Iron Maiden: Interview with Steve Harris

—by , October 11, 2006

Iron MaidenBreak out the union jack, perfect your British accent and adorn yourself with all the Maiden memorabilia at your disposal, because the time is near. Iron Maiden are on their way and they’re coming to rock… hard. With the recent release of A Matter Of Life And Death, Iron Maiden’s relevance is undeniable. Their album debuted at number one in over 10 countries and nabbed the number nine position in the US during a busy week that included high-profile releases from Beyoncé and Audioslave. Evidently, the world needs Maiden. As such, the band is set to embark on a brief world tour that includes two stops in the NY-NJ area at Nassau Coliseum (Oct. 12) and Continental Airlines Arena (Oct. 13).

Iron Maiden founder and bassist Steve Harris recently spoke with The Aquarian regarding the new album, upcoming tour, infamous Ozzfest fiasco, and of course, the group’s undead mascot, Eddie. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to uncover the secret behind their epic power, but if you look closely enough, you may be able to spot it. Prepare to have your shoes blown off.

A Matter Of Life And Death marks Iron Maiden’s return to their earlier days when grandiose compositions were embraced, the term “epic” was synonymous with “excellent,” and Steve Harris’ bass pounding matched that of their three-man electric guitar assault. If you think such musical decadence happens by happenstance, you’re sorely mistaken. Maiden know precisely how to make a rocking album, so much so, they don’t even think about it.

“We write a batch of songs and they come out as they come out. It’s not preconceived. It just turns out there are loads of epics on this album,” says Harris. “We have high standards for what we want to achieve, but it’s not really well thought-out at all. We allow ourselves a six week writing period to give us enough pressure to bring it out.”

Although most artists would consider such a time constraint to be rushed, Harris contends that it’s a secret to their success. “We allow ourselves six weeks, but the writing tends to be done in the first two weeks or so. When I work on it with Adrian (Smith) it comes together in the first couple days really,” remarks Harris. “On the first two albums we had a lot of material lying around from before we got signed. On the third album (The Number Of The Beast) there was absolutely nothing, and we had a specific period of time to write and a load of pressure to write. It worked great, so that’s what we’ve done ever since. If you were to allow yourself a year to write, you would get distracted and do a lot of other stuff in between. When you’re stuck into it, you get to it.”

Unlike their previous work where the subject matter ranged from clairvoyants to Vikings to prostitutes to Greek mythology, A Matter Of Life And Death strikes topics far more applicable to current times. In “The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg” (a character Harris refuses to expound upon), a remorseful leader is forced to confront the guilt of having led thousands to their deaths. In “These Colors Don’t Run,” soldiers from opposing sides are painted as similar men with shared purposes of blind national loyalty, which ultimately takes them to their graves. And in “For The Greater Good Of God,” Maiden touch on the rationale behind holy wars.

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