You know Ima country boy, but I’ve always been fascinated by the music of Steve Harris, founder and bassist for the major international act Iron Maiden. I’ve played Maiden songs on the guitar and sung them whenever I can, and as often as I could.
In 2015 I had an opportunity to audition for a Florida Iron Maiden tribute band. I never thought I would be in one. You see? But this opportunity was right in front of me and I took it.
At the time I was mostly a guitarist, but the part I went for was Bruce Dickinson’s lead vocals. Fortunately, I started taking singing seriously some 7 years prior. I went through some great singing methods. However, the last one, and the only one I use now, is the one that allowed be to have the stamina I needed to sing Bruce Dickinson. After a few months, I was able to sing for 2 hours straight with this band.
Anyway, when I got to Orlando Florida to audition, I was met by the Adrian Smith role player’s wife. She said, “Wow! He’s ready for the Bruce role. He even looks like him.” I laughed, because I did go there ready and looking like the Bruce from the 2000 Brave New World Tour. I had the knit cap, the jersey, the strange looking pants, etc. I remember Adrian Smith wasn’t too convinced. But Adrian and I talked for a while until the rest of the members had arrived and set up their equipment. After that, it was just the most amazing trip I’d experienced in months (after my regional tour with my two older sons and Alien Country). Adrian didn’t take much convincing after that. He was all smiles and ready to play out.
We played for about 2 hours that day audition day. Everyone was feeling GREAT and hopeful that I was going to be the guy. I fell into Bruce Dickinson fairly easily that day. The guys were extraordinary at their instruments and the majority of the songs were quite difficult to play. They had obviously been playing them for a long time. When the hours had passed and it was time for me to take on the one-hour drive back to Tampa, I said my goodbyes to a bunch of grinning rockers. They were happy and excited. It felt right to me to have had that experience and the guys show their enthusiasm without shame.
Driving home that evening was a trip. When I got home I checked my email and there was an email response from the Murray. He asked me to join the Tribute band. Of course I said, “Heck YEAH!” and from there on, it was just the most amazing experience ever.
I took on this little project like I would anything else I was serious about. However, there was something which started bothering me when I took on the post of Bruce Dickinson. Practicing and learning the songs and planning and staging for shows was hard work and it all took very long. It was all worth it. I even got involved in creating stage props (we never even used anyway), putting together the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner cap Bruce used before, and the Flight of Icarus mask. That was a lot of fun, I hafta tell you. Creating props was a lot of fun. Discussing them with the rest of the band, though, was a little odd. It was something too new for them, it seemed. They didn’t seem that enthusiastic about it.
Anyway, I started on my weekly travels to Orlando from Tampa every weekend for about 5 months. We practiced for hours. At least for more than 2 hours each get together. We talked, we laughed, and we drank but didn’t get drunk. I mentioned the effort I had put into the wardrobe but not one seem interested so I let it be for a while and concentrated on the songs a lot more after that. The little effort in preparing stage props had been decided (with silence) and I didn’t put any more effort into it after that. The songs were my focal point from there on. Might as well. I needed a lot of practice.
The songs we did were from the Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, but I needed a lot more practice with the band, particularly with the rendition of Number of the Beast. Anyway, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, a lot of songs from one of the most difficult albums to play on the guitar and sing, Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, and Brave New World. My favorite was, of course, Brave New World’s “The Wicker Man”. I enjoyed the difficulty of singing Seventh Son tremendously. That album, unlike what some of my friends opinionated when the album came out, was just a great follow up for Somewhere in Time as Iron Maiden’s progressive path may have been. We also practiced Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. It was one of the most fun songs I have ever dealt with.
From February to August we went through three bass players. Strangely enough, we ultimately ended up with the original bassist anyway. Many of the guys that had taken the place of the original bass player just couldn’t stick the awesomely simple, yet monstrous Steve Harris’ bass playing. The original guy was the only that could stick it each time, with some exception to Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner – which was the main reason why he had to go. When he came back, though, he had more than four months to play the middle part of Ancient and was very successful which was one of the reasons why he was allowed to come back. Later, the issue with this bass player would surface again. Little did I know the issue pertained to his brusque personality.
The beginning of the end started when the rest of the band began to depend on me to make decisions about the bass player. Narcissistic triangles began to show up and very little communication to divert these little (big) issues were ever established. I, having studied psychology for years, tried to fix the issue, but it was just not possible. Eventually the main dude, Adrian Smith, ended up being too controlling and narcissistic.
Some of the most memorable points of this experience was mostly our performances. The first one in Orlando was the best. It was the most energetic performance I’d ever given and the people in the audience ate it up. One particular Orlando artist approached me and thanked me for the show. He thought it had been the best, most energetic – next to Bruce himself, that he had ever experienced out of an Iron Maiden tribute band. The second most memorable experience was driving across central Florida to perform in Daytona Beach. The practices were many, and were a lot of fun, but because they were all the same, I just have a mix of them up in my brain and can’t really pinpoint any particular exception, except of my picking Dave Murray’s Fender and playing, “Be Quick or Be Dead” with them while Dave took a break. That was super.
It all was a great learning experience and I can honestly say that I learn a lot from this band. It had been the most exciting thing I had done. Something I dreamed of doing and I did it. To me that’s what counts – a lot. So yeah, country music is my home, but I like to think Alien Country can bridge the gap between country rock and metal some day.