Taking a look at Ed Force One, the 747-400 Jumbo Jet, which is set to bring Iron Maiden, their crew, and 12 tonnes of gear Down Under next month, one can be forgiven for thinking it’s just an example of totally outdated rockstar muscle flexing.
After all, this is not the ’70s, this is the era of carbon emissions concern and a music industry that’s been living lean compared to the excesses of previous decades. But as far as Maiden guitarist Dave Murray is concerned, Ed Force One is as practical as it is ostentatious.
“Bruce is very into flying, has been for years,” he tells Tone Deaf. “In between tours he’d work as a commercial airline pilot. So basically last time we had the 757, which is kind of a smaller version but still a huge plane.”
“We’d put all the crew on and the band and equipment and travel all around the world, and this time it’s like, how do you make it better? So it has all come from Bruce because he’s the plane enthusiast and he has all these connections.”
“Funnily enough, we were just in the Boeing area where they make the planes in Seattle and Bruce went on a tour of the factory where they made Ed Force One, so he enjoys flying as much as he enjoys singing, and he’s been flying the plane and taking it up.”
Murray admits the plane works as a billboard in the sky, or as he puts it, “a flying advertisement at 30,000 feet” which comes in tandem with a forthcoming Iron Maiden video game and branded beer line, but it’s not a sign that the band have forgotten where they’ve come from.
“The thing is, Steve formed the band in like 1975, and we started off from the ground up, living in the back of vans, sleeping in cars, driving to gigs,” Murray explains. “We really hit the ground and worked over many years playing the clubs and gradually working our way up.”
“It wasn’t just an overnight success. So we’re definitely able to keep both feet on the ground. [The plane] looks very grand, but we always remember our roots and where we come from. Obviously, we wouldn’t have done it if Bruce wasn’t so into flying.”
Image via Iron Maiden
“But when you go back y’know, Zeppelin did it and I think Deep Purple and Alice Cooper. We’re not the first band to do it, but it’s a great way to travel. And if the newer bands can achieve that, good luck to them, I hope they do.”
Murray’s cadence is characteristically British, but there’s a kindness and even generosity in his voice and when he wishes good luck to the new crop of bands, all of whom have undoubtedly been influenced by Maiden, you can tell he means it.
It’s an influence that now spans almost five decades. “Over the years, the audiences at Maiden shows have just been tremendous and I’ve seen other bands, but the reaction from Maiden audiences is incredible, so maybe it’s black and white, you either love Maiden or you don’t,” Murray remarks.
“These days, we go on stage and just appreciate it more. We’re actually seeing three or four different generations of fans now and they’re just getting younger and younger. We go on and enjoy playing and we’re respective and appreciative of the fans who are coming to the shows.”
“So we couldn’t be on that plane if it wasn’t for them coming and supporting the band. The reactions from the kids is just overwhelming, they know all the lyrics, and they generate that electricity between the band and the audience.”
As for the electricity between the band members, that’s still alive and well. Maiden’s last album, their 16th, titled The Book of Souls, came out last year to stellar reviews, with some saying it surpasses even some of their earlier classic releases.
“I think it always has been a combination of instinct and what you get when you put the six of us together. That combination, the elements there just create that particular sound,” says Murray.
“When we go into the studio we don’t really have any idea of what a particular song is going to end up sounding like, especially with this album. We went in and everyone had ideas but nothing was written and we did it all form scratch.”
“We were rehearsing stuff and recording it on the fly. It kept it spontaneous, so a lot of the album is the first time we ever really played that stuff. It’s certainly not contrived, like we have to sound like Maiden, it’s just the way it comes out.”
“I think it’s one of Maiden’s classic albums and it was fun to do as well.” In fact, Murray cites tracks like opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ and title track ‘The Book of Souls’ as songs that will go on to stand up alongside iconic tunes like ‘Run To The Hills’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’.
“I think with Iron Maiden, from the very first album, the ideas have always been flying forth. Everyone’s writing and has an incredible amount of material so it’s a thing where we go in and everybody just shows what we’ve got at the time,” says Murray.
“We never thought it was a competition to be in a band, like an athlete where you’re competing against other people, it’s a collective thing we do together. You can’t listen to what people tell you, you just have to follow your heart and do what’s right for you.”
“Otherwise you’d be pulled in so many different directions there’d be no real focus. Especially with, say, Steve’s bass playing and songwriting, it grounds us and we sort of crowd around that. Maiden just does its own thing and people either enjoy it or not, they can either listen to Iron Maiden or not.”
“We don’t shove it down anybody’s throats. We enjoy doing it and if you’d like to come along for the ride, you’re welcome.”
Iron Maiden Australian Tour Dates
Wednesday, May 4th 2016
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
Friday, May 6th 2016
Allphones Arena, Sydney
Monday, May 9th 2016
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Thursday, May 12th 2016
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Saturday, May 14th 2016
Perth Arena, Perth