Interview: Dave Murray of Iron Maiden

October 19, 2006 12:06 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

British rockers Iron Maiden are playing their new album, "A Matter of Life and Death," in its entirety during their current tour--an idea that could've gone over like a lead zeppelin with the group's longtime fans. But guitarist Dave Murray said that the new material--which the English metal legends play during the first half of their shows--is adding a new dimension that the crowds appreciate.

"Maiden have always done the songs that everyone wants to hear," Murray said in a recent telephone interview from Boston. "They're great songs. We love playing them. But it was a case where it's a challenge for us to play the new album. It pushes us a little bit further. It's just a lot of great fun playing these songs.

"We thought the songs were so strong it justifies playing them live. There's a lot of highs and kind of lows--there's a lot of moods with these songs. They're not just straight-ahead bang, bang, bang. There's quite a lot of quiet passages and where it changes tempos. The fans can stand there and listen to the music as opposed to going out there and bashing their head away for two hours. This is a very musical set. You can really get down with it, or, if you want to sit down and listen to it, you can do that too. On every level, you have a nice balance during the set."

Iron Maiden is enjoying a revival of sorts thanks to "A Matter of Life and Death," which debuted at No. 9 on The Billboard 200 album chart, marking the first Top 10 entry of the band's 14-album career.

The sales figures could partially be due to the publicity the band received during a 2005 run with Ozzfest. During Maiden's final Ozzfest performance, organizer Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife, turned off the sound several times, threw eggs at the stage and chanted "Ozzy" through the PA system, according to published reports. Sharon Osbourne then took the stage and called lead singer Bruce Dickinson an obscene name.

Murray talked with LiveDaily about the Top 10 spot, the songwriting process and Iron Maiden's career-long mascot Eddie.

How's the tour going so far?

We just started a couple of days ago in Hartford and it was great. We're starting to play the whole album. We have big production and a stage set, and it went very good. A great reaction from the audience. They were singing along to all the new songs. It kick-started really well, and we're proud of that.

How did you make the decision to play all of "A Matter of Live and Death" in concert? It's pretty ambitious.

I know. [Laughs] When we were making the album, we just had a really good vibe in the studio. We just felt each track was telling a story. The way we rehearsed and recorded, it felt really natural to play. A lot of stuff on this album, there's a lot of musical, kind of, tricky bits. When we play it live, we have to be right on top of it. It's a case of, it was going to be a challenge for us playing the type of music we've created. We thought, "Well, every tour we've come out and we've been playing a lot of the old material, maybe two, three, four, five, six songs from the new album." We just felt like, "Let's do this whole album." The reaction from the other night was quite stunning, so we thought we had made the right decision. It could fall flat on its face because the music is so strong with the melodies. As well, I think the fans have had enough time--the ones who have the album--they're coming to the show, they know the tunes. It's been out for a few weeks. Hopefully, they would have played it to death. Watching them, they would sing along, they were listening, they were singing along to all the new stuff. We're doing some of the older material, but they have to wait for that until the end. In a way, we feel now this time of Iron Maiden [where] it's justified. "Let's do the new album." There will be other tours when we're going out doing all the older stuff. So, this time around, let's just do this and see what happens.

Congratulations on how high you charted in the United States.

Yes, I think it's the highest ever. The highest entry we've had ever in the US. Also throughout Europe. It was No. 1 in nine different countries. For some reason, it's gone through the roof sales-wise in the first few weeks of release. It's quite incredible that Iron Maiden fans are out there looking out for it.

What do you think it was about "A Matter of Life and Death" that struck your fans?

It's hard to say, really, because I think we've pretty much done the same sort of things that we've normally done. We make an album, and then we prepare for the tour. Maybe stuff like the Internet has made the band more accessible and, through that, they can follow what's going on. I don't know, really. For some unknown reason, this album has shot up. Maybe they've been listening to the earlier stuff, and [were] just waiting for this one to come up. It's been a few years since [2003's] "Dance of Death," anyway. That's a good question. If we knew why, we'd bottle it and sell it as a magic potion. [Laughs] The rock fans are in tune with what's going on today. Through the Internet, they can get access to this band or any band. They're more on top of it.

The success shows you're still relevant in the 2000s.

Yeah, it's nice to be relevant. [Laughs] I think everybody wants to be relevant--especially now. It's such a diverse time of music. But with the Iron Maiden fans, they kind of know what they're going to get. They hook into the whole package--Eddie, the whole thing. I think this is the 14th studio album we've done, and God knows how many tours. It's nice to feel that, yeah, OK, there's still a buzz out there. You just want to go in and make an album, have fun with it, go on tour and have fun with it and enjoy it. When the fans are coming to the shows and the ticket sales are going amazing, and the album's going amazing, it's all worthwhile--and relevant. [Laughs]

I'm assuming you bring Eddie out on stage with you again?

Yeah. Absolutely. In fact, this production on this tour is pretty incredible. It reminds me of going back to the [1984] "Powerslave" type of production we had with all the visual stuff that's going on besides the music. Eddie's certainly part of that. He's larger than life in more ways than one. So there's a lot of visual stuff going on as well, and Eddie's part of it--not to give too much away. It's a pretty huge set. I don't think the fans will be disappointed when they see visually what's going on.

What do you see for the future of Iron Maiden? Will you continue cranking out albums?

Absolutely. We're touring until the end of the year, and then we're going to take some time off and maybe do something next year. We definitely have plans to do another studio album. Obviously, the dust hasn't settled on this one. There's definitely plans to make a new studio album but fans won't see that for a couple more years.

What is the songwriting process like with the band?

Steve [Harris, bassist] and Bruce write all the lyrics, and then the rest of the guys come up with the music. Steve will kind of, like, be the nucleus, so everyone collaborates with him. With ideas, everyone individually goes to Steve and he kind of knocks them into shape. Eventually, people will go to Steve and show them what they got. Sometimes, they're as good as they are. We kind of work like that. Before we go into rehearsal, the song will basically be there in acoustic form. Once we get with the band, it really starts to come into shape. It's a little seed and everything grows out of that. It's a very natural process. Nothing is really forced. No one is bashing their head against the wall. The guys have really got some strong ideas. We want to keep it fresh.

"A Matter of Life and Death", the best Maiden release in a very long time. Maiden fans new and old should love this. Contains interviews and two in-studio performances.

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