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INTERVIEW: Stu Block of Iced Earth, January 2014

| 13 January 2014


I was recently afforded the opportunity to speak to the voice behind Iced Earth – Stu Block.  You never know what to expect from these crazy metal guys when you start talking to them.  Your mind wanders briefly before the interview starts… Is this guy going to be “on” or is he going to be Stu, the guy who happens to front a great metal band?  Is he going to spew uncontrollably about himself or graciously discuss the new disc, band, tour, etc.?  Luckily, I got the latter in both scenarios – this was a pleasant conversation.  It never really felt like an interview, as we just talked our way through everything…

Toddstar: Hey Stu. How are you? I really want to thank you for taking time out for us. We really appreciate it.

Stu: No problem man.

Toddstar: Let’s bust into this man. Plagues of Babylon we’re still a little over a month away before this is unleashed on the public. What’s the initial feedback like?

Stu: Seriously pretty positive actually. Media, well you never know whoever’s blowing smoke up our ass, right? It’s usually just the media we’re talking to right now, but it seems to be pretty positive so I’m excited to see what … There’s been some … We have some pretty close friends that are also fans and stuff. The reason they are our friends is because you know, they don’t blow smoke up our ass and they give it to us straight. If something sucks they’ll tell us kind of thing. It seems to be really positive so we’re excited.

Toddstar: Cool. I’m at a disadvantage because unlike most Iced Earth fans I’m not an old schooler. I actually jumped on board the same time you did with Dystopia.

Stu: Oh yeah?

Toddstar: I’ve since gone back and looked, but these two albums, this and Dystopia stand out in my mind as quintessential albums only because of the sound. What can you tell me about Plagues of Babylon from a song writing or production standpoint that differed where you guys said “Nope. Let’s do this different. Let’s create a different beast then Dystopia” without destroying what you built with that album?

Stu: I know with Dystopia obviously it was my first album with Iced Earth and also basically if John wanted to get a little like … I mean he wanted to go a little less epic with everything. He wanted to bring it back to the roots of Iced Earth which is what we did with Dystopia. We did the same kind of formula with Plagues of Babylon, but John and I have a good writing chemistry together so that really helps a lot. That’s a cool thing. As far as Dystopia, again like I said it was my first album with them so it was a learning curve for me. Now this album John fully … like the last album we did with Jim Morris from Morris Sound Studios in Tampa. This time we actually did it in Germany and John fully produced the album and just had an engineer and stuff like that. There are a few subtle their differences throughout each album, but I think we’ve got through to the sound and what we want to come across and what the vision was.

Toddstar: Sure. One thing that I really like about this album is you can tell that you have a wide range of influences because some of my favorite songs are actually some of the lower key songs that really allow you to fly. I love “If I Could See You,” “Spirit of the Times.” Were these conscious efforts on your behalf when you guys were writing and then when you were recording? Actually not often do you let the vocalist kind of spread his wings. Normally he’s just the driver of the bus. They seemed to really give you ground to run. Was that something that was kind of thought of when you guys were writing and putting these together?


Stu: I think he always, ever since I came into the band he’s always given my ground to run. There wasn’t a real conscious effort for the lower registered stuff on this album. A lot of people are … I mean the one complaint that I am hearing a lot of is how come there isn’t the Halford stuff that you did that you can do and stuff like that. It’s because I don’t really … it wasn’t a conscious … the music speaks to me in a way that only I can understand, right? When I write a vocal melody or a vocal line I write it the way it speaks to me and on this album spoke to me the way it is. It’s like you said “If I Could See You” and “Spirit of the Times” that was a great Sons Of Liberty cover that we did. I’m really happy about that vocal. I like the way I approached it and it’s something that I was trying. Of course you’re always trying new things out and John is very open minded for us to do different things like that also. I think me singing in that voice kind of brings a new element of my style out and all that kind of stuff. We thought it was a really cool way to showcase a different style of vocal and also just it’s the way it came out and the way that we felt that it fit the music and it fit everything correctly.

Toddstar: I mentioned a few that I really dig. Are there any songs looking back that really just rise to the top for you personally as far as how they represent you and where you’re at?

Stu: Definitely, definitely “If I Can See You” and definitely “Cthulhu.” There are so many great songs on this album that it’s tough for me to say which songs are my favorite and which really represent me because every song that I contributed to had some of me. Those are the two songs that definitely stick out for me. I like “The Culling.” It’s a great song too. The list goes on.

Toddstar: Sure. Now looking back when it came to writing these and putting vocal lines and melody lines down, were there any songs that just fought you tooth and nail that you just couldn’t get out the way you wanted to?

Stu: I think “Parasite” was one. It was either “Parasite” or The End?. I can’t remember which one, but it was one of those ones. There were some moments there.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about you for a minute. Who made you want to pick up a microphone and do this?

Stu: Man, geez. Well you see the funny thing is … see I had an older sister and she was always into music and stuff like that. She started singing. I think there was some encouragement there too. Having an older sister that was a singer also. She’s an amazing pop singer. The other thing is like I think sort of, it was just in us to perform and be in front of people. I think I was encouraged … Man I can’t even remember the first time when … I know I was young, I was encouraged to do something do some singing and then the next thing I knew I was singing in front of my school when I was a young kid. My music teacher saw something and just sort of got involved in school choirs and all that kind of stuff. Did the drama thing and was in some school plays and all that jazz and all that kind of stuff. Basically I’ve always been surrounded by music. I’ve always wanted to perform, but I think as far as artists that really influenced me to become a front man and all that kind of stuff, I grew up with Genesis and stuff like that. My dad played Genesis, a lot of Beatles. There was that. Vocally that was also something that was dominant. As far as front men and really getting out there and being, Freddy Mercury was an amazing front man. Then also as soon as I got into metal it was definitely Pierce Dickinson and Halford. Geoff Tate in his prime. All that kind of stuff. Bobby from Overkill. There’s some really great front men out there. Ozzy Osborne, the list goes on. It was sort of a building process.

Toddstar: Sure. Having listed a lot of those off, looking back in time, if you could go back and be part of a recording session of any album through the history of time, what would it be?

Stu: To be part of it? Like in what way?

Toddstar: Any way. You could have written on it. You could perform. You could just be sitting in the room experiencing it.


Stu: Damn. I would … I would have to say I think the recording and writing sessions of Rush’s 2112 album. That would be pretty cool.

Toddstar: That’s a great …

Stu: It’d be pretty amazing because props to my Canadian brothers and their amazing band. Definitely another one of the bands that influenced me to try and be a musician to something in the music industry. That’s definitely one thing for sure that would have been a fun time. Then if I was ever to write, what was it, if I was ever to be a cowriter of a song… it would be a hit song maybe like Jesse’s Girl or something like that because it made millions. I’d probably be a lot more comfortable now. [Laughing]

Toddstar: [Laughing]

Stu: No. I’m joking.

Toddstar: That’s funny. I was working late in my office last night and I actually pulled the record out. It’s just one of those tasty tidbits from us all growing up that we remember.

Stu: I don’t know man. Definitely writing and recording sessions of Rush are probably would be pretty amazing to see. There’s a whole bunch of great bands out there.

Toddstar: You speak of Canadian and I’m not too far off. I’m talking to you from Detroit. Listen, you’ve guys are heading out on tour soon. You’ve got a big European tour coming up through January and February and then you’re going to grace us here in the U.S. from April to May. When it comes to going out on the road what don’t you leave home without?

Stu: What don’t I leave home without? A beard trimmer. [Laughing]

Toddstar: [Laughing]

Stu: Definitely a beard trimmer and the toothbrush. Beard trimmer and toothbrush. Was it just limited to one item?

Toddstar: No man. Whatever. Everything.

Stu: You know what the essentials for me, definitely beard trimmer, toothbrush and toothpaste of course. I need a hairbrush for my long locks and clean underwear. I’m good to go. I’m good to go. Well of course you need your passport too or else you can’t travel anywhere.

Toddstar: Sure.

Stu: That’s one of those things that you need. If I have those … And hair ties. Hair ties too. You need those or else your hair just becomes unmanageable and all that crap. The list goes on really.

Toddstar: Sure. A lot of guys tell me their iPod or their iPhone, but if somebody was to go through your iPod or your CD collection or your record collection what one disk would most of your fans be absolutely shocked to know that you own or that you listen to on a regular basis?

IcedEarthLogo [Converted]

Stu: Wow. Actually I’m listening to a band called Mumford and Sons right now. They’re an amazing band from the U.K. They sort of have a folky, Celtic kind of thing going on in vane of the Pogues and sort of like Dropkick Murphys kind of thing. It’s an amazing band. Great vocal harmonies, really meaningful lyrics so that you’re like wow. They’re pretty out there for … I’m the metal head guy, right?  I listen to all sorts of stuff too. I listen to all sorts of music. I listen to lots country. I listen to normal rock, soft rock, heavy rock. I listen to crooners, all that kind of stuff. Classical music. As long as it’s good man I’ll listen to it.

Toddstar: Cool. Listen I know you’re a busy man so I’ve got one more for you.

Stu: All right.

Toddstar: At this point in your life Stu you’re in a huge band. You’re touring. You’re going out to Europe and coming back to the U.S. You are going out there with some the big bands of today and with everything that you’ve accomplished, at this point what for Stu is the meaning of life?

Stu: What for me is the meaning of life? Wow. For me the meaning of life I’m hoping to obviously have a nice, long, healthy career with Iced Earth as far as my musical career life goes. Personally as long as I have my health and my wonderful family by my side and as long as everyone’s healthy because if you don’t have your health man, you have nothing so as long as everyone’s healthy around me and smiling and living life I think it’s a good day.

Toddstar: Awesome. I couldn’t agree with you more on the second piece of that.

Stu: As long as you can feel the sun beat against your face everyday man, you know it’s a good day. No matter how bad the day was you know?

Toddstar: That’s true. Listen January 21 this thing’s going to tear everybody up when this hits the market, Plagues of Babylon.

Stu: Hoping.

Toddstar: Again, I personally can’t wait until April 12th when you guys set foot in Detroit, but you have the big Euro tour coming, the big U.S. tour coming, and we wish you nothing but the best with the tours and with this album dropping. I’ll make sure I make my way to say hello when you guys hit Detroit.

Stu: Amazing man. I love Detroit. I’ve always had a great time there and I love the spirit of the fans there too man. I’ve spent a lot of time there even before I served so … very, very cool place so I can’t wait to come back.

Toddstar: Awesome. We will see you then and until then, safe travels.

Stu: All right brother. Take care of yourself.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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