Iron Maiden (opens in new tab)’s Book Of Souls world tour was massive. Absolutely massive. Playing 117 shows in 36 countries, it’s mindboggling – no wonder they have their own plane! One man who was there to witness most (if not all) of the action was the band’s manager Rod Smallwood. He’s been with the East London heavyweights for decades, and has probably seen Maiden more times than you’ve had hot dinners.
And now, as the mighty Iron release the Live Chapter instalment of The Book Of Souls, recorded across the entire tour, we sit down with Rod himself to talk about the epic trek and the future of Maiden.
Now that it’s over, can you put The Book Of Souls tour in context?
“This tour was one of the most memorable in Maiden history. We went to 39 countries on six continents, and the band played their first ever shows in El Salvador, China and Lithuania, and their first with Bruce and Adrian in South Africa. The whole tour was seen by over two million fans, and the North America and UK and Ireland arena tours brought out more fans to see us than ever before in those territories. Ed Force One, flown as ever by Bruce, almost doubled in size from the old 757 to the massive 747-400, and seeing the reaction and reception it got from fans around the world was incredible. We also managed to get the whole ‘Krew’ and stageshow across the Andes in 24 hours after the plane was damaged in Chile, which was no mean feat – and something we really could have done without! Most importantly, this tour saw Bruce back on stage, cancer-free, and singing better than ever, which is the best outcome that any of us could have hoped for. As tours go, it’s going to be a very hard act to follow, but we will manage it!”
When you accompany the band on tour, do you actually watch their performances, or do you spend that time doing other work?
“If I’m at a show I will almost always be out front on the mixing desk, depending on what else needs doing. There’s no place I’d rather be, even after all these years. Despite seeing well over a 1000 shows, I still find the band and visuals very exciting and, with the crowd, uplifting. That’s always been the appeal of Maiden live to me; the atmosphere is always so communal and brilliant, it’s like being there with thousands of friends, and I think the fans feel the same vibe. To some extent I’m looking at the show from the band’s point of view but from a different vantage point; I can make sure the production looks right, the timing and cues are good, the screenshots are the right mixture and quality etc.
“The core fans know that if I’m at a show I’ll be there. Quite often nowadays I use it as an opportunity to auction my charity ‘See the show with Rod on the mixing desk’ packages, which means someone gets a great night with me watching the show from a very special place – and a few Troopers from my cool box! So far I’ve raised over £50,000 for my charity, The Truants, doing this and I plan to continue. It helps raise cash for disadvantaged kids.
“I usually go onto the side of stage for the encores so I can see all the fans from there, which is awesome, and also be in place to see all the guys as they come off stage.”
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In your eyes, what was the highlight of the tour?
“There’s no question that Minneapolis/St Paul was the highlight of the tour for me. Why? It was a fantastic show and an amazing audience we hadn’t played to for close to 20 years, but mainly because the next day I went to New Zealand for the epic three-test encounter between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions! The fans know me as well as the band do – I’d never miss a rugby event like that but I did leave it as late as possible and came straight back out on the road to the Toronto show after the third test, which was also the night we had James, Kirk, Lars and Rob from Metallica on the desk with me. I’ve known those guys since I lived in LA in the ‘80s, so it was great to see them.
“Apart from that show I’d have to say that China was a great adventure for the band. I’d been before on a Charity Bike Ride to the Great Wall, but it still honestly felt that we were going into an unknown – the authorities had asked us in advance for all sorts of information about the setlist and show, but we were delighted to find when we got there that we were able to perform our usual show in its entirety for the fans. The only small changes asked of us were for Bruce not to swear or use the flags in The Trooper, as no national flags are allowed on stage in China! The two shows, Shanghai and Beijing, were pretty different but both hugely enjoyed by the band, ‘Krew’ and fans.
“Flying on Ed Force One really came into its own on this leg, too. It guaranteed us plenty of attention and also made getting in and out much easier between Japan and New Zealand. We got to see many amazing places like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and Shanghai itself. We all felt a sense of relief, success and job well done when we finally set off for Christchurch.”
Give us your best sales pitch as to why the world needs another Iron Maiden live album.
“The honest answer is that we still release live albums at the end of our tours because the core fans would crucify us if we didn’t! Each studio album creates its own world, which we try to replicate with the set design. The package we put together for The Book Of Souls studio album was so good that we thought it would be nice for the fans and collectors to have a companion piece that sat alongside it on the shelf. Also, it’s great for the band to have a record of the tour and setlist, particularly when it has gone down as well as this one did, and this live album also marks the end of this particular chapter in Maiden history. Finally, the band are proud that they are still playing as well, if not better, than ever and this gives those who couldn’t get to the tour a chance to feel part of it.”
Have you any plans set yet for the future?
“Oh yes, indeed we have – but if I were to tell you, I would have to kill you.”
Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls: Live Chapter will be released November 17 and is available to pre-order now (opens in new tab).