30 years, 80 million album sales, close to 2000 live performances, countless satisfied customers and now 15 studio albums of unerring quality and power: Iron Maiden have more than earned their proudly-held status as undisputed heavy metal champions of the world.
Founded by bassist Steve Harris in the mid '70s, Iron Maiden were already firmly established as heavy metal's brightest hopes when they stormed the world with their third album (and first with vocalist Bruce Dickinson) The Number Of The Beast in 1982. Unstoppable throughout the decade that followed, Maiden recorded and toured relentlessly with seven new studio albums and seven World Tours in the '80s alone , cementing their reputation as the hardest-working band on the planet and further strengthening a unique identity and remarkable relationship with their fans.
With the unmistakable figure of band mascot Eddie adorning every album cover, T-shirt and backdrop, Iron Maiden created a world of their own; one that welcomed fans from every culture, creed and social sphere with a guarantee of heartfelt conviction and unprecedented professionalism.
A five-piece band for the first 20 years of their career, in 1999 Iron Maiden became a six-piece, and established the ultimate Iron Maiden line-up of Bruce Dickinson on vocals, Steve Harris on bass, Nicko McBrain on drums and "the three amigos" -- Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers - on guitar. This line-up has scaled breath-taking new heights and become increasingly fearless and boldly creative since the release of the Brave New World album in 2000.
With both 2003's diverse and ingenious Dance Of Death album and its dark and daring follow-up, 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, they dazzled fans and critics alike. With each successive tour, whether revisiting classic songs from their first few albums or playing A Matter Of Life And Death in its entirety, Maiden accrued countless new admirers, momentum building all the while.
This brave new Maiden era reached an astonishing zenith during the band's Somewhere Back In Time Tour that began in February 2008 and initially took the band 50,000 miles around the world in 45 days, flying in their own specially chartered Boeing 757, Ed Force One, piloted by Bruce Dickinson, a qualified airline captain, traversing the planet, from India to Costa Rica, Australia to Argentina, Sao Paolo to Tokyo. Along with tours of Europe and North America, the Somewhere Back In Time tour saw Maiden play 89 concerts in front of two million fans in 38 countries on five Continents, forging new relationships with countries they had never performed in before and strengthening ties with nations that had long been part of Maiden's global family. This unique undertaking was celebrated in 2009's widely praised, award-winning Flight 666 movie, and subsequent DVD release which topped the music DVD charts in 25 countries.
Proudly refusing to take their collective foot from the accelerator, and picking up their first ever Brit Award along the way for Best British Live Act 2009, Iron Maiden are now back with a brand new studio album, just over a year on from the end of that mammoth tour. The Final Frontier is the band's 15th album in 30 years and it is plainly one of the strongest and most wildly inventive things they have ever produced; a 76-minute tour-de-force of soaring melodies, thunderous heaviness and astonishing compositional bravery it looks certain to be regarded as a new landmark in the band's career.
STEVE HARRIS as known by Janick Gers
I was introduced to Steve and Bruce when Gillan were playing Hammersmith Odeon back in the Eighties. I quite liked the lad at the time, and I met him subsequently at a few Maiden gigs after that. He always seemed quite intense and serious and aware of what was going on.
As a person, Steve is one of the few people you meet that you can trust totally. He wouldn’t sell you down the river, he wouldn’t badmouth you behind your back; he’s a very straight fella. You can confide in him and it won’t get passed around, and he doesn’t bullshit. He has the ability to stand back and look at both sides of a situation, but if he’s convinced that he’s right, he will argue with every fibre of his body and he’ll never change his mind, which I think is a great strength. He has very strong mental tolerance.
In situations where other bands might have caved in, the one thing that has kept Iron Maiden doing what it does best is Steve, because he has this belief that what he’s doing is right. When you’re in a young band and your record company come to you, saying, 'You need to soften up your sound, we need a single', Steve’s the kind of guy you need to turn round to them and say, 'Fuck off!'
Steve has a very fertile imagination and a very simple way of writing lyrics. It’s not highbrow stuff – it’s deeper than that. He writes it as he sees it and you really get the feeling the words are from inside him. Every time I play the song ‘Blood Brothers’, it makes me shiver, because he hit the nail on the head. He lost his dad when he was on tour and when things like that happen to you, sometimes you go to deep places - everyone experiences that - but to be able to write it down is another thing. When you read his lyrics, there’s an honesty in there that comes out and he opens himself up more than he does when you’re talking to the guy.
He’s a great football player and he had the choice to play football professionally or play music when he was a kid, but I think he made the right decision. I don’t think he could cope with the discipline of the footballer’s life at the time when you’re a teenager and you’re starting to meet people and get into music. He’s his own man. But having said that, he doesn’t drink much and he takes care of his body – that’s very important to him. Being a sportsman, his attitude is that if your body is healthy, your mind is too, and I think that helps with the band, because you don’t get locked into that stupid rock'n’roll 'let’s go party every night' lifestyle.
He is an idiosyncratic bass player. He picked up the bass and taught himself in such a way that nobody can really copy it. People say it’s like a lead guitar, but it’s not. It gives the band a basis and it moves around quite a lot, but it’s the tone that he has. He has a way of hearing things and a tone that isn’t normally associated with a bass, it’s more like a rhythm guitar. Him and Nicko provide the pulse of Iron Maiden, the body of the band. You copy it at your peril, because the sound of Maiden is built around the way Steve plays bass and the only band that it would work in is Maiden.
Steve has been very involved in the new album. He has this tunnel vision where he can really hone in on things and he has this tremendous focus when he’s recording albums - or doing anything with Iron Maiden really. He wants to get it right and he’s prepared to put the time in. Not many people have that kind of determination and focus.
He is a very, very strong personality. Without his drive and ambition, it wouldn’t be Iron Maiden, no doubt about it. He’s its heart and its power.
BRUCE DICKINSON as known by Nicko McBrain
I think my first encounter with Bruce was when he was rehearsing with Samson in Kilburn, which must have been 1979. I remember I was playing pool and Bruce came out of the studio and he was very animated and very loud and I thought, ‘Who is this geezer?!’ His personality was way in front of the man himself. But as I got to know Bruce, I realised that he is a very intense guy. In the early days when I joined Maiden, he was very extrovert, yet he was introverted at the same time. When he gets a great idea, he won’t let it go and he gets so animated, but other times he would be so intent on what he was thinking about, he would be in another world. His mind amazes me. He’s a genius. He’s also an absolute lunatic - but most geniuses are! And inside there’s a heart of gold.
In the early days, there was a bit of ego. He was the frontman of the band, and you can’t be the stubborn brawny frontman of a band like Maiden and be timid and weak. Outwardly, very few things would phase him, but I know inwardly he’s a very sensitive man. We would have incredible times together, but he would also be a bit of a loner and go off and do his own bits and pieces.
He got into his fencing, which I completely admired about him, because he’s superfit now, but he doesn’t work out half as much as he used to. He was such a good fencer, he was actually asked to join the Olympic fencing team in the mid-to-late Eighties, but he couldn’t because he had to go on the road with the band.
Writing books was the next thing. He was unbearable when he was writing those Iffy Boatrace books, because you’d be doing something on the bus and he’d have just finished writing a new chapter and he’d want to read the whole fricking story to you! But he was so excited, you can’t blow someone out the sky for that.
I was very angry with him when he left the band, because of the way it happened and because I didn’t want him to leave. But when we all got back in the room to take that beautiful picture of the reunion, it was as though we’d all been on holiday for a couple of months, instead of four-plus years and in Adrian’s case, ten almost. The most amazing thing about making music together is that you really bond with your music and also personally, in your inner soul. There’s an amazing vibe that’s always maintained and even though we had four great years with Blaze, when Bruce and Adrian came back into the band, there was this incredible affiliation again.
A change I saw in Bruce from that time, apart from his enthusiasm for the band back like he had when I first joined it, is the genuineness of the emotion that I feel from him. He’s changed in that he seems more rounded and more content, although he’s doing so much more than before he left the band. He’s doing his radio show, he’s doing his flying and he’s got a part-time gig in a band as a singer! He is an absolute joy to be around. We’ve had so many great times on the ‘Give Me Ed’ tour, as we will do on the ‘Dance Of Death’ tour.
I think his finest moment on ‘Dance Of Death’ has got to be on ‘Journeyman’, because it shows a lighter side to Bruce’s voice. There are a lot more subtle emotions than you get with some other tunes and there’s so much more control. The emotion he puts into that track is phenomenal.
Dave and I grew up in the same area of London and I think we probably met at the local youth club, through a mutual friend called Dave McLaughlin. I knew that Dave McLaughlin was already playing guitar and I told him that I was a singer. I wasn’t, but I thought I’d get in with these guys! Then I think Dave Mac introduced me to Dave Murray and we started playing together; they played guitar and I sang.
When I first met him, he was a complete Hendrix nut and he loved Robin Trower and Santana, but I think he likes more blues based stuff these days. Back then, he had two guitars - he was very professional! His spare guitar from Woolworths wasn’t working, so I bought it off him for five quid and my dad fixed it, and that was my first guitar. It was a really nice guitar, as you can imagine!
Dave Mac drifted out of the band into other things, and Dave Murray and I carried on playing together for a few years until he decided to broaden his horizons and eventually he joined Iron Maiden. I carried on with the band we’d had, which became Urchin; he actually came back into the band for a while after he fell out with Iron Maiden’s singer, but then he went back to them. Before they did the first album, Iron Maiden asked me to join them, but my band was doing quite well, so I turned it down. Then they asked me again in 1980. I think Dave rang up and said, 'Look, I think you really should do it' and I did.
Dave is so easy-going and he’s a quiet guy. He has his moments, but generally, he goes with the flow. If you had six guys like Bruce or six guys like Steve in the band well, you need a combination of personalities. That’s what the chemistry of the band’s all about. In fact, I guess Dave and I are fairly similar. We’re both pretty laid-back and we’ve always got on very well.
Another good thing about Dave is that he’s always got a smile on his face. He has good energy, which is always a good quality to have in a band.
He’s a very consistent player, so it’s hard to pick his best moment on ‘Dance Of Death’, but the song ‘Rainmaker’ is one of my favourites and he wrote that with Steve, so I suppose I’d have to say that really.
Dave’s a very good guitarist, but he’s not the kind of guy who tries to outdo everybody. There’s enough scope in Iron Maiden’s music for all three guitarists to express themselves. The phrase 'Let the music do the talking' springs to mind when you talk about Dave. He’s always been able to express himself very well through the guitar.
He’s got his own style and sound, and that’s a rare thing. Everyone who plays guitar wants to have that and he always has, even when he’d just started playing. We could plug into the same amp and he’d still sound like him. If you hear Dave playing, you know it’s Iron Maiden straight away.
I first met Adrian when I was in Samson and he’d just joined Iron Maiden. We were over the road from each other in different studios; we were doing the second Samson album and he was doing ‘Killers’. He was very much the new boy in the band, but I was really impressed with the style of his guitar playing. And he was dead rock and roll. He was skinny, pasty and waiflike, and he looked really cool!
He’s a pretty mellow person, and he’s got a very dry sense of humour. His nickname in the band used to be Willie-Orwontee - not for nothing! He likes to take his time over things, which is not a bad thing and in the old days when we used to do soundchecks together, we’d all be waiting for him, he’s such a perfectionist over sound.
In a world populated by faceless guitarists who all go to school to learn how to do it and end up all sounding virtually indistinguishable, Adrian has evolved a tone and style that is all his own and is unique. Nobody sounds like Adrian, and that is priceless. His guitar playing sounds lazy, like the notes are almost falling over each other but they never do. You actually hang on every note that he plays, because you don’t quite know where it’s going to go next.
He’s a very good athlete. When he plays football or tennis, he has a natural grace, and that’s what his guitar playing’s like. When he plays football, he gets the ball and you think, ‘He’s never going to get past that guy’, but suddenly, there’s a little shuffle and he’s dribbled past him. And it’s like watching him play guitar. I swear to God the timing is the same!
When he left the band in 1990, I think everybody was a bit surprised at how much we missed him and certainly, I don’t think anybody had realised how much the fans would miss him - big time. I wouldn’t have rejoined Iron Maiden if he wasn’t in the band. I just don’t think it would have been complete without Adrian, and now, it’s great having three guitarists.
I think possibly one of the greatest tracks he’s ever written is on the new album; it’s called ‘Paschendale’. When I was writing stuff with him for the album, I noticed he had lots of Siegfried Sassoon and other war books lying around, and he was researching this track. It’s a fantastic song and really evocative of the whole horrific period of warfare - a stunning piece of music, ten minutes long.
Adrian’s philosophy, I guess, goes back to something we were talking about one drunken night. He turned around and said, 'The thing about me is, all I’m interested in is just having a bit of a sing and a play', and that is at the root of everything that is Adrian. He’s happy having a drink, having a sing and playing guitar. And for something that’s that simple, he does it alarmingly well - especially the guitar playing.
I saw Janick onstage before I actually met him, and that was when he was with Gillan at Wembley Arena. I saw this flamboyant showman dancing around the stage playing great guitar, and I thought it was absolutely wonderful. Then he came down to a few of our shows and I met him backstage in the bar and we hit it off pretty much immediately - he was a really nice bloke.
In 1990, when Adrian left the band, Janick had just worked on Bruce’s solo album (‘Tattooed Millionaire’) and obviously, he was going to be the first choice as a replacement. But I remember at the beginning that Janick was actually defending Adrian - he was upset that he’d left the band and I think he was trying to talk him into coming back, which shows you what a good guy he is.
He came down to rehearsal and the stacks had been set up facing each other, wall-to-wall, so it was like a stand-off in a Western like ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, except I think we both wanted to be Clint Eastwood! We did ‘The Trooper’, we just went straight into it, there was no 'Let’s work it out together quietly.' It was just like one, two, three, four… bang! And straight away, sparks were flying round the room! It was apparent right away that this was going to work. He was very exciting to play with and it gave the band a well-deserved kick up the rear.
He is a genuine, salt-of-the-earth bloke, a very smart man with a great sense of humour. He’s a very sociable kind of chap. He likes going out strutting, especially on tour. He’ll go out for 20 mile walks and try to hit every bar on the way back!
He’s a good soul. He’s got a very good way of calming things down if they suddenly start to go overboard. He can pull everything together and make sure that people see things the right way. He’s very good at expressing himself that way, a very diplomatic man.
When he’s playing, he’ll push himself to the edge and really goes for it. There are two sides to it. His playing can be very controlled or it can be very spontaneous, but then he plays a lot of the melodic stuff. He’s got great feel, great dexterity, very fluid. So he’s fully rounded as a guitar player who goes from one extreme to another. He encompasses all aspects, from the quiet acoustic clean stuff into overdrive. It’s 360 degrees he plays everything. And he’s a great showman.
He wrote the track ‘Dance Of Death’ and it’s got everything on there, from the quiet moody melodic guitar to clean guitar to really heavy riffs, but done in the most complex and beautiful and sweet and heavy way, done with really good taste. If that song was the alphabet, from A to Z, it’s got every letter in it.
NICKO MCBRAIN as known by Steve Harris
With a character like Nicko, you never forget the first time you meet him! We were playing our first ever show abroad in Belgium and he was playing in a band called McKitty when I first saw him. He was sitting outside a café, dressed in a white suit, panama hat and winklepicker shoes. I thought he was a pimp or something from the way he was dressed! Larger than life, as he always has been and always will be, he had obviously had a couple of drinks and was chatting off, and I thought, ‘Wow, who is this character?’ It was quite an amazing experience to meet him and it still is really, he’s just a whirlwind. I suppose he’s calmed down a little bit over the years, but not a lot - but you wouldn’t really want him to.
He was with Trust when they supported us in ‘82 and we thought he was a fantastic drummer, so when Clive left the band, we approached Nick and asked if he’d like to try out and it worked fantastically.
It’s hard to describe what he’s like if you haven’t met him. I know people see him on the videos and that, and they think he’s crazy - and he is! But there’s a lot more to him than that. He flies planes and does all sorts of other things. He’s a more complex guy than you might think. He’s just really good fun to have around. I’m a bit on the shy side, so when we go out to meet people, I usually take him with me, because he’s a laugh and he’s got so much verbal, he takes the pressure off me. I just have to stand smiling in the background!
He is without a doubt the entertainer of the band. I really do think he could be a stand-up comedian if he wanted to. He half does that when he does his drum clinics. He tells these little stories and comes out with all these jokes. Often they’re in Spain or Italy or somewhere like that, and half the time, I’m sure the audience don’t really understand him, but he’s laughing at his own jokes anyway, so they laugh along with him! It really is a sight to behold, so I would recommend anyone to see his drum clinics, whether they’re into drums or not.
Technically, he’s a great drummer and he can play all kinds of music. Drummers from other bands sit round the back of him to see what he’s doing, but he’s got his kit set so he doesn’t even look at what he’s hitting half the time. He just puts his head down and plays.
He’s got his first songwriting credit with Maiden on ‘Dance Of Death’ with ‘New Frontier’. About time – he’s only been in the band 20 years! But the first one is probably the hardest to bring in to the other band members, especially when you’ve been in the band so long, and he’s up and running now, so I think it will give him the confidence to write stuff in future. Any variation in writing is a good thing and everyone is encouraged to write in this band; the only criteria is that it’s got to be bloody good!