Bill Murphy, the publicist and official webmaster of American power metallers ICED EARTH, recently conducted an interview with the band’s new singer, Stu Block (INTO ETERNITY). A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Q: Since you’ve become ICED EARTH‘s vocalist, what has happened to you that has surprised you the most?
Stu Block: The way that my vocal is being taken to a new level. That’s a big surprise. I mean, I wasn’t surprised that these guys were gonna be cool. I didn’t have any expectations of anyone being jerks in the band or anything like that. Those guys are just sweet dudes. Like, they’re true metalheads that just love what they do and have embraced me. But it’s really the vocals. As soon as I started working with Jon with my vocal style and finding that middle range in my voice, and putting that venomous shit behind it, you know what I mean?
Stu Block: And learning technique and all that stuff. That’s the thing that’s surprised me the most, is I knew I had it, but it just took someone to really bring it out. And Jon [Schaffer, ICED EARTH mainman] really did that. I’ve said it before in a few interviews, it’s almost like Christmas morning. You know, my eyes, he would see it in the studio, he’d be like, “Oh my god, you look so surprised.” It’s like I was like, “Oh my god, this is my new toy.” And so I was having fun with it, man. And it was really cool. I’m embracing this new spot in my voice. Of course, there’s always going to be those high vocals, you know, those Halford-esque vocals and all that kind of stuff. And I’m always going to put that kind of stuff in there, and the lower keens, but this middle spot in my voice, the venom spot, it’s fucking killer, man. It feels good.
Q: How did it feel to let loose with one of your growls right at the start of “Dystopia”?
Stu Block: Man, well that was kind of funny. We didn’t have that at the beginning, and I was sitting there in the studio, and we were all just talking about it, because we sit there deciding if we want to add anything, or maybe take something away, who knows, right? And we’re sitting there, I’m like, “Man, this is speaking to me right now.” And I just said, “Listen, there’s a guy being forced onto a fucking train, that’s going to be taken into a prison city, shaved, vaccinated, and microchipped. He’s pissed off. He does not want to get in that train.” So I thought a very frustrated sort of scream at the beginning, I mean, all I did was put myself in that mindset, and I screamed like I would have screamed. And it came out like that. I heard it, and Jon was so amazing, because he’s like, “Go and do it right now. Let’s do this. Let’s try it.” He’s open to all sorts of ideas. Because if you’re not, hey, there was a few things I was like, “Jon, let me try this, let me try this.” And he’s like, “No, man, that sucked.” [laughs]
Q: Let me ask you about [former ICED EARTH singer] Matt [Barlow]. Everybody talks about Matt, everybody talks about [another ex-ICED EARTH vocalist] Tim [“Ripper” Owens], everybody talks about [the first ICED EARTH singer] Gene [Adam]. You just said that Matt played a big role in your life. Did you have, I don’t even know how to phrase this question. Were you worried at all about living up to Matt or being like Matt or sounding like Matt?
Stu Block: As much as I look up to Matt, he’s great. But there’s only fucking one Matt Barlow.
Stu Block: And I’m not gonna be him. Ever. In a million years.
Q: [laughs] Yeah.
Stu Block: No one will ever, ever. I wanna get that straight. I’m being me. I can’t help it if maybe there are some Matthew-esque things that come out in my vocal. It’s ICED EARTH. It brings that out in ya. You know what I mean?
Stu Block: But I’m scared shitless what he thinks about my album, man. [laughs]
Stu Block: You know what I mean? I hope he likes it. I hope he digs it. I hope he’s proud that I’m doing it. But in the end of the day, if he hates it, he hates it. [laughs] And if he’s not into me as a vocalist, that’s cool too. It doesn’t matter. Because I’m just trying to be me. But I’ve talked to him, we had a brief email exchange, and he’s a very sweet motherfucker, man.
Q: Oh yeah, he’s a nice guy.
Stu Block: I talked to him a few times on tour, and he’s really down to earth. And I really don’t think he’s, I’m sure we’re gonna cross paths at some point, and we’re gonna talk, and I’m going to ask him, “What’d you think?” And I’m quite prepared, but I can’t worry about that, because I’m just being me. I’m Stu Block, and there’s one Tim Owens, and there’s only one goddamn fucking Matt Barlow.
Stu Block: [laughs] I’m gonna repeat that again to all the fans out there. One of them. And that’s the thing, man. And I understand why there’s so many dedicated Matt Barlow fans, because I’m a dedicated Matt Barlow fan. But I have to step away from that, and do what I do as a vocalist in ICED EARTH. And be like, I’m doing what I do because that’s what Jon wants me to do. He doesn’t want a Matt clone. He doesn’t want a Tim clone. The crazy thing is, is that I can do a lot of those different elements. That’s what all those singers do.
Stu Block: But there’s certain things that Tim Owens and certain range in his voice that I could never touch with the power and rasp and whatever he does to get that out. There’s definitely things, I mean, I wouldn’t fucking ever be able to do some of the stuff that he does. But I’m pretty sure there’s some things that I do that probably Tim Owens can’t do. And we all possess our different qualities. It’s intimidating a little bit, because I look up to Tim Owens. He’s a fucking phenomenal singer. I mean, he’s so technically proficient, that it’s amazing. It seems like he does it without even fucking taking a breath. [laughs]
Q: [laughs] Yeah.
Stu Block: And I look up to him so much. And I look up to Matt so much, and all these guys, but I have to step out of those shoes, because now I’m in a position where I have to put my fingerprint on this. And I have to do what I do, which is Stu Block, and if certain elements come out, that’s OK, but I’m gonna do what I do. And that’s what I do. [laughs]
Q: Yeah. As you may have discovered so far, ICED EARTH fans are way passionate. These people are very attached to the band. In this particular question from Tarlz Bannister, she asks, “What is it like to work with the single best metal group alive?”
Stu Block: [laughs] It’s a fucking dream come true, man.
Stu Block: I mean, that’s all I can say. It’s like waking up from the dream and, “Oh god, I’m still in this dream.” [laughs] It’s awesome, man. I would actually consider it, let’s say if you want to, I won the lottery kind of thing. I mean, it feels so good. Here’s a funny little story for you. It’s been non-stop right now. It’s been crazy ever since I got the gig in March, it’s been non-stop. I’ve been flying back and forth to Indiana, then Florida, and now Europe and all this kind of stuff, and in between I’m rehearsing. I haven’t even had time to think. But the only thing I’ve been thinking about is doing this and focusing all my energy on this. Basically, there were a couple of moments where I was like, in the shower, and I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening” kind of thing. You know, you kind of think to yourself for a second, like, “Wow, this is crazy.” But all of a sudden the phone rings and it’s like, “OK, I’ve got to get back to business.” But we were filming. We were just in New York, and we were filming two music videos. People know there’ll be a video for “Dystopia”. But we were filming the other music video [from the album], and basically, there was a spot where they didn’t need me in the scene, but it was all the rest of the boys and they were fucking jamming. And the lights were on them, and I was sitting there. And I got this like, goose-bump feeling, and I was looking at Jon, and I was looking at all the boys, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is insane.” I almost got like a lump in my throat. I couldn’t believe that I was there, being a part of this magical part of metal history. I mean, ICED EARTH is metal history, and they’re always continuing to make metal history. And I’m a chapter, I’m a snippet in this amazing book.
Stu Block: When they stopped jamming, I walked over and I almost got a tear in my eye, and I’m like, I yell at the fucking top of my lungs, “I can’t fucking believe I’m in ICED EARTH!” And, of course, Jon comes up and gives me a big hug, and the rest of the guys, they give me a hug, and it was awesome, man. It was like, the guys are so good to me, and it’s been surreal. It’s been amazing. I don’t think words can ever describe the feeling that I have. And I think that feeling stems from passion of being a metalhead, man. I feel like I’ve, a feeling of accomplishment, and I feel like I’m part of this amazing chapter in ICED EARTH‘s history. And I hope I continue to write chapters with Jon and the rest of the guys.
You can read the entire interview in two parts: