Ashes of Ares – Chaos Theory

AOA_HeaderThe “super group” phenomenon certainly isn’t a new concept when it comes to metal music. In fact, our musical culture and all the sub-genres it drags behind itself thrives upon the existence of members breaking away from their main bands and unleashing their creative vision upon the populace with new art that comes across just as vital as the sounds locked in the past. Matt Barlow, Freddie Vidales (both ex-Iced Earth) and Van Williams (ex-Nevermore) are all seasoned veterans of metal and have been a part of some of the more amazing power/traditional metal releases that have been in your collection for years. They have connected to start a new path with Ashes of Ares. Perhaps Ashes of Ares isn’t out of line with what you’ve come to know from the members of this union, but the musical honesty is strong and the life spinning through this album is rich. Matt Barlow’s voice to me sounds warm and trusted like an old friend with his bluesy lows and vibrant highs. His performance beautifully enhances the music Freddie and Van have crafted that embraces the deep penetrating power of good heavy metal while not being intimidated or ashamed at all when the tunes slightly lean into more commercial territories. Ashes of Ares is a solid debut effort that tells a tale of a group of friends that are obviously thrilled to be playing this style of music with each other and have laid an impressive groundwork for the future to take them where it will. Mr. Barlow recently took the time to drag his eyes across this round of questions and share with us all a glimpse into the workings of AoA and even his personal world. I’ve been a fan of the mans voice and musical output for years and to say that I was thrilled he agreed to this interview would be an understatement. Enjoy! -Marty   

Worm Gear: Matt! Many thanks for taking the time to chew on these questions. It is an honor to have you and Ashes of Ares featured in Worm Gear! Starting off… I am curious about the formation of Ashes of Ares. It’s obvious from you returning to Iced Earth for a few years and your work with Pyramaze that the fire has never left you for creating metal music. Was it an easy decision to return to work with Freddie Vidales? I’m assuming that he didn’t have to twist your arm too much to get involved in this band…

Matt Barlow: Not at all. This is something that Freddie and I had talked about for a while, but we were unable to pursue because one or both were in Iced Earth. When Freddie decided to leave IE, it opened up the door for us to go forward with the creation of this band.

WG: Being a Seattle resident, how did Van Williams become involved with this project? Has distance been a complication with this union, or would you consider the core of AoA complete and set for the long haul with the push of a major label behind you?

MB: Actually, Van lives up in New York State now, so we live relatively close to one another. Freddie and I drive to Van’s place to rehearse because he is about halfway between our home states of Delaware and New Hampshire.

WG: Ashes of Ares is a super group with members of Iced Earth and Nevermore and though there may be some minor similarities here and there which is to be expected, AoA has carved out a powerful sound all your own. Was this a natural development, or were you guys pretty discriminating when creating material for this album?

MB: The Ashes of Ares sound is just a culmination of our individual contributions and our total willingness to allow one another’s abilities to shine. We embrace the chaos theory, in that we want the music to be very natural and fluid as we are stirring in all of the individual ingredients.

WG: Obviously times have changed in the music industry since the early years of your metal career, but how have these changes impacted you as an artist?
MB: Well, I was never able to make a living on money that I made in the music business, so for me, it hasn’t really changed much. When I returned to Iced Earth in 2008, I probably made the most money I ever had recording an IE record, but that is because the budget was there. Those kind of budgets are gone now, at least for independent labels. A band has to tour constantly to afford to live from the income of the band, and it is not a great living in many cases.

WG: What about the business side? Is there more of a connection and a give and take relationship between the band and the label? The way the internet has taken over, it’s almost like a band doesn’t need to have a label to carve out a path if they don’t want to…

MB: I suppose that is true, but it is nice to have a label behind you to promote the record and take care of the distribution. I feel that we have a good relationship with Nuclear Blast. They have done a lot of great things for many bands over the years, and we are proud to say that we are part of the NB family.

WG: On the same topic, AoA is a band comprised of members who for lack of a better term, are just busy as hell with other very important life duties. Careers, families… in this current industry climate, how does the non-metal side of your lives affect the music business side? I’m sure you have to be more selective in the things you can do for the band and endless touring is of course out of the question…

MB: Yes, “endless touring” is out of the question for us. That being said, we all love to perform and we will do everything that we can to get out there and perform and promote our music whenever we can. We were fortunate to be able to do a European tour with Powerwolf in September and play ProgPower USA as well. We have a couple other things in the works for next year, as well as, preparing another record. We are not going to rest…we have a lot more to do.

WG: This may be an appropriate question now, as you’ve recently done a tour of Europe this year… I have often wondered about the rigors of being a vocalist in a working band. Let’s face it; the drummer and the vocalist have the hardest jobs when it comes to this profession… jobs that can eventually affect your health and musical future. How do you maintain your voice while on tour? Ever push it too far to the point of hurting yourself and compromising your performance? How has your voice held up over the years? Have you noticed any changes after long term abuse? Is this even a concern?

MB: Yes, your health is always a concern, especially when you are on the road. Every tour I have been on, I have caught some king of bug. It is just the way it goes on tour. The trick is to have a quick recovery. For a vocalist, there isn’t a lot of partying or staying up late. You drink a lot of fluids and get a lot of sleep, or you won’t make it through a tour and retain your voice. As far as long term stuff…I know that my voice has changed over the years, but I think that is just age catching up to me. It gets everyone eventually.

WG: What is some advice you would offer aspiring singers when entering the lions den so to speak of rock/metal singing?

MB: BE YOURSELF! Don’t try to be like anyone else. Take all of your influences and cherish them, but don’t allow them to control you.

WG: Vocal heroes… I have my suspicions after hearing you sing for the first time, but who are the crooners that inspired you to test your skills and front a band?

MB: Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, James Hetfield, Chuck Billy, Russ Anderson, Geoff Tate, Freddie Mercury…etc, etc.

WG: The lyrical content on Ashes of Ares is poetic as always, but I get the impression of something much deeper and personal spun throughout the prose on each track. I’m 42, have a son and I see time and the world differently now than I did when I was 20. Friends and family pass… time marches mercilessly on no matter how hard one hangs on to the past. Perhaps I’m off the mark here, but my interpretation of your lyrics found me connecting to these thoughts again. Such a heartfelt tribute to your fallen brother on “On Warriors Wings” and saying goodbye to a loved one on “The Answer” (one of my favorites on the album)… I’m curious… how has passing the 40 yr old mark, seeing friends/family pass and having children changed your perception of living and dying?

MB: You are correct. Time, absolutely, changes everything. I always thought that I had a pretty good grasp on things when I was younger, and some people referred to me as an “old soul”, but you really get a different perspective when you actually gather life experience. I don’t want your younger readers to feel like I am the old guy preaching “Well, back in my day…”, but there is something to be said about that. All I can say is, when some older gent or lady, take that time to convey a “life lesson”, show them the courtesy of listening to the knowledge they have acquired from being on this Earth.

WG: The tragedy of 9/11 affected us all differently, but the impact runs deep. I think most of us remember where we were and what we were doing when the attack happened. You chose to make a serious change and enter into law enforcement to help make a change. Was such a shift in careers difficult for you? To go from a platform of creativity and a vagabond lifestyle to complete structure and public service must have been a bit of a culture shock…

MB: Though vagabond is a fun word to say, it is not really a lifestyle I ever had to partake in. I always had some structure in my life, as I always had some kind of day job. IE never toured enough “back in my day” to support me, so I worked. Obviously, law enforcement is very structured, but you are always encouraged to have a personal life. If not, the stresses of the job would be unkind, and there would be far less people willing to do it.

WG: Looking back, are you still happy that you made this life change? I’m sure there is a feeling of pride that comes with a line of work where you feel like you are contributing to the community…

MB: Absolutely. I am also proud to have inspired others to enter into the field. I have received several e-mails from “metal heads” who have become law enforcement officers after hearing about my decision. I am sure that they would have found their own path, but I am glad to have been a part of it.

WG: Being out on the road in a popular metal band, chances are you get exposed to a variety of lifestyle choices in the form of partying and general craziness and other such practices that could be considered illegal from band members and fans alike. It seems to me that this would be the biggest transition… to come from a lifestyle based on freedom, and enter into a profession where you are enforcing laws that prohibit such behavior and activities. What was it like for you making this transition? Do you think you may have more of an open mind than your colleagues when it comes to such things?

MB: You know, I do have an open mind, but if you break the law… you break the law. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to change the way that people make decisions. I do encourage everyone to keep themselves informed, and to get involved in shaping legislation.

shapeimage_12WG: Ashes of Ares has turned out a high quality release in a short period of time in terms of a new band working out all the details that come with starting a new project and creating all the music. Has the foundation of this band been in the works for Freddie maybe even when he was a member of Iced Earth?

MB: Freddie had some ideas prior to us starting, as did I, but we wrote a lot of the record just bouncing the ideas back and forth. It was a very cool process and it felt very fluid. We can’t wait to start working on the new stuff.

WG: What has the response been to AoA? I’m sure longtime Iced Earth fans have been chomping at the bit for you to return. That has to be a good feeling. What does the future hold for this band? More touring? The groundwork for new material already being laid? Give us an insight to how the excitement surrounding this band is driving all of you.

MB: We extremely excited about people’s reaction to Ashes of Ares. We will continue to play and record music for as long as we have people who want to hear us. It will be great to have another record under our belts ,so we can consider a proper headlining tour at some point. Until then, however, we will continue to promote our debut and be glad that we have a great team (Nuclear Blast) behind us.

WG: Lastly…. You have toured the world and seen first hand as an officer how things are changing at home. We all know your Brother-in-laws (Jon Schaffer – Iced Earth) views on the changes in the Government and how it is thought to control us… Having a unique perspective all your own after your worldly travels and endeavors at home, do you think the people of this country indeed do have to take serious stock in what is happening and get ready for difficult times?

MB: I will leave the politics to Jon, but we can all find cause to keep ourselves aware. Cheers!

~ by martyworm on November 20, 2013.

One Response to “Ashes of Ares – Chaos Theory”

  1. Cool interview, I enjoyed reading it. Definitely something different for WG. I have been listening to the AoA album pretty regularly since I picked it up. I think it is a very strong album and enjoy more than any of Iced Earth’s releases since Horror Show. After hearing this album you can really tell how Matt became such an integral part of Iced Earth’s sound.

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