I Spent Five Days In Mexico With Iron Maiden

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“Well? What do you think of her, then?” Hammer is currently sat, in business class, inside a Boeing 747-400 that has a giant, fuck-off Eddie painted across its tail, sipping beer from an Ed Force One-branded cup while a grinning Bruce Dickinson gestures wildly around the 400-ton monster he’s about to fly across the country. “What do you think?!” It’s… big, Bruce! “Ha!” he chuckles, sensitively parring our woeful attempt at partaking in ‘plane talk’. “Also, how cool is this?” Suddenly, there’s a bright blue luchador wrestling mask in his hand. “Shall I wear it when we do Powerslave?” he beams manically, before disappearing upstairs to carry us all a few hundred miles. Safe to say, things here have escalated very quickly.

Rewind less than 48 hours, and you’ll find Hammer in far saner aerial circumstances, disembarking an internal flight as we gaze into the shadow of the Cerro de la Silla – the Saddle Mountain – looming over the cosmopolitan city of Monterrey, Mexico. A bustling, confused hubbub of markets, business centres, old-school Mexican architecture and new-school, sky-scraping high-rises, Monterrey would make an unusual choice for a casual holiday destination, but we ain’t here to kick back and sip cocktails. Tomorrow, we’ll be joining Iron Maiden during their first, tentative steps into their latest, reliably ambitious world tour, witnessing them bring The Book Of Souls to some of the world’s most passionate metal fans at the 8,000-capacity Banamex Arena, before jetting off to Mexico City for two potentially pants-exploding dates at the considerably bigger Sports Palace. Oh, and frontman Bruce Dickinson, fresh from whooping cancer’s ass, will be flying us to the latter in the new, improved and fucking massive Ed Force One. Fair to say, this is shaping up to be A Lovely Time.

Our ride for the week. No biggie.

Our ride for the week. No biggie.
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

After breakfast, a stroll around the nearby avenues of downtown Monterrey reveals a swarm of Maiden fans. Their shirts are everywhere. You can’t order tapas, window shop for souvenir sugar skulls or go for a freakin’ piss without clocking Eddie’s face gurning at you from your peripherals. By the time we arrive at the Banamex, the arena is filled with frenetic fans eagerly snapping up shirts, hoodies, bandanas, cups and just about anything else in the building that happens to be emblazoned with that iconic logo. It’s also sweltering in here, and the very idea of this relatively intimate building being packed with delirious Maiden fanatics and a show that, from what we’ve heard, could easily fill a stadium, is both empowering and, to be honest, fucking terrifying.

Even as Hammer is whisked into a backstage labyrinth of fold-up tables, laptops, cabling and busy-looking roadies, the famed football chants of ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole! MAI-DENNN! MAI-DENNN!’ can be heard thundering around the arena. This is gonna be good.

“It’s overwhelming!” chuckles Dave Murray, taking a seat while wardrobe assistant Tash busily attends to a rack of Bruce’s various stage outfits behind us. “They’re so loud we have to turn the PA up! They’re not afraid of letting go and showing their feelings. We’ve been coming here for 20-odd years – the new generation of fans are just as passionate as the old ones!”

Wardrobe assistant Tash: "No, you can't 'borrow' one!"

Wardrobe assistant Tash: "No, you can't 'borrow' one!"
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

While we could wax lyrical all day about the inspiring passion of Maiden’s Latin American army, there’s a rather pressing issue looming over this current tour that unites fans right across the globe. Namely: how the hell is Bruce feeling? “Bruce is obviously a very strong, fit person, and he got himself back healthy,” replies the ever-smiling, ever-humble guitarist. “His singing is at the top of his game already and, well, you know Bruce. He’s just so positive, so upbeat, so full of li-”

“These aren’t my shorts! Oh, hello!”

Right on cue, Bruce’s head pokes out from behind a dressing room door dangling a pair of black and perilously, um, short-looking Umbros. As a giggling and apologetic Tash takes the offending pair off the singer, he offers Hammer a friendly glance before disappearing, returning momentarily to add, “Well, to be fair, they do look like the kind of thing I’d wear…”

It’s a brief and, erm, unusual encounter with the singer, but it’s enough to reassure Hammer that Maiden are very much back in the swing of this whole touring thing, and that Bruce himself is looking decidedly healthy for a 57-year-old who has recently beaten throat cancer. It’s less than a year since the man was given the all-clear, and he’s already back on an immense world tour and flying a new plane?!
“With what he’s been through,” adds Dave with a grin, “what he’s accomplished this year is more than what most people accomplish in their lifetime. He’s been flying again, he’s been getting his voice ready, and he’s enjoying it! It’s incredible.”

An old friend watches over the guys in Monterrey

An old friend watches over the guys in Monterrey
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

Unsurprisingly, all of Bruce’s bandmates are practically bursting with a mixture of relief and amazement that their singer is side by side with them once again.

“He’s my hero,” beams the irrepressible Nicko McBrain. Despite technically out-adulting Bruce by six years, the drummer speaks of his friend like a kid who’s just met Batman. “What happened with him was very, very frightening, but he fought it well, he studied it, he had great people working with him, and now he’s back stronger than ever.”

It must have been an immense relief to hear him sing again…

“The first night when we got up onstage, I’m right underneath him,” Nicko recalls. “He had the intro tape going, and then he just belted. I’m hearing it au naturel, ’cause I can’t hear the PA, and man, I just got a shiver. There was just something, I can’t even explain the feeling I felt. I’m so proud of him for battling through that terrible, obnoxious disease, and coming back through that, and then learning to fly [the 747]… he’s my Miracle Man, he really is. When the doctors gave him the all-clear, that was the last time I took a drink.”

Ah yes, the sobriety! Nicko recently revealed that he has officially gone teetotal, and while Maiden parties aren’t exactly a scene out of The Wolf Of Wall Street these days, it has still proven a big step for a man who is the first to admit that he can be a ‘gregarious’ type of chap.

“It was probably a culmination of everything,” he admits. “Having Bruce being sick, I went into a bit of a slump. After finding out he was well, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m gonna have to get myself fit.’”

Nicko is stoked to see his old friend back on his feet

Nicko is stoked to see his old friend back on his feet
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

Nicko’s musings on the wider, personal implications of Bruce’s almighty health scare seem to ring true through the whole Iron Maiden camp.

“I think that it’s affected everybody, really,” offers Steve Harris in that disarming, unmistakably East End accent. “There’s this general feeling that it’s brought the whole band closer. I definitely think that me and Bruce are closer, and I think he’d say the same thing.”

If Maiden’s founding member and de facto leader has been painted as reserved and even guarded in times gone by, today he’s perfectly affable and more than happy to open up on the tour, Bruce’s recovery and the effect it’s had on his own relationship with the frontman. And on that note: how is Bruce actually coping? In many ways, this is quite literally Maiden’s biggest tour ever.

“I suppose so, yeah!” smiles the bassist. “Bruce is taking supplements, so he’s got to be careful, but he seems really fit and happy. Sometimes you do worry that he’s pushing himself too far in different directions – he’s always doing about five things at once – but I think now he’s had a scare, he’s thinking, ‘I’m gonna fit even more in!’”

Steve takes a stroll backstage in Monterrey

Steve takes a stroll backstage in Monterrey
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

With the lads seemingly united in the belief that Bruce isn’t just coping, but back on world-beating form, it’s time for us to see the evidence for itself. Let’s be honest: the prospect of seeing the world’s greatest band do what they do best is always a great excuse to get pumped, but tonight, the combination of Bruce’s recovery, brand new material, an all-new set and Maiden fans around these parts being fucking bananas makes one hell of a backdrop for a big-ass heavy metal show.

And what a show it is. The cheer that goes up at those prophetic opening notes of UFO’s Doctor Doctor are loud enough to give a rhino the shits, and by the time the lights dim and the eerie intro to If Eternity Should Fail booms over a dozen spotlights beaming around the crowd, the atmosphere in the Banamex is electric. And sure enough, there he is: hood pulled up, crouched over a giant, smoking cauldron and flanked by great, flaming pillars. Bruce Dickinson: singer of Iron Maiden, cancer survivor and absolutely shameless ham, back exactly where he belongs and about to let loose on a room stacked with ecstatic Maiden fans.

“Here is the soul of a man…”

And there that is. That unmistakeable, unstoppable voice, soaring over the PA. Goosebumps the size of dragon eggs appearing up and down your arm. Weaving the rising smoke onstage around his hands like a demented sorcerer, Bruce isn’t so much in his element as sailing straight through the entire periodic table, and as flames suddenly engulf the stage and Bruce is joined by his galloping bandmates, the Banamex becomes a sea of pumping fists, jumping bodies and glaring phone lights.

What follows is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the finest Iron Maiden stage show ever seen. Aside from the Mayan-inspired set looking epic as hell, all ancient rock and mystical symbols and imagery, there’s more pyro, smoke, costume changes (yes, they’re all Bruce’s) and visuals to look at than ever. The New Eddie looks great, while the New Big Eddie looks colossal, and there’s even an updated, bigger take on the Devil for The Number Of The Beast that dwarfs its predecessor. While Maiden are evidently still coming to grips with some of the new material, with epic 14-minuter The Red And The Black in particular inviting a few timing mishaps, Monterrey laps it all up, “WOAAAAAH”-ing along to pretty much every riff and pogo-ing around like toddlers on Panda Pops. Bruce, too, looks bang up for it, and if this gig was to put the full stop on our trip, then it’d be a relieving enough note to finish on.

Bruce rallies the masses

Bruce rallies the masses
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

It’s not the end, however. In fact, it’s less than 12 hours later that Hammer is back on the tarmac of Monterrey International Airport, this time staring at a plane so big it makes the aircraft around it look, quite frankly, rubbish. We know that Bruce insisted that Maiden needed to go bigger because, as he puts it, “the last one wasn’t big enough”, but seriously: the new Ed Force One is huge.

"It's this much bigger!"

"It's this much bigger!"
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

The rather large gaggle of ground staff stood waving and throwing the horns at everyone boarding also suggests that this really isn’t the kind of vehicle you see casually pulling into airports like these on a daily basis. If seeing the Eddie-decorated monster inreal life is enough to make any honest Maiden fan want to rip off their shirt, smash some Trooper beers and belt out Aces High, however, then sitting inside the thing is straight-up surreal. And it’s just after Hammer has taken its seat that the whole Bruce-Dickinson-with-lucha- mask thing goes down, and we begin to wonder if that super-supportive GCSE English teacher ever saw all that early writing potential leading to this.

“How often do you get to go on someone else’s plane?!” observes Joey Belladonna as he and the rest of Anthrax arrive in the cabin and take their seats beside us. The thrash veterans are supporting Maiden right through South America, and judging by their faces as they pick drinks from the official Ed Force One onboard menu, they’re loving this as much as we are.

While we’re unable to join Bruce in the cockpit today (in fact, almost everyone but the band themselves are flat-out banned from accessing the upper deck), we do manage to catch five with his co-pilot, Nilsson, who beams: “Being on Ed Force One is fantastic! It’s a dream come true, and Bruce is doing great!”

Bruce and his crew, including co-pilot Nilsson, second right

Bruce and his crew, including co-pilot Nilsson, second right
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

With such a short flight, there’s barely time to get another beer in before Ed Force One begins its descent into Mexico City, landing in a local airport a few miles outside the city because, according to the gossip around us, Mexico City International can’t physically accommodate it. Hearing such an icon casually reel off chatter about ground speed, height, local time and seatbelts over a plane PA is about as surreal as it gets, but the madness only continues when we discover, upon landing, that a member of the Mexican President’s Cabinet is waiting at the airport to say hello. Wait, what?!

“We are very glad to have Iron Maiden here!” smiles Technical Secretary Roberto Padilla, Book Of Souls vinyl in hand, as we step off the plane. “We are excited to have these rock stars in Mexico! They are super-welcome – Mexico is Iron Maiden’s second home.”

Even Technical Secretary Roberto Padilla can't help but fanboy out

Even Technical Secretary Roberto Padilla can't help but fanboy out
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

We soon clamber, still bewildered, into a coach with a clutch of roadies, kicking off a two-hour drive through the Mexico City suburbs and passing endless clusters of modest casas, beautiful old buildings and hordes of locals attempting to sell everything from fresh fruit to cigarettes to passing drivers, a backline of immense-looking skyscrapers drawing ever-nearer as we trundle on. Eventually, we pull into the lush-as-fuck St Regis Hotel slap-bang in the middle of the city, where we and the band – who arrived earlier – will be spending the next few days.

Tomorrow, we’ll see Maiden open another chapter in The Book Of Souls at the 20,000-capacity Sports Palace, but for now, after another day of travelling, we’ll settle for a couple of drinks and a nice, comfy, eight-hour sleep in our big, deluxe-size bed. Ah, bliss.

After three hours’ sleep (thank you, jetlag), we take breakfast alongside Maiden’s crew, who are quick to mock Hammer’s moaning at our lack of snoozetime (“I went to bed at three and was up at five,” shrugs one particularly nonplussed roadie) and tell us that, upon arrival, both the band and some of their entourage were presented with huge, sculpted luxury chocolate Eddie heads. The Plymouth Travelodge, this ain’t.

As we opt to grab a precious fewhours to go explore the neighbourhood, we also bump into Maiden guitarist Janick Gers in the lift on the way down. “Alright, mucker!” he smiles. This is really fucking surreal. We go on to spend the rest of the day groggily soaking in the cauldron of culture and chaos that is Mexico City, and quickly realise that this is quite unlike any other place in the world. If Monterrey was a teaser of the whirlwind of contradictions that Mexico offers, then this towering, crowded and hugely entertaining city is an orgy of contrasting identities. Endless rows of markets, business blocks, squares, restaurants, parks, bars and theatres compete for attention as over nine million people crammed into the main city attempt to go about their business. When you include the Greater Mexico City Area, that number rises to well over 20 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere – and it shows.

Endless lanes of traffic gridlock means that your soundtrack to the majority of the city, which is an otherwise enthralling mixture of music, chatter and lairy market sellers, is forever punctuated by incessant beeping. It’s a manic, mystical, marvellous place, where you can barely walk 10 metres without desperately reaching for your camera to snap whatever pretty building, local event or chaotic scene you happen to stumble across – though we’re reliably informed that there are, like any city, certain areas that it’s best to avoid stumbling into late at night.

A chocolate Eddie: evil and delicious!

A chocolate Eddie: evil and delicious!
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

We could quite easily spend a few days trawling through the city’s many secrets, but it’s time to head to the Sports Palace for another round with Eddie. After (slowly) trawling through endless streets lined with pop-up tents selling reams upon reams of bootleg Maiden merch (a huge market over here), we get to the venue just in time to catch both
supports, which involves a well-received showing from Brit hopefuls The Raven Age (featuring, as seems to be tradition now, a Child-Of- Maiden in Steve’s son George on guitar), and a typically muscular Anthrax set. Both fun enough warm-ups, but as Maiden’s time grows nearer, the Palace grows noticeably louder, and as an eruption of noise greets Doctor Doctor once again, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Monterrey was something of a warm-up.

A few people turned up to Mexico City, then

A few people turned up to Mexico City, then
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

Hammer opts to watch the start of the set from the sound desk where, and we shit you not on this, we find Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood being greeted like a god, as hundreds of fans that catch sight of him proceed to lose their minds and reach out for high fives and photos. It’s like Michael Jackson just strolled through a Wembley crowd in 1992 – we’ve never seen anything like it, and it goes to show that everything in Maiden’s world is of fanatical value to these guys.

“It’s a bit embarrassing, that!” yells Rod with a laugh. Past the humble exasperation, we reckon he enjoyed it just a little bit.

The show begins with the same level of theatricality as the last, the new set fitting the bigger building nicely and the band evidently enjoying themselves as much as the shit-losing Mexicans in front of them. If Eternity Should Fail, Speed Of Light (including a spinetingling opening wail from Bruce), Children Of The Damned and Tears Of A Clown are all rallied off in quick, solid succession. So far, so good. When it’s time to once again attempt The Red And The Black, however, things start to go a bit sideways, as Bruce sings one too many verses while the band burst into that epic midsection, making for a rather confusing 30 seconds before they’re all back on the same page again.

“Right, we’ve got it now!” shouts Bruce cheerfully as the song hits fifth gear, and once the track is done and dusted, the band noticeably start to relax, with a crushing rendition of Powerslave in particular (and yes, he wears the mask) bringing things firmly back on track. The rest of the set goes on without a hitch, and by god is it loud in here. It’s heartening to hear some very vocal responses to new material, but when classics like The Trooper, Iron Maiden and a searing Blood Brothers drop, the roof very nearly comes off the damn place.

Who is that masked man?!

Who is that masked man?!
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

Steve Harris, Maiden's beating heart, shoots to thrill

Steve Harris, Maiden's beating heart, shoots to thrill
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

As we dash through the city back to the hotel in a convoy that also includes the band’s own van and a police escort, making a previously 50-minute journey in less than 15, it’s hard not to ponder on the problems that some of those new songs have offered so far. Haven Iron Maiden, the world’s boldest and proudly where-no-man-has-gone-before metal band, bitten off a bit more than they can chew with these tracks?

Tearing up Mexico City with our police escort. That's how we roll.

Tearing up Mexico City with our police escort. That's how we roll.
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

“Only if Nicko fucks it up, ha ha ha!” jokes Steve in the hotel the following day. “No, that’s unfair; Bruce forgot the words the other day and we all make mistakes at the beginning of the tour, especially when you’ve got long songs, and we’ve had monitor problems, so you can’t hear things so well. But I think that it’ll get a lot easier and better for all of us.”

It’s a fair point; after all, it’s one thing to play new, lengthy and complicated songs to each other in a rehearsal space, but pulling them off on a stage a week later in front of a few thousand very noisy Mexicans is probably not an easy task.

“I do keep fucking it up! Ha ha ha ha!” admits Nicko with that big, booming laugh. “Obviously, the sets are working now, I just need to remember all of my bits in The Red And The Black. I tell you what: the great thing is that I’m really good at getting out of my mistakes!”

“You gotta get back into the rhythm of being on the road,” offers Janick Gers. “There are always technical issues we’re dealing with, so it’s never the same. It’s different every night, and that’s why I like it. I like it edgy. I like things to be right on the tip of going wrong. Go back and listen to the Purples and the Zeppelins. When you listen to those old bootlegs, they are a little all over the place, but there’s something fearless in there.”

Perhaps Maiden’s most overlooked member, chatting to Janick is an absolute joy; the Geordie axeman’s no-nonsense attitude and endless passion for playing shows is at the heart of what Iron Maiden, under the noise and the products and the hype, are still all about. He expresses amusement at the attention given to the “fucking plane”, and stresses that the ‘Maiden brand’ will always come second to the music.

“You just keep your feet on the ground,” he smiles. “Whatever’s around the band, that’s just paraphernalia. All that interests me is the two hours that we’re onstage. Everything else doesn’t really matter. It’s lovely to have all this stuff, but it is just stuff.”

He’ll also admit that the insane attention devoted to Maiden when they play countries like Mexico – there are about 50 fans gathered outside the hotel front door as we speak, for instance – can be overwhelming.

Some Maiden fanatics outside the band's hotel

Some Maiden fanatics outside the band's hotel
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

“Out here, if I want to go out, I have to stick me hat on and tie me hair up!” he laughs. “I don’t wanna
be Justin Bieber! I just wanna play me guitar and get offstage and be me.”

“We do get these fanatical kids,” agrees the typically understated Adrian Smith. “When you go to places like Colombia, there’s thousands of them. The police are keeping them under control, and you think, ‘Jesus, we’ve got to put a show on in front of these people.’”

Doesn’t that motivate you to go out there and smash it, though?

“Yeah,” the guitarist replies nonchalantly. “I feel like, when I go on, I have something to prove. I dunno whether it’s to myself or what, but I have to be good enough to go out there and play to those people, so I suppose that keeps me grounded, really!”

‘Ole, ole, ole, ole! MAI-DENNN! MAI-DENNN!’

‘Ole, ole, ole, ole! MAI-DENNN! MAI-DENNN!’
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

With our interviews with the band wrapped up for the day, we head out to the front of the hotel, chatting to some of the assembled fans, who even manage to drag in veteran Maiden photographer and Metal Hammer contributor John McMurtrie for some autographs. Like we said: if it’s Iron Maiden-related, they want a piece of it.

“I got this made for them!” beams one fan, Sergio, holding up a quite frankly stunning, carved, wooden Fear Of The Dark Eddie complete with light-up eyes. “Can you get Rod to see it? They can have it if they want!”

After reassuring Sergio that we’ll get a photo of it to Rod and the band, but insisting that he really should keep something that badass for himself, we jump in another van to travel to tonight’s, second Sports Palace gig, with a million questions burning away in our minds. Namely: will Maiden manage to pull off The Red And The Black? How will all those fans actually make it to the show in time? And after spending five days knee-deep in this madness, just how much will real life suck?!

Mexican fans will go to amazing lengths to show their love for Maiden

Mexican fans will go to amazing lengths to show their love for Maiden
(Image: © Merlin Alderslade)

As we arrive backstage, we bump right into The Raven Age guitarist and son-of-Steve, George Harris, fresh offstage and looking like a guy who’s just been handed a winning lottery ticket by Scarlett Johansson. Alright, George! What’s it like being on tour with your dad, then?

“It’s fantastic!” he smiles back. “We’ve been getting a great reaction.”

What was it like growing up in the orbit of one of the world’s biggest rock bands?

“I absolutely loved it,” he admits. “In my summer holidays I’d go around North America in an RV with the band. Dad was away a fair bit, which sucked, but I got used to it, and I’m really close with him now. Plus, he’s a big fan of our band, which helps!”

“You do stuff for your kids, but you can only do it if it’s good,” stresses Steve when we catch him for a final five minutes before showtime. “You can’t just put them out in front of the wolves, because our fans are buggers sometimes! Ha ha ha!”

The Maiden lads, getting it done

The Maiden lads, getting it done
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

Since we’ve been here, it has to be said that the fans we’ve talked to have been nothing but friendly, excitable and passionate as hell, and as the lights come down for the final time in our few days out here, it’s hard not to marvel poignantly at the week we’ve just had. They say you should never meet your heroes, but spending some real time in the eye of the hurricane that is Iron Maiden will only strengthen your belief that this really is the greatest band on the planet. Sure, they’re undoubtedly a brand as much as a band these days, a well-oiled machine that, once it gets rolling, will steam through everything in its path.

“Here is the soul of a man…”

But, underneath the products and the pyro and the pomp and circumstance and “that fucking plane”, they really are still six blokes, writing themusic they want to write and getting a kick out of playing to the kind of crowds that dreams really are made of. And, you can’t help but feel, if the rest of it all suddenly disappeared overnight, they’d still be here, ploughing through stages like a Mayan axe through a ribcage, doing what they do best and loving every second of it. It’s a thought that, as Mexico City loses its shit once again, is enough to take Hammer flying right into the nearest pit, linking arms with a few thousand delirious Mexicans and belting out every single lyric of every single song from the second those pillars burst into flame once more.

Holy smoke!

Holy smoke!
(Image: © John McMurtrie)

As for the show itself, Maiden proceed to utterly crush it, nailing the new songs – The Red And The Black included – and ensuring that the reaction to every single track feels like Mexico have just won the goddamn World Cup. In fact, as Bruce Dickinson stands atop the set, hangman’s noose around his neck, belting out that final, spinetingling note of Hallowed Be Thy Name to a sea of screaming faces, it’s hard to envision a time where we ever doubted this most determined, most ludicrous, most brilliant of bands.

“Remember,” rallies the singer as 20,000 of the world’s most passionate music fans gear up for another round. “Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, if you’re with Maiden, you are all… Blood Brothers!”

Viva Mexico. Viva music. And Viva Iron Fucking Maiden.

IRON MAIDEN HEADLINE DOWNLOAD ON SUNDAY JUNE 12.

"What d'ya think of my ride?"

"What d'ya think of my ride?"
(Image: © Rod Smallwood)

ROD OF THUNDER

Iron Maiden’s maverick manager on making it in Mexico

WHY DO IRON MAIDEN COME TO MEXICO SO OFTEN?

“We have been to Mexico five times in the last eight years! We do enjoy coming here – as you’ve seen yourself, the audience is just unbelievable, and it’s always been a pleasure coming here, and we’ve always been made to feel very welcome. Monterrey was great, and Mexico City is completely berserk.”

AS THE FLIGHT 666 MOVIE SHOWED, THESE AUDIENCES HAVE BEEN A BIG PART OF THE 21st-CENTURY MAIDEN ‘RENAISSANCE’…

“I think ‘renaissance’ is a bollocks word, really, though the band is much bigger than we were. I think Flight 666 showed a different dimension, to the world in general, of what Maiden are about. I mean, some people still think that we’re playing to old people everywhere, like some of our contemporaries sadly are, but Maiden have always had a different spirit in terms of their audience.”

YOU’RE LIKE A CELEBRITY OUT HERE!

“Ha! My daughter came to a show, and she said, ‘I do like walking behind you, Daddy, I feel so important.’ Ha ha ha! You sit at the desk and everybody around you’s taking pictures! The band love it. I love the fans, but it does get a bit
embarrassing sometimes.”

THE PRODUCTION IS PRETTY INCREDIBLE THIS YEAR

“What we tried to do with this show is add elements of the Mayan [theme] and do something quite remarkably theatrical. Some of the perspectives on the drapes are fabulous! We just try to do the best we can and better than before!”

HOBO BE THY NAME

Imagine Hammer’s surprise when, halfway through our chat with Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson bursts through the door with a look of unsuppressed glee on his face. “Have you heard about Nicko?!” guffaws the singer. “It’s on the front page!” Eventually, after we manage to break through Bruce’s hysterical laughter, he informs us that local newspaper Reforma has run a story claiming that Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain had been hanging outside the front of the band’s Mexico City hotel when, upon attempting to head back inside, he was initially refused entry by a member of staff because… erm…he had been mistaken for a homeless man. ‘LO CONFUNDEN CON VAGABUNDO’, ran the headline: ‘THEY CONFUSED HIM FOR A VAGRANT’. Awkward.

(Image: © Artwork by Dan Mumford)

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

How illustrator Dan Mumford created our exclusive cover art

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IMAGE?

Dan: “It was a very quick process. I worked up colour and shading underneath, and then finally, with a full-colour piece like this, I can add in some transparencies and little effects like the body paint and blood textures on top nicely.”

YOU DID A LIMITED-EDITION POWERSLAVE SCREENPRINT FOR 2015’s COMIC-CON. WHAT OTHER IRON MAIDEN ARTWORK HAVE YOU DONE?

“The last piece I worked on for Iron Maiden was based on Ghost Of The Navigator from Brave New World, which was a real fun piece. I had to come up with that idea based on the lyrics for the song, as there isn’t any particular style associated with it, but we did fi in the awesome stormy Eddie face from the front cover of that album. For this one, we kept it fairly similar to the existing look of the Book Of Souls album artwork but placed in a slightly brighter than usual environment. I got to let loose with full colour, which is different, as usually I’m working on screen prints that are limited to just a few colours each.”

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE EDDIE?

“Probably Somewhere In Time. But any Eddie is awesome Eddie. Since I learned what metal is at an young age, I’ve known and respected Iron Maiden. Eddie was probably more recognisable to me as Iron Maiden than the actual members or music when I was a kid, but as I got older my respect for the band only increased. They just get better with age, where a lot of classic metal bands rehash old ideas and slowly disappear. Each new album from Maiden is an event, and the way they reinvent the look and style for each tour is always awesome to see.”