By Lieff and Mike
ICED EARTH is a band that has never gotten the attention they deserve, well here in the U.S. anyway. They have released some really great and powerful albums in the past and after I believe 3 years, they come back with there fourth effort entitled "The Dark Saga". This is a concept album based on Todd M. creation, SPAWN. A lot of the questions were given to me by Lieff for the interview. I was having a difficult time thinking the night before the interview, so I want to give the majority of the credit to him. Any way, I hope you enjoy my little chat with Jon, founder and guitar player for the band, and I hope I can encourage some of you to support a band who truly deserves more attention and recognition, especially now since metal is considered "uncool" in this MTV of America industry.
The Outcast: ......all right, I'm back, so what's up?
Jon: Not much man, just working on some written tracks stuff to go into the studio tomorrow. We're re-mixing our first album.
Your first album?
Jon: Yeah, we're doing..... uh, did you ever hear the "Enter the Realm" demo?
The Outcast: Nope, can't say that I did.
Jon: Jimmy, our new bass player and... there not official members yet, but they just did our tour with us. We just did a tour with SAVATAGE and they just kicked ass, our drummer and bass player. We're going to redo some tracks off our demo. We're just going to re-mix 4 tracks off our first album, and Max is going to re-sing all of them. It's going to be killer. We've got some really hardcore fans in Germany and Japan and I think this is going to be like a little Christmas thing for them.
The Outcast: That's your biggest fan base, is it not?
Jon: Yeah, definitely.
The Outcast: Yeah, the U.S. is mainly into death and black metal. Could you give me a brief history of the band.
Jon: Well, I started this band 12 years ago. In that time there has been like 12 or more band members in this band (laughter) that have come and gone. We started it then and we got our first record contract like 6 years ago with Century M. and since then we've released our fourth album now.
The Outcast: How do you see "The Dark Saga" as a progression than the past albums?
Jon: Well, if you listen to "Burnt Offerings", it's a really dark album, to me it's a dark and negative part of ICED EARTH'S history and it kind of came through in the writing.
The Outcast: What was wrong?
Jon: I was pretty much down on the whole business and the whole deal. There was about three years of space between Storm Rider" and "Burnt Offerings".....
The Outcast: To tell you the truth, I thought ICED EARTH was pretty much done with.
Jon: We almost weren't man.
The Outcast: Yeah, I was really surprised when I received the promo package from Century Media. So did you get the comic book idea from ENTOMBED?
Jon: Nah man......
The Outcast: Just something you wanted to do?
Jon: Yeah, I'm a huge SPAWN fan and so is Matt our singer. We collect the toys, the comics, and all the shit. We originally approached the guys about doing sound track music, because they're doing an HBO animated series, like 6 episodes so far, and they're also doing a movie. I am really looking forward to it. So we started talking to them for that reason and one thing led to another and I asked Todd if he'd do an album cover for us. Basically he told me that he didn't even have time to do draw his own book, so there was no way in Hell he'd have time to do an album cover for us, but then I brought up about using some previous artwork, he said; "Yeah, I've got plenty of that." He ended up offering us the cover of SPAWN #50. At that point, after he said he'd be interested in doing some art work, I thought it would be cool like to.... since SPAWN isn't known very well in Japan and in Europe, I thought it would be cool to write the story and try to turn our fans on to it. By him letting us use the art and stuff, he's helping us here in the U.S. and I think that is a good promotion thing.
The Outcast: Yes, it is.
Jon: We have a lot of fans in Germany and none of them new who SPAWN was. I did like 40-50 interviews while I was over there, and like 2 people knew who Todd was. The majority, I'd say 95% of the people don't have a clue.
The Outcast: Who are you going to tour with?
Jon: We're doing a co-headlining tour with NEVERMORE. We're going back over to Europe in August.
The Outcast: Are you going to tour the U.S.?
Jon: We're going to try. We developed a pretty good relationship with the guys from SAVATAGE and they were interested in doing something in the states and in Europe next spring. So we'll see. I think with this record our chances are a lot better, mainly because of the SPAWN idea. We finally got a good way of marketing the record. I know there will be a lot of collectors who are going to buy our album and maybe a lot of them wont listen to our album, but my whole point with this thing is, if we can sell enough units to look like we can get on a good tour, then we can get some exposure and that is something the band has never had in the states before.
The Outcast: That's for sure.
Jon: We've never had any promotion or anything and... I mean people are saying that metal is dead and whatever, it probably is to a degree (Just to the MTV worshipers and all the other trendy fuckers!) but you know, the thing is, there are a lot of fucking trends out there and if we can reach the people who don't give a fuck about these trends, then this might be it.
The Outcast: So are all the lyrics based on stories from the comic book or are they something different?
Jon: It's a concept record, it's all about the book. Every song is either about a character or the overview of the story.
The Outcast: I hear Al Simmons wrote the lyrics to the song, "Depths of Hell"? Did you ask him to do it or what?
Jon: I asked and he wanted to do it. Al and I got to be pretty tight. If it wasn't for him, none of this would have ever happened. Al's a fucking great guy. He really cares. He's out there doing all the big comic conventions and he's playing ICED EARTH in the SPAWN mobile and shit, it's really cool.
The Outcast: Is the CD going to be released in comic book stores as well as in music stores?
Jon: Yeah, in fact it's going to have a special 9 panel fold out that folds out into a poster or something for the comic shops. We're also doing a limited # of picture discs.
The Outcast: Has Century Media decided to push this record more so than the past albums because of the cross promotion going on?
Jon: Yes, much better than they ever did before. It's like perfect...... you have to do something with this. You don't get a shot to cross market like this very often. It would be really stupid not to and they see the potential here.
The Outcast: Was the promotion and stuff really as bad as it sounds when you think about it?
Jon: Yeah, they never did anything here in the U.S. for us. You know, it's hard man. I don't know if I would if I was on the business side of things. Am I going to go and spend a hundred grand on a band that may not sell shit because of the latest trends? I can understand it you know, but I have this never quit kind of attitude. I would be satisfied to achieve the kind of status here in the U.S. like in Germany and Japan and actually make a living off of it.
The Outcast: Would you say this is your favorite album you've ever done?
Jon: Yes. Before this one, "Storm Rider" was and I was really unhappy with "Burnt Offerings" when it was finished. I wasn't happy with my song writing mainly. It just wasn't up to par.
The Outcast: What would you consider to be some of your musical influences?
Jon: IRON MAIDEN for me. Steve H. was my idol. BLACK S., JUDAS P., all the old British metal bands.
The Outcast: Have you heard Rob H. newest band FIGHT? What is your opinion on that band?
Jon: I have a hard time with it. At first it seemed like they were going towards the PANTERA thing.
The Outcast: I thought that as well. The band members especially with there cheesy ass facial expressions. They try to look tough. I also don't care for the name at all.
Jon: I just expected a lot more out of Rob H. but you know, whatever man, he's a legend, he doesn't have anything to prove to a younger generation.
The Outcast: With every album you released, I read a lot of positive reviews, a few negative of course, but yet no one really in your country seems to give a fuck. Was it really discouraging to you / ICED EARTH and you just wanted to call it quits?
Jon: Yeah, we wanted to call it quits for other reasons....
The Outcast: Not because of how bad the sells were in the U.S.?
Jon: Nah, cause the sells were cool overseas. That wasn't the point, it was just how the whole business was structured. How we felt we were getting a really shitty deal. It's something every band goes through. Century Media has really grown up so much though. Back in the 1st album days, the label was really young and disorganized and they did a lot of fucked up shit. They're really moving quick now and have a really good staff now, and that's a huge difference. I'm just really disappointed on how the whole business is ran. I think it's a total fuck job for musicians no matter who they are. It's all one sided. That's kind of why Todd is my hero man. How he bailed on MARVEL COMICS and started his own company and said, "Fuck this, I'm standing up for artists rights." That's killer stuff man. He's made himself like #1 and it's all because of what he believed in and stood up for himself. People were like; "Man, you can't do this and that, what are you doing?" He basically told them to fuck off and he did what he had to do. Todd's a really talented guy, he's got the right attitude and that inspired me to try and change things in my industry. We're both artists you know? I don't know when it'll be or what I can do yet, but I know Todd has made me think a lot about what he has done in his industry , so you know...
The Outcast: So do you also have an interest in the SPAWN toys?
Jon: They rule! I've got every one of the toys.
The Outcast: One of my friends here, he's got everything by SPAWN as well. All over the walls hanging and shit. He even buys 2 figures of each, one for collection and one to open up and I guess to play with.
Jon: I do that too. Our rehearsal room is full of them. It's very addictive.
The Outcast: Yeah, it is. So where do you see ICED EARTH in a few years or do you take it day by day?
Jon: Well, I think really you have to take it day by day, because it can really stress you out if you think to far ahead. I see this album opening doors for us as fas as touring goes, that's what I'm hoping anyway. We've got to push sells!
The Outcast: Well, thank you for the interesting interview and for the pleasure Jon, any final words?
Jon: Thanks for the support man. I hope we get up there and play sometime. Thank you for the support.