This man needs little introduction, with a career which has spanned over a quarter century, in such renowned outfits as Iced Earth, Demons & Wizards and Sons of Liberty, he has created some of the most remarkable albums in the history of Heavy Metal.
Passionate and outspoken in everything he does, he is someone who can easily stir people's emotions with both his music and words.
And, only a few months after the release of Iced Earth's tremendous metal oeuvre "Dystopia", Sons of Liberty launching the "Spirit Of The Times" EP in December and now, mere days away from the most extensive world tour in Iced Earth's history (dates and tickets here), he was incredibly gracious enough to slip away from his extremely hectic schedule to speak with me.
To say I thoroughly enjoyed the thought provoking conversation we had is an understatement, I wish both him and the band well as they venture out to reconquer the world!
ThrashHead:I wanted to go back a little to the beginning before you became the rock legend that you are now. Everybody knows that when you were at a young age you took off from Indiana to Florida in search of becoming a rock n roll musician and I just wanted to know, what was the lure of rock n roll to you which made you just go for it?
Jon: You know, I became a music fan at a very, very young age, I got Kiss "Alive" the day it was released, I was seven years old and then I got to see them live, which was 1979, when I got to see the show it was really a life changing event; that's when I decided that's what I wanted to do.
It took me several years to get a guitar, to convince my dad and then, about that time, I also discovered Iron Maiden and I knew for sure that was the direction that I musically wanted to go because I was just blown away by the songwriting, the tempo changes, just everything, the cool theatrics of Iron Maiden and all that, the speed and everything, it was a big deal.
I was an artist as a little kid, I would do a lot of painting and charcoal sketches and have always been very artistic; when I turned to music all my energy went that way.
ThrashHead: Before this amazing journey even began, did you ever think you were destined to become one of the greatest musicians in metal history, in a band which can be considered right up there with Iron Maiden, when people speak of Iced Earth, you are in the same level as Iron Maiden, perhaps even more so considering this latest album of yours sticks so true to the essence of what is Iced Earth...did you ever imagine you'd be where you are now?
Jon: No man, not really, of course we had big dreams, and that's quite a compliment to say that, we're a much smaller band than Iron Maiden, but I know we have a very loyal, rabid fan base that is as equally loyal as the Maiden fans are and Kiss fans. In that regard, we feel very fortunate, but I didn't really...I have had blinders on for most of my life, constantly moving forward, it wasn't until really the last few years that I was able to take a step back and look at my career and actually be proud of what I've achieved with it and realize, putting it into perspective, how far I've actually come even though we didn't get as big as we wanted it to be.
But, there is always a lot of factors involved in that and that's the thing, I think, a lot of people don't really understand, especially fans, because, fans base their ideas about a band largely on the illusion of a band and not what the real workings of a band are...there's so many factors that have to fall into place in order to make things happen; everything from your road crew, to your management team, booking agents, your publicist, all these people that surround the band that nobody ever really sees have a lot to do with the whole machine moving forward. We have had a lot of issues in the past, so right now things are... the chemistry within the band is the best it's ever been, the crew around us, fairly new manager been around for three years, these things make a difference, and everything is really moving....I am not going to say perfectly, but it's moving in the right direction, so we're excited, it's a great time for Iced Earth.
ThrashHead: I think perhaps also why Maiden is still so huge, flying around in their own jumbo jet, is they came out at a time before we were saturated with music, labels just churning out digital release after digital release to see what sticks; bands were putting their best out and only the best survived. Maiden has almost decade on Iced Earth, when comparing both band's first releases, that's a lot of time.
Maybe today, a lot of great music gets lost in the inundation of crap and hype. Hypothetically, if Iced Earth had released an album in 1980 the band could have been much bigger, on equal par, it was a much better time than the decade which followed... the 90's were tough years for metal; and there is little doubt that you guys were probably the best, if not one of the best, bands to come out then...
Jon: It was definitely an uphill battle you're right about that.
ThrashHead: This latest release, how did you come to call it Dystopia, it's such an appropriate name for our time.
Jon: Yeah, seeing where the world is headed is pretty disturbing, and the things that our governments are up to, all the governments around the world. There is some really bad shit going on and when you really start to analyze and learn about it, it's clear that if we aren't living in Dystopia already, we're damn close; it's just around the corner... it's people, good people will raise up and stop this shit.
You know, the wars, the out of control spending; it's the debt slaves they've made us...it's really kind of out of control, there's some dark stuff going on. But you know, I wanted to make sure that the whole album wasn't doom and gloom and we put out a message of hope on the album that inspire people, to feel empowered because people have power, the system wants people to feel helpless and lost and weak and we're not, every individual has an incredible amount of strength and that's what songs like "Anthem" and "Iron Will" , "Tragedy and Triumph" are about...that's what we're trying to convey...
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I believe that, underneath all the really heavy, heavy bad stuff that's going on, there is something bubbling that's going to come up and become pissed off and motivated enough to get involved. Is it going to be easy? Hell no, there is a hell of a struggle ahead of us.
ThrashHead: Let's talk about that, for a second, when was the moment when you truly woke up to the sociopolitical realities of the world? Do you remember the defining moment when the light just came on and you realized that both Generals Butler (War is a Racket) and Eisenhower's words were prophetic?
Jon: Yeah, it was when I finally took a vacation back in 2009 when I desperately needed it, I had never really taken a vacation; I took a month off, no computer, no cel phone, no contact with anybody but my family and it really was a big deal, it helped me re-connect. When I came back, I saw the MIAC reports and I was like: "What the fuck is this?"; it was a document from the Missouri Information Analysis Center which was basically saying that the federal government considers gun owners, ex-military, Christians, conservatives, libertarians, anti-war activists, Ron Paul supporters, Chuck Baldwin supporters; saying that these were potential terrorists by the federal government, I am like "What the fuck is going on here?!? This is really disturbing ". And to find out it was drafted under Bush and leaked under Obama, and I was like "Ok... yeah"; I was already pissed off about the bail out when I started reading a book called "The Creature from Jekyll Island "...
ThrashHead: That's the book by G. Edward Griffin right?
Jon: Yes, G. Edward Griffin, I'd say that was the moment and watching the "Obama Deception", which is one of Alex Jones' documentaries, it all kind of hit me like a ton of bricks, and this whole thing that I believed in...you know, because I've always been trapped in the American Revolution and the Civil War period, that's what I've been studying for most of my life. You walk around thinking that the Bill of Rights is still in effect...I didn't like the Patriot Act, I didn't like where a lot of things were going, but you really don't know until you get that knowledge about what the Federal Reserve system is and it all starts to make sense, it was devastating...at first.
Then Sons Of Liberty was a way to release that anger, I did that solo album and released it on the Alex Jones show, went down and met him and that was it; I was basically from that moment forward committed to this one thousand percent.
ThrashHead: To still exercise your first amendment freedoms while we have them then.
Jon: Yes, exactly.
ThrashHead: That's excellent, because it's absolutely necessary to question.
Why do you think people confuse patriotism with being faithful to a government rather than the Bill of Rights and that criticism of American government is unpatriotic?
Jon: Well, I think that's because there is such an intense level of propaganda and that people use the television as a weapon while others spend far too much time sitting in front of them being brainwashed and manipulated; you can't trust any of the corporate media, they are all fucking media whores they're not going to ever cover anything real, they spend time talking about who Brittney Spears is fucking or whatever, it's ridiculous, it's just a circus. Meanwhile, people are getting robbed, raped and the things which really matter are being destroyed; this is real shit that is happening and people are in a spell, the American people are largely walking around, whether it's a mixture from the effects of vaccines, all the pharmaceuticals, all the brainwashing on television, people have become so completely unhinged from reality and from their humanity that this thing, this beast, has been allowed to grow and grow and grow in the shadows and now it's emerging.
ThrashHead: Yeah, a recent article I did for ThrashHead touched on something similar to that; the United States is on the same road as previous empires where people became too comfortable, for us in our consumerism... most aren't really willing to take a stand for their rights and risk that "comfort".
Speaking of the media, I've always said that you really have to look at all media whether it's RT (Russian State controlled TV), videos from which people love to use on their social media pages to criticize the government, a hard rightwing, conservative propaganda machine like FOX or CNN for the yuppies who wish they had a soul or MSNBC which is just catering to the opposite of FOX for market share, in order to get that one tiny grain of Truth...
... why do you think there aren't the likes of investigative journalist like Seymour Hersh, who broke the story on CIA Operation Chaos which lead to the Church Committee and the outing of MKULTRA, etc Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward in mainstream Media anymore? I mean the tabloid journalist who blew the whistle on phone hacking by News Corp in England, Sean Hoare, died and, at first, they called it a suicide, all media across the board didn't even blink an eye, to me it's like: "wait a minute, this guy is working with the biggest propaganda machine which essentially enabled the coup d'tat in 2000 simply kills himself while the investigation is underway? If that doesn't sound like a black op..." I would at least take the time to ask questions, but no one bothered...why do we lack this type of journalism?
Jon: Well, I think it's because everything is so corrupt and so controlled, the agenda is moving forward just the way the manipulators want it to.
Of course, anytime this kind of activity goes on, a vacuum is created and somebody is going to fill that vacuum, so now you got Luke Rudkowski and Alex Jones, whether you like his style or not that's one thing, but the information that he's putting out there is good for people to hear; whether they like to hear it or not is another matter.
There are a lot of guys who are coming up that see...like Jack Blood down in Texas, he's great, there's a lot of that, there's guys like me doing music, guys doing independent films and documentaries, because we realize once you see this for what it is... it's nefarious.
I don't care enough about materialism to be calmed like that, I think why a lot of these people in the media, these Bill O'Reillys, these kind of guys are just whores and they'll sell their souls for a Dollar and it doesn't have anything to do with integrity or journalism or anything...it's just the false reality maker. I agree with you there, that on the whole...but, someone like Judge Napolitano kicks ass, he's like the only person who talks that I trust; I've done an interview with him and he knows what's going on, he's the real deal... I'm surprised he's actually got a job.
It's probably the most evil of all the media machines because it is the conservative type of people who would stand up and resist if they could just snap out of their trance and FOX manipulates that conservative base into being war mongering, it's just a welfare/warfare state, I mean you got these supposed conservatives out there spending trillions of dollars for war...it's ridiculous, the whole thing is a fucking disgrace.
ThrashHead: Absolutely! The Patriot Act was passed, which was a complete travesty trampling on the Bill of Rights , and recently our President Barack "make no mistake" Obama vowed that he was going to veto the NDAA which could have been easily done since it's a Republican controlled congress; he could have sent it back and washed his hands of the whole things and said "Don't blame me if your civil liberties disappear", but he signed it anyway.
What are your thoughts about this National Defense Authorization Act?
Jon: It's treason, this whole gang of criminals with the exception of Ron Paul, he's the only guy I trust, I mean there are a couple good people in Congress, but not that many.. obviously; it's treason, that's the way I view it. I think politicians in Congress are largely all treasonous, traitorous pieces of shit. I know that's harsh rhetoric, but I'm sick of it, tired of this shit.
ThrashHead: You said you were really into the history of the American Civil War, and just continuing this line of discussion, do you think Europe is in a similar situation now as the U.S. just prior to the Civil War? Not so much as there being a risk of conflict, the Southern Nations are going to war with the Nations of the North, but rather because there are calls for a powerful central government to exert more control over the sovereignty of individual member states? The banks have already shown that they can force governments to be replaced by technocrats.
Jon: I think It's possible, when we were just on tour in Europe you could see in Italy and Spain were definitely suffering, and Greece too big time...we could see it directly in Italy and Spain in our ticket sales, they were way down, but the fans who were there were passionate as hell and they were great.
The thing is with the Greeks is that they won't show how bad things are, they'll scrape the money together. I mean you could see it around the city... the difference from when I was last there just a few years ago, businesses are closed everywhere and graffiti all over the place, it's really sad, those people are suffering.
So at some point the people are going to snap, and the Greeks are hot blooded as hell, you don't fuck with them, and they're being made out to be that it's all their fault, which is bullshit.
The problem is, people get sucked into this "the state will take care of you" trap, I think it's against human nature, but it's easy to get sucked into it...it's the bait. If you do, which I think they did to some degree, it's never going to turn out well.
We should be self-reliant, especially here in the United States, the whole idea was to be self-reliant, rugged individualism was the idea behind it; it's certainly become a collectivist society and that's always the step towards full blown tyranny.
I don't know, yeah Europe is in trouble, the currency, I think we are going to see some big things happen in February or March probably with the Euro.
ThrashHead: Possibly looking at a single European State sometime in the Future...
One last question about politics because I know you've really taken a stance and have been forthright with your views, especially those concerning the private financial institution known as the Federal Reserve which most Americans don't even realize is independent of American Government.
There are so many people who actually deny that it's possible that a group of people can get together just like friends at a BBQ and construct a strategy on foreign and domestic policy regardless of legislation or elected officials, how can you get through to people who are still blind to tell them that national sovereignty is of little or no importance anymore with regards to socio-economic policy that there is a group of people that can say "We need to open up the silk road. We need to get the resources in the Caspian sea. We need to have a long term policies to go after Iran, etc, etc" ? How do you reach those who say that such a thing is impossible.
Jon: You just keep at them, you are never going to get everybody to come over to the other side, and there has never been any big changes in any country in the history of the world that wasn't done by a small minority of people who are just not willing to quit, even these scumbag shadow government types, they are very small minority and they just don't stop.
So we have to have liberty minded people who have that same perseverance and tenacity. It gets frustrating, but you plant seeds every time you say something to somebody, it's like they can't un-hear it, on some level they are listening and it could be an event, something that happens in the news, whatever... they see it and start connecting the dots. I think it's a process, everybody are at different levels of what I call "the awakening".
Guys like Glenn Beck , who spoke a lot of the right language to the patriot movement, you could tell he is a Gatekeeper, a neo-con gatekeeper...he's driving people down the wrong path, people who are semi-awake, the tea party people, a lot of the original tea party people are very awake, the FOX NEWS created tea party is something very different.
You got the system up there demonizing the Occupy Movement, and trying to divide and conquer, they call them all communists and socialists and call the Tea Party racist right-wing extremists which is not true about either
In fact, we are finding, a lot of Tea Party guys have a lot in common with the Occupy people, because a many Tea Party people know about the Federal Reserve and they know how criminal Wall Street is. The people are speaking to each other, and we have to use the internet like it's going out of style, we have to use it as much as we can everyday to get real information out there because they are coming after that too...obviously
ThrashHead: Yes, with SOPA
Jon: Yeah, for sure, and they won't stop they'll just repackage it, or pull some false flag bullshit and shove it down our throats later on, they never stop, so the people in the liberty movement have got to be just as vigilant.
ThrashHead: Essentially we are in agreement... as you know, and perhaps music may not be the best analogy, our site is dedicated to both Hardcore Punk and Metal, stuff we grew up on, which early on were at odds with one another. But, quite quickly, one influenced the other; we got the birth of thrash on the metal side, and the birth of crust on the punk side, by joining two seemingly opposite musical genres we can sometimes get something that is both rejuvenating and spectacular.
I've written about the importance of cooperation on the site, to be conservative is not evil, to be liberal is not evil, what is evil is to be at each other's throats rather than finding common ground to defend the Constitution because there is, as you said, ideas concerning freedom that we all share... we all agree the Bill of Rights must be defended, rather than zeroing in on certain things like going "Obama Care", first and foremost join on what we can agree upon, restructure the government the way it was meant to be by getting rid of career politicians with term limits, illegalize lobbying, get rid of the Fed and perhaps, yeah, we'll end up bickering in congress again, but maybe the checks and balances system will work once more and we'll have a government which puts the people it serves first and foremost.
That's really awesome to hear that from you, that there is common ground on both ends of the political spectrum as long as we aren't distracted by the disinformation.
It's clear there is a message of awareness and defiance on Dystopia, as we've been discussing, especially on tracks like "Days of Rage". Before you went into the studio, did you have a clear vision of what you wanted this album to be...or did it simply evolve?
Jon: No, I had a very clear vision about it, you know the goals I set out was to... I don't know if you've ever heard the Sons of Liberty stuff, it's like a round house kick in the face, it's obvious what it's about, there's no question. This is a little more veiled, I don't really like to get political with Ice Earth, I never have...at the end of the day it's about entertainment, it's a metal band, and I always wanted to keep it down that road to give people an avenue of escape.
But things are getting so serious, I thought we could still get the important message out there and make it about certain movies, literature, even Something Wicked, my own story, there's a couple songs related to that also, it was really important for me to put some positive stuff in there and that was also decided very early on that I didn't want the whole thing to seem completely hopeless, so we had songs like "Anthem", "Tragedy and Triumph", "Iron Will" and those I hope are inspiring and somewhat empowering to people, because people are powerful, we really are, the human spirit is amazing, it's like it's being oppressed big time and people don't feel powerful and they need to because we are in trouble and it's only the human spirit which is going to save this whole situation.
ThrashHead: The song "Tragedy and Triumph" you mention closes out the album and it's a perfect ending because there is a message for humanity that we aren't going to become indentured servants to the machine. I noticed in my review there was a break to some of the Iced Earth stuff, and little more along what you might hear on Sons Of Liberty's "Brush-Fires of the Mind", as well as the latest "Spirit of the Times", it was just an awesome album.
Listening to it, I also heard how well Stu fits into Iced Earth, really incredible singing on his part; how did you guys get together?
Jon: Well, we met through the CEO of Century Media records. Robert Kampf told me about Stu, I had met Stu before, but he wasn't really on my radar for a vocalist, and Robert said "You might want to check this guy out". So, he showed me a couple of videos, and man, I was really impressed with the look in his eyes and the spirit behind those eyes, "he's got the right kind of controlled rage" I thought when I saw his videos with Into Eternity, and he had a wide ranged voice, I just didn't know if it was the right voice for Iced Earth so I had to get him behind a mic in my studio to see if I could produce him, see what kind of chemistry we had and it was...awesome!
Right from the gate, it was just meant to be, he fits the band like a glove, he's a great guy; great, positive force of energy and brings a lot to the table, he really helped with the writing, his vocal parts, we did a lot of that together, and that's something that hasn't' happened too much in the past; Stu has been more involved in his vocal parts than any singer before him, it helps with the pressure. For me, it's nice to have another guy, who is very capable with giant, really hooky, chorus parts and that kind of stuff, and you know, we both can do that so it makes it a pretty strong combination.
And, besides that, he's just a great guy so really the chemistry is the best it's ever been; we're having a hell of a lot of fun.
ThrashHead: Last question; many years from now, when both of us are long gone, what would you want people to read on your tombstone, "I Killed The Bank" like Andrew Jackson wanted on his?
Jon: (Laughs) that'll do...I wish.
Jon's points are all valid and perhaps you should really take the time to do a bit of invesigation yourself so that you too can wake up; the information is all out there, whether you are right or left, American or European, it doesn't matter, it all comes down to defending your rights.
I highly Encourage you to support Iced Earth by making damn sure you get to one of their shows during this upcoming tour which launches in Hartford, Connecticut on January 31st or by scoring yourself a copy of "Dystopia". Also, be sure to go check out the Sons Of Liberty's releases, the latest of which, "Spirit of The Times" you can listen to below!
Many thanks goes out to Jon, I am very appreciative for the time he set aside for ThrashHead.
Check out the video for "Dystopia" and listen to Son of Liberty's new EP "Spirit of the Times" now!