INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA AND LUXI LAHTINEN
Live photos by Metal-Rules.com
When Iron Maiden does a new album, it’s always an event on its own. This legendary British Heavy Metal band has sold millions and millions of records worldwide throughout four decades. They visited Helsinki a couple of months ago to promote their new album titled DANCE OF DEATH – and both I 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 interview with him was limited to only 15 or 20-minutes, we managed to gather quite an exclusive interview with Janick all in all, especially concerning his past before he eventually joined Iron Maiden as a permanent member. Janick keeps you busy the next 10-minutes or so, so enjoy your reading!
(THIS INTERVIEW WAS RELEASED ORIGINALLY IN SEPTEMBER OF 2003)
“GIVE ME ED… ’TILL I’M DEAD…” – CONQUERING THE WORLD AGAIN
You played the Stockholm Stadium in 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. You 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 believe that all those who came to see us there did as well.
Whose idea was it to name this tour with the name “Give Me Ed… ’Till I’m Dead”?
I cannot remember any longer who came up with that name for this tour, but we just only wanted to have some name for this tour that people would remember quite easily. “Give Them Ed… ’till 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 going to give you Ed! “Laughs”
THE MAKING OF “DANCE OF DEATH”
Yes, that’s true. That’s going to be the name of our new album.
What kind of name alternatives did you have when you choose the title and theme for the album?
Well, I think that many people think that you first name the album and then you write the songs, but it doesn’t happen that way at all. We are doing what we’ve got, and then we write some songs, and the ideas come up. And at the end of it, you look all the song titles; you look at what you have got, what it’s representing, what the album is all about, and what it could be. For example, in 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 because its 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 of what this album is all about and where we are now. And at 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 know where to go with that album, but here we are now. If you look at the older Iron Maiden albums from KILLERS to VIRTUAL XI, you realized that all those albums are very different. When you listen to those albums, you know it surely is Iron Maiden, but they all have different kinds 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 exciting 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?
Still, “Dance of Death” doesn’t really sound like a typical Iron Maiden album title?
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 a storyteller. It’s a very long song, quite deep, about somebody who… well, when you hear this particular atmosphere surrounding that song, you know where the ideas came from for the album, and it does have a nice ring in it, too.
So, are you saying that this new album is 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 connection through each song there.
The previous album BRAVE NEW WORLD came out something 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 the BRAVE NEW WORLD album, being on the road and traveling all around the world, so certain things always take some time for us to do. Long tours are 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 we intend 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 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 believe in, and you’re trying to make 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 thing 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 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.
In BRAVE NEW WORLD album, you have songwriting credits for four songs and…
Hmm, was it like that? I cannot remember?
Yes, it was. I just checked it before this interview.
Alright then. I cannot remember any longer how many of them had some of my marks in them.
What was your part with the songs on DANCE OF DEATH then?
I think that I’m probably involved with… perhaps with three songs? I don’t remember now, to be honest. Three, I guess, but I’m not sure.
Do you remember which are those particular songs by their titles?
Well, the title track “Dance of Death,” “Montsegur,” and… what was the last one? Shit, I 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 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 mind that there are many great songwriters in this band.
THE PAST CAREER OF JANICK GERS
By the way, I found a fan page from Brazil, which is dedicated to 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 rumor?
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 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, you know.
You never wrote anything to 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 about a British Heavy Metal “all-star” band, Gogmagog. How was the story of that short-lived project?
That’s was a great thing then. I got a phone call from Jonathan King, who assembled that thing around 1985. He liked my blues style playing and thought that I would give them a proper 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 that we recorded, and we put it out, and it was quite a good fun thing.
That 12″ E.P. seems to be such a hard item to find these days.
I know. The edition for it was not that big at all, after all.
Well, how about Ian Gillan then. You did a couple of albums and tours with him before deciding to rejoin Deep Purple in 1984. How did you get hooked up with him for a gig?
Well, Ian Gillan 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 the 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. The next day I said to them: “Sorry guys, I haven’t learned the songs. My tape was running out.” And when we got on the stage, we did a one-hour soundcheck, which helped me learn the songs. And that was it. I personally think I played good enough that night! (laughs).
Are you still in touch with Mr. Gillan?
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 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 that era as well?
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 sort 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 for a long time. I was recording a Bowie track, “All the Young Dudes.” Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet was initially supposed to sing the song, but he got sick at the last minute, so Bruce sang it. That’s how we got together. The rest is pretty much history.
When Bruce left Iron Maiden back in 1993, did he ever ask you to go 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 because it seems that our time is running out. Here is one gift for you from Metal-Rules.com. Here you are!
Thank you!! Hmm, it’s a CD from who?
It’s the latest CD from a Finnish Heavy Metal band called Tarot. I can tell you that you can hear some Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Dio-related things in that CD for sure musically, so I hope you will enjoy it a bit at least!
Sounds great!! I’ll check it out for sure!! Thanks a lot!
That was it. Thank you for your time, and we hope to see you next time, too!!