Most metal buffs will tote Iron Maiden as either the best or one of the best Metal bands of all time. Their career is now legendary, and their fanbase is truly a legion. A band of this prowess has spurned numerous wanna-be metal acts over the decades – some good, and some not so good. Sixteen years ago, five Southern California female Iron Maiden aficionados gathered together and formed The Iron Maidens. Over the past 16 years, The Iron Maidens have rocked their way to the top of the heap – delivering a lower budget, but truly accurate representation of the spirit of Iron Maiden, performing accurate renditions of classic, and long forgotten deeper cuts the forefathers of metal have stopped playing live.
With over a million Facebook fans and a legion of supporters all over the world, The Iron Maidens are genuinely a thing of beauty on all counts. Anyone into Iron Maiden is doing themselves a disservice by NOT seeing them perform if the chance comes up. Torontonians, have that chance this Saturday, June 17th at The Rockpile (Etobicoke location) – grab TICKETS HERE!
In advance of this upcoming Toronto show (with a Quebec show on June 15th and Ottawa on June 16th) The Iron Maiden’s bassist Wanda Ortiz facilitated this interview with PureGrainAudio, putting the questions out to her band mates for a round-table Q&A with all five members. Put a date in your calendar Maiden-heads!!! Thirty bucks will get you two hours of definitive Iron Maiden music, performed by Iron Maiden fanatics, performing with the competency of Iron Maiden. Oh, bonus, the girls are damn hot (Yes – I went there. I’m a dude.) Catch one of these shows – It’s a no-brainer that you’ll have a grand time.
The Iron Maidens boast a following that is pretty damn impressive. Can you talk a bit about your time with The Iron Maidens, Wanda? This is your 15th year, correct? That’s a long time to be in a cover band.
Wanda: Yes, that sounds about right. The band first started as only a fun side project for everyone because we all had other groups and projects we were involved with. However, after the first few shows, the band started getting calls for tour dates from all over the United States. Soon after, requests started coming in from other countries as well. Now this project keeps us pretty busy, but it’s been a lot of fun over the years and, by the way, Linda was asked to join the band about a year before I was so I’ll ask her to answer this question as well. ☺
Linda: I was in the band from the very beginning, and the only remaining founding member, going on 15 1/2 years now….Unbelievable!! It was a TON of hard work in the very beginning trying to establish that we were about having a good time, were very tongue-in-cheek, yet perform the material seriously. A lot of ground work and promoting had to be done. We flyered so many live shows to get the word out about this project, including Maiden shows! Over the years, we have been so blessed to find new members as other members left to carry on with their lives who seem to be progressively better and better, and younger and younger! HAHA! This project is truly a labor of love. It has to be to have given 15 1/2 years of my life to it, and as long as it remains fun, I will continue to carry on and not let the party die!
Do you ever struggle with identity? Wanting to do your own original stuff and showcase it?
Wanda: No, I don’t but I do find it odd that only people in tribute bands seem to get asked that question. Playing in a tribute band really isn’t much different than playing in an orchestra (which I also do) because you’re still playing music written by someone else. I actually enjoy playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, and it doesn’t stop me from writing my own music which I’ve done before in original bands. From time to time, I’ll still write music for fun and who knows, maybe one day you might hear it. ☺
Linda: Never, ever. I’ve been in plenty of original bands up until I got involved with The Iron Maidens. Nothing but original music (with some covers added in the set). I fulfilled my little dream of getting signed and recording on a major label (Shrapnel, Roadrunner, and Geffen Records) and touring abroad with my own band, Phantom Blue, a while back, so anything more was just icing on the cake! 🙂 We all put a bit of our own stamp on the Maiden tunes we play though, but not enough to change the vibe of the original masterpiece. I would be lying if I said I don’t have original material I’d like to get out someday, but most of it really is geared for a completely different genre of music. And I’d probably be more of the writer than a performer, but I would be down to play some original tunes again in the heavy genre! Hit me up!!!!
Nikki: I think if you want to do your own thing you definitely can. You can always create a balance. I love playing Maiden songs and being in a Maiden tribute, but I also enjoy making my own music as well. Of course, you get associated with the band but I think people still like to hear something original if possible. I’m actually writing and recording original music right now in my downtime, and it’s working out great!
Kirsten: Not me, I’m not a musical genius or a poet, so I don’t have a burning desire to express myself through originals. However, doing the occasional original is fun–I’ve done that before, and it is rewarding to share it with an audience–but my true joy comes from performing in front of a crowd that is already totally into it–it’s a communal experience! Although sometimes when boarding a plane I try to enter the cockpit and take control–haha, my Bruce Dickinson identity crisis.
Courtney: No, I do my own originals and other bands on my own time. The Maidens do not tour months on end so when I have down time, I focus my time on other projects.
I’d love to get your individual stories of being youngsters, your introductions to Iron Maiden, and perhaps a story about your first time seeing the band perform?
Wanda: I started playing bass when I was nine but, by the time I got to high school, I was starting to feel a little sad about my instrument because I seldom got to play the fun parts (the melody) in the school ensembles. Back then, I mostly got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line) which is a very important, but sometimes boring job. Luckily, I had a friend who told me about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, I felt a lot better. The first Maiden concert I saw was during their Powerslave tour. It was a great concert, and I remember not drinking anything, so I wouldn’t have to leave to use the bathroom ~ I didn’t want to miss any part of the show!
Linda: My percussive world began on a large setup of multi-sized Tupperware, with a coffee can full of marbles or bolts or something noisy, as my snare! I jammed with my brother while he played his electric guitar! SO fun!! Finally, I gave in and, with the permission of my parents, I searched for a used drum kit… During school, I was a naughty girl and was sent home for a few days. This is when I discovered the Maiden Japan LP. I was absolutely FLOORED by it and the precision of this live performance! It was that moment that I decided I really wanted to play drums, and I wanted to play with that same explosive energy that was coming from Clive Burr and powering Maiden! I had NO idea yeeeears down the road I would be playing in a Maiden tribute band for over 15 years! HAHA, I didn’t even know what a tribute band was! I did not get my drum set yet at this point.
The first time I saw Maiden was in 1982 at the Long Beach Arena on the Beast on the Road Tour, which was Clive Burr’s last tour. I went with my brother. I saw and heard Clive play and LOVED it! I also saw Girlschool on the bill and grew insanely envious and jealous because I wanted to be on the stage and sharing it with Maiden! HAHA! That was enough to get me serious enough to actually get a drum set!
Nikki: Well, I was born in 1990 so I got to hear Maiden growing up thanks to my parents. My dad would be playing “Flight of Icarus” or “Wasted Years” and even covered a few tunes in his bands. When I grew up I had Maiden posters on my wall, Maiden shoes, you name it. I think “2 Minutes to Midnight” was one of the first songs I learned on guitar actually. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Maiden live until last year in Vegas since it just never worked out, but it was amazing!
Kirsten: I discovered Maiden as a kid when the Powerslave album dropped. I was a die-hard Def Leppard devotee at the time so Bruce Dickinson’s heavy vibrato and operatic style took some getting used to. But I was won over right quick–then began the endless “concerts” in my bathroom mirror, lip-syncing with my curling iron microphone to all of Maiden’s catalog through my boombox. Not surprisingly, the Powerslave tour was my first Maiden concert.
Courtney: I missed the 1980s so I’d hear Maiden growing up in the 1990’s. I was a metal head through high school so naturally, this is when I first saw Maiden and I believe I saw them for the first time front row at Ozzfest in New Jersey, which was very eye opening being so up close and personal in the front.
Have you been following this lawsuit debacle over ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’? How are you all feeling about that? Also, you will now be playing a song that Iron Maiden are currently NOT playing. How is that sitting with you?
Wanda: I’ve read about it and this sort of thing seems to happen to a lot of musicians. You can’t help but be influenced by music you like and listen to and sometimes, someone else’s ideas might inadvertently find their way into one of your songs by accident. At any rate, I’m sure everything will eventually get resolved, and fans will get to hear Maiden play that song again. In the meantime, it doesn’t really make any difference to us as most the songs we play are songs that Maiden are not currently playing anyway.
Linda: I think it’s rubbish!! LOL! It’s a bummer because the fans LOVE hearing Maiden play Hallowed at the shows!! I guess we will definitely have to include that in our set just on principle alone now, though it has always been a pretty solid fixture in our set! We actually play several tunes that Maiden have NEVER played live, like “Alexander the Great,” “Sun and Steel,” “Flash of the Blade,” “Duellists,” “Deja-Vu,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Judas Be My Guide” and are currently learning one that we aren’t allowed to talk about yet. HAHA! (I hope I am correct on this list of songs not played by Maiden!)
Nikki: I have been following the lawsuit. I don’t have much to say about it besides the fact that I know it will all be resolved. I read that Maiden will work it all out so that they can play the song again live. It’s always been a fan favorite so I’m happy that we still get to play it!
Kirsten: I’m aware of the situation only loosely. I’m ambivalent about it; when you’re mega-successful like Maiden everyone comes out of the woodwork with tales to tell. But I also believe that Maiden will do the right and honorable thing if the situation calls for it. As a band, we haven’t really discussed yet how we want to handle it.
Courtney: I listened to both and yes the debacle is clearly there haha.. none of my business to comment on something like that. And the Maidens play many songs that Maiden do not perform live, so this whole media explosion over this song doesn’t ruffle my feathers at all.
Have you ever run into snags along the way from a legal standpoint? With almost 1.5 million Facebook fans, your cover band has more online reach that some long-established mainstream bands have. Have you run into any problems with artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers? Anything like that?
Wanda: We do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen, but we were asked many years ago to change up our logo, so we did. It wasn’t a big deal, and I don’t think the guys in Iron Maiden were even aware of it: they have a good team of people who help look after everything.
Linda: We play everything by the book. We definitely do NOT want to disrespect Maiden or anyone in the Maiden camp in any way, shape or form! We know how lucky we are to have been paying tribute to Maiden for so many years and to travel and play some really awesome shows!! We got Steve Harris’ blessing to carry on with what we were doing a long time ago, so I guess that is as good as it gets! 😀
Nikki: I’m the newest member of the band and started playing with them in 2012, so I don’t know too much about any of the legal work that has happened in the past!
Kirsten: You’ll have to wait to for the tell-all book for answers to those kinds of questions, haha! Kidding, truth is we have encountered the infrequent road bump, but we’ve kept our noses clean and relatively drama-free.
Courtney: Not that I’m aware of. We are very fortunate for the support we receive from fans.
If The Iron Maidens were ‘just’ a bunch of good looking girls playing Iron Maiden songs I think the bloom would have fallen off the rose years ago. It’s a testament to all five of you that you are all skilled performers. Can you (and some of the rest of the band) share some of the songs that took you the longest to master? And how you like to keep things fresh when you perform?
Wanda: “Phantom of the Opera” took me longer to nail than other songs because I used to get so nervous before the bass solo part. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play it, it was more because, as a bass player, I was less accustomed to playing solos than other musicians (like guitarists or violinists)…and not used to playing all by myself with everyone watching! It was scary at first..lol! We keep things fresh when we perform by frequently changing up our set list.
Linda: Thank you! 🙂 The song that took the longest for me was “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”! I wanted to play it EXACTLY like the original recording, every fill, everything! So I charted it out in my own hieroglyphic language that only I can understand, and learned it. We only played it once (so far!) but it was excellent!!! We even had Michael Kenney sit in as a special guest on that song for the authentic Maiden keyboards! What a thrill!
Nikki: We keep things fresh by making sure we change up the set list whenever we play the same city. We always ensure that people get to hear new songs along with the biggest hits of course.
Kirsten: For me, it hasn’t been one song that’s been the most challenging, it’s various phrasings or notes of many songs. No matter how well you learn a song right off the bat, it really needs time–like a new shoe–to be worn in properly so that it fits you and you conform to it so that it’s 100% comfortable. Changing up the set lists and learning new songs–plus every new audience–keeps things fresh.
Courtney: I always feel weird answering this question because none of the songs took that much time to master because they are the tunes we grew up with. We have a passion for this type of music, and along with the connection we all have within the band, it all becomes second nature. Most of the time we will just soundcheck a song we haven’t performed in awhile and that is that.
When a new album like Book Of Souls comes out, do you try and select a few new songs to learn? Or are you more focused on playing the deep cuts Iron Maiden fans love hearing live?
Wanda: We focus on the old songs fans want to hear that the real band no longer plays live.
Linda: We generally focus on the songs and eras Maiden doesn’t really play much anymore and the deeper cuts. Maiden is out touring and performing their new material, so we like to play what you might not hear at a real Maiden show mixed with a few standards they currently play.
Nikki: I’d like to play some of the newer stuff since it’s such an awesome album, but since Maiden is playing those songs right now, we stick to the older stuff that they aren’t playing.
Kirsten: We always pick from the older material Maiden is less likely to play and leave their new album to them. Fans can see them on tour and catch the latest release, and then come to our shows for more of the retrospective. That said, I’d love to learn “Death or Glory,” haha.
Courtney: We try to play tunes that Maiden is not currently touring with, the exceptions being the major hits.
Check out this 2013 live clip of The Iron Maidens performing “Run To The Hills”
It’s a very cool thing that Iron Maiden are cognisant of your tribute band and that you have been able to meet them. Regale our readers with your meeting them if you would? What was it like? How did it feel? Any star-struck blunders you might share?
Wanda: Michael Kenney introduced the whole band to Iron Maiden at a concert in Irvine, CA several years ago. We were very nervous, but the guys were really friendly and down to earth. We took pictures, visited briefly and, except for the usual awkwardness that comes with meeting people you admire, everything went pretty smoothly. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that we weren’t able to give them cookies that we baked specially for them: our singer left them in her car. ☹
Linda: My first encounter with a Maiden Man was at the London Heathrow airport! We just finished a long European tour with my band Phantom Blue and while waiting for our flight, a voice came over the speaker announcing Clive Burr to report to a specific counter. Well… we were not Clive Burr, but we went there anyway! HA! And there he was! I got to thank him for being the reason I started playing drums. My bandmate, Michelle Meldrum (RIP), handed me one of our albums to give to him, and I stupidly asked him to sign it and kept it instead because I was so nervous and didn’t know what to say or do. What a dork! I still have that signed LP today. I also have a photo of that meeting. It’s so funny! I’m banking the other girls telling the story of meeting Maiden backstage officially being introduced by Michael Kenney to each of our counterparts at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater! We each got our photos taken with our male counterparts. Very nerve wracking, but amazing! They were all so kind!
Nikki: I don’t have any stories, but the others do!
Courtney: I run into the guys around Hollywood and at NAMM (Music convention in CA) all of the time. They are really down to earth individuals with an amazing sense of humor.
It’s been a while since The Root of All Evil and Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan 2010 were released. Is there anything in the works for The Iron Maidens merchandise tables down the road? New recordings? New merchandise designs?
Wanda: We plan to record a new CD with our current line-up.
Linda: We are hoping for all that you mentioned! We were due to record a new CD with all the current members last year but I was involved in a car accident which resulted in surgery and put me out of commission for between 6-9 months, so, unfortunately, that recording got postponed until I am fully recovered. We are hoping to do this by the end of this year now. You can look for new female Eddie-like monsters too!
Nikki: We’re planning on getting in the studio soon, so stay tuned!
Kirsten: Yes and yes! Haha, yes to all of the above. So stay tuned…
Courtney: There have been talks of recording a new CD and there are always new merch designs being thrown around, especially for this Canada tour we are about to embark on.
What’s the first thing you toss into your bag before going out on the road?
Wanda: My passport or another form of ID since I can’t get very far without that.
Linda: Ibuprofen (for aching muscles, not hangovers, silly people).
Nikki: I’d have to say makeup haha. I think I check a million times to make sure I have it!
Kirsten: Flat iron–gotta get them early-era Bruce straight locks dialed in! Oh, and some vegan treats!
Courtney: Socks .. can’t have enough socks hahaha.