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Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris & Dave Murray Interview
Steve, you've called the video "12 Wasted Years", does it seem like twelve years since it began?
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Steve: "It doesn't feel like twelve wasted years, but yeah, when I think back to how it was at the start I suppose it does seem like a long time ago. It doesn't feel like twelve years until you actually start thinking about it. When you see some of the old photos and how young you look, then you think that maybe it does seem twelve years ago."
Dave Murray: "I joined about a year after that, so it's only been eleven wasted years for me".
So let's go right back to the beginning, the first gig at the Cart and Horses, in Stratford, East London.
Steve: "Yeah, I don't remember the exact date, but I remember it was May '76. The band was actually formed at the end of '75, so the end of this year is twelve years".
Dave: "Those early days in the pubs and clubs were good fun. Then you'd turn up about seven o'clock and have a few pints with your mates and you'd be carrying your little carrier bag with your stage gear in. You'd go into the toilet to get changed and there'd be people taking the piss. It's pretty much the same now, but we don't get changed in the bogs".
So whose idea was it to release a video of this nature at this point in your career?
Steve: "We always knew that we wanted to do a video of this sort, and Rod (Smallwood) suggested it a while back. We said we'd like to do it and so basically I just went through the old library of stuff, there's loads of it over there (points across room to a rack of videotapes). I whittled it down to basically what we've got now. What I wanted to do was tell the story with a few interviews, but not too many, but using the footage the fans would want. They'd like to see the old footage that they've never seen before and there's only two songs on there that have been seen before, The Trooper" and "Number Of The Beast", from the "Live After Death" video. There's stuff like "Total Eclipse" (the non album b-side of "Run To The Hills") and "Charlotte The Harlot" from the Ruskin Arms so it's a good package".
As a matter of interest, what is the earliest recording you have of the band?
Steve: "Oh blimey, I've got audio tapes that go right back from '76, not right from the first gigs, but from the days when we used to play places like the Bridge House. They're a bit dodgy. There's a version of "Purgatory", which was then called "Floating" and it had an arrangement that was a bit different. I've also got a tape of my very first band, Gypsy's Kiss, of us at the Cart and Horses. It might have been the first gig we did. There's a song called "Endless Pit" which later became "Innocent Exile". The tapes exist, but I never play 'em to anyone!"
Are you aware that people tape most of the gigs these days? I noticed that the security was a lot tighter on the last tour.
Steve: "There's been a lot of bootlegging. I'm a bit of a hypocrite, I suppose, because I like collecting bootlegs of other bands, if you're a hardcore fan you always want to get something that someone else ain't got. But the trouble is that it's not much fun when you pay out twenty or thirty quid and get a pile of shit. There are a couple of good ones of us, and when they're alright then I suppose I shouldn't say I don't mind... but I sort of don't mind (laughs). What I don't like at the end of the day is that you've no control."
As you've just mentioned, one of the earliest shots in the video comes from the Ruskin, when Paul Di'Anno was in the band. Do you still see anything of him?
Steve: "Yeah, I saw him a couple of months ago, we still keep in touch. He sent me his last Battlezone album. Clive (Burr, drummer) was also at a party we had here the other week. In fact there's quite a few people that I still keep in touch with. Doug Sampson, the old drummer, he still comes to the parties and so does our very first guitarist, Dave Sullivan. And another ex-drummer called Ron Rebel. There's no hard feelings."
How about guitarist Dennis Stratton, who went on to form Lionheart?
Steve: "Funnily enough, I haven't seen him for quite a while. I'd heard that he was playing with his band R.D.B. again, playing stuff like Luther Vandross. I know he was always into The Eagles, but that's taking it too far. There's no animosity towards him either".
People are going to be surprised that footage of something like "Charlotte The Harlot" from the
Steve: "I've actually got about an hour of it, so it's interesting to watch. The sound's not too bad, considering it was done on a home video. It was filmed by a mate of Dennis', I think. I've got one copy, which is like gold dust, if I lose that, then that's it. They're good memories. But there was one thing we were upset about. Vic (Vella, early member of road crew) had some black and white stuff from the days when Doug was in the band and we wanted to use that, but his bloody kids had taped over it. I was gutted, he had us pissing up the side of the truck and everything".
Along with the songs, there are interviews with some key figures in the band's history, such as a modern-looking Neil Kaye.
Steve: "Yeah, Neil did the Soundhouse Tape thing, which was the demo we did at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge. We sent the tape to him basically to get work, and it ended up in the metal chart. It was brilliant, because that got us work else where as well".
Following this on the video, there's some footage of you in the Marquee dressing room, and also a clip of film from ITV's '20th Century Box' TV programme. Did Steve remember much about the Marquee gigs, and did they have problems getting one?
Steve: "Yeah, originally, I tried loads of times to get a gig there through my brother-in-law, because he used to work for a carpet firm round the back of there. He knew Jack Barrie and he tried to get us a gig, but there was no way at that point, even with the demo tape. But then Rod Smallwood came on the scene and we got the gig".
Do you recall the first time you ever met Rod?
Steve: "Yeah, I talked to him on the phone and when he actually came down to a gig we had a big barney with the pub and didn't play. I didn't even know what he looked like and he came up and introduced himself. It was at a pub called the Windsor Castle. The second time Rod came down was when Paul got arrested, and we ended up doing an instrumental set except for the last three minutes. It was ridiculous".
Around the time when you started playing the Marquee, there was a furore about the band. Looking back, do you think you justified it all?
Steve: "Good question. Yeah, I think we had a certain summink, that's all I can really say. Even then, I think the songs were strong and I think we had a certain aggressiveness, a real want to do well that came across. It was really summink else, and I think we've still got that now to a degree. But in those days it was really like a magical thing, the audience were so into it - I'm not saying they're not now - but it is different now because it's on a bigger scale".
One of the things that won me over at one of the earlier Marquee shows was standing in front of Dave and watching just how much he was getting off on the whole thing. He didn't stop smiling for a minute.
Steve: "We were enjoying it, and we still do. That's why we want to cut the tours down so that we still do enjoy it one hundred per cent, instead of just four nights out of five. Sometimes it is difficult on a long tour".
At this point in the video we're shown the promos of "Women In Uniform", and the band's first appearance on Top Of The Pops with "Running Free". Then just as it all seems to be happening, Paul Di'Anno left, citing musical differences and saying he had his own personal crises. If he hadn't quit, would you have sacked him?
Steve: "I must admit, we had thought about it but we didn't want him to go really because the band was doing well. I thought we had a settled line up. He was pretty unsettled in himself and I don't think he wanted to go the whole hog with it and that was causing problems onstage because some nights he'd be into it and some nights he wouldn't. It was a very difficult period for us, but, in the end, we knew that if we didn't split with him, we knew the band would go downhill. There's no real blame, but I just think he was silly to himself in a way because I feel he's got a lot of talent and he was throwing it away. Although in a way, I don't think the band would have done as well with him as a frontman, maybe we were outgrowing him and it was a sad thing when he went. When Bruce joined, his enthusiasm was incredible, it was what we needed so bad because the moral of the band was so low. The tour after that (The Beast On The Road, 1982) was just incredible because all five people wanted to get out there and do it".
Following on from this, there are five numbers from Hammersmith Odeon on that tour; "Murders In The Rue Morgue", "The Prisoner", "Children Of The Damned", "Total Eclipse" and "Sanctuary". If this footage existed, why has it never been released before?
Steve: "When we originally did it, the people who video-ed it were supposed to do their homework by coming to two shows before Hammersmith and they didn't. So consequently, the lights ended up being too dark. So, basically, there was no way we were gonna put out the full hour and a half video because it would have been a rip-off, But now to have five songs as archive stuff is OK. I think it would have got on people's nerves watching an hour and a half of shots that were fairly dark. We had arguments with EMI about it".
Bruce, there's an interview with you where you're talking about not having to wear the black leather like Paul. And yet the film cuts to Hammersmith and you're wearing a red shirt and black leather waistcoat.
Bruce: "Am I? What I actually meant was that you shouldn't expect me to wear exactly the same gear as Paul. All that stuff I got from a shop on the King's Road. That jacket I wear in "Run To The Hills" I bought because it reminded me of Robin Hood, the jacket like the Sheriff Of Nottingham used to wear. But at the time, Rod made us all wear white boots, blue jeans, white T-shirt and leather jackets. This was because one day I walked into the office and he told me 'You look like a bloody roadie'. But after "Number Of The Beast", we told him to go and stuff it".
Also from 1982 is the band's appearance on the children's Saturday morning show, Tiswas.
Steve (smiling): "Yeah. Good fun, it's a programme that's very much missed these days. They've tried doing things like Swap Shop but there's been nothing that's as good".
Did you lust after Sally James and her thigh-length boots? Honestly?
Steve: "Erm, not really. I think she's pretty attractive as it goes, but she's not someone I really fancy. Not like the Wilson sisters or Kate Bush or whatever. I didn't think 'cor, yeah' or anything, but she was really nice".
Interspersed with the music are interviews with people like Derek Riggs (the illustrator who brought Eddie to life), Dave Lights (former lighting designer and technician) and producer Martin Birch. How important was somebody like Derek in their career?
Steve: "Very important, his painting is so good. Who's to say, we could have got another really good artist would it have been Eddie? It's fate, I suppose".
This is followed by some shots of the Dortmund Westfalenhalle gig in 1983, the last night of the World Piece Tour. It was filmed by German TV, but they failed to broadcast the tracks we're given here, "Iron Maiden" and "22 Acacia Avenue".
Steve: "That was an amazing gig. Especially on something like "22 Acacia Avenue", when you can see the audience. It was a magical gig, it really sticks on the mind as one of the best ones we've ever done".
Bruce: "We'd beaten Def Leppard at football as well. And we were billed above Judas Priest, I've still got the poster on my wall. It was a great gig, but the TV Company cut out "Iron Maiden" from the screened version because they thought it was too violent. For a country that started the second world war that's a bit steep. But I like Germans, my sister married one, so I reserve the right to make German jokes".
One of the most hilarious things must be the footage shot at the Polish wedding. What's the story behind that?
Steve: "That was brilliant. Rod Smallwood dancing, we had to get that bit in. We were in the hotel bar having a late drink, we were already pissed when we got there, and some pissed up guys were in the lobby and we got talking. They invited us in, but we didn't know it was a wedding. There was this band playing and we ended up jamming with them on a few numbers".
Look out also for some footage shot at the Budokan in Tokyo on the last tour. There's some daft clips of the band being interviewed by Japanese music press journalists. One of them even has the audacity to ask Bruce whether he spends more time fencing or singing. There's also a German TV special with the band miming to "Wasted Years" and exchanging their instruments among themselves in a fit of unashamed tomfoolery. Bruce and Nicko took over on guitars, and Steve did the vocals, while puzzled technicians looked on in dismay.
Steve: "It went out live on the air and there was nothing they could do about it. We rehearsed it seriously, but it was so f**kin' boring we thought we'd have a bit of a laugh".
Bruce: "What a bunch of no laughs they were, as soon as we started messing around they went all sort of psychedelic on us. It got totally out of hand, but we had a lot of problems persuading Adrian. He felt it could seriously damage our image and standing, but we just said 'bollocks'".
The video closes with "The Trooper" from the Long Beach show. To me, that was when the band started
to look as though you'd made it on a massive scale.
Bruce: "The Powerslave Tour? Yeah, I think that was the one for me too. That tour was definitely the one where I felt upon walking into the gig in the evening 'I am now a bona fide professional singer', I actually felt that I was beginning to get the hang of it. Seriously. We were still green on the "Piece Of Mind" tour. The Powerslave tour was the first one where we were headlining everywhere and that was the first time we started digging our heals in and being completely confident".
Dave: "That whole Egyptian set looked really cool. It felt really good just hanging out onstage before the show".
Do you ever anticipate the day when you'll be able to drop the props?
Bruce: "It'd be nice to, I'm sure our accountants would love us to. But unless you're gonna halve the ticket prices, people are gonna turn round and say 'what about the monsters and turning knives'.Certainly for the new tour I'm really excited. It could turn out to be a real watershed for us, this tour. By "Somewhere In Time", we'd taken it as far as it goes".