There are many, many, many worse things in the world than being a member of Iron Maiden.
Sure, there have been a few bumps and personnel upheavals during the veteran British heavy metal band’s 38-year existence. But the success of Iron Maiden has earned its members the sort of freedom that inspires adventure. They have the unflagging respect of fans and peers, plus the satisfaction of knowing they sold more than 85 million records worldwide, without much help from radio and critics.
Currently, Iron Maiden is celebrating the release of its own beer, TROOPER Ale, as band members prepare for the next leg of a 2012-13 tour of Europe and the Americas. Iron Maiden plays at Raleigh’s Time Warner Cable Pavilion at Walnut Creek on Tuesday.
New to Raleigh
“You know, I don’t think we’ve ever played in Raleigh,” says Iron Maiden’s drummer Nicko McBrain, during a phone interview while he was vacationing at a resort on Little Palm Island, near Key West.
“It’s just beautiful, mate,” he reports, then adds with a laugh: “I’m in Florida, but I’m not in me house.”
His house is in Boca Raton, where he’s lived and played golf in his spare time for several years. With his business partner Mitch Tanne, McBrain co-owns Rock N Roll Ribs in Coral Springs. Naturally, TROOPER Ale is served there.
“We all love English ale – bitter beer,” says McBrain. “Bruce (Dickinson) rose to the challenge last year, working with Robinsons (Brewery). And he designed a beer with their main master brewer.”
It’s not surprising that Dickinson, the band’s operatic lead singer, crafted the beer, in collaboration with Robinsons, an English brewery with 19th-century roots. Actually, it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that he personally bottles each pint himself in his basement (although that, of course, is not the case).
Frontman and pilot
Dickinson seems to be powered by an energy source unavailable to the common man. Just watching the 55-year-old belter run and leap across the stage is enough to form that impression, but the guy just never stops.
The entrepreneur and renowned polymath is also a licensed airline transport pilot who manned the cockpit of the massive “Ed Force One” craft during the band’s world tours of 2008-09 and 2011.
The 2009 documentary “Iron Maiden: Flight 666” chronicled the 2008-09 tour. As a result, the Boeing 757-200 – with “Iron Maiden” emblazoned on the sides and the band’s skeletal mascot “Eddie” on its tail – became almost as much of a rock star as the six members of the band.
“People were spotting it all around the world,” says McBrain. “There were blogs going on about ‘I just spotted Iron Maiden’s plane!’ ”
Unfortunately for plane spotters hoping to show up at Raleigh-Durham Airport for a glimpse of Ed Force One, the band is not using it this time around.
“The big plane, it’s still got the mothballs on it,” McBrain says. “Whether or not we dust ’em off, you never know, do you?”
25+ years and counting
For this tour, the band is dusting off songs from the prog-rocking 1988 release “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,” in celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary.
“There’s a good half of that album being played live,” McBrain says. “To revisit some of those older songs is just great.”
Longtime fans will also be glad to hear other long-unplayed nuggets such as “Phantom of the Opera,” as well as stuff off the first three albums.
As for recording more new material, McBrain says the band members “all agree we want to do another record. But when is another thing.”
Since 1999, the band has maintained consistent membership, with a nimble three-guitar lineup of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.
‘On a time machine’
The band’s creator, Steve Harris, still provides the signature galloping bass sound that found its match when McBrain joined in 1982 and became the heavy metal drummer that others aspire to be.
And he’s still up to the task. McBrain says he felt particularly youthful and invigorated when the band made its unprecedented fifth headlining appearance at England’s Donington Park in June for the Download Festival, in front of 100,000 fans.
“I’m thinking. ‘I feel the same age as I did when I first played there, but it’s 25 years ago!’”
He laughs hard at that one. “It’s like being in a time machine, you know?”