Iron Maiden plays with metal madness
It was 30 years ago this month that Iron Maiden played its first-ever concert in Vancouver, sharing the Pacific Coliseum stage with Scorpions on July 21, 1982. The lineup hasn’t changed much since then—four of the iconic metal act’s six members from ’82 are currently in place—and neither has the band’s music. Three decades after the release of the devilish classic The Number of the Beast, the British headbangers are still thrashing it out with the best of them.
On its recently released live album and DVD, En Vivo!—recorded in front of 60,000 fans at a stadium in Chile—the band doesn’t sound any less potent than it did back on the thundering Live After Death album of ’85. According to guitarist Dave Murray there’s a radarlike connection between the members that refuses to fade away.
“After a tour everybody kinda goes and does their own thing,” says Murray, on the line from Detroit. “Then when we get back together it’s like we’ve never been apart, really. As soon as we begin rehearsals everything starts powering up again.”
Murray is the only Maiden member—along with founding bassist and main songwriter Steve Harris—who’s played on all 15 of the group’s studio albums, from 1980’s self-titled debut to 2010’s The Final Frontier. Although he’s been a part of the group for over three decades, the 55-year-old picker still appears to enjoy himself immensely whenever and wherever it plugs in. He’s always the one sporting the widest grin on-stage.
“I kind of go into my own little world when I’m playing,” he explains. “On-stage, I’m genuinely having fun up there, and I think it’s the same with the whole band. This music is kind of uplifting and upbeat, and you see the crowd responding a certain way, so it’s hard not to be excited. If you’re not excited, then you haven’t got a pulse, I don’t think.”
When he’s not living the high life in a legendary metal band that can still pack arenas and stadiums worldwide, Murray likes to spend his leisure time golfing (his handicap ranges between 15 and 24) or just hanging out at his lovely home in Hawaii. He hasn’t always lived the charmed life, however. The London-born guitarist comes from a poverty-stricken background that involved him being bullied a lot before winding up in a skinhead street gang. But when he was 15 Murray heard Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” on the radio, and at that moment his prospects improved dramatically. He knew he wanted to rock, and a year later formed his first band, Stone Free—named after a Hendrix tune—which included future Maiden coguitarist Adrian Smith on vocals.
“I think that for a lot of people who are underprivileged, that’s what gives you more edge,” says Murray. “You want to get out there and do something to escape from that kind of reality that you have, so you’re actually fighting for it more. It’s not handed to you on a plate.”
With Murray and Smith tearing up the frets alongside third guitarist Janick Gers—who was recruited in 1990 to replace the departing Smith, then stayed on when Smith returned in ’99—an Iron Maiden gig in 2012 offers more notes per second than anything this side of Yngwie Malmsteen. So after all those years and all those licks, does Murray have a favourite Maiden guitar solo of his own?
“I like playing ‘Afraid to Shoot Strangers’, actually,” he reveals, referring to a tune off the 1992 album Fear of the Dark. “We’re playing that one live, and I’m really enjoying it, ’cause there’s an intro that’s nice and melodic, and then also there’s some guitar harmonies, and then there’s some mad kind of crazy bits as well. So it really has a bit of everything, you know.”
As far as his fave Iron Maiden album goes, Murray doesn’t tend toward typical fan favourites like Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast, or Powerslave. Instead, he points to 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which makes sense at this time, as five of its songs—“Moonchild”, “Can I Play With Madness”, “The Evil That Men Do”, “The Clairvoyant”, and the 10-minute title track—are included in the current set list.
“Seventh Son was always a favourite album of mine,” says Murray. “It’s kind of nice that we’re goin’ out and touring with that material because we all like those songs, and it’s nice to be playin’ them live again, ’cause something like ‘Seventh Son’ we haven’t played for over 20 years. So that comes across—it’s kind of like the epic song in the set. That’s the one that really takes off.”
Iron Maiden plays the Pacific Coliseum on Sunday (July 29).