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?
Well I listen to a lot of stuff like Purple and that. And Jethro Tull, Genesis.
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 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.