Greece’s Rockpages TV recently conducted an interview with former IRON MAIDEN and PRAYING MANTIS guitarist Dennis Stratton. You can now watch the chat below.
Stratton participated in the recording and production of IRON MAIDEN’s self-titled first album in December 1979. He also appeared in the home video recording “Live At The Ruskin” in early 1980 (released in 2004 as part of “The Early Days” DVD set), MAIDEN’s first video “Women in Uniform”, the “Women In Uniform” single, some subsequent single releases, as well as in the band’s first appearance on British TV (“Running Free” performed live on “Top Of The Pops”) and the “Live!! +One” album.
Speaking about the circumstances that led to his eventual exit from IRON MAIDEN, Stratton said: “For us to headline any gig, we had to play for about an hour and twenty minutes. So, basically, our set consisted of the first two albums. So, in our set, in 1979, was ‘Wrathchild’, was ‘Killers’, was certain songs that were left for the second album. So we were already doing the first and second album live — not every song, but most of it, to build the set out, to make the set last longer. So when we went in to record the first album, we did it very quickly, and then, straight out, we did the JUDAS PRIEST tour, then we did ‘Top Of The Pops’, then we went out with KISS. But while we were working with KISS, we didn’t have to do such a big set, ‘cause our set was cut down because we were supporting. So [we were] already in pre-production for ‘Killers’ [and] I was already working on the guitar parts, because I thought I would be recording the album. And it was on the KISS tour that Rod Smallwood [IRON MAIDEN’s manager] decided that I was listening to certain songs, certain music that I enjoy listening to in my own private hotel room, in my own Sony Walkman. And he took it upon himself to start saying to me that, because I was listening to this music, that I wasn’t totally into IRON MAIDEN. When I was getting home, he was making sure that I couldn’t go home to see [my] wife and kid, because he had other things booked. And it slowly became this big problem of Rod telling me how to live my life. And I’m not that sort of person. So that was how we ended up starting to drift apart.”
According to Stratton, MAIDEN was “more of a business” during the time spent with the group. He explained: “Rod Smallwood got it into his head that you had to keep the whole band together. And it was on the KISS tour that I decided to travel with the crew for a couple of days — just to have a laugh with the crew, just to have a break. I didn’t wanna sit in a coach in a mini-bus with the band. They took it as if I didn’t wanna travel with them, but it’s not that. It’s just [that] you need a break from being together twenty-four hours a day; otherwise, everyone starts arguing.”
He added: “Steve [Harris, IRON MAIDEN bassist] and Rod have a big partnership. Don’t get me wrong — it’s always been Steve’s band; Steve’s always been the governor. And without Rod Smallwood, IRON MAIDEN still would have made it big. Rod Smallwood didn’t make IRON MAIDEN; IRON MAIDEN made IRON MAIDEN.”
In a 2012 interview with Critical Mass, Stratton stated about the time he spent playing with MAIDEN: “The debut album could have been better. Better produced. Better played. Because it was quite rushed. I joined the band and they were waiting to record the album for EMI. And I got Clive [Burr, drums] in and we rehearsed and, basically, the album was recorded. It was very, very rushed because we were booked to go on tour with JUDAS PRIEST … But then in them days we were very young and I think that if the five of us had stayed together a little bit longer, we might have been a little bit different. Y’know, the lineup changes started and people were arguing, so yeah… When I look back on it, some of them are great memories. So the short time, the two years with MAIDEN, from ’79 to ’80, there’s lots of good memories. The KISS tour and everything else. And they still are good memories.”