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Iron Maiden: Super Troopers

Iron Maiden: Super Troopers

Adrian Smith and Dave Murray live at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel,
New Jersey, July 11, 2010. Photo by Rod Snyder

One of Maiden’s trademarks is your harmonized melodies. Since you started out as a two-guitar band and later added Janick, how do you arrange your two-part harmonies?

Gers: Well, you can do three-part harmonies.

Murray: Yeah, none of us ever stops playing— even if the other guitarists are playing a harmony. It could be rhythm guitar behind the harmony, or a unison part.

If it’s a harmonized line, would you do a unison on the upper melody note or the lower harmony note?

Murray: Boy, you’re asking some technical questions! It’s hard to answer that exactly, because when we learn and do a song in the studio, usually after we’re done, we just move on to something else and forget about it. There’s really no set way, it’s more of whatever works. There’s no formula. In fact, we try to step outside of formulas. Sometimes, if one of us has parts worked out already on a demo, we’ll just show the parts to the other guys. That way we can get it close to the way we had it on the demo. Or, sometimes we’ll make up a part on the spot.

Whoever brings the song in usually plays the main solo, and whoever figures out the best part to go with the solo will play that part.

Gers: Sometimes, if we’re playing the same thing, I might play a note, say, on the 3rd string and Adrian would play the same note on the 4th string, which thickens the sound out. I mean, if we really want to sort it out, I’ll say, “I’ll play in unison with you, but on a different string.” If you listen to those old albums, there are more than one or two guitars on it. On Tattooed Millionaire [Brduce Dickinson’s first solo album, released in 1990], I recorded eight guitars playing one chord, but at different levels—high, low, a chord in between, etc. If you mix them all together, it sounds like one big chord, but it isn’t. It’s all about making the guitars sound bigger, like a wall of sound. These are little tricks of the game.

What acoustic guitar did you use in the intro to “The Talisman?”

Gers: I did all the tracks for that. It was a Taylor, which was very lovely sounding. There were probably three or four acoustics mixed in on “The Talisman.” Some had different tunings. When we play it live, it’s just me on the acoustic, however. I have to play one of the parts, and you have to imagine the other. In these cases, I have to decide which of the parts to play, and which harmony parts to leave to your imagination.

Janick Gers summons a “wall of sound” live at the PNC Bank Arts Center in
Holmdel, New Jersey, July 11, 2010. Photo by Rod Snyder

How do you keep Maiden fresh, yet still distinctly identifiable, after more than 30 years?

Whatever that magic ingredient is, we don’t know—it just comes out of the air. We don’t tour as much anymore, and we record an album every couple of years. It’s just about doing something that you really love doing. For example, after Rock in Rio, we took a couple of years off. When you’re off, it’s good to just step away from the band stuff so that when you come back, it’s totally fresh. I would jam here and there. I jammed with Alice Cooper and Mick Fleetwood at a charity function, and that was a lot of fun.

Gers: We look at each other and feel each other, because to me, bands are all about chemistry. It’s not about the individual players. You can get the best players in the world and still have a shitty band if the chemistry isn’t there.
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