What was the songwriting process for
Murray: It was pretty much the same as
always. Everyone would bring in ideas, which
eventually went to Steve, who is like the
nucleus of the band. He’d take the parts and
get the songs into shape. He also wrote a lot
of the lyrics on this album.
Smith: Because Steve’s a bass player, he thinks
a little bit differently. He gets you to play things
you normally wouldn’t play and sometimes it
can be a bit uncomfortable. “El Dorado” was
Steve’s song, and he had everything written
down to the last detail from start to finish. With
Steve’s stuff, you have to play it exactly the way
he hears it and that can be very rigorous. Janick
volunteered to do the parts. Steve showed him
what to play, and it took Janick a lot of work to
do it the way Steve wanted him to.
That’s how it used to be in the old days when
Steve would write a lot of songs. We’d sit
down and go through it the way Steve wanted
it, even so far as the picking accents, using
downstrokes or upstrokes.
Gers: There’s no set way of doing it, and that
keeps it fresh. I think if you get into the rut
of doing it the same way every time, you lose
the spontaneity. You never quite know what’s
going to work and what isn’t. I’ve brought in
stuff that I thought was amazing and it didn’t
get on the album.
Classic Maiden albums like Piece of Mind,
Powerslave, and Somewhere in Time were
recorded at Compass Point Studios. More
than two decades later, you returned there
to record The Final Frontier.
Dave Murray during the Somewhere on Tour tour at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, May 18, 1987. Murray is playing his
trusty black Fender Strat, which appears to be outfitted with a Kahler tremolo. Photo by Ken Settle
Murray: Compass Point hasn’t changed much
in 25 years, although [producer] Kevin Shirley
brought in all of this new equipment to keep the
album sounding current. We embrace new technology. It doesn’t change the sound or the identity of the band—it just makes the whole process
more spontaneous and keeps everything fresh.
We like to get an analog feel, but we used Pro
Tools on this album—like we have on the last few
albums—to speed things up. You can record really
quickly on it and jump sections around. We had a
two-and-a-half-month window to record, but we
finished recording in six weeks and Kevin took the
tracks to California and did the final mixing.
Yet you still incorporate such old-school
methods as recording without a click track.
Murray: Music has to live and breathe and
move around. If you put a click track to any
Iron Maiden song, it’s going to be moving
around. The thing is that it moves in the right
places so it adds dynamics. It might lift up a
little bit in the chorus or the solos, but I think
if you listen to the great rock bands from the
’70s, you’ll hear the same thing. Everything’s
moving around, but it’s like a pulse.
Gers: Yeah, isn’t that what music should do?
It’s supposed to breathe. You listen to the
Beatles, Zeppelin, and Hendrix, and doesn’t
everything fluctuate? It’s supposed to come
from here [points to his heart]. That’s where all
the greats come from. The Berklee guys that
play the same riff for 12 hours—that comes
from the head. I’m talking about feeling—
about guys like Paul Kossoff or Tommy Bolin.
It’s a technological age we live in now, and
producers are always trying to bring in their own
ideas to make things more “solid.” But music
should move—it’s organic and it grows.
Smith: We don’t overly concern ourselves
that every beat has to be perfect, as long as
it feels right.
Does one of you ever go in a different direction, tempo-wise, than the rest of the band?
Murray: Sometimes one of us might get
excited and start moving, and the band might
follow that. It’s kind of a natural thing, because
of the adrenaline or the way the audience is
reacting to the song.
116 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2010