ICED EARTH (Jon Schaffer & Stu Block) INTERVIEW

ICED EARTH (Jon Schaffer & Stu Block) INTERVIEW

Change is inevitable in any band that’s been around for as long as the American Power/Thrash Metal powerhouse Iced Earth, however seeing members coming and going has become the norm for guitarist and founding member Jon Schaffer. When legendary vocalist Matt Barlow decide to leave the band for a second time earlier this year, many people, myself included, thought that this blow would be hard to overcome but Schaffer surprised us all by enlisting Into Eternity vocalist Stu Block with whom he recorded what I consider to be one of the best sounding albums in the band’s career – a ten track release entitled “Dystopia”. When I managed to hook up with both Jon and Stu here in London, in the very relaxing and comfortable offices of their current label Century Media, the long conversation that we had revolved around the new album, illegal downloading the state of the music industry these days as well as the band’s upcoming tour and the shooting of two new Iced Earth videos. I hope that you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did conducting it!

By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

• Hi guys! It is a great pleasure for me to be doing this interview as, apart from the fact that I have been an Iced Earth fan since day one, I am sitting here in front of you and, after so many years of listening to your music, I am about to ask you questions about what I consider to be one of the best Iced Earth albums ever recorded.

Jon: The new one? Awesome, man!

• It’s difficult to explain my reaction to “Dystopia” – I guess that the best way to describe the experience is by saying that I felt like I was eighteen years old again, and that is the best compliment I can give it!

Jon: Awesome.

Stu: Great (laughs).

• I am sure that it will not be long before it will considered an Iced Earth classic and it is definitely going to be featured in my ‘best album of 2011’ list. Against all odds, dare I say, with many people complaining about Matt (Barlow, ex singer) no longer being in the band and worrying about whether you could record another good album.

Jon: I love doubters because they always motivate me, you know? People create their own illusions about everything, you know, the band included, so I…there’s a lot of great energy in the band as we have been together for two years now, so we are coming back strong! We are coming back with a vengeance and Stu (Block, new vocalist) is obviously adding to that! It’s great for me to have a writing partner that’s capable and who comes up with great ideas, as that takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, you know? We had fun man – we had a really good time!

• Apart from the doubters, motivation and inspiration must also have come from other places. You really sound quite inspired

Jon: Dude, definitely – that’s the thing. After…in 2008 I was completely destroyed – I was like burnt out completely! No vacation time in my entire adult life, working all the time and, you know, during the writing and recording process of the last two albums I lost three of my family members in one year, while this was going on. I lost my brother, my father and my sister and it seems like every month there was a major tragedy and I was in the middle of doing this record. I was feeling really exhausted while these things were happening and when I finally took some vacation, I went to Central America for a month and, dude, I just started to come alive! Then, I had my ‘awakening’, where I learned about the really bad stuff that’s going on in my country and about the financial institutions that really run the world and…that was like the most liberating thing that’s ever happened to me and, at that point, I just came alive! I really felt like all my life I had this weight on my shoulders; I knew that something was wrong and I couldn’t pin-point it. I was totally a victim of high-tech propaganda just like most people are and I was able to break free from that. I literally felt free for the first time in my life because I can see what is happening around me and I can understand why, and that’s a big deal! So, I was energised with Sons Of Liberty (note: Jon’s other project) and, when that whole event happened, it made me also energised for Iced Earth – to really appreciate Iced Erath instead of always having the blinders on. Now that I am finally moving forward, I can actually look back now and really be proud of my accomplishments, so it’s cool stuff!

• So Stu, how it is that you became part of the picture? I am aware that you have been involved in other bands that have been more progressive in nature and perhaps slightly more diverse musically than Iced Earth. Jon has very set ways of doing things and has worked around hiss principal ideas over the years, which is much to his credit. Your background, on the other hand, is much more diverse, even including Death Metal elements, right?

Stu: Yeah! I have been in like three Death Metal bands and two other Prog bands before, and the main Progressive band would be the Death Metal band Into Eternity. How did I become part of the picture? Well, Into Eternity were signed to Century Media for a while and so there were a few people there that knew about me. I put a post onto my Facebook page saying that I was looking for some freelance work as I wanted to keep being busy as Into Eternity were not that active anymore. So, long story short, I got a call from and A&R rep from Century Media and he let me know that the band was interested and when he told me that I was totally shocked, like “wow this is amazing that Jon even knows about me and that I exist even”, you know? So, I got his phone number, we talked and I got some songs from him, I recorded my vocals over them, he liked it and that’s when I went into his studio. There, we recorded another couple of songs and also one original song which is entitled “End Of Innocence”.

Jon: That’s the first song we wrote.

Stu: Yes, that was the first song that we wrote and man, it was magical! It was really cool as we really gelled! I felt like it was all really working as we were co-writing stuff. Basically, after that he said “I do not want to try anyone else out – if you want the gig, you got it” and of course I said “yes”; I would be a fool if I didn’t! It’s been a non-stop roller-coaster ride ever since!

• Jon, what I find to be truly amazing about Stu’s vocals is how all-encompassing they are! When Matt Barlow first became part of the picture I remember having an issue with his performances as I was more into John Greely’ s high pitch vocals in “Night Of The Stormrider”. Stu’s vocals somehow manage to combine elements from both these different ‘schools’ and that is great! I have found one Iced Earth singer who’s covering me one hundred per cent!

Stu: All the guys that ever sang in Iced Earth have influenced me one way or another. Matt has been a big influence of mine, you know? I was a fan of Iced Earth beforehand, ever since “Burnt Offerings” (1995) came out and so I knew what needed to be done. The other thing is that I didn’t know that I had those vocal capabilities! As Jon said before, a lot of Iced Earth music is based on that middle range type of vocals and then adding falsetto stuff on top, you know? I have always been a fan and apparently I possessed that kind of vocals which he (note: Jon) brought out of me and which I never really knew I had! I seriously didn’t really know that I had this vocal and now I am just nurturing it! It’s exciting! As I said in a previous interview, it’s like having a new toy, you know? It’s awesome – it’s really exciting!

• Jon, when you first started trying Stu out, what was the thing that first made you say “this guy is definitely the right man for the singer of Iced Earth”. Do you remember the moment when this happened?

Jon: Well, it was during the “End Of Innocence”, when we were working on it, that I knew! What was really interesting was the look in his eyes on the Into Eternity videos, ‘cause that’s why Robert from Century Media told me about Stu. I remember being with him and him saying to me “check out a couple of his videos” and I was like “that dude’s got the look in his eyes”! You could see the spirit exactly. Now, the voice is something else, as he was doing Death Metal, but when I heard the melodic potential that he had, obviously in the course of Into Eternity, which is fu*king cool, I decided to try him out. I wasn’t sure whether he would be able to do the middle range vocals and that is why we had to get together and try some original stuff – see how the chemistry works! I wasn’t sure whether Stu was writing the choruses in Into Eternity, so I didn’t know and I said “look, are these your parts, because if they are, they are fu*king hooky and that’s good”. You know, two guys working together and coming up with great hooks is a good thing and something that I never really had that much help with in the past, so it’s great! It makes things fun for me, it takes a lot of pressure off of me, always having to deliver the goods and, you know – we just have a great time working together, so…

• There is a well-calculated balance between the hardest material and the more melodic stuff in “Dystopia”. The very first time I listened to the album in its entirety, I realised that its dynamics work in a wave form – quite clever indeed as it kept my interest going throughout! That, to me, proves how much thought has been put in this album!

Jon: That was the whole idea!

• There are quite a few surprises here. For instance; if the guitars in “Days Of Rage” were slightly more down-tuned, this could easily have been a late 80s Sepultura song! Straight after that you have placed “End Of Innocence” which is a classic sounding Iced Earth ballad filled with catchy acoustic guitar melodies. Things could not have been any more diverse than that!

Jon: Glad to hear that man!

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

• Let us now talk about those compositions that really spoke to me from the very first spin and explain the thought process behind them, first being “Anthem”.

Jon: The idea behind that song is that we knew that we were working with some dark and heavy lyrical subject matters and that with a theme like “Dystopia”, things were going to get slightly spooky! The idea behind that, though, was to inspire hope in people also and such feelings can be found throughout the album as well. “Anthem” is a good example of that and “Tragedy and Triumph” as well as “Iron Will”, which is a bonus track, are also very uplifting songs. “Iron Will” will be included in the digi pack version of the album. “Anthem” points out the injustices that people are going through and the idea is that if we want solutions then we need to look into the mirror. We will have to change on a certain spiritual level in ourselves in order to really try to make life a better thing. It’s about choosing the right path in your life, making the right decisions and being responsible for those decisions. We, as a collective culture called “the West”, have certainly drifted from that – certainly the United States! We are lost man! We are fu*ked! We need to stop looking for the government to help, because the government is just a bunch of fu*king criminals! We have to look into ourselves for the answers, you know, and that’s what this is all about – this is what the song “Anthem” is all about!

• Some people who have already listened to the album seem to lean towards “Dark City” as being the stand-out track and though it is not the first song to really grab my attention, it gradually grew on me. Your riffing is absolutely brilliant and those Iron Maiden sounding twin guitar melodies are out of this world.

Jon: It’s going to be fun to play it live man!

Stu: Yeah!

• That’s exactly what I was getting at. It feels to me as if each and every song that’s been included on this album has been created with the potential of a live performance in mind. These songs will really demand people’s participation in the vocal department!

Jon: Yeah! That song I definitely like musically and when I added the ending on, which is was later…that was actually the second song that Stu and I have done together and I sent it to him. I sent it two days before he flew out to meet me because I wanted to see what he could do under pressure, so I didn’t give him much time…

Stu: Great guy! (laughs)

Jon: I sent him “End Of Innocence”… (note: talking to Stu) “hey dude, you got to step up to the main league now” (laughs). I also sent him the instrumental version of what became “Dark City” but it didn’t have that same ending – I added that later as I felt that I needed to go somewhere else in order to get it to a certain climax. Yeah, so Stu wrote the lyrics on that one and it is based on the movie called “Dark City”.

• One song that I can see many people going absolutely crazy for is “Tragedy And Triumph” which is the absolute definition of a head banging tune, if there is one! It is quite striking how effortless is sounds to me bringing such songs to life. It really sounds like you went into the studio having three hours to kill and coming up with a whole album – that’s how natural the process feels to me as a fan, however, I am sure that this was not the case, right? I haven’t felt such a connection to an Iced Earth album since the days of “Night Of The Stormrider”!

Jon: That’s very exciting to hear, man!

Stu: It is great for us to hear that we are able to make our long term fans feel happy, you know?

• After you guys finished arranging the songs and before you entered the studio for the recording sessions, were there any specific tracks that you felt would potentially cause any problems to you? Any songs that you might need to consider working harder for or even adapting depending on the recording conditions?

Jon: No…

Stu: Not really. We were tweaking things, there’s always that. We demoed the album beforehand and we took it back for a while. When we went back to do the master vocals and guitars there were a few little things that we changed…

Jon: Well, I did change…”Equilibrium” ended up becoming one of my favourite tracks as the riff…I changed the main riff like the intro riff and also the chorus riff. Right as I was cutting the guitar tracks I said “you know what”, and it just happened – it made it sound way better! Actually the groove is really fu*king cool. It made the songs step up a notch because I was thinking that it might just be a filler song but ended up being pretty cool, so…that was one thing that changed…I cannot really think of anything else. Actually, I did change the picking pattern a little bit at the beginning of “Dystopia” when it gets heavy.

Stu: We did rework a couple of lyrics here and there…yeah. As the process goes, you know, there’s always that spontaneous act of inspiration when you are recording an album where you will say to yourself things like “oh, that would be cool; we didn’t think of that before – let’s try it out”, you know? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, you know?

Jon: But there were no big challenges; things went great! Everybody did a stellar job. Troy’s (Seele: lead guitar) solos have been fu*king awesome. He stepped up…he really raised the bar like compared to…I mean, he did cool stuff before but this time he really came into his own, I think. Everybody did a great job!

• When it comes to creating a guitar solo, I always feel that there is a very fine line between coming up with something that is really simple, on one hand, and going completely overboard on the other. You have to be a true master to create a solo that’s inspiring and not tiring. That is again a balance that’s been achieved throughout the album.

Stu: Yeah, he did a killer job!

Jon: I think that…I…I know what you’re saying as I am the kind of guy that prefers the typical David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) kind of solo simply because it makes you want to cry! I mean, the guy plays three notes and you’re like “oh my God”. His vibrato and riffery is fu*king amazing, you know? Troy didn’t play anything like that but the stuff that he did play was so cool…he really improved a lot since he came into the band – he just raised the bar! He kind of got his own style going now, you know? I don’t think that I know many guitar players that play like Troy!

Stu: No.

Jon: I mean, you can hear his influences in some things, but he’s really stepped it up – it’s cool! The whole band did great! Freddie (Vidales: bass), first time in the studio? He did exactly what was needed from a bass player; great attitude, good delivery…great!

• Jon, there have been many line-up changes in Iced Earth over the years and, credit to you, things have always worked out for the benefit of the band with new blood bringing excitement and new ideas into the fold. Do you feel confident that this new line-up will be around for the long run or is that not so important in the grand scheme of things? Do you simply tend to take things as they come?

Jon: Well, you do need to take things as they come. I certainly do hope that this group of people will stay around because this is a ‘band of brothers’, man! I mean, we do have a lot of fu*king fun together –and we laugh a lot. There’s a dynamic and chemistry there. To me this current line-up, with Stu coming in, is…it feels…we haven’t even been on the road yet with Stu but, coming in it, it feels like a band, you know what I mean? The guys…we’re a gang, you know?

Stu: Yeah man!

Jon: It feels great and I hope there are no changes! Every time I’ve said that in the past something happens (laughs), you know? I just see things happening man! We’ve got a committed frontman now and we haven’t really had that for about ten years! That’s a big deal, having someone that’s committed on a spiritual level, you know? We are going all the way; we’re doing things together. It’s been a long time since we’ve last done that! Now, that’s pretty amazing if you consider the fact that we still have the success that we have as we didn’t really have a committed frontman for almost a decade. Ever since Matt made the career change, that kind of went out and Tim (“Ripper” Owens: vocals) always had stars in his eyes about doing the ‘solo thing’, you know, and he was kind of a ‘hired gun’ basically as things never really clicked on that kind of a level that happened within minutes of Stu trying things out! It’s a different thing, this is a whole different thing!

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

• Now Stu, this question is for you and you can be as honest or as diplomatic as you wish in answering it. How would you describe the experience of working with Jon? Did you feel that, with regards “Dystopia”, you were given the space and freedom needed in order to fulfil your potential?

Stu: Yeah. I mean, he beats me up a lot, takes me into a room and punches me and stuff…

Jon: (laughs).

Stu: I mean, I get past that. After that’s all done, we go out and we have a good time (laughs). No, I mean, he’s shown me nothing but respect! He’s given me the space that I need to do what I need to do. He’s involved me into the writing process which is amazing, you know what I mean? Not really any other Iced Erath singer has been involved in the writing process as much as I have and I couldn’t say anything bad about Jon because he’s…

• Standing right there next to you? (I laugh).

Jon: Because I will kick his ass if he does (laughs).

Stu: He’s a real pr*ck (laughs). But, no man…what can I say? He brought me into this family and it’s been an amazing experience for me! I consider him to be sort of a teacher because he’s been teaching me so much, even about my own vocals and things about them that I didn’t even know that I have. He’s teaching me how to carry myself a little bit and also, I have never had that kind of recording experience in my life and I have done two professional albums, but I have never experienced something like that before as I did with Iced Earth. I think that since March, since the day that I got the gig, I’ve learned more than I’ve ever had in any other bands! So, much respect for that and, you know, until I piss him off (laughs)…I guess that we will have to see.

• The music industry is a pretty ruthless place to have to operate in. I mean, I am not a musician but even sitting on my side of the fence, I can see things let me realise that. You obviously need somebody strong in the band to keep things going…

Stu: (referring to Jon) He’s the pillar! He’s definitely the pillar of the band! He keeps us together, keeps us grounded and we all have our jobs – we all know what we need to do. We are all passionate about what we are doing and so I think that it all works out. At the end of the day, everyone’s happy, you know?

• Guys, the sound and the overall production of “Dystopia” is of the highest quality. Did you become actively involved in the recording process?

Jon: Of course!

• Did you handle it yourself?

Jon: No, it was Jim (Morris: well-known producer) and I that worked together. I am involved in every single aspect when it comes to an Iced Earth release. The goal in this one was to…the rhythm section was important in how I wanted to record things this time, to make things really tight and punchy. I also cleaned up the guitar sound quite a bit; this is the cleanest guitar tone that I’ve used in the last ten years. The drum sound is thunderous and punchy and the bass sits in between things, exactly where it belongs – really well between the rhythm guitar and the drums and glues everything together. We had a plan going in and we executed that plan. I mean, Jim and I have worked together so much over the years that we finish each other’s sentences, you know what I mean? He’s really my bro – he’s family!

Stu: Jim is an amazing guy!

Jon: He’s a really smart guy and he’s fun – we always have fun. That’s important and you can hear that in the sound! The last two albums weren’t fun because of everything that I was going through. Jim was really feeling for me saying things like “man, I don’t know how you can do this”, so…Jim’s awesome! We’ve got a great partnership – we work really well together! His thing is more music theory when it comes to doing things, whatever instrument we’re tracking, and I am the Metal guy. So, in our partnership, I am always looking for the edge and the attitude, to capture the right vibe and Jim is steering us to make sure that we’re staying in tune and… I mean, I am anal about timing too – we’re both pretty anal about that. Whether it’s a vocal line or a lead guitar part or whatever and obviously also the rhythm section. The production on this album is great, I am very happy with it.

• Nowadays you listen to many album productions that sound clean and polished but there is no soul in the sound on offer. Obviously there are both pros and cons when it comes to using technology in the studio, but lacking soul is a totally different thing.

Jon: That is the writing process and there’s no production in the world that can fix that! You cannot add soul by turning a few knobs; that is purely part of the writing process…

• Is it also very important how you choose to utilise the equipment that is given to you in order to record your work? There are cases of having soulful music but not the right production to help it come alive!

Jon: As long as I’ve been doing this, no – In cannot see that. It’s all about the songs. You can have a great song recorded on a crap system and it’s still going to be a great song – it’s still going to inspire people. Listen, for instance to our first album; it sounds like sh*t! Almost every debut album from every band sounds crappy but that doesn’t mean that they are bad albums, you know what I am saying? Of course you use the gear to help enhance things but, at the end of the day, you have nothing if you don’t have a good song! I don’t care if you have the greatest guitar player in the world, the greatest singer in the world – it doesn’t matter. You can have an album with great performers that’s crap and where there’s not a single song that’s good. That’s the key; it’s the magic ingredient that makes everything work or not work.

• Well, “Dystopia” is going to be out soon and, from what I know, you are going to do an extensive world tour, right? Do you have any concrete plans as to which places you will be visiting?

Jon: We are working on our American tour right now and we’ve got proposed dates for South America and for China, India and Russia. I mean, China and India, Thailand, Indonesia…we are doing one show in Russia on this European tour which starts in October the 30th and if that goes well we will be doing a whole full-blown Russian tour – probably fourteen or fifteen shows! We’ll see. We have to see how the promoters are going to work there as we have never been there before. But this is a real world tour; we are also looking to doing gigs in Central America. We are visiting all kinds of places that we’ve never played before, and the European portion of it is the longest that we’ve done; it’s seven weeks, I believe.

Stu: Yeah! That’s a long time.

Jon: That’s twenty one or twenty two countries! We’re playing two nights in Athens, one in Thessaloniki…

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

• What about London?

Jon: London yes! We’ve got three shows in the UK and these are in early November I believe!

• Now that you have a new vocalist you feel liberated enough to take on such a long tour?

Jon: Yeah – game on!

• Going on tour is obviously the best way to advertise your music and make a profit, as most bands nowadays claim that their main salaries are dependant predominantly on ticket sales.

Jon: Yes, as most people tend to steal your music anyway…People are stealing our livelihood by downloading our songs so we have to go on tour. Things have changed: it used to be that the tour was there in order to promote the album and now it’s the other way round!

• This must be confusing to artists. I read your statement regarding Spotify and Century Media’s decision to remove songs belonging to its contracted artists from that format. Now something like that can work both in favour and against a band, depending on how you personally perceive things.

Jon: Well, I think that what we have to do is to accept the fact that the industry has changed, you know what I mean? I see Century Media’s point completely actually – I am not at war with them over this at all, I just happen to disagree with it because I see that the industry is changing. The model is changing and we don’t know exactly what is going to emerge on the other side. The involvement from record companies is changing and their role in this whole thing is getting smaller and smaller. I actually think that, at the end of the day, this is a good thing because I think that it is going to be better for the artists to deal directly with their fans, you know? Labels have made enormous amounts of money off of artists for a very long time and so have the distributors and retailers and they are all in trouble right now. I think that if we have a model of whatever nature, a subscription type of service…I think that there are a lot of things that are being discussed and…the bands can deal directly with their fan base.

• You see, this is what I was trying to get out of you. If the future is indeed heading towards MP3 being the main music format, something that I have to stress that I am not particularly happy about, then what stops you from selling your music directly from your website?

Jon: Well, that’s where it’s heading but, right now, you still need to have the label as the PR machine behind the record, cause you’ve got to have…we only have the money to finance the album and finding us a promotion campaign. But I think that once the band is working again and we get some of our status back, because we lost some of that in the last seven years, once we get that back then we…the database is going to grow and the ‘war chest’ is going to have some money in it, so that we can then self-finance some of these things. I have actually experimented a bit with the model with Sons Of Liberty, by giving it away for free and then by also having a high resolution download available for $7.99 or whatever it was. And, you know, it was interesting to see the way it worked basically. Whenever we will be able to give away Iced Earth’s music for free…I don’t think that it’s going to happen. The people will do that anyway by downloading our music but we just cannot. It’s already difficult because of the fact that there’s all this file-sharing that’s going on and with some people stopping buying music, you know what I mean? A lot of people are doing that and so it is difficult…the recording studios are feeling this too because now the bands don’t have the budgets and they do things by themselves with the help of software. It doesn’t mean that things are going to sound good but, you know, it’s just the whole industry right now that’s in that shakeup, you know?

• Jon, people who like buying official stuff and love LP/CD formats are always going to support you, right? The people who share things on the Internet are the same people who used to copy vinyl on tape and never bother owing a record collection back in the day, right?

Jon: The difference is those bootlegs back in the 80s sounded like sh*t; today, we are talking about digital files that are a perfect copy of the original. That’s the problem – that’s what is making bootlegging nowadays so bad. There is a whole generation of kids that are growing up that do not care about the production and the quality of music as they listen to things on little computer speakers or with ear buds to a squashed MP3 file which I think sounds like sh*t. I am an old guy; I am an audio file guy, I love a good sound in my stereo system and I love analogue – I miss tape (laughs). I miss recording on tape, you know? I am talking about recording tracks in analogue, you know, like we used to do in the old days and that just sounded much better. But, you know, that’s what we’re dealing with and I think that it’s hard for a label like Century Media to accept that I understand their position but that I think that, from our standpoint, we have to embrace these mediums and understand where it is that this is all heading towards and that we have to find other ways to make money so that we can keep pushing on!

• I am definitely looking forward to “Dystopia” coming out, I am really looking forward to seeing this new line up on tour and I am actively reading any review that’s related to this album as I will be very shocked if I see any being non-complementary!

Stu: I am sure that there will be people out there who will not like it because some people are really set in their ways.

Jon: There have been people that haven’t liked other albums, whether it was Matt or Tim or whoever singing on them, so, you know, we never get everybody to like what we do, but the majority of the people are going to like it – I am sure.

Stu: The feedback has been very positive and we’re hearing, as you’ve also told us, that…we’re hearing such statements all the time from media people. I don’t know if that’s a good indication of things or whatever, but, I mean…

Jon: The fans will ultimately decide!

Stu: Exactly!

Jon: That’s the deal, and not every single journalist is a fan! I am sure that you will read a bad review as this tends to happen even on the best of albums and to every band.

• What about future projects? I remember at some point you were contemplating re-recording “Framing Armageddon” with Matt on vocals. Now that he’s no longer part of the picture will Stu be doing the honours?

Jon: The problem is that it’s too expensive and people are not buying records enough to make this worth spending the money in order to do that. That’s not why we didn’t do it with Matt – we didn’t do it with Matt because SPV (note: the band’s former label) went bankrupt and it was going to cost money to go into the studio and re-do the vocals and then remix the whole thing. Besides that, “Framing Armageddon” is a fu*king killer album as it is, you know? I really like it and actually I like it a lot more than I do “The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Pt. 2”. When I did “The Crucible of Man…” I was really in a tough spot. Starting with “Framing Armageddon”; that point I think, by the time that album was finished, I had only lost my brother and my dad and when “The Crucible…” happened it was just like “arrrrgh”, you know?

• Apart from touring for the promotion of “Dystopia” are there any other future plans? Are you planning on releasing any videos in support or are you no longer a believer of the usefulness of that format?

Jon: We are actually shooting a video next week! It’s going to be two of them – one for “Dystopia” and one for “Anthem”!

Stu: Yes, these will be our music videos in support of the new album.

Jon: I mean, they are going to be low budget but it will be something to help push things on YouTube and help spread the word!

• Sounds exciting.

Jon: It will be pretty cool!

Stu: Yeah.

• Gents, what can I say: I wish you all success as this album of yours really deserves people’s attention – attention which I am sure it is going to get. I hope that in a year’s time we will get the chance to talk again with you standing in an even stronger position than you do now, thanks to this very release. Thanks for your time – it’s been a pleasure talking to you both.

Jon: Thanks, man!

Stu: Thank you.

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In this show, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 2 February 2020, David Randall plays a selection of tracks from some of the artists who impressed at this year’s Giants Of Rock event in Minehead (24-27 January).

Featured Albums w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 NEWMAN Ignition (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 BLACK SWAN Shake The World (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 CORMAC O CAOIMH Swim Crawl Walk Run (indie)

Power Plays w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)

SHAKRA Turn The Light On (AFM Records)
THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA Transmissions (Nuclear Blast)
RYDERS CREED Lost Soul (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)
FRAMING HANLEY Puzzle Pieces (Thermal Entertainment LLC)
ROBERT HART Mysterious (Escape Music)

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