For Iron Maiden not everything
is "Black and White"
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Keith Durflinger
He started out as a punker. It was a fashion statement. He prowled the streets looking like a modern-day skinhead and groovin' to reggae. He later got a whiff of Jimi Hendrix's talented axework and became a hippie. Hendrix slowly reeled him into the American blues scene with its acts like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and James Brown. Who would guess that these influences would lead to a music career spanning two decades with one of the world's greatest bands?
I caught up with Dave Murray, guitarist for Iron Maiden, during their recent United States tour. We spoke about his interesting beginnings and their thread to the band's success.
"It's the whole roots really," Murray says of blues.
He believes that getting back to the basics provides a great education for musicians. Murray also says that it is important to pay attention to detail and melody when writing to capture different feelings.
If you are familiar with Maiden's music, I am sure you are already aware of the influence of literature in the lyrics to their songs. For me, being a writer, this is one of the reasons I have remained a fan of the group. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson and bassist/keyboardist Steve Harris have long been prolific songwriters, absorbing bits of everything around them from medieval history to science fiction. Murray says that this is "one of the strengths of the band" and he compares Maiden's lyrical content to mini-novels, putting forth mostly positive tales even if some of the subjects are negative.
The group approaches writing by "just sitting down and messing around," says Murray. Like most bands, they keep some of the riffs and go from there, visualizing and building to perfection.
"Sometimes we get a stream of ideas," explains Murray. "And sometimes it's like banging your head against the wall, so you go and have a pint instead. The album is a collaboration between everyone."
Maiden's latest release, "Brave New World," rocks. It's the Maiden fans have been craving with a line-up close to what most feel is the "true Maiden"- Murray, Dickinson, Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.
"We knew we were going to come back with a solid album." Murray adds, "Any band is only as strong as their last album."
He clarifies that the group is "all fired up" to get into the studio as soon as they come off tour and this adds to the creativity. But don't get Murray wrong, the band enjoys touring and seeing their fans.
"We're hanging out and having fun. It's great fun." Murray continues, "One of the wonderful things about it is all the different cultures. We have been to places like Russia, Israel and Easter Bloc countries; places we wouldn't have gone."
While on the road, the guys often spend their free nights checking out the local scene.
"It's healthy to get out and see what's going on," says Murray.
He says that for any musician, "you have to believe in yourself" and that "you have to pay to play," success is not given to you, but there's also "a lot of luck involved." Maiden is one of the lucky few, although they owe their top-selling albums and sold-out tours to their fans, not radio or TV. And their rise to fame reads like a rags-to-riches story.
"I grew up in east London," recalls Murray. "Where you hung out on the streets with your mates. I chose to leave school and get a job at 15. I wanted to buy a guitar."
Murray worked a variety of "day jobs," grinding lenses at an optician factory and trying his hands as a mechanic, an electrician and a warehouse foreman before becoming a professional musician. During this time, Maiden was already at it.
"Adrian Smith and I lived a few streets from each other," says Murray. "We used to jam when we were fifteen. We played in gardens and church halls for fun."
In 1980 Maiden released their first effort, "Running Free," which made the United Kingdom's Top 40 without any airplay and paved the way on their road to stardom.
As for local bands, Murray encourages them to take advantage of the Internet. He feels the Web is a positive source as it breaks many barriers, enabling bands to send out their music. In a word, "it's great." But, like many artists, Murray is disappointed with sites like Nabster because the money doesn't come back to the bands. The lost revenue is what is usually used to absorb touring, recording and crew costs.
"Downloaded music doesn't sound as good as the CD anyway," adds Murray.
Murray has two homes, in London and Maui, and several hobbies, including astronomy, sports, reading and watching movies. In keeping with his bandmates, Murray reads a bit of everything, astronomy, sci-fi, suspense, mystery and autobiographies and with a laugh he finally admits that he likes all subjects, fact and fiction.
As our interview comes to a close, Murray offers these words to Maiden fans, "Thanks for supporting us for many years and come out to see us."
I did go out to see them- at Irvine with Halford and Queensryche- and they were terrific!
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