As dictated on February 17th...
I always enjoy our visits to India, it's a land of cricket lovers who are always extremely hospitable, extremely friendly and with a wonderful sense of humour. It's always a pleasure, I just wish we had a bit more time off while we're here. Really so far, though we've had days off on our previous visits (Bangalore two years ago and Mumbai last year) I've had too many other things to take care of and no time to see the Gateway of India or any of the sights that the guys got to see, although the first time we visited Bangalore we did get to do a photo session at the Bull Temple which was interesting. But sadly this time around we wanted to play Dubai and Bangalore, and both need to be on a weekend ie. Friday, Saturday or Sunday, so the only way to do it was to do Dubai on the Friday and Bangalore on the Sunday, and then with a long haul to Auckland it didn't really make sense to stay around for an extra day. We thought we're break the journey up by stopping in Bali - the journey from Bangalore to Auckland is a long way, it would have been two fuel stops to go direct and would have been pretty devastating so we decided to stay in Bali for a day on the way there. And let's face it, I'm sure a lot of you would love to join us there.
So on Sunday we were in Bangalore. When we originally announced the show we didn't announce the actual show date, just that we were going to go there, and lots of people were asking if we were really going to go because of the tragedy in Mumbai which happened at that time. We looked at it closely and a few weeks ... the foreign office never issued any warnings that normal tourists shouldn't go to Bangalore, business was going on as usual, a lot of international trade fairs were going ahead (something that happens a lot in Bangalore) and also there was a massive international airshow which finished exactly at the time we were arriving. In fact we had to time our arrival to be after the end of this airshow. So we discussed everything at length of course, having a responsibility for the band's safety but it really didn't seem to be any problem with going and indeed we found that there wasn't. Some increased security at the hotel and at the venue, but I think that's just precautionary. If you go down the Nile in Egypt, if you're on the road you've still got convoys of armed military going with you even though there have been no problems since '87 and Luxor - I think a lot of it's just peace of mind for the traveller, which is appreciated and probably necessary. Anyway we didn't encounter any differences but then we do live in a fairly cocooned existence in some of these places.
We arrived mid-evening, about 8 o'clock at the hotel and some of the guys went out for dinner with the promotor while some stayed behind to have Vietnamese food at the hotel (I can never understand why anyone would want to have Vietnamese food when they can have Indian!) and I retired to my room for a very major event. I got myself a very nice curry from room service which I very much enjoyed, switched on my laptop, opened up Skybox and there it was... England v Wales. Great game, England played very very well though we did lose by eight points which was disappointing. The Welsh sadly did deserve to win but we did have a man off for ten minutes in each half, and if the referee hadn't been South African we may have had a better bet in the breakdown, but all in all it was a cracking game and England played much better than they did against Italy last week or for the whole of last Autumn, so maybe there are some encouraging signs... anyway I won't bore you much more with that cos I don't think you're all rugby fans. Suffice to say, it made for a good evening.
The following day I was up early with a lot to do that day. I went down to the show in the morning to sort a few things out with the crew, then came back and spent a large part of the afternoon doing a playback of the movie Flight 666 for the Indian label. I'm particularly interested in trying to get it out to the thousands of cinemas here, I think most people know that in India the popularity of cinema is immense with the huge industry of Bollywood and their own Indian-made films. I think that's been highlighted by the excellent film 'Slumdog Millionaire' which is doing the rounds now to massive success. An interesting piece of information I was given by the label here is that on catalogue sales The Beatles have been the number one seller in India for thirty years, except for about three years when Pink Floyd took over during the 'Dark Side of the Moon' period, but other than that it's been The Beatles all the way. Not any more. Last year Iron Maiden was the number one selling catalogue in India, above both The Beatles and Pink Floyd. I thought that was quite amazing, I'm quite proud of it especially having grown up with The Beatles and Pink Floyd being one of my favourite bands ever, then I think it's pretty cool.
After seeing the label it was back to the show to sort some more things out. It looked to be in the same place as the first Bangalore show, certainly a very similar setup, but they'd walled-in the whole thing for security obviously, so there were thousands people outside, thousands of bikes lined up (motorbikes and mopeds), pandamonium outside with people trying to get in. At the entrance they did a fantastic job, there were two huge hoardings at the entrance - on the right a massive sign saying 'Bangalore welcomes Iron Maiden' in great big letters and on the other side there was a blown-up picture of the band in front of the plane. This was great cos all the fans were coming up and standing beside the band getting their pictures taken in front of Ed Force One. Hope GADDSY got a pic of this for you.
It took quite a while for the car to get to backstage. This time round we're playing a festival called 'Rock In India' which Venkat our promotor is doing - we're happy to help build a rock festival in India. Two stages this time, featuring a number of Indian bands from noon, but I didn't get back til about 6.30 so I missed most of them sadly. Our friends Parikrama were playing again on the main stage directly before us, and they just get better and better. I didn't get a chance to actually see them as I was too busy, but I could hear the show clearly from wherever I was backstage - they played a great set. The fans were again just fantastic, so loud, knew every word and it's just a pleasure playing there. During Maiden's set I did something a bit different - it was very hard to get through to the mixing desk, like some other countries (particularly South America) a lot of the fans now recognise me, I guess they've seen me on the DVDs, so to get from backstage to the mixing desk is quite hard cos every few yards you've got to do a photograph with someone! Since getting to the desk these days can take a bit longer than I've really got time to do I thought, being a busy day, I'd reward myself with a massage. Which meant being beaten from pillar to post and stretched from here to eternity by this wiry, very strong Indian guy who basically was as much chiropractic as he was massage, it certainly wasn't the sort of massage you relax to, this was serious sports massage that half killed me. But I definitely felt the benefits afterwards. I had time to get a curry - which was my first food of the day, that's how insane the day had been - during the encores and then it was back to the hotel. Sadly in India all the hotel bars close at eleven, and even though we were onstage quite early, 8 o'clock finishing about 10, by the time we got back and got to the bar it was nigh-on eleven. So had the choice of going to the room... it wasn't really practical to go into the city by then as everything's pretty much closed by then. But everyone just sort-of drifted off as it had been an early start.
Back at the hotel I did an interview for BBC Radio 4 about Maiden, metal and India. It's a 2 part programme featuring metal in India and China. Radio 4 on Metal, Brit nominations for Metal!!! The music world is turning on its axis and about time too!!
I'm actually dictating this on the plane from Bangalore to Bali - we hear the weather in Bali's raining and windy, which isn't going to be very good for the diving we're hoping to do tomorrow. We got up at 8 this morning to leave the hotel by 9 and then took off at about 10:30.
It took a fair time to get through the airport in Bangalore, as I was saying before the security in some areas is quite high, and we were escorted by a number of soldiers through the airport (I think that might be to keep us away from the locals!). But an amusing incident occured while we were working our way through immigration - various airport staff were coming up for autographs and things, and a couple of fans who must have been related to the airport staff. So this older guy who must have been about 50 was asking me for an autograph so I pointed out that I'm not in the band. Then he asked Jeff, a friend of Steve's who's got long hair, for an autograph and Jeff says that he's not in the band either. So I said to the guy 'You can't be a fan, you don't even know who the guys are! We won't do any more autographs for you cos you're probably going to sell them on eBay!'. He understood what I said but didn't really say anything, and then a few minutes later I saw one of the younger kids with the same paper wanting it signed. So I asked what it was for, and then his dad came along. Turns out the older guy was the father of these two young fans, and he was doing it for the kids as they were too scared or shy or embarassed or whatever to ask, so dad was taking care of it as dads do. This particular dad however happened to be the head of security for all the airports in India. So I nearly got us thrown out of the country! But like everyone in India he was a real gentleman, very friendly and we had a good laugh about it afterwards. I was even able to tell him that England were 306 for 1 in the first innings of what is now the third test against the West Indies. Which he was amazed at as we were bowled out for 51 in the last innings against the West Indies when we lost by an innings and god-knows how many runs. So I was able to leave India on a victorious note cos everyone you speak to in India knows what the cricket scores are!