The metal monster ploughs ahead by putting egos on hold
With Iron Maiden, what you see is what you get — a reassuring thought for the masses of fans who have bought tickets to see the band on its Final Frontier world tour. The tour, which takes the group's latest studio offering out on the road, sees the "Irons"—backed by Bullet For My Valentine and Rise To Remain—play two dates this weekend at Saitama's Super Arena.
From the outside, Maiden is a larger-than-life, continent-straddling musical behemoth constructed from the tried-and-tested materials of early-'80s British heavy metal. And things are pretty much the same from the inside, according to Janick Gers, one of the band's three "lead" guitarists. In particular, the epic sound and image that the group projects in videos and albums is matched pretty closely by its live shows.
"A lot of bands go into the studio and use click tracks and layer things off, and what comes out isn't what the band sounds like," he tells Metropolis down the phone line from Singapore. "What comes out is what the producer makes the band sound like, so when they go out live, they don't have the impact that they maybe have in the studio."
"I think it's quite the opposite with us," he continues. "We're a live band, probably the most exciting live band it's possible to see. That's what we're after when we do an album. We try to capture that live essence, and put that onto the digital domain, so when we come to play [the songs] live, they're not that much different, really."
A member since 1990, Gers is not only an integral part of the band's live shows but, like all members, he's keen to contribute to the song-writing process.
"There are six writers in the band, and we're all bringing ideas in, so we never run dry," he enthuses. One such song that Gers heavily contributed to, The Talisman, is a standout track on the present tour.
"It was one of the things I brought in, a real rock n' roll edge kind of song," he recalls. "Steve [Harris, Maiden bassist] came up with some ideas for vocals and a story, and it just went on from there. We've been doing it live for this part of the tour, so hopefully you’ll get a chance to hear it."
So, what are the main differences between playing with two other guitarists and being the only axe-man, as Gers was in his former '80s band Gillan and on Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson's 1990 solo album Tattooed Millionaire?
"With Bruce, on that very first track we put eight guitar parts. I was playing highs and lows, dropping in themes, and doing lots of different inversions of chords. But when you come to do it live and there's only you, you have to pick which part you're going to do. You can't create that sound you had on the album. But with Maiden, we can."
And yet with three guitarists, each vying for attention onstage, aren't any toes ever stepped on?
"With The Talisman, I put about six guitar parts on the middle section, so there's plenty to choose from between the three of us who plays what. The first thing is to throw your ego away and start looking at how we can make Iron Maiden sound bigger and better. It's a case of being very subtle, of playing between ourselves, and being able to step back and let other people move forward. The great thing about Maiden is that there's just room for all.”
Mar 12-13, 5pm, ¥9,500. Saitama Super Arena. (Note: Both shows were cancelled when Japan was struck by the Great Tohoku and Kanto Earthquake on March 11)
11 March, 2011