Interview With Iced Earth Frontman Matt Barlow
Band Photo: Iced Earth (?)
Many fans were angry that Matt Barlow left the band after "Horror Show," since Iced Earth is not quite the same band without him. In the early 2000’s he decided to pursue something quite non-musical (Law Enforcement), and Iced Earth found Tim Ripper Owens as a replacement for “The Glorious Burden” and “Framing Armageddon.” Even though Tim Ripper Owens has tremendous talent, Matt Barlow does more justice to Iced Earth with such a distinguished voice and even more memorable falsettos than Owens. Matt Barlow was asked to return with “The Crucible of Man….Something Wicked Pt. 2,” in 2008. With everything back in sync with the optimized lineup, Iced Earth is preparing for their next untitled studio album that will “Hopefully be out next summer or fall.”
Daniel Becker: My friend, Daniel Bressler, had a radio show on Bradley University’s BU Edge radio show called “The Metal Meltdown.” He once did a segment called “Best Metal Distinct Vocalists,” and you were featured in that. I agree. I think you have one of the best voices in the metal scene. Your voice is very distinct and sets you apart from many generic vocalists. How does that feel? Also, how do you warm up to perfect your vocal falsettos?
Matt Barlow: First, Thank you! I try to be myself, more than anything. I do tend to do falsetto scales when I practice. It definitely sounds a little silly at times, but it helps I think. My three year old runs into the bathroom and says “Stop it Daddy!,” almost laughing, whenever I’m warming up in the shower….. He’s pretty funny!
Becker: Also, during the show, you said before the song “I Died For You” that this particular song was symbolic with the relationships of other bands members’ personal lives. Is this why you chose “Spawn” as a concept album for “Dark Saga”? I mean, “Spawn” went to drastic measures to get back the person he thought he loved right?
Barlow: I think you may be looking a little deeper than I was going with that intro. I just wanted to point out that “I Died For You” may be the first “love song” that Jon wrote. However, we were both are really into the first “Spawn” series. The concepts in those books were very close to the stuff that Jon and I have always liked writing about. It seemed like the perfect concept for our music. Jon was greatly inspired by the possibility of working with the McFarland camp as well, but it did not turn out exactly as planned.
Becker: You took up an interest in law enforcement after the September 11th tragedies. What made you decide that law enforcement (being a police officer for Georgetown Delaware) was the way to go? I mean, you do not wake up from being the lead singer from Iced Earth and say, “Oh, I should step down to become a police officer.”
Barlow: Well, I would like to say that my desire to become a police officer was completely unselfish, but that just would not be true. I did, however, feel as though being a police officer was something that I wanted, and possibly needed to do. It has been an incredible experience and a choice I have never regretted. My brother officers and I were faced with the tragic loss of one of our own this past year when our friend, Chad Spicer, was shot and killed in the line of duty. His love for police work and his sacrifice has further inspired me to become the best, person, father, husband and officer that I could be.
Becker: Any cool or unusual stories in your tenure with law enforcement? What was your specific job during your stay?
Barlow: I am currently serving as a corporal/shift supervisor in the patrol division.
Becker: Also, in 2007, you returned to Iced Earth on “Something Wicked Pt 2…. The crucible of Man.” What made you decide to return after law enforcement at that particular time? Anything from Law Enforcement made you want to return?
Barlow: I returned because I was asked to. Jon and I had talked on a couple of occasions following my decision to perform with Pyramaze. Jon said that he would be happy to have me back with the band and that we could work out the schedule with my other commitments. It has worked out pretty well for the last couple years and we plan on keeping it going.
Becker: Many of the people I know have mixed reviews on the “Crucible of Man.” One of my friends has stated that the vocals were written for Tim Ripper Owens’ style. Is this true?
Barlow: I don’t know the style it was written for… you would have to ask Jon that, but the music for both records were written and recorded in the same time period, as Jon composed it with the story in mind. I can say, however, that I had a hand in the lyrical and vocal melody aspect of several songs. I’m pretty sure I was not thinking of Tim’s style when I was laying those out. I think Tim has tremendous talent, and I think most would agree our strengths and weaknesses definitely lie in different places.
Becker: I can say without a doubt, no exaggeration needed, that “Alive in Athens” is the greatest live album of all time. How did you get the production and sound on that album to quite possibly be even better than the studio albums?
Barlow: Thank you again! There was definitely a lot of magic on those evenings in Athens.
Becker: Back in April, you recently released the “Box of the Wicked” which is a compilation album of you on vocals for “Framing Armageddon” among other things. What are Iced Earth’s plans for the upcoming years? Will we see another studio album soon?
Barlow: Speaking of live stuff, we have the “Festivals of the Wicked” DVD coming out before the end of this year and we will begin work on the next studio release as well. Hopefully, that will be out by summer or fall of next year.
Becker: Do you think Jon Schaeffer’s side Project “Sons of Liberty,” will effect the tour schedule of Iced Earth and the recording process? Do you have any future side-project aspirations as well?
Barlow: I don’t think it will, but if something opens up for Son’s of Liberty, I hope that they can run with it. We have come off of a successful run of shows that have allowed people to see what Son’s of Liberty is all about. I think it has got a lot of people talking. Let’s hope it turns out to be something that the fans of Jon’s music can really get behind. I don’t have any plans to work on any music but Iced Earth Music. I am extremely stoked to get cracking’ on it!
Becker: Do you think you guys can come up with another memorable concept album like “Horror Show,” or “Dark Saga?” If so, what possible concepts have you been thinking about?
Barlow: I don’t think we’ll be looking at a concept record for a while. All I know is that the next Iced Earth Record will be one that is well thought out and well written. Iced Earth fans demand it and are owed one!
Becker: In all of the albums you have done with Iced Earth, which album are you the most happy with?
Barlow: It’s really hard to say. I think without making my head seem any larger than it actually is, there are great things on all of them. It might actually be easier for me to pick out the parts from each that I feel I did not do as well as I could. I do that a lot, but I won’t sit here and point out my flaws to you guys! That would be like showing you my “tell.” And no, I do not really play poker either.
Becker: In the end on “Something Wicked Pt 2. The Crucible of Man,” Set Abominae decides to spare humanity because they have “potential in them.” With all the war and bloodshed and strife in the world, do you think that Set Abominae would be happy with society today? At the end he spares human kind, but is it possible he might be not so forgiving in the future? In other words, will Iced Earth possibly continue the Something Wicked saga in the future? Or is your next album going to be something different?
Barlow: The next record will definitely be something different. I think that “come what may” wraps things up quite nicely. It allows the listener to paint the picture of things to come; as it mirrors much of what is happening in this reality. You must decide where this life will take you, even with all of the outside forces that control our daily lives, you must make the right and righteous decisions.
Becker: You have only decided to tour with a handful of shows. Why not the conventional routine yearly tour schedule? What caused Iced Earth to select only a handful of shows? Do you think by doing this, the select shows will be exponentially better?
Barlow: I don’t think the shows could have been better. I bet the crowd felt the same way. There was a very personal feeling at these past shows. It was really, really cool! I think that this is a really good way to do things considering that a yearly tour schedule is not an option for us. We love to play live and we love to put on a good show. We understand that not everyone could make these dates, but we did our best to make them accessible to as many people as possible. The end results were some killer shows.
Becker: You said during the show that there was a systematic approach to your particular set list. What approach did the band take in order to compile the ones that you saw best fit? Like what was the reason for choosing “Jack” over let’s say “Dracula” “Damien” “Wolf,” or “The Phantom Opera Ghost?”
Barlow: Well, we really wanted to touch on all the “Classic” stuff and it is kind of tough to do when you have a catalog as lengthy as ours. So the main idea was to give everyone a little bit of everything. I’m sure that not every single person in the crowd was 100% satisfied with the set list, but we really did our best to make our folks happy!
Becker: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any exciting news you would like to share with the metal community on the future of Iced Earth?
Barlow: I hope you guys will enjoy the “Festivals of the Wicked” DVD and hope to see some of you on the “70,000 tons of Metal Cruise” in January! Take care!
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