Date : ??.1999
Source : Ill Literature n° 17 (merci à Chris)

Interview de Marco Barbieri

Obviously the biggest news is that the classic Iron Maiden line-up is back together.
People have been asking me about doing it ever since I quit. Actually it’s ironic how the intensity of the questioning increased the more successful my solo career got. When I was a bad case of leprosy in my solo career no one was interested. I actually nevre spoke to the guys about it, even though we kept in touch socially, but we never spoke about a reunion. There’s a certain kind of protocol to these things. I came up with a scenario of--what if someone asks me from the band, or Rod [Smallwood-longtime Maiden manager], and it wound up depending upon a couple things that concerned me. The live thing wasn’t a concern because there is no question as to our ability of playing live together. The real thing that concerned me was around the actual record. The whole aspect of producing the record and the band’s sound were the reasons I left in the first place. Things were just getting stagnant and stale. When Rod asked me to rejoin the band, Rod being my manager as well, I said, “sure, I think it would be great”. But what would make it completely over the top was if we could make a great record because as cynical as some people are they aren’t thinking that we’re going to try to make a great record. They just expect you to do something live just like everyone else has done that’s reunited. I don’t want to be a part of that. If that’s the case let’s just do a big summer party and then do go on our way richer men. Nobody actually wanted to do that. We really want to disassociate ourselves from all of the other reunions that have been going on like a rash. We were thinking how is the best way to do that and that’s making a great record. When I had the initial meeting with the band they told me Blaze [Bailey-Bruce’s replacement on the last 2 Maiden albums] is going to be leaving. I didn’t ask any questions as to whether he jumped or whether he was pushed because it’s none of my business and the less I know the better it is. We had a meeting between me and the other guys in the band and the first words out of Steve’s mouth was that he thought we needed to get a really good producer. He mentioned some names and I almost had to pick myself up off the floor so I was really pleased. Thus far the relationship has been really positive. It all boils down to the way Steve and I can work together in a really constructive way, which I think we can as grown-ups, actually I think we worked well together for years. It’s not that we argued with each other, we actually stopped talking to each other. And when we did we never talked about music. Once Maiden settled into a comfortable middle-age spread after the live album [Live After Death] we were comfortable, confident, we had our audience, our niche and we were all enjoying life. We didn’t have to worry about where the cash was coming from. You think at that point you can relax but sometimes you relax too much. I think I’m a lot more restless that Steve is. I think if I could make a living by making a weird album, then a metal album, then a folk album, than a metal one and be Mr. Anonymous it would be a great way to make music because no one would care who you are but I’m “Bruce Dickinson from Ion Maiden” and this is the real world. I realized as soon as I started making some strange solo records, one or two which never got released because they were too weird, that people just didn’t get that you wanted to try and do something different. I was really disappointed and then after awhile I realized that you could make a jazz record but you can’t expect people to go out and buy it. To Maiden’s credit, they have never been in the slightest bit concerned with making any kind of overtly commercial album and that’s fantastic and one of those reasons is because the management has done such a damn good at marketing the band in a heavy-weight commercial manner. In other words, the credibility that exists within the band has never been cashed in which a lot of bands do. At some point in their career they just lose it. Maiden have never done that, but at the same time you have to be aware of this pitfall because you can fall into it when you think your musically infallible. As far as I’m concerned it has to be justified with music that’s really there and not just music that satisfies the band and their fans. In fact a lot of the fans know when they discuss the albums which ones suck and which ones are better than others so they do know but it takes so much for them to desert the band. Now that I’m back there can be no more slippage. Obviously with the bigger bands you get the entourage whether it’s the big guys in gold chains carrying a bag of coke and driving in limos or in Maiden’s case friends who play football. Nobody wants to tell the emperor he ain’t got on any clothes. It’s always a very difficult situation especially when a band has been very successful and there has been a series of hard knocks. The band knows that something has to happen. Yet at the same time there is so much about the band that is so right. It’s not broken it just needs to be tweaked ever so slightly. When you start dealing with the soft underbelly of American rock clubs you really start getting into some low life individuals , you meet some great people as well. I went through it with my solo career. We both have lots of war stories, but it’s all been good experience and it’s all been pretty healthy. I don’t think Kiss had to go back to play Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia. I think all of us can hold our heads up and be glad that we didn’t give up.

Have you rehearsed yet ?

No, but we’ve done some writing. We actually set up a time table for ourselves which is oriented around creating an album. The tour that we’ll be doing this summer is very short. It’s only 12-15 shows in the US and a dozen shows in Europe. It is totally centered around the video game [Ed Hunter]. We’re going to play a set which was actually chosen by the fans. We did a poll on the Maiden site and people picked their top 20 and that’s what we’re going to play.

Are they tracks from the records you did with Maiden ?

No, actually there’s everything from the first Iron Maiden album to the last one. I’m going to be doing some Blaze songs as well, which I’m really pleased about. I don’t think you just write off 3-4 years because there was some good stuff.

Especially some of the songs of the The X Factor that weren’t too bad but when listening to them I always thought you could have done a lot more vocally with them.

We’ll see in rehearsals. The people who buy the game will actually get 2 CDs bundled with the game. The game itself has about 12 tracks in it for the different levels.

I thought the double disc compilation would be released separately as the Best Of The Beast is no out-of-print and it would substitute as the new greatest hits.

Yeah, but we don’t want to release it separately as people need an extra reason to buy the game than just the game itself. We were going to go with the people who distribute our back catalog but I think that’s on hold as we are talking to some larger labels. The game actually comes at a great time as it gives us focus for this summer tour. It’s not necessarily a reunion tour as it supports a new thing, Ed Hunter, and it is going to be very spectacular. It’s going to be a 5 truck tour with big scenery, catwalks, things we can climb on, jump on, video screens, moving lights. The biggest Maiden show in 5-6 years. Most people won’t be able to see it unless they are in the big cities. They’ll be able to read about it but they’ll have to wait till next year. We’re holding back several ideas for the show next year. We want to outdo the show we did at Donnington. That’s the kind of level of interest we think we’re going to have. Plus, we’ll have a brand new album to go with it. I think it’s going to be a much more satisfying experience for Maiden fans instead of us just coming out and doing a nostalgia trip. There’s a certain element of that this summer as they’re all going to be old songs but there’s not enough of a nostalgia trip. We put a lot of thought into how we wanted to maneuver it so it didn’t come across as a cheap shot. We’ll start some rehearsals in Canada and then do the US in July. The package so far is unconfirmed. I’m a little frustrated because we want to get the dates out but CAA, our booking agency, is working on it and they have a major artist on it and they are trying to put the rest of the package together. We want it to be a big thing. I was surprised by the names of the bands who wanted to go out and be a special guest to us. It seems that there is a huge desire for a band like Maiden to be around. A band that everyone is unanimous about that you have to go see. I’m really psyched about the new record. We’re talking to producers, we have a short list of 3-4, and we’ve had couple of them around for beers and to chat and we’re making our way around to the other ones. We want to get this all sorted out before we start rehearsing for the tour in June. We’re writing during the month of May in Portugal. It’s out of the way and there’s not that many distractions and we expect that some of the guys will come and visit. I’ve already started writing with Adrian and Janick. We’re looking to hit the studio in November. So we’ll do more writing after the tour which will probably benefit from having done the tour.

Will you do any new stuff live?

No, the shows are too important to screw up in front of 20,000 people or in front of the press. There was a plan to write the next album, do the tour and play some of the songs during the tour and record them and then finish them up in the studio as an album. This was cooked up by an industry discussion group. When we had our band meeting I didn’t want to do that and Steve agreed, actually everyone was unanimous about that which is good because we are all thinking along the same lines and no one wants to screw this up.

Speaking of producers, have you guys considered working with Martin Birch again?

We discuses that and we haven’t excluded it but I’m not sure if Martin is motivated to do it. He hasn’t done anything since the last record we did together--nothing at all. Not because he’s gone mad or fell off the face of the earth but because he’s relaxing and retired. He’s spent a lifetime going crazy in studios. There’s only so much that people can stand. When Martin was making a record you could see him losing more and more of a grip in a controlled sort of a way. He would go on a day off and he would be out on a 24-30 hour drunken spree and we’d all get drunk with him and get into all sorts of trouble. We’d wake up the next day bruised and battered because we’d done all this crazy stuff and six hours later we’d go back into the studio like nothing had ever happened . It was a cleansing that needed to take place. There comes a point where you can’t keep doing this up/down thing. Martin is so intense when he makes a record and his personal life was so unstable because of it. He is very charming, intelligent, ever English but he comes from generation of producers, and I’ve met a few of them now, and they’ve all gone through this insanity at some point in their career where they abused drugs and/or alcohol and physically assaulted people in the studio and I can understand why people think they don’t want to do that to themselves anymore. We’ve had some very funny moments over the years, just stuff guys do when they go stir crazy doing album in tropical islands where all there is banana daiquiris and palm trees and after about 4 weeks in Paradise you go mad. I’m sure if he wants to get involved he’ll let us know.

Tell us about the three guitar assault.

Rod asked me what I thought about Adrian coming and I told him he had to come back. I don't think he realized how much Adrian contributed and how much in the eyes of the fans he means. When Adrian left we just got another guitar player and didn’t think much of it but when we toured in America we realized it was a big deal. Having said that Janick [Gers] has worked hard and he’s done four albums with the band. It would be a cruel, ironic twist. The idea evolved of having three guitarists. Steve was massively in favor of the idea because in an earlier incarnation of the band he actually had three guitarists and he thought it sounded great but he could never find three guitarists who could work together. This was an opportunity so here’s out shot at doing it. The guitarists are all real happy. Adrian and Janick are hanging out together. There’s plenty of stuff for them to play off the previous albums, there’s plenty of parts on them. On the new stuff we’ll see if we can experiment with a thicker guitar sound, possibly a bit of the de-tuned stuff I’ve been working with to see if we can beef it up a little bit along the same rationale of not fixing it but just tweaking it a little. None of this was accomplished with any kind of ultimatums because that destroys it right from the start and I cannot contemplate working in a situation where drummer A has a manager and the singer has a manager and they don't get along and bitch and someone has their personal roadie that’s just such an awful way to live your life. We’re back together as a band, that’s it. And that’s what’s happened. Rod has been running around making soundbytes, as a manger does, and I heard him saying, “It’s great, it’s exactly like 1984 and nothing’s changed”. “Don’t say that,” I told him, “that’s not what I want to hear it has changed and it will change”. What he means by that is that the vibe in the band is great.

This all comes at a surprising time as your last two solo albums seemed to doing very well

The only fly in the ointment actually was that I don’t think CMC Records knew what they had or more likely they couldn’t do much about it even if they knew what they had. They regrettably weren’t set up for the kind of commitment that I needed. They weren’t prepared to spend the kind of money to get results. Which I must say was quite painful on Chemical Wedding because I think that is the best record I’ve ever made and to watch it get to square one in terms of sales and to get to step twenty in terms of critical reviews. They have a finite view of things. When I first met them I asked them why they wanted me to sign to their label. They had all these bands who were big in the ‘80s. At the time I had just released the Skunkworks album I did with Jack Endino [well-known grunge producer] which was a metal record but it was very different from what their other artists were doing. I think their attitude was the artist doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Also at the time they were the only game in town. They’re not a major label, and they got their fingers burned spending too much money on buying a big ticket name which didn’t guarantee that income. They’ll always make a profit but I don’t think they’ll ever have big artists. But I don t think they’re terribly interested in that because they have their niche.

As far as your solo band is that on hold or over for now?

It’s on the back burner because I want to commit all my time and resources to the Maiden album. There will be a natural space that develops when I can make a new studio record for my solo stuff. The dynamic is completely different from making a Maiden record. I come out here to LA for two weeks and write a record with Roy (Z-guitarist/producer). Chemical Wedding took 2 weeks and Accident At Birth was done in 10 days. You have a couple people who are fearless about their ideas and they don’t mind throwing stuff away and you get this great energy going and you wind up creating something natural.. Chemical Wedding was s struggle because I wanted to exceed Accident At Birth. That album was deliberately retro. I drew a line in the sand and it was everything I had ever down summed up in one record. There’s nothing on Accident At Birth that I had never done but it just came at a time where it sounded fresh. So having done that I sat back and thought that everyone would be pleased if I did the same again but then people would think it was all I was capable of doing. Chemical Wedding started as a sonic solution where Roy came along with these guitars that were de-tuned and using bass strings so the sound was immense and so we stared writing songs. I got the idea of writing an album about alchemy so I started looking at lots of pictures and books and about 3-4 songs into the album I hit a wall and was bored with it. It wasn’t a history lesson, it’s rock ‘n roll, and the songs were starting to sound like shopping lists. One of the figures who kept popping up was William Blake, loads of stuff on Blake with pictures and poems. I went to the book store and got some books on Blake and I was hit by a runaway train. It was like a whole book of heavy metal lyrics. I started really researching Blake and it was like the muse for the album.. Yes, it was about alchemy, but it was also about Blake and his ideology and his internal demons and his mythology. He created demons, and infernal places where he was a prisoner of his creativity. It was great stuff. I looked at the album as a vision and I finished it all up in a couple weeks. I was really happy singing this stuff, it was constructive, it blew my head off. I got a really nice letter from the William Blake Society in England who operate out of his old house on South Bolton Street where he had the vision of the ghost of the flea which is the album cover. I never did get around to seeing them but they loved the words to the album and felt it was a faithful interpretation true to his spirit. That really meant a lot to me.

You’re doing a live recording ?

We’re recording three shows in South America and it will come out towards the end of the year. I am toying with the idea of putting in an extra CD of some of the stuff that was unfinished from Accident Of Birth and some extra tracks that we did for Chemical Wedding. There’s probably 6-7 tracks plus there’s this weird version of “The Zoo” that we did for this wrestling compilation.

What about the stuff you were working on several years ago that people were referring to as Peter Gabriel ?

I’m a bit shy about some of that stuff. There are certainly some very good tracks that are very atmospheric, spooky and dark, but I’m not sure how to release them.

Is it something you want released or are you satisifed just having recorded them ?

I’d like them to be released but I wouldn’t want them to be judged and that’s immediately what people do. If I did a box set then to maybe have an album with other stuff like that at the bottom of the pile so when people hear it they might like that. It sneaks up on them rather than “featuring the lost album” or the “unreleased album”--all that stickering shit. It promises far more than it can deliver. I always find that when you have an album that features 4 unreleased tracks and then you listen to them you know why they were unreleased. On the other hand, I’ve found some gems to B-sides, there’s a couple old Deep Purple or Rainbow B-sides that were just fantastic. They were instrumentals actually. There are some things like that that are really good that become well-known among fans. Purple did a blues song called “When A Blind Man Cries” which was just 2 minutes long and it was just Ritchie playing guitar and Ian singing and it was just awesome and they threw it away as a B-side. I would do something like that on a complete works. Otherwise I feel there are more appropriate things. There are some tracks I may be releasing if I did a double live CD. One of them was a live jam we did in the studio late one night and we did a track called “Taking The Dream” when we recorded Accident At Birth. I wrote a few words and where the fade-out was we just continued and did this real trippy, spooky Doors-inspired jam for about five minutes. There’s a track called “Wickerman” that we’ve never had time to finish but it’s a fantastic track. There’s a couple acoustic things that Roy and I did together that we could put out. I’ll be talking to the guy who puts out all my stuff in Europe on my own label, Air Raid. That’s become my European home for everything. Chemical Wedding came out on it, and the live album will be out in it and I managed to get back Tattooed Millionaire and Balls To Picasso, which have just come out in Europe. I will also have the Samson stuff I did coming out. We have to do a deal for the US but that may get tied in with the Maiden deal, we’ll see.

There was a rumor going around last year that Samson was going to reform ?

We talked about it. I was on the verge of doing it for fun. What sparked it off was a conversation with this guy in Japan named Mr. Masah Ito who’s Mr. Heavy Metal in Japan. A big media guy. His idea was to do a NWOBHM festival and reform about a half dozen bands and bring them over and do a little festival. He told me they were trying to get Lars from Metallica to MC it but he turned it down so they asked me and I said, “yeah, I guess that would be fun. Tell you what, if I can get the guys in Samson back together and we did one show that would great”. That was how it started. Then the festival wasn’t quite as certain as everybody made it out and I suppose the rumor mill started up and it spun out of control. At that point I backed off as I thought it might cause an immense bit of confusion as Chemical Wedding was just coming out and I didn’t want people to think I abandoned my solo career to put Samson back together. I talked with my booking agent about it and he said, “if you’re going to do that just do it and not tell anyone about it, just your friends and some journalists, get together in a pub, have a few beers and go up and do some numbers and have a good time”. Yeah, that would be the way to do it. It’s one of the terrible things about the internet because no one can keep a secret anymore. So there’s going to be no Samson reunion and me getting back together with Maiden put the lid on the whole thing. I think it’s best to leave the albums I did with them as the legacy and not screw it up.

Speaking about some of this older stuff, you released a record prior to Samson, didn’t you ?

There’s record I did called... actually there’s a couple of strange things. The first thing I did in a studio I only have on cassette. It’s a track called “Dracula”, which was done with a few musicians just as s studio project and they needed a singer to finish it. It’s kind of funny and it’s not too bad in a weird sort of way. I’d love to have the master tape. It subsequently became a band called Shots that I was in immediately before joining Samson. Before I was in Shots I was in a band called Speed when I was in college and we actually had no real knowledge of chemical substances. We just played everything really fast so we just called ourselves speed. It was a punk/metal thing, and in the eyes of traditional metal fans we played everything at such a ludicrous speed that we were mistaken as a punk band. We used to hijack the college mini bus, take the seats out, go do a gig and replace the seats at 3 in the morning and no one was the wiser. After I left this band and joined this other band, Shots, the guitarist went on to teach and he had some students who persuaded him to do a record. He had this single and he asked me to sing on it, so I did. He pressed up 700 copies and sold them all and I don’t even have a copy. It was fairly forgettable. The third thing is a demo I did in Shots.We changed guitarists and to see if this guy would work out we decided to knock a song out which we wrote in a couple of hours and recorded down at this little studio. The guitarist decided not to join the band but he had a copy of the tape. When I decided to join Iron Maiden this guitarist was still playing this song in another band called Zero. The singer’s manager heard that tape and they released it as Zero with a B-side featuring Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. I think Rod sued them and made them stop releasing it, but it’s worth a lot of money. I like when people do that because it gives you great stuff to talked about. Those are the things I recorded before I joined Samson. When I got into Samson they had already recorded an album, Survivors, with Paul Samson doing the vocals but they stuck this dreadful picture on the back of the album and credited me as guitars, vocals and harmonica even though I could barely play guitar. When the Head On album was released the management decided to put me on the Survivors album so I think I sang 5-6 tracks and they reissued it. Then we did Shock Tactics and then the BBC recorded us at The Reading Festival, which became a live album and that was my output with Samson.

Speaking about older records, how do you feel about the recent reissues of the Maiden catalogue ?

I wasn’t involved with it, but I knew it was happening. I don’t have a problem with it. Sometimes people in Europe say that’s expensive but that’s okay because they don’t have to buy it. Not only that but you probably have all this stuff already if you’re an Iron Maiden fan. If you want the CD-ROMs because of all the photos and stuff great but no one is putting your arm behind your back and making you go out and buy it. I think they did a nice job putting it all together .

It hasn’t been long since the Maiden catalogue was re-issued originally including bonus discs with the B-sides to the singles. Some people are complaining that these reissues don’t have the additional songs.

I guess there’s always somebody you’re going to piss off. It’s just one of those that if you want to give something any sort of value there has to be some sort of scarcity. You buy the CD-ROM because you want all the photos and interactively. If you were quick enough to pick up the ones before good for you because now they are worth something. I think that’s the thinking behind it. You can’t get it again which might not be good for some people in the audience but there are some that have dedication and it rewards fans who made the effort.

How did you feel about them adding “Total Eclipse to the running order of Number Of The Beast ?

We all thought it should have been on the album. We were in such a hurry when we made that record. We recorded and mixed the record in five weeks. This was in the days before computer mixes so we had the break down the board after the first week. Without having recorded any songs we had to pick the single and the B-side and record them and mix them and break down the board and start all over to record the rest of the album. Originally we thought let’s do “Gangland” but it was the first song we recorded together and we thought it was just great. It couldn’t be a B-side because initially it was our idea to be but in all our enthusiasm we picked “Total Eclipse” instead as the B-side for “Run To Hills”. Actually there’s a guitar solo that is missing from “Gangland”. It was recorded but we were in such a hurry that it was never mixed and nobody noticed. There’s supposed to be two guitar solos, Dave’s which is on there and then I do this shriek and a big drum roll and there’s this backing track where Adrian’s guitar solo should be. We were all so out of it. There was a massive stack of beer cans in the studio, we actually built an entire wall of beer cans. We had a blast recording that album but there was odd moments of forgetfulness.