Iron Maiden continues to connect with its fans
By JOHN BENSON
Never one to sell out with a mainstream sound, metal act Iron Maiden has been selling out concert venues for the majority of its quarter of a century-plus career.
The act’s last global jaunt, 2008’s “Somewhere Back in Time World Tour,” included six legs and 90 dates to packed houses. As for the band’s last album, 2006’s “A Matter of Life and Death,” Iron Maiden’s 14th CD sold a million copies worldwide — 56,000 copies in the United States — in its first week, bringing its career sales mark to more than 80 million units.
So what is it about this New Wave of British Heavy pioneering act, led by singer Bruce Dickinson and famously featuring skeleton mascot Eddie, that not only has very few copycats but keeps its fans rabid and hungry?
“I don’t know; we don’t really think about other bands,” said Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, calling from Saskatoon, Canada. “We just do what we do. I went to see Jethro Tull play a few weeks ago, and it was fantastic. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time, but we don’t really think about what our band is, especially when we’re writing, recording or touring. We’re kind of insular but pretty focused on what we do.
“Still, it’s amazing. We seem to be picking up new fans all of the time. I can’t really put a finger on why that’s like that. Obviously, people pass on the albums to their brothers and sons, and in a lot of cases the whole family shows up to the concerts. It’s unbelievable. It’s an ongoing thing, and I’m not going to question it. We’ll take it for sure. Bruce on stage says there are music fans, metal fans and then there’s Iron Maiden fans. And it’s true. I don’t know what it is that we do that’s inspired that kind of fan [adulation] really, but I think it’s quite unique.”
Up next for Iron Maiden is its new studio album, “The Final Frontier,” which is due out Aug. 17. Fans attending the group’s July 14 show at the First Niagara Pavilion and July 15 at Blossom Music Center will hear lead single “El Dorado,” which is one of 10 new tracks from the outfit’s longest album to date. Harris also stressed though it’s one of the band’s more unique efforts, it was recorded in a similar Iron Maiden fashion.
“We tried a couple of different things in recording, and I think the songs are quite different though,” said Harris.
“It’s got a few different styles of songwriting going on, but we never planned that. Basically, we just write an album in three weeks, and that’s what we do. We don’t put pressure on ourselves. That’s what we’ve always done. We had to do that when we ran out of songs for [1982’s] ‘Number of the Beast.’ Our first two albums were mostly songs we had the previous four years. And by the time we got to the third album, we didn’t have any songs. So we had to write more songs in a two- or three-week period. That worked very well, so that’s what we’ve done ever since.”
When the conversation turned toward the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which only in the last few years has embraced heavy metal by inducting Black Sabbath and Metallica, Harris refuses to get involved in the discussion whether Iron Maiden belongs in the hallowed hall on the shores of Lake Erie. However, in the process of dismissing such talk, he actually speaks to the longevity and modus operandi of Iron Maiden.
“It’s not for us to say,” Harris said. “I never think about things like that. We just do what we do, and if people want to add us into something like that, then that’s great. We’d be pleased, but I wouldn’t be too upset if they don’t. Put it this way, we don’t expect anything from anybody. We don’t rely on anything either. We just go out and we never expected necessarily to sell out everywhere. We don’t take things for granted. We never have. To me, you’re only as good as your next album, and we’ll go from there.”