ATHENS, GREECE 4PM (2 GMT) SAT MAR 10
Picking it up from last diary, for Steve's interview with Scott and Sam and the photosession with John in Dubai on Mar 8 we used a terrace at a really good hotel about 15 min from ours -- it was called the Manana or something like that. Will have to check. The press conference was to be at the same place so very handy. The Terrace had a very Middle East feel about it but also had the landmark "sail" hotel as a background. Steve did the interview about metal from an international perspective -- something l guess he knows a bit about now!! -- and it went well. As l said before Scott and Sam, who does the interviews, are genuine fans of metal and know their stuff which makes for a much more interesting interview than is sometimes the case.
(its Athens and Ihave the balcony door open and the sound of cars beeping horns is incredibly loud -- traffic here is always heavily backed up and not slow to use horns. But at least l can see the the Parthenon! I as once told that they brought in a law that only odd number plates could come into the city on say mon-wed-fri and even plates the other days so as to reduce traffic and smog, which can also get quite bad. So everyone bought another car!!)
Jan, Davey and Nicko arrived about 30 min later and we started doing some individual pics with John M. They always fool around but do get the job done. As l have said l think before like many rock bands they hate spending the time doing photos but when l can get them there they generally get on with it in good grace! And usually end up having fun. A lot of it is actually about the relationship with the photographer which is why we try to use John wherever we can as he now knows the band well and they all like him and he doesn't mess around, just gets on with doing the job with little hassle.
Bruce and H arrived about 20 min later as they had been out looking around so we then got on with the key group shots and finished at just about the right time for the press conference which was just 2 floors below by lift. With any band its always good to have locations close so you don't lose any on the way!
It was a very cool room, a sort of disco with an Arabesque feel to it. Perfect size for about 50 media with a raised area round the outside perfect for TV news cameras, inc the famous Al Jazeera. There was media from all over the Middle East plus the UK and the India Times. It was all arranged by Rachel from EMI who took care of us really well the whole trip and MC-ed by Wes a local DJ who also did a terrific job and made it all run very smoothly. We gave all the photographers about 5 min to take their pics and then started with one question to each of the band from fans who had won a local contest to do this. When we do conferences we always like to start with fans as they generally know what they are talking about! After them a large Arab gentleman on the front row stood up announcing - rubbing his stomach -- to be IM's biggest fan in the Middle East. Very amusing guy who really was a big fan and knew his stuff (see the pic) . He had perfect BBC English and l think must have been educated at one of Englands finest public schools. A uk journo with a maiden shirt stood later and proclaimed to be a bigger fan at which point the arab gent stood up and pulled out a Maiden illustrated guitar. It was a bit like the famed Crocodile Dundee scene -- "you call that a knife, now here's knife!" Very amusing . The whole thing went off well in very good humour. A couple, including a Russian l think, tried to raise politico / religious issues which the band handled very well. He asked why we haven't played in Russia -- Jannick told him we had in the early 90s -- see what l mean!! But the general vibe was friendly and fun and the overriding impression was that people were genuinely pleased that we made the effort to visit Dubai. At the end there was a mad rush to the front so everyone could get autographs and pics with the band.
Afterwards we went back to the hotel and went somewhere nearby for a very good fish dinner and a bit of wine then back to the hotel bar for a while.
Friday, day of show, had a bit of a lie in and got on with emails and work stuff. Went down to the venue with Steve at about 2. l wanted to see all the bands as l know most of them quite well and they are playing various shows with us in June. The first band was a UAE band who won a contest to open -- they were called Junkyard Groove and were very good. Lauren followed and once again had a very good reaction to a strong set. She gets better all the time as experience grows. Mastodon followed -- excellent band, excellent album. It is really starting to happen for them and very well deserved -- they have worked hard and made real quality albums. It is complex materiel so not always that immediate but hard work is now paying off for them which pleases me greatly. They have played with us before quite a few times and it is always good to have them on the bill. Great guys too. Stone Sour followed -- l know Cory and Jim from Slipknot as l was partially involved with Slipknot at Sanctuary with their manager Cory Brennan. This is definitely not just a Cory side project -- they are very much a real band with some terrific songs and are doing really well everywhere with a very successful second album. It was good to meet the other guys in the band. We will see them and Mastodon quite a lot on our June shows which l think will be a treat for our fans. In Flames followed, another excellent band who also got a great reaction from the audience. They played with us at Ullevi Stadium in 05 and are even better now -- l haven't seen them properly since then. They are playing the 2 German stadium shows with us in june so good to say hello to them too and telling them we are all happy to have them along. Prodigy followed -- yes a bit different but l always quite liked them -- especially Firestarter -- and the promoter had already confirmed them when we decided to do the show. Maybe wouldn't work in Europe with a metal audience but here it did as everyone was jumping up and down. Its heavy dance music and as such definitely has a vibe to it and the disco type lighting looked great.
Arriving early in the day l was amazed at the number and variety of the Maiden Ts worn by young fans from all over the region. We sold merch and even sold out of the event shirt. This was a very cool white shirt of Eddie on a camel carrying the gear done by our mate Herve at Neighbourhood of the Beast and another very fine piece of work. We don't usually sell event shirts in our online shop as we feel they should be earned and only for fans in attendance, but this is such an occasion and its such a great shirt we thought this time we would so check it out!
0ur day of Desert Rock was fully sold out before the event -- the first time- 15,000. Last year was 5,000 and best to date 10,000 l believe. So hopefully this will truly put it on the map as a great future event. I had a couple of issues with the promoters but l don't want to dwell on that here and will put down to lack of experience but overall they did a very good job, the production values were good -- lights and PA all fine except the large screens were strangely dark which took some of the impact out for people further back. The main thing though was the audience -- they came from all over the middle east and indeed the world. I have never attended a gig which was such a mixture of races and cultures and it is somehow fitting at this point in history that it happned here. I know of fans attending from UAE of course but also Iran, I am told Iraq, Egypt, Oman, Palestine, Turkey, Saudi, Lebanon, Kuwait, India, Armenia, Moldovia plus Canada, japan, South America, South Africa, USA, UK, Sweden, Holland and probably many more ....amazing!!!!
We had a couple of problems early on with H having guitar problem at beginning of Wrathchild and Dave's guitar cutting out on the intro to Breeg but then it was full flow from then on. It was the first gig in a few months for band and crew alike so this can sometimes happen. All in all though we were very happy with the show. We had the full production with us of course -- inc the tank and Eddie!!! We changed the set as we think it unfair to play for the first time in places and not play some of the obvious favourites. Most places on the AMOLAD tour late last year we had played the first 4 album set in 05 and many times before generally so playing the new album based set as we did was appropriate. But if you are playing to thousands of people who have waited years to see you it is only polite to give them some of their older favourites. So the set list was Different World, These Colours Don't Run and Brighter Than A Thousand Suns as per last tour, then Wrathchild, Trooper, Breeg, Greater Good, NoB, FoD, Run to the Hills, IM and same encore 2 Minutes, Evil and Hallowed. Works great, this will be the basis for the June tour though we may change it a bit as '08 will be the 80s tour and we don't want to overdo the older stuff. But who knows -- we don't as yet!!
We did a runner after the show as we had a 6.30am get up the next day so back to the hotel and a beer in the bar then hit the sack at a slightly reasonable time. Dragged ourselves up in the morning and off to the airport for a 9.30 Emirates flight to Athens. Read and cat napped on the plane and arrived here at the hotel about 3. Athens is 2 hours behind Dubai so about a 10 hour journey. Should sleep well tonight, expect to spend the day in the room. I have invested in a Sky Slingbox so l can pick up Sky+ on my laptop anywhere in the world!! And it works very well. Soon the Ireland v Scotland rugby will start, then Italy v Wales then Man Utd v Middlesbro in the cup. Isn't modern technology great -- some of the time!!!!!!