Iron Maiden’s Clive Burr on Martin Birch, Ruddles, and The Number of the Beast



By Steve Newton

Iron Maiden is quickly becoming one of Britain’s most popular metal bands. Last year the band sold well over a million albums with their second release, Killers, cracking the top ten in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Belgium.

Their latest album, The Number of the Beast, was released in March of this year and was the number one record on the British charts for two weeks. The album had originally been scheduled for an earlier release, but had to be delayed because of mysterious malfunctions of equipment in the studio and the unusual difficulties the band had in laying down the title track. It seems that, as soon as the band began recording it, equipment which had proved totally reliable on an eight-month world tour started to misbehave. Bassist Steve Harris’ amplifier stack blew up and guitarist Dave Murray’s kept cutting out at irregular intervals. Then, as producer Martin Birch finally got ready to mix the song, he was involved in a car crash on his way home from the studio. When the bill for repairs arrived a few days later, the fee was 666 pounds.

Not a particularly good omen.

As well as Harris and Murray, Iron Maiden is made up of guitarist Adrian Smith, singer Bruce Dickinson, and drummer Clive Burr. The group will be playing at the Pacific Coliseum on July 22, along with German rockers Scorpions. I talked to Burr from Toronto recently about his band, their influences, and the current state of heavy metal.

Your current world tour has you playing in France, Spain, and Switzerland, among other countries. Is heavy metal popular in those places?

Oh extremely. It really is.

Has it always been, or is it more a new thing?

Well, I think in Spain and places like that it’s a sort of new thing, but in places like Germany and France it’s always been very popular. 

You guys are going to play Yugoslavia in October. I didn’t know they were into heavy metal over there.

Yeah, we did a festival out there last year, and we played to–believe it or not–to about 30,000 people. It was really weird. I mean the P/A was like pre-war, and all the bands had to use the same kit. It was very ancient equipment, but the fans were outrageous–they were really into it. Headbangers.

What’s your stage show like?

Our new stage show is really good. You know, we’ve got all the effects and things. I can’t say too much, but be prepared to be shocked.

Britain seems to be the heavy metal country of the world. A lot of heavy bands have come out of Britain and made names for themselves. Is there something about the country itself that makes Britain such a great exporter of heavy rock?

That’s a difficult one to explain. I just suppose it’s two different styles of music. In Britain we’ve got a different way of making it in the business–we use other media more than we do radio. Whereas in the States it’s all done by radio, basically. Once you get the radio play then people start buying the record.

So perhaps we start off with a different attitude. When we’re first getting into it, we don’t need to make anything so they’ll play it on the radio. We’re just given the freedom to style things the way we want. From the very outset, when you’re just starting to play your instruments, you’re not thinking all the time about hit singles which will get you radio play. You’re just thinking about writing songs.

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are both blazingly fast guitar players. Who were their main influences or guitar heroes. Do you know?

Yes. Dave’s were Jimi Hendrix and Blackmore. And Adrian’s were Blackmore and Gary Moore.

Your new album, The Number of the Beast, was produced and engineered by Martin Birch, who’s noted for his work with Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath. What was it like working with him and what effect did you using him have on the album’s msuic?

Well, it was the second year we actually used him. We had him last year to record Killers, so having already made friends with him we were looking forward to seeing him on this new album. He’s more a psychologist really, than just a producer. He really psyched us up well, without us knowing it.

When you go in and record, especially when you’re doing high energy stuff like we do, you’re very conscious of the fact that you’ve got to get that energy going. But it’s very difficult without an audience, and you don’t want to create a forced energy, because if it doesn’t flow freely from you, it sounds false on the recording. You can tell. But Martin really psyched us all up and it came out really well.

On your new album jacket it says that the record was recorded “on Ruddles with a little help from Remy and Carlsberg.” What’s Ruddles?

Ruddles is the beer that we’re all into. It’s the traditional ale of England. It’s brewed in the woods without chemicals and things. And you only need about two or three pints and then you’re gone.

Is Iron Maiden a heavy drinking and partying group?

You could say that, yes. It’s sort of an understatement.

Your album covers are all sort of shocking, mainly because of your evil-looking “mascot” Eddie. The new album is especially catchy–it’s got the devil there and Eddie standing over him.

A lot of people have asked “Is this a concept album?” or “Was this preconceived about all the devil worship?”. But we aren’t into all that, and it wasn’t a preconceived idea, because that cover was in fact a single cover that we brought out a year ago. we had a single called “Purgatory”, and Derek Riggs, our artist, designed that cover. We thought it was so good that we saved it for a whole year for the new album cover.

Which other artists do the band members listen to in their sare time?

Dave is into Purple and Hendrix, and Adrian likes listening to that sort of music as well. Bruce is a Rainbow man, and Steve is into UFO, Judas Priest, and Todd Rundgren. My favourite is Frank Zappa. He’s God as far as I’m concerned.


3 thoughts on “Iron Maiden’s Clive Burr on Martin Birch, Ruddles, and The Number of the Beast

  1. I loved Clive Burr. What a sweetheart he was! Clive and I have another thing in common, FRANK ZAPPA! He liked him too! Darling Clivey drumming upstairs in the Heaven above, you were the best. A powerhouse of a drummer and a real loveable bloke….Forever will I miss you baby…..Love eternal, Kimberly Ann Rogers XO

  2. Clive Burr was a blessing and a legendary drummer and one helluva nice guy. I remember my longtime partner seeing Iron Maiden way back in 1982, on June 22nd during the Beast on the Road tour in our hometown of Ottawa, Ontario. My partner, ironically named Adrian got a cool chance to meet and greet with band after. My partner and I got so freaking wasted and offered Clive Burr $700.00 for his sperm! Needless to say…Clive’s cute face turned beet red and he burst out laughing and was really embarrassed! Man…my partner Adrian were just so crazy that night. We will forever miss and remember Clive Burr and fun personality.

  3. Thanks for publishing it here! It sheds more light on Clive’s life. He was a legend. RIP. You have taken so many great interviews through out the 80s! Its awesome man. Respects.

Leave a Reply