5 Questions With Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer and Stu Block: Surviving the Music Industry + More
It’s a productive year for Iced Earth as they are making big moves to go more independent. We sat down with Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer and vocalist Stu Block on this year’s 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise, and they talked about the changing music industry. They also chatted about their enthusiasm of not only creating an Iced Earth headquarters but having that new home as a place to record their new album. Check out our full interview below with Jon Schaffer and Stu Block of Iced Earth:
Can you talk about any progression of the new album or new material?
Jon Schaffer: We kind of took a break from that to build our new headquarters, we’ll have our own recording studio, warehouse, office, everything Iced Earth will be handled in that place we’re about five or six weeks away from that being finished. We’ll getting in the arranging mode and writing mode pretty quickly after that. There will be an album out late this year, I’m sure late fall is realistic to make it happen.
What made you guys want to create your own headquarters?
JS: It’s convenient, it’s a big picture view of where the business is headed, for us to become more independent and having everything handled under one roof, it makes financial sense for us. It puts us into a position where we can have an actual retirement plan for us, for our futures, that’s what I mean by the big picture. This is a business move and I think it’ll prove to be very important for us in the future.
Having to adapt with the industry, do you think that’s even more reason to do your own thing and have more independence?
Stu Block: Everyone sees the writing on the wall.
JS: For us to get to a point where we can deal directly with our fans and cut out the middle men and everything where it’s kind of all headed any way. When that is actually going to be I can’t be certain but that’s what we’re shooting towards, to be able to have this facility where we can make things happen and within a few album cycles we’ll be on the good side, financially.
Do you think the internet makes it easier for young bands to break through than in the past?
JS: I think because it’s such a crowded market, people are like, “You should promote yourself online.” Well, yeah, you and 50,000 other people. But I think what’s happening is as long as there’s this illusion that the record companies really have some kind of magic power, unfortunately there’s a lot of young bands that are selling their souls and getting nothing in return. I really don’t know, it’s a tough time. You know it was hard when I was starting in this s— and coming up through the ranks, I can’t imagine now. You have to be good and you have to be driven and you have to figure it out. When things get hard you have to push through it to survive and I’m sure the young guys and baby bands that are out there are figuring out how their business models are going to be. What’s it going to be three years from now or five years from now? It’s going to be very different.
It’s the 20th anniversary of The Dark Saga. Jon, what do you remember most vividly about creating that album? Stu, what does being part of the Iced Earth legacy mean to you?
JS: Wow. That was a great period, there was a little sparkle of hope when we hooked up with Todd McFarland with the crossover promotion stuff. I wrote that album very quickly. I was super inspired and I thought, “Man this is our break, we got a shot at something.” Songs just came, I think it was like four weeks and the whole thing was done for the writing. It was a great time because it was a time where Matt [Barlow] really came into it as a singer and really connected with the songs, he did such a great job with the vocals in the studio. For the first time I got the guitar sound that I wanted and there was a great drummer on the album, a studio guy his name was Mark [Prator], he was an amazing f—ing drummer. So everything came together, we had the right tones, the right rhythm section, the right singer, the right passion in the vocals so it was a big step. There have been a lot of steps in the history of the band and that was one of those steps. We had this cool cross promotion thing going on, one of the biggest comic characters in the United States and they didn’t have anything in Europe and we were able to promote in Europe. We did a lot of comic conventions and signing stuff and playing the music, it was an exciting time.
SB: Being a part of this means a lot to me, there are so many chapters in this band and being a part of a chapter is an honor. And what’s really cool is I made one of my best friends ever. You could join a band and it could have just been all business. He needs people that have that passion too but it could have been different and it could have not worked out but we clicked right away, wrote ‘End of Innocence’ together right away and just wrote some really cool stuff along the way. It means a lot to me to be a part of this chapter.
JS: There’s guys in bands that won’t even speak to each other, they get off stage and go in different directions, different vans, different limos, different hotels. [Laughs]
SB: We vowed that if it starts going that way that we have to figure it out because that’s just not happening.
JS: It never would any way. We’ve been through a lot of stuff together, great times, some tough times. It’s a family. It’s the best band I ever had, in terms of this closeness and tightness; we have each other’s back, all of us.
Our thanks to Jon Schaffer and Stu Block of Iced Earth for the interview!