Artist: Jon Schaffer
Interview Date: 5/20/2005
Label: SPV Records
Jon Schaffer has been a busy man for a long time. Most noted for his excellence in Heavy Metal as the Founder of Iced Earth, the guitarist has just completed the DVD “Gettysburg” which is a great companion to the CD “The Glorious Burden”. This CD has received a large amount of critical acclaim and features Tim Owens, from Judas Priest as Vocalist. In addition to this, Jon has finished the latest epic from Demons & Wizards, a Power Metal project with Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian. Thanks to SPV Records I was able to sit down with Jon and discuss these and other matters of Metal. Below is the transcription of our conversation.
KP – Jon it’s a great honor to sit with you and cover a few topics today be they Iced Earth or Demons & Wizards and some other stuff that’s on your mind. Let me start it all by asking how your health has been these days, especially your back as we know you had all that stuff going on with the surgery and all.
SCHAFFER – Yeah It’s better than it had been in awhile in fact I guess when we were touring which was the wrapping up of the first leg of the “Glorious Burden” tour I was really suffering and by the end of the American Shows and doing the European Festival that we did it was really bad so I did have another surgery back in November of 2004 and I have had a lot of physical therapy and I think we are on the road to recovery here. It’s just it’s a long process and it’s (pauses) one thing to say it’s not that performing on stage makes it bad but it’s everything you have to do to perform onstage makes it bad . You know, traveling in a bus and bouncing around all night in a bunk and it’s not very restful. It never is when you are on tour doing that kind of stuff so you know that’s the problem is that this stuff always seems to inflame it when we go on tour and it makes it harder. But I think what I’m doing now and the kind of therapy that I am doing is the right thing and this all is obviously not related to my neck. That was a different problem from when I injured it back in 1996 back in Berlin and I had surgery in 2000. That actually has been doing really well and I’ve been doing pretty well with that. The low-back thing started a few years ago and it has just gotten progressively towards a pretty serious problem. Yet it seems like we’re on the right track. I’ve had a couple of months here where I’m in more comfortable than I have been in a long time and that’s a good thing. So we’ll see I just have to keep up the therapy.
KP – I say it’s good to have you on the mend but I got to say with you needing to sit back for awhile and recover; I was wondering did this surge of creativity come over you regarding material. I ask this since it seems like the DVD release was in the planning stages and now it’s out as well as the D&W piece. I remember running into Bobby Jarzombek at a function one night and he told me he was speaking to you about doing the album and the next thing I know I am receiving a promotional copy from SPV Records as it’s done. So did that add to it, being down for a bit gave you the push to complete more things?
SCHAFFER – Well, I don’t know that it really added to it, it just gave me time to do some of it. Obviously by not being on the road I was able to focus on studio work and that kind of stuff. Yet I would say really that the Demons thing had been in the works for awhile. You see Demons & Wizards biggest problem is Iced Earth and Blind Guardian schedules. So we have to do the work when we can and being in this down period gave me the time to do the writing for that and basically wrap up the writing with Hansi. I mean we have been on and off working on some pieces of music over the last couple of years. You know, just here and there and then as far as the DVD Goes well “Gettysburg” has been in the works now
And when you watch the interview on the DVD that Mark and I are doing, that was in January of 2004. That’s how old that interview is.
KP – Wow !
SCHAFFER – Now I can look at that and say “man I looked pissed off and exhausted ” and I was because there was supposed to be the “making of Gettysburg” a piece that was supposed to be on that DVD and that’s why Mark was at my house and I was going to go through the recording process and show people how I put the song together and all that and I had a flood in my basement. The flood destroyed the studio and it was about 40,000 gallons of water. It was 5 feet of water in a thousand square foot basement.
KP – My God how did that happen?
SCHAFFER – The plumber fucked up. What got destroyed was some 20 guitars, two drum sets, all of it, everything; I mean demos and stuff that had never been released. It’s a really big deal, it was just a disaster.
KP – So a lot of Iced Earth stuff is just gone.
SCHAFFER – Oh yeah that stuff is gone forever. There are some tapes left but we have to get some real pros to look at it to see if they can be salvaged which would be nice since there is a lot of unpublished music on there. Stuff that goes back to the mid 80’s and all these tapes. I mean you would never expect to get five feet of water in your basement. Its one thing to have six inches or something and I don’t have anything sitting on the floor down there but this shit got so high it trashed everything so Mark had already had his plane ticket booked and that thing happened literally a week before we did the interview and he was like I don’t know what we can do to fill the space except an interview so lets just do one. While we’re there we can just discuss how this thing comes into it. The Gettysburg DVD really should have been out about six or eight months ago. It just turned out to be a bigger and more time-involved project than we all expected.
KP – If you caught me smirking before it was because when you discussed the interview, as a pet owner I had to laugh when the dog came in and just started making all the noise and I was waiting for you to yell “get outta here” since I do that with the cat when she is in the way. They always come around when you need to focus or have a phone call.
SCHAFFER – Yeah Mark was like yeah “do you wanna cut that” and I said, no that’s Bailey and people who have been following the band I’m sure have heard of her and she comes in there its just funny. It definitely adds the human element to it
KP – So now I have to say that given your health I wondered if having to stop the touring was as hard a decision as it seemed to be on you for here the band is getting critical acclaim and this album is being considered a staple piece to have in your Metal collection. If you are getting into Iced Earth you must buy “The Glorious Burden” was that a really rough choice?
SCHAFFER – Yeah, it sucked. I mean it was a hard decision and I knew it was a decision that I felt like in some ways it was going to cost us you know. That in itself was very frustrating because we had momentum and we still do but its just I don’t know. I mean if the right opportunity came up today we would go on tour. If it was the right thing because for us to go out and keep headlining it becomes redundant and then it’s not special anymore. But if we have a chance of reaching new fans by opening for Metallica or Maiden or a really big act where the audience is going to enjoy our kind of music as well. We would do that in a heartbeat. I would have gone on the road and suffered as we have done in the past had an opportunity like that had come up, but for us to keep touring/headlining now didn’t seem to make sense. More importantly I needed to get this shit taken care of and our agent is constantly working on us to be an opening act for a bigger band. We are submitting all the time. It’s just there is a lot of politics in that and it seems like it hasn’t been in the cards for us yet. If that was it. Iced Earth has opened for two bands in its history. Blind Guardian in Europe years ago and the end of Megadeth career at that time where we did like 10 shows with them. We found ourselves playing gymnasiums in the middle of Wisconsin. I mean it was not a very successful tour but while we did get some exposure out of it there was very little. So we have always wanted to tour more you have to do it in a way that makes sense because when you are headlining you are preaching to the choir and we need to play in front of people who have never heard of us.
KP – I really would have liked to see you guys get the chance to play with Judas Priest even if it was as the first band of three because I feel if you were able to deliver a half hour, forty minutes of material there’s enough Iced Earth that can be delivered to the unschooled fan in a half an hour set.
SCHAFFER – Definitely, without a doubt
KP – As much as I love Queensryche they don’t need to open for Priest and while I love Priest they could have took a little chance with this tour. So regarding your talk of suffering through gigs, I have to tell you that I was at the BB Kings show where you were incredibly ill and you didn’t cancel the show which I give you a ton of credit for as this was a first return to NY in a long time correct?
SCHAFFER – There were a couple of years between visits. The Horrorshow tour was the last time in the City.
KP – So what did you end up having that night?
SCHAFFER – Dude I don’t know I think it was food poisoning or something because I spent the entire day puking my guts out in the hotel room and it was awful.
KP – You were green onstage.
SCHAFFER – It was bad as I even left the stage to go hurl at some point. It really was awful and I was so pissed because you know this is my favorite city to play and it’s definitely in my top three. I like playing in the States period but there are certain places that are best. You know what it is, when we played New York on the Horrorshow tour it was just after 9-11 and we opened with the “Star-Spangled Banner” and on that tour we were actually performing it where now it is a taped intro. It was just like, man when we started that the crowd was amazing. I had tears in my eyes
KP – I think it’s a great touch
SCHAFFER – It was just powerful you know and New York’s always been a very cool place for us to play so I was really, really looking forward to that show and I ended up just feeling like ass. Why today of all days.
KP – I asked because not the day after I interviewed Tim Owens in the room where you were dying, I came down with pneumonia and all my friends were ribbing me saying, he must have had pneumonia (Schaffer laughs)
SCHAFFER – It was gone within the next 24 hours. Believe me the day was not pleasant with what was happening inside my body.
KP – Tim had said “yeah Jon is really sick” when we did the chat and I felt bad. Seeing you onstage shortly afterwards you really did look green. I gave you credit for that. So now I have to say when Tim first hit the stage and started singing the older material for the first time what was that feeling like for you as creator of the stuff. I mean did you envision that this is how I wanted my material to be or always wanted it to be.
SCHAFFER – There are definitely songs that Tim delivers better than I ever thought could be done in my mind as the creator of the song. And certainly when I go back and listen to him doing stuff like the things from the first and second album you know like “Stormrider”, “Travel In Stygian” and “Angels Holocaust”, “Pure Evil” and that king of stuff. Those songs were written with Tim’s voice in mind and even songs like “Iced Earth” and the other stuff that was on that record. Its just awesome hearing Tim do that stuff. It really is. Just a really cool thing because there are different things going on. Its like every singer has something special about them you know what I mean in the certain atmosphere that they can capture and there are certain things that after Matt was in the band for X amount of time that I felt I could kind of pull out of him as a vocalist and get him to do things that I didn’t even think he was capable of by inspiring him in the studio. Even in pre-production when we were recording. I’m looking forward to doing that kind of stuff with Tim because he came in and he really didn’t have any input on the real creative process other than the lyrics for “Red Baron”. When he came in everything was written and he did his vocals, he was re-recording vocals actually so I am looking forward to doing a fresh record with Tim I think that will be a blast.
KP – that will be great, like I mentioned earlier I was listening to “Dracula” and “Melancholy” which are my old favorites so in that were you worried about how the audience would receive him or did you have the mindset of hey he is in the band and you all just have to deal with this. It’s my band and music etc.
SCHAFFER – No I wasn’t worried about it.
KP – At the NYC show, I had an interesting conversation with someone standing next to me who claimed to be a die hard Barlow fan. They said, well I am not supporting the fact that he is in the band (meaning Tim) so I said, well you should go home then.
SCHAFFER – Yeah I mean you are here so………
KP – Then they said, well I am not going to like Tim. So I said, well he was in Judas Priest so how bad is he going to be so think about it. By the end of the night their singing along with everything and I said so do you like him now and they were like “yes very much”.
SCHAFFER – People fall in love with illusions that’s essentially what it is. They don’t know the first thing about Matt Barlow none of these people do. They fall in love with his pretty long red hair or whatever it is but the fact of the matter is what goes on in the real world and what goes on in your fantasy are completely different things and I cant help what goes on in a persons fantasy world so I don’t really give a fuck if they accept him or not. Tim is a part of this band, he is fucking amazing and we are going to do great things together and if the people in the past cant deal with that then they can sit around and listen to the old Iced Earth records and bye. We will gain new fans – that happens. You know I’ve heard the same shit every time a change is made as Tim is the 4th singer in this band and I’ve gotten shit and taken flack every time a change has been made. Yet that’s what you got to do when you are in a leadership position because you are the visionary as you just keep going forward and you don’t worry about the naysayers, you can’t worry about them.
KP – Jon one of the things I said to Tim when we met was that I did enjoy him in Priest and still supported them but I felt you have found your best niche by being in Iced Earth . In my opinion it flowed better and in the live sense it was fantastic. So I guess I have to ask that with the Glorious burden and you had such a historical content to it and while I enjoyed it, I did not view it as a political record and you have made some great statements on that already. So I have to ask if you think you will be using any sort of history as a source for the follow-up to this record. I know that you have a deep love for American History with the store and all.
SCHAFFER – I am sure I will but not certain if that will be on the next record or not. It was a bit of a departure because when you look at songs like “1776” or “Ghost Of Freedom” both of those songs are related to military history in some regard but “The Glorious Burden” was a true dedication to that whole thing. I needed to be inspired in a different way as a writer and it felt like that was the right time in my life to tackle that. At this point I don’t think the next record will have anything to do with that kind of stuff but will the one after it there is a good chance. Or two after it. I just don’t know right now. I have to be (pauses), here’s the thing if I were to put out as a writer, an album that I didn’t really feel say ok, I would have been able to foresee all of the political bullshit and all the controversy that the album was going to create and if I would have said – not that I would have changed it – I am just building a false scenario here really, I if were to foresee that and then decided I am not going to do “The Glorious Burden” because there is going to be a bunch of shit, I’ll write another “Dark Fantasy” album it wouldn’t have been the album that it is. it wouldn’t have been true it wouldn’t have been an honest vibe of what was inside of me at that time and that is what makes it a strong record. You know it’s the most important thing to be genuine. It pissed a few people off, oh well fuck ’em. At the end of the day, I think it inspired a lot of people and touched a lot of people. That’s important and that’s because it’s so honest. I have to go with what is in my gut
KP – I think its good to piss off people a little bit with a record because the bottom line is it starts some debate on it and it makes people think about it a little more. If everyone just loves it, it sometimes just goes away. As I think of things like “when the eagle cries” video and how MTV gave you the whole crap about it and refused to play it. I just wondered in your opinion if stuff like MTV is even relevant in today’s Metal Scene, I mean they don’t much of it as the network focuses on rap music or who’s house or car is bigger or reality shows about 8 kids in a non realistic scenario . Given that do you think it even offers metal anything that we should be bothered by it?
SCHAFFER – No. I really don’t, I mean we have basically existed and survived for a lot of years now really nothing more than attitude and support of the fans. I mean we never had MTV Support where it made a difference. It was nice that the head bangers ball played the “Reckoning” video and Tim and I went on and did the interview and all that stuff is very cool but that is not what this is about and I think everybody knows that. In this world, in this day and age I think a band like Iced Earth in some ways we are just a little bit out of our element. This is because its changing, the whole industry is changing. What they are doing now is just throw a band out and try to get quick money, you know the flash in the pan kind of thing and it doesn’t seem like the industry warrants building a career anymore. It’s not like they are looking for that band that will be around for 25-30 years or that kind of thing. It’s a whole different mentality. the entire business has changed.
KP – thinking of some of the changes what about the satellite radio as that seems to be a good thing as well as a lot of these cable music stations that allow you to select essentially, Metal, Extreme Metal or Traditional metal etc. I like to say traditional metal more than old school, since it’s not my favorite term. Have you noticed any positive gain for Iced Earth on those?
SCHAFFER – I think there are definitly some stations that are playing it, I mean I am not against anything if it going to help promote the band, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. I MEAN there is other people who its there job to do that and my purpose in all of this is to drive the boat and there is other people that are working in the organization whether it be the record company or management where its their job to worry about making sure those things happen . For me I just need to be the creative captain of the ship and be the guy who maintains the integrity and the vision of what this whole thing is.
KP – you know as the creative captain I wanna see if you’ll tell any of the passengers on the metal boat then anything about the new Iced Earth piece that might be coming, is it in the works
SCHAFFER – Well it’s in the very preliminary works with me as it all starts in my mind
KP – Any teasers?
SCHAFFER – well actually, it depends on the decision that SPV makes in the next week or two here. There is a very good chance that this will be a “Something Wicked” continuation, like a part one and two, sort of a concept album. If they go for it, this will be perhaps the most ambitious thing that I have ever done as a writer. It should be a trip.
KP – I wanted to ask you something about one of the songs from Horrorshow, in Phantom Opera Ghost, there is a girl singing. Who is that, as I could not seem to find her name listed.
SCHAFFER – She is in the liner notes. Yunhui Percifield from a local band, not signed or anything. I lost track of her after she moved to I think it was LA.
KP – Moving on to some band mate questions. With the current lineup, do you think we have now the ultimate version of Iced Earth. For we see Bobby Jarzombek on drums and Tim singing and all.
SCHAFFER – Well I think there have been a lot of good versions of Iced Earth and everybody who has been in the band has had a particular (pauses), I mean obviously when you are talking about Matt for instance, he was someone who was very charismatic and person as well as a really good singer . when you talk about singers there’s always going to be the folks who say oh this guy blows away that guy. All that is bullshit, it’s about if that individuals voice is pleasing to you to listen to. I can say that I have worked with some of the best singers there are and they all have their own individual things that make them special. Its like Matt was kind of a master of being dramatic and that also had a lot to do with the way Jim and I were producing in the studio. We would push him to be a little bit William Shatner-esque by being over the top when you are doing the intimate parts and almost make it sound corny because if you are visually seeing an actor get corny or all they have is the sound of your voice so you overdo and that kind of stuff.
Matt was really good at that type of stuff. Hansi is fucking amazing and is like the Freddie Mercury of Metal . He is probably the most talented singer when it comes to building vocal parts that I have ever worked with. Simply because he is a master at it. He has a true knowledge of music and theory and he can take his voice and make it sound like other people and its like Tim can sound like a demon right out of Hell and he also has an amazing pitch. His pitch is like perfect and as far as pitch goes Tim is the best singer I ever worked with. As far as his range and his power well that is just amazing. Everybody has a certain thing that they really excel at so I’m not going to say that is this the ultimate lineup. Now when you talk about Bobby, he has got amazing chops and his timing is impeccable and I would say by far that Bobby is the best drummer that I’ve ever played with and I think Mark Prader used to be but he was more of a studio drummer anyway . He was never in the band, he was more of just the hired guy to do some recording when we were in that studio. Still an amazing, amazing groove master and up until I jammed with Bobby I thought that he was the best but Bobby is. Now Mark is not even a metal drummer but he just can because that’s how good he is. Bobby on the other hand has all of those grooves but he has the metal chops on top of that. Having him be part of the Demons & Wizards thing kind of gave me a heads up on what it would be like with him on an Iced Earth record and it was great.
KP – It was a nice surprise to hear about that when I did, as it floored me.
SCHAFFER – Yeah Bobby and I as a rhythm section are tight and we just locked right up and I am really excited about that. You know right now I really haven’t spent the time filling the other positions in the band and while there are some guys who want those positions we are receiving a lot of tapes for potential auditions, I have not even started that process. There are a lot of guys available out there so it makes me now want to be unfair to the other lineups and say this is the ultimate one as there was something special in all of them, and I would not have hired them if that was not the case,
KP – We talked a little bit about the DVD before, and I wanted to say congratulations on your success in bringing a little bit of the History Channel into metal music which is I feel needed in order to see something different. Regarding the Gettysburg Battlefield tour which I found very interest, yet I was surprised to find that a guide was used. I had really thought that you were going to walk around by yourself explaining stuff to the viewer.
SCHAFFER – Well, I don’t have the knowledge that Ted had, I mean I have a lot of knowledge compared to someone who has none but compared to Ted I don’t have much. He has been studying not only the Battle Of Gettysburg and the Civil War since he was about 7 years old and he is mid 50’s now. It’s something that you can study forever and you continually learn. I thought it would be a good addition to have us just conversing about things, and yeah I am interviewing Ted and while I know most of the stuff he was going to say, but it would be better than just having me walking around talking about stuff. I thought that might have gotten old so we added some personality and we can play off of each other and then actually there are going to be people who are going to buy this that are more interested in the battle than in the band and they aren’t really going to give a shit about who’s telling them. Yet Ted can go deeper into it with his knowledge so that interview/battlefield tour portion isn’t really for your average metal fan, that’s for people who really want to know about what really happened there. and I’m going to say that there’s probably a small of people who really care and that’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. So you know for the guys that are into it and are learning constantly they are going to learn a lot more from Ted than they will from me . My job with the whole thing is to start to inspire the ones that want to learn in medium of entertainment in music. maybe even getting them to read the books because they were inspired by the entertainment I mean I would have to spend another 20 years of hard core studying just to get to the level that Ted is at now.
KP – He definitely knew what he was talking about but I was just curious about the decision.
SCHAFFER – Well you know if you go on a tour with Ted which I recommend for anybody. If they go to Gettysburg they need to hire him because he will have you in tears. They guy is so passionate about this stuff that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was at the battle and suffered some horrendous fate there. There are so many times throughout the day, if you spend the day with him that he will just get tears in his eyes because he is that passionate about it and it’s such a special place anyway. It’s very heavy and yet magical at the same time. Ted has a great charisma and is a great guy and I wanted people to be able to see that. Ted is a good buddy of mine and I wanted him to be a part of it.
KP – It was nicely done.
SCHAFFER – I mean its raw that’s the thing and the reason for that is the Battlefield will not allow you to take boom mics and heavy duty recording gear there so we used a camcorder. that’s why it’s so raw and there is wind noise .
KP – I did wonder about that aspect.
SCHAFFER – We couldn’t do a really professional recording because they wouldn’t allow it. I guess it’s because if they did everyone and their brother would be out there trying to make a documentary and they don’t want the Battlefield to be turned into every day there is a camera crew . They have to have rules about that so it seems a little bit raw and it is.
KP – Given this DVD is out now, what can fans count on as far as a concert performance or something of that nature.
SCHAFFER – It will happen it’s just that all of that has really to do more with contractual situations than anything else and we are getting very close to a time when I will be able to record things from the past Iced Earth catalog live . If we were to do that now, we would have only been able to include songs from “The Glorious Burden” or the DVD would have to come out as Century Media. So on x date in 2005 then I can do that stuff without there being any legal issues by recording the next concert.
KP – So you can’t even record the concert and include old tracks? I thought that just applied to re-releasing existing recordings.
SCHAFFER – No, it applies to both. So if we recorded any of the “glorious burden” tour, we could not use any tracks that are on the century media catalog at this point. Well if we were still Century Media it would not be a big deal, but we’re not so we have to wait until the date were the titles come back to me, which is soon.
KP – I have a couple of “Demons & Wizards” questions for you. The Dark Tower series as an inspiration is a good idea since it combines both the elements of Fantasy and Horror at the same time which are trademarks of both bands whose idea was this Demons & Wizards epic?
SCHAFFER – No that was Hansi, I haven’t read it. I used to be a Stephen King fan you know some of the old stuff I liked and I guess fan would be a little bit strong but I did like some of his books. I can’t even remember but there was a couple that I tried reading years ago but I could not even get past the first few pages. So it’s not my thing but Hansi was the one that came up with doing the theme based on this. Now there is only three songs based on that and the rest of it is not. You have “Seize The Day” which is based on “Lord Of The Rings” and that was kind of my idea actually believe it or not knowing Hansi to be the big “Lord Of The Rings” fan. That piece of music I wrote back during the Horror Show sessions and I was out riding my Harley one day and I had that going through my mind and I came home and recorded the demo and laid it all out and I never really heard this as a song that would have vocal parts. I kind of felt that song to be an instrumental. Yet it was cool and it had this vibe to it, but I decided it did not fit the context of Horror Show, so I shelved it for awhile and that’s it. Met Hansi years later and I said you know I think this would be cool to write this about Frodo and Sam traveling through the Wastelands trying to get to the whatever, you know I am not even a big Lord Of The Rings fan so I forget.
KP – Mordor is where they were headed.
SCHAFFER – OK, so yeah I suggested that to him and he liked that idea and that’s what we ended up going with and there is just a lot of different topics.
KP – I think the CD did come out really good and I feel it offers the fans of Iced Earth and Blind Guardian another tasty piece of Metal. I’m just curious if you feel the that the popularity of this disc will lead to a lot of questions about “well are they going to play live” or “will Iced Earth do some of these songs or will Blind Guardian do them”
SCHAFFER – Well, we would never I mean I don’t think Iced Earth would ever do a Demons & Wizards song because there is no point. I mean we have plenty of our own material almost too much to pick songs anymore it’s getting difficult and I don’t see any reason why Blind Guardian would either. What we had done in the past when Hansi and I did Demons & Wizards shows was we would do Iced Earth and Blind Guardian songs I think we did “Welcome To Dying”, “Travel In Stygian” and a “Question Of Heaven” live and those are the songs from our other bands that we did, then we did some covers and then the entire Demons & Wizards record when we headlined Europe back in 2000 so that is it. I would think now that we have two albums I think we might throw a Blind Guardian or Iced Earth song in the set or one of each in but now we have enough material to do the entire show .
KP – So has there been discussion about doing a Demons & Wizards show?
SCHAFFER – Well we’ve already been offered the biggest festivals in Europe to headline them and Hansi has Blind Guardian ready to start getting pretty heavy in their pre-productions for their next record and I just had a baby girl and it was awesome so I don’t wanna leave. I have no desire to tour for the first six months of her life.
KP – That’s nice, you don’t wanna miss anything. Congratulations.
SCHAFFER – I mean this is my first kid, so it’s a big deal and I just have no desire to do it . We have been offered so it might happen later this year but not right now.
KP – I think it would be nice to see, since there is such a good amount of quality stuff on those records and it’s just so refreshing to see creative Metal doing well and receiving positive feedback, because there is literally so much crap out there these days. It makes me wonder who does Jon Schaffer listen to for inspiration these days or what is in the CD Changer all the time in your opinion.
SCHAFFER – Well, I don’t listen to stuff for inspiration liked. Life is inspiration to me as far as the writing goes and I don’t listen to music very often its just my job and when you get to a certain point when you become a professional musician in some ways I miss that feeling that when a new Iron Maiden record came out and I went “oh fuck yeah this rocks”, and I mean I haven’t thought that stuff since I was 14 years old. I think the last album that really gave me Goosebumps was the first Sanctuary album “Refuse Denied” and I was like “fuck this rocks”. I just love that album and that was probably the last album that really gave me Goosebumps. So when I do listen to music I am usually in my vehicle and it’s generally the bands that I grew up with.
KP – OK, so who would those be?
SCHAFFER – Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, KISS, ACDC all that shit, everything that is on “Tribute To The Gods”
KP – I was just going to say go get “Tribute To The Gods” if you don’t have it.
SCHAFFER – I mean that is just my view on it because for me music is not a hobby, music is a way of life and when I have people a lot of times who don’t understand it because they listen to it from a fan standpoint and I create it because it’s my life. It’s kind of like if I was a carpenter who was framing houses all day, would I want to come home and put and addition on my house. No, I would probably want to listen to music when I get home. It’s just that I need time away so that I can be refreshed and I also don’t wanna be influenced by anything that is going on now so I have no interest in hearing what the flavor of the month is or what mass media is shoving down kids throats. I don’t want any part of it and I don’t wanna be influenced by it.
KP – This kind of ties it together, the European Metal Scene seems to have maintained the course and taken what Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have molded and worked from the earliest influences of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and just ran with it. Also this part of the world is holding a similar sound a more traditional feel like Iced Earth is doing so do you think that the US will return to this sound. Do you think we will find more bands dropping the DJ position from their roster. I mean I met a band of guys and one of them said he was the DJ, I felt like sending him for coffees so I could talk to the guitar player for awhile.
SCHAFFER – Yeah I don’t know, but things have changed so much that I don’t know if we will ever see Metal bands headlining the bigger arenas again but it is cool to see that it is again surging and I think Iced Earth had a helluva lot to do with that because of the work we did in 1997-98, you know moving the band to the Midwest and making the USA aware of who we were by doing tours and actually paving the way for bands like Blind Guardian and all of these European bands that are starting to come over here now and I think we have had a lot to do with that. Nevermore did as well as they were one of those bands that was playing pure metal and all and it paved the way. Is it going to get like it was I don’t know, I don’t think so.
KP – Are you surprised at the many different genres of Heavy Metal now, rather than just the single term?
SCHAFFER– Yeah I mean next week there is going to be “Country Ska Metal” or something like that it is just ridiculous. For us, people say Power Metal, Speed Metal, Traditional, but I just say we’re a metal band.
KP – Here is a good one for you, I recently went to see a band called Mudvayne and they seemed to fall under the classification of “Nu-Meta”. So I go and have a nice time and compose the review and when it posted someone who liked the band said “no no , Ken you’re wrong, as you see Mudvayne is not Nu Metal at all they are Math”
SCHAFFER – Math? Wow.
KP – Yeah apparently if there are lots of complex rhythms and all it falls under this criteria. So technically Jon if you follow up “The Glorious Burden” with another historical CD you will have begun “History Metal”
SCHAFFER – Yeah , History Metal
KP – Then we can also see “Gym Class Metal” and start a whole school trend. Anyways, closing off, what is Jon Schaffer’s opinion of the state of metal these days. Are we in good hands and not going to be buried in the dust of American Idol.
SCHAFFER – Well its like I said that things are going in circles and cycles and like I said I don’t know if Metal will ever get as big as it did once before but its pretty refreshing to see all the young kids that are thinking for themselves in high school, kind of like we were back in the day and listening to Metal again. I like it when I see the younger crowd in Iron Maiden shirts and all and that’s killer. And when we tour we find the audience getting younger and younger fans showing up. So that’s promising as something is happening. Lets face it Metal will never go away, even when it got down to its bleakest days when we were first getting started it always had a following and this is because it’s a way of life. Now it seems to be the growing to the point were people can’t help but notice it and their talking about it again. I mean who is we meaning are we in good hands.
KP – the Fans
SCHAFFER – I think the Fans will be treated right by the bands that have been here for awhile and already proved, like us, we have been doing this for a long time, and in that no one has to worry about us releasing a Rap Metal album. The fans don’t even concern themselves with that and the same with Blind Guardian. Their certainly not going to be let down by us but I think for America it is all going to be ok.
KP – Thanks a lot for your time Jon, good luck with everything.
SCHAFFER – Thanks Man. Take care.
Jon then took another interview while I sipped a beer with the Record Company Representative. When Jon returned he expressed an interest in seeing the new Star Wars movie “The Revenge Of The Sith”. It seems as though he and the other interviewer had been discussing it. Given there was time before Jon’s next Interview the whole group of us went and saw this last installment in the story George Lucas started so long ago in the galaxy far, far away. It was a lot of fun indeed.