Metal Edge, July 1987
Now in the last weeks of a five-month American road marathon, Iron Maiden is supporting their Somewhere in Time LP with a typically spectacular show. Bassist and founder Steve Harris gave us a progress report, joined by guitarist Dave Murray towards the interview’s end.
You’ve been touring since September. Are you tired yet?
Steve Harris: No, it’s like a sport – once you start doing it you get very fit, you get on a roll. It’s only touch when you leave off for a while, like we did at Christmas.
Do you prefer touring to recording?
Harris: Definitely. But I enjoy doing the backing tracks. We don’t take that long in studio so it’s not too bad. Being in one of those bands that takes years would drive me mad.
You wrote half of the Somewhere in Time album. Which track is your favorite?
Harris: Probably “Heaven Can Wait,” but playing live, I enjoy “Wasted Years” because you can go apeshit on it. It’s also nice to play songs I didn’t write, like “Stanger in a Strange Land.” In the early days I used to write everything. Now Adrian [Smith] and Bruce [Dickinson] help out a lot.
How involved do you get in the stage design?
Harris: Quite a lot. We have to. If it doesn’t physically work for us we start running into things. A lot of the ideas come from the album cover and the lyrics and the songs.
Do you feel that the show must be more elaborate each time? The fans must expect it.
Harris: People come to see you as well as hear you. The music is the main thing, but to enhance the music it’s good to have a good show. Everything we do is related to the songs, we don’t have explosions for the sake of it.
Any “Spinal Tap” moments so far?
Harris: A few. One of the [giant Eddie] hands got burnt, it’s inflatable so it didn’t come up. Another time the head underneath the drum kit didn’t come up because the hydraulics got stuck. Pretty funny, really. But not too much has gone wrong.
How about after the show – is the atmosphere crazy or low-key?
Harris: I must admit we’re not as crazy as we used to be. Possibly age, and the fact that we get fed up with getting out of it all the time. On early tours you go crazy because it’s all new to you, you haven’t been to the clubs before. But when you’ve been back to that place four or five times it wears a bit thin. Now we stay home and watch movies, though every now and then we have a big bash. Number of the Beast was a crazy tour, but we went through that phase. We’ve shaped up since then.
What else is different? How has Iron Maiden changed over the years?
Harris: Gradually. Each album has been a bit different than the one before. It’s a natural thing, it just happens. We just do it to please ourselves, and the fans come a close second. We’re the ones that have to live with it. You can’t go out and look an audience in the eye unless you’re happy with what you’re playing. Obviously, we hope they’re going to like it, but you can’t guarantee, can you? You just have to carry on writing what you think are good songs.
Is that the secret of your success?
Harris: Probably, plus the fact we’re pretty determined as well. We just go out and play and don’t worry about the bullshit that surrounds everything. We enjoy ourselves, we all get on well together.
Do you ever argue?
Harris: Yeah, but over incidental things, but we don’t physically fight. Once you get to that point you’re near the end.
If you weren’t in the band together, would you be friends?
Harris: Definitely. We all still live in England, we’ll go out when we’re off the road. But we do send most of the time with our families.
Yes, you must miss your wife and daughters.
Harris: It’s difficult, but it can be done. They’re coming out [to visit] Monday. The older one, Lauren – Kerry’s the younger one – doesn’t really understand why I have to keep going away. She gets pissed off at me and won’t speak to me on the phone.
Looking back, has your career gone as you expected?
Harris: I didn’t expect this, really. We didn’t look much further than the north of England. We wanted to play London first, and never saw international success until the albums started selling abroad. We did a concert in Belgium just before we signed and we did really well, it was a cult following right from the start. Then we supported Kiss, and wherever we played people knew our songs and had Maiden shirts on. It was great.
Then you went from support act to headliner with Killers. Was there more pressure?
Harris: Yes. When you support you have nothing to lose, you go for broke. You don’t get the best sound, but the main band gets blamed for it, same for bad ticket sales. Headlining does put the pressure on, but we settled in pretty well.
Would you change any part of the past if you had the chance?
Harris: No. Mistakes are all part of it and they determine what you do later on. Maybe one thing – I don’t think we should have released “Icarus” as a single in America.
How do you feel about doing videos?
Harris: It’s a chore, I don’t like it. We’re not actors. Up to now we’ve managed to do the straight-live type stuff, and in the studio with inserts. Maybe we’ll do some animation. We wouldn’t have to be in the video.
Do you enjoy the fame aspect?
Harris: I’m lucky. When I get home I can go anywhere and I rarely get bothered unless I go to a rock club, and then I’m asking for trouble anyway. It’s not really a problem. People ask for an autograph and that’s it.
What music are you listening to now?
Harris: Old stuff like Jethro Tull, Yes, early Genesis. Queensryche. Waysted is a good new band.
What do think of speed-metal bands like Metallica?
Harris: Thrash metal is not my cup of tea, but it’s got a lot of energy. I can get off on that, definitely, and some of the playing’s really good, but you don’t see much melody. It’s one-dimensional, no real light and shade.
What’s your earliest recollection of wanting to play?
Harris: I started pretty late, at 17. I listened to Black Sabbath, Montrose, Wishbone Ash, and wanted to learn those songs. I tried acoustic guitar for about six weeks, and got fed up with it. I wanted to play bass anyway.
Dave Murray: We always had music ‘round the house. I used to blast my stereo, listening to Free, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. I’d go around clubs in London with Adrian, see bands like AC/DC, and I thought, ’I’d like to get out there.’ I always had it in my blood.
Was it tough getting started?
Harris: Yeah, you can’t make money in England, you get 60 bucks for a gig, and it doesn’t even pay for your petrol. You get day jobs to pay for rehearsals and equipment. I was an architecture draftsman. We didn’t have a manager so I’d be on the phone at work, trying to get gigs.
Now Maiden’s been around for one decade – what about another? How do you see the future?
Harris: I think we’ve got a few good years in us yet, at least five.
Do you think about what you’ll do after that?
Harris: Nothing really, just retire. Play tennis, soccer, work in my darkroom, be with my family. Go to a pub with mates. There’s loads of things I want to do that I don’t get time to do now.
Any desire to produce records?
Harris: No, I’ve been asked a few times, but I’m not sure I’d want to even if I had the time.
Murray: I might do something like that.
If there was a rock encyclopedia, what would be printed under Iron Maiden?
Murray: We came, we saw, we went home. [laughs]
Harris: That sums it up. Boldly gone where no one else has wanted to go!