JON SCHAFFER: ‘As Long As I Have Something To Say As A Songwriter, ICED EARTH Moves Forward’

Adrien Begrand of MSN‘s metal music section Headbang recently conducted an interview with ICED EARTH guitarist/mainman Jon Schaffer. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Headbang: Was Matt‘s [Barlow, vocals] decision to leave the band a shock to you, or could you sense it was going to happen?

Schaffer: When Matt came back, it was under the condition of it being a part-time thing for him. So this was no surprise. The surprise came when the financial crash of 2008 happened and how that really affected the music industry and how it seems like it’s affected every industry. It’s a global situation, but the music industry is very much changing, and physical sales of product are really not the thing that bands can rely on income for anymore. Bands have to get out and work, they have to in order to remain any kind of force. So we told him, “This is what we’ve got going, man, we want you to be a part of it but we know this is different than what we discussed when you came on board.” He thought about it, there’s a big part of him that really wanted to do it. But he’s got two young boys, and he just doesn’t want to be on the road for eight months out of the year. I understand that. For me, I don’t want it either. The difference is that this has always been my career. I have never had any desire to pursue anything else, I made a commitment 25 years ago when I started this band that this what I do. I’m a songwriter, ICED EARTH is my vehicle to get my songs out. That’s who I am. There is no other side to me, there is no other thing, this is it. As long as I have something to say as a songwriter, ICED EARTH moves forward. If that day comes to an end, then that day is probably over.

Headbang: When it was announced that Stu had joined ICED EARTH, for many familiar with INTO ETERNITY, there was some doubt among some people because he was singing for a melodic death metal band.

Schaffer: That’s the thing, man. I saw some of those people go, “Oh my god, I can’t believe he hired a death metal singer, what’s he thinking?” [laughs] I was like, “Come on, man, have a little more faith than that.” I know what I’m doing, I’ve been the captain of this ship for 25 years, I know what’s going on, and I know Stu has the ability, and I know he’s going to be a killer frontman for the band live, and he’s going to bring a whole new energy to it. It’s invigorating and fun, and we’re excited. He gets our sense of humor, everybody’s excited about this: label, management, I am, the guys in the band are, Stu is really into it. That’s the thing, man, ICED EARTH has had about a decade of not having a 100 percent committed, committed on a spiritual level, frontman. We just haven’t really had that, and that’s a big deal. So now that we’ve got that, we’re back. We’re back with a vengeance.

Headbang: When exactly did you get that “eureka” moment, where you were 100 percent convinced Stu was the guy?

Schaffer: It wasn’t on the old stuff. When we were halfway through recording the song “End Of Innocence”, which was the first song we wrote together. When I was tracking him, I was thinking, “This kid’s got it, man. This is going to be really cool.” I think it was maybe partially into the second song that we’d written together, which ended up being “Dark City”, from the vocal melodies and the tones, it was gelling pretty quick, and I said, “You’ve got the gig, dude.”

Headbang: How refreshing was it for you to step away from the big, sprawling storylines of the “Something Wicked” trilogy in favor of a simpler approach on “Dystopia”?

Schaffer: It just felt like the right step. The last couple albums were difficult for me because when I was in the writing process of those records, I lost three of my family members within a span of that year. I lost my brother, my sister, and my father. And that was hardcore. I can sit and listen to those records now and realize that they weren’t as focused and arranged with the kind of energy that I would normally do. I hear it. It was a very difficult time. I think most people would have given up, and I soldiered on as best as I could, but after I had my awakening to a lot of the things that were going on around me, I’ve been much more energized and focused. That energy is culminating in ICED EARTH.

Read the entire interview from Headbang.