Interview: Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and Dave Murray in Their First Guitar World Feature from 1983
This Iron Maiden feature is from the November 1983 issue of Guitar World magazine. The story by Tim Bradley recounts the history of the band through 1983, then catches up with guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, who discuss their latest album, Piece of Mind.
The original story ran with the headline "Iron Maiden: The Men Behind the Metal Mask" and started on page 48. Pete Townshend was on the cover. Click here to see a complete photo gallery of Guitar World covers from 1983.
Adrian Smith and Dave Murray have been accused of pre-meditated ghoulishness. But they're just two devilishly fast guitar players.
Something mysterious happens to Iron Maiden's tour bus whenever they come to Long Beach. Last year, it had a flat tire and the jack used to raise it punctured the brake line.
This year the transmission acted up and wouldn't go into first or reverse. Then, at John Livzey's photo studio, an important Polaroid everyone had seen in one moment could not be found a moment later.
And what about those stories of tape machines stopping and starting on their own during recording sessions? Ooo-eee-ooo ...
Maybe Arkansas Representative Jack McCoy is onto something. He introduced legislation that would require albums supposedly containing Satanic messages to be labeled with warning stickers, like cigarettes and saccharin.
His bill, number 336 (not 666!), has been tabled for now, but it'll probably turn up again next session.
Is Bill 336 the real McCoy? Are dark forces at work? More than any other band, Iron Maiden has come under fire (so to speak) for making demonic music laced with hellish images of death and doom. Album cover and inner-sleeve art concentrate on ghoulish themes, skulls and dark gothic mansions, and the stage show features a ten-foot rotting corpse named Eddie, formerly Ed the Head, and an illuminated brain the size of a Toyota.
Maiden members do nothing to discourage all the fuss, adopting a, shall we say, devil-may-care attitude and pointing to the humor of it all. The liner notes for the latest LP, Piece of Mind, thank authors Alistair Maclean, Frank Herbert and G.K. Chesterton for their inspiration, and call the fans "Headbangers, Earthdogs, Hell Rats and Rivetheads." The group is pictured preparing to lunch on what can only be called brain under glass.
Iron Maiden was founded in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris (right, he's the Maiden head), who took the name from the medieval torture he saw in the film The Man in the Iron Mask. Harris recruited guitarist Dave Murray from a local band called the Secret and went to work.
Between 1976 and 1979, various incarnations of Iron Maiden were gigging around the clubs of London's East End. It was a difficult time for heavy metal, which at the time was being viewed as dinosaur music purveyed by aging groups in their death throes. Punk was the new thing and no one was buying metal.
In 1979, Maiden was a quartet consisting of singer Paul DiAnno, Harris, Murray and drummer Doug Sampson. In November of that year, they put together a few pounds and went into the studio to record. The resulting demo, called The Soundhouse Tapes, was released on the band's own mail-order label, Rock Hard Records.
The collector's item EP contained three songs, "Invasion," "Iron Maiden" and "Prowler," and sold five thousand copies by word-of-mouth in ten days.
At roughly the same time, heavy metal music was beginning its renaissance. Geoff Barton (called Deaf Barton by some) got his fifteen minutes of fame by coining the phrase "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" in the British music mag Sounds.
Clubs and labels began to take note as the scent of filthy lucre wafted into formerly pinched nostrils. The media caught on and soon everyone knew what the initials NWOBHM stood for. The record companies lined up.
In December 1979, EMI called and signed the group to a long-term worldwide agreement, from demo to deal in about a month. A second guitarist, Tony Parsons, was added to flesh out the live sound. Three months later, he was replaced by Dennis Stratton. Drummer Doug Sampson left the band for health reasons and was replaced by Clive Burr. The new lineup headed for the studio.
On April 14, 1980, Iron Maiden was released to tumultuous critical and popular acclaim. A British tour with Judas Priest, a European tour with Kiss and the group's first full-scale assault on the UK followed.
So did more personnel changes. Stratton left the band to start his own group, Lionheart, and was replaced by Murray's neighbor and schoolmate, Adrian Smith. Clive Burr's successor to the drum throne was Nicko McBrain, who had worked with Pat Travers, Streetwalkers and a French band called Trust.
Maiden's second LP, Killers, was released in 1981 and the band's success story began to take on global dimensions. Their first world tour took them to fifteen countries over an eight-month period, covering the UK, Europe and for the first time, the USA, Canada and Japan. The Japanese concerts were recorded and four of the tracks were released on a mini-album, Maiden Japan, in October 1981.
At the end of the North American tour, vocalist Bruce Dickinson came over from the group Samson to take the place of DiAnno, whose voice wasn't holding up. DiAnno later signed on with a group called Lonewolf.
IM's third album, The Number of the Beast, produced by Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Sabbath), was released in March 1982, and the band embarked on its second world tour, one of the biggest international tours ever undertaken by a rock band.
Over a ten-month period on the road, Maiden played 179 concerts on four continents, playing to well over a million people in sixteen countries, traveling over 35,000 miles by air and 60,000 miles by road. There were twenty sell-out UK dates, including Hammersmith Odeon, and the album went straight to Number One in England. It also did very well in the USA and the band toured there mainly as special guests in the big halls, playing with Judas Priest, Rainbow, .38 Special and the Scorpions. In Anaheim, 75,000 people saw them on a bill with Foreigner, Loverboy and the Scorps.
On returning home to England, the band headlined at the Reading Festival (where they had been many times previously as fans) and were presented with two platinum, seven gold and one silver disk for The Number of the Beast, which has sold over two million copies worldwide.
1983 was kicked off with work on the fourth album, Piece of Mind at Compass Point Studios in Nassau with producer Martin Birch again at the controls. The album came out in May and the "World Piece Tour" opened in England the same month. From there, it was four months headlining in the States and then back to Europe in the fall for shows in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Greece.
In writing about the tour's Long Beach stop, the Los Angeles Times said: "Iron Maiden made a typically bombastic stage entrance and immediately launched into its ferocious attack with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's mean, speedy guitar work leading the way."
So these guys, Murray and Smith, were going to be ferocious and mean, eh? All that devil-worship stuff, all that loud and proud marketing from the multitude of mimetic metalmongers ...
Wrong, sulphur-breath! Messrs. Murray and Smith in person prove to be surprisingly genteel and refined, soft-spoken and easygoing, concerned about nothing more than making consistently good music.
We met backstage and they offered me a beer while they had tea. No bat-wing soup. Dave Murray, the blond one now twenty-six, began playing when he was fifteen largely because of the impact of a Jimi Hendrix tune on the radio.
"I think it was 'Voodoo Chile.' I was totally impressed by it and I liked music anyway, so I went out and bought a cheap guitar. It was a guitar from Woolworth's called a Top Twenty. Cost about thirty dollars. The action was about two inches off the fretboard. But it was a start. I took lessons for a couple of weeks, but the teacher sort of packed it in. He gave up teaching, but I don't think it was because of me. I kept practicing and in about a year, I got in a band with a few friends. In fact, it was me and Adrian. We started off playing together."
Dave has come up in the world since his Top Twenty days.
"The guitar I use mainly now is a '57 Stratocaster (the guitars in the pictures were rented for the shoot because the band's equipment was on the way to Tucson). I've got two DiMarzio pickups on it, a Super Distortion at the bridge and a PAF at the neck. The PAF's got a smoother, creamier sound. The Strat is my favorite, but I also have a Les Paul which I use occasionally, and I just picked up a 1961 SG Les Paul with all the original parts."
The guitarist's amplifier setup is the Heavy Metal standard, four fifty-watt Marshalls with Marshall cabinets. "One cab's got EV speakers in it, which are miked-up for the out-front sound. And the others have Celestions, which are a bit more dirty. For effects, I have a board that was designed by Pete Cornish in London. It has a CryBaby wah-wah pedal, MXR Distortion Plus, Phase 90 phase shifter, an FET Power booster to overdrive the amps and a graphic equalizer that I leave on all the time."
Adrian Smith also started out on a Top Twenty guitar. "You get them in department stores, next to the washing machines. Now I've got a number of guitars, but I just mainly use two, the SG Standard and an Ibanez Destroyer with stock parts. For effects, I use an Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Micro Amp for power boost on the solos, a flange and a Boss Chorus. I used to have a lot more, but I whittled it down because I just didn't need it all."
Both players favor Dean Markley strings in the .09-.11-.15-.4-.32-.40 range. And oddly enough for such fast players, both claim Paul Kossoff of Free as a major influence.
Murray: "He had so much feeling. He wasn't very fast, but there was so much soul in his playing."
When asked if the twin-lead situation caused any "dueling guitars" jealousies, both Murray and Smith answered with a resounding "No!" In fact, each finds the presence of the other encouraging and inspiring.
Murray: "Most of our songs have two solo passages, maybe in different keys, so we alternate."
Smith: "Usually before we record, we'll sit down and work out exactly who's going to play what, depending on our different styles. It usually ends up fifty-fifty anyway. We each have different sounds, different ways of bending the strings, Dave uses more tremolo, that kind of thing."
On the new album, Piece of Mind, Dave solos first on "Flight of Icarus," "Die With Your Boots On " and "To Tame a Land." Adrian goes first on "Revelation," "The Trooper," "Still Life" and "Quest for Fire." Dave takes the solos on "Where Eagles Dare" and "Sun and Steel," with both doing the harmony part on the latter.
(Apologies, mates, if I didn't quite get that right. Remember how confusing it was trying to figure it out?)
Neither player uses a theoretical or scalular approach to his playing. Says Dave: "I prefer to play from feeling. The songs are tightly constructed, so I always play the same there. But when it comes to the solos, I don't necessarily play the same solos on stage as I do on record. I like to go out and sort of jam, more free-form. A lot of it is blues-oriented."
Adrian: "I've never been much for theory and scales. I know chords and I guess I play in a rock blues scale on the solos."
The latest album was recorded in Nassau at the urging of producer Martin Birch. The band used pretty much the same set-up in the studio as they do on stage, minus Eddie and the Brain. What changes are the miking techniques.
Says Smith: "The room is the most important thing about recording. We kept the guitars separate and put the amps up in a big wooden room and just put mikes everywhere. We didn't get to enjoy Nassau, because by the time we got the backing tracks and solos done, it was time to leave."
The album was mixed at Electric Ladyland in New York and, at this writing, is doing quite well on the charts.
Most of Iron Maiden's songs come from the quill of bassist Steve Harris, who, according to Smith, "locks himself away in a room and writes a complete set of lyrics. The rest of us will then sit around in the studio and jam with drums and guitar, just messing around till we come up with something. We pool our ideas." It is Harris' penchant for the Dark Ages that gives the music its gothic weltschmerz.
And, yes, there is one song about the devil, on the band's third album. It's called "Purgatory" and that one song is the one that causes all the commotion with strict constructionists, podium-thumpers and vote-seekers. The group was accused of "back masking," or recording evil messages backward and hiding them in their music. Ooo-eee-ooo ...
Now the truth can be told. There is a backwards message on the Piece of Mind album, between the first and second songs on the second side. I'll take a chance and reveal it to you. It says .. . arrgh! .. . (slump) ...