Friday, December 31, 2010
The Clairvoyant - buku bakal diterbitkan yang unik pada pendapat aku
Awal bulan Mac tahun depan akan keluar satu buku yang sangat unik pada aku.
Kadang2 kita baca buku atau majalah tentang seseorang samada biografi ataupun bukan biografi, ada yang best, dan jugak yang terkandung maklumat kita dah tau, kadang2 penulis2 buku tu cuma kumpul2 maklumat dari berita2 dan keratan2 mass media lama dan jugak surf internet dan terus terbitkan buku, atau ada ambik info dari orang lain, atau ada cuma alih bahasa aje lepas tu claim hak sendiri.
Tapi ada satu mamat kat forum Maiden nick Maidencrotia yang memang punye sejarah sendiri ngan Rod Smallwood untuk mintak Maiden main kat negara dia untuk last leg SBIT 2009 dulu, dan jugak dia punye band jadi opener untuk Maiden kat Crotia, Mamat ni, sedang dalam proses terbitkan sebuah buku pasal Steve Harris dimana dia buat research, jumpa dan telefon ramai orang yang ada kena mengena ngan Steve Harris dari zaman sekolah, zaman muda, berbagai2 era Maiden, ahli keluarga, peminat2 dan macam2 orang la...
Aku mula2 fikiran macam " ooo ok, best ke tak ni? " terus jadi " makdatok, ni buku nampak macam best giler ".. Korang tengok sendiri... yang kat bawah ni warna-warni tu semua, yang paling last tu ialah soalan2 dia akan bentang kat Neal Kaye yang legendary tu.. dia post yang bil telepon dia mesti melambong2 tinggi...
Anway, aku dah suruh dia reserve aku secopy , hardcover cuma ada 55 keping je pasal besday Steve Harris yang ke 55 bulan 3 nanti haha..... Aku rasa aku akan suka buku ni.
In March next year , I think a most astounding book about Steve Harris will be released. Its amazing a Maiden fan from Croatia managed to contact many big names and important names that had in one way or another work, play or relate to Steve Harris since his early days to present and interview them and get a lot of incredible informations to make up this epic book.
Personally I cant wait for the book.. The colour text below are some of the infos and samples that the writer is sharing... and that last one is an example of the questions he is asking Neal Kaye the legendary DJ who helps to discover and introduce Maiden to the mass public. Anyway, there is going to be a 55 pieces only hard-cover version with some extras and I do hope to be so lucky.
Anyway Tony Newton is the bassist for the band Dirty Deeds and on some Maiden single releases, his name is included in the production credit list.
This book ISN't the official biography of Steve Harris nor does it try in any way to describe his work in the music business since the '70ties until today, chronologically of factually. This book actually isn't a biography in the strictest sense. This IS a warm and intriguing story about Steve Harris, and it is in reality just a long awaited tribute from a fans, and speaks about one of the most important people in the history of metal, and of rock in general. It comes from the mouths of his friends, music and business associates, family members and faithful fans from around the world. All of them shared their tales, memories, opinions, feelings and anecdotes from their encounters with Steve Harris in order to make this book, and to give him recognition he truly deserves.
When I was a kid, my dad liked to surprise me sometimes, so instead of a standard clown, he once invited Eddie to one of my birthday parties, which scared all of my little friends to death. Fortunately for them, he didn't stick around too long.
LAUREN HARRIS (DAUGHTER OF STEVE HARRIS)
Steve was always jelaous of me because I was the best looking guy in the band, so I always got the better part of girls' attention during our shows. (Laughs)
CLIVE BURR (IRON MAIDEN - DRUMMER 1979 - 1982)
..And what can I say about him. First of all I can remember falling of the chair when I bought the verry first Iron Maiden Album back in the early 80th. Me and my brother at the age of 16 or so sharing a room and the love for Metal and Rock Music banging heads and playing air guitar to Maidens Music. To be a bit more specific I was actually playing the air bass of course as it was the time I started playing the Bass.
MARKUS GROSSKOPF (HELLOWEEN - BASS PLAYER)
We then talked a little bit about the show, after which he said something about West Ham, to which I replied "Yes, it's just too bad they aren't doing that good right now." He looked at me with a weird expression on his face and didn't say anything, but I i knew that I said something wrong.
RASMUS (IRON MAIDEN DENMARK FC)
Ever the gentleman, and at the same time the embodiment of all that is metal.
SCOTT IAN (ANTHRAX - GUITARIST)
Our friendship started because I knew Lorraine, his now ex-wife, who was his girlfriend at the time, who went to school with my ex-wife Kim. Anyway, she lived behind the corner of my street, so I had to know her. She approached me one time, after having said the same to my girlfriend, that she was dating a guy named Steve who had a band and was looking for a place to do rehearsals. She knew I was sleeping in the church rooms, in the vicary, which was my squat, in a sense. You know, it wasn't a small space, on the floor there were twenty bedrooms, two large reception halls and so on, so it was ideal for band rehearsals. So, her boyfriend was Steve Harris, the band was Iron Maiden, and they used the hall for a good year and a half and played quite often. And, I'm gonna tell you this... Wow, the band impressed me at the first rehearsal.
DAVE LIGHTS (IRON MAIDEN - LIGHT TECHNICIAN 1975 - 1987)
Lauren said to me, "You know my dad, right ?" I said "Not really no, I can not really say I know him" Lauren looked surprised and said "Well he knows you". That really surprised me that Steve would know certain fans and that he pays attention and is interest in what some of us say on the forum.
JOHN MILES (KNOWN LIKE STEVE HUNTER ON IMFC FORUM)
Iron Maiden was Steve’s baby even before they were signed to EMI. Every final decision was his. And another thing, regarding KISS – I had a really good relationship with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, and when they took me out for lunch in Stockholm on my birthday, Rod was literally steaming mad and told me that no one was allowed to mix with KISS, except for Steve.
DENNIS STRATTON (IRON MAIDEN - GUITARIST 1979 - 1980)
Steve wore a cap and tucked his hair in to disguise himself while videotaping our shows
It is a fascinating fact that when I e-mailed Tony, telling him I wanted to interview him and mentioning to him where we met a long time ago, he remembered our encounter in Trieste in 1998 straight away, when Dirty Deeds were the supporting act for Helloween and Iron Maiden. Moreover, he didn’t just vaguely recall who I was, he knew exactly to whom he was speaking, although we only met once, twelve years ago. Tony and his drummer Dave Cavill helped me meet all the Maiden members and gave me the famous “HCW” pass, which allowed me to be on stage with Maiden during the mid-part of Heaven Can Wait. So here we are, a few days before Christmas 2010, with Tony, a big friend of Steve Harris’, providing me answers to some of the questions which have always bugged me.
The story of my friendship with Harris started during the time when I played in Dirty Deeds. You know, during the mid-nineties when we were forming the band, tribute bands were still a novelty, they weren’t present in the same scope they are today. We hadn’t thought that the name could bring identification problems and mix-ups with AC/DC tribute bands. “Dirty Deeds” is a common phrase in England and we never had identity problems back home, but when we went on tour abroad, people really did get confused. But my answer was always 'do you really think Iron Maiden would take a tribute band on the road?'
The way we met is a really interesting story. I met Steve for the first time when I was playing for a Sunday league team and one of the players asked if I played Saturdays. I said ‘no’ and he asked me to come along and join what was then Melbourne Sports FC. I went along the following week and to my great surprise there was Steve in the dressing room. We had a lot in common as we played together, but I was wary of mentioning that I was in a band as I thought he may have thought that was the reason I wanted to join the team, so I stayed quiet. However, there were more rock-related people in the team, so another member asked me what I did, and I gave him a demo tape. Later, I found out that he had passed it to Steve, who had obviously taken a liking to our material and started coming to our shows and gave us great advice. The first Dirty Deeds show I remember him coming was at The Royal Standard in Walthamstow, London, some eight to ten months after we first met. When our first guitarist left the band, it was Steve who suggested that we take Barry in the band. At the time, I mistakenly thought that he started watching our shows because he was looking for a replacement for Bruce Dickinson, and had often previously mentioned how he liked Pete’s voice. I thought he would take Pete away some day, but that wasn’t the case. He came to our shows because he genuinely loved our demo.
Perhaps someone would have thought that Steve’s invitation to play with Maiden on the X-Factour was a normal thing, something to be expected, but I wasn’t one of those. I was blown away, shocked, and couldn’t believe it. I don’t recall the exact year, but prior to the end of the X-Factor world tour, the support bands couldn’t continue touring with them. Steve called me from Germany in December and asked me what I was doing in January and if I would like to go to Italy, Slovenia, Spain, France and Ireland and be the supporting act until the end of the tour. I replied ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! Of course I would like to go!’ He asked me if I wanted to speak to the guys from the band first, but I said, ‘if they don’t want to use this opportunity, they don’t deserve it’, and told him that, if necessary, I would find new band members and be there, and that he didn’t have to worry. We didn’t have a drummer at the time so we did a quick audition, sat in a black cab, driven by a friend of ours, and went from London to Sicily. The rest is history, as they say.
When Steve asked us to join Maiden during their second tour, we were just so excited. He sent me an e-mail on a Friday. I somehow knew that he was trying to arrange for us to be the support act, but he never told me anything in case there was a last minute change, in order to avoid disappointing us. Maiden fans accepted us rather well in Europe, feeling that Steve liked us as well. He took so much care of us during all those years that one sometimes stops and wonders if all of that actually happened, considering who the man was and all the work he had to for Maiden.
There was a funny situation when we accompanied them to America. In order to prepare me, Steve told me that we shouldn’t be too happy for going there, because the audience reaction was drastically different from the reaction in Europe. He told me that the crowd could be much more reserved towards us, but when we got to Chicago, their reaction was astonishing. We couldn’t believe it, it was a great welcome for us. After that, everything went great, so great that we wanted to stay on tour forever. As the tour progressed, I got a lot of playing advice from Steve. He liked the somewhat aggressive way in which I play the bass and kept encouraging me to show it even more. Of course I looked up to him, Live After Death is one of my favorite albums and I used to play along with it in my bedroom when I was young.
Finally, the time came to issue our first album, and we issued it for Beast Records, a label formed by Steve and Rod Smallwood. The album got really good reviews. There was another band signed to it, called Kick. Sadly, the label is no more. When we signed, I was really proud, it was one of the more important moments of my life, just like the first time we opened for Maiden, in Sicily. That’s when we realized that working hard and playing small clubs was worth it.
In regard to Dirty Deeds, I think Steve was most impressed by our songs and our stage performance. Just at the time we were hungry for that kind of support, he fed us. He took us under his wing and protected us. He was one hundred percent with us, but on the other hand, he didn’t want to interfere with our writing process. The man is simply amazing! Imagine this, he used to take a video camera and record our every performance during the X-Factour. He wore a cap and tucked in his hair in order to disguise himself. He recorded us from the side of the stage, but also from among the fans. The live video for “Nothing to Lose” was recorded by Steve and it is available on YouTube.
But, Dirty Deeds is a finished story, from a variety of reasons. I moved to Los Angeles for a few years, formed a label, Knight Records, and got involved in music production. When I returned to London, I decided to form Voodoo Six with some songs I had written while away. The name Voodoo Six comes from Voodoo tarot, where the sixth card is the Devil. It is said that a pioneer of blues, Robert Johnson, sold his soul to Legba at the so-called crossroads. Voodoo Six originally had three former members of Deeds, but today it’s just me and Grav. I never thought of this band as a continuation of Deeds, just the opposite. I wanted to do something totally different and fresh. I think we’re very different from Deeds. Thanks to Maiden, Deeds skipped an important step in band development, they never gathered a lot of experience playing small clubs, and things are flowing more naturally with Voodoo Six. Bit by bit, success came to us in doses and now we’re starting to get noticed. The reviews of our newest album, Fluke?, were fantastic, there wasn’t a single bad one. Our new singer helped raise us to a new level, and both fans and critics agree with that. We finally got the chance to become headliners. When you know the people came to see you, and not some other band, it gives you that special feeling and makes you play an even better show.
The ‘fan studio experience’ was an interesting thing; we called fans in our studio and talked them through the production process. The idea actually came from them, they e-mailed us telling us they wanted to meet us in person, but that was a bit tough to make happen after shows because something often comes up. We decided to do the meets in the studio, and they got to see the process. I produced the last album on my own, and I enjoyed it. I know how much I wanted to achieve a certain sound and stay faithful to my feelings and opinions about it. I made no compromises and in return I got the huge success of the album, both in sales and from critics’ reviews. It was a great, but also a frustrating thing; it was sold out on Amazon within four days, and it took the label too long to restock.
Steve is one of my best friends, we speak regularly. We don’t just speak every now and then, we are in constant contact. I’m in good relations with the other Maiden members as well, they’re a great bunch of guys. Touring with Maiden was one of the best things that happened to me, so much laughter and fun moments, it simply can’t be described. Although Steve is the one who decides who he’ll be taking on tour in 2011, especially in the UK, we would be thrilled to jump in if the opportunity arose. Who wouldn’t? Steve always keeps tabs on Voodoo Six and asks me how things are going and what’s happening. He was impressed with reviews of our new album. Truthfully, I’m hoping my phone rings just as it did during the X-Factour
Besides playing with Maiden, I’m grateful for Steve’s trust and the opportunity to do a mix of their live performance during the late nineties. I was credited for some live recordings that were used as B-sides. Firstly, I was there just to record it, after which Steve asked me to do a mix of some of songs that came out best. As far as I know, every single show, for some time now, has been recorded, and I’m certain I’ll be recording and mixing some of the songs on the next tour and I’m looking forward to it.
I lived in Los Angeles for a while, and founded the Knight Records label, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, because of a tragic event. Jack Russel, the Great White, and several other Californian bands were signed to us. Unfortunately, during the Great White’s tour, they suffered a terrible incident in Rhode Island; there was a fire and over one hundred people died, including a dear friend of mine. After that, we decided to fold the label, and I moved on. My new label is called White Knuckle and it’s been doing well so far. We only release Voodoo Six at present, but maybe in the future we will look to grow.
I want to tell you an anecdote, which makes me smile even today. Me and Steve went to a computer store one day after a game of tennis. We were looking around, when a shop assistant came along to ask if he could help. He saw the Trooper tattoo on Steve's arm and said 'cool tattoo, Maiden are my favorite band'. He then walked away, not noticing that it was Steve Harris! He recognized the tattoo but not the man whose arm it was attached to! How funny. We looked at each other and couldn’t stop smiling.
I need to add something; sometimes it looks like I talk only about Steve and never mention other Maiden members. But, I can tell you, they treated us so well, they are all so down to earth and genuinely nice people. The crew was great to us too. I will never forget the whole experience as it changed my life.
If I were to compare Martin Birch, Nigel Green and Kevin Shirley, I’d say that Martin Birch is the benchmark for all others, and if you want to know, whenever I do live mixes, I always compare them to Live After Death. If I had the chance to produce a Maiden album, of course, I love a challenge and I would jump at the chance. Who wouldn’t?
Since having met Steve Harris, my life changed completely. He opened the door to a world I could have earlier only dreamed of. He gave me a chance which I fully embraced. I still sometimes think about what would become of me if I hadn’t joined that Saturday football team. Sometimes reporters ask me if all of this is the work of Steve Harris, but when I think about it, it seems to me that he sees in me the same thing he has been doing during his career in Maiden, being a person who has pushed on and relentlessly followed his dreams and his goals. On the other hand, Lauren Harris is young and needs the support and attention, but she’ll get a lot out of this experience and will grow.
I sometimes jokingly say that great pressure ruined my chance to become a Maiden guitarist. It’s a complete joke, of course. As promotion for the Virtual XI album, Maiden decided to play football matches in the cities they were doing the shows, in order to promote the new album. We got to Stockholm, played the game and I was due to go home the next day. Blaze came up to me and said ‘So, you are staying for an extra week or so then', I replied 'No, I'm going home tomorrow'. He then said ‘Well, you better speak to Steve’. Intrigued, I mentioned it to Steve and he said 'Oh yeah, I've changed your flights, we want you to fill in for Jan for two TV shows, as his mother is ill'. Of course I was shocked; I thought fans might throw things at me! Steve assured me that there would be no fans and we could do as many takes as we wanted until we got it right. Also, that I would only be in the wide angle shots. Well, when it came to the day of the first show in Stockholm, I was very nervous. We got to the TV station and when we went in to record the show - it was a live audience, and during the shoot the band came up to me making sure I was in almost every shot! They stitched me up! It was funny though, something I will always remember. After Stockholm we went to Madrid to do it all again. Same story; live crowd, the band coming round me, getting me in all the shots! We laughed about it afterwards, and I still haven't got them back for that! People still ask me about those two shows, I was so pleased when it appeared on YouTube as I hadn't seen it in years. That’s the story of my two-week tenure in Maiden.
I recently saw and signed an online petition to have Iron Maiden open the 2012 Olympic Games, which was signed by over a hundred thousand fans. What a great idea, especially as it is near to where Steve grew up in Leyton, East London. I think Maiden would be only too pleased to represent the UK, there's no bigger honor than that.
The guitarist who introduced harmonies and melodies to Maiden's punkish heavy sound, and thus in a manner of speaking created the sound which became Maiden's trademark, was part of the band just during their first album. Today, he still plays actively in a cover band, which performs every Friday at the Cart and Horses pub where Maiden played their first show ever. He was far-sighted enough to realize and tell Steve that with the departure of Paul Di Anno and the arrival of Bruce Dickinson, Maiden would conquer the entire music world.
Since having discovered his love towards music in his teen years and up to this day, Dennis Stratton has always remained faithful to his style and idea of music, the main staple of which was melody and the harmonic interplay of two guitars. The stories of how he bought his first guitar, how he started playing it, and finally, how he met Steve, he shared with us in the following interview. But first, let’s check out his rich music career.
Although he abandoned school at the age of fifteen, his family has always supported him. At the age of eighteen, Dennis became a big fan of Wishbone Ash, especially of their guitarist Andy Powell. He even bought a Flying V guitar in order to imitate him to the fullest possible extent. He attended almost every show the band had played, and that’s where his love toward guitar harmonies came from. Every band Dennis played in had been infected with his style and the way he fitted harmonies in the guitar arrangements. The first serious band he played in was called Harvest, whose first serious show was held at the Cart and Horses pub in Stratford, where by a stroke of coincidence he plays even today, and where this interview was done with him. When Harvest added keyboards to their sound, they changed the name to Wedgewood and became popular by playing cover songs. Soon they were invited to perform in a larger pub, the Bridge House, and they continued to play there for almost two years.
Just around that time, Dennis met his old friend Dave Edwards, who was the guitarist for the band Uncle Sam. Soon afterwards, RDB (or Remus Down Boulevard) was born. Dennis and Dave played the guitars, Steve Goff the bass and Johnny Richardson was the drummer, who also played with Blockade at the time.
RDB started by playing a series of shows around the pubs of London, which culminated with a live recording from the Bridge House. They were also trying to play places outside of London because they thought that two vocals and two guitars could be an interesting combination, and they had also started playing their own material. That’s when they were paid a surprise visit by Jonathan King, then a well-known publisher and charts performer under various pseudonyms, who worked with UK Records at the time. He arrived in front of the Bridge House pub in a white Rolls-Royce, sat right in front of the stage and listened to the show. Soon RDB were signed for UK Records, and Jonathan made a move that no-one had thought of before him – he decided to record RDB’s debut album live at the Marquee club.
The show was sold out, nicely recorded, the album cover and the logo were polished, but Jonathan King suddenly decided to cease his collaboration with UK Records and went from being a publisher into producing. Thus, the album, although finished and ready, was never issued. But, the band didn’t give up, so they continued to play pubs and as special guests to bigger bands, which gained them more fans and very soon Quarry Management, which managed such acts as Status Quo, Rory Gallagher, Jackie Lynton and Nutz, became interested. The next big achievement was a three-month European tour, including Scandinavia, with Status Quo. Dennis remembers his 22-year old self standing on stage as Status Quo’s supporting act, in front of a sold out stadium crowd. He was shaking in excitement so much that a roadie had to help him to plug the guitar in his Marshall amp.
Anyway, even after such a successful tour, the band couldn’t get a publishing deal. Many people were interested in their work, but an obstacle would emerge every time without exception. Because of that, RDB had split up and sometime during that period Dennis met Steve Harris, after Dennis’ wife read an ad in the Melody Maker, a weekly music newspaper, that Iron Maiden were looking for a guitarist who would also be a backing vocalist.
Dennis joined Maiden, learned the songs that were already written for the first album and gave his best during the recording of the album. When the album came out, almost instantly it became one of the best heavy metal debut albums of all time. There were a lot of other bands from the so called ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’, but also others from that general era – Def Leppard, Motörhead, Diamond Head, Judas Priest, Samson and others. Maiden’s first album was very influential and helped shape the sound of many later metal bands. It was the first of its kind which managed to combine the power of heavy metal with strong punk riffs and attitude, creating a blueprint for later genres, such as thrash, speed and death metal. Even today it is popular among younger generations, and many Maiden fans consider it the best Maiden album. It contains such classics as Prowler, Sanctuary, Charlotte the Harlot, Phantom of the Opera, Running Free, Remember Tomorrow, Transylvania, Strange World and the title track. If we mention Dennis’ inspirational performance, we can most certainly say that this is the ultimate metal debut album of all time. Thirty years later, the band issue their 15th album, The Final Frontier, and their popularity still continues to grow every day. Interesting enough, Dennis is the only band member (counting onwards from the debut album) not to have a songwriting credit.
After leaving Maiden, Dennis founded Lionheart together with Jess Cox from Tygers of Pan Tang. Later he joined Praying Mantis and recorded several albums as their guitarist. Never having looked back, he made a big success with Mantis and went on tour a lot, especially in Japan. He made a significant contribution to the songs by using his trademark harmonies and by being a part of the band’s songwriting process. He left the band in 2005, wanting to form a band named Dential with Judas Priest’s founder and first singer Al Atkins, which didn’t come to fruition. After that, he joined forces with South-African guitarist Mike De Jager, with whom he documented his life on a series of DVDs. The two of them embarked on an Italian tour in 2008, during which they performed Dennis’ Maiden songs from 1979 and 1980 together with a Maiden tribute band The Clairvoyants. The show ‘Dennis Stratton – The Maiden Years’ enjoyed a huge success in Italy, which made him continue sharing the NWOBHM music with the rest of the world. As he told us, he rarely sees any of the Maiden members, but he is always glad to hear about their every new career success.
Iron Maiden is exclusively Steve's 'baby'
A few days before Halloween 2007, London was filled with jack-o-lanterns and countless ads for holiday shopping were jumping out of every store in town. It was Friday night and I really wasn’t interested in the variety the heart of the city has to offer when it turns into one huge clubbing spot during the weekend, one of the best in the whole of Europe. My destination was a small, almost hidden pub in the East End of London (Stratford), with a conservative and inconspicuous name of ‘Cart and Horses’. To people who aren’t hardcore Maiden fans, the name itself doesn’t mean much, but that is the very place where history took place. Exactly on Christmas 1975 this is where Iron Maiden appeared for the first time under that name, and the rest is history, as a framed photo in the pub states. But, I came here with a mission. Dennis Stratton, Maiden’s original guitarist from the first album, has been playing gigs here every Friday for a long time now. After we’ve exchanged greetings and arranged for the interview, I sat down and ordered a drink, enjoying the great show, waiting to talk about everything after it finishes. While watching him play, I was thinking about two different interviews with Steve Harris, in which he stated two completely different reasons for Dennis’ departure from the band. In the first one (Enfer Magazine, issue 24, May 1985, France) he said that Dennis had arrived at the right time to record the first album, because Dave Murray was the only guitar player during the recording of B-sides for ‘Running Free’ and had recorded all of the guitar tracks himself. He added that Dennis had been in the band for eight months before he left. “Dennis didn't follow the evolution of the band. He never understood that, once the album was released, success was close at hand and we needed to work even harder. He thought we were still at the level where we play in clubs and pubs, hence the split.” In another interview (Jukebox Magazine, issue 124, September 1981, Yugoslavia), Steve said the following: “Dennis preferred the American approach; he placed more importance on technical perfection than on feeling, which didn’t go well with us. We had other problems with him, but this was the number one reason why we asked him to leave.” Will Dennis confirm this in his interview, keep reading and find out.
Once my son Jack told me: “Dad, just imagine, had you stayed in Maiden, you would’ve had a big house, a great car and we would never have to worry about money”. To that, I replied: “Had I stayed in Maiden, you would have never been born.” Every story has at least two points of view and one should put a great deal of thought about what is more precious in life. (Thus Dennis started talking about the early days of Maiden and his relationship with Steve.)
After playing football for West Ham’s junior team (just like Steve Harris) and ping-pong with friends, I first became interested in playing music at the age of sixteen. There was a band nearby and their guitarist decided to start playing bass for some reason, so he bought a bass and I bought his guitar, although I didn’t know how to play it, so it just stood there, in the corner of my room. A band formed by a few mates of mine held rehearsals in church halls, youth clubs and so on, and I had just turned sixteen and started going out, despite the fact that it was illegal. I used to go to the Bridge House club and pretend I was eighteen. I spent almost every evening there, soaking up the stuff the bands playing there were doing. They were called Power Pack, Freedom and If. Despite not knowing anything about playing guitar, not even the chords, in the period of nine months, soaking up every move of their hands and practicing at home later, step by step I learned how to play and got a chance to be in a band. It was a long and strange journey before Maiden, so I’ll skip that period and just says that while enjoying Wishbone Ash’s guitar harmonies, and guitarists such as Geoff White and Steve Lukather, I started playing blues and developing the melodic side of my guitar playing style.
By the end of the Remus Down Boulevard (or RMD) tour, my wife saw an ad in Melody Maker, which stated that the EMI-signed band Iron Maiden was looking for a guitarist who would also be a backing vocalist. I talked to her about the possibility of responding to the ad, and the way in which to respond, by letter or telephone, but fate would have it that something completely opposite happened. During that time I was working as a painter in Stratford, and I used to get on the bus at the Stratford Broadway station in order to get back to Canning Town where I lived. A girl came in the bus after me and asked me if I was Dennis Stratton, to which I replied yes. Then she presented herself, said that her name was Lorraine, that she was Steve Harris’ girlfriend, and that she assumed I hadn’t been home that day. When I asked her why she assumed that, she told me that a telegram from Rod Smallwood was waiting me at home, stating that he was interested in me playing with Maiden. I was surprised and asked her how they knew about me, to which she replied that Steve used to come to Bridge House in Canning Town and watch me play with my band. I didn’t know him at the time, and it looked like he really liked our music. Maiden couldn’t play at the Bridge House at the time because they were ‘too heavy’. They were always either in the Cart and Horses or the Ruskin Arms pub. On evenings they weren’t playing, Steve used to come to see RDB in the Bridge House pub. I remember that one night, weeks before this telegram, he came in with a West Ham scarf around his neck and I was taking the Mickey out of him. Anyway, when I arrived home after meeting Lorraine in the bus, my wife told me that I got a telegram, I told her that I knew what it was about. It stated: “Dear Dennis, please call Rod Smallwood at the number below regarding Iron Maiden.”
The following day, I got went down to Wardour Street, in the Ship pub which was nearby the Marquee. This is where I met Steve, Dave Murray and Rod, who told me right away: “Steve wants you in the band. I’m certain you won’t have any problems learning the material.” I have to admit that I was a bit ignorant about Maiden’s material, because I was a bit too much into RDB. To tell you the truth, I never actually listened much to heavy metal. Rod told me they had loads of fans, that they had issued the Soundhouse Tapes and that they were getting ready to go in the studio and record their first album for EMI.
They had signed that great deal with EMI and weren’t looking just for a guitarist, but also for someone who could sing backing vocals and who had studio and tour experience, because, keep in mind, they were very young. Despite that, they did quite a few club shows and traveled a lot around in the old ‘Green Goddess’ – that’s what we called the tour van. Up until then, they had always played night after night, but that was never a real, interconnected tour.
Anyway, I said to them: “Sure, no problem.” An important factor in all of this was money, because I was married and had a young daughter and I needed money more than they did, because they were still living with their parents or whatever. So, we discussed all that and put it aside, so they gave me a few song tracks and I went home. I think that the first song that I listened to was Phantom of the Opera, and noticed that there was room for plenty of harmonies and thought to myself that it was pretty okay.
Maiden had their rehearsals in Hollywood Studios, Clapham at the time, just around the corner from where Dave Murray lived with his mother. I came in there and realized that they were also looking for a drummer. The studio was filled with equipment and I had never before played so loudly in my life. We played a few harmonies and they were thrilled. They told me I was just what they were looking for. We later had a beer in a pub next door to the studio and I said to Steve that I didn’t know they also needed a drummer, which he confirmed. They held auditions, tried with Thunderstick – known as Samson’s drummer – and a few others, so he asked me if I could recommend someone. At the time, I was playing with two drummers. Johnny Richardson was a great drummer, but the doctor banned him from playing because he had hearing problems and there was a risk that he would go deaf if he were to continue playing. The other drummer was Clive Burr. Richardson was my first option because he was a great technician, very smart and fast. He came in for a rehearsal, played it well, but couldn’t take the noise levels. At the end, he told me he was very sorry, but simply couldn’t do it. I used to see Clive Burr in Fleece, a pub in Wanstead Flats where everyone used to go in the summer. I saw him one night and asked him what he was currently up to, mentioning to him that I was now an Iron Maiden member and that we were looking for a drummer, for which he went for right away. He came to the rehearsal the following day, played with the band and the guys were satisfied. That’s how it all started.
When I became a Maiden member, their music didn’t have that many guitar harmonies. All I did with them was place harmonies in song parts which seemed suitable. Simply put, I was obsessed with harmonies. Let’s take for example Running Free and Phantom of the Opera. Both of those songs have these parts to which I introduced a lot of guitars. As far as I remember, Steve didn’t object to it, and furthermore, he accepted my suggestions and started creating in his head an image of what the band should be like in the future.
When we went into the studio, the engineer had me recording harmonies over one another day and night. We ended up not using a great deal of them. When Paul was recording his vocals for Phantom of the Opera, I came in the studio and we recorded four vocal harmonies. After that, Rod came in the control room and listened to it all. It really sounded full and magnificent. He turned around and told us, “This sounds like fucking Queen”, and then stormed out. After that, we had to get rid of most of the vocal tracks. To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in the band when I first came in. While on tour, I was always somewhere outside, doing various stuff. I never actually listened to Iron Maiden. Earlier, when they told me that they had signed a contract with EMI, I haven’t heard a single Maiden tune. Later on I got along with Dave Murray and started collaborating with him in a greater measure than I thought I ever would, because I believe he shared my opinion of harmonies. But, until then I hadn’t listened much to his guitar work, so I couldn’t have known. I remember doing an interview when I first came in the band. I said to this reporter, after he asked me a question about Maiden: “Sorry, I can’t answer that because I didn’t know much about Iron Maiden before I came in, and at the moment the band’s music isn’t something I really prefer.” Steve stopped me at that moment and told me I couldn’t go around saying stuff like that to reporters, to which I asked him: “Why, if that’s the truth?” He just answered: “Yeah, it’s the truth, but you can’t go on bringing that stuff to the outside.” That’s when I started to figure out who was controlling the band. Steve sometimes had disagreements with Rod, but not a lot of them, and he was the true governor of the band. In all disagreements with anyone, if we state it with numbers, out of ten times, nine times it ended with him having his way.
When I joined Maiden, I was always on great terms with the crew and others. I often shared a room with Dave Lights – the lighting designer – because I enjoyed his company. I also traveled with the crew, because they were much more fun. Rod didn’t like that, and neither did Steve, but that was me and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always liked being different, and I like it to this day. Rod wanted to keep the band in the same place at all times. We all had either walkmans or small tape players in our rooms, and my favorite song was Soldier of Fortune because I loved David Coverdale, but it also relaxed me at night after the shows, when my head was killing me because of the enormous noise. I really gave my best on stage, starting with backing vocals and everything else. I just wanted to relax in my room after a show. Clive and I exchanged tapes. I liked listening to George Benson, Average White Band, the Eagles, Little River Band and other interesting melodic stuff. But, back to the story at hand. Rod came in my room and started shouting that I’m not expected to listen to that kind of music. I responded by saying if I listened to Motörhead 24 hours a day, my brain would stop functioning real soon, to which he replied that I can’t stay in the band if I continue listening to that kind of music. That made no sense whatsoever to me, I really couldn’t believe it. The two of us still hadn’t cooled off properly, and there was the Oslo show, the last one on the KISS tour.
I put on 'Soldier of Fortune' and turned the volume up, because I was in the bathroom. He heard that, came in and said something like, if I continued to listen to that kind of slow and soft shit, there would be hell to pay – and it turned into a fight. I told him that he was just looking for excuses for a fight with me, and that’s how we separated, still angry at each other. After the KISS tour had ended, he told me that we were no longer collaborating and that I was out of the band. I asked him what he meant by that and he said: “I’m not doubting your playing or singing skills, but you’re simply not a Maiden member anymore.” I responded with: “Oh, fucking hell”, went out of the office and that was that. I was pretty depressed after that and a few days later I left the band.
Steve, as usual, approved of it quietly, they worked like a pair. I didn’t fit in the band, because I could fight for my rights, while the others wouldn’t do that. By the end of the KISS tour, we hadn’t been home for about two or three months. After the last show, Rod called us in for a meeting in the locker room and told us that he and Steve were going back by plane. The rest of us had to go by train. That’s when I lost it and said I was on tour just like the two of them, and that he couldn’t be telling me that next to all the money the band had made, the rest of us would have to go home by train. I stood up for everyone and Rod didn’t like it, but we ended up going home by airplane.
About Adrian Smith, who replaced me, I can say only words of praise, because he fitted in the band much better, having known Dave from before, so he was able to connect with him much faster.
Iron Maiden was Steve’s baby even before they were signed to EMI. Every final decision was his. And another thing, regarding KISS – I had a really good relationship with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, and when they took me out for lunch in Stockholm on my birthday, Rod was literally steaming mad and told me that no one was allowed to mix with KISS, except for Steve. I had a bunch of party photos with them with no make-up on, and we had a blast. Dave Lights and I would often go out with them and do crazy stuff. At the end I became depressed trying to do my job as best as I can. When I met Geoff Barton, a reporter from Sounds, he told me that he couldn’t believe what was going on. He was in the loop on everything because he was at a few of the tour shows and saw how things were developing. Commenting on the Eagles problem, he told me that he knew Rod ruled with an iron fist, but he couldn’t believe that it was that extreme. You know, Sounds used to do a playlist every weekend, the people working there would pick out songs from an album they liked. The following weekend – and I still have that cut-out at home – entry number 1 was dedicated to Dennis Stratton, and it was an Eagles song, ‘Take It to the Limit’.
Nothing can stop Maiden today. They became one of the biggest bands in the world. I used to say to Steve and Rod that there was no way Maiden would conquer America with Paul Di Anno as their singer. I was in the Ship pub on Wardour Street when Bruce Dickinson told me that he had gotten an offer from the band. I told him to accept it, because it would make them big in the States. His voice sounds and has a range somewhere between Robert Plant and Sammy Hagar, and people love that. Had I stayed in Maiden, I would have been rich, wouldn’t have to think about money ever again, but there always two sides to it. I’m certain, had I stayed in the band, my son Jack would never have been born and that’s when you see what you gained and what you lost.
Anyway, near the end of it all, we came back in the studio to re-record Running Free. It was supposed to be a different mix, for the radio stations. The same went for Women in Uniform. After we came back from the Oslo tour, we had to shoot a video and the Rainbow Theatre was already booked. We came in with full equipment, but when we started shooting, I couldn’t function while the camera was looking at me. I’m not sure why they continued filming after Rod said it wouldn’t work. That’s why there are just a few close-ups of me in the video. Most of it were shots of the rest of the band and the video looked like they threw me out even before it really happened.
Every once in a while, a man has to take a break and do something on his own, away from the band. Even go somewhere with his friends or his road crew. You have to go somewhere and get some breathing space, get away from it all. Rod tried to keep us together like we were in kindergarten.
Four years later, in 1984, I was in the Rainbow bar on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles with Steve Mann and Rocky Newton. We were recording a Lionheart album for CBS there. All of a sudden, a waiter approached me and told me that a man sitting at a table wanted to buy me a round, and when I turned around, I saw Rod Smallwood. We shook hands and I sat down, and he asked me: “Listen, I hope everything is behind us now”, to which I replied: “Sure.” There was no “I told you so” stuff, I knew everything by myself.
The so-called ‘Maiden curse’, which follows all former Maiden members and keeps them from having a solo career without Maiden being mentioned doesn’t bother me personally, I even enjoy it when after all those years someone somewhere in the world recognizes me and praises my work on the first album. It’s nice when people remember it all or rediscover it.
Today, when I look at everything from a distance, I can freely say that, had I remained in Maiden, I would be either deaf or dead, one of those two things for sure.
- For starters, Neal Kay is almost a legendary, a mythic name. How would you introduce yourself to people who might not know everything about you, who is Neal Kay?- You and Jon Zazula who pushed Metallica in are heavy metal icons a similar way, on different sides. There is a definitive resemblance to it. Did you ever meet him?- What are you currently up to, besides from what is available on the internet, and can you recommend me a young band that you think will get far, if you still follow the scene in that detail.- This interview will be a part of a comprehensive book about Steve Harris, so a lot of questions will relate to him. When and how did you meet Steve for the first time, and what was your first impression of him?- Did you offer some advice to him at the time and did he take it?- What do you think about Paul Di Anno, was he a key factor to Maiden’s early success?- Did the record labels, such as EMI, take into consideration the kind of music people listened to in the Soundhouse and did they ask for your help or advice?- Tell me about early setlist of Iron Maiden. Which songs Maiden played in their early days? Were they strictly Maiden songs or did they do covers as well? If the latter's the case, can you please try to remember as many of them as you can? Maiden fans will be dying to hear such information and details.- What attracted you to Maiden? Legend has it that you declined them and didn’t want to take their demo at first, until you had actually listened to it. Is it true? What was the course of things?- When Rod Smallwood entered in play, what did you think of him, did you see him as a danger or as a blessing to the band?- Steve mentioned in an interview that he didn’t have enough money to buy the original Soundhouse studio tracks, which the owner taped over. Was there a way to preserve the tracks, how come such a valuable piece of music got lost forever?The versions of Strange World and Transylvania from the same demo weren’t part of the EP. Do you have them in your collection and can you tell us something about them?- Paul Mario Day decidedly claims that he is the author of the lyrics and music to Strange World, although only Steve is credited for it on the album. Maybe this isn’t a question I should be asking you, but do you have any insight into this?- The Soundhouse Tapes were sold out very quickly and it shocked both Maiden and the record label. Were you shocked as well, or did you know it would happen?- The Soundhouse Tapes were recorded on New Year’s Eve 1978/1979, and we’re having this interview at roughly the same time, 32 years later. When everything is taken into consideration, what thing are you most proud of?- The Soundhouse Tapes are very sought-after merchandise and there are very faithful copies on eBay. For every person trying to get the original, please indicate what should be looked after when buying and how to know what is the real original version. Are there some characteristic details?- Do you think that the NWOBHM phenomenon will be repeated again in any other form, name or genre? It seems that the Scandinavian countries and Germany are dictating today’s pace of metal.- What’s your relationship to Steve Harris today, you’ve known him since he was basically a kid, so I’d like to know what you think his biggest qualities are, but also his biggest flaws, if he had any at that time or if he still has them today.- His girlfriend at the time, Lorraine, was pretty confident in promoting Maiden around and believed in Steve. What are your memories of her, and do you think she helped Maiden in the early phases?- Did you prefer some other young band to Maiden at the time? If yes, which one, and did that band succeed or not, and why?- From newspaper reports, at those days there some brawls and fights among metalheads and punks, did you ever get involved in any way?- I think you were the person who pushed the entire NWOBHM movement into more mainstream waters. What do today’s radio DJs do, do they just play the popular stuff or do they try to create a new scene? I’m not so sure of the latter.- What was the fan radio demand for Maiden 32 years ago?- You probably tried to get other DJs to play Maiden, what was their reaction; do you remember negative comments from editors or DJs who didn’t want to ply them?- You often performed as a sort of supporting act with Maiden, but when you did your solo performances, what was the fan reaction when you played Maiden over the PA system?- It would be especially interesting to hear girls’ reactions to Maiden, did some of them approach you and ask you for their contact information?- Since this is an interview for the Harris book, please tell me if some of them asked about Steve, was he popular “merchandise” at the time? Clive Burr mentioned that he (Clive) was the best looking guy in the band and that all the girls liked him best.- I would also like to hear some good anecdotes from you about Steve for the book, so please tell anything you can remember. If you don’t recall anything now, feel free to tell me at any later time, whenever you think of something interesting.- Dave Lights and Ross Halfin played a major role in the Maiden crew. Do you know any of them personally and what do you think they contributed to Maiden’s fame?- The story is that Rod Smallwood insisted that Maiden should be the only band represented with two songs on the Metal for Muthas compilation, in order to be even more distinct from the others. Was it really his idea or did you also have something to do with that idea?- Recently, a biographical film, “Lemmy”, came out. You, a person who had a lot to do with his popularity, weren’t featured in the movie. I think they only interviewed musicians from California, without the key people such as yourself. Did you see the movie?- Tell me about the band Venture, which was your main powerhouse after Maiden. Everyone said they were a great band with a huge potential. Why did they part ways?- What’s your relationship with Steve today, do you talk on a regular basis, does he ever invite you to Maiden’s London shows? - What do you think of Lauren Harris who is soon issuing her second album. Have you met her as a child?- Did you have any disagreements or fights with Steve at the time? If yes, what were they about and who won?- What is the most valuable LP or a souvenir you have in your collection?- What do you think of the critics that you didn’t grant requests if you didn’t personally like the songs, such as KISS, and what do you think of the irony that Maiden played with them afterwards, which helped their progress a lot?- Is there some other question I should have asked about Harris, but I didn’t because I don’t know all the facts, because I was just born in 1976 when most of that stuff was happening? What should readers know about that time and about Harris, which isn’t already a known fact from the media or from the internet?- In media your surname is listed as Kay, and somewhere as Kaye – is it just a typo or something else?- Do you still buy vinyl records and are you glad they aren’t extinct? Do you think their sound is superior to CD? What about Blu-Ray sound, it offers a much better quality than CD?- Is the name “Soundhouse Tapes” really Maiden’s homage to you and your workplace, or was the name your idea? If it wasn’t your idea, do you know who named it?- In your opinion, what keeps Steve Harris driving to keep Iron Maiden going that still appeals to fans old and new?- Do you still listen to Maiden? What do you think about Maiden’s new album, The Final Frontier, and their popularity nowadays, compared to your expectations and predictions from 30 years ago?