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Janick Gers Interview
It is not as though IRON MAIDEN haven't blazed plenty of trails across the heavy metal landscape already. One might think that selling upwards of fifty million records and redefining a genre when it was starting to sag around the middle was more than meeting the heavy metal call to arms, one might think this but, only when the subject is other than the beast that is IRON MAIDEN. Though they would be quick to tell you that they never really left, MAIDEN is back and more powerful than anyone could have ever conceived.
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A PC video game, "ED HUNTER," is this summers reason to wake band mascot Eddie from his slumber not to mention the army of stage hands and crew that it takes to stage a MAIDEN event. The game itself is built completely around the world of MAIDEN and visits all the famous scenes capes from the classic album covers. Thugs throwing bottles at you as you shoot the popup portraits of the band and even Eddie himself, all to the music of IRON MAIDEN. Strictly family entertainment me thinks! A bit less violent and the real focus of what MAIDEN does are the twenty "Greatest Hits" as chosen by the fans via the MAIDEN web site. Pure capitalistic democracy in action here on this three CD release Janick Gers has ridden the MAIDEN beast for the last decade of its being and has given fans their moneys worth on both album and stage, now he is part of what can only be described as a heavy metal guitar army. Along with fellow axe wielders, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Gers has engineered a faster, broader and meaner MAIDEN that is currently huffing and puffing its way across America and soon, Europe. By Spring of next year there should be a new album featuring the beefed up six man lineup of Gers, Smith, Murray, bassist Steve Harris drummer Nicko McBrain and the most popular MAIDEN mouth, Bruce Dickinson. What more could the metal world ask for? And lest you be fooled into thinking this is just some quick cash scheme masquerading as a "reunion", well, get thee to a show and then you will witness a sizable chunk of metal's past glory as well as a glimpse into a very exciting metal future. Janick was kind enough to sit and chat before the mighty MAIDEN's Detroit gig.
To go out on tour in support of a video game release is a bit novel.
I don't think that is has been done before but we will tour on anything! We love touring. It just gives us an excuse to go out on tour and since we have this band together, I think that it is great to get out on tour rather than to record straight away. It gets the band all bedded in and confident, especially with the three guitar thing. I just think that it was a great idea and I love playing live so it gets me out playing.
Well, the band has been playing regularly despite the lineup changes over the last several years. It was only a year ago that you were in town with Blaze.
The last tour that we did, we went out in January and we finished in December, at the end of the year, so we did a full year and took a little bit of time off and that is when this thing happened and we decided it would be great to get out their and tour again. To me, this is what this band is about. The prerequisite of IRON MAIDEN is to have a touring band. We record and enough to tour and, for me, that is the exciting thing.
The three guitar lineup is a pretty exciting concept. Is this going to be a MAIDEN/SKYNYRD hybrid of some sort because the songs were not originally written with three guitars in mind.
That is true but on every album there is a lot of guitars that are over dubbed. A lot of higher octaves, lower octaves, harmonies sometimes, even three part harmonies. Sometimes, harmonies were there is a guitar underlying everything and when you play live you have to decide which ones you are going to use and which ones you are not going to use and sometimes you have to leave quite a bit out. From that respect, we try to do a lot of things from the album that normally would have to be left out. Also, we have added a lot more to it, on some of the songs we have detuned down to D on one guitar so it is the MAIDEN sound with a down tuned D underneath it and it adds a little bit of fatness to it. They are only subtle changes and only to make the band sound bigger and louder. On some of them (the songs) we are doing three part harmonies and there some solos where we are doing joint solos so it is kind of like what we would call in the studio an ADT where you would have one solo on one side and another solo on the other side and sometimes it is only a millisecond behind and it kind of like double tracking, so, we have done a bit of that. It has been very creative, what we have done. We got together on a couple of days and went through every song and said "How can we improve this song as opposed to just sticking another guitar on it?" I think that the maturity of each of us and the musical ability of each of us means that we don't have to get everything all equal and become all excited about who is going to get the solos and stuff. We can use the best bit of what we have in the songs and the songs sound better. Offstage, I can't tell you because I am not out there but on stage I can hear everything. I can hear all three different guitars and all the different stuff. I can hear the three part harmonies and all the underneath stuff and that is exactly what we wanted to do. The only other band that really does that, as you mentioned before, is LYNRYD SKYNYRD but that is more of a country -rock band, I have never heard a band this heavy do it. I think that we have enough themes and threads going through the tunes where we can have that guitar and really feel that we have made the band heavier and more colorful.
It would seem that the natural progression for it to take is for the songs that you were involved in from the writing process onwards, for you to be a bit more dominant over them than say some of the older material that Adrian (Smith) wrote?
Not really. The songs that were chose were from the poll that we put on the Internet and the kids chose twenty songs that particular week and we put them on "ED HUNTER" and when we decided to tour we thought that the first argument or the first problem that we are going to have is "Who is picking the songs?" So, we decided that we would do the "ED HUNTER" set. We leave off one or two and change it around a little bit but and that was it! One argument straight out the window. Solos are worked out amongst ourselves so that everyone has a solo here and there and I think that each of us is big enough to accept that we are each a different type of guitarist.
And you are not nineteen anymore so the individual ego is probably a little bit less important than the whole project?
I feel kind of eighteen still! But, a bit more mature about it and I think that is a good thing. Maybe I am grown up a bit!(laughs)
The shortness of this tour and the fact that there is a new lineup of the band with three guitars would seem to lend itself to the recording of yet another live album, is that going to happen?
No, we are going to do a new album.
Are you recording any of the shows for future use as "B" - sides or anything like that?
There will be tapes rolling all the time and what we want to do is put some of these shows on the Internet to be beamed down in case you want to listen to a show, that is the plan. I haven't heard any of the tapes yet but the thing about live shows, to me, is that it is spontaneous and trying to get that out is a show itself. If you want to stand and play, you can play it perfect every night but it would be boring to me. If you were going to do a live album you would spend more time trying to get everything precise whereas a normal live show is precise but you take chances. That is what playing live is about to me, taking chances. Sometimes you come up with egg all over your face and I love that! That, is rock and roll. For too long now it has become very cabaret and everything is worked out and everything is cabaret and that is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be a medium where you took chances and, I think, that disappeared out of rock music for a while and I like bands, when I go and see them, and I know that it is not choreographed and he took a chance and there is something there. He took a chance and maybe it didn't work but that is exciting and that is the whole point. That is what Hendrix did and that is what Page and DEEP PURPLE and all of those bands did. I love that and if you are going to make a live album you just have to stand there and play because it is going out live, these are live events as it were but we have got some tapes. To me, this isn't a reunion as such, it is a step forward. We are moving forward and there is no way that the band is just getting back together for a tour and some money. For starters, this is a new lineup and the second thing is that this is not just a bunch of old farts getting together. I am not against that, and like the SABBATH thing, they are getting together and that is great but they are not getting together looking forward, they are looking back. I love them and that is great but his is different. We are fifteen years younger then them and I think that we can look forward. We want to go into the studio and make what could possibly be the best IRON MAIDEN album ever made. We have the musical ability and the technique to do that but so, it is just down to us. I don't know if we will do it but that is what we want to do so, it is a leap forward and for me not a leap backwards. Now, we are touring with songs that are all old songs but we are touring a project that we put out now. We could play new stuff but that would be bootlegged and on the Internet and all over the world before we had a chance to really get the songs together and I don't think that would be fair either. We finish this tour in August, in Greece and we go to write until November and we start the album in November. Hopefully, we will be finished with the album by March and back out touring just after March. That is why I see us all going forward and I don't see us looking back to 1980 and going "Oh that was great when we did this." I am looking forward and to me this is not a reunion, this is a new band really. I feel a force pushing us forward. If it was us just looking back, I don't think that we would have done this. I know that I wouldn't have done it.
IRON MAIDEN has grown over the years to have this kind of leadership role in the metal community, do you recognize or accept that role?
I don't feel that we belong to any genre of music. Bruce would disagree with me on this but, to me, it is just music. People talk about heavy metal coming back, to me it is just music and I don't catagorize music. I have never categorized music and I don't think that you should. I think that media people do and they have to in order to write about it but to me it is either good music or bad music. When I listen to something I think "Hey, that is really good." I don't think "That is heavy metal so I like it." I don't see it in those terms. A good song is a good song if it is a good slow song or a good fast song. What I think happened to heavy metal was that a lot of the younger bands thought that if they just play real loud and noisy, that is heavy metal but it is not heavy metal! Go back and listen, it is not. So, you have lost melody and you have singers who go GROWWWWWLLL! There is nothing wrong with that, bless the people who do it and I wish them luck but to me, the three great singers that I listened to when I was a kid all had melody. Plant and Ian (Gillan) and Paul Rodgers, those guys all had melody. All the other guys like Anderson and Jagger have all got melody in their voice and the moment that heavy metal kind of fucked itself up was when it lost the melody and it stopped making songs and only made riffs. Give a riff to Jimmy Page he would give you a melody back. Give a riff to Tony Iommi he would come out with something like "Iron Man" with an incredible riff and a powerful melody. Give it to some of these younger bands and it would "bebe gurggle be beblacch!" Some kids might hook into that and get the physical aggression and I want aggression but I also want colors. That is what LED ZEPPELIN and FREE had, color. I want to have color and I don't want to have somebody screaming down the back of my neck. Having Bruce back is brilliant because he is one of the best singers there is and I feel that we are on top of our game.
Janick spies a copy of "THE GILLAN TAPES"sitting on the table that someone has asked him to sign.
That is great! I haven't seen that photo in years. I remember them pictures (laughs). That is a blast from the past right there! I can't even remember it all. I need a minute to sort it all out. I think this one is Reading festival and I tried to cram the guitar up his (John McCoy) bottom but I caught him in the bollocks! After the gig he is chasing me around the dressing room and I am like "What is the matter John?" He was yelling at me "I'll fucking kill you!" "Sorry John, I didn't know it was your bollocks!" (Laughs) Ah that does bring back memories. There is the hat that he used to wear and we used to call him Davy Crocket, but not to his face of course! I will write "Hi Ian" on here so that when you give it to Ian to sign he can read it.
I'm not sure he'll be back here. The last time he got arrested after
Yeah, I guess he wacked one of the security guards on the head with his microphone.
He is always doing that! The best one ever was when there was this kid yelling from the balcony and John McCoy went around the side and up the balcony while I was doing a solo and when the kid turned around John was standing there and going "Aaaughhh!" And then chased him down the corridor. Oh! An even better one, someone was spitting at Ian once and Ian jumped down off of the stage and the crowd parted and the guy just stood there and when Ian landed in front of him the guy ran out of the hall. He got out of the hall but Ian chased after him and the guy was last seen with Ian running down the road after him! (laughs)