I recently got a chance to chat with Iced Earth guitarist and founding member Jon Schaffer and he gave me some incite into the bands future plans and also told me exactly what it takes to maintain the heavy metal lifestyle.

Since the early 90's Iced Earth has been going strong keeping the classic heavy metal sound alive and fresh.  That is thanks in part to the fact that their guitarist Jon Schaffer lives and breaths metal.  He told me that it's not a mindset, it's a way of life.

Right now Iced Earth has a brand new album out called Dystopia and it features new vocalist Stu Block, who is very inspired by the man who crafted the heavy metal vocal, Rob Halford.  Block replaces vocalist Matt Barlow who left the band again in 2011 after rejoining in 2007.  Dytopia is Iced Earth at their best. Unbelievable riffs, monster vocals, ripping heavy metal solos and great imagery to go along with the songs.   Their albums always read like a story and this one is no different. So get ready for another classic from Iced Earth.

Currently Iced Earth is touring Europe, but before they got going I had a chance to chat with Jon Schaffer about what is going on with his band, what it takes to keep the heavy metal sound fresh and what the band has planned for the future.  They might even be hitting the States as part of the Dystopia 2011-2012 World Tour.  Here is what Jon had to say:

BJ: You have done a really good job keeping that classic metal sound alive. What does it take to keep it sounding as fresh as it does album after album?

Jon:  Not being a pussy! For starters, I am metal. It's what I do. Not a fashion, a way of life. It just comes natural. But thanks for the props.

BJ: The new album "Dystopia" is out. Other Iced Earth albums have had concepts and themes to them, "The Dark Saga" based on Spawn, "Horror Show" Inspired by various horror movie icons, and "The Glorious Burden" with it's history theme. Does "Dystopia" have a concept of theme behind it?

Jon:  Yes and no. Some songs are loosely based on the "Something wicked"-storyline and involve Set Abominae. Some songs are based on Dystopian-themed movies. So I would not really call it a concept album but there is a theme to the majority of it.

BJ: What went into the recording of "Dystopia"? Your obviously still the primary song writer, how do the other guys contribute?

Jon:  Stu was more involved than any vocalist thusfar in contributing to his parts which was a big help for me and the other guys always bring in their personalities in their performances.

BJ: This is the first album featuring Stu Block on vocals. Was it difficult finding a replacement for Matt Barlow again?

Jon: No, it wasn't difficult. Stu came in early in the search process and things felt so killer that we knew right away we had found our guy.

BJ: What do Stu's vocals bring to the table? From the sounds of it, he has awesome pipes and is almost a combination of Ripper and Barlow.

Jon:  His vocals just give me a great pallet to paint with. I do not really hear Tim, it really is Halford who influenced Stu and you can obviously hear that. Other than that, it's Iced Earth and there is a certain vocal tone that I am looking for and how we produce singers.

BJ: You guys have always had an impressive live show. I see you are touring all around Europe right now, when can we expect IE back in the states?

Jon:  Late January through March -- announcement coming very soon!

BJ: If Iced Earth could tour with any band, who would it be?

Jon: Iron Maiden

BJ: Who would you say is your greatest influence, if you can name only one.

Jon:  Steve Harris

BJ: Rob Halford of Judas Priest talked about the importance of a heavy metal singer as opposed to a "growler". Iced Earth has always kept that metal singer sound, what are your feelings on the metal growl?

Jon:  I am into melody so the growls don't really work for me as a writer. I have never been interested in those kinds of vocals. I like singers that can sing even though some of it can be cool.

BJ:  "Dystopia" is getting great reviews again. I have listened to it front to back a few times now and love it. What's in the future for you guys?

Jon:  Touring, touring, recording, touring, touring.  Start all over again and repeat.