Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
© Jay Hawkins
How was the transition both for you personally and as a musician moving from Fury up a major league to an internationally renowned and established act like Iced Earth?
Luke: The transition was very emotional as I was leaving my brothers band, which was not easy! My family were extatic when they heard the news, they were so proud of me and did not hesitate in the slightest. Iced Earth have been my favourite band for many years, I was nervous, excited and scared all at the same time…this kind of opportunity doesn’t come around every day.
You have recorded your first album with Iced Earth.You have previously recorded with your former bands-however how was the recording process with Iced Earth? What input did you have directly to the songs on there in terms of musical and lyrical input?
Luke: I made input on 2 tracks musically on the new album ‘Plagues of Babylon’ which were ‘Resistance’ and ‘The End’. Jon was very keen to hear my ideas and he welcomed them with open arms! It was a pleasure to work with a musician such as Jon Schaffer in the studio, he knew what he wanted and he knew how to make the best out of everything. I am very much looking forward to heading back into the studio with Iced Earth when record the next album, as I think of it as a massive learning experience for me.
After seeing you a few days ago live in Dublin with Iced Earth, vocally you have adopted more of a central role than when I saw you a year ago in Belfast. How did that come about? Was it a personal decision, and did you have to embark on vocal lessons and voice training ? Or was that always a talent that you had, that was previously untapped with your former bands.?
Luke: When receiving the offer to join Iced Earth I knew instantly that I would have to up my game vocally, as with many Iced Earth songs they require big anthemic choruses and harmonies. A couple of months before doing my first tour with Iced Earth I started some vocal training, and ever since then I have been working on my own and with the singer Stu Block. Bass playing I had down, but my biggest challenge was singing. Its very good to hear that the work is paying off, as I am still busting my balls to improve on my vocals haha!!!
You seem to be part of a very tight and close family-how was it for you playing those first few gigs with Iced Earth and not seeing your brother Chris on stage with you?
Luke: It was a rather strange feeling not looking over at my brother on stage with me for the first time and having more than 2 people on the same stage as me, I’m usually used to being in 3 piece bands, not 5! I will never forget my time in Fury UK, my brother, father and drummer Martin taught me a lot on the road and we all shared some unforgettable moments. Fury UK was a very good introduction to a professional touring band!
My first few shows with Iced Earth were incredible! I was very nervous before hand, but as soon as I hit that first note it felt like I had been taken over by raw adrenaline, I could barely stop smiling and to look over on stage to find one of my biggest idols in the music business gave a really warm feeling in my heart.
Leading on from the family link, you make a contribution to the new Absolva track along with Doug Skarett of Saxon. How did that input come about? And was it difficult to schedule that around your Iced Earth commitment? Any other plans for future musical collaborations with Chris Chris-or was it solely a one off project?
Luke: My performance on the new Absolva video ‘Never Back Down’ was a spur of the moment idea, I think we decided that I should do it a week or two before the actual recording. It was very fun to get back in the studio with the boys, some very fond memories came back and I am very fond happy their new album!
Luckily I managed to record the guitar tracks two days after coming off tour supporting Volbeat, so it slotted in perfectly with my schedule. Nothing as of yet is being discussed about future recordings…but you never know!!!
What do you like most and least about your profession?
Luke: I simply love playing my bass live most about touring. Seeing the smiles on peoples faces when we play their favourite songs is one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever had. People are very passionate about music, I know because I am one of them!
The hardest thing about touring so much, is not seeing your loved ones. By the end of 2014, I will have been on tour for around 7 – 8 months out of the year. This is the one price you pay for having the touring life…its not for the faint hearted.
What do you do in your spare time, any hobbies and interests outside music-or is it all encompassing in your life?
Luke: I like exercising a lot, going to the gym or jogging, but apart from that, music is all I have and its all I want. I am very happy with what I doing with my life and I believe I am living my life to the full.
How have you changed since you started playing music-what important life lessons has music taught you?
Luke: Since learning how to play an instrument, it has given me something I enjoy and something I believe in. I don’t feel like I need to impress anybody, I just have a thirst for playing my guitar or bass and it will never go away. I’m doing something that doesn’t seem pointless.
How hard do you push yourself, what keeps you motivated-have family instilled a strong work ethic in you?
Luke: I believe I have been raised very well, I’ve been brought up with proper manors and a strong work ethic. I make sure I do everything as best as can be, and I make sure its what I want to do. I don’t do this job for money or security, I do it because I love the music and entertaining. A lot of musicians miss that these days, its not about fame, rich or glory, its about the love for the music.
Why have you succeeded in a field where so many others have failed-and I feel that playing bass and singing in an Internationally renowned band like Iced Earth counts as a success.
Luke: Previous Iced Earth members have left for multiple reasons, everyone thinks the main reason behind it all is Jon Schaffer, which I completely disagree on. This band is Jon Schaffer’s baby, he knows a formula that works in this industry and he knows what he wants. A lot of previous members didn’t agree with his decisions, so therefore they parted ways, others didn’t want to be touring full time so they parted ways, others couldn’t handle the touring life style, its a lot to ask of a person, you leave your friends, your family and your home for a long period of time and some people cant handle it. People who notice members changing in a band regularly like to place blame, however, how can you blame someone for continuing their passion and love for music just because a previous member didn’t share that passion.
I believe that I am successful in Iced Earth because I share that passion with Jon and I believe in him 100% of the way!
What are your unfulfilled goals and ambitions both personally and as a professional musician?
Luke: My main goal in life personally and musically is to maintain the fact that my hobby is my job, if I can’t do that, then I will still continue to have music in my life.
If you could be the interviewer and sit down with a personal hero(not necessarily a musician) Who would it be, and what questions would you ask them?
Luke: Unfortunately now this is an impossible dream as I would have loved to interview Ronnie James Dio (RIP). I love that man. He was one of those people who was in this business for the love of the music and he was one of my inspirations to become a musician. I am very glad I managed to see him play live once with Heaven & Hell, it was a very magical night.
Have you started to get recognized more by the general public when playing in countries where Iced Earth are massive – if so how do you cope with that? As a necessary evil?or an intrusion into your personal privacy?
Luke: Recently I have been getting a lot more recognition, I think people are realizing that i am in this band for the long run and that I am the bass player of Iced Earth. It was quite surprising at first but again it was a very nice feeling to feel like I am a part of this band. Places such as Greece are very crazy for Iced Earth, so I have had quite a big crowd of people come up to me before and ask for autographs and photographs. I believe its a good thing to keep connected with the fans and show them that we care.
What are the plans for Iced Earth this year? Any plans to make videos for some of the new album tracks?Any Festival plans for the summer etc..
Luke: 2014 is going to be filled with tour dates, we have just started our Worldwide Plagues Tour and have announced 3 festivals which are Legacy Open Air, Hellfest and Wacken! Lots more dates to be announced!
We will see what the schedule will be like for the next year and also see if we get any good support tour offers. A new album is definitely being discussed, no set date decided.