Grammy-winning British heavy metal legends Iron Maiden return to Tampa on Sunday for the first time since 1988. Aside from bassist/founder Steve Harris, no one has been a member of the band as long as guitarist Dave Murray. I got the chance to speak with him last week.CL: The show on Sunday will be your first time back in Tampa since 1988. Where have you guys been?
Dave Murray: You know that's (drummer Nicko McBrain's) neck of the woods. I don't know, really. I know it's been quite a while. Playing Florida on that last tour, the reaction was just fantastic. We were in Ft. Lauderdale a couple years ago, back again for these two shows in Florida. So we're making up for it.
Nicko has lived in Florida for a while. Did he ever get grief from local Iron Maiden fans about you not coming here?
Yeah, absolutely! That's kind of management's decision. They call the shots, we just kind of go along. It was wonderful for them to convince us, yes, let's go down there — so it worked out well. But he was getting hit up by some of the local people. A lot of people feel left out if we don't go and see them, and then, sometimes they have to come see us and travel a distance. But in the U.S.A. in general, people don't mind traveling. If we can't make it to them, hopefully they come to us.
You got a young Florida thrash band, Black Tide, to open for you on your Florida dates. How'd you hook up with them?
We like to use local bands when possible in whatever countries we're playing in. I'm sure they'll get a great reaction. And good luck to 'em.
Is [frontman] Bruce Dickinson still flying the band around on Ed Force One?
He's not doing all the flights, but he's doing some of them. You can always tell, 'cause he has this beautiful uniform. (Laughs) He's done quite a few of the flights in and around South America. We started off in Russia some while ago, and we've been all over the place. It's like going on a commercial, proper flight. Everyone straps in and we follow all the safety measures... We have the luxury of being able to get an express route and it makes life a lot easier to take this kind of show out on the road.
Bruce has had tons of pilot training and has flown airliners before, but when he first started flying the band around, did that take some getting used to?
No, in fact I've flown with Bruce a couple times in those small Cessnas — six-seaters. It's quite professional, he knows what he's doing. He flies when we're not touring, all over the place. This is not messing around. This is the real thing! It's great to be able to do something you love doing, and when that co-exists with the band, it works out perfect for everybody! He has a great time flying, and the band and the crew can travel together. There's 50-60 people on the plane any one time plus all the equipment. It just makes it a very good way to travel.
After years of being mostly ignored by American media, what did the recent "Best Metal Performance" Grammy win for "El Dorado" mean to you?
We've been aware of it, but it's not the thing that would make or break Iron Maiden. We've always done things our own way, touring, making albums. It's a very nice compliment to be acknowledged and to have this award — it's any band's dream to get awards. Ultimately, it's the Iron Maiden fans at the top of our priority. They come first.
This has been the longest period in the band's history with the same lineup. How has that affected the chemistry and songwriting?
This is the strongest and most creative lineup Maiden has ever had. Everything kind of gels and glues together really well. As far as rehearsing and writing, everything fits into place nicely. We just sit down like we always do and work out songs. We won't be changing anymore. This is it — I think we're far along enough now to say that. Also, it's my favorite lineup, and also most of the other guys. There's a chance for everyone to play and enjoy what they're doing.
Our show is the last on this leg of the tour, also your first time in Tampa in 23 years. Any surprises for us?
A lot's changed in 23 years, so expect lots of surprises! We're bringing a pretty spectacular show. It's everything we can fit on Ed Force One. Obviously the stage, the production, it's focused on the new album, with a lot of the older songs put in as well. The last show on the tour is gonna be a lot of fun, a lot of energy, but it will be one of the highlights because it is the last show. There will definitely be something special happening.