As one of heavy metal’s most successful bands of all-time, Iron Maiden has been packing a punch for more than 30 years. Consisting of singer Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers, Iron Maiden has pounded out memorable hits for decades. With close to 100 million albums sold across the world, it’s not shocking that a band full of legends is still going strong after all these years.
In 2010, Iron Maiden released their 15th studio album, The Final Frontier. You’d have to wonder about the band slowing down at some point but wouldn’t you know that these English stars wound up achieving arguably their greatest feat yet. Not only has the full-length been given laudatory reviews every which way, but it debuted at number one in roughly 30 countries! Fans have remained loyal to the band ever since their inception in 1975 and without question will follow them wherever they go.
Known for their larger-than-life live shows, Iron Maiden recorded their April 10, 2011, performance in Santiago, Chile. Released on March 27, En Vivo! is available on CD, Blu-ray and DVD. If you’re thinking about catching one of their extraordinary concerts, you’re in luck, as Iron Maiden will be at Jones Beach on June 27, the Susquehanna Bank Center on June 29, and the Prudential Center on July 2.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with one of the world’s finest guitarists, Adrian Smith, a few weeks before their North American trek began. Below, Adrian and I discussed the upcoming tour, the band’s illustrious history, and his new side-project, Primal Rock Rebellion.
First off, I heard that your notorious aircraft, Ed Force One, isn’t going to be making this trip. How are you guys planning to get to America?
We’re here already, actually (laughs). We only use the big plane when we’re going down to Australia, New Zealand or, you know, South America, where there’s really big distances. In America, the distances aren’t that big, so we just have a little plane, we don’t have the big plane. We just do it normally with trucks and it’s like a normal tour.
Some of the songs you’re planning on playing on your upcoming tour include “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son,” “Can I Play With Madness,” “Aces High,” etc. What was the reason behind choosing a setlist like that of the famous 1988 excursion, 7th Tour Of A 7th Tour?
Well, we just thought it’d be fun to revisit that period in time—there were some good songs there. It’s just great revisiting some of the songs we haven’t played for a long while. It keeps us fresh and it’s just, you know, we got a lot of new fans coming on board now, a lot of younger fans who probably never saw or were around when we did that tour. That’s one factor of it for us revisiting that time and I think there’s some good songs from that period, so it’s fun to do.
Is there any song that you may not have played in a while that you’re looking forward to playing?
Yeah, I mean, the song “Seventh Son [Of A Seventh Son],” we’ve been rehearsing that all week and it sounds really amazing but it’s taking quite a bit of getting together, you know, because it’s quite intricate and quite proggy, but yeah, stuff like “Seventh Son.” “The Prisoner,” we’ve been playing that, which is great. So that’s two right there.
Do you think you’re going to see primarily older fans or do you think that there are going to be many younger fans in the audience?
Well, I know we do have younger fans, I mean, hopefully we’ll see some younger ones. I think just because of the nature of the way things are set up in America with the amphitheatres [being] quite far out of town and maybe the younger fans might have problems getting to them, but I certainly hope not. We’ll see. I think it tends to be mainly the older fans in America. I think the younger fans are mainly in Europe.
Are you going to play any songs off of your latest album, The Final Frontier, and if so, do you know which ones?
No, I don’t think—I mean, we did The Final Frontier tour last year or the year before that in America, we played a couple—but no, we’re concentrating on kinda the Seventh Son period so we won’t be playing anything off of The Final Frontier, no.
Actually, most of the songs, along with “The Prisoner” and “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” and all that sort of stuff is the older, sort of hits, for lack of a better a word, not that we’ve ever had any hits, but a lot of the well-known songs.
I happen to think that the band has had quite a few hits…
Well, you know, not in the sense of having Billboard number one singles, but yeah, I mean, songs that a lot of people know. We’ll be playing all those ones that people know really well.
Iron Maiden has been together for more than 35 years and yet The Final Frontier hit the number one spot in almost 30 countries. What are your thoughts about this and how does it feel to still be on top of the game?
Well, I think that we’ve always toured our music and brought our music to people—we’ve never relied on media and radio play. I think in that way, we’ve built up a really strong following. And like I said, we’ve got new fans on board that are rediscovering all the old stuff as well, so I mean, I don’t know if there’s any secret, I just think the band does it for the right reasons and we’re in it because we love the music and I think people get that and they come along for the ride, so that’s great.
While The Final Frontier didn’t hit the number one spot here in the U.S., it did reach an all-time high for Iron Maiden at number four. What do you think this says about the fans in the States?
Like I say, we built up a fanbase the hard way by doing a lot of touring and I think that those fans kind of stay with you and god bless ‘em. We love to keep moving forward. I mean, we’re playing a lot of the old stuff on this tour but, you know, we’ve done tours in the past where we’ve played a lot of new stuff. It’s a lot [like] the band to keep writing and being creative as well and not just recreating the past. This is a celebration if you like, this is a fun thing of playing a lot of old stuff, but that’s just a part of what the band’s about. The band’s about always moving forward as well.
Are you looking forward to anything in particular on the upcoming tour, such as a certain city or a certain venue?
Well we’re doing a lot of places we’ve never done before, which is kind of unusual because sometimes, I look at a map of America and I think I’ve been everywhere, you know, I’ve played everywhere—it’s quite amazing really. I mean, we’re playing places like Sarnia, Ontario. Cadott, Wisconsin—the Chippewa Valley Rock Festival, I mean, all these places we’ve never played before so that’ll be quite interesting to go to and see what that’s about.
What do you think it’s going to be like working with not only Alice Cooper on the tour, but Coheed And Cambria for select shows as well?
Well, Alice Cooper is great, I know he was a bit of an influence on us all when we were growing up—his showmanship and also, he had great songs and he still does, so that will be fun to play with him. I always like to watch him and he’s got a great band as well. Coheed And Cambria I don’t know much about so that’ll be interesting to see them doing their stuff, so that should be great.
I saw a little while back that Nicko said that he wasn’t sure when there will be a new album. Is the band working on anything new at the moment or are you just focusing on touring right now?
No, we’re just focusing on this tour. We tend to put all our energy in what we’re doing at the time. We don’t really get together and rehearse songs or anything on the road. We tend to take a bit of time off it and see maybe next year. We haven’t got any plans at the moment but more than likely we’ll be doing something.
Speaking of new releases, you just put out your debut CD with Primal Rock Rebellion, Awoken Broken, earlier this year. How different was this than recording a Maiden album and do you think this is just the tip of the iceberg for the group?
Well, Primal Rock Rebellion was a project really, it was me and the singer called Mikee Goodman who used to be in a band called SikTh—who had a bit of a cult following in Europe and a bit more of a nü-style metal from his point of view. He’s a younger guy—and I just met up with him, we started hanging out and doing a bit of variety. It was pretty casual, we just did it over a period of years really when we weren’t doing anything with our respective bands, just as a bit of a fun side thing and it turned out really cool and I thought it was really different and it sounded good and it was a lot of fun to do, I just did it in my home studio.
It’s completely different than doing a Maiden album with a band. Like I say, Primal Rock is just me and Mikee, but I enjoy working with him so it’s more of a studio thing though. But it certainly got me into using new studio techniques and stuff like that, so it’s cool. I certainly don’t think there’s anything out there like it. I think we came out with something quite original, which is really, really quite difficult to do but it wasn’t something we tried to do. It’s just Mikee’s very kind of an original type of singer so it was interesting working with him.
How do you think the upcoming U.S. tour is going to differ from in years past?
Well this is a new set, we haven’t taken the stage set out, for example, so it’s a new stage set, we got new effects. I think it’s going to be actually more spectacular than the original tour and probably, technically, you got more stuff now to put into a live show in terms of lighting and that, which will make it quite spectacular, so I think this is going to be pretty special, this tour. What with the songs, we love playing these songs, and with the stage set and effects and of course we got Eddie, he’s back, so it should be fun.
Iron Maiden will be at Jones Beach on June 27, the Susquehanna Bank Center on June 29, and the Prudential Center on July 2. For more information, check out ironmaiden.com.