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.
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.
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.
Did you use computer software?
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
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)
Is the spoken part in Damien you?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Why didnít you guys play Milwaukee Metal Fest this year?
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.