Quo vadis, Jon Schaffer?
A very short time after writing this, I plug my iPhone into the radio in my car and press the shuffle option in the music app. The first song turns out to be ‘Ten Thousand Strong’ by Iced Earth, no joke! “We’ll gather, race off and fight the elder, the consequence of what’s in the net”. More than ten years old, but still it sounds like an announcement for what was to happen on January 6, 2021.
It’s the year 1998 when I get into Heavy Metal. Blind Guardian, Metallica and Iced Earth had really grabbed me with their latest albums. A passion was born that, at least in the case of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, would last for many years. I have watched the latter band a few times at festivals before experiencing their club show for the first time in 2014. Since I had never met the band before and I really wanted to meet Jon Schaffer, for me a meet & greet with the band was worth a three-digit amount of money. At this occasion Jon Schaffer turned out to be a very pleasant, relaxed conversationalist with whom it was really fun to talk. Up to this point, my world was absolutely fine with regard to Iced Earth.
In recent years, however, this world has repeatedly been thrown into slight turmoil. The reason: several interviews with Jon Schaffer, which made me doubt him and his political views. However, I could only glimpse a little bit from between the interview lines, so I always put aside any concerns I had about Jon’s state of mind. Jon playing concerts with a Confederate flag as a headdress? You’d have to concede that option to a US American, I told myself naively.
And then came January 6, 2021. That Donald Trump managed to incite a mob, addicted to his sea of lies, to such an extent that it is willing to trample on the basic values of democracy, does not surprise me. But that this mob apparently included Jon Schaffer shocks me to the core. Why this in particular shocks me so much, I cannot say exactly. Is it because he is a hero of my youth? Or because I still love his music? Or is it because I got to know him personally and would never have believed him capable of doing something like that? Probably all three.
As early as January 6, many American musicians were distancing themselves from the mob at the Capitol. The reports came at about the same time as the report of Jon’s involvement, therefore there was no connection yet. A few days later, almost surprisingly fast for me, his companions in music distanced themselves from him, first of all his bandmates and also Blind Guardian (singer Hansi Kürsch runs the band Demons & Wizards together with Jon). So far, the aforementioned have only distanced themselves from the action as such, but not from Jon as a person. I can understand and accept the argument that they first want to wait for the reassessment of the situation.
At the same time these statements and the fact of Jon’s participation raise numerous questions. How will Iced Earth continue? What will happen to Demons & Wizards? Will Jon even be able to continue making music now as he faces not only arrest, but also a long-term flight ban? And for me, almost the most difficult question: will I ever be able to listen to Jon’s music again without reservation? The answer I cannot yet imagine.