I’m not saying that I know Adrien Begrand. Oh, no. I’m quite far away from Canada. However, I know two things about Adrien: 1) He is a superb music journalist 2) He is an Iron Maiden fanboy (Goldfrapp coming in at second place)
So, I put Adrien to the ultimate Iron Maiden test.
If you had to give a guest lecture on Iron Maiden to a junior class, what would your lesson plan highlights be?
Now there’s a good question. I’d probably talk about how the band revolutionized the way metal is marketed. Sure, KISS pioneered the idea in the 1970s, but Maiden did it on a more grassroots level. Their artwork was the most striking album art imaginable at the time; when you saw a Maiden cover, you just HAD to find out what the actual music sounded like. Coupled with a highly identifiable logo and t-shirts featuring that logo and art, the band advertised its music better than anyone. It had mystique, even though at the end of the day they were just a bunch of blokes from London’s East End. The entire New Wave of British Heavy Metal took the band logo to new levels – if you couldn’t afford a good album cover, at least you had a distinct logo – but Maiden perfected it. All aspects of that band, music, art, performance, created a bond with the fans that’s very unique in music today, and never has Maiden shown an ounce of cynicism.
What Iron Maiden track/artwork/album converted you to a die-hard fan?
The first Maiden artwork I saw was The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind in early 1983, when I moved to a much bigger town and kids were wearing Maiden shirts bearing those illustrations of Eddie. The first time I actually heard Maiden, however, was in the summer of 1984 when the video for “2 Minutes to Midnight” started making the rounds. At that time I was huge into Twisted Sister, Ratt, Van Halen, and Scorpions, and that song was so different, catchy yet a little complex, featuring a singer with one hell of a voice. I loved the elaborate stage set-up in the video, too. Then when I saw the Powerslave album cover, loaded with intricate Egyptian themes and coloured in that appealing sky blue and yellow, I was drawn to it even more. So once I got the album on cassette, that was it. Ruined for life.
It goes without saying that Derek Riggs is an integral part of Iron Maiden’s development. Which is your favourite art piece and why?
As I mentioned, that would be Powerslave. There was a big poster of the cover – that I never bought! – where you could see all the small details, little in-jokes in the hieroglyphics, which I just loved. It’s so detailed, but so distinct and refined, beautifully rendered. Of course Somewhere in Time took the in-joke to crazy extremes, and we’d spend hours looking at that elaborate cover and figuring out each reference that was there, and there are dozens.
As someone who works in the artistic field, has Iron Maiden ever influenced your work or a part of your personality?
Maiden has soundtracked my life for 30 years now, so it must have influenced me somehow! It got me reading Coleridge at 14, for crying out loud. The music introduced me to Robert Heinlein, The Prisoner TV series, social realist fiction/drama. It planted seeds in my young mind, and I branched out from there, it got my own imagination going. I got more out of this band than anything I studied in high school. If anything, the band has been an enormously positive influence on my life. It’s as simple as that.
Iron Maiden have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and counting. What fun facts can you tell us about the Iron Maiden empire?
One fun thing I learned when I interviewed the band in 2010 is that Adrian Smith could never play a certain part of “Alexander the Great”. It was a kooky mental block he couldn’t get his head around, and the only way he could get his guitar track down was to be walked through it again and again and again by Steve Harris. So even though Harris and Dave Murray have always wanted to perform the song live, Smith wants no part of it!
*Side Note* (Thank you to Craig Hayes for bringing this to my attention) It seems Derek Riggs’ artwork is in demand after all he did start a generation of Zombie-loving fans. He also boosted Iron Maiden albums sales (the album art caught your attention first, right?). Maiden fans launch a Riggs petition! Read the full article at Classic Rock