BW&BK / ICED EARTH - "Controversy" - YOU Be The Judge
May 27, 2004, 16 years ago
In order to uphold the journalist credibility of Brave Words & Bloody
Knuckles, and to put this Iced Earth debacle to rest, we are providing the
full transcript of David Perri's interview with Jon Schaffer. Please decide
for yourself whether the final article (and please accept the fact that it
had to be edited down to fit the permitted word count) was a distortion of
Schaffer's views or not. Click here to join the Brave Board discussion.
The Staff of BW&BK.;
BW&BK;: Since this record is a historical and political record, the magazine decided that this is going to be a political interview. So, all the questions are going to focus around history and politics. I just thought I'd let you know that up-front.
Jon Schaffer: Alright.
JS: And I'll let you know that if it's a question that I don't feel comfortable answering, I'll tell you that.
BW: Yeah, please do. Please do. This record is historical, but is it also a political album?
JS: No. And that seems to be some of the spin of people who try to put their own agendas into what we're doing. I've heard a lot of stuff about this record and it's a record about history. And yes, politics obviously dictate history. And they dictate war. I've heard people say, 'Why you'd do a concept album about the civil war?' Well, why don't you look at the title, dumb ass. That pretty much says it right there: it's not a concept album about the civil war. There's a lot of writing on this album of history that goes back to Attila The Hun against the Roman Empire all the way to Afghanistan and 9/11. It's not a political album.
BW: Did 9/11 act an emotional catalyst for you writing this album?
JS: Yeah, I feel pretty confident of that. My love of history has been with me since I was old enough to read, and my passion for my country and how I feel about the ideals that our founding fathers put into place. What we stand for, as a nation, are things I've always been a very strong believer in. That's nothing new. We've kind of tinkered with it in the past with things like '1776' (note: off of Something Wicked This Way Comes) and 'Ghost Of Freedom' from Horror Show which was dedicated to the veterans. I think to some extent 9/11 had an affect on me as a writer, as an American. I did go through some pretty heavy questioning: I wondered whether I wanted to carry on with this or not. Honestly, if I was just a guitar player, I would not do this. The music business and the losers surrounding it are not fulfilling or gratifying. The only thing that is gratifying is that I'm a song-writer. Because the rest of it can really take a flying fucking leap. I'm just being honest, that's how I feel. There's so much bullshit you have to put up with to be a song-writer. I have to put up with so much shit just to make that happen. There are many times I wonder, 'Is this really worth it?' But I still do it because, let's face it, I can't dance. What else am I going to do? Anyway, when 9/11 happened I was questioning all that stuff. Even during the Horror Show process I knew that was not our best record. And that is was missing something. I was going through a lot of stuff personally and I was just was not as connected as I should have been. I wasn't as intensely passionate about the subject matter that I was writing about. And I take full responsibility for that because it was my idea. And I knew with this record we would have to destroy Horror Show. Because if we put out another Horror Show, then I think it would be the beginning of the end. That was one thing I knew from the time we started mixing the record, that Horror Show was not going to be a fan favorite. I knew way back then that the next one -- whenever it would come -- would have to beat the hell of it. Things were already going through my mind before 9/11 happened. The idea that I was going to have to do something passionate crossed my mind. If you look at the lyrical content and the themes of every Iced Earth song and album, it's all dark fantasy stuff, the sci-fi stuff, the anti-organized religion material. It's pretty much been the same type of stuff for all the records. And I needed to go somewhere else with it. I thought about it, and I said, 'What am I really passionate about in my life? Besides being pissed off at the world and religion and every else. What do I really dig? What do I feel strongly about?' So, my love of history is something that I'm now sharing with people. Before it was a very private thing. Only people really close to me knew how into this stuff I am.
BW: You mentioned that you're a proud American and you're proud of what the founding fathers achieved and the values they embraced. Do you think America still stands up for what the founding fathers proposed?
JS: Yeah, I do. Does that mean we have not made mistakes? No, we have made mistakes. We're human beings and we will make mistakes. But to this do I will stand rock solid by the fact that I know this country has done a hundred times more good for other countries around the world than anybody else ever has. And that's just a fact. The facts speak for themselves. Are we perfect? Hell no. We're human beings and we fuck up like everyone else does. But this is an experiment. And it's an experiment that the founding fathers would be pretty damn happy that it's worked as long as it has. Would everybody agree about everything that's been done? No. That's never going to happen. But we make mistakes and over all we try to make it right.
BW: This next question is controversial so I'm letting you know before we proceed. Some political analysts have articulated the view that what happened on September 11 was justified due to America's presence in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. Some political analysts view it as retaliation for what the US has done in the Middle East in the past. As a Canadian, I'm interested in hearing what you have to say about this view that's been put forth by analysts.
JS: No, it wasn't justified. Not at all. And anybody who says so needs to have their fuckin' head examined.
BW: Do you think 9/11 will be viewed as the first event in the US empire's decline and fall?
JS: No. This is not an empire, first of all. If the United States was an empire, your country would be our 51st state.
BW: I understand.
JS: Let's get real. We don't do that. It's not our thing. Colin Powell did an interview and the interviewer called the United States an empire and used this bullshit fuckin' socialist language and his response was, 'The only land we've ever asked for is enough for the kids who don't come home. In all the countries we've gone and liberated as far back as WWII, the only land we've asked for is for our soldiers that died.' There's an over-whelming amount of jealousy and resentment out there. When you're the leader, everyone comes to you when they need help. But then they shit on you every chance they get. You can never please everybody all the time. No matter what you do. You can try to do the best things, and no matter what someone is out to get you and tear you down. It's in that way in any scale of leadership. I don't care if it's a personal thing or a country or a commander of a battalion. It's human nature, it's unfortunate. But it's the way it is.
BW: As someone who loves history, do you see parallels between the US and the Roman Empire?
JS: The only parallels I see between those two are that if we are not careful we will end up like the Roman Empire and it will be because of a lack of morals. This politically correct stuff in our country is like a cancer. The only thing that can destroy our country is us. Not some fuckin' terrorist piece of shit who is nothing but a complete coward that attacks civilians and then goes and runs and hides in a cave. That kinda shit... they're so far over the edge and brainwashed freaks. Those people can't hurt us. I don't care if we get attacked another twenty times. You can bring on another ten 9/11s. All it's going to do is make us stronger. I love the ideals the US stands for. But I'm not the kind of person who says we're the best country in the world and that we should push everybody around. I think some people misunderstand that. I respect other countries. I go to other countries all the time and I never talk down to the people in those countries when I'm a guest. I don't try to like shove our way of life down other people's throats. And that's not what this record is. If you understood how many people in our country and how many young kids have no fuckin' clue about history and why they have the things they have, it's frustrating to me as someone who has studied this stuff and cares deeply about it. It's kind of a big deal. I don't think anybody has all the answers for all the world's problems. But I believe if you look at the tax burden the American people have for helping so many people around the world, constantly. It's huge. People can't deny that, but it's easy to forget when people want to turn their backs on us.
BW: What's your position on Iraq? Do you think the US was justified in going into that country and doing what it did?
JS: I think the truth is going to be known in the future. And people who are out to spin news in a certain way to make it look like a complete disaster are actually very dangerous people. And I'm not sure what the agenda is. I do believe that the truth will come out in time. Right now, we don't know all the facts. We can't know all the facts, because this is a different kind of war. Some of my best friends are special forces guys out there doing it. That are involved. And I can tell you from reading between the lines and being around these people that there is no doubt in their minds that when everything comes out that we are going to be vindicated on the world stage. And it's just a matter of time. There are going to be a lot of people out there that are going to hate that day because they fuckin' hate us. And they're so jealous of us and so disgusted with us or whatever it is. I do think it's bigger than me, you or any other citizen out there. We don't have the facts. There are people out there who have the information. This is their job, let 'em do it. If we found out those people lied to us, then let them hang for it. But, until all the proof and facts are out on the table, I'm going to stand by the United States of America.
BW: So you don't see the Bush regime as being cultural imperialists? You don't see them as trying to force the American way of life on to a nation that maybe doesn't want it?
JS: No. If you think that's true, then why are 70 or 80 percent of the people are thrilled to have us there. Have you not seen that? And it's not a regime, by the way. You keep up that kind of language I'm going to end the interview right now.
BW: Ok. I understand.
JS: I'm serious.
BW: I'm sorry. It's just my Canadian bias I guess.
JS: Yeah, it is your Canadian bias. I'm sure it is.
BW: Do you think Americans are as free as they think they are?
JS: Um... yeah, I do. In most ways. If you're saying you should be able to drink when you're 16 years old like you can in Germany, is that the kind of freedoms you're talking about?
BW: Well, sometimes Americans believe they're very free, when they're sometimes not. There are a lot of authors, especially a guy like Noam Chomsky, who believes a lot of consent in the US is manufactured by politicians and corporations --
JS: Talk about one of the fuckin' ultra leftist spin doctors of the world, Noam Chomsky. You buy into that crap?
BW: Well, I read a lot of his stuff.
JS: But do you believe it all?
BW: I have a degree in political science, so I believe some of it.
JS: Hmm. Yeah. Well. And how old are you?
BW: I'm 22.
JS: 22 years old? That's a lot of wisdom there! Come on, man. You know where I live? In the real world. When I was 16 years old I was living in abandoned houses and making my way into a career. Building things up from nothing without any kind of... well... socialist system to help me. That made me a very strong, independent person. I'm an independent thinker. Just because I get certain things shoved down my throat, I don't follow. I lead. Y'know what I'm saying? I look at the facts, and I base my opinions on the facts. Not the political rantings of someone like Noam Chomsky. I've got some of his books in my library. I think they're unbelievably over-the-top, like dangerously so. But that's you've got out there.
BW: I guess that's the price of freedom.
JS: Hey, I'm not against it. Anyone can say or think what they want to. I don't have a problem with that. But so do I. I have that right as well.
BW: Moving away from politics, and back to history a little bit. The US was founded as a republic. And in that sense, the US was just supposed to take care of itself and not interfere in global politics. You'll see that even up to WWII. Do you think what the US is doing now contradicts that spirit?
JS: It's an evolving, every-changing world. Y'know? It's like one of those lame arguments: the United States befriended Saddam Hussein back then. Well, we were allies with Josef Stalin in WWII, as well! And you saw that happened with that. History is a constantly flowing, changing thing. You have to do what you have to do during the times. You have to use... well, let's say it... you have to use the bad guys every once in a while. It's the ugly reality of living in a world full of virus beings like humans. The human being is a very fucked up animal. I think we're doing what we have to do as a country to grow. And to survive within the world we live in today. It's becoming more and more a one world kind of thing. You can't be an isolationist country. It was actually Teddy Roosevelt that started being imperialistic as a president. So I think this has gone on even before WWII. Do I agree with everything we've done? No. But I don't agree with everything anyone's done. There isn't a government out there in the world that is free from sin. And there never will be. You know why?
BW: Because we're human.
JS: Exactly, because humans run it. And human beings make mistakes, continuously. All you can do is set standards up and try to live to do the best thing you can. We as people, who make mistakes constantly, have to set a standard to strive to be the best we can. We have to strive to do the right thing. The biggest problem I see with the world is that people are fuckin' liars. They're dishonest with themselves. They lie to themselves on a daily basis because... it's easier. If everyone looked in the mirror and faced the cold, hard ugly truth about themselves then I think the world would be a much better place. But that doesn't happen. And that affects everything from social problems to political stuff to everything goes on. And it's all the human condition. When you look at it like that it's no wonder we have the problems we have in the world.
BW: All of a sudden everyone's a victim, it seems.
JS: And that's bullshit! That's the kind of thing I cannot stand. If you look at certain songs, like 'Valley Forge', on the new album. That's not a positive thing I'm saying about our kids and where their heads are at these days. I think we have become a nation of spoiled-rotten fuckin' brats, and that worries me for the future. There's nothing worse than being an ignorant kid that is spoiled and has no concept of what's going on around the world. Let alone not even knowing what has gone on in their own world to make them who they are. If you don't know the sacrifices and suffering that went into the founding of this country, then how can you possibly appreciate what it is you have?
BW: That's why you get low voter turnout. It's kind of pathetic.
JS: It is. It's really bad. And people who do vote don't even understand the system they're involved in. You look at the Tonight Show where Leno goes out and interviews college students. It's almost like all the kids who out there protesting, it's almost like it's a fashion statement. Instead of really being aware of the facts of the situation, they want to be like the hippies in the '60s. And those people actually had a cause. It's just fucked up being a human being, man. And that's why I want to make it very clear that it's a patriotic album and in some ways about history, but it's not an album intended to shove the American people and spirit down people's throats. If anything, I'd want it to be a wakeup call to some of the kids in this country to try to get smart. To try to get inspired. Because you have teachers who will focus on dates while teaching history, and just memorizing what year something happened in doesn't teach them the humanity or the tragedy of the specific event. So the kids don't get connected. It's a lot easier to draw a kid in and make them want to learn if they can feel the passion or if they can deal with the human aspect.
BW: I've got one more question here.
BW: Do you think the Democrats or a leftist government would do some good in the US? Because, like I said, I'm from Canada and we've always had a left-of-centre government. And we don't seem to have a lot of the problems the US has -- crime and poverty aren't as rampant here. Do you think a leftist government could do something positive for the States?
JS: No. There have been times throughout the history of the country where it's happened. But the whole idea of this country is not to have a government tit. We don't stand for that. There are people who would probably like that, and they should probably move to Canada. I don't want a Big Brother dictating my life. It's a lack of drive. The people who want that stuff are the people who never really got their hands dirty and busted their asses to achieve something. There's a big difference. It's the difference between us and a lot of places. If I live on the streets as a teenager to make my goals a reality or I pay my dues or if I'm a student who's gone to school for 12 years to attain some career and then I get out of school and work my way up through a certain business or whatever, I don't feel like I should be taxed to death to pay for all these government programs that the leftists want. I'm an independent person, the smaller the government the better. Government should not be ruling people's lives. It's bullshit and that's not what we're about. I know the ultra-liberal thing is let's throw a bunch of money at something and that'll fix it. Well, I think the facts prove that's horseshit. The Republicans -- the party of Lincoln -- but in the last 30 or 40 years the black voters have been voting big-time...
JS: Democrat, yeah! But where have the Democrats gotten the blacks? Look at it for what it is. You guys have a whole different way of looking at things up there. That's fine, but it's not our thing.
BW: I understand.
JS: The majority of the people here would rather -- and I'm talking about the doers, not the people who want the hand-outs, or are the victims, or blame all their troubles on others -- don't want government in their lives dictating what they should do. People like me who bust their asses to achieve something and a specific goal, we don't want to be taxed to death. We want to be in control of our lives. And that's the American way. If it's too hard for you, well then leave it. What else can you say? I've never said the United States is an easy place to live. But the reality is that you can come from absolutely nothing and accomplish anything. And that's worth a lot.
BW: I agree. So, that's pretty much it for the interview. I want to thank you for doing this interview because I know how these controversial interviews can sometimes go. But you were really insightful, and that was really cool.
JS: The thing is, you're going to spin this however you want and I have no control over that. That's what most of the guys in the press do. I'll give an interview, and then they'll edit out certain things. It's like CNN, the Communist News Network. You deliver a story a certain way and try to get people to think a certain way. So, it's basically in your hands. You or your editor can make it look however you guys want it to. At the end of the day, I don't really give a fuck what people think. And you're more than welcome to print this. I am who I am. I don't have to answer to anybody. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done to get where I am. I'm an honest guy and I'm a straight shooter. And you can print all that. I won't be judged by another human being, especially some snot-nosed kid who's never had to work a day in his life for anything. You know how it is, man. A lot of people think they are a wealth of knowledge. I have real-world education. I left high school when I was 16, but I graduated from the school of hard knocks.
BW: And you know what? That's valuable. There's a lot of shit you learn on the streets you can't learn in a classroom.
JS: Totally, man! I know several people who were in college for six years and are now making 30 grand a year. It's all about attitude, man. And that's what I love about my country. That I was able to split at 16 and just work towards a specific goal. But, I didn't make excuses either. If I failed, I took responsibility for it, I learned from it and I picked myself up and moved on. It's the people who always say, 'Man, my girlfriend didn't want me to go to practice.' Whatever, I've heard a million excuses. They'll blame it on some other deal. Those are the ones who never make it. It doesn't matter whether it's being in a band or any other goal. Unless you take responsibility for your own actions and you're hard on yourself and you push yourself and you take responsibility for your own actions and you're honest with yourself.
BW: I'm glad you ended it on that note. I'm as proud to be Canadian as you are to be American. Your words speak for themselves, and I don't know how I could spin this story.
JS: Well, that's cool. But the way you asked your questions, you were asking biased questions. Calling our president the Bush regime? That's a tainted thing, dude. That's not like saying, 'How do you feel about President Bush?' Saying 'Bush Regime' is a bullshit way of saying it. That's spin, alright? But you can say it however you want. It's in your hands. You're the one who has to live with it, not me. Because I'm cool with who I am. I'm doing an interview for the DVD tomorrow.
BW: Oh yeah?
JS: Yeah, so the fans can actually hear direct and see me and hear me talking and saying it. And they'll know who I am. They won't have to go through the dickheads at Blabbermouth who take things out of context and spread lies and innuendo.
BW: (chuckles) I understand, man.
JS: The fans will see the real deal with the DVD.
BW: Well, thanks a lot for the interview, I really appreciate it like I said.
JS: You got it, man.
BW: Alright, see you on tour, dude!
JS: See ya! Bye.