Sebastiano Mereu of From Hero To Zero recently conducted an interview with ICED EARTH guitarist and main songwriter Jon Schaffer. You can watch the full chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the differences in being a musician in 2016 versus the mid-'80s:
Jon: "The business has changed drastically. We've undergone a massive change in the way people buy music, or don't buy music. That's obviously changed the dynamic for everybody in the music business. I think ultimately, for bands that are an established brand, things are going to be okay, even though it's a weird moment in time right now where there's a lot of different business models that are popping up and people are coming up with other ideas on how to deal with the new situation. To be a baby band would be a pretty scary thing right now because there's so much competition, for one thing, and without some significant backing… it would be a really hard time to start off."
On the reason behind ICED EARTH's new headquarters in Indiana:
Jon: "To make it as efficient as possible to make records. There are income streams coming from digital, but it's less than what we used to have with physical product sales. Part of that is also a shake-up that's going to happen within the music industry where the old model, the old labels were in the past and with the artists. It's a very complex thing. For me, the bottom line is to be able to have everything housed under one roof, so we can control our entire operation from there, make our records there, do everything that we need to do to be able to function as cost-effectively as possible, with the idea and the intent that we are moving towards a path of real independence. That's the long-term plan over the next few years."
On the things the band can do at a cheaper cost today:
Jon: "With the recording studio, your overhead is going to go down if you make that initial investment instead of going somewhere and tracking your records. I had a studio in Indiana in years' past; we did 'Framing Armageddon' ['Something Wicked Part 1'] and 'Crucible' ['The Crucible of Man - Something Wicked Part 2'] there, but that was a different kind of a setup. This is going to be our warehouse, the office, the whole thing is what we're shooting for here. The band has a storage place in Germany, we have one in Indianapolis, now that we have a headquarters, all of those costs can be put into just being under one roof and it's not burning money constantly, like trying to pay for all of these other things. There's a lot to it. It's really a matter of having the place to store the archives, a place for the management to take place there, for as much as we do, we work with management companies as well, but it's just about really having everything under one roof."
On how ICED EARTH has managed to work with only two labels (Century Media and SPV/Steamhammer) in their career:
Jon: "It's business. They're interested in selling our products because we make them money. It doesn't have anything to do… To be realistic, it's not anything to do with people being nice to each other and having great relationships. It's business, that's what it boils down to. There are great people at SPV; I had good years, wonderful staff there, there's great people at Century Media, too. I've had my battles with all of the upper management in the past and that's the way it is. We all do. Anybody who is in this game, if you want to survive, you better be a fighter, or they will walk all over you. That's just the way it is."
On if chart position is still of any relevance to him:
Jon: "I don't know how relevant it is. It's good for product placement in certain stores and there's people who look at it like it's still important, but I don't know if it really is, honestly. I don't think it has the importance it did ten years ago, not even close. Things are changing. The whole system is changing completely. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. I think it's an unsure thing for everybody right now because it's a little bit like the Wild West. There's a lot of different options and the more independent a band is, the more those options are going to open up. The old model is dying, it's just a question of when is it totally going to be dead. I like the idea of us dealing directly with our fan base. That's my ultimate goal — taking the [middleman] out of the equation. Taking all of that out and the same goes with the media aspect, us being able to give our news directly to the fan base is an awesome thing. There's a lot of good things about what's happening now as well, it's not all negative. It's just there's a lot of people who are struggling with how to survive through it. Then there's some bands who have done amazingly well, like SABATON. Pär [Sundström, bass] educated himself about how all this works, so he's really done a fantastic job of building their digital structure up; it's a great thing. There's guys out there who are doing great, and there are some who are really struggling, then there are some who are like, 'What are we going to do?' A lot of dynamics going on right now, but I don't think it's anything to be afraid of. It changed. For a few years, everyone is going on tour because you've lost income from sales because physical sales are going down. A lot of the labels are taking way more than their fair share of the digital sales and income, so that makes it tougher on a band so bands have to go out and play. Then you have too many bands on the tour circuit all the time, then you have to rely on tickets and t-shirts to make your income. It's a challenging time, but like I said, if it was a baby band situation, I'm sure somebody out there is going to do it, come up and get really strong and big, but without serious financial backing, I'm not sure how that's going to happen. So it will be interesting to watch. But for those of us who have a brand and have been doing this for a long time, the opportunities that open up are going to be great in the long run."
ICED EARTH will enter the studio in January to begin recording its new album, "Incorruptible" (formerly "The Judas Goat") for a tentative May 2017 release. Songtitles set to appear on the CD include "Trail Of Tears", "Clear The Way", "Black Flag", "The Great Heathen Army", "Raven Wing" and "Seven-Headed Whore".
ICED EARTH took a break from touring in 2015, primarily due to Schaffer's second cervical fusion surgery.
Longtime ICED EARTH drummer Brent Smedley returned to the band for the current recording and touring cycle. Smedley had to step down due to personal family reasons in 2013 shortly before the recording of "Plagues Of Babylon".
"Plagues Of Babylon" sold around 6,300 copies in the United States in its first week of release to land at position No. 49 on The Billboard 200 chart.