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In Words: Iced Earth

- Jon Schaffer - June 1998 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Matt Barlow - August 2001 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Matt Barlow - live in Athens 1999
Claudia Ehrhardt

Matt Barlow (by email) - August 2001

With the release of Iced Earth Horror Show it was time to talk to the band. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance during the promo trip and so singer Matt Barlow answered my questions by email.

Since the release of the last studio album Something Wicked This Way Comes a lot of time was passing by. Alive In Athens was very successful. Why do you decided to release the Melancholy EP in the meantime?

I believe it was Century Media's idea.

What did the rest of the band while Jon was busy with Demons & Wizards?

Well, we all have jobs and other work.

Last year at Wacken you presented the new drummer. How you got Richard Christy into the band?

We got ahold of Richard through Jim Morris, who has worked with him in the past in the studio.

After the Wacken open-air there was another line-up change... Jimmy was no longer in the band! What happened?

I won't get into that as Jimmy will be joining us for the upcoming tour...I think everything is going to be cool.

And why did Steve DiGiorgio just in the band for the recordings?

He backed out on his commitment to do the tours.

Now it's announced that Jimmy will play the tour and probably will be back in the band. It seems that the line-up isn't very stable at the moment...

The line-up can change and the band will be stable... Professionalism.

You changed plans... Initially it was planned to continue the trilogy of the album Something Wicked This Way Comes. I heard that it has something to do with the label change....

We just were not ready to tackle something that huge at this point.

When you are looking back, was Century Media the right partner for the band during the last years? Or do you think that the band would have done better, if you would have changed the label earlier?

Maybe... That's speculation. It is, however, time now.

But now let's talk about Horror Show! Why do you decide to make an album about this topic?

It's cool, it's interesting, it's METAL!!! These are concepts and characters that influenced us since childhood.

How did you choose the stories? And why did you choose the "monsters" point of view?

It's not always from the monsters viewpoint, but it probably is the most interesting place when trying to identify with them.

With Wolf you have a very fast and heavy album opener. Why you decide to open up with this one?

For that very reason...It kicks you in the ass right away...

For most of the stories it's easy to identify the book / movie it's based on. On which stories are Dragon's Child and Ghost Of Freedom are based on?

Dragon's Child is base on The Creature from the Black Lagoon... Ghost is our own creation... Not horror... Patriotic.

At the final track Phantom Of The Opera Ghost you worked with a female singer. Who is she? And how do you found her?

Yuni Percifeld... She is an artist local to the Indianapolis area.

Why was Dracula chosen for the magazine compilations? Was it your choice or the labels?

I think it was the label and Gtz choice for the mag.

My personal favorites are Dragon's Child and Damien. These songs offer a larger variety than the rest of the album. But I miss a catchy tune like you had on Dark Saga and Something Wicked This Way Comes.... Don't you think it's important to have this kind of songs as well?

Maybe, but this record is a bit of a departure and we are very proud of it.

This time the album wasn't completely recorded at the famous Morrisound Studios. Why?

We were able to record a lot of the record at Jon's studio and that was tremendous...Very laid back and no watching the clock.

What was the reason for the delay's of the release?

Things happen...

Will there be any limited editions or special releases? Picture vinyl?

No picture disks yet... Hopefully though.

You will first tour in the States and South America before you'll hit the European roads... What can we expect live? What kind of stage setting?

The stages in Europe will be outstanding, we're all in for a treat!

You got the offer of a German TV series which wanted to record your show to include parts into a crime story. A date for the show was announced and next days cancelt again because of logistical problems... What happened?

Timing was just not right for us... Hope we can do something like that in the future...think it would be fun.

Future will show if they will get this kind of chance again... Anyway, the European fans have to wait.... Last tour in Europe was in fall 1998 and due to the time schedule it seems that they won't hit the roads here before early 2002.... A long time... See you on tour...

Claudia Ehrhardt


Jon Schaffer - live @ Waldrock 1998
Claudia Ehrhardt

Jon Schaffer - Bergum (NL), June, 27th 1998

When Iced Earth played at the Dynamo the new album Something Wicked This Way Comes wasn't released. The album been released in June and I could talked to Jon about it.

What happen after your tour last year?

Oh, Jesus, I mean... What have we do after that? I think we did some shows in the States. We went to Greece and played a headlining show down there. We moved up to Indiana, you know, and start to work on the new album. We stayed very busy.

You had a line-up change. Randy is out. You have a new guitarist in the band. Can you tell me a little bit about the new one?

His name is Larry Tarnowski, he is twenty years old and he's a really killer lead player and a good rhythm player also. He's a good kid, he is from the Chicago area. You know we put out ads all over Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. He's the one we start out, it was the best choice.

There were confusion about Brent. He was out of the band, then he returned. That was a little bit unusual to say it that way.

I mean, he went trough some hard times and personal problems. We really wished that he would have been on the record, but we had to move forward and we used Mark Prator again in the studio. And than Brent kinda got his problems worked out, so ... We never wanted to loose him in the first place. It's really a big hassle. It was a lot of stress, but I'm glad he's back.

You played the Dynamo, the festival and the club, how were the shows?

It was good, I mean both shows. The club was sold out and the festival, I guess there were 5,000 to 6,000 people or maybe more. The tend was completely full. There was a really good response, it went well.

As far as I know from your homepage you also played some shows in the States. The last time we talked, there wasn't a chance to play the States. What changed?

Right, that's why we moved up to be in the North part, because... It's in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit area are definitely more support of metal. We have a pretty good underground following up there.

So that was the idea behind that.

Yeah, the sort of to build a fan base in the United States. Make people start to notice us out there. That's the whole point.

Okay, the album Something Wicked This Way Comes been released.

Yeah, I'm really happy with the way it came out. It's definitely the right direction for us. It's a lot of different sounds. I mean, the first ten songs are kinda record on their own and than the trilogy which tied up the artwork and everything, it's nearly 20 minutes long, there the 3 songs together. It's pretty cool.

What can we expect from this on? How would you describe the album?

I think, we tried to listen to what the fans were saying and they requesting us the songs and still do what we like to do. So,... one of the biggest complains about Dark Saga from the older Iced Earth fans was, there wasn't much fast guitar work on there. There is more of that on it definitely and especially the last two songs of the trilogy. It's more reminiscent of the Stormrider period, so... I mean, there is a lot of different feelings. Some songs... There is a lot more acoustical guitar. There is a lot of different textures, there are some really sad moments, some mid-tempo power moments, fast and furious stuff. It's definitely a roller coaster ride of feelings and emotions on the album.

How do you came up with the title Something Wicked This Way Comes?

That's actually from Shakespeare's Macbeth. It's a really old phrase and I always kinda liked the way it sounded and I just decided to call the story Something Wicked, then decided to use the whole phrase as the for album. It's really the only... The artwork and the trilogy are the only thing which tied together. The other ten songs stand on their own, they have nothing to do with each other. They have different concepts, the song Blessed Are You is written for the fans. It's a anthem kind of thing. Watchin' Over You is written for a friend which is killed in a motorcycle accident and it's something I promised his family that I do ten years ago. I felt like the time was right and it's really emotional. It's more a rock ballad than a metal song, but so far a lot of people are really into it. I mean, a lot of people who liked the heavier Iced Earth stuff might not like it, but I don't really care. It's genie song and it's from the heart and it means a lot to me and the people in his family!

I think when the fans know the story behind the song, they'll understand it and accept it.

Yeah, I think the real fans will and that's only fans I care about, the real ones.

I heard that you play a few festivals in August and then you'll come on tour. I heard it will be a five band package. I think it's a little bit too much.

We are still talking about that. It's a lot more than I would like to have, but... You know...

With 5 bands you can't play a pretty long set, your time is limited.

Yeah, we still talking about. We might change that. I'm not convinced yet.

What can we expect live? I mean, you have a lot of fantastic songs, it'll be pretty heavy to choose the right ones.

Well, it depends on the record sales and so on. I would like to do some more things with the stage show, but once again it all comes down to money. Expect the same powerful show that we always try to give and do the whole trilogy live. It's gonna be hard to please everybody in two hours. What we are gonna do it's post on the internet some kind of thing where the fans can vote which songs they want to hear live and made an average there out and put a setlist together.

That's a cool idea. I thin the fans will appreciate that.

I don't know how many of our fans out here in Europe around the internet.

I think it's getting more and more popular. Another thing I heard is that you continue to work with Century Media, but I should be a short time contract. Just for this album and an option for the next, or...

So far we talking about this one, one more studio album and a live album. We see how things go. We've been through a lot with Century Media, through good and bad times. And I think the label and the band have grown up together, so ... They wanted us to stay on the label and they promised me that they'll do an A-priority job. This is the first time we have this and if we see some results, then we won't have a problem with continuing on. We just have to wait and see how things turned out. They are definitely do a lot more than they did before.

A lot of bands have problems and too many changes, delays are not good for a band. It's getting kind of unique if someone stays so long with the same label.

Like I said it's a kind of matter that we were growing up together. I know the guys pretty well. And they know me and know how I'm and that they can relay on me. I'm the leader of the band and I supply a good product and always returned phone calls and be a good business partner. It's a good relationship and even we had fights in the past, we had a lot of good times, too. I think it's gonna get better from here.

Let's talk a little more about the album. I think this album shows more variety. The last album was a conceptual album, this tells different stories, except the trilogy. Is that the difference? Can we expect something like Dark Saga next time, 'cause it'll be another conceptual album?

It probably will be a lot heavier and darker than Dark Saga.

In one of the songs of the trilogy you used a female voice and something like the mediaeval monk choirs.

That's right. At the point were the voices come in, when it says "on the sixth day, of the sixth month in the sixth hour" Anti-Christ is born or what ever and we wanted have like Omen-type voices on there. Our producer came up with the thing that we did and it's a secret how we did it. It worked out really cool. It would have been nice to have a full choir, you know what I mean, a 40-piece choir doing this, but we can't effort this. We did it a special way.

It would also be a problem on tour!

Yeah, would be, but it's cool and I'm pretty happy with the way that came out. The next album is gonna be more in that type of direction, faster stuff on it and heavier stuff. That one will be a continuation of the trilogy.

The cover artwork is linked to the trilogy and the coming album. Is it your idea?

Yeah, the story I wrote, maybe we get a coverage of a comic book. Who knows, anything goes, it's a really cool story. It's kind of Science-Fiction meets heaven & hell, conspiracy, all kinds of shit.

Actually you should just come over for 2 festivals, Wacken and the RockHard festival and now you are playing some more. That happens very fast. I thought you should play some shows in the States.

Yes, I mean, actually our agent was working on stuff in August and September. Now we got this tour with Mercyful Fate in the States (editors note: Iced Earth didn't support Mercyful Fate) so we gonna be busy as well.

When does the tour start?

September, 13th in Italy. Yeah, we're gonna be busy.

That's good. I think this festivals, here in Bergum, the Waldrock, and tomorrow in Belgium will introduce you to a lot of people who didn't know the band that good. At the last tours you just play 2 or 3 shows here.

Right. Next week will going to Switzerland and Austria also. Than we have another week off, than we'll play the With Full Force festival and that all happen pretty fast.

That's news to me.

Been news to us until Monday morning, too.

The time is right, this seems to be the album to make it or break it.

Hopefully we make it and get some more people to come to our headlining tour.

Do you remember something special from the last shows you played in the Netherlands?

No really, on the Dark Saga tour we played our last show here.

So folks, make the next concerts in Holland something to remember and don't miss them!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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