For this month we landed an interview with the one and only Matt Barlow! He does not do many interviews, so we’re highly honored he took the time to speak with us. Most of you will know him as the ex-frontman of Iced Earth, but he’s since moved on with his own project: Ashes of Ares.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! many of our readers will not be aware of your most recent projects after leaving Iced Earth. Would you mind if we ask a few questions to document your journey from then to now?
It would be my pleasure. Thanks for asking.
How do you look back on your time with Iced Earth? What are your favourite memories from that time?
I look back with a great sense of accomplishment. I am grateful for the time I had with so many great musicians and fans.
Around 9/11 you already thought about leaving the band but you were convinced to stay. What was your mindset and worldview at that moment in time?
I don’t really know what my worldview was, but I was really focused on the future with my wife and family. Like most folks at that time, I looked at life as a very delicate and finite thing. I wanted to be sure that everything that my wife and I planned for came to fruition.
We can still hear you on the backing vocals of The Glorious Burden; what made you decide to not record the main vocals, or use the recordings of your main vocals? Do you ever regret it?
Actually, I recorded the whole record. I don’t think that my performance was as good as Tim recorded, neither did Jon… obviously. I am still really glad that I was a part of the project, though.
What was it, that you could not achieve while being in the spotlight of Iced Earth, that made you step back in 2003? And more importantly, did you find / achieve what you were looking for?
Well… that’s a whole lot to get into, but mainly I couldn’t afford to have a family. Not sure if everybody knows this, but its tough being a musician and paying the bills. I thought that if I could make a living for my family and do something to help my fellow man, that would be awesome. I’m proud that I can do both.
Was it hard making the change to a more regular life? What made you decide on a career in law enforcement?
It really wasn’t that difficult. I wasn’t ever a boy scout (I only made it through cub scout), but I always tried to be a good person. That’s the most important thing, I think. Be a good person and you can go a long way.
We have probably all seen the video of you in uniform singing the national anthem. Somehow the music found its way back into your life, maybe it never really left? What really triggered your return?
Music doesn’t ever leave me. When it does, I will stop doing it.
You spent a short time fronting the band Pyramaze, which was your return to music after a long break. What can you tell us about that period?
It was really great to work on music with another band that had different ideas and a different sound. I was given more room to work melodies and vocal lines the way that I wanted to hear them. It was a nice change of pace, and I was really happy with the outcome.
Everything you do gets your signature sound, but how big was your creative role on the Pyramaze album Immortal?
I was able to create all of the vocal melodies and contributed to some of the lyrics. It was really great.
After your Pyramaze adventure, in 2007 you re-joined Iced Earth for a while and even recorded an album together, The Crucible of Man. How was it to be back in that band?
It was cool doing that record, as well. A lot of the music and the lyrics were already written when I got back with IE so it went really quickly. It would have been cool to have a little more time working on the stuff with Jon, but IE was really up against the clock to deliver the record. I think that the record is still really solid.
What made you leave Iced Earth once more in 2011?
Money. Look, money makes the world go around, especially the music world. There is very little money in recording music anymore. Bands have to tour A LOT to keep things going. Jon asked me to stay on full time so that IE could keep going. I had to decline because there is very little security in being a musician. I have a responsibility to my family… that’s just how it is.
What do you think about your successors Tim Owen and Stu Block? They had big shoes to fill. Did they do it well, in your opinion?
I think both of them are great. I don’t really know Stu very well personally, but he does a really good job for IE. Tim is a great talent and a great person. I think that he would give anybody the shirt off his back if they were in need.
When you founded Ashes Of Ares in 2012, what did you set out to do? Did you succeed in achieving that or is there chance of achieving it in the near future?
We just set out to make good METAL music. Mission accomplished!
Where Iced Earth seems to be more of a Schaffer project, can we assume that Ashes of Ares is more of a collaboration of souls and experience between you, Vidales, and Williams?
Yes, it is! That has been our plan from the beginning. Hopefully that approach will keep things fresh and evolving.
The lyrics of Ashes of Ares seem to have a strong message in them, more than ever sung by you before. They sound more religious, but also more mature. Can you tell us more about them?
Well, I tried to keep things open to interpretation. I never want people to think that I am preaching to them with my lyrics. That is never my intent. I want to give folks different perspectives. There is quite a bit of duality in the lyrics.
My absolute favourite track of your Ashes of Ares debut album is “Punishment”. With an opening line like “For the innocent I have risen,” might that point to your law enforcement career?
Not…really. No, the punisher is a great comic character, but he is all about “punishment”, not justice.
I would not have figured you for a comics guy! Awesome.
The album shows many similarities to your work with Iced Earth. It has the same feel. More so than your other projects. Did you miss that particular sound? Is that sound really you, or were there other factors?
I think that it was just what came out during the writing process. I didn’t really have a “choice”. I was just kind of driven in that direction by the music.
What can we expect where it comes to future releases, and when can we expect them?
We have been writing and recording stuff. What we have so far is pretty different from the first release. We just want to create things that we are happy with, so that the folks will feel that sense of our accomplishment. That’s really important to me.
How do you balance your personal life, your law enforcement career, the First State Force Band, and your rock star status these days?
Family always comes first. That’s where it always has to start. If your family life is healthy, anything is possible. My wife is awesome and extremely supportive of my career and my love for music. My boys are extremely supportive of the videogame industry. It all works out.
Everybody has a period in his life where he struggles, or is looking for his true self. Seems like you had that period before Ashes of Ares. Are you a happy man these days?
Extremely! I feel very fortunate. I can’t say that enough…very fortunate!
What will 2016 look like for you?
We hope to have a new release for everybody later this year. We are working on it.
Can we catch you live anywhere in the near future? Any big festivals planned or a European tour perhaps?
We hope to get back out on the road for some more live performances, as well. We love to play for the folks, and we look forward to seeing everyone out on the road!
Any last words for our readers?
I’d like to thank every one of our people who have bought Ashes of Ares records and merchandise. All of those purchases go to keeping this band alive. AoA and every single metal band out there need your support to keep our art alive… Thank You!!!
Thank you for your time and the great answers Matt!
Metal On Loud!