The album 'The Final Frontier' feels more like a live performance than a studio album. Could you comment on that?
Bruce: For an album thatís got a lot of prog sort of influences on it, itís very direct. It almost sounds like a jam going on. In fact, itís not, but it sounds like that. I quite like that. Very different for us, very different for a sort of vibe for Maiden.
Steve: Itís very live. We approached it to be very live and when we rehearsed the stuff before we went in for the recording, it felt really good that we could play these songs live. I wouldnít say easily, because there's quite a lot of time changes going on in some of them, especially the songs on the latter part of the album and we've always tried to recreate in the studio, what we do live anyway, itís always been the purpose, the ultimate goal really and itís worked out really well. I mean, you can never really, pursue the live thing and get it, because itís just not quite the same.
Did you approach the songwriting and the playing on this album differently to previous records?
Adrian: You could say, apart from the opening track, the second, third and maybe the fourth tracks are pretty straight forward, really. I think maybe subconsciously, I wanted to try, we have got into a bit of a comfort zone or a way of doing things the last couple of albums and I thought it would be nice to do something a bit different, as well when you're playing, we do a lot of guitar solos and stuff, itís nice to have something different to bounce off. If you're playing over the same stuff all the time, you tend to play the same, so on a couple of occasions, we've kind of shook things up a little bit, playing over a seven / eight time or something, which we've never quite done before like, which sort of inspires kind of different ideas.
Dave: I think one of the things, when the fans listen to it, they're probably going to go to listen to the first track and itís going to be, woah, this sounds radically different for Maiden, but then when you get into this, I think this is probably one of the most progressive albums we've done rhythmically. I mean, there's so many different, especially from Nickoís point of view, from the drum patterns, we've kind of gone on a different path. There's obviously some moments on the album which is exclusively, typically, this is Iron Maiden, but I think Adrianís coming up with all these progressive passages and I think it really leant well to this band, so it sounds Iron Maiden and itís 2010. We donít sound like Iron Maiden from in the eighties. Itís like a fresh approach and I think with Steve, he's always thinking, like, three or four instruments down the road, what's going to be added, so he's always thinking, okay, I know this songís progressing this way and he's always thinking ahead about the next song or some ideas that he would add to and then also, we had a free rein really to go in and try out what we wished, have an idea, part of an idea for the song, you can just pitch it in and you're in the studio, it either works or it doesnít, so there's a lot of freedom and a lot of expression on this album and I think it comes across.
Tell us about the recording of the album. What was it like?
Steve: Well, it was actually really good because we went back to Compass Point Studios and we hadnít been there since 1986. We did three albums there. It was just great, we really enjoyed it. There was a really good vibe in there. We had two separate rooms, so we put all the cabinets in a separate room, so we were able to be in the same room with headphones and normally we hate headphones, but the system that Kevin Shirley had was a really, really good system and right from, straight into the first note, it felt, it sounded great, best headphone set up we've ever had, so it was a breeze in that way really, it was really easy and we just played, had good contact with each other in the room. Nicko was there, you know like, Bruce is in a little booth there, but it was a glass door, so we could interact with each other and it was actually a really, really enjoyable experience.
The song ĎSatellite 15ÖThe Final Frontierí sounds like a jam. Was it recorded live?
Steve: No, we actually did a different approach on that song, really different. I just said to the guys, I want to go in and try a few different ways of recording, a few different ideas and not necessarily record it all in one go. If you're doing a heavy part with a really good sound, weíll maybe do another heavy part and then, kind of put it together afterwards and it was just a really different approach, but it worked fantastically and I think weíll definitely try that approach again. Itís the first time we've really done it like that.
ĎSatellite 15ÖThe Final Frontierí is quite different to anything you have released previously - where did the idea come from?
Steve: Well, Adrian had the basic idea of the song, the intro stuff originally and then I just basically took it and put it together with the other part and wrote the lyrics and stuff and all that and put it all together. I'm not sure itís what Adrian really anticipated originally, because when he heard it, he went oh wow, thatís not what I intended but it sounds really good anyway. I think it sets the scene really good though for the album, itís kind of different, exciting, ominous and sci-fi all at the same time.
Adrian: I've got a studio at home and sat down and wrote every day for a month and thatís one of the things that came out. I donít know where it came from, itís just very kind of a heavy, probably a bit more, I donít know, more modern, but certainly different to what we've done before and I played everything I had to Steve and he kind of has a vision for the outcome of the album, so he liked that and he wanted it as an intro and also wanted it to sound different, like a separate thing. We kind of messed around playing it as a band, so we just lifted the whole thing from my studio straight onto it and put the vocals on it.
ĎEl Doradoí was released as the first taster for the new album. Why did you choose this particular song?
Steve: We chose El Dorado because we thought it would be a good live song. I mean, itís difficult when you choose a taster, especially for an album like this because I think itís so diverse that I donít think any one song is particularly a taster for it really, it doesnít really represent what the album is. So you could have chosen probably, anything from the album really, but I think itís a very good live song, when we rehearsed the song, we felt good playing it. Itís a good live rocker really, bit sort of heavy Thin Lizzy type of vibe to it.
Nicko: The thing I really like about the song is the story of the song is great, the words and whatnot, but the actual arrangement is really right in your face. We've got a birdís eye to start, which we like, people are like, what's coming next, but as a drumming point, itís not over challenging, the main thing in that song is where the groove is. If I get a little in front of it, especially in the solo section and on the choruses, it really can lose the swing of the song. The essence of it isn't sort of so much just nailing the meter on a clock, itís where it moves. I really like the arrangement of the tune, itís great, the breakdown in the middle, then the ending section. It ends how it begins.
ĎEl Doradoí seems very relevant to the current financial climate...
Bruce: El Dorado, it was weird. My dad, like, five years ago was sitting there in his rocking chair going, itís all going to end in tears, he said, you wait, this whole thing is going to fall down and everybodyís going to be broke. For me, I've lived through, this is the third big recession that I've lived through, like really big, major one. One was in the early seventies, when they switched off all the power to the whole of the country and weíre all living by candlelight for three days a week, then the next one was under Margaret Thatcher and then interest rates went sky high and all these people lost their houses and I remember then, all these people bought houses thinking, houses are going up, just buy a house, it will always go up, endless growth, nothing can stop it and you get this kind of casino thing, that people, like, play the casino with their lives and El Dorado is about human nature. Itís a timeless tale. Itís like the streets are paved with gold and it turns out they're not, itís a crock of shit, but meanwhile the guyís sailing away in his boat, yes, here you go, guys, every man has a canoe, I'm the only guy thatís got the paddle, did I tell you that? No, sorry, I'm just sailing away. Weíre doing El Dorado on the tour and itís relatively straightforward, apart from the fact that the vocal is an absolute pig, you know, when it goes up to the key change for the chorus, itís a nightmare, itís just like put your balls in a vice and squeeze really hard. My fault, I wrote it.
Would you say this album is a progression from the last studio album?
Steve: I think this albumís a progression from the last album because I think that musically, itís just gone even more prog probably than the last one, we were sort of edging that way anyway, there's always been a prog element to the band anyway, but I think these last two or three albums itís just kind of gone even further that way. I think this one has also, especially the latter part of the album, the more you get into the latter part of the album, the more proggy it is and itís just a natural progression for us, really. I donít know if itís anything to do with the fact that weíre a bit older now, that maybe we couldnít write a song like the true prog any more, I donít know, or wouldnít want to perhaps, but the songs do seem to be getting longer, not shorter. I'm not very sure why that is, butÖ
Janick: Every record you do, itís an exciting time because you're bringing new ideas out into the open and I just think itís a standpoint of where you are now and I think that you get everything together and you do the best album you can possibly do at that moment and I'm really pleased with this and we all are, itís a great sounding album. I think itís opened a few different avenues up for the band, we've gone to a few different places. For a band, youíve got to be organic, youíve got to move all the time, you can't keep looking back and parodying yourself, youíve got to move on to different pastures. I think we do that, every time we make an album, trying to take it somewhere different. There's a stamp on it, itís Iron Maiden, itís always going to sound like that because, this is the band thatís playing, itís Nicko on the drums, Steveís playing, itís going to sound like Iron Maiden, but the important thing is to try and take it somewhere else, without losing that identity and I think, we've done it again and I'm really proud of it and very pleased with it.
You worked with producer Kevin Shirley again. What do you like about working with him?
Steve: Well, Kevin is great to work with, I mean heíll try and get the best out of us and I think the more he's been with us, the more he's realised the strengths of the band and the fact that the basic elements of the band are there and donít need to be kind of messed with, not that he'd want to mess with them in the first place, but itís just he kind of, when you're working with someone, whatever, maybe try different things and I think heís found that the strengths lie with not changing too much really and the essence of the band and working with him is great. I mean, we were trying to find somebody to replace Martin Birch, because Martin Birch was so good and easy to work with and we found Kevin and in a lot of ways, he's very much like Martin Birch in the sense that heíll have a good laugh, you can have a lot of fun making the album, but itís a serious business when you get down to recording it and no messing around really as well, kind of, he doesnít pull any punches as well when he wants to say something, which is great, which is just the way we like it. I much prefer people to be straight up and honest with what weíre doing. He's certainly not backwards in coming forwards as far as that goes, which is great and we like and respect him, so it works very, very well. We really have a lot of fun when weíre recording and I think thatís the important thing when you're recording, it can be kind of laborious sometimes when you're recording and you need to have that fun element, as well as the seriousness.
"Coming Home" sounds like a very personal song. Tell us a bit about what inspired you?
Bruce: Initially, I started writing the song about other people coming home and then I thought, why donít you just write the song about us coming home, us, the band, all of us, because itís what we do, we spend our lives coming home and we've just been on this huge tour, on this big silver bird flying around, doing all this remarkable stuff and I thought, well, maybe Iíll write a song about that and I thought, I have to be careful here, because it would be really easy to get cheesy about this stuff. I tried to do two things. One was to get some sense of the odd feelings that you get when you leave a town or in our case, a country or a continent and you leave it behind. Youíve had up close and personal with 80,000 people, massive adrenalin highs, euphoria, whatever and then the next morning, you get up, have a cup of coffee, you have a shower, you're gone and there's some idea of what that feels like and in addition, what it feels like to me, sitting at the front end, having a foot in both camps, having the perspective of not just being on stage doing that, but also flying this magnificent thing through the sky and seeing all the sunsets and seeing the runway lights come up through the mist in the morning and touching down and going, weíre home. The experience of being on the aeroplane just seemed to accentuate the poignancy of it. You're not just piling into a tour bus and flying off, itís all of us and our equipment, itís the whole circus gets in and you donít just drive off down the road and wave, you leave the earth!
On the last tour you flew around the world on your own aeroplane, as documented in Flight 666 - what was that like?
Steve: Being on a 757 Air Force One, I mean, itís absolutely fantastic. I mean, first of all, I suppose it was, I donít know, pretty stressful for Bruce, I'd say, because he had to sort of set a lot of the things up with other people obviously and they werenít 100% sure that all the gear would fit in properly and all the logistics of it would work as well as it did, so the fact that it went so plain sailing, I think, was a bit of a relief, although we didnít know that at the time, only found out afterwards, when he did the actual interviews and I watched it back and I was like, oh, you werenít that sure, were you? So I'm glad he didnít let us know that, so that would have been really pretty scary, I think, if weíd known that they were that nervous about it, but everything went very well and being on there was just fantastic. I mean, obviously, long distances, it doesnít matter whether you're on a private plane or not, itís still tiring and all that and we all got sick, as everybody knows now, so that was tough as well. I mean, the first two weeks of a tour is always tough anyway and we donít usually film or record anything really, towards maybe the end of a tour, because obviously, you know, weíre a bit more together then, so they had elements of all those things going on and so it was quite a lot of pressure really in the first couple of weeks, which you could probably do without really, but itís just one of them things, you know, you just get on and do it, but it was good fun, it was really good going to different places, the fact that we could actually just go where we wanted to, when we wanted to is absolutely amazing and once youíve done that really itís difficult to go back to flying commercial I think afterwards, especially with all the restrictions and security problems there are these days, so yes, it was wonderful in that sense.
The title could suggest this will be your final album...
Steve: Hopefully not, I mean, hopefully not The Final Frontier, I think everybody knew that when we put this album out, people were going to be wondering about the title, whether itís the beginning of the end, or the end itself, hopefully not, we hopefully can go on a few more years and weíd like, I think, well, I definitely would like to make another album, I donít know if the rest of the guys feel the same way, I think they do. Itís just a question of physically whether we can time wise, because weíre going to be doing a long tour with this album and there's other bits and pieces in the pipeline also, so weíll see what happens, but I donít see any reason why we can't make another album.