IRON MAIDEN guitarists Adrian Smith and Janick Gers spoke to The Quietus about the band's forthcoming double album, "The Book Of Souls", which will be released globally on September 4 through Parlophone Records (Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG in the U.S.A.).
Regarding the songwriting process for the new CD, Smith said: "We didn't actually rehearse anything at all — which is a very different way of working for MAIDEN. We just brought our ideas to the studio. I think Bruce [Dickinson, vocals] and I had one session which produced 'Speed Of Light' and 'Death Or Glory'. Steve [Harris, bass] and I got together in the studio and I played him a load of stuff I had and got busy writing lyrics for that. I actually did a lot of writing on my own. We hadn't actually played together as a band before we went into the studio in Paris. I did a lot of writing on my own and everyone just brought ideas in."
Added Gers: "I'm really proud of it; I think it's a fantastic album. Bands have to grow, travel different avenues, push the boundaries and we always do. People say, 'Oh, MAIDEN always sound the same', but we don't; we travel different pathways and this one is no exception. I've got to say that the writing process was really different this time. Normally, we go into rehearsal and spend three or four weeks rehearsing. We'll go off writing with different people in the band and get all the ideas up to speed — almost so that we can play them all live as a set — but this was different. We went into the studio with only outlines and finished writing the songs in the studio — so we were actually learning them, rehearsing them, and putting them down all at once. It gives it an immediacy because we were learning them as we went; it all has a very live feel. We all brought different things, a really broad spectrum of musical ideas. I don't want us to become a parody of what we were; you get bands that come out and only do one song off the new album — and I know people love that and some people want that — but that's not what we do at all."
Smith and Gers also spoke about the production on "The Book Of Souls", which was once again helmed by Kevin Shirley, the producer for all of MAIDEN's studio albums since 2000's "Brave New World".
"Some of the albums we’ve done in the past were a little bit underpolished for me, to be honest," Smith admitted. "I like power and heaviness, but I also like a little bit of delay on the vocals, stuff like that. But I don't get involved in mixing them. Kevin and Steve like to do that on their own, but I have to say I was really happy with the way that this one sounds."
He continued: "I actually have trouble getting Kevin to put any effects on my guitar! He doesn't like that. He likes everything very straight up. I have to twist his arm and sometimes we bump heads a little bit, but I'm really happy with the way that this album sounds. It's the right blend of the rawness of the performance, but with a bit of polish… and that was probably because I was bending his ear about it every five minutes. [Laughs]"
Added Gers: "A lot of this album was done live. We did this album in the same studio as 'Brave New World'. [Kevin] gets where we're coming from; he manages to get the live sound down, absolutely. A real sound — not a compressed American guitar sound. I want a brash guitar sound, no distortion pedals, just straight into the amp. He gets the sound that I like. He's very much like Martin Birch in that he captures the sound of how we are in the studio. That might sound simple. You'd think, 'You put a band in the studio; you put a tape in; and it sounds like them.' Well, nine times out of ten, it doesn't. [Laughs] You need someone very special to get that sound down. Martin Birch did it — he did it with WISHBONE ASH, he did it with DEEP PURPLE, he did it with FLEETWOOD MAC in the early days. But then you have other producers like 'Mutt' Lange — a fantastic producer — but they create the sound; they make the 'Mutt Lange sound.' And that would never work for us. Kevin is the polar opposite of that approach."
Read the entire interview at The Quietus.
A listening party for "The Book Of Souls" will be held on September 3 at Rock N Roll Ribs, the barbecue restaurant owned by MAIDEN drummer Nicko McBrain and close friend Mitch Tanne, in Coral Springs, Florida.
"The Book Of Souls" will include "Empire Of The Clouds", an 18-minute track penned by Dickinson. The CD was recorded in Paris, France with producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley in late 2014, with the finishing touches added earlier this year.