Interview with Jon Schaffer of
DEMONS AND WIZARDS
(and, of course, ICED EARTH)
CRITICALTOM: On Touched by a Crimson King, as well as The Glorious Burden, your music sounds fresh and energized. Do you feel that these two albums are a cut above some of your earlier music? Have you experienced a renewed sense of creativity?
SCHAFFER: I definitely think that way about The Glorious Burden. It often depends on what’s going on in my life at the time. Crimson King is another step in the Demons and Wizards
I’m fired up more than ever since the birth of my daughter. It’s like I have a renewed sense of purpose. Towards the end of last year I was getting kind of burned out from overwork, but since her birth I feel renewed and energized. Even though I’m getting close to forty years old I feel like I’m more fired up than ever.
CRITICALTOM: I assume that working with a different singer and different musicians also adds to the creative juices.
SCHAFFER: Not so much. As far as creativity, I have complete creative freedom. I don’t really care about the rock star image and such. I just enjoy making music. I am a songwriter at heart. Iced Earth exists as a vehicle for my music.
Demons and Wizards is more of a partnership for me. With Hansi it is more 50/50 because he understands all the business details as well as being an excellent musician and writer. So with Demons I don’t have to carry the whole burden myself. Musically he writes the vocal lines and stuff, so I don’t have to create all that like I do for Iced Earth.
Hansi is a very charismatic person and we’ve been great friends for fifteen years. We were best friends before we even did the first album. I just had a daughter and he has a small son; we’ve already talked about our kids’ wedding.
When we started this thing we decided that if it got really big we wouldn’t ignore that. But we did it for fun and did not expect it to be as successful as it became.
CRITICALTOM: Which is easier, writing a concept album or writing ten new songs?
SCHAFFER: It depends. Probably songs tend to be easier. When you do a concept you have to think about what kind of music sets the mood for your words and so on.
CRITICALTOM: What comes first, music or lyrics?
SCHAFFER: For me it works either way. Typically when I work by myself—a lot of times I’ll start with a title or theme. Other times I’ll be jamming and something will hit met. At times like that I have to work fast not to lose the idea. I don’t write well unless I am in the right frame of mind. So when I go out on tour I do not write. I become a completely different person . . .
CRITICALTOM: Did Hansi write all the lyrics for this album?
SCHAFFER: I wrote some, but he writes most of them. He’ll come up with a theme once he’s heard the music. Mostly I check the grammar. I did write lyrics for two songs, “Spatial Architects” and “Lunar Lament,” which are on the bonus disc, along with and an edited version of “Beneath these Waves” and a slower version of “Wicked Witch.” The slower version of “Wicked Witch” happened by accident, but we thought it was cool and included it on the bonus disc.
CRITICALTOM: Are these songs just stories or do some of them have a message?
SCHAFFER: There’s three songs that are connected: “Crimson King,” “Terror Train,” and “Gunslinger” are from the Stephen King series, The Dark Tower. “Beneath these Waves” is from Moby Dick, “Down Where I Am” about a child who was born with Downs Syndrome. It talks about the struggle the father has when he learns of it. It’s pretty emotional. “Sieze the Day” is sort of a Lord of the Rings type song. You can imagine Frodo and Sam out on their adventures.
CRITICALTOM: Do you have a favorite song on this album? What about Hansi?
It changes. I just got back from
CRITICALTOM: Will you guys be able to put together a tour?
SCHAFFER: We don’t know yet?
CRITICALTOM: Have you guys even thought about the possibility of a third album?
Jon also mentioned that he is beginning work on the next Iced Earth album and that Hansi and Blind Guardian are now working on pre-production for their next album. The next Iced Earth album, he explained, will be the continuation of the story line from Something Wicked. I also had to ask about Tim “Ripper” Owens. My fear was that he was just a fill-in vocalist. Jon says that Ripper is a member of the band and will definitely be on the next album.