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Steve Harris Interview
Q: The new album is a very different album for the band, obviously with the new singer. Can you talk about the album and the overall atmosphere around it.
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A: When Blaze first joined, he asked us if there was any particular direction we wanted to go in. We said no, we never really have any direction, we just write the best songs we can at the time. When we started writing the songs, it was very natural, and we didn't really have any specific topics or anything. We never do. Whenever we do a new album, we really have no idea what we're going to write about. We have little bits of musical ideas that we stick on tape and then forget about, until we pull them out when it's time to do an album. When we're on the road, we don't get much of a chance to do anything, except for sleep on days off and things like that. We don't write on the road. So therefore, it's quite exciting when we do a new album, cause we never know what we're going to do. That's part of the fun of it. We don't know what the topics or the songs are going to be. It's very fresh and exciting, especially working with a new guy, and it worked so well, it was so natural writing songs with him. It was almost as if he'd been in the band for ages.
Q: Is there anything in the atmosphere that ends up giving the album a certain theme. For example, Seventh Son.
A: Not really, it happened with Seventh Son because we decided to do a concept album. A lot of people when they see the artwork and the way the album is put together, they think it's a concept with some of the other albums we've done. Like Fear of the Dark, has quite a few mentions of the word fear throughout the album, but it wasn't a conscious thing, it was just something that happened. We realized it ourselves afterwards. It wasn't intentional. It's just a collection of short stories, and that's all it is. Some of the stories might be fiction, some might be from books and films, and some might be current affairs, it could be anything. You don't know what you're going to write until you write it, so you can't really analyze it.
Q: Talk a bit about the tour. I know you've been a few places that you haven't been to before.
A: Yeah, we went to Israel, and we went to South Africa. We thought it was really important to go somewhere where none of us had been, so it would be fresh to all of us, rather than going somewhere the rest of us had been and Blaze hadn't. We thought it was important to share the same sort of new experience, with a new member in the band. Then we also played in places like Romania, and Bulgaria, which we hadn't done before. So it's always a new challenge.
Q: When I talked to Blaze, he mentioned that you guys had actually looked into the possibility of playing in India, but it didn't look like it would happen this time around.
A: That's right. At the moment they're trying to put it together for sometime in the summer. I've always wanted to play in India, and I've always wanted to play in China, and places like that, just places we've never played before. I know that some of my favorite bands have played India a long time ago, and we've never got around to playing it for one reason or another. I've always wanted to go there, even as a tourist. Janick's been to Goa, but none of us has ever really had a chance to go there.
Q: I've had the chance to follow the tour for the past week or so, and I wanted to get the performers perspective on the proceedings. For example, the show in Harrisburg PA was probably not all it could have been from a security perspective. For example, the Fear Factory bassist was involuntarily pulled into the crowd, and someone got on the stage while Maiden was on, and I remember watching you assist in pushing that individual away.
A: To be honest with you, I got a bit annoyed because, if someone gets on stage, that doesn't really bother me that much, as long as they don't cause any damage or stuff like that. What happened was that he bashed straight into my guitar and turned my guitar off, and that really annoyed me, because it was right at the end of the set on "The Trooper". You try to play up there, and if someone does something like that, than it's a bit off-putting. To be honest with you, I was not in a bit of mood that night anyway, and wasn't really enjoying the gig very much because we had a few other technical problems. Probably on another night, I wouldn't have taken it too much to heart. That kind of capped it all for me, it was a bit of a nightmare, that gig as far as I was concerned.
Q: I still thought it was a pretty good show overall, with the band in fine form.
A: Sometimes when we think we've had a shit gig, you come off stage and there's lots of people there, and they've really enjoyed it. The impression out front is always quite different than what it is on stage, and we are professional in the sense that we are really consistent, and even when we think we've had a bad gig, by other people's standards it's still quite good, I suppose. But you do get nights like that, not too often, thank God!
Q: Talk a little bit about playing the USA. This is the first time in four years that Maiden has toured the States. It is a huge country with a big market, and the US as a country tends to be more trend-following as far as the mainstream. If I'm looking at it from Maiden's perspective, it's obviously a big task you guys have to undertake, and the return on the investment is not as much as it would've been in years past. What are your impressions about that?
A: We don't look at it as a monetary thing. We come over here, and we want to be a popular band again over here, but not to the point we have to change anything. We're not going to compromise. Our attitudes are the same as they were in '81 when we first came over here. We just have to come over, and slap you lot about, and hope that they're going to accept what we are, cause we're not gonna change. We're pretty stubborn as far as that goes. In the rest of world, we've been touring since September, and in most of the countries it's been sold out and we're doing big gigs. Over here, if they can't get into it, or if they don't want to be in metal, then what can you do. We didn't even know if we would sell these types of gigs out. We didn't know what to expect. We heard stories about how Iron Maiden was going down, and it wasn't in fashion anymore. So we've come over here, and we've been selling these gigs out, which is great, but to be totally honest, it's a bit disappointing, because we'd all like to play to more people, but it's not a monetary thing, it's just the fact that we've played to a lot more people in the past. The problem over here is that it's difficult to generate new, young fans, and because we're playing clubs now, quite often you have to be 18 or 21 to get in. So the new young fans sometimes can't get in anyway. So it's difficult to gauge whether we're getting new young fans or not. We've just got to come over here and do this tour and hopefully it'll go up from there, but if it doesn't, so be it, cause we're not going to change, and we're not going to start trying to write hit singles or any of that bullshit.
Q: So it's quite similar to the 70's when punk was fashionable and Maiden would not compromise their sound in order to get a record deal.
A: Yeah, it's very similar in the way when we first came over. Now we know we have a hard-core following, so we know we can do a certain amount, but we didn't even know that was going to be the case until we got here. So at least the hard-core fans are still around.
Q: As far as the rest of the X-Factour is concerned, where else do you guys plan to go?
A: We're hoping to play Chile this time around, which we weren't allowed to last time. As I said, I'd love to play China, but I don't think that'll happen this time around, so we need to start laying down a bit of groundwork for that. Sometimes it can take years to play some place, for example it took us 10 years to play Moscow, which we played on the last tour, and we also played Argentina and Uruguay for the first time on the last tour as well. There's lots of new places really. Hopefully we're going to be playing Hong Kong and Bangkok as well. I think Bangkok has just been confirmed as far as I know, which is great. We're still waiting on Hong Kong. Even if we can't play Hong Kong, I'd like to go there as a tourist before it changes in 1997. Also, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are already confirmed as well.
Q: Can you talk about any future releases that are in the works? and can you comment on the rumor of an Iron Maiden CD-ROM?
A: The "Lord of the Flies" single is the only one at the moment, and it has covers of "Doctor Doctor" by UFO, and "My Generation" by the Who as b-sides. As far as the CD-ROM is concerned, we've been talking about doing something like that, but I don't think it's going to happen just yet, we need to get our arses in gear for that sort of thing. Also, I really want to start getting into the internet, and doing stuff on a day by day basis or a week by week basis, just to keep people aware of how things are going.
Q: I think you're one of the very few people who would be an authority on this. You're the founder of the band and you've gone through all the lineup changes dating back from the early days, and through the changes during the album producing years. Being a band and touring as rigorously as Maiden have, the band becomes a family type of atmosphere and the lineup changes can be analogous to family breakups, which can be a bit difficult and unsettling. Can you comment on that and the will of Maiden to proceed onward.
A: The thing is that at the end of the day, you've got to have 5 people that really want to be there. That's the bottom line, and it sounds simple, but it doesn't always work out that way, and that's why people come and go. Either they're not happy with us, or we're not happy with them, or both. It's pointless keeping somebody in the band that just stays there because it's a good wage. There's no point in doing that. At the end of the day you've got to get on with it. The only thing is when you do have a change, you've got to make sure it's a positive change. We've always looked very positively on any change that we've had with the band. That's the only way you can look at it really. That way when someone new comes into the band, they bring in new energy, and so on. I think because of the changes, it's probably one reason why we've been able to carry on for so long. We enjoy what we do, and still things are fresh and exciting. I don't know, it's difficult to say, because obviously the changes have happened anyway. I think they've been changes for the better, and certainly as far as the band morale is concerned. People can debate till the cows come home about what lineup was better, but at this time we feel that what we're doing now is better than anything that we've done, especially the live shows.
Q: I agree, I don't think I've ever seen the band as energetic, and as happy as I've seen them on this tour during the past week.
A: Not to blow our own trumpet, but I don't think there's too many bands that could have survived the changes we've gone through. To come through as strong as we have, and it's proved on this tour, that throughout the world, the album sales, and the ticket sales, and the reactions to the album and the live shows, it's been fantastic. I'm really pleased and proud, because it's not an easy thing to go through changes like that. What's been fantastic is the support of the fans, they've been so loyal and so into it, and above all they've been so open-minded, which has been great. They've accepted Blaze, and acknowledged that there's been a change, but Maiden carries on and they're into it. It's great!
Q: Talking a bit more about yourself, you've been in the band for the longest time, and have contributed the most material. You've written quite a few classics. How do you react to the concept of being recognized as a great songwriter.
A: It's nice when people say stuff like that, because it's obviously very good to be appreciated, and that's what the ultimate thing is. But first and foremost, you've got to write for yourself, and you've got to be stubborn and make sure that you're liking what you're doing, and hopefully people like it, so for so many people to say things like that, it's great. But as I said, you can't analyze it, and you can't start sitting back and thinking about the why's, or otherwise you'd never write another song. If you start thinking that you've written a song that someone else considers a classic, then it's downhill from there. So I try not to think about it all, and just try to write the best songs I can at a given time. And I try to make sure that I'm not treading on old ground, or things that I've done before, and yet at the same time try not to be so different that it's gonna kind of alienates things. I just try and write what I feel at the time, which is probably more difficult than you might think at times. There's pressure, when you get an album that's been successful, then there's pressure there, but I try not to let that get to me, or otherwise you end up writing "Run to the Hills Part II" and that kind of thing. That's not what we want to do, so you just try and write the best songs you can at the time.
Q: Looking 4-5 years down the road, and even beyond that. Maiden has a pretty good track record, so it's probably a fair bet that you guys will still be around for a while still. What type of vision do you have for the band?
A: It's hard to say, I guess we'll stop when we're not enjoying it anymore, but we're still enjoying it very much at the moment. It's hard to say, I suppose 2001 probably sounds like a good time to end, but I don't know, we might get to 2001 and think "No, we're not stopping yet". Who knows, it's hard to say.
Q: Talk a little bit about as you grow older and associated family obligations and other obligations outside the band, and how that impacts things.
A: You just try to maneuver around things. I used to take my kids on the road with me when they were younger and school was not an issue, now I have to arrange it around school holidays, so you're kind of restricted to things like that. That is the hardest part for me of being on the road. I love being on the road, but the hardest part for me is being away from the kids,which isn't easy. On the European tour it's not that bad, because on the days off, I can just go home, and spend the night, so it's only a matter of a day or two when I don't get to see my kids. Obviously, whenever I get the chance, I have them come out on the road with me. But now that we're in the States, I had the kids come on the road with me for about 10 days during Holiday, and I had to take them home cause they're on my passport, and I'm divorced, so I had to take them home from New York after the Philly show, and fly straight back out the next day, and play Baltimore the same night. So it kind of makes things tough, and to me the hardest part is to be away from the family. I still do what I do, and everything kind of has to fit around that really. A big difference I suppose is that I've got a studio at home now, and that was one of the prime reasons for having a studio at home in the first place, so I can spend more time at home. I'm the one in the band who spends the most time in the studio anyway, I'm there everyday, so making albums abroad is not something I want to do anymore. I spend enough time abroad when I'm touring anyway, and I didn't want to be spending the rest of time while I'm recording away as well. That really would have given me little time to spend with my kids. People change as time goes by, and your priorities do change. To me, the kids come before anything, and some of the fans might not agree with that, but that's the right reason. If it came down to it, there's no comparison as far as I'm concerned. The kids come before everything, and if I had to give up Maiden because of my kids, then I'd do it. But having said that, there really isn't that problem, because I can work around it and can get around it. My kids love me being in Maiden anyway. They love being on the road, and being in the tourbus and stuff.
Q: Do they enjoy having the Piece of Mind Eddie head in the backyard?
A: Yeah, they don't take a lot of notice of it really. They've grown up with it. So, I suppose they sort of take it for granted in a way. Sometimes when they come home from school, they ask me to sign an autograph for friends or things like that. I think they get a bit of a buzz out of it, but they don't really make a big fuss about it.