Metal Wani's Chuck Marshall conducted an interview with ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer prior to the band's March 28 concert at The Shelter in Detroit, Michigan. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On what ICED EARTH has planned after their "Incorruptible" North American tour:
Jon: "We're going to have a little bit of a break here, then, Europe, we have a bunch of festivals and headline shows that we're doing. That's about six weeks. And, from there, we're really going to be off for a little bit. I mean, I'm not going to be — I'll be working on DEMONS & WIZARDS, but the band will be off until early next year, we'll go out and do a second run here in North America, maybe in January. We're talking about it now."
On whether DEMONS & WIZARDS, Schaffer's side project with BLIND GUARDIAN vocalist Hansi Kürsch, will release their next album in 2018:
Jon: "No, actually, well, let's see…realistically, because of the touring schedules that I have to deal with, it's going to be from August on through the rest of the year where I'll really be focused on it. We've got three songs going, so we're early on in the process. So, we've quite a bit of stuff yet to do. You know, I was being a little bit more optimistic than realistic. The thing is, ICED EARTH has been so busy, it's hard for me to really, I don't like to juggle too many things, especially when it comes to songcraft. If I do, then the music suffers. I really need to be off and in that meditative state where I'm left alone and focused completely on music. If I've got all this stuff going on with the new album cycle, which we are in, then it makes it hard for me to be productive in the best way for the product. I've talked to Hansi. He's, like, 'No pressure, dude.' The perfect timing for me is going to be at the end of this year. I expect that we will because once I get focused on something, it goes pretty quick. Hansi has his schedule opened up pretty much, so I think 2019 is realistic."
On how he separates the writing process between ICED EARTH and DEMONS & WIZARDS:
Jon: "It's different because in ICED EARTH, when I'm writing a song by myself, I'm writing it with Stu [Block] or with Matt [Barlow] in the past, or whatever, it's worked in different ways. For me, when I'm working on a song with my lyrics, then I know at least what the theme or the title of the song is going to be, so that leads me in a direction in how I craft the music. I always want to make it so, that even without the vocals, somebody can close their eyes and really feel like they're on a journey of whatever that song might be about. Whether it's about the Irish Brigade, or whatever the story might be. So, that's my way of working. When I'm working with another person like with Stu on this, he wanted to write a song about the Vikings, so 'Great Heathen Army', I was like 'Cool, I can get behind that.' We talked about it on the phone and I started putting together an intro and working on the parts and it all came into line. I need to know when working within ICED EARTH, I really need to know what the direction lyrically is going to be so I can make the coolest soundscape for that lyrical passage, whatever it might be. With Hansi, it's a little different because a lot of that stuff gets decided later. It's really just about trying and coming up with cool musical arrangements that are what they are, then he adds his thing in. It's just different because I don't write as much in DEMONS & WIZARDS as I do in ICED EARTH, it's a different thing. If we end up talking early in the process and he says, 'Hey, I've got this theme of a song.' That always helps me for sure. I can go 'Okay, I know where my target is.' I have to be passionate about whatever subject it is that we're going to write about in order to create the soundscape that is convincing for people, whether there's vocals or not. That's the icing on the cake, but the music still has to speak. It's a big deal. It's like the soundtrack of a movie. If you turn that off, you're not going to cry and you're not going to get scared. It's a giant thing when watching any kind of movies. It's the movements that happen at a subconscious level that people sometimes don't really understand. To me, if we're going for a specific subject matter, we got to try to put the listener on a journey that's as emotive and powerful as possible from an instrumental standpoint, then the lyrics and melodies are the icing on the cake."
On whether he thought of taking ICED EARTH's sound in a death metal direction considering they were formed in Florida during the style's peak years:
Jon: "No. Not at all. No interest in it, man. I'm into melody too much. From a musical standpoint and certainly from a vocal standpoint, it's a big deal, even though I started a band called PURGATORY and we went through a big change, obviously, through these early developmental years and we had a hell of a lot of fun back in those days, but we would do this very theatrical stuff that was for our level, for a club band. We made our own dry ice machines and our own flash pots and our own drum risers and we had a curtain and we went out to a graveyard and we hacksawed this fence around somebody's grave to make a really badass drum riser. We were wearing costumes and all this theatrical stuff. The later part of the PURGATORY years right to when we changed into ICED EARTH, there's still some of these remnants when it was more about character stuff. It wasn't quite the 'horror show' thing that came later with the 'Horror Show' record , but it's completely different than the whole PURGATORY demo 'Horror Show'. We had an original song called 'Dracula' and 'Jack', but they don't sound like anything on 'Horror Show'. They're different songs. Dude, it's been an amazing journey. I've always been into the melodic thing. One of the things in the early, early part of ICED EARTH, what was happening in my head was moving at a very fast pace and melody was definitely a concern and wanting to go more in that direction in terms of vocal melodies. So, that's one of the reasons that changes happened early on. But, we've done a lot of cool stuff."
ICED EARTH's latest album, "Incorruptible", came out last June via Century Media.
DEMONS & WIZARDS was launched in 1997 and has released two full-length albums so far: 2000's self-titled effort and 2005's "Touched By The Crimson King". The latter was partially based on the "The Dark Tower" series of books (written by Stephen King) in which the Crimson King is the main antagonist.