Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer Discusses His New Book “Wicked Words and Epic Tales”

Photo Credit: Tim Tronckoe

Iced Earth founder, songwriter, guitarist and producer Jon Schaffer has announced the release of his first ever book, “Wicked Words and Epic Tales”.The book is the debut release from Schaffer and his new publishing company Wicked Tales, LLC and is the first of many original concepts planned for future release by Schaffer. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jon recently about the books creation, the accompanying music and his plans for future releases.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us where the idea/opportunity to do this book came from?

Jon Schaffer: The idea for the book came to me around Christmas of 2019. I was at home with my family and I all of a sudden had this idea to do an anthology of all my lyrics. I have always been a big fan of comic and graphic novel art. It’s actually something I have been doing for years on the Iced Earth album covers. We have so much bad ass art that has been done for us over the years and have made contact with a lot of great artists that I thought I could commission a bunch of new material and put something together for the die-hard fans. I had never really seen anything like what I was thinking of doing but I know that if Steve Harris, Geezer Butler or Roger Waters put out something like this as a fan I jump on it. I ended up deciding to use Kickstarter to get things going because it allowed me to gauge the interest and figure out how many copies to make. After I decided I was going to add new art I thought it might be cool to do some spoken word audio tracks to go along with it. What ended up happening was I decided to create some new music as well. What we ended up with is this something in between an audio book and a soundtrack. I call it a narrative soundscape and that comes as a bonus with the book.

AL: Is this all new musical content?

JS: No. These songs have been written over the course of my career specifically with Iced Earth. I think the oldest song is “Angels Holocaust” which was written around 1991. With the exception of the song “Wolf” all the material is based off of the original compositions. What I did was instead of the album being this loud, ripping heavy metal work I took verses and choruses and turned them into string and keyboard pieces. I did play some guitar but not that much and we programmed in some theatrical drum loops to give things dynamic. For the spoken pieces I really tried to get into character and make things dark an eerie or very emotional depending on what each piece called for.

AL: Will a reader/listener be able to put the music on and have it match up with the book chapters?

JS: It’s broken up a little differently. The book has over 250 pages. The lyrical content alone is well over 100 songs and features lyrics from more than just Iced Earth. The music portion is 15 tracks picked from just my Iced Earth works. If a reader wants to match things up they will just have to go to the index and find the page number for each song to make that happen.

AL: How did you go about selecting the artists who have work featured in the book?

JS: Some of those guys like Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo I have worked with in the past on Iced Earth album art so I knew them. All of the artists who I have worked with through all my projects and career are credited. I worked with an additional 15 new artists specifically for this book. I just started reaching out to people. I reached out to Jim Balent on Instagram and he came on board I then reached out to Jonboy Myers and he was interested. Richard Ortiz did four pieces of art which are killer homage pieces. Roy Young who was in charge of the layout of the book is a guy I met when I was working with Todd McFarland in 1994. Roy has been very instrumental in this. There is tons of great stuff in this book.

AL: We the artists given free reign or did you have specific pieces you wanted each person to do?

JS: I went to each of them with a specific plan. From there the artists will generally take that idea and run with it. If it ends up being something I am not happy with we make edits and changes until it’s where I want it to be. Each artist put their own unique spin on “Set” who is kind of Iced Earth’s mascot. They all had their own interpretation of the character which is something I really loved. You could tell it was Set but the Set character does not have one specific look or logo like Batman or one of those other superheroes. Everyone added their own style which made this part a lot of fun.

AL: The book features two different covers. Does each of the books feature something different that the other does not aside from the alternate cover art?

JS: The books will all be the same on the inside. There are actually four covers in all. Two main covers were done and then did two nude variations of Jim Balent’s cover. Those covers are limited to 100 and 150 copies. The slip case for each book is the same but inside is where you will find all the virgin art aside from the spine which has to include an identifiable marker denoting what the work is. I had a chance recently to see some of the test and it looks amazing! It’s all printed on nice heavy paper with lots of colors. Even the text pages are predominately color.

AL: “Wicked Words and Epic Tales” is the first book to be released via Wicked Tales LLC which you own. Can we be expecting more books from you in the future?

JS: This was my first step in to learning how to self publish. There will be more books however they will not be lyric books. Going forward the timing will depend on what happens with the music business as it relates to what is going on in the world right now. My band is international and I am not sure when or if we will be able to travel freely again. With the members being spread out and living in various places putting together or planning an Iced Earth tour production just can’t happen right now. My plan since 1997 when I first created the “Something Wicked” universe was to always end up being in comics and graphic novels once I retired the band. It’s a killer story with a lot of potential to dive in to so that’s always been my plan. This book was a test and something I started before the world went in to lock down. When that I happened I just continued to work. There will be more things coming out however I don’t have a specific date as it will be after Iced Earth retired. I am getting close to that time but I still want to do one or two more records before that day comes.

AL: If someone did not pre-order the book via Kickstarter will fans still be able to get a copy?

JS: We will have some extra copies available through the Iced Earth merch store. We are in negotiations with Plastic Head who handles our merchandise in Europe about our options. Shipping an item this heavy is quite pricey so we are trying to figure out a way to get to more than just the United States where a majority of the sales have occurred. We hope to have that figured out very soon. In the future we may release a digital and/or trade paperback. There also could be a second printing if the demand is there.

To find out more about “Wicked Words and Epic Tales” click here                  

Book Review “The Avengers Storybook Collection”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Storybook Collection
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Marvel Press
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid. “The Avengers Storybook Collection” is a must have for any parent with young boys or even young fan girls for that matter! There is nothing like getting ready a story filled with heroism, adventure and action just before going to slip. These stories are fun, exciting and feature some of our favorite Marvel superheroes. Even though, my daughter is a little young for this one, she still loves it and already came name every character on the cover!

Official Premise: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon are Earth’s Mightiest Marvels-the Avengers! Join them as they work together to battle against sinister Super Villains such as Ultron, Thanos, the Masters of Evil,and more, to keep the Earth safe. Featuring 20 explosive stories of good vs. evil. Avengers assemble!

Let’s hope that this Storybook Collection is the first of many. There are literally an infinite collection of characters that they can include in future collections. This one has 20 stories included with all of the favorites like Iron Man and Captain America but I would love to be able to introduce my daughter to some of the lesser known characters as well. They could even do a female superhero only book OOHHHH OOHHHH or even better a villains only book. Who wouldn’t want to read a new story featuring everyone’s favorite Avenger villain, Loki! Fingers crossed!

Iced Earth’s Stu Block talks about new album “Something Wicked”

Stu Block is the lead singer of the heavy metal band Iced Earth. The group is set to release their 11th studio album via Century Media titled “Plagues of Babylon” in January and will be hitting the roads here in the States starting in April. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Stu about the creation of the new album, its guest performers and how it fits in to the “Something Wicked” saga, An ongoing story spanning the groups last few albums.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the new album?
Stu Block: This album is a pretty dark and heavy album. The first half has sort of a concept that follows a zombie apocalypse type story while the other half of the album features more standalone songs. It kind of reminds me of an old Rush record where you get half concept and half standalone material. There is something for everybody on this record and it takes the listener on an emotional rollercoaster. We are really proud of this record.

AL: Where does the concept portion of the new record fit in with the “Something Wicked” saga?
SB: That really is those first six songs. You can take any period in time or history and apply it to the “Something Wicked” universe. This is something people can really read in to and we are very aware of that.

AL: Did the 3 year gap between this album and the previous affect the creative process at all?
SB: No not at all. Our creative process has always been the same. Jon and I have good creativity together and we both had input towards the record. Jon keeps his big toe on this type of thing because there is a standard for Iced Earth records and he is the man with the vision. Both this album and the previous one are really great heavy metal albums that were very proud of.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest appearances on the album?
SB: The song “Highwayman” was an awesome thing to do and it was really a lot of fun. We were able to do that song with some of our best friends. Russell Allen is a vocalist who I have looked up to for many years and we became friends through touring together so that brotherhood was something that was already in place. We also had Michael Poulsen of Volbeat who we just finished a tour with and have all become friends with. This song was sort of a brain child of Jon’s and it’s been a song he has been mentioning wanting to cover for a few years now. Everything worked to where we could finally get it done and it turned out great. I think this song shows the uniqueness of everyone’s voice. We also had Hansi Kursch from the band Blind Guardian and Demons and Wizards sing on a track as well. He and Jon have been friends for a really long time and for me it was an honor to get to sing along side of him. Hansi is a really great guy to be around.

AL: The album is going to be released in a number of different formats. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
SB: I know the album has been mastered in a couple different formats. One of those will be a vinyl format with no compression. I can’t wait to hear that version as I hear it sounds amazing. These different mixes are something that people will really enjoy. There is a mix for people who listen to their music on ear buds and there is a mix for people with high end stereos and then the vinyl format as well. There is a box set that is going to be available also which includes an hour long DVD and some other really cool things that I think fans will like.

AL: Can you tell us about the tour which was announced recently?
SB: This tour is going to be a long one. We are currently rehearsing for the tour as we speak. We start in January over in Europe and from there head to Australia and New Zealand. From there I believe we will be hitting Canada and the United States before heading down to South America. For all the dates fans can go to www.icedearth.com .

AL: You mentioned that you are rehearsing for the tour as we speak. How does the band go about selecting which songs will make it into the set list?
SB: It’s funny that you ask that because this last set was something that came out of our tour with Volbeat. Michael is such a big fan that towards the end of the tour he handed Jon a list of songs he wanted us to do on the next tour. I think the list had almost 40 songs on it. We narrowed it down to around 20 or 25 with some of them being songs we have done before and some of them we hadn’t done before. The set list for this upcoming tour kind of came from Michael. (Laughs) Generally Jon and Luke our bass player put the set lists together and if there is a song I want to do that gets throw in as well. I am excited as there is some really cool stuff we are going to be doing on this run.