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Janick Gers & Dave Murray Interview
Q: We had to wait three years for new work by Maiden.
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A: Well, not really. We relesed "The X Factor" in September 1995, we toured till September 1996, then we released "Best of the Beast", toured again and in june 1997 we started working on the new cd. Eventually, we took only a six month break and that's really necessary, because life on the road is a very strange world. We really need to get with our feet back on the ground. We see so many things, we go to so many different places, from here to Mexico, we all see different cultures. That's why we have to make up the balance where we are. Well, musically, this new record is where we are now.
Q: How did the record grow?
A: Well, everyone had his contributions with little pieces and once we had brought order into everything, it went quickly to record and to come to this result. The actual recordings took us only three weeks and the rest was 'finishing', using loads of technologies.
Q: My first impression about the new record was that the music sounds more direct and less symphonic. By the way I also think that the production and mix are totally different from "The X Factor", Blaze's voice is more on the foreground.
A: Well, the voice was recorded with a lot more additional equippement. On the X Factor the voice was recorded a lot more drier. Blaze didn't get a lot of favors. His voice sounded naked, like it is and that's OK for me, because I think he sounds brilliant, with loads of deep sounds. In a lot of rock music the vocals are recorded with a lot of effect, by which they are absorbed in the entire. But on "The X Factor" it was good to do it different. Maybe it wasn't right to his voice, but for that record it had to be done this way. The problem is ofcourse that people were waiting for a singer like Bruce and that's something we didn't want. Now the people know how Blaze sounds and they have different expectations. The new album is obviously different and that's the way it has to be, each record has to be different. We used a lot of technologie on this one, but wisely, it's not a computer record.
Q: The title of the new album has to do a lot with soccer and it also tells us it's your eleventh studio album. Tell us more about it.
A: If you could see the artwork for the new cd, you would see Eddie sitting in front of a computer playing a virtual soccer game. Some songs are about computers, technologie, science and virtual reality. This is the end of the 20th century and of a milennium. The soccer theme is present, we all love football, but it certainly isn't the main theme. But there are similarities between a rock and a football audience. They're all the same kind of people: singing and wearing flags. In some parts of our songs there are themes that can be heard in a football stadium. A song like "Heaven can Wait" has such parts. The thing that symbolizes for me the 90's is that young people don't play football anymore, but they watch it or play a computer game. That's an important form of alienation in our society, that's at least our impression of the time we live in.
Q: A few titles on Virtual XI especially drew my attention: "When 2 Worlds collide", "The educated Fool" and "Como estais Amigos".
A: "When 2 Worlds collide" is about astrologie. In the solar system there are flying a lot of thingslike asteroids and meteors and those things could hit each other or our earth. It's about collisionsthat can lead to the destruction of one form of life and maybe start a new one. "The educated Fool" is about us, people. Actually we all are a bit educated fools. It's about selfanalysis and going deeper into the meaning of things. This song has got all those tempo changes, that only Maiden can do. Other bands try that too, but they can't do it like Maiden can. This is the kind of songs we really like. "Como estais Amigos" is about people we met during the Falklands War Memorial. It's about how politicians divide those people in camps. If you personnaly meet the inhabitants of countries at war, then they're people just like you and me. As musicians we travell all over the world, from Mexico to Brazil, from Japan to Moscow. We meet people everywhere and we notice that we all are not that different. Politics make ther nations look different than they really are and when there's a war, not the politicians, but 18 or 20 year old people have to fight. This song is about how stupid war is, like the Falklands War. There died so many people and what for?
Q: I saw Maiden for the first time in 1980 in Kortrijk. It was your first concert outside England. Now there are only two members left from that line-up. 18 years later it's still that typical Maiden. What's the actual identity of the band? What's the element that makes your albums sound 'Maiden'?
A: First and especially there's Steve (Harris)! He has his own way of songwriting and playing bass. He's the center of everything. He has very clear ideas when he writes a song. People came and went, even Bruce. But today we have the feeling that we have reached our definite form. We've got something like 'this is it' and we don't want any changes anymore, though we say this every time again. When you look at the band in the last 18 years, then those changes are limited. We worked with each line-up a very long time. Ofcourse, it's a fact that we always brought people in who fitted in the band. When Blaze came and started singing, we knew immediately that he would fit in the band. He came from an other hard rock band, so he could suit Maiden perfectly. The same goes for all the other line-up changes. That way there was continuity. An example of the opposed is when Glenn Hughes into Deep Purple. He came from a different musical direction and that changed the band's identity. That's not always wrong, but in Maiden we always wanted musicians who fit in the concept. As far as Bruce is concerned, I (Janick) still don't know why he left us. A few weeks before he told us he was leaving, I had had a chat with him about the band and he thought everything was going all right. When I heard he was leaving us, I was totally surprised.
Q: With your permission, but Blaze is very different from Bruce.
A: That's true, but it's still Iron Maiden. He sings maybe a bit more like Paul Di'Anno did, but Paul, Bruce and Blaze show each a side of Maiden.
Q: I still have some problems with Blaze. If I may be honest, I always have the impression that Blaze forces his voice to hold the notes longer and that he has a limited range.
A: Of course Bruce had a huge range, but Blaze has a deep voice instead. We understand you have that impression with songs from Bruce's period that he has to sing. Those are not songs that are written for his voice, but he does the best he can. Some of these songs are really difficult to sing and every singer has trouble with such songs. Bruce had a two octave range, but Blaze really gives all that he's got. Personnaly, I (Janick) don't like those falset voices. I rather like when everything comes from the deep and Blaze is absolutely good at that.
Q: Did you have to adapt your writing style to his voice?
A: Well, there are a few songs where we had to change the key, but most of the times it happens spontaniously when we're writing. The chemistry in the band changed when Blaze joined. It's also a matter of vibrations. You can work with some people and with others you can't. In a band it's just the same and if we hit it off, we write things in a special way and it gives the right sparks.
That moment the EMI guy comes to tell us that we're out of time. I want to know quickly if the new single "The Angel an the Gambler" will be released in its full lenght of allmost ten minutes. No, it won't. The single will be six minutes long and the video four. If everything works out the way it should, we'll be able to see Maiden in Belgium and Holland in May and the set will naturally be based on the new CD. We get the time for a short photo session and then we have to go. The fans can expect a CD-ROM or Playstation game later this year, but you'll hear more about it later. Every time I listen to the new CD I like it better and it finds its way to my CD player a lot easier than its yet very musical predecessor. Heaven can wait, but I can't wait to see Maiden on tour!