A couple of weeks ago, Ellie Howlett
) (a.k.a. "Little Trooper"
) won the chance (via the official Iron Maiden Fan Club
) to hear a few tracks from IRON MAIDEN
's new album, "A Matter of Life and Death"
, and to interview guitarist Janick Gers
and drummer Nicko McBrain
. Here is her report:EH
: The title of the new album is "A Matter of Life and Death"
. I wanted to know who decided on the name and where the idea came from. Nicko
: "I think it was Steve
]. We had two or three ideas which we were kicking a round, one of which was 'A Matter of Life and Death'
, and then Bruce
] came up with a title which we all thought was brilliant at the time. Then we decided to sleep on it for a few days but in the end we all decided that 'A Matter of Life and Death'
was the better title and so, it was a working title originally, which ended up being the best one. But it was either Bruce
who came up with it. The content of the record is dealing with a lot of the issues of war — 'The Longest Day'
is a well known account of war and 'Brighter Than a Thousand Suns'
is about the H-Bomb. Then there are other songs which deal with kind of the lighter side, but we all know that war generally means death, and death is the ultimate sin. But at the end of the day we've got other things to think about — life experiences etc. But in final answer to your question I think it was between Steve
: "It might have been Rod
: "It could have been. I dunno, it was just one of those situations where nobody really knows, it was just floated around waiting for approval. It could have been Drew
(engineer at Sarm West Studio
: "It could have been Eddie
: "The titles are important…"Janick
: "In the past we've tended to pick a song title as the name of the album, because sometimes a title will just leap out at you as the obvious choice, but it didn't this time for some reason."Nicko
: "Yeah, I think this is one of the first albums that we've not used a song title as the name of the album."EH
: Yes, I think that's been mentioned on the chat forum. Nicko
: "Yeah, so maybe it's quite a historical fact from that point of view. But we did discuss about using a song title and went through all the names — 'What about 'The Pilgrim'
? No, That doesn't really work, sounds like 'Pilgrim's Progress'
, can't have that. What about 'The Legacy'
….mmm 'The Legacy'
, that's not a bad idea, but we thought somebody else did an album called 'The Legacy'
: "I think calling it 'The Legacy'
would have hinted at this being the last album, and we definitely didn't want that!"Nicko
: "Yeah, so that got dropped like a big pile of you know what!!! Then going on through the other titles we thought well we couldn't call it 'For the Greater Good of God'
…. That would really be pushing the envelope. We can't really call it 'Lord of Light'
, that's a bit too much. There wasn't really anything that would lend itself to a visual situation."EH
: OK, so you've got an album which reflects the good and bad side of life, is it something of a "concept" album then? Nicko
: "No it's not! The only way I think that it's got any kind of concept is the running order of the songs on the record is conceptual. But it's not a message. It's just a really great piece of music. From the beginning every song kind of lifts you up and when you get to the middle song which is a bit of a ballad, and kind of gives you a bit of respite, and you think phew, thank God for that for a minute, and then the onslaught of the final four or five songs really lift you up again. So to me that's the only concept of the album."EH
: Are there any instrumental or acoustic songs on this album? Nicko
: "Absolutely not. Although there are some acoustic passages."EH
: The "B" sides are all covers. Am I right in saying that? Janick
: "Who told you about that?" EH
: Oh, I just heard it somewhere. Nicko
: "No that's just rumour control." Janick
: "No. If we told you we would have to kill you!!" Nicko
: "No, seriously, I don't really like to call them 'B' sides. I prefer to call it just an extra track. But the secondary track to a single release will always be a cover. Unless we do another 'Sheriff of Huddersfield'
or 'Black Bart Blues'
or 'Roll Over Vic Vella'
. Obviously 'Twilight Zone'
is one exception, but I don't think we would do that again." Janick
: "We are not a covers band, so when we cover someone else's song, we don't go away and learn it exactly. What we do is we listen to the track once and then go away and try to recreate what we felt from the track, so we're not trying to out-do the band we are covering, but trying to do it in a MAIDEN
: "And we always try to do the song justice. Obviously we don't want to do someone else's song and not do a good job of it. 'Cos obviously we don't want the person who wrote it to be thinking 'Oh my God, what have they done to my song?' We just go into the studio and have a good time." Janick
: "Yeah. It's all for fun." Nicko
: "We will sit in the studio and come up with some ideas of which songs to cover. Once we've decided, we will get hold of the tracks and then have a proper listen. Then everyone will go away and learn their own parts and then record it. 80% of the time it's done in one take and we don't spend a lot of time mixing it, other than maybe whack an extra guitar solo on and a bit of this or that here and there." Janick
: "Actually the covers we've done this time, there were no overdubs." Nicko
: "That's right. There wasn't was there? Whereas the album was mixed as we went along and then just needed a bit of fine tuning, these cover songs were mixed as we played them, and Kevin Shirley
said 'Right, that's it, that's the mix for this song.' All done and dusted." EH
: Do you have a personally favourite song from the album? Nicko
: "My personal favourite right now is 'Lord of Light'
, but I can't get 'For the Greater Good of God'
out of my head. All the way round the golf course this morning, I just couldn't stop singing it! (immediately launching into pub singer mode!)" EH
: Perhaps you should have sung the song on the album….. Nicko
: "I did!!" [Laughs] Janick
: "Yeah but the thing is. If we brought Nicko
down the front to sing, all the women would go like wow. He would then straight away become the focal point of the band….the band would fall to bits….Bruce
would have to be put to the back and that wouldn't really work so….we let Bruce
do all the live singing but Nicko really does it all in the studio!" Nicko
: "Yeah, Tom Jones
would have to start worrying!!" EH
: So Janick
, which is your favourite off the album? Janick
: "It changes day by day. It really does." Nicko
: "Also Janick
wrote a couple of songs which are really excellent and my favourite one of those is 'The Legacy'
. The acoustic intro is just, how can I say, ehm, it's a concerto! It's a work of art. The last chord, I mean THE last chord is just 'fuck my old boots, is it finished now! Can I have a rest!?) (Janick
falls about laughing) Just listening to Jan
's guitar work is so super intense, I think." Janick
: "It's an intense album." EH
: Yeah, from the four tracks I've heard I would agree. I think it is more progressive and far more heavier than previous albums. Nicko
: "You've only heard the first four songs? Blimey you've got to hear the last six tracks!" EH
: I wish I could!! Janick
: "Only the first four?!!!" Nicko
: "Blimey, the first four are just a teaser!! From those first four I think 'Brighter Than a Thousand Suns'
is absolutely brilliant." Janick
: "It just gets better and better the more you hear it. It's a very very intense experience to listen to it, I think. But the whole album gets better and better every time you listen to it. I don't think many bands do that any more. People tend to want 'instantaneous' and then after a week they forget about it and then want the next instantaneous thing. But this album is deeper than that. There's a lot of depth to it. It totally works as an album. It all finishes with some acoustic stuff, and as Nicko
said, the last chord just makes you go 'Pheeeww!' And you feel you've listened to a piece of music which has lasted over 70 minutes long. It's almost classically inspired." Nicko
: "Yeah, that intro to 'The Legacy'
definitely. I mean it sounds like there's loads of guitars but it's just the way Jan
put the whole thing together, and then the whole band come in with a huge wall of electric guitar and you think whooaa, it just blows you away. It's as though the overture has kicked in and it sounds frighteningly good!" EH
: Nicko, how come you didn't write any songs on this album? Janick
: "He did!! Ha Ha." Nicko
: "My writing contribution was more musical, like the drum parts to these songs etc. I really had a lot of input on this album. Usually the guys would come to and say '…..this is the sort of thing I would like you to do etc.' But that didn't really happen so much on this album. Although Steve
had a couple of specific things he wanted from me. But a lot of the way I constructed the drum patterns and beats was my contribution to the writing aspect I suppose. In terms of bringing a song to the band, I flew over quite late into the writing period. And what had happened was, the guys already had ten songs ready to go. They had been getting together in various combinations to put the songs together. If we had needed eleven songs then I would have put my song into the mix as it was already mainly complete and it may or may not have been used. But the point is, we had these ten phenomenal songs! Jan
had a couple more ideas, Adrian
had a couple more songs ready and Steve
had another three already written. So what is amazing is that we had too much material! Whereas normally we get to about eight songs and it's '……er, anyone got any more ideas?' So it wasn't because of any other reason than we had enough songs already. But to be honest with the standard of the songs already there, I wouldn't have even considered putting into the pot!" EH
: So the Eddie
with the crossed guns logo. Is that going to be the album or a single cover? Janick
: "No. But it will be used as part of the general concept of the album. But if we told you we would have to kill you again!! The artwork is pretty close but still not finalised. There are changes being made all the time, even with the stage production." EH
: Do you have much input into the artwork etc? Janick
: "Yes, if you want to. Normally what happens is Rod
will present us with all the ideas. We then discuss what's good and what's not so good. Then Rod
will collate all the ideas we have all thrashed out and then he will sit down with Steve
to thrash out the final look etc. Steve
is the main man for that as he is very specific about what he wants, like colours and detail. With the stage set though, we all have our little likes and dislikes. For instance, Nicko
might say that the drum riser needs to be a bit bigger, or Bruce
might have something wrong with the walkways etc. But they are things easy to change and we can even do it once we are on tour if a certain part of the production doesn't work quite right within the look of the stage set." EH
: Are all the backdrops and scenery all finished yet? Janick
: "No. They are almost finished being designed but not painted yet. Things change all the time. In fact only yesterday we were still talking to our production manager about the stage flooring design. It's very much an ongoing process. Alan
and Chrissie Chesters
, who run Hangman
, who have done our stage production for so many years now, do a fantastic job. They really know where they are going with MAIDEN
stage sets, and always get things done at the witching hour after many last minute changes. We can always rely on them. Even down to the pre-production rehearsals when we saw the Eddie
it just didn't look or work right. It looked great as a model but it just didn't work when it was full size. So they had to make another one which was used after a couple of gigs into the tour."Nicko
: "We are pretty much set on where we are going with it. It's really quite adventurous and I think people will be quite stunned when they see it." Janick
: "Actually I quite like it when it sometimes goes wrong. If everything is too slick it becomes too cabaret and polished for me. We shouldn't be too polished. I think we should always walk that precipice, because when things go wrong that's what makes it exciting." EH
: Yeah, the fans love that sort of thing. Janick
: "It gives them something extra to remember." EH
: So, TRIVIUM
are supporting you this time. How was it decided to use them as support act? Janick
: "I think it depends on who is touring at the time. Who's got an album out etc. Then you look at what is available and who we think will fit the bill the best. I don't really mind anyone supporting us, as long as it's the right time for that band. TRIVIUM
tick all the boxes, so it's good for us and good for them." EH
: Do you think they will pull in the younger fans? They definitely have a young fanbase. Janick
: "I hope it does. It should be great." Nicko
: "We can't just take a band out just because we might like them. You have to look at what they can bring to the tour. So the younger kids that might come to see Trivium may not have originally come to see us, but hopefully we can win them over as well. They are a good band, so if we are going on tour we may as well have a good band in support." EH
: Can you say what the first single is going to be? Janick
: "Not really 'cos we haven't fully decided yet." EH
: Big question. Will this be the last studio album? Nicko
: "Absolutely not!" Janick
: "If that was the case we would probably have called it 'The Legacy'
: "There you go. I hadn't thought of that but you're probably right. We are not young kids anymore but this record has proved to me that we have still got immense music left in us. So it definitely won't be the last. We will have the usual time off after the tour and then take things from there." EH
: One last question. Who is Benjamin Breeg
(Loads of laughter from Jan
: "We are not the two people to ask. You need to talk to Steve