Iron Maiden Classic
Interview with Steve Harris July 1982 Alpine Valley Resort, Wisconsin
by Gueniviere in 1982!
This article/interview, written when Iron
Maiden were the support band on the Scorpions' "Blackout"
Tour, first appeared in the August/1982, edition of NIGHT ROCK NEWS, a
now-defunct Chicago music paper.
The following is a transcription of the article I
wrote from the first interview I did with Steve Harris back in
July of '82. It's so funny to view some of the comments in hindsight!
Remember, at the time, not all that much was known about Iron Maiden in
the US yet, and there was no internet to access the info. You basically
had to rely on anything else that was written that you could find, and
at the time there wasn't much around in the US. But then, it made me ask
questions I might not have asked otherwise!
Steve Harris is stretched out across a bed of grass and clover
beneath a tree that is part of a children's play area. Harris, the
bassist, co-founder, and chief songwriter of Iron Maiden--currently one
of Britain's hottest "heavy metal" outfits, had spent the
morning playing tennis and swimming on a rare day off. Although the fans
apparently have little trouble recognizing him, what with his
distinctively long mane of dark curls, he bears little resemblance in
many ways to the wildly charged musician who had performed on the
previous evening. The same could also be said of the band's other
members, Dave Murray, Clive Burr, and Adrian Smith, who are patiently
perched by the nearby creek to try their luck, using bread, pickles, and
hamburger for bait, with what Smith had referred to as
"American" fish. Only vocalist Bruce Dickinson is out of sight
in the whirlpool, after a bout of running through the adjacent hills.
(No pun intended.)
It seems as though the "heavy metal" brand of rock has
always drawn the bulk of its strength from the down-to-earth working
classes, probably the major reason it has never really been stylish or
fashionable, and also why it continues to maintain its massive appeal.
On the surface, Harris, who still lives in the working class section of
East London where he grew up, would seem to have the stereotypical
background for a star of the HM genre, but further investigation reveals
some surprising inconsistencies.
On the rare intervals that he has been home during the past two
years, Harris' own past-times include soccer, tennis, going to the
movies, and going out on occasion and getting drunk, "just like
anyone else." His personal tastes in music range from Nectar, Todd
Rundgren, Jethro Tull, and early Genesis, to early Who, Scorpions, and
UFO. However, Steve says he first took notice of rock at the age of
eight or nine via his aunts who were "heavy into the Beatles, Simon
and Garfunkle, and Tamla-Motown. I wasn't a big fan of it or
anything," he is quick to explain, "I used to listen to it so
much because any asshole would be playing it!"
Surprisingly, he began playing bass ten years ago at the relatively
advanced age of sixteen: "Sometimes I think it's better when you
start late because you get too many preconceived ideas, especially if
you get someone teaching you when you're a kid. I think it's wrong to
get too many of those kind of ideas in the first place." Typically,
he taught himself from records. "I used to listen to early Free,
early Sabbath, stuff like that. I liked some of the Free bass lines,
fairly simple, but really nice technique, you know what I mean?"
With a smile he adds, "Of course you don't know anything about
technique when you're first doing it!"
After a short while, he progressed to the beginnings of his first
band. "When I first started playing we used to muck about in my
house. I used to have a couple of guys comin' over from school, just
sort of messin' about. This guy used to play guitar, and he was a lot
better on guitar than I was on bass at the time, and I used to just try
and jam in with him. Then we decided, 'Ah, well, we've got to get a
drummer!' So we got this guy; anyway, he had this kit. He was pretty
useless, but we didn't really know at the time. We thought he was
alright, but as we started to progress and get a bit better, we realized
he wasn't any good, and we sacked him."
According to Steve, the rest of the band "wasn't very good"
either, and they played mostly covers. After about six gigs they broke
up and he joined another band through an ad in the paper. "They
were doing more rock-boogie sort of stuff, like Savoy Brown, early
Fleetwood Mac. I wasn't really advocating the sort of stuff they were
playing. I just thought, 'Well, it's good experience for me.' I played
about sixteen gigs with them." The band was older, so Steve figured
he might learn a lot, "Which I did. I think I was about 18 and they
were 26--which I thought was really old at the time! (laughs) Only
problem was, when I started writing my own songs, they didn't want to
play 'em because they thought there were too many time changes and that
sort of thing. So I figured, 'alright,' and I just left to form Iron
It was seven years ago when he got together with the band's other
original member, Dave Murray, and it took the first four of those years
for them to land a record contract. During that time, Harris also worked
a "regular" job as an architectural draftsman. "We were
doing pubs and clubs on the weekends," he explains. "Then we'd
go take time off of work--call off sick or something, that was the usual
thing--to go up to clubs in the north of England." Understandably,
he doesn't "miss" his former vocation, though he admits,
"It was a good job. I mean, I used to like drawing anyway,
although, obviously, that was using a straight line formula. . ."
Steve has some difficulty recalling the earliest lineups of Iron
Maiden. "There's been so many different changes. We had so many
changes before we actually went professional, 'cause, you know, they
didn't want to put money into the band, or they didn't want to spend the
time--that sort of thing." Some of the personnel changes have been
fairly recent and unavoidable, as Steve notes: "Changes are a pain
in the ass, but there's no way you can carry on under certain
circumstances. When you do make changes, you have to make sure they're
for the better. I think the changes we've made have been for the
better--but then I'm biased!"
Clive, the drummer, has been with them for three years and has
appeared on all three of their albums. Adrian, the second guitarist, has
been with them for two years, and Bruce, the newest member, has been
with them for nine months since replacing Paul DiAnno, who ominously is
said to have disliked touring. All three had been members of
well-established English bands, as Steve recounts: "Bruce was with
a band called Samson, and he made a couple of albums with them. Clive
was also with Samson. Actually, we didn't notice when he joined, but
apparently he was on their first single. Adrian was with a band called
Urchin. They had a single too--two or three singles."
It was after the release of their own first album, "Iron
Maiden", which shot straight to #4 on the British charts, that the
band got it's first taste of success--and visions of broader horizons.
"You're sort of narrow minded at first," remembers Steve.
"You don't really think too much about the rest of the world; you
don't look that far ahead at the time. All we wanted to do was make
records and go out and play. But then when things started really
happening ..." Following a European tour with Kiss, their debut
album also went gold in several other countries such as Sweden, France,
In fact, Iron Maiden made the national news in Japan prior to their
tour there last year when three Tokyo dates sold more tickets in a
shorter length of time than any band since Led Zeppelin. At the site of
their live EP, "Maiden Japan," the group was greeted with neo-Beatlesque
enthusiasm: "Everywhere we travelled, there were loads and loads of
screaming girls. I mean, it was unbelievable, just screamin'! Guys, as
well, would run right down the road and and start bangin' on the
windows...It was absolutely ridiculous!" At one point they stuck a
tape recorder out a window to capture a bit of the delirium, because
they doubted people back home would believe it. "I didn't think
that sort of thing went on anymore," he says, still incredulous.
"It's just the way they are; totally crazy!"
Along those lines, it's natural to wonder how family and friends have
reacted to the band's initial success and the ensuing celebrity-type
treatment. "It was like a 'what's happening!' sort of thing,"
Steve recalls. "I think it freaked them out a little bit, mind you,
it freaked me out as well. I think they find it a bit strange, really,
'cause, well. . .we're pretty big in Britain now, and they come to the
gigs and they see all these fans going crazy and you're signing
autographs...Well, you saw what it was like here. It's still pretty
strange for me when I sit down and think about it."
It's true that witnessing the wild fan reaction the previous night,
both before and after the show, gives some second-hand understanding of
the ambivalent feelings that Harris speaks of. However, Steve appears to
be as approachable and affable to the fans as anyone can be and still
keep their sanity, and it is clear that he maintains a down-to-earth
attitude towards the "rock star" treatment that has left more
than a few lesser individuals with permanently oversized craniums. On
the subject of fans, he says there are some who "don't sort of
regard you as being human. They're liable to sort of go over the top and
start talking and talking, and talking, either that or they just go
really go really quiet and don't know what to say...Maybe they think
you're different, which you're not--no different than anyone
All things considered, he says, "That's the just the way it is.
I can't complain. I'm enjoying all this 'fan' business!"
Not surprisingly, one of the things (in addition to the inimitable
English pubs and beer) Steve enjoys most about returning home from all
the touring is hanging out with his old "mates," because, he
explains, "You know where you stand with them." While some of
them, like his brother-in-law (Steve Lazarus), whom he once sat next to
in school, still treat him the same as always--"That's really
good"--others, he concedes, have been affected. "They think
that because I've done a lot, and there's so much going on, that
whatever they talk about is going to be boring, which is not the case. I
LIKE to hear it. It's like exciting because you're in a band--or they
think it is. To me it ain't that exciting. . .it gets a bit embarrassing
sometimes. They make you feel different and you're not, and you don't
want to be. I'm not complaining about it; that's just the way it
The topic shifts to the band's music in general, and Steve's
songwriting in particular. Much of the subject matter of their songs
deals with fantasy-type themes and fiction, so it's not surprising that
Steve gets much of his inspiration from films and books. "I try to
read quite a few books whenever I can," he notes. "Murders of
the Rue Morgue," "Phantom of the Opera," and
"Children of the Damned" were derived from movies, while
others, like "Invaders," is about "an invasion of England
as seen through the eyes of a Saxon." He adds, "'Hallowed Be
Thy Name,' well, it's a bit morbid, but it's about a prisoner who is in
the death cell. He's sort of had these real strict beliefs all through
life, and then, with about two hours to go, he's not really sure.
There's one line in it that says, 'If there's a God, then why does he
let me die?' It's just conflicting ideas in your mind, I suppose. Well,
I mean, I never want to be in that position!"
Does he think that any of his songs could be considered
"romantic?" (Not that any of them appear to be, which is
rather unique, considering how romance seems to be involved, in one way
or another, with the majority of other band's material.) "No, I
wouldn't say that; not really," Steve confirms. "I don't think
we've ever written anything that is romantic. I know what you mean,
actually. Everyone writes about how they want to love their 'baby,' and
all that! People write about how hard it is on the road, which it is
hard, and how lonely they get, which it is true what they're saying.
They miss their baby and they want to love them, and all this
business...But I find that a bit boring. I mean, frankly, it's a bit
sort of . . wimpy, I think. That's not to say I don't sort of have any
romance in me at all. It's not that. But I just don't think something
like that is what I particularly want to write about."
Steve also agrees that, unlike most other current bands, Maiden's
songwriting doesn't focus primarily on personal experiences.
"Yeah," he adds, "another thing everyone writes about is
all this macho screwin' of women, which I think is quite laughable,
really." Steve notes that anything that Iron Maiden does in that
vein, like "Charlotte the Harlot" (and "22 Acacia
Avenue"), is meant to be very tongue-in-cheek: "It's a
bit...sort of having a go at all the bands that really, you know, sort
of go over the top about all that shit! I think it's quite funny,
As he says this, it serves as a reminder that many of the band's
other numbers have an underlying sense of humor about them that is often
missed or misinterpreted. This is especially true since the release of
"The Number of the Beast," which has subject matter which has
apparently been taken too seriously by those of a Bible-brandishing
persuasion in certain regions where the band has toured. "We've had
some maniacs, we've had some religious nuts," Steve says, relating
one incident in the South where "some idiot was shouting, 'Rot in
Hell! Rot in Hell!'" as the band were coming off the stage.
Steve says it was also true, and not a publicity stunt, that the band
had all sorts of unusual problems during the taping of the album:
"It was nothing to do with the 666 thing; that was exaggerated. We
had loads of things going wrong. We had to get a completely different
tape machine because it wasn't recording the stuff properly as it was
going down. But, I mean, those sort of things can happen. It's just that
we had more of it this time than any other time..."
There was also an even stranger incident involving Iron Maiden
producer Martin Birch, who had a car accident toward the end of the
taping, involving a sort of religious fanatic, and the bill came out to
exactly 666 pounds. "People don't believe this, but he changed it
to 667 pounds," Steve says. "I mean that was only the one song
we did, but he's done a lot of work with Black Sabbath, and
apparently, they're into that sort of thing. So, I don't know, maybe
there's something to it ..."
When I ask him if there is anything important about the band that I
might have overlooked, Steve says, "Well, we're definitely not
satanists." With a pause and a smile, he starts to add, "Well,
sometimes we do like to run around and raise H....," and the
tape recorder suddenly clicks off on its own. Our mouths agape. .
."it's just coincidence," we finally conclude, laughing.
©2000 Metal Rules!!