ICED EARTH's SCHAFFER: MATT BARLOW Wasn't Comfortable Playing The Rock-Star Role

ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer recently spoke to Russia's Darkside e-Zine about the group's split with vocalist Matt Barlow during the recording sessions for their new album, "The Glorious Burden". Asked about Matt's official statement announcing his departure band — in which he cited the tragic events of September 11, 2001 as a major factor in his decision — Schaffer said, "I think that was really more of an excuse. There's no doubt that September 11 had a profound effect on all of us, but I think that was more of an excuse than anything. Things were going down for a few years with Matt, he was figuring out that he was not really comfortable with who he was pretending to be. Obviously that does not make for a strong partnership, which is the big difference between [current singer] Tim [Owens, ex-JUDAS PRIEST] and Matt. Tim is who he is, he is very comfortable with who he is, the life that he has chosen, he likes what he does, that's big difference. Matt was never like that, he was a pretty insecure person. Basically, I almost stopped after 9/11, I almost said, 'Fuck this!' The music business is a big fucking lie, it's a gigantic lie, that's what it is. It's an illusion, it's all bullshit, all this rock star fucking crap, the guitar hero crap, whatever, that's all it is. If you look at it from that standpoint, that is like, 'OK, yeah, that is just a big lie to meet the market that sells somebody's image or somebody's concept of the band or his own vision of the band, it's not very fulfilling.' To me, I decided that the whole reason that I do this is because I'm a songwriter, and my songs have had a profound impact on a lot of people's lives. I talk to the fans and they've told me about it. Let's put it this way: if I was just a guitar player, if I was just a performer, I would not do this, because there's nothing very gratifying about the music business. And as the songwriter, I get something out of it. I don't take the guitar very seriously, guitar is just a tool to write songs, ICED EARTH is a vehicle for my songs, that's all it's ever been from the beginning. So I decided, 'You know what? I'm gonna keep it going, because I have the songs.' Matt didn't have that, he wasn't a songwriter, he knew he wasn't a songwriter, he didn't have it in him. Matt didn't even come up with vocal melodies in the band, it was always me. So when you go out on stage and you're playing this rock star guy, it's a pretty shallow way of life. A lot of people may go, 'Oh, this is so great!' It's not so great, you know. You live out on the suitcase, you work hard, it's not easy and it's not always fun. If you're not getting anything out of it like that creative drive or creative outlet of being a songwriter, I wouldn't do that easier.

"So I understand Matt, his attitude was really changing over the course of the last couple of years, and he talked to me in December [2002] and said, 'You know, I'm really thinking about leaving the band.' And I talked him out, I said, 'Look, man, you're gonna be sorry if you're doing this, we've got a new record deal, I've written the best songs that I've ever written before, it's gonna be a really strong record. Big things are gonna happen.' He said, 'OK, well, I'll stay around, I'll give it another shot.' But when he came in and sang, it was terrible! I mean, it was obvious that his heart was not in it. The emotion, the conviction just wasn't there. It just was awful. Me and [producer] Jim Morris were like… I've never seen Jim get so mad before in all the years, all the recording sessions we've done. For 17 days I was using every computer trick that you can do to make the shit sound good. When I got down to Florida and was mixing the record, I said, 'There's no fucking way I'm gonna put this out. I can't do it, it'll haunt me for the rest of my life.' At that point I was prepared to wait two years, if necessary, so I could find the right guy. Obviously, I had Tim in mind to do it, but there was no guarantee that he was going to do it, but I was willing to wait, because I know how it's like to have the record not come out the way you want it and to haunt you. And this album is far too important to me."

With regards to the departure of guitarist Larry Tarnowski prior to the recording sessions for The Glorious Burden", Schaffer said, "Well, I asked Larry to leave the band. There's not really a lot of space for lead guitarist in ICED EARTH, he doesn't really have a job to do. You know, solos is all that any lead guitarist in the band has ever done, and I record all other guitar parts. There's plenty of bands out there that have guitar heroes and have to have a guitar solo in every song, but I don't do things in that way. I write a song, and if it feels like a guitar solo's gonna add something to it, then I'll put space in there for one, but there's no fucking rule that says, 'You have to put a guitar solo in a song.' I just don't believe that. Quite frankly, Larry didn't bring anything to the table, he didn't bring any love of creativity that was helping the band out, and I thought it would just be better for Larry, because with the involvement that he had, there's no guarantee for a good future for him in the band. So I said, 'Dude, it's better for you to just concentrate, go to school, get a career, forget about the music business.' He's just not made for it. Unless he decides he's got what it takes to start his own band and to do everything that it takes to make it happen, then I wish him all the best in the world, I will help him, but I don't think he's got that. This is a rough, tough and ugly business, and it takes a combination of things to make it work. Larry was a good guitarist, but creatively he didn't bring anything to the table. He did come up with a few cool solos, but that's it, and solos are not that important. You can't even copyright a guitar solo, it's not like you're gonna make a bunch of money playing guitar solos. You have to write songs."

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