Ashes of Ares – Answering the CallWednesday, 28th August 2013
Dead Rhetoric: When you hear Van playing – it’s like, “Yup, that’s Van Williams.”
Barlow: Yeah, he’s got this really cool back-beat thing that he does that he plays on the back-end of it. It’s groove. That’s all I can describe it as [laughs]. It’s really neat.
Dead Rhetoric: You did the album at Morrisound, so was it nice to go somewhere that obviously, you had a comfort level with?
Barlow: It is. I did the vocal stuff at Jim’s [Morris, producer] house – we were trying to save a little bit on our budget. That’s always cool – we could do vocals anywhere, but the drums are tough to nail down. It is nice; it’s a comfortable place, somewhere I’m certainly familiar with, and Jim, he’s a great collaborator as well. You go in there with ideas that are good and he makes them great. I did my very best on certain harmonies, but I’m not the harmony master, so as far as if it’s a 5th or 7th, I can only go by what I hear, but he helps lock all that stuff down and put it into place. I’d be lying if I told you different, but Jim is a big part in creating a sound and making it come to fruition.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you function better when someone is giving you direction on what to sing ala Iced Earth, or do you prefer to do it on your own?
Barlow: To me, I don’t know…it’s two different worlds. I liked it when Jon was pushing me in a certain direction because sometimes you do things you didn’t even think you could do. But, it’s a lot different in a recording process than it is a live process since you have to modify. If you’re doing all this stuff live, then you’re done after three songs.
Dead Rhetoric: And some of that Iced Earth stuff was really high.
Barlow: Right. The way that I approached Ashes of Ares considering that this is a whole new beginning and we’re not doing Iced Earth or Nevermore covers when we’re touring – we’re sticking with Ashes of Ares – we might do some covers of other bands. When I started doing these songs, I approached them on how I’d be delivering them live, and this is my deal, so I can do them however the fuck I want [laughs]. Whenever I was getting ready to record, I made sure I was looking at it that way – I wanted them to sound like they were on the record.
That’s the best way I can describe, instead of somebody else’s vision and I’d be like, “Okay.” And that’s the way it was for some of the Iced Earth records – I get down there and Jon would have the lyrics and he’d go “Here’s the lyrics and sort of the vocal melody – sing this.” With this one, everything was planned out the way I wanted to do it; I did pre-production demos and stuff and when Jim and I got together, I said, “This is the way I want to do it,” so it went boom, boom, boom, boom, and we were done.
Dead Rhetoric: I always felt your best work came on ballads, and here you have a pair – “Warrior’s Wings” and “The Answer.” Do you feel that ballads – or slower songs are the best suited for your voice, and is where you do best?
Barlow: It is, and I take that into consideration. I took everything that I’ve done throughout my career when writing these songs. When Freddie was like “Do you think this is too light?” I said, “It feels right, it’s what we’re doing. Everything you’re writing and giving to me, I feel really good about, or else we wouldn’t be doing it.” When the stuff was coming out, it was coming out when we were all feeling [it], and I do feel that’s the sweet spot in my voice. And it’s what people have connected to, and I do get on YouTube and read the shit, and I read reviews like that, so I take the listener into consideration. I’d be a fool not to. Obviously, I want to play to my strengths, and it makes people happy, that’s what we’re supposed to do as entertainers. If you’re not making people happy and only making yourself happy, you’re kind of a prick [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: The first time you left Iced Earth was shortly after 9/11, and you said one of the primary reasons was that you felt the need to serve your country. Were those thoughts around even pre-9/11?
Barlow: I already had that sort of area – every member of my family served in the military, even my mom. My mom and dad met while in the military, and both of my brothers were in the Navy. The only reason why I didn’t go into the military was because both of my brothers were getting out, and they said it’s not a good spot right now, and that happens with our military, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. I just didn’t go, and by that point I was getting into music, so I thought I’d see how it went. It’s one of those things – they happen for a reason. My brother, when he got out of the military, he went into law enforcement. He has since retired – he got his time in and he’s been retired for a couple of years.
Dead Rhetoric: Good for him.
Barlow: I know, right? That’s one of the good things about law enforcement – you can retire in 20 years. It’s not the biggest pension in the world, but at least you can collect when you retire. After 9/11, more than the sense of patriotism, which was certainly there – you feel like you want to do something about it, but even more than that, it really put my life into perspective, like how old I was and where I was. I felt, I got a limited amount of time to make sure if music doesn’t work, I have something to go back on because I wasn’t making a living with Iced Earth. I started looking into law enforcement and just one thing led to another and here I am.
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