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Monday, April 11, 2011

A Q&A with Iron Maiden guitarist Dave Murray - Joel Weiss (The Daily Loaf)

British heavy metal legends Iron Maiden return to Tampa for the first time since 1988, making good on a promise to return to Florida after their triumphant 2009 set in Ft. Lauderdale. Aside from bassist/founder Steve Harris, no one has been a member of Iron Maiden as long as guitarist Dave Murray. I spoke to him last week.

Where is Iron Maiden right now?

We're in Argentina at the moment. We've been in South American for quite some time. We've toured all over Brazil, Colombia, Peru. We're actually videoing the show tonight for a DVD that will come out at some point in the future. And it's in a big football stadium here, so there's a lot of people. And then we're heading to Chile and back up to the U.S. next week.

Our neck of the woods.

Absolutely. It's been going absolutely fantastic. It's been a remendous success down here. We came, we played, and now it's time to keep moving forward.

You guys visited Florida two years ago for the first time since 1995 (I made the eight-hour road trip and it was great). The Tampa show on Sunday will be your first time back here since 1988. Where have you guys been? What's taken you so long to get back here? (laughs)

You know that's (drummer Nicko McBrain's) neck of the woods. I don't know why, really. I know it's been quite a while. Playing Florida on that last tour, the reaction was just fantastic. It kinda just got left off in the past, but we're making up for it. We were in Ft. Lauderdale a couple years ago, back again for these two shows in Florida. So we're making up for it.

Nicko, like you said, has lived in Florida for a while. Did he ever get grief from local Iron Maiden fans that he brought back to you guys? Like, "Guys, we need to go to Florida! We've got to play Florida!"

Yeah, absolutely! That did happen a couple of times actually and he said that exact thing. That's kind of management's decision. They make the shots, we just kinda go along. It was wonderful for them to convince us, yes, let's go down there -- so it worked out good. But he was getting hit up by some of the local people. A lot of people feel left out if we don't go and see them, and then, sometimes they have to come see us and travel a distance. But in the USA in general, like you said, you made that eight-hour road trip or whatever; people don't mind traveling distances. If we can't make it to them, hopefully they come to us.

It's also very cool you got a young Florida thrash band, Black Tide, to open for you guys on your Florida dates. How'd you hook up with those guys?

When we're doing our thing out on the road, a lot of those decisions are made back at the office. Whoever's available. And we like to use local bands when possible in whatever countries we're playing in -- we like to use someone in the local area. It'll be great for them, I'm sure they'll get a great reaction. And good luck to 'em.

On this tour, is [frontman] Bruce Dickinson still flying the band around on Ed Force One? [pictured above]

Yes, that’s correct. He’s not doing all the flights, but he’s doing some of them. You can always tell, ’cause he has this beautiful uniform. *Laughs* He’s done quite a few of these flights in and around South America. We started off in Russia some while ago, and we’ve been all over the place, so he’s done quite a lot of flights. There’s a great crew, we’ve had a crew change, and it’s all done very professionally. It’s like going on a commercial, proper flight. Everyone straps in and all the safety measures… We have the luxury of being able to get an express route into the plane and it makes life a lot easier to take this kinda show out on the road.

I know Bruce has had tons of pilot training, he’s flown airliners before. When he first started flying the band around, did that take some getting used to?

No, in fact I’ve flown with Bruce a couple times in those small Cessnas – six seaters. It’s quite professional, he knows what he’s doing. He flies when we’re not touring, he flies all over the place. This is not messing around. This is the real thing! It’s great to be able to do something you love doing, and when that co-exists with the band, it works out perfect for everybody! He has a great time flying, and the band and the crew can travel together. There’s 50-60 people on the plane any one time, plus all the equipment. It just makes it a very good way to travel.

After many years of being mostly ignored by the American media, what did the recent “Best Metal Performance” Grammy Award for “El Dorado” mean to you guys?

We got nominated a couple years back for “The Wicker Man.” We’ve been aware of it, but it’s not the thing that would make or break Iron Maiden. We’ve always done things our own way, touring, making albums. It’s a very nice compliment to be acknowledged and to have this award – it’s any band’s dream to get awards. It’s great to just exist as a band and play for an audience. We’re very proud of it, we’ve been around for quite a while, obviously somebody’s taken that we’ve been around for quite a while – maybe that nudged it in the right direction. Not sure who votes on that stuff. Ultimately, it’s the Iron Maiden fans at the top of our priority. They come first.

Since the last lineup change when Bruce and (guitarist Adrian Smith) rejoined, I think this has been the longest period in the band’s history where the same lineup has played together. How has that affected the chemistry and songwriting? [Murray pictured above]

This is it, really. This is how the band will exist in the future. I can’t see there being any changes. Ultimately it’s the perfect lineup because it does extend back to when Adrian was in the band for the first few albums. And obviously when Bruce was in the band, so this is obviously the strongest and most creative lineup Maiden has ever had. Everything kind of gels and glues together really well. As far as rehearsing and writing, everything fits into place nicely. We just sit down like we always do and work out songs. We wouldn’t be changing anymore. This is it – I think we’re kinda far along enough now to say. Also, it’s my favorite lineup, and also most of the other guys. There’s a chance for everyone to play and enjoy what they’re doing.

The Final Frontier came out less than a year ago. Any talk about the next record?

A lot of the time you plan ahead, and things tend to get in the way. At the moment it’s nice to focus on the here and now. We’re on tour, we’ve got another later this summer, and then we’ll all need a rest. Possibly there will be, but it’s hard to say at the moment. It definitely won’t be next year, anyway. My gut feeling is once we sit down, if everyone’s up for it – that’s the main thing – then we’ll go for it.

Our show is the last on this leg of the tour, also the first time in Tampa in 23 years. Any surprises for us?

A lot’s changed in 23 years, so expect lots of surprises! I think with the lineup, we’re bringing up a pretty spectacular show. It’s everything we can fit on Ed Force One. It’s gonna be a big show. Obviously the stage, the production, it’s focused on the new album with a lot of the older songs put in as well. Actually we go back to the first album, to the current album, and all spaces in between. The last show on the tour is gonna be a lot of fun, a lot of energy, but it will be one of the highlights because it is the last show. There will definitely be something special happening.

And there are gonna be a lot of very, very excited people in the audience.

You know – if that’s 23 years, the age of the audience, they probably weren’t born! It’s nice to see the age group, for us. A lot of the audience, they’re like teenagers and energetic and enthusiastic. We can enjoy that energy as well, and we take it and have fun with it.

And it speaks to the timelessness and consistency of Maiden’s music.

Since 1980, this is the fifteenth album. So there’s been a new album every couple of years. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to keep on touring, and maybe the internet has probably helped a lot because of the access fans can get, gather information. Anything they want, really. Downloading songs. So I think that helps a lot as well. A lot of bands are going to more places, different countries. The world’s become more developed for musicians to go to because of the access of the Internet. It’s all working out, we just have a great time doing this! Onwards and forwards! *laughs*

Speaking of the Internet, how has it impacted a band like Iron Maiden, which known for big rock shows? The degree of rehearsal you have to go through, and then setlists get published for every single show. How do you feel about that? Do you think it takes some of the surprise out of it for fans?

I know that the fans, because it’s all up there – sometimes they’re out there with cell phones and video and share it up on YouTube before we get back to the hotel. There’s not a lot you can do about it. It’s just the way things are. Yeah, it has taken the element of surprise out of it. If they want to found out exactly what songs we’re playing and so forth. It’s just a sign of the times. People want everything, because of e-mail and all, people want everything quick and fast. Now, now, now. You can’t deny its existence or you’ll get left behind. I think it balances out in the end though. There probably will be less CD sales or people in record stores, but at the same time they’re downloading from iTunes – where you can download legally if you like. And people exchange their music catalogues quite freely across the Internet with their shared computers and everything. I think you just have to embrace it, and the only way to do that is go out there and play and tour and make albums. There’s not a lot to do about it really.

Dave, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We can’t wait for the show on Sunday.

Okay, great! Thank you, Joel. See you soon!

Iron Maiden appears with special guests Black Tide, Sun., April 17, 8 p.m., St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, $32.25-$55. Tickets on sale at Ticketmaster.
Follow Joel on Twitter @lifeindeadtime.

Iron Maiden, “The Trooper” (Flight 666, 2009)

Black Tide, “Shockwave”

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