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‘India is crucial to our film’

"There’s some great scenes in the movie from Mumbai, not only with the band, but also where Sam is talking to the Indian fans about why they love Maiden, said Steve Harris, founder member and bassist of Iron Maiden, as he spoke to Malvika Nanda on the much-awaited documentary, Flight 666, based on the cult heavy metal band.

music Updated: May 08, 2009 23:03 IST
Malvika Nanda
Malvika Nanda
Hindustan Times

Steve Harris, founder member and bassist of the iconic metal band Iron Maiden spoke exclusively to HT in the middle of one of their whirlwind touring schedules. Most of the talk was about their movie, Flight 666, that released on May 8 in India. It features over 50,000 miles of travel across five continents and 23 concerts, covered via Flight 666 aka Ed Force One. Bruce Dickinson, the band’s vocalist, flew the plane.
One pukka desi connection: Founder member Steve Harris (left) and vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the rest of the band members (not seen) on their India tour.

Everyone here is super excited about Iron Maiden’s Flight 666. How exactly did the idea come about?

The idea originated about three years ago when Bruce, our singer, who is also a qualified airline captain for Astraeus Airways, started to investigate the possibility of putting the band, crew and 12 tons of equipment into a giant flying ‘splitter bus’ — a specially customised Boeing 757 named Ed Force One by the fans — which he could fly around the globe for the Somewhere Back In Time Tour. This meant we could play to more fans, in more cities, including places we’d never been to before. Then, after the months of planning, securing all necessary permissions, satisfying all the safety regulations and so on, we were finally ready to go and we thought, ‘wow, we’re going to be flying 50,000 miles, playing 23 concerts across 5 continents, all in 45 days and that’s just the first leg of the tour! This is an historic undertaking, we absolutely need to document this’. The next question was ‘where do we find a camera crew who could take on the daunting task of filming Iron Maiden not only onstage, but offstage too, something we’ve never permitted in the past’? In the end we found our answer with the excellent award-winning Banger Films team (Metal; A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal ) headed by Scot Mc Fadyen and Sam Dunn.

What went into making the movie?

Scot and Sam actually filmed 500 hours of footage across the first leg of the tour which had to be condensed down to just under two hours for the movie. No easy task! They did an excellent job though. The live performance footage is stunning, they managed to capture the essence of the band, live, without a single camera being visible onstage. It’s incredible how they managed to do it. The behind-the-scenes footage is also amazing. We were all initially a bit apprehensive of a camera crew filming us 24/7 especially during days off when we’re relaxing. But the Banger guys were very professional and Sam, as well as being a trained social anthropologist, is a lifelong diehard Iron Maiden fan so he already knew a certain amount about us.

Saying that, there were a couple of occasions, such as after a 9-hour flight when you’re feeling fatigued and out-of-sorts and suddenly a camera’s pointing right at you, when Nicko actually did threaten to throw Sam out of the plane, to be followed closely by said offending camera! But aside from those moments I think Sam’s love for his subject really shines through, and, as you’ll see from the movie, by the end of the first leg of the tour the Banger guys had very much become part of the Iron Maiden family.

How and why did you guys decide on featuring the Mumbai leg of your Somewhere Back In Time tour? (PS: we love you for it!)

Mumbai was the first show on leg one of the Somewhere Back In Time tour, so was the ideal place to kick-start the adventure. Plus, the Indian fans are amazing, we’re always bowled over by the reception we get when we play there and the dedication you show us. There’s some great scenes in the movie from Mumbai, not only with the band, but also where Sam is talking to the Indian fans about why they love Maiden. One guy mentions it was the artwork on the cassette box of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son that first grabbed his attention. That comment certainly struck a chord with fans around the world, I hear there’s even a thread going about it at the moment on our Fan Club Forum bulletin board! And I’m told the current issue of UK Kerrang magazine mentions him in their Flight 666 article too, so India yes, you guys are a crucial part of this movie!

What was it like when you sat back and saw the whole journey in a 120-minute film format?

Seeing Flight 666 in a cinema is a must, it really is. The High-Def 5.1 sound and the big screen makes you feel like you’re actually at a Maiden concert. There’s been an amazing vibe from everywhere it has been screened already, standing ovations at the end of every showing, not something anyone is used to these days, and certainly not in European cinemas anyway! People say this is a film for the fans, but it’s not a film that just fans will go and see.

As a band, we first saw the film at a special premiere in Rio De Janeiro on March 14, the afternoon of the day of our show there. That was a wonderful experience but very surreal too, being in the audience, watching ourselves perform for an audience!

What’s next from the Maiden men?

We’re now all going to take a very well-earned rest for a few months! Later in the year we will concentrate on the ‘new’ and start putting together material for our next studio album which will be due sometime later in 2010. And of course after that we’ll tour the new album, so we’ll hopefully be seeing all our Indian fans again then.

First Published: May 08, 2009 22:41 IST