If there’s one act in Australia’s alt-heavy scene to show an unbridled and authentic support …
If you haven’t heard of Iron Maiden, you can bloody well sod off. Jog on, then.
Spawned in the East End of London, Iron Maiden is heavy metal. There is no heavy metal without Iron Maiden. You can just forget about the whole palaver. For a tick over 40 years, Maiden have been the archetypical heavy metal band. They’ve outlasted their contemporaries by commanding an iron-willed following. This following cultivates around a classic, unforgettable sound and their inimitable live show supporting each album (big ups to the Spanish guy who’s seen them 200 times.) Right there from the start was sandy-blonde, cherub faced guitar geezer, Dave Murray.
Dave Murray along with principal songwriter and bassist Steve Harris, is the nucleus of Iron Maiden’s galloping, thundering, air-raiding heavy metal sound. What other band turns through-and-through blokes into mush after a rousing rendition of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a thirteen-minute epic about a LOST BOAT? Yeah, Iron Maiden can. We caught up with Dave fifteen minutes before he launched into the Denver leg of the Book of Souls world tour.
Hysteria: You guys started in 1975. Did you ever dream you’d fly to round the world gigs in your own jumbo jet, piloted by your singer?
Dave: No, wouldn’t have fathomed that at all, you know. Bruce has been flying planes for many many years. In between touring he was a commercial airline pilot, you know. He was flying a lot, so basically you know a few years ago we went around the world in a 757. We took all the band, the crew, the equipment, so this time it was suggested though that we just step up a notch and take the 747. It carries over 20 tons of gear, and carried like 60 people…plus the band.
We can fly this plane, basically move all the tour seven months or whatever it is. We’ve already been to South America, and then we’re going to Japan and we can drop into Australia. The only way we do it feasibly is to have our own plane. Bruce is being grand just flying a plane. It’s very very comfortable in there. It’s a great way to travel. You know again, we’re touring around the world, travelling on a plane, and we’re having lots of fun.
When you’re up on stage, you always have this little smile on your face. Over 2000 shows later, and it’s still there. What inspires that smile?
Well, I think it’s just the pure adrenaline, really. You go onstage, the reaction from the fans…it definitely sets the blood flowing faster. It sets the cold sleep moving, and I think just because the joy of getting up and playing music. If you’ve got to do something in life and you do something with joy … I get to travel around the world. It’s a pretty brilliant way to live. We’ve been very fortunate, since the late 70s, to be able to do this professionally. I’ve been lucky enough to do this for all these years.
I’ve been saying, if it all comes to a finish one day, it’s just been a blast. I wouldn’t change a thing. We still go on stage and every night is different. Different audience, a different sound, there’s different dynamics going on. We don’t go in a blind way about it, every gig is special. Every show is very important to us, so we try to enjoy ourselves as much as can. We have a lot of fun.
I think that’s what keeps driving us, really, enjoying that kind of gig in the moment and enjoying playing. This kind of music … it’s either going to drive you or not. It’s definitely not going to put you to sleep.
I don’t think anyone’s ever fallen asleep watching Iron Maiden, but I could be wrong about that.
No, no! [laughs]
“This kind of music … it’s either going to drive you or not. It’s definitely not going to put you to sleep.”
You guys are tour pioneers—you played in Poland in 1986, and they were still behind the Iron Curtain. You’ll be playing China soon, another new territory for metal. Is that by chance or design?
We always try to go to at least one new place that we haven’t been to before. In China, we don’t really know what to expect.
We have no idea what sort of audience they’re going to be. It’s going to be a truly a one of a kind experience. I mean, we went to a lot of the Eastern Bloc countries in the ’80s where bands hadn’t been through before. We chose to take our tour buses through the countryside between villages and they used to just stop and look at tour buses as if we were like aliens. Maybe we’ll look like aliens in China! [laughs] It’s a huge and interesting culture, and we can’t wait to play there.
When you’re writing music, it used to be just you and Adrian [Smith] or you and Janick [Gers.] Now you have both on side. How do you carve up the good licks and bits between three of you?
It’s all about finding balance. It’s free, it’s unintentional. It just seems to work that way, where everybody is given enough freedom and there’s enough space in there for everybody to express themselves. We can either come together, plan a three part harmony, or we’ll be playing everything is kind of spread out. When you like to make music, it isn’t a competition between us. Ironically, and just coincidentally, it’s not contrived.
We do this for most of the songs. There’s probably a couple of solos, there’s probably harmony, it’s all over the place. There’s enough space in there for Janick, Adrian and myself to play together, yet still kind of branch off and do our own little thing and then come back as a unit. It’s a really good thing.
Is that because you’ve all known each other for so long? It’s natural?
I mean, you could probably get some of the best musicians in the world together and they just won’t click. We’ve got this thing where we don’t consciously work at it, we don’t work that hard at it. It just seems to happen. We won’t sit down and work out harmony and it’s all kind of very loose and then that’s it, it’s done. We don’t concentrate about every single detail. It sounds right. It’s perfectly all right. There’s enough room in there for a lot of space to play.
On the A Matter of Life and Death doco, the album before the one previous, it seemed like the band was hanging out in a rehearsal space, jamming. Is that how you guys work these days?
Yeah. This time we went into the studio with no pre-written material, and we just stayed off site. I had a couple of songs written, ready. Then we’ll go to Adrian, or Janick, they have some ideas. He wrote a lot of lyrics and stuff along with (singer) Bruce [Dickinson] on this album. Everything was written in the studio and recorded that day. We’d rehearse the song, early in the morning, and then record it in the afternoon.
One track would maybe take a couple of days to do. The foundation was there. We’d finish all the tracks in one day. We’d go back and add on extra things. As long as the foundation was there, we kept everything. We recorded everything. We kept everything. It was very spontaneous, this album. We didn’t realize it was going to be, as soon as you hit the hour mark, you know, it was like six songs. We were like okay, it’s going to be a double album. I think it ended up being like a triple vinyl album.
It was a lot of fun doing it, and it felt effortless in a way, you know? You just sat down and everybody came together, and was in good spirits, and the ideas were flowing and working with Kevin Shirley our producer. He’s a great guy, great guy to work with. He really has a lot of input, just in his energy. His enthusiasm, and the way he likes doing things really quick.
Is that because you want to get the songs out and play them on the road? Maiden is best experienced live?
No, I don’t think that … I think it’s the whole package. I think especially with a live performance, with the show, it’s really theatrical, the Maiden show. There’s a lot of things going on.
Especially with the sets and with the backdrops. They tell a story behind the song. Everything is changing constantly. It’s kind of a theatrical kind of performance. I think Iron Maiden both can do studio and live. I’ve covered both areas. We’ve got video screens up there. The actual live show, I mean the show we’ll bring to Australia is exactly the same one we’ve been using all over the world. It’s a full show. It’s a great live experience.
On the other hand, it’s good when you’re sitting at home with a few beers, and you put on some Iron Maiden. That’s quite a night in.
You toured with Ghost and Opeth in Europe, sort of the new crop that’s been inspired by Maiden. What’s your impression of the new bands?
I like Ghost, I think they’re amazing. I don’t listen to many of the new bands, I’ll be quite honest. I’m still back in the ’70s and I like the old jazz and blues and that era. I wouldn’t know really any of the new bands around, but I wish them all the best of luck and I hope they have a great future. They’re the ones that are carrying the flame, keeping everything alive. Without the new rock metal bands, we can’t survive. I wish them all the best.
WATCH: The first single from The Book of Souls, Speed of Light
IRON MAIDEN The Book of Souls World Tour – Australia
Wednesday, 4 May 2016 – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
Friday, 6 May 2016 – Sydney Allphones Arena, Sydney
Monday, 9 May 2016 – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Thursday, 12 May 2016 – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Saturday, 14 May 2016 – Perth Arena, Perth