Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer: The Gun Shy Interview

Iced Earth

I don’t know if you knew this, but Iced Earth happen to have a new, straight-ahead ballsy fucking metal album out called Dystopia that has easily worked its way onto my top five of 2011 list within the last couple of weeks. The record is phenomenal, and proof that Iced Earth have returned better and stronger — as guitarist Jon Schaffer has long promised they would.

Seriously, folks — Dystopia is a killer fucking album, and I love what Into Eternity’s Stu Block brought to the record in his new role as Iced Earth’s frontman.

Recently, I inexplicably stuttered my way through a phone conversation with Schaffer, and after kissing his ass about the new Iced Earth album for five minutes, asked his whether the band’s been hazing Block at all.

“That will be taking place over the course of the next three to five years,” Schaffer tells Gun Shy Assassin. “We have some shit planned for the tour, but it has been very difficult to get us all in the same room together. The only time we were all actually together was during the video shoots that we did in New York.”

Right now, Iced Earth are in Germany, rehearsing for a European tour that kicks off October 30. It is then, says Schaffer, that the initiation will begin.

“We have plenty of plans for Stucifer’s initiation,” Schaffer says with a sinister laugh before advising me he can’t give up any of the band’s plans. “He knows he’s in trouble.”

Schaffer said he’s been blown away by the reactions fans have been having to the new album, which was a tiring effort for Schaffer to pull together.

“I was having to go back and forth between working on the album and doing festivals on the weekends in Europe,” the guitarist tells me. “I was pretty much in a constant state of jet lag. Jim [Morris] and I were producing the album together. The other guys would come in and do their parts, and they go home. I am there for the whole thing. I would leave Tampa on a Thursday, arrive in Europe Friday morning, play Friday and Saturday night, get back late Sunday night in Tampa, and then be back at work in the studio at 10 a.m. on Monday. We would do that every other weekend, and just about the time you’re getting over the jet lag, it’s time to do it all over again. It was a pain in the ass.”

Jon said the band is gearing up to announce a whole slate of American your dates, and also have South American and Asian tours in the works. Iced Earth will be playing for the first time to audiences in India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Obviously, Jon’s been going on tour for some time now, and so, I inform him of my gloryhole obsession. Unfortunately, he is not familiar with the term, so I tell him it’s “A hole in a bathroom stall that vagrants use for sexual delights.” He laughs.

“I have not run into a gloryhole, man — nope,” Schaffer says. “You taught me something. man. I appreciate it. I will be on the lookout now.” He promises to send me a photo of a gloryhole and a description of its location when and if he sees one. That makes two musicians officially helping the Gloryholes Across American Campaign.

After we continue talking, Jon tells me that Iced Earth is gunning for the summer festivals, but really needs “a big support slot, so that Iced Earth can stop preaching to the choir and get out there and hit a new fan base.” I agree and suggest his people contact Lamb of God’s people. That would be cool to see.

“I love those guys, and we had a blast with them when we played with them and Heaven and Hell over in the U.K.,” Jon says. “They are cool people. So, it may happen someday. Actually, there was one point where we were talking about doing some stuff together, so — you never know, man.”

Schaffer — who tells me he doesn’t have cable, and relies on the internet for his news — said that the main point of pride for him right now is the fact that “the band and the crew are pumped up as fuck and there’s a lot of positive energy and everybody’s ready to kill it.” I’m psyched too.

Before I let Jon off the horn, I asked him: Has he ever actually been in an honest-to-goodness fight in his lifetime? You know he has.

“Numerous times when I was younger,” he says. “When I was a kid, I moved around a lot so I had to always deal with some bully asshole fucking with me because I was a new kid. I just didn’t take it. Sometimes I got my ass kicked, sometimes I put ‘em in their place. I’m just not going to be pushed around by someone. I might lose the fight but I am sticking up for myself. I have also had fights sometimes with cops in foreign countries. But that’s a story for another time.”

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