Iron Maiden finally came back from a long holiday and will soon release No Prayer For The Dying, an album that will undoubtedly surprise those who thought that the band would never again show the same energy as they did in the early years. Steve Harris therefore took upon himself to introduce us to this new album. Something he did very seriously.
What can you tell us about the new iron Maiden album?
It was recorded from January to April 1990 at my place, in my private recording studio. Originally, the recording was planned to start in April at the Battery Studios of London. But, as the new songs were written quickly, we started earlier and started working at my place so we could put everything on tape as fast as possible. As we'd recorded the stuff in the barn we use as a rehearsing studio, we were all very relaxed, without any external pressure, which accounts for the very "live" sound of the album.
Are you more happy with this new album than you were withe previous two?
I very much like Seventh Son..., but I think that No Prayer For The Dying show a more aggressive side of Iron Maiden. Saying this, it's pretty difficult for me to have an objective opinion about the new album. Maybe we can consider that we're going back to the values we used to have in our early years.
And this is not a concept album either?
We didn't want to make a "Seventh Son... Part 2", Seventh Son... was but another stage of our career, but that doesn't mean that we won't do another album in the same style. I don't really know, no one can foretell the future or what our inspiration will be.
What is the particularity of No Prayer For The Dying?
It is mainly more aggressive than the previous albums, and I think that some of our fans were disappointed in the musical orientation we had taken lately. So I think they'll be happy to see that we're going back to a more aggressive and powerful style. The band still has the fire anyway.
What's your favourite Iron Maiden album?
It's very difficult for me to answer such a question, but I'd say that I really like Piece Of Mind, as well as Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. As for the last one, I can't really say anything right now because it's still too fresh in my memory and I haven't got yet the distance to see what it's really worth.
And what's your favourite Iron Maiden song?
I'd have to go for 'Hallowed be thy name', which is a song that's really brilliant live.
What can we expect from the next gigs?
We'll play a lot of songs from the last album, but we won't neglect the older ones, as they are still liked by the audience. Besides, we still love to play old songs like 'The Number Of The Beast'.
How long do you intend to be on the road for?
The world tour will span about eight months and we don't mind, as we haven't played on stage for a long time. We are really looking forward to going back there and having fun. We're really eager and excited like a bunch of kids.
Should we see here a new motivation?
Absolutely! We've been away from the stage a bit too long for my liking and this explains why we're starving for it. Besides, we're even more motivated because we have a new guitarist (Janick Gers), as well as a new album to promote.
What is Janick's exact role within Iron Maiden?
We've known him for a while now, and I think he's a really nice bloke, which is also one of the reasons with took him on board. We'd seen him play with Ian Gillan while he was in his band and we therefore knew that he was a good guitar player. We just needed to know whether his style would suit that of Iron Maiden. We asked him to learn four songs of ours, and the audition went really well.
We had a taste when he played with Bruce for his solo project. The Parisian gig showed a very energetic guitar player, he moves a lot...
Yes, Janick moves much more than Adrian, but I don't know if he'll be able to move that much on stage with Maiden, as our songs are fairly technical. And as I like to move too, we'll have to be careful not to run into each other! (Laughs) He may well be a bit nervous at first, but I think he'll get over it.
Has he written any songs on No Prayer...?
He didn't write anything, as the songs were already written before he joined. His job was simply to join us and learn, which wasn't a problem as he's a great musician. But he can write songs too, and he proved it in the past when he did that for Bruce and for Fish. He'll be certainly be a very big asset for Iron Maiden.
There have been many changes in Iron Maiden. How do you explain this?
Hang on, there hasn't been a change of line-up since 1983! Adrian's departure comes from the fact that he got so involved in his solo project that playing with Maiden wasn't so interesting for him anymore.
Do you think that Iron Maiden can still progress, even with such a long career?
Yes, we still have good ideas, so we keep making progress all the time.
Do you make more progress as a song-writer or as a musician?
As a song-writer, I think. I'm really happy with the songs on the new album. Every time we record an album, we're always a bit worried about the result, but I really think that the songs on No Prayer... are good.
What do you think are the main stages in Iron Maiden's career?
I don't think that we consciously try to go through different stages, it all happens naturally. As a musician, you don't really pay attention to this sort of things, you play different audiences, your music evolves, but you're not really aware of different stages in your career.
Even with hindsight, can't you distinguish the different steps you went through?
No, not really. We don't even talk about it. We simply try to give our best in everything we do.
Are you aware of the impact you had on rock music in the 80s?
Yes, mostly when other bands come to see us and tell us that Iron Maiden influenced them, I think it's a great compliment. It's great to think that we could influence so many people!
What is the greatest compliment someone can pay you?
To play one of our songs. I've had the opportunity to see many bands cover some of our songs live. Most of the time, I thought they played them really well. They hardly modify the original versions.
What do you think about the British music scene these days?
There are new bands coming up, like The Almighty, and I find them excellent, I'm sure they can make it really big. There's also Wolfsbane, who opened for us in the UK, who are also really good. Little Angels are pretty good too, although a bit more mainstream... There are already a few really good bands, and I hope there will be more of them in the future.
What do you think about American bands?
Personally, I don't like their image, everything that stems from the LA scene is not really to my taste, even if their music is sometime alright. You have to admit that most of them are pretty bland.
Most of the bands that made their mark in the history of rock are British. How do you explain that?
I don't really know... There are also some really good American bands, like Van Halen, Aerosmith and a few others. I'm happy that British bands marked the history of rock, but I can't explain why. I think it's easy for American bands to make a lot of money playing "covers". It's different for the British bands. They need to write original stuff to be recognised, and they only create their own identity by playing their own songs.
So, do you think that it's easier to make it big in the States than in the UK?
Yes, that's obvious. I also think that it's harder to get gigs in Britain, because the circuit is limited and you're paid peanuts. Sometimes, you're not even paid. It's very difficult for a band to really do well in the UK.
Do you think that the 80s were good for rock music?
Yes, I can't complain, I think that really good bands appeared during those years, and I think that even more are coming that will be important in the future.
What were your influences when you first started?
We had very diverse influences, whereas most bands nowadays only focus on one or two names. I'm personally very fond of Pink Floyd, early Genesis, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Free, Wishbone Ash and Golden Earring. Being influenced by many bands allows you to go further into your music.
What bands do you currently listen to?
More or less the same as before, a lot of music from my youth. Among the new ones, I really like The Almighty, Queensryche, which is probably one of the masters of Metal.
Do you think that Iron Maiden can be as popular in the 90s than during the previous decade?
Yes, I don't see why not. We still have a lot of faithful fans and I think that we'll be able to carry on as long as our fans will be satisfied. We have new fans who discover the band and older fans who just won't let go, and I think it's a very good thing for us. I personally think that we have remained creative.
There seems to be a change of direction with No Prayer For The Dying and this is quite obvious with a song like 'Mother Russia'...
Yeah, I think that 'Mother Russia' is in the continuity of certain themes that started with Seventh Son..., but once again, I don't have enough distance to talk objectively about the new album. I only know that we always give the best of ourselves every time we record.
What does the cover look like?
Eddie is still there, we'll never get rid of him. He looks quite fierce this time! I don't want to tell you more so the fans will have the surprise when they find the album in stores...
What will the stage look like?
Same, I don't want to tell you more not to spoil the surprise when the fans come to see us. What I can say, is that it'll be more "raw" than on past tours because we focussed more on the lighting and the backdrops. We can't do much more than what we did during the past four tours, as far as the stage set is concerned. This time, we'll be back to something simpler.
There are also a few synth parts on No Prayer... How will you play them on stage?
During the last tour, it was my tech who was playing, he also played the keyboards on the album. So I think he'll play during our gigs too.
Did you have the feeling that the French audience was taking a liking to Iron Maiden ?
Oh yes, absolutely. The best gigs we did during the past two tours were in Holland, Lisbon and Paris. We're really looking forward to playing there again because Maiden was always well received in your country. I'm sure that our fans will be all there for the gig at the Zenith.
Anthrax will open for you, with a musical style that's pretty different from yours. Is this a conscious choice ?
We already played with Anthrax during the Monsters Of Rock festival. We get on really well with them. I think that a good feeling between the bands is essential for a successful world tour.
Bruce speaking French is a valuable asset in the eyes of the audience...
Yes, that's good for us, isn't it? Bruce tries his best to talk French to the audience, and I think that's an important point. In most countries we visit, people understand English, but it's nice to be able to communicate with them in their mother-tongue.
Iron Maiden have always been close to their audience because you never had this "rock star attitude"...
No, it's true that we never took ourselves too seriously. All we want to do is just get on stage and play, that's the most important aspect for us. When we write the songs, we always try to imagine what they will sound like live.
What do you think about these bands who think they're stars simply because they just released their first album?
The music business is a very tough environment. I'd even say that it's a totally different world.
Do you feel confortable in this business?
Yes, of course, because I've been in it long enough. As I said, you shouldn't take yourself too seriously and you should keep cool. The only difference with our beginnings, is that we've earned quite a substantial amount of money. In a way, the pressure is not as strong and we can carry on playing the music we like without having to ask anything to anyone. Anyway, we've always done what we wanted, that was – and still is – something really important to us.
Are you under less pressure now that you don't have anything to prove anymore?
We still have a few things to prove to ourselves, we want to carry on writing good songs and playing them the best we can. We never felt at any point in our career that there was much external pressure. The pressure is the strongest when we start writing for a new album because, once the the audience know that the songs are good when the album is released, then the tension before the gigs amounts to just a little bit of stage-fright. A little anxiety, but it's quite normal at that moment, really. When I tour, I don't feel any pressure, it's actually the opposite, I'm having a really good time.
A box-set has just been released with all the singles from the first ten years of Iron Maiden's career. What do you think about it?
We actually released it for several reasons. Our first singles are nowadays hard to find, and some people even pay up to ?40 for one of them, which I find ridiculous. Besides, they'd never been released as CDs. And last, it was a great opportunity to celebrate our ten years of professionnalism and to offer our fans this box-set.
Are you ready to release another one in ten years' time?
Yes, why not? Our fans will decide, as long as we'll keep writing good songs and that they'll support us, we'll carry on. In the meantime, I hope that we'll have plenty more opportunities to meet them at our gigs. I value the French audience very much, as they've always been great. See you in November!
This interview is taken from The Iron Maiden Commentary