Iron Maiden Guitarists Discuss 'The Final Frontier'
GW What gear did you use on the record?
SMITH Same as I use live, just simplified. I had my signature Jackson and my Les Paul “Goldtop,” and I ran them through a Marshall DSL100. I also had an Ibanez Tube Screamer and an old Yamaha flanger that I used quite a bit for leads.
GERS For me, it’s basically my live setup as well—my Strat into a Marshall head. No processors or pedals. I just plug right in.
GW When it comes to rhythms, are each of you very aware of what the others are playing on the record? I could imagine with three guitarists you run the risk of stepping on one another’s toes.
GERS None of us really work out what we’re doing with the others, but we just make it work. One steps back and another pushes forward, and we very subtly create a little tapestry within the songs. Because some of these things, you can’t plan them out; they either feel right or they don’t. It’s from your heart, not your head. Jimmy Page once said, “If you take rock and roll to school, you kill it.” That’s my belief too.
SMITH But on previous albums, when we first started doing the three-guitar thing, we kind of let things go, which I felt could be a bit sloppy, quite frankly. There is a tendency where, if you don’t watch it, the original riff can get lost, because everybody’s got a different way of playing it. So this time, even though we were basically recording live, we probably spent a bit more time trying to narrow the riffs. So if Janick’s got a specific riff, I might say, “Why don’t you just overdub onto that? It’ll sound great if you play two of it.” And I’ll just play something else. I want the riff to come out. If I ain’t playing the right shit, I don’t want to be hard-headed and say, “I want my guitar on there, loud!” Whatever’s good for the song, you know?
GW Adrian, when you left Iron Maiden at the beginning of the Nineties, Janick came in and replaced you. During those years, he would play your guitar parts on the classic material when it was performed live. When you rejoined the band at the end of the decade, did you take those parts back?
SMITH No, actually. I completely changed what I played. I would experiment with different tunings, or come up with a new part, or take what I used to play and move it an octave lower, or something like that. I just found other parts.
GW So even today, Janick still plays some of your original parts?
SMITH I suppose. For instance, on the last tour we were doing “Moonchild.” And I said to Jan, “I don’t really enjoy doing that solo. You take it.” So, yeah.
GERS Adrian probably feels I’m doing ’em wrong sometimes! [laughs] But let’s say on a song like “Iron Maiden,” I’m usually playing with Davey on that line. And so Adrian is free to do something else—maybe play a third, or double the line in octaves.
GW How would you describe one another’s styles?
SMITH Jan and Davey have a more similar approach. It’s a lot of hammer-ons and such. Whereas I probably play less notes. I try to put more space in there. It’s quite bluesy, actually. I grew up listening to Gary Moore, Pat Travers, Johnny Winter. I also loved Ritchie Blackmore, but when I was a kid, I thought, There’s no way I’m gonna be able to do that. Also, I started as a singer as well—I was in bands singing Thin Lizzy and UFO covers. So the fact that I was both singing and playing guitar at the same time may have had a bearing on my style being more rhythmic and more sparse.
GERS Adrian is certainly more rhythmic. Davey has a very smooth legato sound, whereas I think I’m more ragged, more edgy, more roughand-ready. But in style I suppose you could say Dave and I are more similar. Maybe that’s why we fit together. When we play melodies together they’re very fluid. And then you stick Adrian in there as well and it just sends it off in another direction, which I love.
GW Onstage, do you prefer playing the three-minute rockers like “Wrathchild” or the more involved, 10-minute epics?
SMITH I enjoy them both, really. I love “Wrathchild”—it’s one of my all-time favorites. I think it’s a classic rock song. But I also think the band’s forte is doing the longer, proggy songs. I don’t think we’re a groovy kind of rock band. We’ve tried to do it in the past and it kind of works, but I don’t see it as a strength. I noticed that most in the years I was out of the band. During that time I went to see Maiden live, and I thought that the stuff they did best were songs like “Fear of the Dark.” Stuff like “2 Minutes to Midnight” was all right, but it didn’t go over like the more intricate and melodic songs.
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