Talking Iron Maiden With Author Neil Daniels
By: David E. Gehlke
Like many of metal's classic bands, the history of Iron Maiden is a complex and foreboding one. While many choose to focus solely on the Dickinson glory days of the 80's, the band's Di'anno-fronted era, subsequent decline in the early 90's, near-disastrous plunge during the rest of the 90's, and eventual rise in the early 00's are frequent topics of debate. Granted, no one is going to outright admit they prefer the anguished Blaze Bayley years over Piece of Mind or Powerslave, but Maiden wouldn't be the biggest metal band in the world today if they didn't suffer through some lean years. (And for the record, there are some good jams on Virtual XI.)
British author Neil Daniels is the latest writer to put his spin on the career of Iron Maiden with his excellent book, Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast (Voyageur Press; click here to order). Jam-packed with eye-catching photos and dead-on assessments of the band's catalog, The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast is an easy read, giving the reader a very high-level overview of all-things Maiden, while not getting hung up on the minute details. Daniels' exhaustive research includes a virtual smorgasbord of internet clippings and insight, while tour dates, setlists, and various photos take one for a trip down memory lane...and elicit heapings of jealously for those who were too young to experience it all.
We caught up with Daniels to discuss the various ins-and-outs of Maiden, and as youíll find below, the author certainly has some varying opinions compared to what this scribe thinks of Maidenís career. We should schedule some type of debate or something...
Blistering.com: You've written several rock-related books, including one on Judas Priest. What made you want to tackle Iron Maiden?
Neil Daniels: Itís part of a series of heavyweight hardbackís on major rock bands. My Maiden one follows illustrated tomes on AC/DC, Queen, and Aerosmith. Itís a potted history of the band, with reviews from fellow rock scribes like Mick Wall, Martin Popoff, Ian Christe and John Tucker et al, as well as tour dates, setlists and various fresh articles written by me and others for the book. The graphics are amazing. Itís a real fans book but casual fans should dig it too. The publishers approached Derek Riggs for the cover design and I was thrilled he designed the book cover. I mean, what could be better for a book cover on Iron Maiden? It looks great! Iíve had a few reviews in so far and theyíve been great. Really good. So basically, I liked the previous books in the series and pitched the idea to the publisher and it was given the go-ahead. Iím really pleased to have written books on Priest and Maiden.
Blistering.com: Describe the time you put in getting quotes, talking to sources, acquiring photos, etc.
Daniels: In terms of the photos, thatís usually always down to the publisher, certainly for the Maiden book as there are over 500 of them. For some of the others like Metallica, I knew a few photographers like Brian Rademacher. I usually create a timeline and build my research into it and gradually see it get bigger and bigger until I reach the word count. Then I re-draft. I use first-hand interviews as well as secondary research. Itís good to have a balance.
Blistering.com: Obviously, Maiden has quite the illustrious past. What period of the band was most fascinating to you, and why?
Daniels: I think the post Dickinson reunion era (i.e. now) is simply wonderful. The band have gone from strength to strength both in the studio and onstage, taking risks and challenging themselves and their fans. Obviously I have a love for the early Dickinson stuff too especially Piece of Mind and Seventh Son.
Blistering.com: Do you think an album like Somewhere in Time never got its just due? I say that because it's sandwiched between Powerslave and Seventh Son, and plus, some people still have gripes with the guitar synthesizers...
Daniels: I think Somewhere in Time has its strengths despite the dubious reaction it got back in 1986 and still gets today from some fans. I like the fact that Maiden are not willing to stick to an agenda yet whatever they do still sounds like Maiden. I think Judas Priest could learn a thing or two from Maiden.
Blistering.com: How big of a blow was Adrian Smith's departure in 1989? Do you think No Prayer for the Dying would have come out better had he still been in the band?
Daniels: It was a big blow indeed and Smith is obviously an integral element in the bandís iconic sound so when he rejoined in 1999 with Dickinson the band have since made some of the best music of their career. I think No Prayer has its flaws but Iíve always loved the fact that Maiden approaches each album with a different agenda even though some of the Maiden zealots donít always agree. But the sound isnít that great on No Prayer and the guitars donít come across as prominently plus the songwriting is pretty lax.