If you haven’t heard about Maiden UniteD, I guess I can’t blame you. Although it’s a made up entirely of top-notch musicians, and covering one of the best (if not the best) metal bands in history: Iron Maiden, they’ve been around for less than a year so it’s understandable if you are not too familiar with them.
Now, even if you’ve heard of this band you probably thought “Another cover band that can be added to the dozens of others who had the same idea“. But here’s the thing: Maiden United is different. They didn’t limit themselves to simply play Iron Maiden music, they reinvented it. Just like Apocalyptica did with Metallica, re-arranging their songs to be played with cellos, Maiden United re-arranged Iron Maiden music to make it work with acoustic instruments. And believe me, it works.
The popularity of the band has risen dramatically, despite their short existence. They released their first (and so far only) album less than a year ago, and they’re already playing in festivals such as Download and Wacken Open Air. It’s here where we meet them.
Joey Bruers (bass, Up the Irons), Ruud Jolie (guitars, Within Temptation) and Anneke van Giersbergen (vocals, ex-The Gathering) sat down with us at Wacken.
Metal Blast: Well, first of all, thank you very much for giving us this interview. Since I know you have a busy day ahead of you, let’s start from the beginning. Joey, you started Maiden UniteD with musicians from several band, all of them with different backgrounds and styles. How did you choose them?
Joey: For starters, Ruud has been a very good friend of mine for many years, both as a person and as a musician. We worked together a lot in our early days, when we made music together with our first bands, but then we took our separate ways. Maiden UniteD offered a good place to unite again, and that’s how he and I started to re-arrange the songs for this project. When we came to the point of looking for a singer, we thought that we wanted to have both a female and a male vocalist. We looked for the best there was and we found Damian Wilson for the male vocals and we thought that Anneke would be perfect to do the female vocals, doing a guest appearance in the album. I think it was just one phone call, right?
Anneke: It was!
Ruud: One phone call… and thousands of Euros!
Anneke: Of course. Believe that!
Ruud: Really, really expensive.
MB: Since we’re talking of you, Anneke. Were you an Iron Maiden fan?
A: Yes, absolutely! I also have an older brother who owns everything by Iron Maiden, so I grew up with their music.
MB: How was your reaction when you were offered this possibility of covering Bruce Dickinson?
A: Well, Bruce Dickinson is one of the best vocalists in our genre. I felt that the fact that they asked me to do was like a vote of confidence that they thought I could do it. I think I did an alright job, but it’s a different sound for female vocals, so I had to make it my own. Also the lyrics, they’re these long lyrics, you have to dive into them, in a way different than that of a listener, to get into them and to do it in a different way. You can’t copy Bruce Dickinson, so you have to make the song your own.
MB: Ruud, you’ve been the guitar player for Within Temptation for quite a few years now, and you’re also working on your own solo project, “For All We Know”. With all of this work, do you see Maiden UniteD as a one-time thing, or as a permanent project?
R: Well, maybe it started as a one-time thing, but it turned out to be just too much fun to do it for only one album. Joey and I are already thinking about the next album, sorting out the songs we want to do, slowly starting to make some demos… I know that the guys who did the artwork for the album are already thinking about what to make for the new album. It’s too soon to tell anything more than that..
Anyway, to answer your question, it’s a permanent side-project, as far as I’m concerned.
MB: Anneke, in your case, you’re listed as a “guest musician”. Will you stay as a guest or as a full member?
A: I have no idea!
R: Perhaps nothing!
A: Perhaps I will do their wardrobe, bring them drinks and arrange interviews.
J: Let’s start today!
A: Really? No more singing!? 🙁
MB: Why did you choose to start off with a cover of the whole Piece of Mind album, instead of simply covering songs from different albums?
J: I really don’t have an answer for that. I have no idea at what point we decided to do the whole Piece of Mind album. I do know that it’s one of my favorite albums, it has The Trooper, Where Eagles Dare, Revelations… which we covered on the demos. But I really don’t know when we decided to do the whole album.
Even though I don’t know when we made that decision, I think it was a good decision.
MB: Well, since we’ve talked about your future album. Do you think it will also cover a full Iron Maiden record?
J: Well, like Ruud said, we really don’t it yet, but I think it’ll be more of a compilation album. We really don’t know yet, since we just decided to do another album, if possible… so what it will be and when it will be out is something I don’t know.
R: The thing is that we started out by re-arranging all kinds of Iron Maiden tunes, so I know we still have a lot of great arrangements lying on the shelf and maybe we’re going to record them for the new album… but as Joey said, maybe it’s a little too soon to tell.
MB: Just as Apocalyptica, Maiden UniteD didn’t simply cover songs, but actually re-invented them. Do you think that, just like them, you may eventually start writing your own material?
R: I don’t know… Right now it’s just rearranging Iron Maiden songs. We also compare Maiden UniteD to Apocalyptica (they’re much bigger than us of course) but they must have been laughing their assess of when they started… and look where they are now. They never expected to grow like this and, to be honest, we never expected to be playing at the Wacken Open Air Festival only 9 months after the release of our first album, because initially it was just for fun. Joey and me have been best friends for over 20 years, we used to play a lot of music together but, as he said, we went our separate ways… initially this was just for fun, to release an album and just play some small bars, but then it started to grow a little, and we played some nice festivals like Downloads in the UK 2 months ago, and now Wacken and there will be another album… We have some more nice things planned, who knows where this will end?
MB: Anneke, in your solo career you’ve adopted a style that is definitely from that of a band like Iron Maiden. Have you heard any reactions from your fans regarding this new project?
A: Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of reactions but the people who like my music, but they also like music by The Gathering, they are in the rock and pop scene, so they like Iron Maiden as well. I think that it’s not so farfetched, since Iron Maiden is all about melodies, emotion and good lyrics so there’s some common ground there.
MB: Who’s in charge of rearranging the songs into acoustic pieces?
J: Ruud and I made the arrangements, we made demos for the songs and then we went into the studio. Of course, everyone can fill in their own parts, but “officially” they were arranged only by the two of us. This is how we work, just the two of doing the arrangements.
MB: What’s in store for the band in the near future?
R: Maiden United is going to take a break now because Mike Coolen (drummer) and I are going to start touring with Within Temptation next week. I do know that in January we have 2 gigs with Maiden United in theaters in Holland, and we’re planning a theater tour in Holland for February 2013, although we’ll try to release the new album before that. Touring-wise, we don’t know yet what will happen, because we’re all very busy with our other bands and other projects. This is still a side-project, but a very serious side project, so we really try to make it work with our other bands.
There’s definitely going to be another tour, but we still don’t know when.
Special thanks to Barbara, Maiden UniteD’s TM, who made it all happen!