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Dave Murray Interview
It is questionable if there has ever been a metal band as influential as Iron Maiden. They are now legendary
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Since forming in 1975, the band have grown to rival the greatest metal acts Britain has bred including Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or Judas Priest.
In 2003, Iron Maiden pull an audience bigger than ever. The new album debuted Top 10 all over the world and hit #1 in some countries, their gig draw (in same cases) hundreds of thousands.
One of the mainstays of Maiden is guitarist Dave Murray. He's been in the band more than 20 years. He spoke to Undercover's Tim Cashmere.
Isn't it about three o'clock in the morning for you right now?
No in fact it's afternoon, I'm in Hawaii at the moment. I'm just having a short holiday before I head back to London.
…so you're only up the road from us [here in Australia]?
I know that's right. It's a short flight! Hopefully we'll be coming down to see you in the New Year; we're keeping our fingers crossed. They're trying to put some kind of schedule together, so hopefully the whole band will be coming over at some point you know?
Let's talk about your year. It has been a huge year for Iron Maiden with your European tour and new album. How do you feel as it starts to wind up?
It feels fantastic, in fact we're only kind of half way through it because we recorded the album in January/February and we toured over the summer. We spent about three and a half months in Europe and North America and basically we were doing a lot of festivals and we were doing some big shows. It was basically all the older material, except for one new song, 'Wildest Dreams' from the 'Dance of Death' album. We're going into rehearsals next week and it's going to be a whole new production and a whole new show. We're going to be focusing more on 'Dance of Death'. We're actually going to be going out again next month and we're going back to Europe again and we're going to travel all over the place, South America, Japan and as I was saying earlier, hopefully it looks like we're going to try and put stuff together to come over to Australia as well. At the moment we'll be finishing next February or March or something like that, but it's been a big year and we've been very successful. We still have a long way to go yet. But we're still very excited and just from the response from the Iron Maiden fans throughout the world it's been tremendous so we are very pleased.
The last time you were here was 1982 I believe!
Something like that! But I think we'd done quite an extensive tour, we went all over Australia and stuff. Basically we are trying to get over there, take the band over there and if we could get back again that would be wonderful and as I say I heard some strong rumors from the management that it's a possibility, so we'll keep our fingers crossed. It's a beautiful country and it's about time we came back anyway!
We've been waiting for twenty one years now!
Yeah I know. Hopefully it will be worth the wait. We'll bring some of the show with us and everything. We'll bring Eddie and stuff and we'll bring the production and also we'll be playing stuff from the new album and a lot of the older stuff as well and if we do come we'll hit as many territories as we can!
I've been lucky enough to see Iron Maiden twice, both at Roskilde in Denmark (2000 and 2003) and I can remember the first time I saw you I remember Bruce [Dickinson] saying "Sorry we didn't bring the whole show, but we didn't have room." How big is your show!?
Well actually at Roskilde, the way they build that stage is all arches and everything and you go there and because it's a festival scene there are a lot of other bands as well. Basically you can just bring a few drapes and we had the walk-on Eddie. Basically we have a huge stage with lots of moving lights and lots of backdrops. We have a production that's actually built where Bruce can run around on top and everything. It's a pretty big production but obviously Roskilde is one of those places where we couldn't actually bring it unfortunately, but as we say if we come down this time we'll bring as much as we can, but there's a lot of stuff happening you know? Also we've been videoing a lot of this tour, so potentially in the future if you couldn't make it to the show, you'd better see it on DVD.
I'll try and walk in front of every camera I can see at your gig then!
There you go! There's nothing like high hopes!
This is your second album with the three guitar line up. Were things easier this time?
In fact they were pretty easy the first time! When we had the discussion, we never went into rehearsals to see if it was going to work, it was verbally done. Adrian's going to come back into the band at the same time as Bruce is going to come back into the band and that was it so we sat down and started putting the feel together for Brave New World, it was a very natural process. We sat down and worked out… you know there's a lot of details to work on, but basically having three guitar players it really moulds together very well. It can sound like one big guitar or it can sound like three individual guitars. It depends what piece of music we're playing at the time, but we get on well together and it's a very natural environment you know? There's different ways of playing things on a guitar so we kind of do it so it moulds together and sounds like one unit if you like.
So what sort of guitar setup do you have at the moment?
Janick, Adrian and myself, we all use Stratocasters with the Marshall amps really, you know the JCM series with the built in effects you see? They're like 200-watt amps and stuff, so with Maiden material it's not just straight ahead big chords. There are a lot of slow passages, when you need that clean sound as well so basically those amps are very versatile and also with the Fender Strats as well they're very versatile guitars so all three of us use Strats anyway. We're like the old purists really so it's like Strats and Marshalls, but we're using more of the clean stuff as well as the heavy stuff.
One specific thing that I've found to be very much an Iron Maiden sound is the harmonized guitars and most bands that do that sound today either a) use overpriced pedals or b) learn it from Iron Maiden records.
[Laughs] We do do a lot of harmony guitars and we do do a lot of unisons, but it's kind of going back to our influences as well. A lot of bands like Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash you know, they used harmony guitars and so we've kind of taken that concept really and added it into our own unique way of playing. With each song there may be a harmony guitar or unison, but it's basically whatever fits the song, but we just like to take full advantage of it. Hey, you've got three guitars so it's just doing as much as you can you know? Also it's a thing where you want to compliment that particular song so we wouldn't just do it just for the sake of doing it, it's there just to enhance a particular melody or like a musical statement to that piece of music. I think it's fun and it sounds very music and now with three guitars we can do three guitar part harmonies which we've actually used on some of the track and other times there would be unisons or there'll be one guitar playing melody. Basically we have ample ammunition to do what we want. We've got a lot of ammo there!
You've pulled it off too.
Well thank you, cheers. I mean we go in there and it's kind of like a football team or something. You all plan together, you want to make it work or whatever and you want to work on the details and I think that's what's important. We work on the small stuff as well as the big stuff. So with the album if you listen to 'Dance of Death', we use keyboards on this album quite a bit, but we use them in orchestration types of scenarios, like having a keyboard sound like a violin or cello or something. So adding that, then you've got Bruce singing you've got all the melody and stuff, it's just making a lot of musical statements by Maiden. There's a lot of depth to Maiden and it's the sort of album that is probably going to take you a few times to listen to it to really get into it, so there's a lot going on. I think it's great because you can play it over and over and you'll hear different things every time you play it, there will be more stuff you didn't hear the first time round.
With this synth you are talking about, I was quite surprised to hear that instrument, how do you feel moving with technology?
DM: We've been using keys and stuff on quite a few of the albums, but this is probably the most we've ever pulled that rabbit out of the hat there. We've used it quite extensively on a lot of the songs, but a lot of it is quite a wash you know and it just adds a bit more colour and adds a bit more weight to a particular piece of a song. We'd use anything, if it sounds good we'd use it. It just seems having the orchestration and using the keyboards and synths to do that it just makes it sound bigger and fatter and gives a more dynamic sound to it all, but if you strip everything away, the songs are strong enough to stand out by themselves. You just want to enhance a piece of music and make it sound the best it can sound, so if you want to use keys to add a particular effect to a song, I think it's good! To me there are no rules in music, if it sounds good to your ear and if it sounds good musically, you can use a set of bagpipes if you want, whatever makes that song sound its best.
Another interesting sound I've heard on 'Dance of Death' is the track 'Journeyman' - a fully acoustic album. Who was the first to pick up them?
DM: We've kind of used acoustics a little bit in the past, but I think Adrian, Steve and Bruce came up with the idea for that song but we actually recorded it with electric guitars as well, but we thought let's bring in some acoustics and lets have a go at it and it actually sounds so much better being all acoustic. We're still using some keys and synths in that particular song as well, but we thought let's do something a little bit different. We have actually never done an acoustic track ever, so we thought let's give it a go and I think it's a real haunting melody and it's really beautiful lyrics and stuff. It's really sweet and I think with acoustics it just gives it another variation. If you listen to the 'Dance of Death' album it's a pretty full on heavy album with a lot going on and then you come to the very last track and it's like wow, it just brings you down. It takes you out of the album in a nice way you know? I love acoustic stuff and it's great to be able to do it with this band and on this particular album. I think it's just a timing thing, Maiden felt we were ready to put out an all acoustic track on an album you know?
Maybe there will be an Iron Maiden MTV Unplugged in the near future?
Well yeah, you never know. They won't allow us on MTV, they never play us anyway! [Laughs] but it definitely would work as an unplugged, but I think there are a lot of other songs that would work. We could do a whole concert unplugged of various songs and they would work really well. A lot of stuff we do, especially when Steve's writing, he sits down and he's got an acoustic bass so if a song works well on an acoustic guitar, then it's going to translate to an electric guitar really well or something. Maybe in the future though, maybe Ed-TV? [Laughs]
It is interesting like you said MTV still doesn't play you and even here in Australia you're not played on TV or on at least commercial radio stations. How do you do that? This album debuted at number twelve here, three in the U.K. and nine in America I believe?
It's going tremendous! It's number one in Finland, Sweden, Italy. It's number one in a lot of the European countries, which is incredible. I think really because we don't get that much play on radio or MTV or whatever, I think to make an album we go out touring with it and obviously especially from magazines and probably now with the thing you're doing now with the internet and the web is a good way to get the message out as well. It's probably made the planet a little bit smaller, but you can get out more information. I think with this band, they've always kind of shunned us and there's nothing we can do about it really. We just have to get on with life and carry on with playing music really, which means we've done it on our own backs. We haven't had any help from those guys and so it basically proves that you can do it, you can go out there and be successful on whatever level it is, but you don't have to have that type of exposure.
…and you've been around for twenty six years this year!
Something like that, 2005 I think the band's been around for thirty years! I think Steve first formed the band in 1975, so if you go back that far it's thirty years, but with this particular lineup, it's still a long time!
Is there going to be a thirtieth anniversary tour?
Oh I'm sure I'm sure! There's stamina left in us yet I think so yeah. We're concentrating on this next tour we've got coming up, so we'll get on with that, but we'll see what's going on in the future, but I can definitely see us doing something like that. I think we should! It would be a lot of fun as well you know?
There are thousands and thousands of guitarists out there that are pretty much learning by playing along to what you're playing. Could you maybe give a thirty second guitar lesson to them?
I think less is more. Don't try and play a million notes. Playing one or two notes with feeling is a lot better than going crazy sometimes you know? I think as well just play with melody. I've done the same thing, when I first started playing I'd sit down and listen to stuff and I'd nick ideas but the more you're playing the more you're developing your own kind of style so I think if you play for fun and enjoy yourself, we're always going to have the next generation of musicians coming through so good luck with the future!
Do you ever catch yourself listening to an Iron Maiden album thinking "Damn this is a good album! Hang on a minute, I wrote it!"
Yeah well in fact that happened a few years ago. We were at somewhere and I heard this track in the back and I thought "Yeah that sounds great!" and it was one of our tracks that I hadn't heard for a while. Because you make an album and you kind of listen to it and play it over and over, then you tend to let it go and you move onto the next thing. If we're going to be doing a song for a tour that we haven't played for many years, you have to sit down and re-learn it. It comes back because it comes there subconsciously, but you have to sit there and re-learn some of those notes again, but it happens once or twice and I think it's a good thing actually because we're proud of everything we've done in the past and when we do an album we want to put 150% into it, so when you listen to an album a few years back and think "Oh yeah that sounds good" then you know you must've been doing the right thing at that time.
Fans can also find out all about the band, although a lot of fans seem to already know everything about the band, but if they want to find out more they can go to www.ironmaiden.com.
That's right, for all that secret information! [Laughs]
Do you ever go and see what messages your fans have left you?
Sometimes yeah. The Iron Maiden website is very good. There is a lot of information on there and they're discussing all sorts of things about what the band has been doing. It's got all the albums and it has a bunch of information as well. I used to go on those chat-rooms when we first did the site, but it's just having the time really, especially when you're out on the road and you're traveling and stuff, but the fans can interact and chat to each other. I hear things like the fans loved a particular show and I know they're talking to each other. I think that's a very healthy situation because you have someone from Australia talking to someone in England or America or whatever and they've seen the show or they've heard the album and it kind of just makes them feel more connected. I think that's very healthy, especially if it's positive. They have something that they're in tune with, they like this particular album or show, so this whole web thing, I think it's very good and it's been very good because obviously talking earlier not having that MTV access or radio play, this is just another way for Maiden to put ourselves out there and also you're doing it on your own terms as well because it's got everything you would want to know!
I can remember Bruce at Roskilde this year, just before you played 'Wildest Dreams' he said something along the lines of "If our new album is crap then you can download it and if it's good then you have to go out and buy it" so I suppose this chart success around the world should tell you it's a pretty good album!
Yeah well that's fantastic because everybody went out and bought it. We're blown away. We didn't see this coming. We thought you go and make an album to the best of your ability then you let it go, but I didn't realise it was going to move forward so much! We're going to go and tour this album as well now, so hopefully it's just going to keep the whole momentum going. We have the Rock in Rio DVD that came out, then we had 'Visions of the Best' so it's been a while since we've had any new material out, so it's kind of nice in respect that the fans are following us and they're sticking by with us and it's tremendous and of course we've got to thank all the Iron Maiden fans all around the world for that.
I was about to say that's all I've got for you, but you've just mentioned the Rock in Rio CD which I just happen to have sitting right in front of me and I'm looking at the picture of the six of you with your fists in the air and the crowd behind you. How did it feel having that photo taken with two hundred thousand people behind you?
Yeah there was a quarter of a million there! We went on stage at about one o'clock in the morning because their shows are very late there and we came off at about three or three thirty or something and that audience had been there all day. It's tremendous that they'd stuck by until right at the very end and you could just feel it, there was electricity coming off these fans. I think that picture sums it up, that was a tremendous show we had a wonderful time out there and to be able to document it and put it on DVD and stuff like that it's been fantastic. You do a lot of shows and you film them but sometimes it far exceeds your expectations. It has been magic and it had that buzz and I think that Rock in Rio DVD has it from the sound quality to everything. It's mixed in 5.1 surround sound, so if you put that on and you listen to that on an actual system it's like being in the audience. You can actually be there!
Well almost, it's maybe the next best thing.
Well hopefully we'll see you down here in early 2004.
Absolutely! It looks pretty good at the moment and we look forward to seeing ya!
I'll let you get back to Waikiki beach!
Yeah, it's Miller time!