Link to Us
Iron Maiden Interview
For starters, I would like you to talk about the album. I just heard (only) four songs, and the first comment is that the last of those, Montsιgur, sounded to me more like a bruce solo song rather than a maiden song. Am I right?
[ Add Comment ]
H: really? It's strange that you'd say that because Montsιgur was written by Jannick! But I understand what you mean because it has a heavier sound and a dark atmosphere.
Bruce: I disagree. I believe it has many Iron Maiden elements to it, but it's the subject the song is dealing with that might have seemed that way to you, at first hearing. It's hard to get into a song with one hearing. When you hear it again, after some times, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Maybe it's better this way, because even though you will write down in the magazine your opinion for what you heard, it's going to be different from what the song really is, since you have heard it only once.
Tell me however a few facts about the songs. Adrian, did you write the music?
H: Pretty much I'd say. That which characterises this album is diversity. What you have heard is but 1/3, while there are many different elements on the album. The opening song is not what you'd excpect as a classic begining of an Iron Maiden album.
Why? It's quite fast and catchy.
H: Yes, if you classify it like that, it may fit, but it is more like Run To The Hills [interviewer's comment: sounds more like The Wicker Man to me]. We have some epic songs, of long duration, something a bit more funky, and as a result, i'd say the outcome is a bit more coherent than Brave New World. We've been working together for over 3 years and now that shows in our compositions.
You speak of diversity, but the first 2 songs are short rockers.
H: Yes. Those songs just happened to come out like that. Just like when you create something that gives you pleasure, we used whatever we liked. We didn't put limits as far as time, speed or anything else was concerned. That's why there is such diversity.
Bruce: It's hard for me to describe you something that you haven't heard, but if you understood from the first 4 songs, there's a breath of fresh air within the band. I believe that everybody is very satisfied with what we have accomplished. I don't know how it manages to sound so Maiden, while having all these new elements.
Talk to me about Kevin Shirley. Has he took up Martin Birch's place in the new age for the band?
H: Yes, Kevin is an amazing sound enginere. We 've done two albums and Rock In Rio together and who knows... we'll see.
Bruce: Kevin is very talented and once again he managed to raise the album's quality level. I like the comparison you make. The future will show if we "glue" with Kevin like we had with Martin, but at this moment i'd say it looks like it.
With the opportunity of Download Festival, at Donnington, what do you have Instore for the "Give me 'Ed ...'Till I'm Dead" World Tour?
H: You like the name? (laughs)
Bruce: The name may sound funny, but that's excactly what we were going for. This isn't a tour promoting an album. It is for us to give people a night of fun, with many classic Iron Maiden songs, which either we don't play anymore or they haven't been heard in a while. It's an opportunity to play all th clasic stuff.
H: We will probably play a new tune [interviewer's comment: like they did], but the rest will be oldies but goldies.
Is it supposed to be for the promotion of Visions Of The Beast?
H: Basicly, yes. since we will start the other tour with the release of the album. On the other hand, while we are promoting the new album, rather than travelling the world giving interviews, we combine it playing concerts.
Like you said Adrian, it's already been some years that you have been together. What is the process you follow to compose?
H: We don't write alltogether. Personally, I always have an idea or two which I write down, then Bruce comes alond and adds something and so on... Dave, Janick and me tried composing together, but we ended up playing 10 minute solos on guitar! (laughs) I wrote enough, like Steve and Bruce, but our surprise is Nicko! He had some very good ideas. The thing many people don't know is that he plays very good bass (laughs) and he wrote the basic guitar riff of New Frontier, which you haven't heard yet.
Are there any plans for working with Bruce on yet another solo project?
H: No, I don't know why these rumors exist, but we are not involved on anything else.
Bruce: No, there is no time for anything. Those rumors are unfounded.
Could you describe to me each one's role in the band? Something about each one's character?
H: Mmm, I've got to be careful with this one... (laughs). Certainly, Nicko is a special case (laughs). Steve is more serious, because he takes up the most responsabilities and is the founder of this band. Bruce has a strong personality, full of energy, which he takes out on various hobbies, from flying planes, to writing, to having a radio show etc. Jan, Dave and I are more calm, we just go with the flow I'd say. In every team character diversity is needed. I we were all like Bruce or me, it wouldn't take us anywhere.
Bruce: Something like that (laughs). After all this time together, we have left room for our different personalities. Luckily the recepy works!!!
This is where Bruce leaves, so we continue with Adrian Smith
It may be the songs I've heard, but i have the impression that Bruce's vocals have are dominant, while on the other hand, the guitars are limited, even though there are 3 of you! One almost doesn't realise that there are 3 guitars on the album.[/b]
H: Yes, it's hard to tell us apart, except from the solos, where if you know our style, you can tell who plays what. That happens onthe stereo, because it is very difficult to manage that on a record. If you hear it in 5.1 surround, then you will hear what we're playing, each of us on a different speaker. It was the bigest challenge for Kevin, but now we can perform older song more true to their studio form live, since on the studio version there are many parts with 3 or 4 guitars.
What would you say is special about this release, in comparison to the past?
h: There are some moments in the album which I believe people will really like. Also, the longer songs will have appeal. Surely I hope everyone enjoys the album (laughs) but there are some parts, which introduce some new thing for the band. I wish I could explain it in more detail. It has something from Brave New World, and all the older albums.
On a more personal level now. When you decided to leave Iron Maiden, did that happen because you had to get away from the full schedule of the band or what is because you wanted to experiment with other music forms?
That's the closest that you will get to an explanation. I had begun to get tired, bored, and really didnt know what i wanted to do. i enjoy it more now, because i used to have no personal life. balance is necessary, sth that we didnt have back then. When it is time for us to work, we are all revitalized because we have the opportunity, outside of Iron Maiden, to follow our personal choises.
But if you had yuor reasons for stopping the demanding lifestyle of the band, which were the reasons that drove you back?
H: I believe it was the right moment. Blaze had left, they were looking fr a new singer, there was a chance for Bruce to come back, and Steve was thinking about having 3 guitarists. He always sees things differently and with that idea he had to convince me. A the start, the idea of me doing half the concert and Janick the other half was not a good idea. From the moment that everybody is so friendly, we don't have any problems in working togetherand ultimatelly I believe it has helped composition-wise. There are more sources of inspiration. I left from Iron Maiden under different circumstances, I did different things that filled me up with energy and I liked the idea of returning.
Is it easy to get used back to the demanding schedule of the band?
H: No (laughs). Luckily we fit more free time into the schedule, because of our families, so things are easier. I was very busy because we had many things to do while I was with Bruce, but that worked as a training for the heavier program I have now.
How are your relations outside the band?
H: We see each other often. Have Barbeques, play football, usual stuff.
Do you still manage?
H: Barely (laughs)!
Many times I wonder how 6 40year-olds are full of energy every night, much more than many 20year-olds!
H: I've been wondering about the same thing!!! (laughs) I believe it has to do with the band. We play for the audience and we have never shortened our set to make things easier. We didn't downtune to be easier to sing. I'd say it's like a cabbaret, where you go to have fun. I believe that when the time that we can't make it anymore comes, we will stop. We also arrange the tourr in such a way that we have days-off for resting. We can't go on doing what we did in the middle of the 80's.
Second Part: Janick Gers!
Janick: The minute I arrived, they made me talk on the TV. I had just got off the train and I hope I didn't have any black dirt on my face! (laughs) [/i][interviewer's comment: the discussion can't start without Janick making a joke first! Moreso the sunshine makes his smile all the time][/i]
My comment on your new songs is that while one can hear the classic Maiden sound, one distinguishes many new elements.
Janick: I believe every album of ours brings new elements. With time, each one changes as a person, resulting in us bringing different ideas in the band. If you listen to every Iron Maiden album, you will see great differances. Can you compare Killers with Somewhere In Time or Sventh Son with The X Factor? They have different aesthetics. You can consider one better than the other, but they have different elements. This happens with every record, because we do not define a style of writing, but we compose as we feel. Finally, we have most of Iron Maiden releases different from each other, yet 100% Iron Maiden. From this point of view, "Dance Of Death" is a different album, but always Iron Maiden.
what, in your opinion are the differences here?
Janick: Take into account that you have only heard only the first 4 songs, which I believe are representatory of the whole album. There's ghreat diversity. For example Montsegur, , which was written by me and Steve with some help from Bruce. It's one of the heavy parts.
It's very different from what you have done as Iron Maiden
Janick: There is more material that is very different. I couldn't choose out a song that represents the album.
How will you choose a single then?
Janick: I always say that if a song is to be a single, it must have the sound that says: "play me!" [interviewer's comment: the special relation between Iron Maiden members and their songs!!!]. If it is complicated or too heavy, it won't be heard on the radio. The same thing will happen if it is a lenghty song. So we must choose a short, straightforward and catchy song.
It is like telling me, indirectly but clearly, that it will be one of the first couple of songs [interviewer's comment: Wildest Dreams, Rainmaker. I'd bet my money on the first one]
Janick: Most possibly. It must be saying to you "choose me". It's like looking at a photo and it stands out. The one which wins you over from first listen, first glance. In the album he have from straighforward rockers to heavier, more substancial songs.
Speaking of substancial songs, Iron maiden always had an anti-war stance. How do you see the situation today?
Janick: We always write against wars. I don't want to interfear with politics, but we must not go to war. A musicians we ought to keep in touch with the developments and i believe that is what we do. It is somewhat annoying when people excpect answers from you, because, simply, I don't have the answers. That which I can say is that I don't like what I'm seeing. Usually Bruce is good at this (laughs).
Like all bands, you reached very high, but at times very low in this journey. In this specific moment, you are surely in one of the best moments of your career.
Janick: I believe that any band that survives more than 2-3 years follows a "rollercoaster" career. You have highs and lows. You just got to go through them and follow the train. You shouldn't pretend to be something you are not. If you love what you're doind and are sincere with yourself and the people that listen to your music, you survive. We went through a big period in the mid-90's that we were out of fashion. But we were playing in packed venues and 80.000 crowds at festivals. The fact that we were considered out of fashion didn't intrest us. In any case we were never really in fashion, although there were cases when we were on the radio or the tv, more out of luck rather than anything else I'd say. We play rock, popularity is the media's job.
How do you see the band, in all these years as a member? You were there when Bruce left, Blaze came, the sound changed, now he's back along with Adrian etc.
Janick: Yes, but we didn't change the way we compose. First, Bruce wanted to leave. If someone would tell me that we want to kick Bruce out, I wouldn't have stayed, but it was his desision to move on to other things. That period we sat and thought if we wanted to go on without him, since in a band the singer is the frontman, which means in front of the band, something like the face of the band. When he leaves, you loose a great deal of your identity and you must have great strength to redefine your identity. Iron Maiden have their identity, but Bruce was their face and it was hard to substitute. Blaze came. There's no comparison between Bruce's and Blaze's voice [interviewer's comment: finally, I hear it raw and from the inside!]! Even he [Blaze] admits this. That which is important is that he loved the band and gave his best for it. Bruce has an incredible range of almost 3 octaves. There was no chance therefore that Blaze could have reached Bruce's standards and that had bigger cost for the live shows. On the other hand, Bruce's technique is definately greater, because, tried as he might have, Blaze didn't have the technical foundations Bruce has.
A far as the albums were concearned though, the differance in sound and production was clear. Do you believe that was only because of the production, or was it because of the way you composed back then?
Janick: Martin Birch, who was responsible for the production up to that point, stopped and since he had worked with him for such a long time, Steve decided that he would do it. The studio changed, he brought Nigel Green in to help, so it was unavoidable for our sound to change, for fundamental reasons. The way we composed changed because we composed differently with Bruce and differently with Blaze. The chemistry changes ofcourse.
Is it harder today to compose for 3 guitars?
Janick: No, because we don't tend to show off our playing abilities. I believe that each one of us could easily stand as the only guitarist in a big band. There is no competition as to who will be the best guitarist in the band but as to how we will combine our abilities better so that we can make the songs sound better. For example, that is the only way we can have songs like Montsegur, with guitars flying all over the place [interviewer's comment: when you listen to it, you will understand what he's talking about]. Ofcourse, we don't repeat that on every song, because it would loose it's appeal. So, on other songs, the guitars stay more in the backround, with simpler rythms. We try to come up with different ideas, to make our compositions better. I don't believe Yngwie Malmsteen would fit in the band (laughs). Musicaly, we make the songs better, without trying to stick out, so many times we play simpler, but the collaj of the 3 of us gives the better result.
Would you compare Kevin Shirley to Martin Birch?
Janick: Nowadays there is more digital equipment, the simplicity of the past doesnt exist, and Kevin knows how to use them very skillfuly. You see many people working with the mix, it's like working with an atomic bomb and you have to know exactly what to do so it doesn't blow up (laughs). The thing he has managed is to make us sound like when we are playing live. The thing that Martin Birch had managed was to avoid having a sound as a producer. He didn't bring the sound of Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash or Black Sabbath in Iron Maiden. In contrast, what "Mutt" Lange did with Def Leppard and Bryan Adams was to have his signature on the sound. Kevin had succeeded in what we wanted, he makes the band sound like Iron Maiden and doesn't try to make us sound like something of his.
Tell me about the DVD. Visions Of The Beast is out.
Janick: It's great. It has everything! Steve worked very hard for this and he has placed some hidden thingies inside which aren't mentioned on the box and you have to discover them. Our whole career up to Rock In Rio is in there. The history up until now!
After huge tours, sales of millions of albums and unbelievable success, what more is there for Iron Maiden?
Janick: You always want to redefine yourself. You want to be good at concerts, for the people that buy your albums etc. The first time I played at Donnington in 1982 with Ian Gillan was a top moment. If my goals ended there, I would have stopped. But ten years later I went back. You just raise the barrier constantly higher. We try to reach new countries as well as places we have been to before, but with a fresh mood. Madison Square Garden sold out instantly!
And in places like Croatia you moved to bigger venues, right?
Janick: Yes, something that is very good. We also play on huge festivals. The spark still burns in us. I always worry if anyone is going to come over to see us (laughs). We musn't take anything for granted.
That way you try to suprise yourself so that you can enjoy it more?
Janick: Yes, I guess so. It's not like when I was starting, when i was 16-17, we're not kids anymore...[interviewer's comment: Nicko passed by us that moment]
Nicko: Speak for yourself, not the rest of us!!! (unbelievable laughter!!!)
Janick: That's how you keep it intresting.
Looking at the past, how do you see Bruce's proposal for you to join Iron Maiden?
Janick: I'm not sure it was Bruce. Steve had seen me with Gillan and on Bruce's solo. I didn't have playing with Maiden in mind, I wanted to continue the 3 month tour we we had arranged. When Adrian decided to leave, Bruce as Steve called me to go over and play some Iron Maiden songs and I declined, since we weren't going to play them on tour for Tattooed Millionaire. Steve told me that it wasn't about the tour, but for Iron Maiden and that they were looking for a guitarist. I ask him why and he says: "Look, we're looking for a guitarist, you want to come or not?" (laughs)
Closing, can you tell me what is special about your new album, Dance of Death?
Janick: I must say that we're very proud for the result. It sounds great and I hope people will like it. If you like it... be well, and if you don't... be well again. That's all I've got to say.
Part Three: Funny McBrain.
Nicko: What a lovely day in London!!!
Yes, as if we're in my country. Why don't you move to Greece so that you can enjoy the weather more?
Nicko: My friend, don't forget that I live in Florida and we have morre than our share of good weather over there too (laughs), but I really like Greece, if I knew how to speek Greek, I'd stay there instead of America (laughs).
Yes but you haven't planned a visit here on this tour.
Nicko: Yes, I don't know why we aren'tcoming to Greece on this tour, but - as far as I know - we will come for the album's World Tour.
Why the summer tour now and right after that the world tour to promote the new album?
Nicko: Basicly, we decided not to circle the globe for the album's promotion, but to have a few shows and let the reporters come to us. Since it happened to be summertime, the time was right for us to play at festivals and then have our own tour which will be clearly Iron Maiden. On the other hand, when you're promoting a new album, you concentrate on that one, there's greater pressure and you must be more focused. While on this tour we're more relaxed, since we're playing songs that have been played a thousand times before, some of which don't make the setlist when we're promoting a new album.
How do you manage to make so many appearences, pardon, at this age...?
Nicko: Look, I know you were talking to old-Janick, but don't you think that we're all old (laughs). You are right though, this year I'm 51, that's over half a century (laughs). But I remain the best looking guy in the band (laughs). I'm not in better shape than Bruce, but I certainly am the prettiest (laughs). We all keep fit, the secret is not only to create good music, but to take care of yourself and have the will to carry on. If I had to give the secret of Iron Maiden's longetivity in one sentence, I'd say it's because we still like what we do. We're a band for the stage. We compose and record music as much as we can, but thatn happens so that we have the opportunity to go out on the road again.
And for how long do you think you will be able to carry on, because it's not easy playing so many nights, for 2 hours, so difficult songs.
Nicko: It's tough and I have accepted the fact that I won't be able to go on forever. I have made a promise to myself that I will not continue if I can't perform right. As long as God allows me to do so, I'll be there. I don't want to give you the right to write one day that Nicko is too old and he must be substituted because he can't pull it off anymore. I don't know what would happen if we all lost our hair, but... (laughs). Some granpas with long hair can rock, but can you imagine us bauld, dirty old men banging on stage? (laughs) It's a passion, what else can I say. When I was 18, I thought you were old at 21, when I was 21 I thought you were old at 30 and when I was thirty...
Let's leave it at that!!! (laughs) Let's say you're wiser now.
Nicko: From one point of view yes. On the bottom line though, it is tha passion that keeps us going.
I heard, though, that except from a drummer you're a good bass player too.
Nicko: (laughs) Who speaks of such rubbish? (laughs)
And that recently, you compose music too!!!
Nicko: (laughs) I'll be totally honest with you. It took me many years to built the selfconfidence, but because I was lazy too, to take the desision to compose music. What did you think of the song?
I believe it fits well in this album, because you have various new elements and greater variety than on Brave New World or older releases. It wouldn't fit, as an example, on Seventh Son...
Nicko: Yes, I agree. It's not completely mine, Steve and Bruce have helped as well. I remember when I played parts of New Frontier on bass to Steve for the first time (laughs). He like it, and when finally we were trying to complete it , he had some difficulties playing it, he turned to me and said: "Nicko, why don't you play the bass parts?" (laughs). I am never going to reach him, but I believe that I have made great proggress in the last years.
Before we close our beautiful conversation, I would like you to talk about your adventurous project [interviewer's comment: for some time now it has been made known that Nicko is collaborating with -ex-Anthrax- Danny Spitz and Vanilla Ice, for those who remember "Ice, Ice baby"... no comments.].
Nicko: It has turned to a real adventure. It all started from Dan who has been my friend for years. Our wives meet up at church often and we hang out as well. He played some ideas that he had recorded in his basement to me and suggested to me to compose some ideas of my own so we can mix them. It took us a long time, but his very good ideas turned into good songs. So one day he calls me and explains to me that he had come in contact with Vanilla Ice, because he was religious as well, and speaking about his songs, he told him to join in. I was very weary before I had heard the songs, but believe me, the guy knows what rap means. In some parts, his voice is amazing. It's not that easy for me to describe it to you, as it's not Iron Maiden, it's not Anthrax and it's not rap. It's a combination of ideas with a dynamic result. I have never heard of anything like it in the past.
How much truth do the rumors that want Dave Ellefson -x-Megadeth- as part of the project have in them?
Nicko: Look, Dan was so excited about the idea, that he was telling it to everybody. On the other hand, Dave didn't want anything to leak, because he wasn't sure if he wanted to be a join or not. He helped us alot and I think he would have stayed until the idea was complete, but the way things developed and it got known din't sit well with him and he left. We'll see what happens. Anyway, we started out to find a way to praise the lord. Maybe sometime we will complete it, after the tour with Iron Maiden, we will see.
Thankyou very much Nicko, I wish you have a pleseant summer.
Nicko: You too. I'll see you soon in Greece. God bless you all! [interviewer's comment: that last bit sounded like my grandmother!!]