By Bob Nalbandian 1998

I caught up with bassmaster Steve Harris and vocalist Blaze Bayley of Iron Maiden this last May to discuss the release of their latest album, Virtual XI (CMC International), at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood. Here's what they had to say....

Shockwaves: The title of your latest album, Virtual XI, explores Steve's influence of soccer and Blaze's influence of Virtual Reality video did this concept come about?
Steve: Well, this is our 11th studio album and over the last couple years in particular, more and more young kids are getting into soccer, not so much here (US), but in the rest of the world people are soccer mad! Especially in places like Italy, Spain, and South America. We headlined the Monsters Of Rock festival on our last tour and when we played Sao Paulo (Brazil), I would wear Brazil's soccer shirt, and when we were in Argentina we would wear the Argentina jersey. The fans over there give us loads of shirts because they know how much we're into soccer, and the fans get so into it. So, we thought it would be great if we could tie the two's our eleventh album, the World Cup is coming up, and we're totally into soccer. So to tie in with Virtual XI, we have the five members of the band and the eleven is made up of six international soccer players. It's great fun, and it's brilliant for me because of my love for soccer.

Shockwaves: Weren't you actually going into professional soccer at one point, before forming Iron Maiden?
Steve: Yeah, I had trials but I didn't quite make the grade.

Shockwaves: Blaze, tell us about the Virtual Reality computer game that Iron Maiden will soon be releasing worldwide?
Blaze: Iron Maiden was planning on doing a video game for a long time but with this band, we always want everything to be the best quality and the best representation we can have for our fans. The technology didn't really exist to do justice for an Iron Maiden fan until now. We were approached by a company in England, and they had a few ideas and a couple of the guys who were working there were actually huge fans of the band, so they had a really good handle straight away of what an Iron Maiden game should be about, featuring Eddy. We had some meetings with them and I had a real strong idea for the story where each album cover is a level of the game. So, the first couple albums is in the streets, which we turned into a whole virtual environment so you can walk around the streets and encounter all the different characters. And the Powerslave cover we turned into a whole 3D environment where you can walk into the pyramids, and you also get to go into the future and enter the torture chamber and the X Factor. The album covers are brought to life into a 3D environment and Eddy is a 100,000 hologram character, which is more than the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. The game is titled Ed Hunter because you're hunting down Eddy. The idea is, the heads of the five members of the band have been chopped off and you gotta go and find them! (Laughter). At the same time, you're trying to survive Eddy, because he's trying to stop you from getting to the next level.

Steve: The idea is to make Eddy weaker, basically, because you can't really kill him, you can just make him weaker. It's brilliant, really. I mean, I would buy it just for the graphics alone, it's like actually walking into the album cover and wandering about!

Shockwaves: I understand noted British author/journalist, Mick Wall, is putting out an official book on Iron Maiden...
Steve: Yes. We actually had an official book released around the Somewhere In Time era, but this new book is basically about everyone in the band, and people who have worked with the band, from its conception up until now. It's quite interesting, really, even for me, because of the different viewpoints. When I edited it, I basically left things as is, even the things I didn't necessarily agree with; I think it's important for people to have their viewpoints. The only things I really changed were any errors in technical points that were slightly wrong.

Shockwaves: Do you still keep tabs on the old Maiden bandmates like Dennis Stratton and Clive Burr?
Steve: Yeah. I haven't seen Dennis for a long time, and Clive I saw about four or five years ago. But some of the other guys, even Doug Sampson, the original drummer (from the pre-Maiden band, Smiler), I still see him. And our first guitar players: Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance, I still keep in touch with them.

Shockwaves: I had always thought Dave Murray was an original guitarist for Maiden!
Steve: Actually, Dave joined around '76. And the original drummer when we formed Maiden, Ron Matthews, I spoke with on the phone about two weeks ago.

Shockwaves: I recall reading something to the affect that, years ago when Maiden were playing the pubs around London, EMI (UK) came out to one show looking to sign Angelwitch, who you were opening for at the time, but they ended up signing Iron Maiden instead! Any truth to that?
Steve: I don't's possible. There was a bit of a buzz about us at the time. There were actually a few companies who came out to see us; in fact, I think we got turned down by CBS and A&M. Even though we were playing pubs at the time, we had all these fans from the East London area who would follow us around all over the place. When we would play in East London, none of the record companies would come out to see us, they only hung out in central and West London. East London was like the wilderness, so they would never venture over there.

Click Here For IRON MAIDEN SHOCKWAVES Interview Part 2