A few weeks ago, we caught up with Iced Earth at NYC’s Gramercy Theatre and we were lucky to speak to frontman Stu Block before the festivities began. During the conversation we spoke about their style, holograms, Slayer, Warrel Dane, and more.
How was it performing with Matt Barlow at the Baltimore show?
It was great. A really awesome surprise. We didn’t know if it was going to happen that night or the next night. We’re glad it happened that night because the next night, the show ended up getting canceled. It was a really fun thing. It was actually super magical to have him on stage. We all had a great time.
It’s obviously a freakin’ dream for me to share the stage with him too.
Slayer recently announced their farewell tour and I was wondering, how did you guys take the news and what’s your overall thoughts on bands retiring?
As far as Slayer retiring and me taking the news, it’s not like I was crying into my cereal, or anything like that (laughs).
I’m not going to lie, right? But it’s pretty crazy that they are doing it. But they have their reasons. And there’s really good reasons behind it. Logical reasons – health reasons and all that kind of stuff. They’ve been doing it a long time. They’ve paved the way for a lot of fans, and I totally respect what they’ve done. It is for a person that’s seen a band like that, have the career that they have, and them just say you know it’s time. It shows the writing on the wall that’s what’s going to happen in the future. Well it’s gonna … all these bands eventually do retire. You know? But it does pave the way for other bands, and it’s gonna … there’s gonna be fans that are out there that are gonna want to fill that void, and they’re gonna wanna go to more concerts, whereas like you know, the Slayers and the Iron Maidens and the Judas Priests and all those bands, once they start retiring … when you go to the average concert it’s really expensive, you know average concert’s are pretty expensive. The average band is spending quite a bit of money to go to an Iron Maiden concert, you know.
Whereas now they-they can actually be … if you have several of those mid level bands that are actually still touring and stuff they can actually go to more shows, they can buy their t-shirts, more of them, and they’re able to support more … to put more money into it. So I think there’s a really cool thing that’ll happen, but it is saddening of course, it sucks for those fans that have wanted … still wanna hear new Slayer records and all that kind of stuff. It sucks, but they’re humans too and they have to know when to call it a day as well, so … yeah.
You guys have had a handful of lineup changes over the years, and yet, you remain consistent in sound and style…
Well that’s all, that’s all with Jon (Schaffer).
He’s the one that has the vision and he basically chooses the people, the right people to be around him. And I think even right now, and you’ve heard it before in interviews with him, is that there’s an amazing chemistry that we have right now. And I think everyone in the band right now is contributing so much, and we love being here. We love each other, we actually do truly love each other, and we love being on stage with each other, we’re family. So that is really amazing to have that and then everything else on top of that creating great music and all that is really the icing on the cake. But as far as the consistency of the sound that’s always been Jon Shaffer. He’s always been the vision, and that’s why he’s our fearless leader.
Yeah, it is awesome because he brings a lot out of us. When I first joined the band, I didn’t know I had half the stuff I could do, and then he brings it out makes me feel comfortable and he just knows who to choose and who to work with. And if you’re receptive to it, and you’re not a jerk or if you wanna ball yourself up and not be open to it then, you’re only gonna go so far. But if you’re open to it, the doors are limitless. It’s absolutely limitless. And that’s why the sound has always been consistent, because it’s not contrived. It comes from a real place.
Has Jon been somewhat like a mentor to you?
Most definitely. He’s one of my best friends in the whole world. So it’s just … it’s really amazing to be able to do that and to be with him and to be able to create that music with a great friend as well. He’s got this passion that you connect to and it’s one of those things that when he walks into the room, you can feel it. You know what I mean? It’s one of those things when it’s business time, it’s business time. And he knows how to get to the best out of everybody. So it’s really cool.
What do you guys have planned for once you wrap up with the touring cycle?
We’re gonna just take a couple of months and a half off and then we go to Europe. So then we’re gonna hit Europe, going to be doing European festivals and shows. We’re going to be doing that for I think about six weeks. Then we’re taking some time off and then Jon has a lot … he’s going to be eating, breathing, and living Iced Earth and Demons and Wizards, so he’s going to be doing that stuff at the end of the year. And then we’ll see what happens for next year.
Very cool. This is a sad subject to bring up but what thoughts ran through your head when you found out Warrel Dane passed away?
Oh man, it was shocking. I Knew he was struggling a little bit with his health. And I think that was quite common knowledge that he was really doing some rebuilding and repairing himself, and, no one will ever know what was actually going on, but I know he had some health issues. He was a troubled poet and definitely had his demons that he was dealing with, but it was very shocking and it was very saddening to hear the loss of one of heavy metals most amazing vocalists and lyricists who also had so much soul. It was very saddening shocking.
This is a weird question. There’s a lot of talks about holograms, for instance – Dio with a possible Dio world tour. I wanted to know if you guys had to pick a guest musician on stage for a hologram, who would it be?
Oh man. I think actually a lot of people would say Dio because he’s just amazing, but that’s already been done. I would that’s tough. That’s a really tough question man. Let me think here.
It doesn’t have to be metal, could be anybody.
John Lennon. That would be pretty cool dude. That would be pretty neat to be able to jam with him and write a song with him or something like that, that would be amazing. But there’s just a plethora of so many different musicians that would be really cool. I don’t know about that whole hologram thing though. And you know, in Baltimore that was just a hologram of Matt, you know that right? That was just a hologram. It was a one time thing. It was actually a hologram, he was actually on duty. He had made many arrests that night.
I knew the picture looked funny! There was something off with the video. (laughs)
No, that was very much the real thing, and that was amazing. But yeah, I don’t know (about holograms). Next question (laughs).
Here’s a fun question for you, who do you think the next Slayer would be?
I think that’s going to be Lamb of God.
A lot of people are saying that.
Yeah, Lamb of God are pretty much the next… I think so, personally. They’ve got the longevity, they’ve got the history, they’ve got the control, a lot man. They’ve also got the fan base, and they’ve got that consistent sound that everybody is looking for. There’s a lot of bands out there but they’re pioneers of what they do. So I think they’re pretty much … as far as that type of extreme music and style. I think it’s definitely Lamb of God.
Do you have anything you want to add/say to your fans?
You guys are absolutely amazing and we love you. We appreciate you guys coming out in full force every night and like I say it every night but I really mean it, Iced Earth fans are some of the most loyal and most amazing fans in the whole world. And we very much respect you guys and very much look forward to playing for you every night.