Ahead of their performance at Wolfgang's Seventh Annual Halloween Bash at Herman's Hideaway, the Iron Maidens spoke to Westword about falling in love with the music of Iron Maiden, learning that the real Iron Maiden respects their work, advice for people wanting to start a tribute band, and feeling like "mock stars."
Westword: What drew you to Iron Maiden's music in the first place? Why were they so important to you?
Rosenberg: Like the other millions of Iron Maiden fans around the globe, when I first heard them, I was immediately gripped by their sound — the way they craft songs, the galloping bass, guitar harmonies, soaring vocals. They were and are important to me as a fan. I never tire of listening to Maiden! I also have enormous respect for their integrity as a band, which has enabled them to be bigger than ever today with little to no airplay.
McDonald: I was drawn to Maiden's music because of the energy and musicianship I heard.Soaring leads, seriously great vocals and melodies galore, killer bass lines and drumming that made me percolate and want to jump out of my seat! I was suspended from school for a few days long ago and had nothing but time to listen to records during those days, and I discovered Maiden Japan in my brother's record collection and gave it a spin.
I could not believe the power in that live recording, and I absolutely KNEW I wanted to play the drums at that moment, and I wanted to play with the same kind of energy I heard from Clive Burr.
Fast-forward many years later to Mexico City, where Steve Harris was at our show and he complimented me for my drumming and energy. It meant the world to me! Maiden’s music really changed my life and molded me for my music standards in the future.
Cox: I was very late in discovering Iron Maiden, around the age of fifteen. I was into other bands like Judas Priest, Metallica, Pantera, King Diamond and numerous other metal/thrash bands before I added Iron Maiden to my musical rotation. The harmonies and Adrian Smith's guitar tone was what drew me in initially, and after listening through album after album, I was hooked.
For a musician, they definitely are a gateway into the world of great composition and finding one's own sound. As a musician, there is no greater challenge than writing a good song that stands the test of time. I may currently play their songs as the Iron Maidens are a tribute, but Maiden has definitely helped me with my own original writing aside from the band.
Stringfield: I grew up listening to Maiden through my parents. My dad played a few of their songs — I believe “Flight of Icarus” was one of them — in his band, so I’d hear it a lot. I’ve just always loved the music; they've been a huge influence on my playing with the dueling guitars and tons of harmonies.
Ortiz: When I was a school kid, a friend lent me an Iron Maiden recording because he thought it would cheer me up (it did). At the time, I didn't have many chances to play music with fun bass parts, so it was great listening to something like that and thinking, "There's hope!"
As a bassist, I've always been drawn to music with fun and interesting bass lines, so naturally, I loved and was influenced by bands like Iron Maiden, Rush and Yes.
Has Iron Maiden acknowledged your existence? What's it like to interact with other Iron Maiden tribute bands?
Ortiz: We've all met a few or all of the members of Iron Maiden before, so they know about us. They seem supportive of the tribute scene, because we got a write-up in one of their fan club magazines, along with a few other Maiden tribute acts. We've also been mentioned in an interview or two by a couple of the guys.
Obviously, we're also very supportive of the tribute scene since we're part of it, and we have friendly relations with other Iron Maiden tribute acts. It's fun interacting with others who share a common interest, and sometimes you can learn an easier way to do something or get new ideas from another person who does the same thing you do.
Cox: That is one cool thing about what we do — that the actual Maiden are well aware of our existence. The last time I checked, they approved, which is pretty amazing. I look forward to running into some of the guys from time to time because, you know, the last thing either side wants to talk about is Maiden [laughs].
As for the tribute scene, we are all supportive of each other. One giant trooper family!
McDonald: Yes, oh, my God! As for other Iron Maiden tribute bands, we all know each other and support what each other are doing because, after all, we are all just preaching and spreading the word of the magic that is Iron Maiden!
Stringfield: They know we’re just huge fans who love playing their music. It’s awesome to see so many people out there who love Maiden like we do.
Rosenberg: There is a camaraderie with other tribute bands.
What is the most Iron Maiden-like you've ever felt? Did something happen before, during or after a show that made you feel like a global rock star?
Stringfield: Honestly, we’re just musicians who love to play Maiden. I don’t think we feel like global rock stars because of that...maybe more like “mock stars” [laughs]. The fans are amazing and treat us awesome, but we never forget we’re just paying tribute to Maiden.
Ortiz: We were the first all-female metal band to play in Venezuela at a rock festival in front of 40,000 people. That was pretty awesome.
Rosenberg: For me, there are more moments that remind me of the movie This Is Spinal Tap than make me feel like a global rock star [laughs]. Actually, I am still always amazed at the reception we receive around the world and how passionate people are towards our band. Of course, that speaks to the passion of Iron Maiden's fan base.
Cox: Being escorted out of a building right after a show is a definite Maiden feeling. It doesn't happen often, but it's exciting when it does, because you know sleep is shortly to follow!
Also, being recognized at your local grocery store when you're dressed in your pajamas and wearing makeup from two nights ago while checking out the frozen pizza section is pretty sweet, too. Post office, doctors appointments, wax appointments, restrooms... you know you made it then!
Humor aside, running into people all around the world who have attended one of your shows is gratifying.
McDonald: Sometimes people will ask us to sign some vintage Maiden tour shirts or custom killer leather jackets! I hate to sign those because we're not Iron Maiden [laughs]. But we are flattered.
How did your band come together?
McDonald: My original band, Phantom Blue, was looking for a bass player and were invited to come see an Iron Maiden tribute with a female vocalist and bass player. Well...Steve Harris bass parts are awesome, so we figured we'd go see the band out to take in some Maiden and scope out the bass player at the same time.
So off we went with my guitarist, Josephine, to go check it out. It turned out the Maiden tribute was seeking female players to turn the project to an all-female lineup, and they just needed a drummer and guitarist for Adrian Smith parts!
In a turn of events, my guitarist and I were recruited to complete the lineup and the Iron Maidens was born! This band was the brainchild of Jenny Warren, and I tip my hat of gratitude to her to this day, seventeen years later!
Cox: I joined the band in 2009. They were already a force to reckoned with by then. Out of all the lineups throughout the years, I'm confident in saying this is the strongest lineup the band has ever had in my honest opinion.
Through all the rough times, good times and everything in between, it is victory that we have pulled through and kept this journey going strong.
Stringfield: I wasn’t here for the beginning...I started filling in during 2012 and eventually became a full-time member.
What is the Wolfpack's Seventh Annual Halloween Bash at Herman's Hideaway in Denver going to be like? Have you played it before?
McDonald: Based on past years of playing Wolfpack's Annual Halloween Bashes, I can only imagine it will be cuckoo crazy as always! Nothing but a good time.
Those guys always make it an outstanding, must-attend, do-not-miss event! We love those guys, and we love Denver.
Cox: It's Halloween time: Expect anything and everything!
Ortiz: I've never played there before, but I know the Wolfpack family, and they are Halloween freaks! I am sure there will be many surprises and lots of fun.
Rosenberg: The Halloween Bashes are always loads of fun, a wild and crazy crowd dressed in some killer costumes, and the lineup of bands is always strong. I'm especially excited for Asylum 9!
Stringfield: I hear there’s supposed to be a costume contest, raffles, giveaways and lots of killer music. We’ve played a lot of Wolfpack’s Halloween Bashes, but this will be our first time at Herman’s Hideaway.
Is there anything in particular about your visit to Denver that you're excited about?
Rosenberg: I went to CSU, so I'm always happy to come back to Colorado for a visit, see longtime friends and just enjoy the gorgeous Rockies!
Stringfield: We always have a great time in Denver, and I look forward to coming back every year!
McDonald: We have lots of friends and have made lots of friends there. I also have family there that I'm blessed to see whenever we go to Colorado, so that is a big plus.
But really, Denver has always been so welcoming to us and a great room of energy for us every time we play there. We can't wait!
Cox: I’m looking forward to the weather, as California has no seasons. Colorado has always had a place in my heart for favorite places to visit.
Ortiz: Seeing old friends and making new ones is a nice perk when traveling with a band.
What's your favorite part about performing Iron Maiden songs?
McDonald: Aside from getting to play completely amazing music, I love the joy it brings to people! I love hearing people say it brought them good memories. One of the most memorable things was being thanked by a soldier for letting him forget he was in a war zone for just an hour of his day when we were performing for our troops in Iraq during the Fourth of July time period years ago. Music is so powerful.
Rosenberg: Besides being super-fun to sing, I absolutely love to look out in the crowd and see people's faces —practically in religious ecstasy — because they just love Iron Maiden so much! And it's a great feeling to be a part of that joy.
Cox: You lose yourself in the music. You become a kid again over and over. For those ninety minutes on stage every night, where some may view it as a job, you find it the best times of your life.
Stringfield: I just love being able to play on stage and see people enjoying some of their favorite songs.
Ortiz: I enjoy the "playing the music" part most.
What would you tell anyone out there considering starting a cover/tribute band?
Stringfield: Hmm...I wasn’t here for the start of this band, and I came in well after it was established, so I’ll leave that to someone else. Just know that you have to really love the music, because you’ll be playing it a lot, and it shows if you’re passionate about it.
Ortiz: I would encourage them and let them know it's a lot of fun, but probably more work than they are expecting.
Rosenberg: If it's fun for you, do it!
Cox: Have fun and don't take your role too seriously. Things don't happen overnight; hard work is the key to any success. If you need a guitarist, my number is...652-751 — ha ha ha!
McDonald: Just enjoy the moment and have fun! It’s not your own music, but you should still take any project seriously and just have fun. Be professional, regardless.
The Iron Maidens is a freak-of-nature project that got very lucky with the longevity and opportunities we’ve had, and we remain grateful for it every single day. We truly never expected such a great run so far!
Would you ever consider being in a different tribute band?
Cox: My life is playing music and performing live. I will play in any project that brings my heart peace and happiness.
McDonald: I'm always down for playing with other bands, but I don't think I would actively go out and start another full-time tribute band from scratch, but I’m game for anything awesome.
Rosenberg: Nope, unless Barbra Streisand, perhaps....
Stringfield: Probably not. I’m working on original music right now and have different projects going on. One tribute band is enough for me.
Ortiz: Maybe, but right now, I'm about as busy as I would like to be, and I enjoy the free time I have.
Wolfgang's Seventh Annual Halloween Bash, with the Iron Maidens, Saturday, October 27, Herman's Hideaway, 1578 South Broadway.