Sure, Iron Maiden is a little fixated on death, and the band's official mascot is an evil, superskinny zombie named Eddie the Head. But that's part of what gives this British heavy metal band its Grim Reaper-peeking-in-your-window-about-to-chop-you-into-pieces-with-a-very-sharp-object appeal. The records have titles like Killers (1981), No Prayer for the Dying (1990), Dance of Death (2003), and A Matter of Life and Death (2006). And Eddie, that demonic, skull-faced specter, appears on every album cover doing strange and heinous things.
Yet despite the glam-and-gore gimmicks, these hard rock gods are planted firmly in the land of the living. With a 30-year career already in the (body) bag, Maiden's malevolent limeys laid the foundation for heavy metal, produced 15 studio albums, created an unmistakable sound, and rocked us all to the edge of our graves. But Iron Maiden is not slowing down. No, this death-obsessed crew is doubling back, hitting the gas, and speeding straight into the hellfire.
Maiden is wrapping up the South American leg of its current world tour. But this Saturday, Eddie and the rest will be in Sunrise at the BankAtlantic Center. Fans and fellow death obsessives should expect all the old favorites: "Run to the Hills," "The Number of the Beast," "22 Acacia Avenue," and everything off the Brave New World album. However, there will be tons of brutal, brand-new Maiden riffage too.
The band's latest album, Final Frontier, was released August 2010. And it's rich with epics that will remind you of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," soul-baring ballads, and good old-fashioned balls-out rocking. In anticipation of Saturday's South Florida show, New Times grabbed Nicko McBrain, who is not only Iron Maiden's drummer but also the owner of Rock n Roll Ribs, located in Coral Springs.
Our first request: an anecdote about some exciting and strange recent event in the lives of Mr. McBrain and Iron Maiden. But the drummer who has been called an octopus wouldn't fold: "How about the fact that I'm still getting up on the stage well into my 50s?"
New Times: OK, just tell us something interesting about the new album.
Nicko McBrain: Music is an elixir of life. That's pretty interesting! It's like a drug. It's like sex. You know, I'm married to my band — er, my wife will give me trouble for that. But it's also true. Except in this relationship, music is the sex. We wouldn't need to make a new record and we could still tour for a while. But we like being challenged by making another record. It's the challenge: Find new territory.
Now tell us something interesting or exciting about touring, life on the road.
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We're very well behaved. We come offstage, go back to the hotel, shower — and sometimes we don't. We meet for a nightcap, maybe some beers or bottles of wine, and talk about who made the worst mistake of the night. There's no drugs or anything like that. The music is the drug. That's lovely.
Any particularly interesting stories behind the songs on Final Frontier? What's your favorite song on the album and why?
They've all got special meanings. But "Coming Home" is a good crack at a ballady song. Bruce came up with it. It's about reflecting on life on the road, making friends, saying goodbye, flying in an airplane, and making your way home. I'd probably put "When the Wild Wind Blows" from this record in our top five epic tunes. There are so many nuances within the rhythm... Look, just go and buy [Final Frontier]. I'm not telling you anything more, except that it's loosely based on a movie. And it's fantastic — I've not yet done it justice. I'm not quite nailing the individual bits. But it goes down great every night.
How's the tour been so far? What's the reception of the new album in shows like?
The reception is phenomenal. The record has been number one in 28 countries — at least I think it's 28 — all around the world. Music has no boundaries. Despite the political climate, people are receiving it fantastically. At shows, we do five tracks off the new album live. They're received very well.
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When I was a kid, my mom wouldn't buy me an Iron Maiden shirt because she thought Eddie was gross. There's something about Iron Maiden's ubiquitous T-shirts that no other band has.
Very much so. Eddie is bigger than the band. Ed the 'Ead — we don't pronounce the h. Our band's font lettering is very distinct, and we have great artwork — a lot of people just love the imagery. That is the market: Sell the music, then the artistry.
Any kind words for your South Florida fans?
Our Florida fans are absolutely lovely. In 2010, we finished our tour at BankAtlantic. We came back. We hadn't played in [Florida for] over 20 years, [and] they made us feel so welcome. We'll be looking forward to another ten years. Florida, you make it great — old fans, new fans, and fans that aren't fans yet.