By Steve Newton
On December 9, 1984, Iron Maiden played the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver–with Twisted Sister opening up! Not only that, but the Georgia Straight newspaper put my interview with the British metal legends on the front page, featuring a totally rockin’ live photo by famed Vancouver photographer Bev Davies.
I hadn’t been so proud of my non-award-winning accomplishments in journalism since scoring the prestigious Ozzy cover back in June of ’82!
Maiden was touring behind its Powerslave album—the one with “Two Minutes to Midnight” and “Aces High”—so you know that can’t be bad.
In advance of the show I interviewed guitarist Dave Murray on the phone from Toronto, and this is what went down.
How’s the tour been going so far?
Well, we just finished a European tour with Motley Crue, and that went very well actually. They’re a good bunch of lads and all, so we had a jolly good time there.
What was it like playing behind the Iron Curtain earlier on this year?
Well that was a great experience. We did ten shows there, all together, and the reaction from the kids was superb. It’s so rare that you get bands going over there.
I saw on the TV news a couple of months back that you really caused a stir in Poland. Why do you suppose they go so wild for heavy metal over there?
Well for one thing you can’t buy records over there much, which is a drag. You have to get people to send you albums. They’re pretty much suppressed when it comes to music, so when they do get a concert it’s incredible. They were saying that it’s probably the first—and maybe the last—rock concert they’ll ever see. So it was really emotional in a way.
I understand the guards were even throwing their jackets around and going wild.
That’s right, yeah. Because there was a riot squad, they had strict security, and by the end of the show they were doing that—jumping up and down. We’ve got quite a collection of police hats at the moment, you know, which we’re gonna auction off at the next gig.
Was it difficult to get clearance to play there?
Well I’m not sure exactly how we got over there really—it was done through our agency, you know. We just got our visas and everything. Actually, they gave us a great welcome when we got there. There were all these soldiers at the airport, because quite a few fans turned up. And a TV station turned up. It was great.
Are you going back?
Well you never know. We might go back in 1986. But we filmed everything for a documentary when we were over there. It went out on MTV about a month ago. So hopefully we might have opened the doors now for more bands.
You’ve also played places like Japan and Australia.
Yeah, we’ve been to Japan twice and Australia once.
How do the metal audiences differ from, say, Japan to Australia?
Well in Japan the audience is like 95 percent female. And they’re very polite. They come to the concert, and they’re not allowed to get up in their seats, so they all sit down. I mean it’s all girls, right, and they just…you know, it’s great! And in Australia there’s the hardcore heavy metal fans, who are pretty much the same all over the world. They’ve got their own fashion—they all dress the same with denim jackets and patches.
“Two Minutes to Midnight” is my favourite song on the new album, but its images are pretty grisly. Do you get much flack for making music that deals with death and destruction?
No, we’ve probably only written a couple of songs about that. Bruce wrote the lyrics to that, and apparently it’s about the doomsday clock—when it strikes midnight it’s like the end of the world. It’s probably something that he feels strongly about, you know, and it’s good that he can express it through writing the lyrics.
How did you come to do a song based on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?
Well Steve has always been interested in English literature and all that. It’s a Coleridge poem, and it’s about a hundred pages long, so Steve sat down and read it and interpreted it in his own way. He actually wrote the song when we were recording the album in the Bahamas. I remember when he first came out with the lyrics—there were pages and pages of them. And it’s good because we don’t really stick by the mainstream and just write three-minute songs. From each album we’ve had a song which is maybe eight or nine minutes—like on Piece of Mind it was “To Tame the Land”. We like to make big songs, like a short story really, and try to make them as interesting as possible.
The instrumental on Powerslave, “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)”, sounds pretty complicated. Was it a hard one to play?
Not really. Steve came up with that song, and it worked out really well actually. I think probably the hardest song to record on the album was “The Mariner”, because it was the only one actually written in the studio. Steve and Nicko put the bass and drums down, then me and Adrian would come in with the guitars–we were actually in there learning it as it was comin’ along. But it was great fun because it kept us on our toes.
What’s your Egyptian stage like?
Well I haven’t seen this one actually, ’cause we’ve got two stage sets—one for Europe and one for America because the stage is a lot bigger over here. So we’ve built up on it, brought over more lights and more P.A. But the whole stage set, from out front, gives you the impression of looking into a tomb. We’ve got like the jackals there, and there’s a hieroglyph and mummies and stuff like that. And the actual backdrop is like three-dimensional, the way you can look at it.
Does Eddy [the band’s horrendous mascot] make an appearance on stage this time around?
Yeah he does actually [chuckles], in more ways than one. ‘Cause we killed him off on the last tour, you know, and we brought him back to life again. He’s sort of back as a mummy.
In your Capital Records bio it says that you’ve got something like 120,000 watts of P.A. Do you really need that much?
Well we won’t be using it at full volume, it’s just that with that amount of equipment we can actually get a better sound, so everything’s gonna be clear. We try and get the effect of having like a huge stereo. But it won’t be earbending, you know.
Who do you like listening to in your spare time?
Have there been any new artists that have blown you away lately?
Umm…well I like Stevie Ray Vaughan actually. I love his guitar playing. And we went to see a band called Queensyrche; I thought they were really good. I think they’re one of the better bands to come out.
Was it a high point in your career to get on the cover of Guitar Player magazine?
Oh yeah, that was amazing. ‘Cause like years ago, when we were starting off, I used to go out and buy Guitar Player and all these magazines. And I never dreamed that we’d actually be in it, least of all on the front. So it’s a lovely compliment to us. It’s nice.
To hear the full audio of my 1984 interview with Dave Murray–and my ’80s interviews with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris as well–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on 300 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
…with hundreds more to come