Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Janick Gers

Interview by Luxi Lahtinen & Marko Syrjälä
Intro by Luxi Lahtinen
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen

When Iron Maiden does a new album, it´s always an event in its own. This legendary British Heavy Metal band that has sold millions and millions of albums worldwide throughout 4 decades. They visited Helsinki a couple of months ago in order to promote their new album titled DANCE OF DEATH - and both me and Marko decided to use this opportunity to get Janick Gers to tell us a little bit more about the album, the on-going tour and his past activities with Paul Di´Anno, Fish (Marillion), Ian Gillan, etc.

Even if our time to do the interview with him was limited to only 15 or 20-minutes, we managed to gather quite a special interview with Janick all in all, especially concerning his past before he eventually joined to Iron Maiden as a permanent member.

Janick keeps you busy the next 10-minutes or so, so enjoy your reading....


You played the Stockholm Stadium in the front of over 30,000 people two days ago. What are your overall feelings about that gig in Sweden?

It was great to play for that many people, of course!! It was totally amazing to see all these people there in the crowd. Y´know, it always gives you an extra ´push´ to play for a big mass of people, so what can I say really? We were enjoying it and I do believe that all those people who came to see us there, did as well.



Who´s idea was it to name this tour with a name "Give Them Ed... ´til I´m Dead"?

I cannot remember any longer who came up with that name for this tour, but we just simply wanted to have some kind of name for this tour that people would remember quite easily. "Give Them Ed... ´til I´m Dead" sounds a cool name for this tour in my opinion. I really like the name.



So, is Eddie excited to do this tour, too?

He-he-heh... yeah I think so he is as much as we all are. We are gonna give you Ed...




Your new album will be titled "Dance of Death…"?

Yes, that's true. That´s gonna be the name of our new album.



What kind of name alternatives did you have when you choose title and theme for the album?

Well, I think that a lot of people think that you first name the album and then you write the songs, but it doesn't happen like that way at all. We are doing what we've got and then we write some songs and the ideas come up. And in the end of it you look all the song titles, you look what you have got, what it's representing, what the album is all about and what it could be. Like on, for example, BRAVE NEW WORLD, we think that BRAVE NEW WORLD would be a great album title. The image of the songs we did back then. We could make Eddie doing this and that. There is the same feeling here with this new album. The initiation of DANCE OF DEATH could be really good ´coz it's kind of dark edge on it all over the album is quite progressive and that's why it´s such a fitting name for the title of this new album.

When we got together we got a feeling of the album and then you kind of put the ideas down and that title could be a good description what this album is all about and where we are now. And in the end of the day you can feel in your mind that we have chosen a really good album title for this album. Like six months ago we didn't knew where to go with that album, but here we are now. I think if you look at the older Iron Maiden albums from KILLERS to VIRTUAL XI, you realized that all those albums are all very different. When you listen to those albums you know it surely is Iron Maiden, but they all have different kind of themes. It's like a big tree with lots of different fruits on it. But those are all growing on the same tree. And that's for me what keeps the band exiting and fun because you never know what's going to happen next. You can never be sure about certain things if you know what I´m saying.



"Dance of Death" doesn't really sound like a typical Iron Maiden album title?

Well, it was… there is a song there called "Dance of Death" and it tells about kind of a dance of death lyrically. The initiatory surrounding of the song is about a guy who is kind of a storyteller. It's kind of a very long song, quite deep, about somebody who… well, when you hear this particular atmosphere which is surrounding that song then you know where the ideas came from for the album and it does have nice ring in it, too.



So are you saying that this new album is sort of a concept album, too…?

Not really. There are eleven separate songs on DANCE OF DEATH. But there is also a common theme here through the album as well which has this certain type of a connection through each song there, too.



You released your previous album BRAVE NEW WORLD like three years ago. Why did it take this much time indeed to record your new album titled DANCE OF DEATH? Maybe because of your tour commitments...?

Yes, exactly. We were touring a lot for BRAVE NEW WORLD album, all the time being on road and traveling all around the world, so certain things always take some time from us to do. Long tours is naturally one of those...



What was the most challenging thing for the whole band to get this album done from start to finish?

Musically I think everybody in this band could play instruments very well. Everyone from the three guitar players in this band could be the main guitarist of the band. There is no doubt about that and our intention is to make the band sound better with the three guitar players and that's a challenge. Sometimes you simply don´t have to play because you just don't need to put too many guitars on some parts. We don't want to destroy our songs with too big guitar walls, you know and… I mean, I don't know if there is anything that difficult thing in here. We know how well we all are playing and we know that we do our best. So when you come up with some ideas you´re believing in and you're trying to get it sound great; the best sound you can get. We wanted a live sound, so we went on without a ´click track´ or anything like that and we just recorded this album live where we are our best. Because of that this album has a live sound which sounds like we could have a live sound in it. It moves, it breaths and it sounds just great, I think. It's that kind of a think that many bands don't do at the moment because they are playing with the ´click tracks´ which keep everybody like... Uh, how should I explain it? Their songs simply don't breathe too much and if you go back and listen to bands like Led Zeppelin and all those old bands you can feel that the thing is moving a little bit. Now people go and say "that's moving…!", but I think that's great because things like that should move and breathe a little bit.



For the last album BRAVE NEW WORLD you personally wrote four songs altogether with rest of your band mates.

Hmm, was it like that…? I cannot remember…

Yes it was. I just counted ´em before I came here to interview you…

Alright then. I just cannot remember any longer how many of them had some of my mark in them.

What was your part with the songs on DANCE OF DEATH then?

I think that I'm probably involved with… probably three songs or…. I just don't remember now to be honest. Three I think, but I'm not sure.

Do you remember which are those particular songs by their titles?

Well, the title track "Dance of Death", "Montségur" and… what was the last one? Shit, I just can't remember that title right now. I just wrote that one you know.

Well, I have the titles here somewhere... here!

Yes, it´s that one over here called "Paschendale". He-heh… I just didn't remember that title. "Dance of Death" was another one and then there is "Montsegur" here.


Well, you bring in different things when you are writing songs. Sometimes you are writing less, sometimes just more. You never know… It's about how many good ideas you have at the moment and you also have to keep in your mind that there are many great song writers in this band.




By the way, I found a fan page from Brazil which is dedicated for you. I don't know if you have ever seen it or hear about it but there are lots of stories, "facts" and pictures of you there…

It's on the internet, right?!

Yes, it is…

Well, to be honest with you, I'm not a big fan of the internet. I know I should be a little more but…I am just not.



I found some interesting "old facts" about you. Is that true that back in 1987 you were working together with Dee Snider? Is there any truth behind that rumour?

No. After I left from Gillan, Dee Snider did ring me on, and that's true… yeah, and I said to him: "I will not wear a make-up…" and he said: "I don't wear makeup anymore. I'm into Rock 'n Roll now…!!". I said: "Well, I'm still not sure about that..." and then we had a good and everything. But we never really got together in the first place, y´know.

You never wrote anything with him?

No. I started to work with people like Paul Di'Anno, Fish and people like that. I never played with Dee.



Well, I would like to ask something aout a British Heavy Metal "all-star" band Gogmagog from you here next…

…that's was a great thing then. I got a phone call from Johathan King who assembled that thing around 1985. He liked my blues style kind of playing and thought that I would give them a good slack and that's what he thought it would mean and… He wanted me to join the band with Neil Murray, Clive Burr, Paul Di'Anno and Pete Willis who used to play with Def Leppard. So we got together and we did a session which we recorded and we put it out and it was quite a good fun thing actually.

That 12" E.P. seems to be so hard item to find these days…

I know. The edition for it was not that big at all after all.



Well, how about Gillan then. How did you get hooked up with him for a gig?

Well he rang me up one day and asked me to drive to London. I went to Top of the Pops studio and… Bernie Torme had just left from the band, so I went down. I didn't know any of the songs beforehand. I only knew that I would be playing at Top of the Pops and everything was new for me. The guys just told me basically: "Learn these songs for tomorrow…". He-he-heh… so I went into my room and suddenly the tape ran out while I was learning them. Next day I said to them: "Sorry guys, I haven't learnt the songs, my tape was running out…". And when we got on the stage, we did one hour sound check which was me learning the songs. And that was it. I personally think I played good enough that night, tho (laughs).



Are you still in contact with Mr. Gillan, by the way?

Yeah. I played with Deep Purple a couple of months ago. I did a jam session together with them and that was great!! I really like him. He's still a great singer. He, Plant and Paul Rodgers… they wrote the book of singing some time ago, you knew that?



Nope, I did not. Well then, because you've played with Bruce before and then you joined Maiden I must ask a couple of questions about you and him…

Ok. I have no problem with that at all…



Is it true that you and Bruce were schoolmates?

Well, no. I met Bruce when I was in White Spirit. Bruce was in a private school and I was in a public school.



I know you have known him since his Samson days?

Yes. My old band White Spirit and Samson were often playing in the same kind of places. We both came from the same genres and we had the same kind of backgrounds.



How did you get involved with Bruce´s solo band in the first place back in 1990?

Well, I was playing football with Fish and he asked me to come to the gig to watch him and he ran me out and said he was looking for a player and I said okay. So, I got that gig and Bruce was doing that same gig as well and we met again in a few years and... Basically we hadn't seen each other in a long time. I was recording a Bowie track "All the Young Dudes". Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet was originally supposed to sing the song, but he got sick in a last minute, so Bruce sang it. That's how we got together. The rest is pretty much history…



When Bruce left from Iron Maiden back in 1993, did he ever ask you to leave with him?

No, he didn't. At that time he didn't want to play that kind of music anymore. But people do change their minds you know. Uh, it's really a very long story…



I guess you don´t have the needed time to tell it for us right now ´coz it seems that our time is running out. Here is one gift for you from Metal-Rules.com, here you are…

Than you!! Hmm, it´s a CD from…?

…it's the latest CD from a Finnish Heavy Metal band called Tarot. I can tell you that you can hear musically some Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Dio related things in that CD for sure, so I hope you are gonna enjoy it a bit at least…

Sounds great!! I´ll check it out for sure!! Thanks a lot dudes!!

That was it. Thank you for your time and we hope to see you next time, too!!

You are welcome! Thank you, too!!