Having steered Iced Earth through more than their fair share of line up changes, Jon Schaffer is one of metal’s most long standing and resilient figures.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Jon at the commencement of the band’s European tour…
Interview w/ Jon Schaffer (Guitars)
of Iced Earth
By Cameron Chambers
How are you this evening John?
Ok man, how are you?
Yeah good thanks man. I know
we’ve strapped for time this evening so let’s get on with it!
Let’s do it.
Last night was the opening
date on your European tour with Annihilator, how was the show for you
Uh, it was good. It wasn’t actually
the opening date though… I think we’ve actually played eight or
nine shows now.
Always good when you get up
to date info off the net.
Ha ha. It’s going good though.
It’s getting better all the time.
The band… well, this lineup
hasn’t had that many shows together but we’re getting tighter and
more comfortable with eachother every show.
Is the current set list a good
mix of old and new or are you using this tour to showcase your most
recent record “Framing Armageddon”?
We’re doing four or five songs
off the new album and then mixing up the setlist from a lot of different
eras of Iced Earth. I would never do too much from a new album… I’ve
always found that to be disappointing as a fan if a band does that.
A lot of times people haven’t
had a chance to absorb your new material yet and when you have a catalogue
as big as ours… well, that can be special to a lot of people so we
like to touch on different eras of the band.
“Framing Armageddon” has
a rather elaborate story running throughout the record, where a race
known as The Setians implement different religions amongst the
human race as a way of dividing them and turning them against each other
– was there any relevance to releasing it on September 11th?
It has no relevance whatsoever.
This story is ten years old so… I came up with the story way before
the whole nine/eleven thing so yeah, it really has no relevance.
It’s just science fiction man..
some twisted horror conspiracy story that I came up with years ago.
The themes that populate “Framing
Armageddon” were originally introduced on “Something Wicked This
Way Comes”, which was released in 1998. Has the original story changed
over the last 10 years given the number of violent acts that have been
carried out in the name of god and country?
Nope. The story has been set in
stone and has nothing to do with anything that has been going on recently.
There’s been nothing happening
in recent events that’s any different to anything else that’s happened
in human history. Shit’s been going on for years so this is nothing
The final chapter in this thematic
trilogy is “Revelation Abomination” which is set for release in
2008 – are the lyrics for this record decided on already?
It will definitely not be called
that… it’s purely a working title. It’s… I’m working on it at the
Basically all the drums, rhythm
guitars, bass and a lot of the leads are already finished but I’m umm,
yet to finish writing the lyrics and the vocal arrangements. Once that’s
finished the goal is to track the rest of the record in January and
then get it mastered in February. Once that’s all done we’re shooting
for a May or maybe June release.
“Framing Armageddon” is
the first studio record for your 3 newest members. Even though you are
credited with writing Iced Earth’s lyrics and music do you think Troy,
Dennis and Brent had an influence on how the album turned out?
Not really actually. Because Dennis…
you haven’t seen the credits by asking that question obviously.
Troy played a couple of guitar
solos… he probably only played two minutes on the album. Dennis only
played fretless bass on the intro to The Clouding and the intro
to one other song. I did the rest of the bass because he came into the
band really late.
I wrote the whole thing by myself
in my own studio on my pro tools rig so the record had very little to
do with outside stuff. Our other guitarist Tim came up with a couple
of riffs that I used for songs but that’s about it.
Over the last 10 years it
seems as though a lot of bands have been paying less attention to their
lyrics and focused more on their appearance and presentation. What’s
your opinion on the current crop of metal bands?
I don’t really have an opinion…
I don’t give a shit what anyone else does. I don’t have any time to
worry about what anyone else does… I’m only worried about keeping
Iced Earth alive.
I’m not concerned with other bands
and trends and flavours of the week. I don’t give a fuck… I just don’t
have any time for it.
My days of music being a hobby
or as a fan is gone. It’s unfortunate… I’m a writer and a band leader
and it takes every waking moment just to keep moving forward. I don’t
follow what’s going and I don’t care. I just worry about what Iced Earth
Once your current European
tour finishes up, Iced Earth are heading to the UK as support to Heaven
And Hell and Lamb Of God. Are you excited to be a part of such a diverse
Umm, yeah, it’s gonna be awesome.
Obviously the Heaven And Hell thing is cool… I’m a big fan
of Black Sabbath and I always have been. It’s an honour to be able to
I love Ronnie (James Dio) to death…
he’s one of the greatest people I’ve met in the music business and besides
that, I’m a fan of his music. It’s awesome and I’m looking forward to
It’s a big opportunity for us
because prior to this we’ve only done one show in London in twenty years
so it’s a market that’s never been worked properly. It’s just a great
opportunity for us to do some work over there.
How do you think the Lamb Of
God fans are going to react to a more traditional sounding metal band
I don’t know and I don’t really
care. They’ll know we’re there. We’re heavy and we’re intense.
Some people think being heavy
is defined as tuning down and doing cookie monster vocals. To me, that’s
not heavy… it’s cheesy. I’m not saying Lamb Of God is cheesy but I
find people’s definitions to be funny.
Heavy music moves people emotionally
and you can do that with three notes… like the song Black Sabbath.
It doesn’t mean you need 250 BPM on the double bass and vocals with
no melody… you can make people react through melody… like our song The Clouding, it’s heavy emotionally.
I’ve never concerned myself with
things like that. If we do a festival and it’s a mixed bill people are
either gonna get it or they won’t. I won’t lose any sleep if the don’t…
it’s not a goal to try and please everyone. You just do what you do
and do it honestly. Even if it’s not their thing they can appreciate
Who are some bands you’ve
heard over the last couple of years that have really stood out as doing
Actually… I’m into Wolfmother
big time! I think they’re cool. It reminds me of old Black Sabbath and
Zeppelin… like those days.
It’s, you now, probably one of
the few bands I’ve heard recently that I feel like if they keep their
heads together then they can really do something. You can hear their
influences but they have the ability to put their own stamp on it.
That’s usually where people fall
short. Other bands use their influences too much and don’t have a voice
of their own and i’m not just talking about the vocals… I’m talking
in general. Those guys can develop even more as they go on if they keep
their heads together and don’t get too big too fast and get involved
with drugs and listen to their management too much.
It’ll be interesting to see what
happens. They are one of the few bands I’ve got excited about in a while.
A lot of people are like “it’s not metal” but fuck it! I’ve
heard so much generic metal it’s nice to hear something refreshing.
The market is saturated with so much bullshit most of the time that
I’m like… well, it’s rare that stuff appeals to me.
I’m somewhat jaded… I realise
that. I’m in this business and have been for so long that your perspective
changes. Even you, as a journalist, once you listen to twenty CD’s a
day your opinion of what’s good and what’s not will change and you’ll
find it harder to hear something that’s different or any good.
What have Iced Earth got planned
after your UK tour? Is an Australian tour on the cards any time soon?
Yes, we’re going to get there
in 2008. I’m sure of it! Actually, Hanzi from Blind Guardian has put
us on to a promoter that’s interested and it’s something we’ve wanted
to do for a long time.
It’s looing more and more like
it’s going to happen all the time. I’ve been to Australia on a vacation
with my mother once and it was great. The people were cool and I loved
it… I had a great and it would be great to take the band over and
see what the fans are like.
My first priority though is to
get part two wrapped up. Once I get home I’ll tae four or five
days off to rest and spend some time with the family and then I’ll hit
the studio to knock it out. That’s the plan and once part two
is done then we can move on to lots of touring.
We’ve got a lot of touring to
Demons And Wizards (Jon’s
side project with Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch”) have been
pretty quiet over the last couple of years. When
are we going to be hearing a new record?
No… that probably won’t be happening
actually. Hanzi’s only now just wrapping up the Blind Guardian stuff
and I’m just getting started with Iced Earth. I doubt we’re going to
do anything for a few years.
We squeezed the last Demons
album in and it wasn’t really fair to the record in some ways… it
could’ve been better. We both knew if we didn’t do it then it would’ve
been another four or five year wait.
We wanna avoid that this time
and just do it properly… you know, give it the time it deserves. We’ll
be spending more time on it, more so on the writing process than anything.
We want to put something out that we’re really happy with. That band
isn’t about staying on a schedule… it’s about friendship and doing
it when we feel like it.
That’s all we’ve got
time for mate, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Nah. I just wanted to say thanks
for the support over there. We’re excited about coming over there and
our record company has said that there’s more interest in Australia
than ever before. We’re just looking forward to coming over there!
Cool. Have a good show this
Take care brother.
Moral of the story kids…
don’t get so bitter and jaded about music that you can’t enjoy it anymore
and treat it like a job!
For more information on Iced Earth