When did Iron Maiden make it big?
"The whole leather thing has something very homoerotic about it"
Some music critics like to refer to metal as the new classical music.
Bullshit. I stood on stage with opera singers a couple of times. My voice is loud, but not even close to what they're doing. The price you pay for this power, however, is the loss of flexibility. The flaws and the quirks are part of the identity for a rock or pop singer. Leonard Cohen was such an example, an admirable singer, but he didn't have a voice. With opera singers or other classical arts it's something completely different. Just as a ballet dancer is not valued for simply dancing Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake” the way he likes it. That's not how it works, buddy.
People who draw the comparison refer to the overtures, the large-scale compositions, polyphonic melodies, the musical virtuosity ...
Yes, metal can be very virtuoso technically. Guitarists love to indulge in these Bach or Mozart fantasies. That sounds impressive too, until you see a ten-year-old from South Korea on YouTube who can do it too. Ultimately, anyone who practices a lot can do it. Like painting by numbers. It's a million miles away from art that really moves you.
And your big sets of monsters and myths? The historical costumes? The hero poses? It has something operatic or operetta-like about it.
Someone once described Iron Maiden as an opera with razor blades. I liked that. Some of the things we do are so big and massive that the comparison is obvious. We also quote operetta, vaudeville. A show just has to start with a big bang. It's like a ritual. On the last tour I stood alone in the spotlight at the beginning and sang - without music. Just me and my voice. After I got over tongue cancer, everyone wanted to know if I could manage it. It was the staging of a resurrection. Something like that cleanses a place and builds tension. Everything after that is salvation.
Do you understand when people react to this bombast and this pathos with humor?
Are you kidding? I myself see it with a great sense of irony! I mean, I'm a nearly 60-year-old man who rips out the heart of our mascot Eddie on stage and splatters blood into the audience. Good heavens, of course this is meant ironically!
Do the fans see it that way too? Metals are known to take their music seriously.
I can not judge over this. It's definitely more fun when you realize the irony. That opens up a new dimension. At a rock concert there are definitely moments of grandeur and splendor, but this whole leather thing, for example, also has something very homoerotic about it. Take a look at Manowar who are rubbing their upper bodies with oil. Metal was a pretty macho number, especially in the 1970s. I am amused that no one in America recognized Rob Halford of Judas Priest in his studded biker gear as a homosexual. But the great thing about the metal community is that it doesn't really matter. When he finally came out, it didn't bother anyone. Okay, he's gay.
A dominatrix in San Francisco asked for advice when she wanted to expand her torture cellar. She thought you were an expert because of your leather outfit.
Yes, a very nice, petite girl. I couldn't really help her.
You can laugh at the subject. In your autobiography you also tell of oppressive episodes from your boarding school days when you were whipped by teachers.
My house manager even had a whole range of equipment of varying lengths and flexibility. He probably lived out a certain fetish with it, because he often wore his rowing clothes. There may be people who believe that punishment like this shapes character. I do not belong to it.
You ended up being thrown out of school for peeing in a teacher's meal.
A clear statement, right?
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