ Robert [Kampf, Century Media CEO] got in touch because INTO ETERNITY was on Century, so he got in touch with their old AR guy, he got in touch with Stu and connected us. We started out with trying a few old ICED EARTH songs, and when I heard that, I was like, ‘I really need to get this guy behind a real microphone with a compressor and hear his voice in a better environment.’ I sent him a couple of instrumental new pieces — ‘End Of Innocence’ was the first song we wrote together — so I sent him that just a couple of days before he came just to see what he could come up with, and actually what became ‘Dark City’ also. So I sent him those two tracks just a couple of days before and, dude, we just gelled instantly. I was like, ‘This is it, this is good.'”
On how Block‘s voice has developed in order to better suit Schaffer‘s songwriting:
Schaffer: “You don’t really write with a singer in mind. You have the song, and then you have to have a singer that’s capable. And every ICED EARTH singer, with the exception of the guy on the first album, was capable of doing what needed to be done for the songs; they had the range. Stu has a much bigger range than before. He’s discovered his middle voice. We coached him and pushed him and got him to work in a different area, which is where most of the ICED EARTH stuff lives. When you’ve got that kind of talent, that’s one thing, and when you’ve got that attitude, the killer attitude and the willingness to try everything, and to be coached, then that’s something else. And that’s exactly what Matt was like, too, when he joined originally. Totally willing to do everything to make it the best it could be. No ego resistance, no bullshit, no drama, and that’s the same with Stu.”
On Tim “Ripper” Owens‘ time with ICED EARTH:
Schaffer: “Tim‘s an amazing singer. He’s got a natural talent that most people don’t have. But the spirit behind it, which is what I’m talking about when I saw Stu on the videos, is something that didn’t really gel in ICED EARTH. It’s a different thing, a different kind of energy. Tim has all the physical abilities. In fact, it’s frightening how easy it is for him to do the stuff that he does. Like, weird. He has this way of going from a chest-voice, slipping right into falsetto. He doesn’t even really have to work at it. But Tim was always thinking about the solo career. And dude, go for it, that’s cool. But this is ICED EARTH, and I want somebody that’s in. There’s some kind of a connection on a higher level with this, I think. I know Stu‘s committed, I could tell right away. We’re committed to each other and this is a long-term thing. I know there’s been a lot of instability in the lineup over the last decade and we haven’t really had a committed frontman, but we do now. When I say we’re coming back with a vengeance, I’m not fucking around.”
Read the entire interview from Jukebox: Metal.