12 Jun 2010 - Rod's back on the road! - Dallas Diary

So here we are again. Diary time.

I arrived June 4th in Dallas and the band came in from rehearsals in Florida the following day. That night we all got together for dinner at a good nearby steakhouse (what else in Texas!) so we could catch up. I hadn't seen some of the guys for a long time as I didn't need to go out to recording. Steve won't let me hear anything til its finished anyway and there is little point hanging round the studio getting in the way. And of course I had plenty to keep me busy with the forthcoming tour and album, too bloody busy in fact! So I gave them a full update on everything that is going on including all the international press we had out to talk to them, all of whom had arrived earlier in the day. All this is because of the long lead time for magazines coming out in the summer.

The following couple of days were full of various interviews for the guys and then down to the gig to check out the stage set and lights, and of course Eddie, sound check and run through the set. Even in the evening it was so very hot, to such a degree I started to worry about what it would be like on stage at the show. With a temperature touching on the 90s, you add the heat from the vast array of lights we have for this tour and I thought they may well melt. Checked we had oxygen in case it was too crazy, and water to put out the flames if they did fire up! As it happened the day of the show it was fortunately overcast with occasional rain so the temperature was acceptable and even better it didn't rain on us at the show. On Monday night Steve, Jan and I went to a nearby studio to link up to Rockline. The host, Bob Coburn, is a genuine rock and Maiden fan and we always enjoy doing this show as we get to get questions direct from the fans.

The day before the show they all went back to the venue to do some pics -- we can never have too many as there is such demand from the media, especially with an album coming up. Its not something any rock band particularly enjoys doing but it is a necessary evil and the band are very relaxed working with our photographer John McMurtrie who will be out on tour with us taking these and live shots for the first couple of weeks or so.

Bruce and I managed to take some time off and we jumped at the opportunity given to us by 2 Navy Pilot friends (thanks Patton and Monkey, who fly C1 and C4 transport planes, you know those massive birds), to visit Carson Naval Airforce base. We got to see Hueys and Tomcats, sit on a thermonuclear device ( not live I trust) and other great Boys Own treats, but the highlight was unquestionably to sit in the cockpit of an F-18, which is the naval equivalent of the famous F-16 fighter - this being made in Fort Worth, hence the design for our Texas event shirt. Bruce even got to go on the flight simulator and try to land it on an aircraft carrier which amazingly he managed to do at the second attempt, having had a total wipe out on the first and possibly sinking the carrier. A following night landing attempt proved to be more difficult! Patton, Monkey and others gave us highly interesting briefings on what goes on and how and we even got to visit the top gun Cowboys bar, which was fascinating with all the pics, trophies , motifs and other items. A real insight into a world which would otherwise be so difficult to experience. So many of the guys on the base were big fans and most came along to the show. So thanks to them all for a fascinating few hours.

The day of the show I am nervous as hell. A few months ago the band started off with a blank piece of paper for the new songs, and I start with the same for album art and concept and new stage production, on which we then work as a team, sending sketches and pics and progress reports by email til we are all happy. Its a very stressful time. We try to create a fresh new Maiden planet around each new album, usually, and in this case too, based on an album title. This time Bruce came up with the idea of The Final Frontier, which we all liked as it gave us great scope as to the edges of science or space, a lot of scope for something different. The title is not intended to hint at anything though I can see why we get asked -- it is just a fitting title which gave us a good basis to put together this new Maiden world. Whether or not there is another new album will depend how we all feel in a few years when it is time to consider this, but everyone is still fit and excited about all things Maiden so a positive view should prevail at this juncture. S0 don't ask the obvious on the title as we don't know!!

We worked on the concepts and art for quite a while, starting to progress stage set design in parallel, with a great deal of assistance from our designer, Stuart Crouch at Peacock in London, our set designers Alan and Sam at Hangman, and artist Mel Grant who has worked with us on various projects since Fear of the Dark and who I think did a fantastic job on the album sleeve, which of course you have all seen now. Hope you like El Dorado too! We pass the progressing artwork stages around and all comment until we feel we have the best way forward.

So waiting to see a new show incorporating all this time and effort is very tough, you just hope the fans like it. I am of course too close to be a fair objective judge but I do think that when the show started it all looked great. Hope you will all agree when you get to see it, we put a lot of effort in I can tell you! As I noted before too the lights are much more spectacular. The SBIT tour used intentionally a par can rig similar to the one in '85, but the lights on that show were not that huge a part of it due to the brightness of the overall set. But when you start getting into a new space type ideas it made sense to really go to town on the lights and I think our designer and lighting man Rob did a terrific job -  on the first night it looked truly spectacular and will only get better and better as Rob gets more and more accustomed to it, adding new nuances.

I was also very pleased with Eddie. Every time we do something different there are dissenters, its the nature of the beast so to speak, but change if done well is always interesting, even if the change is more dramatic this time! Its still very much Eddie. The walking one is by far the most sophisticated yet and we even welcome a fourth guitarist to the band as you will no doubt have seen by now.

Before the show I was nervously pacing around checking out this that and the other. Anything to fill in time. Went out front to check how the merch looked. (hope you all like the new stuff -- I particularly like the USA event shirt, very funny, another gem from Herve). Nicko and I dropped into the Dream Theater dressing room to give them a large cake to welcome them to the tour, great band and we know most of the them really well so excellent to have them with us for the North American part of the tour.

The Dallas crowd gave us a fantastic reception, we haven't been here since 2003 as last time we had about 3,300 turn out to see us -- but this time it was 11,300 so you can be sure we will be back! You never get everything working 100% on a first show, not even the band as it takes a few gigs to get the pace, but I think overall we did pretty well, and our brilliant Killer Krew deserve a big hand for this too.

We arrived in Houston yesterday and spent a fascinating few hours in a hugely interesting historical place, and somewhere very apt for this album -- but more of that next time. Got back to the hotel in time for the last 5 min of the NBA Finals, sadly my team, the Lakers, lost -- but still a lot to play for.

In the early days of a tour, especially with an album coming up, its incredibly busy for me but I will try to keep on top of the diaries. I wont get chance to take many photos but will include some of John's while he is around and try to keep it interesting for you all. More from after we finish in Texas. Bye for now!

- Rod

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