Bass Player's Freddy Villano caught up with Harris while on tour in the UK supporting his first ever solo project, British Lion (UME, 2012). It’s a record that allowed him to explore what he considers “more mainstream rock,” along the lines of The Who and UFO. Here he talks about some of the most (and soon-to-be) iconic riffs in Maiden's catalog.
“Phantom of the Opera” (Iron Maiden, Capitol, 1980)
“I wrote that in the back room at me grandmother’s house. I was living with her at the time. Lucky enough for me I had me own little room there because the uncles and aunts all left home. I remember thinking at the time I thought I had something pretty good.”
“Innocent Exile” (Killers, Capitol, 1981)
“That was from before I even formed Maiden. I did the opening riff with another band, called Smiler, but it was called something else. The rest of the song was changed later, but the intro is probably from around the same time I wrote “Burning Ambition” [UK B-side to 1980 single “Running Free”], which was the first proper song I ever wrote.”
“Run to the Hills” (The Number of the Beast, Capitol, 1982)
“Before the first album we had like four and a half years-worth of songs and then there were only three new songs on Killers—80% or 90% of that material was also from the first four years. By the time we got to The Number of the Beast there was nothing left. I remember thinking, ‘Christ, not only do we have a new singer, but we don’t have any songs left [laughs].’ That was a fair bit of pressure there.”
“Where Eagles Dare” (Piece of Mind, Capitol, 1983)
“Piece of Mind was Nicko’s [McBrain, drums] first record with the band. His playing is very different than Clive [Burr, original Maiden drummer] and changed the flavor of the band. He didn’t write anything and we just carried on writing as we would, but we did experiment with a few things like the “Where Eagles Dare” drum pattern. I tapped that out on my legs for him, and I can’t play bloody drums to save my life [laughs].”
“To Tame a Land” (Piece of Mind, Capitol, 1983)
“That was one of the early ones where I thought some interesting musical stuff was going on. We pushed the boundaries a bit with that. Again, there was a lot of pressure. The Number of the Beast was Number One in the UK and that puts you under a lot of pressure. But I think we’ve always thrived under pressure.”
“The Red and the Black” (The Book of Souls, Sanctuary/BMG, 2015)
"I actually had the intro a while back but never really worked out what could go with it. It just felt like the time was right to work on it. I think it has a Spanish influence, which tied in with the [meaning of the] song itself. I’m really happy with the result."
Read our full story on Steve Harris in the November 2015 issue of Bass Player Magazine or check back for the digital edition.