|Iced Earth has released a new album called Dystopia. What are the main differences between this album and their previous ones? There are many! But the most important one is definitely their new lead singer, Stu Block. Check out the chat that SOM had with him last February in Los Angeles!!|Iced Earth is currently touring around the world. How has this tour been in general so far?
It was my first time in Europe so we had a really good time. We had a lot of those shows under our belts. The European fans are what everyone is expecting: they are amazing. They really know how to deal with metal bands; they really know how to interact as a crowd.
Canada was amazing, crowds were phenomenal, and we want to go back! The crowds have been really awesome so far in the US [the interview was done during Iced Earth’s North American tour]. So, I think that the album [Dystopia] is getting received very well amongst the fans. I can see them singing the lyrics and all that kind of stuff, with the new songs. I’m really happy about that.
So, everybody is really enjoying themselves and we are really enjoying ourselves. It’s fun… we are having a good time out here.This is your first tour with Iced Earth. Has this been a good opportunity to meet Iced Earth’s fans?
Sure, yeah. We have the VIP meet and greet every night, so we get to be up-close to some of the most hardcore fans. And of course, in a lot of the venues, the fans aren’t very far away, they are right up close, so I get to look at them, shake their hands and stuff. It’s really cool.
Iced Earth fans are very dedicated fans, they are amazing people and they are very dedicated heavy metal fans, so I’m really happy about that. Everyone that I’ve interacted with has been amazing.Do you try to meet some of the fans after the concerts or is that kind of difficult?
It’s very tough because I have to keep healthy and you have to shake a lot of hands, you can get swarmed by people and stuff like that.
If I walk into the bus and a fan spots me or we run into each other, I will spend time talking to them, you know? The fans are what make this happen. I never deny a fan if he or she wants to talk. It’s always enjoyable. But sometimes 1 turns into 50 (laughs), all around you. And then you have to go because it gets overwhelming.Iced Earth has released “Dystopia” in October last year. Could you describe the album in a few words?
This album touches on a subject matter that if you realize what’s going on in the world today, you’ll understand what we are trying to say. We wrote some songs based of dystopian movies (V for Vendetta, Equilibrium, Soylent Green, Dark City, etc).
We wanted to write in that perspective but it is veiling what we really feel. With politicians right now stealing money out of our pockets, cancer killing our loved ones… it’s a very tough world that we live in right now. So, we wanted to get a lot of that off of our chest.
But, also with this album, you get songs like “Anthem”, [which] is a celebration of the human spirit, a celebration of life.
I wrote a song for my mom. She has been battling cancer for the last 8 years and it’s getting to a point where it’s really tough, you know? So, I wanted to write a song for her.
We also wrote a song called “Anguish of Youth”,
which is about a girl who attempts to commit suicide but she doesn’t do it, she realizes that it’s going to hurt more people around her, it’s not the way to go out, you know?
So, we tried to touch on all sorts of different things with this album. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. If you listen to Dystopia, I think that everyone will get something out of it. Even if you haven’t listened to the band ever and you sit and you listen to the music and read the lyrics, everyone can get something out of this album. It’s a universal album.“Dystopia” has received many positive reviews. Since this is your first album with Iced Earth, how does that make you feel?
Oh, it makes me feel good, of course. It makes me feel that I’ve accomplished something. It makes me feel that we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. I’m really happy that the fans are enjoying the music.
I’m a big Matt Barlow fan, I love Ripper Owens, I love a lot of the previous singers. So, I listen to them and I try to do my own thing, and amalgamate everything as one. So, I think that the fans really see that.
We didn’t want to make a crazy, over the top, orchestra album, where there’s 50 part harmonies, choirs going everywhere and stuff like that. We wanted to make a “Balls to the wall” heavy metal album and I think we’ve accomplished it. I think people really like the album, so…Have you accomplished your goal of how exactly you wanted to sound on this album?
Yeah, I think I did. I mean, I set out to be myself but I set out not to disappoint anybody either. So, I think I’ve balanced both of those very evenly, in my respect.
I always listen to the album and of course you always want to change something here and there. But, like any artists out there (sculptor, painter, etc) you have to learn how to step away from that art. That’s what we did with this album. I tried to balance the two and step away.Have you heard any type of criticism so far?
Sure, there are always critics out there. There are always people that say that maybe I try too much to sound like Matt Barlow or Tim Owens. But, it’s tough when I’m a Rob Halford fan, you know what I mean?Besides the album songs, you had to practice and learn many other Iced Earth songs for the tour. How hard was that and which songs were the hardest ones to learn?
“Dante’s Inferno” was tough because there are a lot of lyrics to learn. But, I mean, I was a fan of the band before, so I knew, basically, what I was getting into.
There was a lot to learn. I had my own little rehearsal spot where we would pipe all the instrumental stuff through and I would be singing by myself, practicing, learning all these lyrics and owning each word.
There’s a fine line between learning a song and owning a song, you know? You can mechanically do it or you can really feel the song. I had to get to that point, where it was not mechanical anymore; I had to feel the song. It was a challenge of course, but I’m always up for a challenge, so it wa
s fine.Just before accepting the position as the new Iced Earth’s lead singer, did you have any fears or doubts? Anything that made you think that you maybe shouldn’t accept it?
Well, there’s always fear. If I said to you that no, that I wasn’t fearful or something like that, I would be lying to you.
Yeah, there was fear. There were a lot of things that I had to do. I had to tell Into Eternity [Stu Block’s previous band] that I was going to be with Iced Earth. That was a whole challenge.
And then there was “being away from my fiancée” and things like that. But, that’s what I do for a living and she is a musician too so, she encouraged me to do it. She said: “I will kick your ass if you don’t take this gig”. So, I had a lot of support at home.
Getting to know these new guys, these crew members, these new people… playing in a different level… it’s a little bit scary. But after we’ve recorded the album and I got to know the guys I was fine. And after we played our first few shows, I was fine. So now it’s just business as usual, I’m just doing what I do. I have a lot of support which is really important to me.So… when did it actually hit you: “I am the new Iced Earth’s lead singer”?
It happened when we were recording a music video clip. We were in the US. The whole band was jamming out and I was in the corner because they were doing those band shots [for the video]. And I was like: “Oh my god, this is really happening”. Then, I kind of went in the middle of the guys and kind of yelled from the top of my lungs: “I can’t believe that I’m with you guys”. They all gave me a hug. It was really cool, an awesome brotherhood moment.After North America, you guys will be heading to South America, Australia and China. Any other plans for this year?
There is some stuff that is going to be happening, it’s in the works right now, I can’t really get into it, but I think you guys will be pretty excited when it’s announced.I have to ask: are you excited to go play in Brazil?
Or course I am, of course!! I’m really excited to go to South America because the fans out there are probably some of the most diehard heavy metal fans of the world.What can the fans expect from you guys during the next couple of years? What are your expectations?
Write another kickass record. Tour … more and more and more. You know, Iced Earth hasn’t had a full time touring band in a while, and now we do. It’s a strong unit now. We are all brothers and we all want to be out here touring, and making records and making sure that we are keeping the fans happy and that we are keeping ourselves happy… and healthy…I was going to ask you if you have any last messages to the SOM reader, but I think you just did…!
Health, happiness and heavy metal (laughs)!
I can’t wait to play more shows and embark on new territories that we haven’t been to yet.