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Steve Harris Interview
Sumit Chandra interviews Steve, 1st July '98
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Sumit: When Iron Maiden last toured the USA in 1996, they chose to play some of the smaller venues because they were a little skeptical about their drawing power. This time around the band is definitely playing bigger venues. Can you share the thinking behind this move?
Steve: We thought we had to go for it and try to see what we could do, in terms of going up to the next level of venues, and it seems to be working. The last few shows have been well attended and the reaction has been great, so it appears that we’re moving in the right direction. Last time, we were just curious to see what would happen, and this time we thought we’d bring the whole show and go for it. Last time, there were only a few places where we could fit the show in. It’s quite enjoyable to be doing this type of gig again.
Sumit: When I saw the show in Chicago, one of the things that stood out in my mind was the complete look of determination in your face on stage.
Steve: I’m enjoying myself. Of course, it was the first show of the North American Tour, and you tend to go for it, especially with Chicago, which has been a great city for us.
Sumit: Iron Maiden has a long history with many albums and different eras. When you’re thinking about the set list for the tour, what is your thinking pattern about what to include and what to leave out?
Steve: We’ve always been pretty bombastic and done what we wanted to do, pretty stubborn I suppose. Unless you’re going to do a ‘Best of’ tour, then it’s OK to do a best of type of set list. However, if you are doing a new album, then you’ve got to concentrate on doing the new stuff, otherwise it ends up being like cabaret. We enjoy playing new stuff and the old stuff, and we have so much stuff to choose from, that by the time you finish picking, the show’s running at about 2 hours, which is the longest we’ve ever played in the States. We’ve always played 2 hours in Europe. In the States, there’s issues with unions if you go over. You run into union fees, and it becomes a bit political and we like to stay away from that. At the end of the day, we just want to go on and play, but sometimes it has an impact. We may have to cut out one or two songs tonight for example. (writer’s note: they played the set in it’s entirety) It’s one of those things you have to deal with. We are playing a longer set, and we were pretty adamant about wanting to do that. Pretty much the first half of the set, barring one or two songs, is new material. Then you come up with the old stuff in the second half of the set. Over here, much more so, than anywhere else in the world, it’s been a struggle to get new young fans. It’s important that we plug the new album. We’re over here trying to sell albums, to build our fan base. We’re still pretty strong in other parts of the world and we’ve been getting new fans all the time. People in Europe know the old stuff as well as the new stuff. It’s a very different scene in North America. Maybe 20% of the audience out there will have the new album. It’s difficult to judge, but that’s the impression that we get. But, having said that, we’re very confident that the new material is very strong. So that’s what we have to do. Otherwise, you just live in the past, and we don’t want to do that. We could go out there and play a set of greatest hits, get a great reaction from start to finish, but what’s the point. We may do that on the last tour when we decide to call it a day, but I don’t think that’ll be for a while.
Sumit: I understand that WASP is no longer on the bill because they’ve got some recording commitments.
Steve: I don’t really know what happened with WASP. We’ve had no problems with them over the years, they’ve toured with us, and we’re friends. I don’t know what happened. I think they may not have wanted to go on very early, which they would have had to do because of the bill. It would have also meant that the changeover time between the bands wouldn’t have been very long. There may not have been enough time to clean up the blood, etc. I don’t think they felt it was conducive to them doing the performance they would have wanted to do, so they decided not to do it. I don’t know if that’s a mistake for them or not. At the end of the day, it’s their decision. I think they would have played to a pretty decent crowd, but maybe they thought otherwise. I think many people would have come in early to see them. But, I don’t like to get involved in the politics. I like to leave that to the managers.
Sumit: I’ve also heard that Dio is only going to be on the tour through San Francisco.
Steve: Yes, because some of the shows we’re doing towards the end are smaller places, and I don’t think it'll be conducive to a three act bill. I don’t know if he has commitments after that anyway. For the last two shows, it’ll just be us and Dirty Deeds. There may be one or two places where the promoter wants to put another band on the bill. From a selfish point of view, it’s better for us, because that means that we can do an even longer set than we do in Europe. Of course at shows like this, having Dio on the bill is obviously going to sell tickets. We haven’t got a massive ego to be able to say that. Whenever you have a band on the bill that can help sell tickets, it’s allright. We’re not that big here that we think we’re going to sell places out ourselves. We’ve never been like that. Even years ago, when we had Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister, and people like that supporting us, and we were selling out major arenas, the reason we were selling them out was because they were on the bill as well. If we were alone, we would have probably only done 75% of the business. The support act is sometimes the difference between selling out and not. In Europe we are strong enough that it doesn’t matter who’s playing with us, but over here we’re not, so you have to be realistic.
Sumit: The new album has a virtual theme to it. The last time you and I talked in 1996 we had a lengthy discussion about computers. How has the band’s understanding of computers improved.
Steve: The last time you and I talked, I wasn’t really up on it at all. Now I know a lot more, and I’ve messes around on it, so I’m a bit more knowledgeable, but I wouldn’t say a great deal more knowledgeable. I certainly know more than I did two years ago.
Sumit: How did the idea for the Ed Hunter game come to be?
Steve: We were doing a game called Melt a couple of years ago, and we weren’t too happy with it. The graphics just weren’t that good, and the game just didn’t do justice to Eddie. So we scrapped it, and Ed Hunter is a completely new game with completely new people doing it. They’re big Maiden fans, so they have more of an idea of what a Maiden fan would want from an Eddie game. It’s really strong, the graphics are fantastic, the people that have seen ‘The Angel and the Gambler’ video are familiar with it, as many of the graphics are in there. It’s like a fan’s dream.
Sumit: As far as the internet is concerned, Iron Maiden does have an official website. What are your thoughts about the internet?
Steve: We haven’t been too happy with the official web site. We’re going to be changing it drastically. There are unofficial web sites out there which are better, and that’s obviously not right. I’ve heard cases of people that have actually drafted in people who’ve done the unofficial stuff to help them do their own. I don't know if we’re going to do something like that, but certainly we’re going to change it. I think the look of the site is good, but it’s just not updated enough. There were things leaking onto other sites from various different sources which shouldn’t have been, and getting on there before ours, because our people were told they couldn’t have the information yet. So you ended up with the situation where unofficial sites were putting out information before our own site, which is not ideal. I think the whole outlook has to change. Suppose, I did an interview now and told you some news which no one else knew, and it could be up tomorrow and everyone else would know about it. I think the whole mentality of information getting out is different now. I think there will definitely be some changes coming up.
Sumit: You’ve gone through quite a few line-up changes. As the founder of the band, can you talk about how important chemistry in the band is?
Steve: It’s very important. How can you go on the road for 8 or 9 months at a time with people that don’t want to be there? You need to have the band working as a unit and have the members enjoying it. We’ve had that in the past with various people, and that’s up to them. It’s also up to us, to not have someone in the band who doesn’t want to be there.
Sumit: I can’t recall a time
when Dave Murray has been unhappy on stage.
Steve: Well that’s just the way he is, he’s always smiling. If he wasn’t happy, he’d leave. We talk about it sometimes, as far as the length of time we’ve been together, and when we do, we both recognize that the feeling or the magic is there, and that’s the most important thing.
Sumit: Can you talk about your growth as a musician and a songwriter in the past 5-10 years.
Steve: It’s difficult to analyze that sort of thing. I think everybody has evolved in one way or another, writing, or playing or whatever. It’s like a good wine in that you definitely get better with age. I definitely feel like that. You can’t say it’s like a sports figure where the body deteriorates, but in music it’s much different, you can definitely mature and get better. Some people will talk about liking a certain part of our history. We’ve got a very long past. So even if somebody got into the bands three albums ago, they tend to talk about that era. Most fans talk with great fondness about the first album they got into of any band. The situation you have now is that you may have new young fans that have recently gotten into the band, and you ask them about their favorite album and they usually mention the first one they heard. They go out and buy all the others as well, but it’s usually the album that they got into first that remains special. So, if you ask someone that got into the band since the first or second album, then that is the period they feel the most fondness for. You can’t compete with that, not just because of the music, but also because of the time period they got into. They may have fond memories of the girlfriend they were with, or other events that happened which are associated with that time period, and you can never compete with that, regardless of what you do with a new album. You can’t worry about that, and just do the best job you possibly can.
Sumit: You and the band have a really strong fondness for football.
Steve: Yeah, we’re all in mourning at the moment because England lost yesterday.
Sumit: Who won the promotional matches for the new album?
Steve: We played five matches on the promotional tour and we won all of them. We’ve played some more matches since then while we’ve been on tour, and we lost one of those. I think we would have lost that one regardless of what team we had. We played Benfica at Benfica stadium in Portugal and because we had won our other game, they put out a really strong team to make sure there was no risk of them losing to the Iron Maiden X1. They had 6 or 7 current players. We still had a great time, it was a dream come true to play in Benfica stadium against some of these players.
Sumit: There are several books about the band, including one that’s recently been released called ‘Run to the Hills’. It is very objective in covering the band and in trying to present both sides of the story. Can you talk about the experience of having a book written about your existence for the past 20 or so years.
Steve: It’s weird because we’ve had a very long past, and sometimes you get mixed up in when things actually happened. It makes it interesting. Davey and I go back the furthest, and his recollection and my recollection of the same things can be different. It’s quite interesting to see different people’s ideas of what actually went on. It’s fascinating reading, even for me, and that’s not to plug the book. I read Davey’s account and sometimes say to myself, ‘I didn’t realize he saw it like that’.
Sumit: There is a pictorial biography of the band called ‘What are we doing this for?’ Is there anything similar in the works.
Steve: Not at this very moment but we would like to do something like that.
Sumit: Last question. Talk a little bit about the family side. I know on the last tour, you had some logistical challenges in trying to spend time with them, flying back and forth to the UK, and still doing the tour.
Steve: I’ve managed to get around that. This time I’ve got them on my mom’s passport, and they’re coming out to LA in a couple of weeks but that’s too far to fly home and get back in time. My mom’s bringing them out, along with my girlfriend. The problem before was that they were on my passport, so now things are a little bit easier. They’ll be here in a couple of weeks, because they have summer holidays. The worst thing is being away from them, especially when it’s during the school year. In Europe it’s easy, because I can fly home for the day. Over here it’s a bit difficult. After going through the divorce, I get them about half of the time, as opposed to just being a weekend dad, which has worked out pretty well.