Parental advisory ruined my life. So, it’s not as extreme as I make it out to be but anything marked “Explicit” and “Parental Advisory” on an album automatically registered as getting in trouble with my Mom or Dad. My parents were strict with me while growing up, always sneaking a peek into my latest entertainment purchases. Hell broke loose when I was a teen and purchased an Evanescence album. Can you imagine if they saw my Dimmu Borgir collection? Lucky for me, pirated albums didn’t get any fancier than a blank disc in a transparent cover.
If I could turn back time, I would ask my parents to read Full Metal Parenting. Now that is…kvelt! [Kudos Craig and Matt!]
If you had to give a guest lecture on Iron Maiden, what would your lesson plan highlights be?
Well, you’ve come to the right place with that question, because I have a great deal of experience in delivering lectures about Iron Maiden. Admittedly, all of those lectures have been entirely unsolicited, and delivered to the disinterested parties who made the mistake of sitting down with me for a cup of tea, but any rant about Iron Maiden that I get involved in always comes back to the point that the band’s early years really define what it means to have a staggering work ethic.
I mean, look at Iron Maiden’s first ten gospels. You’ve got, The Soundhouse Tapes, Iron Maiden, Killers, Maiden Japan, The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Live After Death, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. All of those are 100%, no-holes-barred, classic metal. BUT, more importantly, Iron Maiden delivered those albums in a scant eight years. There are few bands that could ever claim to have issued such a consistently solid and highly influential series of releases in such a short amount of time. Amen.
Think of those songwriting sessions. I mean, the pressure on the band must have been fucking enormous. And yet, one after another, it was a classic release, filled with timeless tunes, over and over again. That’s a phenomenal achievement. Obviously, some supposed fans might argue that a few of those releases aren’t worthy of canonising; but they’d be wrong. To my ears, each of those releases makes for a perfect snapshot of metal’s progression through the 1980s. From it’s fiery NWOBHM beginnings, through to more sophisticated pomp.
That’s all impressive enough, but then Iron Maiden’s early years have another accomplished element too. Think of all the shows the band played as well. They jetted off for something like eight world tours in as many years, once the band really kicked off. When Di’Anno shuffled off, and the Reverend Dickinson stepped up to the mic, there was a huge increase in the number of dates being played too. Iron Maiden were hugely ambitious, and hungry to spread the word, and if you combine all of Iron Maiden’s live shows with their first eight years of recordings, then that all makes for a formidable and awe-inspiring picture. Name me another band that’s done that? (Well, don’t. I mean, there probably is one. But lets not spoil this sermon with logic.)
Obviously, Iron Maiden paid for all that sustained pressure. The Iron Maiden juggernaut derailed when No Prayer for the Dying turned up in 1990, and we don’t need to talk about what happened with that Bayley fellow turned up; except to say the band deserved to get crucified for the dire albums they produced. But, even so, that doesn’t diminish what the Iron Maiden achieved in those first eight years. That’s where Iron Maiden made their name as a band for the people, because they understood that hype and bluster may be fun, but ultimately it’s meaningless. Straight-up, no bullshit deliverance on stage and on record is what counts, and that’s exactly what you got with Iron Maiden in their first eight years of recording.
2.What Iron Maiden track/artwork/album converted you to a die-hard fan?
I wouldn’t say any single track converted me into a die-fan, although hearing songs like “Revelations”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” for the first time pretty much blew my teenage mind. More than anything, I’d say it was the Live After Death album that truly secured my fandom. I remember buying the LP, and just devouring it. The band were honed to a razor’s edge after months of touring, so the songs on the album capture a critical moment in time for the band, and they obviously play a critical part of its attraction too. However, it’s really the entire package that sealed it for me.
Everything about the album was/is amazing. It had great artwork and photos, and it came with this fantastic insert that listed every tiny production detail about the band’s World Slavery Tour too. That insert was just nerd heaven for me. Still is, to be honest. I love that totally geeky side that Iron Maiden brings out in me. Live After Death is easily my favourite live album of all time, and I own multiple copies of it, in multiple formats. I’ve got all of Iron Maiden’s official live albums, and loads of bootlegs too, but none are better than Live After Death.
3. It goes without saying that Derek Riggs is an integral part of Iron Iron Maiden’s development. Which is your favourite art piece and why? Also, do you think Iron Maiden has given Riggs fair credit over the years?
My favourite piece of artwork from Riggs is the Somewhere in Time cover. I don’t know if that’s his best work or not, but I was 15 years old when Somewhere in Time was released, and super obsessed with album artwork in general, so it was the perfect album cover at the perfect time, for me. It was also the first Iron Maiden cover that made me realise how many background hints and tiny referencing details Riggs dropped into his work. Of course, that meant I went back and looked at all of Iron Maiden’s other covers for other hidden treasures, so I’d have to say, in many ways, Somewhere in Time really sealed my love of intricate album art.
Now, have Iron Maiden given Riggs fair credit? Well, I guess you’re talking about all the hoo-ha with Riggs not continuing on with Iron Maiden to this day. That’s a tricky question. Iron Maiden are inseparable from Riggs. He provided the band with all its iconic artwork, and, of course, he created Eddie, one of metal’s most enduring figureheads. I can’t even imagine how many t-shirts Iron Maiden have sold because of Riggs, and we’ll never know how Iron Maiden would have fared without Riggs’ artwork being such key marketing point for the band. I mean, Riggs artwork was directly responsible for me picking up my first Iron Maiden album, before I’d even heard a note of the band, and I bet that’s the same for a million other fans too.
So, yeah, I think we would all agree that Riggs did play an important part in Iron Maiden’s success. However, at the end of the day, it is the music industry. I do have sympathy for Riggs, but he also made his career off of Iron Maiden, and it wasn’t like he was writing the songs or doing all the work of touring the world like the band was. So, you might ask, aside from reimbursing him fairly for his time and efforts, what does the band owe him? Riggs is a commercial artist, Iron Maiden has always been a commercial entity, and commercial deals go sour all the time. Iron Maiden spent decades promoting Riggs’ artwork on a HUGE stage. Riggs has a legacy, and it’s one that’s been respected and loved by millions of fans across the years and all over the world. He wouldn’t have that without Iron Maiden.
4. As a philosophy academic, do you see a correlation between Iron Maiden and British idealism?
I did study philosophy at university, for a number of years, but I’m definitely not an academic in any way, shape, or form. Also, my speciality areas of philosophical inquiry were in human rights and gender and sexuality studies, rather than any examination of traditional discourses. So, in all honesty, my knowledge of British Idealism is probably not much more than you’d pick up from a cursory glance at Wikipedia.
I mean, sure, Iron Maiden are a quintessential British metal band, home and hearth and all that jazz, so if that’s idealism, I guess they fit the bill in that regard. But, if you want to have a discussion about Iron Maiden in relation to my area of study, we could have a ball chatting about the band’s spandex years; although, maybe best to save that for another time.
I think if you were looking at Iron Maiden through a philosophical lens, then there’s lot about the band that goes much deeper than their working-class roots or aesthetic would imply at the outset. Off the top of my head, and I think this is something most Iron Maiden fans would share, is that the band really taught me a lot about history, religion, different cultures, war, and politics. I’m probably not the only teenager that turned in school assignments directly referencing what I’d learnt about from an Iron Maiden song; hell, I did that at university too. They’re definitely a very philosophical band, both broadly in their subject matter, and in the way the band members are just exploring what life means through their art. So, yeah, as a philosophical tool, or educational asset, I think Iron Maiden’s discography should occupy a place in every school’s curriculum!
5. Iron Maiden have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and counting. Which album would you (happily) be buried with?
Live After Death. The first Iron Maiden album that I really connected with, and the one I’ll take to the grave. Of course, even though I know one life is all we get, there’s also that slither of hope that I will be bursting out of my grave like Eddie does on the cover too.
(Lav: I think we need to talk about lecture posts for Craig Hayes, he has some golden points.)