Steve Harris: British Lion Brings Good Memories of Club Days
Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. Harris has wrapped up his work with Iron Maiden for the year and is ramping up to the release of a new album titled The Burning from his other band British Lion. The disc is due Jan. 17, and British Lion will hit the road in January and February for their first leg of dates supporting the album.
Jackie speaks with the bass legend about what makes British Lion such a wonderful and joyful creative outlet for the musician, gets some insight on the creative process for The Burning album and also speaks with Harris about Iron Maiden's longevity. Check out the chat below.
Iron Maiden just wrapped up an aggressive year of touring and you've already got an album and shows lined up for British Lion. What is it about staying busy that brings you serenity?
I don't know. [laughs] I do like keeping busy, and sometimes people think I'm crazy for having stuff booked in so soon after a show with Maiden. But I know what I'm like, and I'll be home for a while and just want to get out playing again. It keeps me fit, as well, and keeps me active, and at the end of the day, especially at my age, you have to keep on just doing stuff and keep going for it. I love a challenge and this is really exciting, really good fun.
You're basically the cornerstone of Iron Maiden. When you already have a creative outlet that largely reflects your ideas for you, why is it necessary to have separate means to express yourself?
I think it's just really good to work with other people and have a challenge as I said. Also for me, going back from playing club places, you know, which I played with Maiden for many years, I sort of miss playing those types of places where you're just so close to the audience. Just having a change of trying to get another thing happening brings back a lot of really good memories for me, like it was for Maiden in the early days as well. So, there's all of that going on.
But also, they're really good guys to work with. They're really talented, and we got some really strong material on this new album. I'm really looking forward to it. Always fun. It's just a different thing to go out there and play smaller places. I get lucky to be out and play everywhere. I suppose some people don't have that chance to play in a mess of places like we do with Maiden and then to play clubs as well. So, it's the best of both worlds for me really.
In terms of performing, British Lion is a context and scale much different from Maiden. In what ways does that invigorate you?
Well, just going back to being on the bus again is going back with a much lower budget and certain things like that since you just got to tighten the belt here and there. I find a weird sort of enjoyment about doing that. I think it keeps me grounded in the sense that obviously swimming around in private jets and things like with Maiden is fantastic, you know, I love it, but I think it brings you back down to earth when you go there. It's not the other end of the spectrum cause we're not really just starting out, but just going back to some more basic type of stuff, and I really enjoy it.
Some people who may not fancy doing that, but I enjoy both. Maybe if I was doing it for years in a small place, who knows? But I'm not really trying to make this band be sort of major, I don't have enough years left in me anyway probably to do that because it takes so long to get a band any sort of successful. So, that's not what I'm doing it for. I'm just doing it because I just like playing, and the guys in the band are really talented guys. I feel that they also deserve to be out there doing it, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
Steve, like The Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden is a model for how to sustain a long, extremely successful career. What changes when a band realizes it's that well established?
Obviously, it takes a long long time, a lot of touring, and everything else. You realize that you're actually even sort of getting bigger as a band really just is amazing really. We don't take it for granted. We still go out there and give 110 percent every night, and I think all the fans know that. So, that's the key to it really, I think. But yeah, it's still great to go out there and play with Maiden all the time.
Some people thought it strange when I first started doing British Lion, but it's not going to affect anything. Maiden will always come first, always will. Playing all the years with Maiden, it's just hard to believe all that much time has gone by really. It's incredible what we have achieved. It's incredible the number of years we've been able to keep going, and hopefully, we'll be able to keep going for a few more yet. But you just never know what's around the corner I suppose.
Most of your life has been immersed in making your own music. How much of your love of it still comes from listening to other people's music.
That's a good question. I mean, I still listen to other stuff, but not as much as maybe as I used to in the early days I suppose because it was all different back then. These days I don't get as much chance to listen to stuff anyway really being so busy. Not that I wasn't busy back in those days, but it was crazy back then.
I think obviously times have changed and so I still listen to the older stuff as well. It still does influence me. But there are a few things here and there that I really like, more current stuff. But I wouldn't say it necessarily influenced me and enlightened really. I think I'm more still influenced by the things I grew up with.
Let's talk about the new album it's called The Burning. The Burning has been in the works for a couple of years. What's the advantage to that creative pace and conversely what do you dislike about it?
Well, I'll start with the dislike first. I think I've always been used to working with Maiden and just going in and doing an album in one shot and focusing on that. So this, to a certain degree, has not been able to do that and just not having the time to be able to do that obviously because with Maiden I'm so busy anyway, that makes it a little difficult.
But when I'm working with the guys in a different area like this it's also nice to try some different things. I must admit, if I had the choice, I probably would just do stuff in one go - really, but it's not possible with Maiden. So, we just have to work around it. It must be frustrating for them too because obviously they're waiting on me all the time to do stuff. But luckily enough, they keep themselves pretty busy with other bits and pieces to a certain degree.
That's another thing, I like touring with them because they're so ready and excited to just go out and play because sometimes we go months or a year or being able to do a tour because of Maiden' commitments. So, when we do go out, everyone's absolutely going to get out there ready to go, including me too.There's always gonna be ups and downs to stuff, and you just have to find a way to make it happen.
Again, check out the band they're going to be doing a U.S. tour that's kicking off in mid January. Steve, thank you so much and good luck with all things to come with British Lion.
Yeah, appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
Thanks to Steve Harris for the interview. Get your copy of British Lion's 'The Burning' here and stay up to date with the band's touring activities here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s radio show here.