Iced Earth

With: Stu Block
Conducted by: Doc Godin (in person)
Published: 24.02.2012

Band profile:

Iced Earth




Doc: So how is the tour going so far?

Stu: It's going well, it's going really well, man. We had the European tour to shake the dust out a bit, you know, what with me being the new guy. We had some good rehearsals in Europe. Really that European leg got us gellin' together as a band. By mid-European tour we were a well-oiled machine. It was cool, we took a month off, spent some time with our loved ones for Christmas and stuff. When we came back we had 3 days of jamming and it was just like old times again. We're really gelling well, having a great time, the fans too.

This is a great package; Symphony X, Iced Earth, Warbringer...Really cool, really diverse. I think you're seeing that more these days, pairing all these crazy bands together, but it works!

Doc: Yeah, it seems Warbringer are here every other week.

Stu: Oh, dude! I'm real proud of those kids! They're metal warriors, they're good.

Doc: Now that you've been with Iced Earth for over a year now, how does everything compare to Into Eternity?


Stu: There's lots of differences. I'm touring in a bus now, so I've graduated out of the van, which is cool. Even with Into Eternity we had the RV which we converted - we were pretty famous for rolling into every gig with that RV. We have crew members now, so there's more people on tour with us, the shows are bigger.

In the studio, with Into Eternity, obviously there was a different writing process,. With the Iced Earth writing process, I think there was a little more details involved, with the fact that we demo'd the album twice before we went and recorded it. I've never done that before. It was a different style of writing and preparing for the recording process.

Doc: Looking at the liner notes, it seems you wrote a lot of the lyrics for Dystopia, something that's not normal for a new member of any band. Is there a different approach for lyric writing in Iced Earth?

Stu: Well, right from the beginning Jon didn't want a gun-for-hire - he did that already. I don't have stars in my eyes for having a huge solo career, or being this entity by myself. If that happens, it will happen, but I don't have any plans for that. This is where my home is right now, and I enjoy writing music with Jon [Schaffer].

Jon hired me because A) he heard potential in the voice, and B) he knew that I could write lyrics. He knew that I could write a catchy melody, he know that I could write a chorus and all that. The writing process became a reality when we first started hanging out. He was testing me. He'd say "here's a piece of music - let's see what you got, kid." Then I wrote "End Of Innocence". He really liked it so he gave me another piece of music, and he kept doing that. I was overwhelmed, but I was happy that he was happy with what I was writing. The writing chemistry between Jon and I is very, very, very...awesome.

Doc: You mentioned "End Of Innocence". I read that that song was written about your mother. Now that you're in a much bigger band, is it intimidating having a such a close personal message reach a much larger audience?

Stu: I did it for a reason, I didn't have to do it. I have my reasons for why I wanted to open my heart to the Iced Earth fans. One of the reasons is because the fans are very passionate, very personal people. They're rabid fans - they'll open up their heart to you, they'll open up their houses to you. Me being the new guy, I wanted to open up my life to them, open up my heart to them. It's a subject matter that's effecting a lot of people. I'm not the only one, man! There's hundred of thousands of families of loved ones who are dealing with cancer, I wanted to open up that part of my life to them. I wanted to make it special, and it is becoming a special song. It's slowly becoming a favourite. We haven't been playing it a lot because "Watching Over Me" is a real big fan-favourite, and we need to be doing that song. It's a very beautiful song, and it's very personal to Jon. I get just as emotional singing "Watching Over Me" as I do singing "End Of Innocence", surprisingly enough. It's just such a strong song. Eventually, sure. I know we're going to do it in Vancouver, but there's so many songs to choose from it's so tough. I was just happy I could open up my heart and my life to the fans because they're real special to me, too.

Doc: Sort of breaking down that barrier between audience & performer?

Stu: Yeah, absolutely.

Doc: With Iced Earth, you're taking a whole new direction with your vocals. Has it been tough adjusting from the eclectic Into Eternity style to the more linear Iced Earth style?

Stu: The Into Eternity stuff is very complicated to sing. Very weird time signatures and all that kind of stuff. Coming into Iced Earth, you'd be surprised how many songs are more challenging. Some times you're singing on the back-beat, behind it for that certain feel. I was tending to over-think things. I had to think of it as a simplistic aspect, too. There's a lot of differences. Songs like "Dante's Inferno" - there's a lot of progressive elements in that song. Jon isn't a progressive metal guy, he's not a "theory" guy. He doesn't write things knowing that he's writing things in crazy time signatures, sometimes it just comes out. He'll be like "wow, I just wrote a progressive riff" and he didn't even know it! It would just feel good in the song. I think that's a really special thing with Jon - the way he creates stuff is it just comes out of fucking nowhere. It's just like...whoa, that's pretty amazing. He's not short of any ideas. It's pretty amazing, I'm happy to be in a band with such vision.

Doc: With Iced Earth you're singing in a more baritone style with a few Halford-esque falsetto moments, is there any chance of you bringing back your harsh vocals for any future releases?

Stu: I do some times in the set...You're going to be here watching the show?

Doc: Yeah.


Stu: Cool. So you're going to see in songs like "Days Of Rage", there's also a part in "Dante's Inferno", and also in "Damien" where I do a quick little death vocal here and there. I'm splashing it in there in some places, but it's not going to be a prominent thing. It's not the Iced Earth sound.

Doc: Have you ever considered doing any sort of future solo projects where you utilize your harsh vocals more? Or are your harsh vocals a thing of the past?

Stu: Who knows what happens? I've always wanted to do a straight-up death metal album. I've always wanted to do something like that. I know Freddie [Vidales] - our bass player - he's really into death metal. He's a really cool death metal guitar player, and he knows his shit. So who knows? Maybe him and I might fuck around in the studio one time and make a few songs, that would be cool. But it would probably just be for us, maybe show the fans, but it won't be anything that will be like a touring project or anything. Just a fun thing, 4 or 5 songs maybe. Maybe we'll make it fun, we'll talk about iced cream and shit, sung in all death vocals! Who knows!

We were talking about some cool stuff we might do, but right now I'm all about my brothers in Iced Earth and just creating lots of music with them.

Doc: So last question about Into Eternity - what's the status with them?

Stu: They got a new singer - Amanda Kiernan, she's a cool chick. She's like a dude trapped in a chicks body. She can hang with the metal guys, and she's got a great voice. I think she's going to do really well in Into Eternity. I've been hanging with all my brothers the last couple days, Tim is coming out tonight. The Into' guys are really happy for me, but they have to keep moving on. They've got a good fan base and they need to keep touring. They have lots of offers, so all the power to them. I have to focus on my new job - my new band right now.

Doc: Reading all the feedback on the internet, it seems people are saying Dystopia is a real return to form for the band, and how there is this new energy. Was this something you came into, or do you think you were a source for this new found energy heard in recent Iced Earth?

Stu: I'm pretty sure I had a part to play in it. When Jon and I sat down to write the album, he said "You know what? I don't want to write this crazy multi-layered vocal epic." It was taking away from what the Iced Earth sound was. He wrote those epic albums, but he wanted to bring it back to the old school. He said he likes my energy, he likes the fact that I'm vibrant and I'm breathing this life into the band - not that it wasn't before, but Jon was really appreciative that I'm in the band. It's a new element, and we're having a lot of fun together. The album came out exactly how we wanted it to.

The press is saying that, too. A lot of old school Iced Earth fans are saying this is like warping back in time. It was really well received, and I think a lot of the fans were hungering for that kind of album.

Doc: That's another thing I've noticed - a lot of the hardcore Barlow-era fans, who were really vocal about their displeasure with the Ripper Owens material seem to be really latching on to you, why do you think this is?

Stu: Man, I don't know. I'm a fan, so I guess that's kind of how it worked. I was an Iced Earth fan. I knew the stuff, I knew what the albums entailed, I knew what the heart was behind it. I wanted to sing every line, and write every line with that in mind. As a fan, what the people would like, and what I would like. I don't want to write stuff just for everyone else! I'm writing for myself, and Jon's writing for himself, too. It just came out...I don't know why they're latching on to me, but I'm really happy about it. Every day I wake up and play a show, it's one step closer to the fans, and more love for the fans, because I really appreciate you guys. You guys are the ones that make this happen, because without you, we'd be writing music and playing it for ourselves. I think more bands need to appreciate their diehard fans, who come out to these shows and support, buy the Cds or buy the t-shirts, or support the band by bringing us baked goods - who knows?! We have all sorts of cool fans that come out, and we really appreciate you guys, we love you a lot. It's really cool.

Doc: What songs from Dystopia have been going over the best with the audience?

Stu: "V" is going over really well, of course the title track is going over really well. Let me see..."Dark City" - people are really liking that song. Those are some of the key ones that are popping into my head. I enjoy doing all the new material. As the tour goes on you see more and more fans singing and getting into it.

Doc: Was there any surprises? Was there any songs you didn't expect to be hits?

Stu: Hmmm..."Days Of Rage" was one. I think it's a pissed off song in itself. The pit just opens up when we're doing that song! People are screaming "Days Of Rage", so that was a surprising one for me.

Doc: So what non-Dystopia stuff is your favourite to sing live?

Stu: I really like singing "Damien". "Dante's Inferno". Burnt Offerings was the first album I got, so I really latched onto it. Those are the two songs I really, really love singing live...and "When The Night Falls" - I love singing that song, too.

Doc: If you had one song off this album to sell it to a prospective fan, which one would it be?

Stu: I would say "V For Vendetta". It's very epic, it's very empowering. It's really a toss up between "V" and "Anthem". "Anthem" is another one that is really going over live, big time, people are loving it. We wrote that song for people, we wrote that song for the human spirit. If you want to say "the one song" I'd...hmmm...Nah, I'd probably lean towards "Anthem". People are really latching onto it. They're feeling that the human spirit can really prevail over all, that we as human beings can have anything thrown at us and our spirit can crush it. I think people are hearing it and really feeling it, so I would urge people to listen to that song, then start listening to the others.

Doc: Now that the album has been out for a while, anything in hindsight you would change?

Stu: Oh, that always happens, brother, it always happens. I don't want to get into specific details, but yeah, there's always certain things...Are we talking recording process or...?

Doc: Well, anything really. Looking back on a piece of music, is there any parts where your saying "Oh, I should have changed this around"?

Stu: Sure. As an artist - you look at all the famous artists in the world, from painting to music, if you ask them that question, they'll tell you there is always a time when you have to know when to walk away from your canvas. There comes a point when you create this art and you can keep looking at it going "Just one more brush stroke...one more shade here..." then you can over-do it. Yeah, I think of lines, and I think of melodies that I would like to tweak up and do differently - live, sometimes I do tweak things a little bit, because it's live so it's cool, it's still within the context of the song and it's still within the key. Especially with this album, I learned how to walk away. I learned how to put the last brush stroke on it, walk away, and say "it's done".

Doc: Any ideas formulating for the next Iced Earth album?

Stu: Oh yeah, man, a lot of ideas. After this touring cycle, Jon and I are going to go write together again, and maybe come up with some pretty cool tunes, we'll see.

Doc: Anything unique that will be a surprise to the fans?

Stu: I have a couple things up my sleeve that I think will be pretty cool.

Doc: Keeping it secret for now?

Stu: Yeah, keeping it a secret. There might be a couple new exciting things on this next album that I think the Iced Earth fans will really really dig.

Doc: That wraps it up. Any last words to throw out there?

Stu: I'm really happy to be in Canada, singing for my brothers and sisters, man. Really happy to be in this band, really happy to be out there doing heavy metal, bringing it to the people. Heavy metal fans are the most passionate people in the world, I'm a firm believer in that. I'm glad I'm seeing you guys at the show, and I'll see you on the road!


*Live photos courtesy of Will Cowie


 



Posted on 24.02.2012 by
Doc Godin
Former EIC, now semi-retired.
More interviews by Doc Godin ››




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Fat & Sassy! - 24.02.2012 at 06:06  
Great interview. (As I think was made clear in the article) Stu seems to be really rekindling long-time fans' interest in the band, me being one of those fans. I'm interested in seeing what these guys put out next. ^-^
BlueMobius - 24.02.2012 at 07:28  
It also sounds like Stu is likely through with Into Eternity.
SBGMetal - 24.02.2012 at 08:26  
Gotta admit he was pretty good live
Rulatore - 24.02.2012 at 14:01  
Great interview, you can feel that he's loving his new job. Nice job.
ChampionOfPower - 24.02.2012 at 20:49  
Can't wait to see him perform on Sunday. Hopefully he and Schaeffer stay together, because their first collaboration has been really damn good. Give them time to mesh and this could be a rebirth for Iced Earth and a fantastic thing for all of us fans.
BloodTears - 24.02.2012 at 22:56  
Too bad it's over for Into Eternity though, well, nothing I didn't image would happen.
EpicMayhem - 25.02.2012 at 05:00  
Stu sounds like an awesome guy. Can't wait to see them on Friday!
Zaphod - 27.02.2012 at 19:48  
Love this guy.
Vod52 - 01.03.2012 at 20:03  
Good interview. And fucking great band
BubbaBlack - 21.03.2012 at 04:33  
Stu Block has done a great job. Their live performances as of late have been fantastic. One of the better shows that I've seen in a while.

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