Photos of Jon Schaffer by Ace Warloch during show at the Lab in St. Paul.
Interview with Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth.
 
Date of interview: 8-20-01 Just a few weeks before the Sept. 11th tragedy. The Judas Priest/Anthrax tour discussed below was delayed and Iced Earth ended up touring with Megadeth.
Note: There was an article published in the RCTC Echo based off this interview. This is the first time this interview has been published in Q&A form.
 
LK: I understand that some of Horror Show was recorded in your home and the rest at Morrisound Studios. How much and what parts were recorded in your home?
JS: Actually most of the record was recorded at my home. The drums and probably 60% of my guitar tracks were recorded at Morrisound and all the rest of it was done at my house.

LK: You must have a pretty good setup to do thatÖ

JS: Yeah, we have a nice studio. Itís kind of a work in progressÖ We rented a lot of the gear that we used.

LK: Did you use computer software?

JS: Yeah - Pro Tools.
LK: In particular, the stories of Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Dracula have all been subjected to different versions in both movies and books. Are there certain versions that you drew from more than the others?
JS: With Frankenstein for instance, I wrote that one based more on the Universal Boris Karloff movie classic. With Dracula, I wrote that one based more on Bram Stokers Dracula - Francis Ford Copulaís movie. I really liked that. I loved the Bela Lugosi version as well and of course the books great, but [what] I liked about the way Francis Ford Copula did the movie [was] the whole tie in with the church and stuff. Something I felt I could definitely relate to and turn to music quite easily given my own past.
Originally I was going to write the lyrics for the Mummy. [But] I was pretty much overwhelmed with the amount of work that I had to do with putting the music together and all the arrangements and everything so I turned that over to Matt and he wrote the lyrics for Im-ho-tep. I told him that I wanted that to be based off the Universal [Pictures] mummy. (ÖBoris Karloff as well)

LK: Is the spoken part in Damien you?

JS: Yes.
LK: The Set Abominae story line is on hold, yet Set Abominae appears on the Horror Show album cover. Were you trying to tie the concepts together in some way or has SA become the mascot for the band so to speak?
JS: Well, really more to keep him in the minds of the people more than anythingÖ. I guess he kind of has become a bit of a mascot but itís not gonna be in the way that Eddie is from Iron Maiden because once we finally do the concept record that will be the end of it. Itís not going to be like heíll be on everything.
We just started mixing the ĎTributes to the Godsí record. A cover tune album thatís gonna be coming out around Christmas time. Itís also coming out with a box set and itís going to have the first three records remixed by Jim. All of the originals (undecipherable-ND) plus the Enter The Realm demo. Itís going to be a five CD box set.
Setís gonna appear on the packaging of the box set because it has become an important part of Iced Earthís history and it will continue to play a part for awhile.
I donít know if the next studio album is going to be the concept album or not. It kind of depends on how I feel at the time with whatever record company we end up signing with. If I feel like the times right then Iíll unleash it but it may not be, maybe the one after that soÖ But he (Set Abominae) will be on the tribute album cover as well as well as a lot of other cool little pieces of artÖ itís kind of a collage piece of art in the comic style but itís gonna have little elements that can be tied in with the bands that were covering. There are little references to Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, Sabbath, Maiden, Priest. Itís all there. Itís gonna be a really cool cover.

LK: Could you explain the bass guitarist situation?

JS: Basically Jimmyís back. Heís going to be doing the touring and stuff and he did the bass parts on the tribute album we just recorded.
We did this whole production at my house. Itís the first time weíve ever done drums and everything. We did the whole album in 9 days. The fastest album weíve ever done besides the first album. Of course were a lot more experienced now so it came out pretty well.
But the bass thingÖ Steve DiGorgio was hired, we did the record, and he basically stabbed me in the back. Itís a long story. Itís been out there and around. Iím sure there are all kinds of rumors and stuff because thatís kind of how it works. People like to talk about things they donít really know about and act like an authority on things. Itís typical human behavior.
The thing is Steve made a lot of promises that he didnít keep and basically stabbed me in the back [and] Jimmy heard about it a couple of days after it happened.
Jimmy had caused quite a few problems for me. Just was basically a pain in the ass over the last few years. He apologized and asked for me to forgive him, give him a second chance. Jimmy was always very loyal to the band and thatís actually what kept him in the band. So anyway, we talked and I said, ďOkay, Iíll give you another chance.Ē And his behavior in the studio was great. So far everythingís been fine. Obviously getting out on the road is going to be the real test. But I think Jimmy learned a big lesson. The thing is, itís really easy for people to get into a situation and take for granted the good things they have. And then you can see how quickly all that can come to an end when it does come to an end. So I think Jimmy kind of went to school through a lot of this. Thatís the situation right now. Heís back and heíll be touring with us.
(Jimmy was fired)
LK: The band photograph in the Horror Show booklet shows you guys at Devils Tower in South Dakota. Is there a certain reason or meaning behind why you choose that location?
JS: No, not really. Actually its [Devils Tower] is in Wyoming but we were there. We flew to South Dakota to do the photo session cause I wanted to do it in the Bad Lands. And it was only a couple of hours west of where we were at in Rapid City, to get to Devils Tower. We thought it would be a cool place to shoot. Thereís no mystical or special meaning behind it or anything, itís just cool landscaping. Thatís one of my favorite parts of the country. I was there on vacation probablyÖ. I must have been 13-14 years old with my parents years and years ago. It had a major effect on me. I had always wanted to go back to the Badlands and just do some songwriting and stuff there. I still havenít been able to do that but when I pitched the idea to Century [Media] about doing a photo session there they were all for it. I was surprised because it was quite expensive to fly everybody up there. But they did it and we rented a van and the photographer and the bandÖ we just cruised around and found cool spots and did shoots.

LK: How do you see Horror Show as compared to your other releases?

JS: Itís an Iced Earth record. Obviously thereís been some growth that happened between the few years of last album. But itís always a very honest representation of whatís going on at the time. This album is probably heavier and more intense than Something Wicked was because Something Wicked had a lot of dynamics, a mid-tempo song, a slow song, a fast song, a mid-temp, a slow one, a fast one. It kind of had that whole roller coaster thing going through it and Horror Show really only has one ballad on it. I was feeling much more aggressive when I was writing these songs; so [itís] always a reflection of the times. With Horror Show, I was writing most of that stuff in 2000 and that was really a year of turmoil for me personally because I went through a divorce. I had surgery. There were a lot of things going on; 2000 was a very difficult yearÖ. It was a great year in terms of my career because of the Demons and Wizards success. But my personal life was kind ofÖjust hell, so at first when I started writing for the record it wasnít going the way I wanted it to, so I kind of had to take a step back and get focused and turn that anger and some depression or whatever into something positive.
I would say that this album is kind of a throwback to the first three in terms of structure, speed, intensity; that kind of thing. But Iím a much more mature songwriter now and able to focus more on better arrangements and better melodies. Be it guitar melodies or vocal melodies. I was able to work that all in thereÖ so the songs they kind of have a flavor of the past but with the catchiness of the latter material.

LK: How did it feel to get the opening slot in the Judas Priest /Anthrax tour?

JS: Oh man, it was absolutely a dream come true and I was really really happy. This is the kind of thing weíve been working for, for years and years.
Iced Earth has not been a support band since 1993 and we need to be. Itís the only way the band is going to grow. Every time we tour the states weíre preaching to the choir, were already playing for our fans. Itís gonna grow at a turtles pace by doing it that way. We need to play in front of people who donít know who we are so that we can gain some of Priestís fans and Anthraxís fans. Hopefully thatís the way it works and thatís how bands grow.
Iíve been fighting an uphill battle for 17 years. 11 years weíve been signed with Century Media Ė since 1990 [when] the first album came out in Europe. This is a break that we really need so hopefully the fans over there [Europe], when they stop and think about it are gonna be understanding and realize that this is the kind of thing we had to go for (Regarding change in touring plans). This is gonna be a big time money losing tour for Iced Earth. The pay is very small and we have to spend a lot of money just to make the shows happen and of course in Europe itís not that way. So it doesnít have anything to do with finances; this is about an investment in the future of the band... Hopefully this will be a new beginning for us, a way for the band to growÖ Thereís going to be all kinds of promoters now, who are going to be aware of who Iced Earth is all around the United States. Itís gonna make people aware of who we are. Not just fans but a lot of people in the [music] industry itselfÖso itís a good thing.
LK: Was Century Media responsible for getting you that slot? I read some interviews with you where you said you didnít think CM had the leverage to do that.
JS: When I say thatÖ that meansÖ it has to do with who else is on the record company. A lot of people donít understand what I meant by that, including a lot of the people at Century Media. When your on a bigger record company and you have label mates, bands that sell a lot of records, then you hook up and you tourÖand thatís the way it kind of works a lot. Or if you get with a management company that manages 10 bandsÖ and say 6 out of those 10 bands are major acts, then you get on tour. Itís all about who you know [who] you can get coupled with to make the company stronger. The thing is, Iced Earth is the biggest band on Century Media so by touring with any Century bands it doesnít help. They donít have the kind of clout to get us on those kind of tours soÖ No, Century is not responsible for getting us the Priest tour. Basically my manager is probably the one that is most responsible. He has constantly, for the last 4 or 5 years that Iíve hired him as managementÖ Iíve been on his ass to constantly push and send packages out to every band, be it Metallica, Maiden, Priest, Megadeth, anybody that is in the same genre of music that we can try to get hooked up with. Basically by that kind of tenacity - us always pushing these other bands management. We have grown to a size now in the states that were gonna be worth something for a package like the Priest and Anthrax thing, because we will draw a certain percentage of people every night. That has something to do with it of course but also the fact weíve just been pushing and pushing. My manager has probably been driving their management nuts constantly trying to get on the bills for the last several years. So it doesnít really have anything to do with Century. What I meant in the past by saying that, is that if we were to sign with a different label, for instance SanctuaryÖ thereís a lot of bands on SanctuaryÖand Iím not saying we are going to [sign with Sanctuary]. If we did we would have a lot of label mates that would mean something. And there arenít any label mates on Century Media that are going to advance our careers cause we are the biggest band on the label. You know what I mean?
LK: Yeah, cause Sanctuary has Megadeth now even.
JS: Were just now starting to do the shopping thing. It will probably be 4 or 5 months before we decide on who were going to go with, cause were not gonna jump into anything.

LK: Why didnít you guys play Milwaukee Metal Fest this year?

JS: When was that?

LK: It was just a week ago, two weeks agoÖ (I canít remember even though I was just there Ė arrghhh-ND)

JS: Weíve been busy with a lot of other thingsÖ. with the Horror Show thingÖthereís been tons of promotion going on, promo tours and all thatÖ. Metal Fest is basically a joke. And the guy who runs it [Jack Koshick] is a thief a con manÖfar as Iím concerned. And I really have no desire to work with that guy. He doesnít like to pay you worth a shit. We did it before and it was a nightmare and if that is the pinnacle or one of the pinnacles of American festivals itís not worth doing them Ďcause theyíre a joke. Weíve done the biggest festivals over in Europe and you get treated properly, the gear that they provide for you is top-notch professional stuff. You get paid well. This guy [Jack Koshick] doesnít want to pay anything and on top of that he takes a gigantic percentage of your merchandise. Itís a nightmare so I doubt that we will do that festival. We may someday but it depends on him and what kind of offer he gives us.
LK: Plus it seems a lot of the bands hardly get any time on stage. Jag Panzer got maybe 25 minutes at most. Ok, a not so serious question for you: Many in the metal community brag about how metal they are but you actually have a titanium plate inside you. Does that make you feel more metal?
JS: (Laughter) Ah no not really (laughing). Iíve been metal 90 percent of my life. As far back as I can remember and itís been my source for survival. I donít need that to make me feel more metal [titanium plate]. The shit runs through my veins man.