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Matt Barlow – Vocals for Ashes Of Ares

Date: 8/11/13
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. When does the debut album from your new band Ashes Of Ares come out?

MATT: Think it comes out in North America on Sept 18 or 19. We are anxious to see what the fans, which my wife and I call frans because we have a good connection with them through social media, will think. I live in Delaware, Freddie (Vidales) is in New Hampshire, and Van (Williams – drums) in New York. So we converge in NY for our jam sessions and stuff. The writing is mostly done online and sent to each other, modern technology is great.

2. How do former members of the same band, Iced Earth, end up in a new band?

MATT: When I went back to Iced Earth, Freddie was hired as the bass player, and we spent a lot of time together on tour and hung out, have similar interests and personalities, and we talked about doing a side thing if the opportunity ever presented itself (like John does Demons and Wizards with Hansi from Blind Guardian). So when things changed for me in Iced Earth and I left the band (again), Freddie was still in the band at the time, then a year and a half later he also left Iced Earth for his own reasons, so we then decided to seriously pursue this project. So we started working on some ideas and a couple songs. Shortly after I was in touch with Van who moved back to New York from Seattle (after his split with Nevermore) and told him Freddie and I were working on some music and would like him to check it out. So he liked what he heard and came on board.

3. You were a member of Iced earth for many years, left the band for a period of time, and then returned to leave again. I know you are also a police officer. So how come you have not made Iced Earth your home base for music?

MATT: I was in Iced Earth for many years, and then 9/11 occurred. It changed a lot of people’s lives. It wasn’t just the patriotism, but it put my life in perspective as far as my age, career, making a living, and at that point Iced Earth was not a seriously touring band, which ironically right now it is, but if it had been a different situation where we were touring all the time and I could make a living making music, things would be different. Financially, John was doing fine, not so much me, so that’s when I started taking classes in criminal justice, I told John this. When it came to sign the deal with SPV Records I said I was going to bow out, but John convinced me to stay and started work on “The Glorious Burden” which never came to fruition because after recorded my vocals John decided it wasn’t what he wanted and cut me loose. So six months after I was in the police academy, and four years a police officer before John contacted me, I had just said I was doing the album with the band Pyramaze. Shortly after John spoke to my wife (because my wife is John’s step-sister), and wanted me to come back to Iced Earth and was willing to work around my schedule. John understood I wasn’t going to stop my career. But the music industry changed, and to rely on music as your income you have to tour, and we came to the conclusion that the money being in Iced Earth did not justify me being away from my family 6-8 months out of the year between the touring and recording. I know how John works, he’d have me over his place to work on music, he wouldn’t come to me, just how he works. It just did not work out. Not to say I don’t love music and my hearts not in it, but to me it’s the best of both worlds with this new band, we can record music and tour minimally and I can still keep my job as a police officer.

4. Is Ashes Of Ares going to be then a part time band, a project?

MATT: It will be a part time band. Other bands rely on their music to make a living, they have to tour a lot, there is no money in recording music unfortunately. That’s why we are ecstatic just to have a record contract with Nuclear Blast - they get it. They have other bands like us, the budgets are not like they use to be. We went into this project with full disclosure, said we would tour to support the record as much as we can but won’t be road dogs. And our management out of Germany is great too, they got us on the Rock Hard festival in the spring. We were contacted by Glenn from the ProgPower festival in Atlanta to play even before we had a band, that guy is phenomenal, wish there were more festivals like that in the US. It’s awesome people get what we do and support it. Touring, we will do what we can, we have a European tour coming up with Powerwolf which is good, I’ve never toured with a band like that. We are also gonna try and get on some more festivals next summer.

5. Given your recognizable voice, what steps have been taken to make Ashes Of Ares sound unlike Iced Earth?

MATT: From my point of view, I wasn’t micro managing Freddie’s writing style. A lot of the songs he wrote musically I maybe asked him to change little things. Vocally there are some things I’m doing that are much heavier than what I’ve done in the past, and some more melodic singing. This is the first album where I have been able to write the lyrics and vocal melodies. On the Pyramaze album I wrote the vocal melodies but not the lyrics. This is the first album where it’s all me and if it fails it’s all on me. I do hope people like it, it came from the heart. When Freddie and I started writing it was mostly simple arrangements, and then when we gave the songs to Van we said “go ahead, do your thing”. And all the little things he likes to do really added to the songs.

6. Do you hear any parallels to Iced Earth in the music made for Ashes To Ares?

MATT: I would be lying if I didn’t say my influence are on this music, not just in voice. You could tell in style and the way its delivered on an Iced Earth album that I’m on, or Tim (Owens), or Stu (Block), have been on. John can only control so much of how a song will turn out. Some people will probably say when they hear some of these songs “is that new Iced Earth?”, but its kinda hard to stop that. But yes, they are things distinctively different between Ashes of Ares and Iced Earth. Freddie, and Van, deserves a lot of credit for making this band sound like itself.

7. What are Freddie’s contributions to the band? How is Van involved?

MATT: Freddie wrote 9/10ths of the music, I wrote (with my recorder and crappy little guitar, haha) and jammed stuff, and then gave it to him who is a real guitar player/musician, and said do something with this. Musically my songs are ‘Move The Chains’ and “The Answer’. The rest of the songs Freddie wrote the guitar parts for. Van’s influences are he went back and redid his take on some things rhythmically.

8. Filming a promo video in support of the album?

MATT: Yeah, we did one in New York and did a lyric video for ‘Dead Man’s Plight’, and have another one coming up but not sure what song. Maybe we will do a livesque video once we do the Powerwolf tour. One of the coolest ones from back in the day was Pantera’s ‘Cowboys From Hell’, what a great energetic live show to sync up with the studio recording.

9. What are the three things you’ve accomplished and are most proud of as a singer?

MATT: Everything, really no disappointments. You have those dreams as a kid of being able to play in front of thousands and record music and for it to come to fruition has been always very cool to me, and humbling. I’m really appreciative of all the people who always have and continue to be supportive of what I have done. You can be in the scene, and leave, and come back, and the fans stick with you. Its great, and I’ve tried to be as honest with the explanations where my personal life and musical career are concerned. Music is an escape for myself and everyone, and as long as you are forthcoming with folks most people get where you are coming from. I’m proud of the folks who I’ve been in contact with that are a part of our life on the outside and they really connect with me, and my wife, even people we have never met but are still very supportive.

10. When Ashes Of Ares play live who will play guitar?

MATT: Gio from Malevolent Creation and Dean, a friend of Van’s who played on his Pre Sweet Hell project, he’s playing bass. Everyone has been connected and friends for a while.

11. What are your goals for the future?

MATT: Looking forward to this album coming out and playing live in support of it as much as we can. Hopefully doing as many festivals as possible. Hopefully the album, and Nuclear Blast, do well with this album so we can keep making records. We aren’t in this for the money (obviously), things are different now, it’s because we love the music.

12. Do you ever see yourself working with Iced Earth again, maybe collaborating on a duet with Stu?

MATT: I wouldn’t rule it out. I’ve been in touch with Tim (Owens), I’d like to do something with him in the future. But at the same time right now we want to make a statement ourselves as Ashes Of Ares first. Jeff Loomis (former Nevermore guitarist) did a guest solo on one of the songs and that was cool, he fucking shreds. It’s a possibility at some point we could do some shows with Jeff’s solo band as well.

Official website: http://www.ashesofares.com


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