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A Legacy For The Ages: An Exclusive Interview With Guitarist JANICK GERS Of IRON MAIDEN

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Thursday, August 15, 2019 @ 6:52 AM

"It’s about the most enjoyable set I can remember playing in a long time"

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Live Photos By Travis Failey And Larry Petro

The summer of 2019 sees seminal British Heavy Metal icons IRON MAIDEN return to North America for an extensive tour designed to emphasize and reinforce the single most important aspect of this trend-defying Metal juggernaut: Legacy. Few – if any – bands have managed to sustain their fan appeal and desirability at a fever pitch throughout decades of a changing world better than IRON MAIDEN, primarily with rich, vividly textured songs that are entire worlds unto themselves, brought to life throughout the years by ever-consistent and impassioned musicianship from one show to the next ad infinitum. And now, with the convenience and connectivity of modern media, they’re able to celebrate their enduring career via the exceptionally well-developed iOS game “Legacy of the Beast”, a digital app that immerses players into the various darkly fantastic worlds of IRON MAIDEN’s musical catalog both visually and aurally (MAIDEN tunes play as you slay), deftly shepherding new generations into the MAIDEN flock while literally setting the stage for the band’s most ambitiously elaborate stage setting ever.

Just as the game follows the band’s infamous mascot Eddie [The Head] through entire worlds embodied by various IRON MAIDEN songs, the stage set expands the “Legacy of the Beast” to a full live spectacle complete with larger than life set pieces, rare song performances and 110% adrenaline & effort that take the band’s already-legendary reputation to awe-inspiring new limits. Coming from a band known for setting the standard of high energy, elaborate live performances this is no small feat, but if you’re still not convinced look no further than the obvious excitement of guitarist Janick Gers as he details what fans can expect from the show, what makes them put so much sincere effort into their performances and discusses IRON MAIDEN’s multi-generational legacy with infectious excitement and anticipation for what will surely be the greatest live IRON MAIDEN spectacle of all time.

KNAC.COM: Hello, Janick. I’m extremely honored to have this opportunity and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk. How is the tour?

GERS: Well thank you, yeah, the tour is going great so far.

KNAC.COM: So you guys have had time to settle into the tour now, it’s a familiar set since you just did it in Europe pretty extensively last year. Do you find that it’s easier to get into the flow after being familiar with it for all this time or is there just a standard gearing up process that takes a while?

GERS: Yeah, I mean physically you have to kind of work your way into the tour; it’s a great set, we’re doing a lot of songs that we haven’t really done before and I think a lot of people have never heard us play them. There are a couple songs that [singer] Bruce [Dickinson] didn’t sing on originally, so that always takes some time to work that stuff out but overall yeah, we’re really having a good time. We’ve got 27 shows in 26 cities in the US, then we’re heading to Mexico, then Canada and down to South America, and the tour finishes towards the end of October. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to it; last year across Europe I had a fantastic time.

KNAC.COM: Throughout your careers you guys have been known for the amount of touring you guys do, it’s so extensive and exceptional even after all these years. Is that a disciplined work ethic or is that just the way you naturally prefer to go?

GERS: In the past when we were a bit younger we did a lot of big tours but it’s been cut down a lot now to between five and six month tours, then we’ll take 6 months to charge our batteries and come back again. And that’s why we’re doing America now, because we did Scandinavia and Europe and Britain – all those places – then we took some time out and now we’re back. We’ve got a fantastic production with us – it’s probably the biggest production we’ve ever had. It’s all connected with the Legacy [Of the Beast] game, the mobile app, and it’s based on different worlds throughout the app. We’ve tied the songs into that and it’s just a fantastic tour. It was amazing last year and I’m hoping this tour will be just as exciting.

KNAC.COM: I’m sure it will be IRON MAIDEN isn’t known for being a disappointing act. You mentioned the Legacy of the Beast game, which has been out for a few years now, and I’ve played it somewhat, I think it’s fantastic. It’s actually really well developed game; anyone who is a fan of IRON MAIDEN or is familiar with [the mascot] Eddie is really going to love all the different versions and incarnations of him that you can play. I think it illustrates how in these days with the way media interacts with each other it’s a good way to highlight the game as well as incorporating it in with your music and vice-versa.

GERS: Yeah exactly, that’s the whole thing – this tour is based around the game and the production is based around the game, it’s the largest production we’ve ever taken out, and I think it illustrates the interlocking worlds of the game and all the things surrounding it. It’s a great way to get our music out there as well so people can play the game and listen to the music; we’re not a band that gets a lot of airplay on the “commercial channels” as it were, so it’s a great way of getting our music out to the people and I’m all up for it. And with the fact that so many songs from the past as well - songs we haven’t played in such a long time – it’s a very varied set and it’s just incredible to play; it’s about the most enjoyable set I can remember playing in a long time.

KNAC.COM: And I’m sure that’s important, you play the same songs – more or less, you have a massive catalog – but still it’s all material that you’re intimately familiar with…

GERS: Well we try to play songs that feel new to us and we try to put in songs that we haven’t done in a long, long time and it just feels fresh; especially when you’re coming at it from a different angle. Even when you’re working on the production for these songs it’s incredible – I mean the backdrops and things that are happening onstage…it’s just incredible.

KNAC.COM: And that’s kinda what I was figuring – it helps for you guys as well to have these additional perspectives and different ways to look at the music. For example, you have a 33’ replica WWII Spitfire plane during the opener “Aces High”

GERS: *Giddy laugh*

KNAC.COM: Is that the kind of example that enhances it for you and gives it something extra that makes it feel new all the time?

GERS: I’ve gotta say – when we play a gig, it’s a new day, it’s a new gig – it’s so exciting to go out there and play with this great production behind you and play these great songs. It’s just really exciting for the band to go out there with a different production and to bring it to a new place. And we always try to play new places every tour, we try as much as possible to get to somewhere new; we did El Salvador and other places we hadn’t been before. And the excitement of playing live – that’s what the band’s about! That – to me – is where all the excitement comes from. To come and play across America on the tour we’re doing now – which is quite an extensive tour – we try to include a couple places where they haven’t seen us for years. So it’s a whole brand new thing we’re bringing out and it’s exciting! And that’s what a live show should be, you know? Every night we go out there and we just want to give as much as we can possibly give, and that’s for everything – we want the production to be good, we want the plane to be spot-on, Bruce is sing amazingly on this tour – it’s just so exciting to go out there and prove we can still do it.

KNAC.COM: And you guys keep proving it, extensively. Having seen you in the past one of the most incredible things I’ve noticed with bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST is that when you go to these shows now I’m blown away by the generations of fans; you see the old school MAIDEN fans there with their sons and daughters who are now grown up and are there with their sons and daughters – it’s three generations of fans all sharing this incredible moment with you guys and you’ve crossed those age boundaries so flawlessly, you’ve gathered this amazing fan base by being so loyal with your music and to your fans. That’s something that’s profoundly impactful throughout the entire world.

GERS: I think we’re very lucky to have a young audience as well as all the people that come that have been with the band for years, and I think that’s because of our sense of honesty; we’ve always done what we believed in. We never tried to change or fit in with the fashions and the trends; and I think it’s just an honesty about the standard – we go out and we give everything, we’re known as a pretty amazing live band but that’s because we really care about everything, it’s really important. You get a lot of bands who will do the one-off gig, you know – they’ll come to London and then they’ll go up to the Provinces and not play so well & not take so much gear; we take our gear everywhere, we give everybody the best show we can possibly give ‘em. We have an honesty & integrity about this band and I think that’s why we’ve held on to a younger audience as well as our older audience.

KNAC.COM: That’s absolutely true, you’ve always held to your level of professionalism and performance without getting lazy and just kind of resting on your laurels.

GERS: It’s 110% every night; every single night, I don’t care where we are. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Chili, Argentina, New York, L.A., Seattle, U.K. – it’s the same show every night; we give it our best. There’s always differences in… you know, you may be outdoors in the rain and there might be a tornado coming, but we give everything we’ve got and we give the best show we can possibly give every night. There’s an integrity to that and I think that’s perhaps why we’ve kept our audience.

KNAC.COM: I certainly believe so…well, that and of course the amazing music, but certainly the amazing integrity that’s involved. So I know you’ve gotta run, I really appreciate your having taken this time. Just quickly out of curiosity – are any of you gamers? Have you spent any time playing around with the Legacy of the Beast game?

GERS: No, I’m not personally a big gamer so I haven’t but I couldn’t speak for the rest of the guys. But I don’t think my score will be hindering your high score, Brian, I think you’re well ahead of me (laughs).

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