Metal-Experience.com recently conducted an interview with ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer. An excerpt from the chat follows.Metal-Experience.com: Did you run into any difficulties when Matt (Barlow, vocals) rejoined the band? Schaffer: No. Because, contrary to what people think, the songwriting does not revolve around a singer. Not the way I write songs or any songwriter I've ever met. Any singer that's in ICED EARTH has to meet certain criteria or they won't get the gig because ICED EARTH is a very dynamic band, meaning we have a lot of different sounds. So a monotone singer that has one voice is not going to fit in ICED EARTH. You have to have a very wide range in order to deliver the songs the way they were written. When you have talent like Tim (Owens), like Matt, like Hansi Kürsch (BLIND GUARDIAN) who I've worked with in the past, these are guys who can do almost anything humanly possible with their voices. So as a songwriter who writes very dynamic music from stuff that is very melancholy and very clean to very heavy, to very high and raspy, to clean and high, to powerful mid-range, that's the way I write parts. And the singer has to be able to do it or he won't be on the album in the first place. So I write the parts and then the guy has to do the delivery, it doesn't go the other way. I don't write to someone's ability, that would be foolish, it would limit the song. Metal-Experience.com: OK, I never looked a it that way.. Schaffer: One of the cool things about music is that people hear it differently. I mean, there's people out there that only listen to the voice, there's people that listen to everything but the voice, there's people that really pay attention to the lyrics and a lot of people that don't. Some people just listen to the guitars or the drums, everybody hears things differently and it's pretty cool. But from the standpoint of a songwriter which is what I do, I would never allow the limitations of a human being to limit my songs. The song has to live and breathe, it's beyond the singer who's just another instrument in this mix. In my songs I write the lyrics and vocal melodies, the drum parts, the bass parts, everything you hear. So I have a very specific, precise vision. If I write all the music and Matt writes the lyrics and the vocal melodies then that's going to be a little bit different from what I would do. Because he's going to do what he hears. It's just a different process and most of the ICED EARTH catalogue I've written by myself and I can't limit it to the limit of a human being. The song has to be the song. Metal-Experience.com: Is it not hard for your musicians to keep up with you and your music as you evolve as a songwriter? Schaffer: It's been an issue in the past, especially in the early days because the songs were growing faster than the ability of certain players and so we had to make changes. But the thing is with ICED EARTH, even though there's been many different players in the band through the years, it's still very obvious when someone puts a record on that it's ICED EARTH. You can hear it within the first couple of notes and I think that's the definition of a style, like AC/DC has a style and JUDAS PRIEST has a style and BLACK SABBATH and METALLICA and IRON MAIDEN. All these guys are established, there's a specific style that they have. We've all been influenced by everything from THE BEATLES down to whatever, but still it's you personality and your depth of character that really makes it individual and that takes it to another level. It's a gift that I have been able to create a band that has a specific style. You can hear our influences in it but we have our thing, our sound. And that tends to make people pretty jealous and talk a lot of shit. And that's the way it is because there are a lot of frustrated musicians out there. I understand that, but it also makes for a very devoted fan-base on the other side. Metal-Experience.com: How did Matt contribute on the album? Schaffer: Well, on this one, when he came in it was late. Everything was done. It's my story but what Matt did help with is the lyrics on some of the songs. Because I was pretty fried after doing this, consistent writing for a year and a half, then we did a few months of touring and then back in to wrap up the writing. Literally about four or five days off in a couple of years is all I had, so it was tough. I have faith in Matt's ability to write lyrics, there's very few people that I would even consider writing lyrics with. Actually, there isn't anybody else except for Hansi (Kürsch). Matt gets it and he knew the story from back when I first created it, on the original "Something Wicked This Way Comes" album. I just gave him titles and bullet points and what the subject matter had to be about and things that he had to mention because it was the way the flow was. He came up with some really great lyrical parts for the record. I think he wrote four or five song lyrics. Read the entire interview at Metal-Experience.com. Metalzone.gr's Elena Mihailidou and Nikoleta Saradou attended ICED EARTH's press conference prior to the band's July 20, 2008 concert at the Rock 'Em All festival, which was held at the Lykabetus Theater in Athens, Greece. Guitarist Jon Schaffer and vocalist Matt Barlow talked about their new album, where they stand after Matt's return to the group, how they were disappointed when they found out they weren't headlining the Rock 'Em All festival, their influences, their priorities and how Jon wants to study music as he is self-taught. Matt talks about what he did during his absence from ICED EARTH and how it feels to be back. He also states that he tries to inject his own feel into the songs that were previously sung by other vocalists and how he has never missed a show even if he had to perform sick. Watch the 37-minute press conference below.
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