Joe Bosso of Premier Guitar recently conducted an interview with IRON MAIDEN guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Premier Guitar: Do you ever come up with guitar parts you think are great, but they’re not quite “IRON MAIDEN” and don’t make the cut?
Murray: Absolutely. It’s happened a few times. Obviously, the band has an identity and a sound, so sometimes it’s, “Yeah, that’s great, but it’s not right.” I’ve got a few things that never quite made it because they weren’t MAIDEN. I sit at home and put on a drum loop, and I’ll get an idea and stick it on my iPhone. Sometimes the idea fits, sometimes not. With MAIDEN, the quality of music is at such a high level that you have to reach high all the time. Anything below par isn’t really going to make it.
Gers: I think whatever we do sounds like us. Sometimes you’ll bring stuff in that doesn’t quite fit as well as something else, so you’ll go on to another idea. I don’t think I’ve ever brought something in that people said wasn’t IRON MAIDEN. Perhaps if it was totally blues it might not be IRON MAIDEN, but you could probably change it and it would work. What I love about MAIDEN is that there’s no restrictions. On this album [“The Book Of Souls”], there’s so many different facets of music. I think “Empire Of The Clouds” is almost like a Broadway musical. And you’ve got “The Red And The Black”, which has lots of classical connotations and Celtic riffs. “The Book Of Souls” has an almost Eastern vibe to it.
Premier Guitar: You’ve worked with producer Kevin Shirley before. He likes to get things in the can quickly.
Murray: Yeah, I love that about him, actually. I think he’s fantastic.
Smith: See, I’ve got mixed feelings. I give Kevin grief every once in a while because of that, working so fast. I’ve got a couple of amps in the studio, and I’ll be messing around and he’ll be like, “Come on. Let’s do it.” I want to see what the amps sound like — I want to be inspired. Kevin is very “plug in and I’ll record you.” There’s no smoke and mirrors. Quite often I’ll play a solo, and he’ll say, “That’s great. It sounds like you.” Then I’ll say, “I don’t want to sound like me. I want to sound better than me!” We clash a little bit, but I love him. He’s a strong personality.
Premier Guitar: Back in the day, you’d spend months overdubbing and layering. Is there pressure now to get the parts right the first time?
Murray: No, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’ll tell you, I actually love working with Kevin, and I love how fast he works, all the Pro Tools and technology he uses. Back in the day, when you used reel-to-reel, everything took so long — it killed a lot of spontaneity. Now everything’s quick and almost on the fly. When we go in and record a track, we’re all playing together, Bruce [Dickinson] is singing, and just like that we’ve got the foundation done. After that, when we go in to do the overdubs, I’ll go into the control room and sit next to Kevin, and we go through each of the songs bit by bit, changing things, playing solos or fixing chords. Kevin is fantastic: “This needs a punch-up. This bit, look at that.” And if you mess up, we can move something around and make it work. I’ll do three or four solos, and then Kevin will go, “Yeah, I’ve got enough.” So I’ll get a cup of tea, come back, and he’ll play me what he’s put together. Then I’ll go home and learn it for the next tour.
Smith: We’ve got three guitarists, so it’s hard for everybody to do all that tinkering. If Dave is sitting there doing a solo in 20 minutes, I’m not going to spend five hours working something out. You just can’t do that. Normally the first couple of takes are the best. If there’s anything I’m really unhappy with, I’ll fix it. Maybe I’d have spent more time redoing things in the past, but not now.
Read the entire interview at Premier Guitar.