Iron Maiden – Adrian Smith (guitar)
NWOBHM pioneers IRON MAIDEN have toured the world, played thousands of shows, released a number of Platinum and Gold albums, and sold millions of records worldwide. MAIDEN encapsulates a sound and style that has been imitated a thousand times over by many different bands.
Singer Bruce Dickinson, guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain have been touring and recording for over 30 years and are not about to stop now. Maiden and their infamous mascot Eddie are on their Final Frontier tour and are about to release their 15th studio album of the same name.
I spoke briefly to Adrian by phone before a show on the tour about the new album, his departure from the band in the ’90s and MAIDEN’s longevity, as they head into the Final Frontier.
How has the Final Frontier tour with Dream Theater been going so far?
It’s been fantastic. The audiences have been great. We’re having a great time playing the music.
Are you playing some of the new songs off of The Final Frontier on this tour?
We’re playing one new song. The album’s not out yet, but we’re playing “El Dorado,” which is available as a download on our website as a taste of the album.
“El Dorado” has been streaming online for a little while and sounds like classic Maiden. What’s the concept behind the song and who was involved in writing it?
I had the music to the track and I think Bruce wrote the lyrics. “El Dorado,” I think is a comment on how people’s expectations of a better life. A “grass is greener.” People who are borrowing money so they can have the latest fancy car or the big TV and all that. A lot of people got the rug pulled out from under them with the recession and stuff. So I suppose it’s loosely based on that.
What direction did you want to go in with Final Frontier?
I think it’s slightly different, this one. Actually listening to it, for the people who have heard it, the very style on the album is very different from what we’ve ever done before. Some of it’s kind of straight forward, but I think the bulk of it is quite progressive. I think that’s always been a strong point for Maiden; tackling the longer songs, more intricate, but still using a lot of melody. You got an odd combination, you got a couple of straight forward rockers on there like “El Dorado,” and quite a bit of complex and intricate stuff as well.
You have a massive fan base and are loved worldwide. Do you still feel the excitement and enjoyment of performing live? What’s it mean to you?
It’s incredible. Every time we set foot on the stage in front of a Maiden audience, it’s an experience. You can feel the energy from the crowd, the expectation building before you go on stage. It’s like an event, not just a show. The audience makes it an event, really.
Why did you leave the band in 1990? Was it a difficult time for you? Was it because of strife within the band, personal problems? Or did you just want to do solo albums?
A bit of everything, really. I’d been in the band for nine or 10 years, it was a very tense period in the band’s career. Where we went from 1980 with the first album, I came in on the second album, from then, our feet never touched the ground… It was touring and recording. I suppose I was a little bit burned out. I had no life outside the band. I needed to explore some other things, maybe do a few solo things. I got married, started a family, that sort of thing. And then, it was great to be able to come back into the band, it was almost like it’s better the second time around, you’re older and you can appreciate it a little more. I think in the ’80s, it was such a nonstop thing and we didn’t have time to sit back and smell the roses.
You’re usually a private and guarded band, but how was the experience having cameras following you for two months for the documentary Flight 666 and did it portray you the way you had hoped it would?
You’re right, we are a private bunch. At first, we were very skeptical about having cameras around because it can make people act and react differently. Once I found out who was doing it, Sam and Scott from Bangor, I’ve known them over the years doing interviews and I liked them as people. So I thought, if they’re going to do it, it’s going to be good. I thought it would be great to have a document, to go back to what I was saying about the ’80s, we did so much and it was kind of a blur. So it’s great, just personally, to have a document of that tour to look back on in years to come. I think they captured it really well.
Maiden started at the beginning of the NWOBHM, and now the band are the kings of the genre. How does it feel now in 2010 to be able to keep recording and touring and still remained loved?
Well, we’re very lucky. It’s incredible. We’re still getting new fans, young fans. Our fans go right across the board now, age wise. I don’t know, something of a phenomenon. I think the band has been true to itself over the years. We spent many, many years playing to our fans which involved going to and playing lots and lots of shows in every corner of every country. And now, we’ve built up that following the hard way. So I think that maybe that’s a factor in the band’s longevity.
Artist Melvyn Grant was picked again for the Final Frontier cover, he’s showed success on Fear of the Dark and Virtual XI. Are you more comfortable now with his depiction of Eddie compared to Derick Riggs’ style of Eddie?
Well, I think Derrick should have the credit for coming up with the original. He was a fantastic artist. There maybe be some politics involved in why he’s not working with the band anymore, I don’t really know. I think this latest fellow has done a fantastic job, i really like the new Eddie. It’s almost mutating into something else, but you can still see the family resemblance (laughing).
Is this really the Final Frontier for Maiden?
You never say never, we really enjoy being on the road and doing what we do. Like I say, we’re still getting new fans. It’s not our final tour or anything, we’re going to be touring for a little while yet, a few years at least.
For fans of Maiden, the new album Final Frontier can only be expected to be what Maiden does best, but what were you trying to achieve while writing it?
You always see what comes out really. It’s a document of where you are at the time. We always set out to come up with the strongest songs possible, melodies, and try and do what Iron Maiden does best. It’s difficult to preconceive, I mean, I always say that personally, I to try and write shorter songs and try to contribute to the more of the rock ‘n’ roll side. I’m moved into different areas to more progressive pieces, more intricate, which I think is the band’s forte.
Was everyone involved in the writing process for the album or did Steve pretty much handle most of it? How do you decide on the songs that make it on the album?
We only write what we need. Obviously everyone comes in with a load of ideas, it pretty much was a band effort. I think Steve these days is more into arranging and writing lyrics and melodies. I came up with quite a lot of music, six or seven songs and Janick wrote some also. Bruce wrote lyrics and melodies as well. So it was pretty much was a group effort, probably more than in the past.
Any last words or comments for our readers and your fans?
We just love being on the road and love playing music to our fans. It’s as simple as that, really. We look forward to seeing people at the shows.