By Andrew Bansal
The Iron Maidens, the world’s best known and perhaps only all-female tribute to the almighty Iron Maiden, have been playing gigs since 2001 and unlike most tribute acts, have broken out of the local tribute scene and ventured into lands afar including Japan and South America. As Los Angeles residents, us Maiden fans are lucky enough to call them this amazing group of ladies a hometown band. On September 9th 2013, the Maidens will be making an appearance on American national television, through a totally well-deserved spot on AXS TV’s “World’s Greatest Tribute Bands” series. Hosted and produced by Katie Daryl, this concert series takes place at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood regularly on Mondays from 8 to 9 PM local time, is free of cost to the audience at the venue, and is broadcast live on AXS TV. After witnessing some great tributes to bands like The Doors, Metallica, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Police and The Beatles over the past few months, it’s finally time to get stoked for a tribute to Iron Maiden. A couple of days ago, I did an interview with drummer Linda McDonald, singer Kirsten Rosenberg, bassist Wanda Ortiz and guitarist Nikki Stringfield to talk about this AXS TV show, among other things. Read the conversation below.
You girls have achieved a lot as an Iron Maiden tribute band over the years, but very soon, you’ll go live on national television in America. Has that feeling even sunk in yet? What was your reaction when you were first contacted about this gig?
Linda: That is sinking in a little more every day as it is rapidly approaching!! A lot of last minute preparations , coordinating with the powers that be and getting our set tight. I was elated because we are the only female band that is on the show so far, even in season 1. We were all honored to be asked to be on the show.
Wanda: We were very excited to be invited to play on AXS TV’s “World’s Greatest Tribute Bands”! For a band that was just started out for fun, it still seems a bit surreal that we’re going to be on television now so I’m not sure that it’s really sunk in yet for everyone.
Kirsten: Super psyched! It is still hard to wrap my mind around that potentially millions of people could be watching us.
Nikki: I don’t think it has really sunk in for me yet… it’s such a huge show and something I never thought I’d accomplish! I’m sure that as the days draw closer it’ll hit me. When I got the email from Linda asking if I was interested in doing the show I thought to myself, “Is there any question about that?!” I was thrilled.
I saw you perform at the Key Club about four years ago, but other than that I don’t think you’ve done much on the Sunset Strip, at least in recent years. When was the last time you played the Roxy, if at all?
Linda: The Iron Maidens have never played at the Roxy before. Most of us girls have performed there with other projects at some time or another, so this will be a first for The Maidens.
Wanda: I think we’ve all played at the Roxy before in other projects over the years but the AXS TV show will be our first time playing there as The Iron Maidens.
Kirsten: I don’t think the Maidens have ever played the Roxy, at least not with me.
Nikki: I’ve never played the Roxy with The Iron Maidens, but I’ve played the Roxy many times with my band Before The Mourning. It’s actually like home to us because we played our first gig there, and we’re playing there 5 days before the AXS show. I always love playing there.
Do you feel an additional sense of tension or pressure due to the prospect of performing live on TV, or are you just going to handle it as any other gig?
Linda: Yes, because it is live and everything and anything goes!!
Every gig is just as important as any other gig we do so in that sense it will be handled like any other gig, but the thought that many friends, family and Maiden fans across the nation can finally see us perform all at once is pretty amazing!!
Wanda: Sure, of course we do because we will be on national television and that’s kind of a big deal. We’re going to handle it like any other gig because we always try and do our best for all our gigs …but I think it’s normal to feel a little extra tension for something like this.
Kirsten: We are definitely putting some extra “spit and polish” into preparing for this gig. I am a bit nerve-wracked knowing that it is a live TV performance, which is more pressure than just a live (venue) show. People expect more perfection from performances they watch on TV (unless it’s a program about band “trainwrecks”—haha). So you’re really putting yourself out there, in that context.
Nikki: Of course there’s more pressure because it is live and I know that so many more people will see it, like my family and friends in Texas. They’ve never seen me play with The Maidens so even though I’ll be handling it like every other gig, I know I’ve really got to step it up for this one.
Timing-wise, this gig couldn’t have been scheduled any better, right? Iron Maiden themselves are playing in LA the Friday after your show, and it’s going to be the perfect warm-up for the LA Maiden fan horde. Are you girls attending that show on Friday? If yes, how excited are you about it?
Wanda: Yes, we’re attending and, as always, we’re excited and looking forward to seeing our favorite band!
Linda: YES!!! Maiden doesn’t play here enough so we are all SUPER excited!!
Kirsten: Of course we called the fellas up and coordinated the timing with them (laughs). Yeah, timing couldn’t have been better. Of course we’ll be at Maiden’s show—wouldn’t miss it!
Nikki: I’m really hoping to go to the show! I’d love to see them!
You’ve always been hitting the local club scene in LA pretty hard with regular shows, but you’ve also traveled abroad to take the show to audiences elsewhere. What are some of the most memorable overseas shows you’ve done so far?
Linda: Playing the Gilmanfest in Venezuela for over 40,000 screaming metal fans was just unforgettable!! We were the very first all female metal band to be invited to play in Venezuela! Iraq was heart touching and life changing, and Mexico City was so nerve wracking because Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson were there for Steve’s Daughter’s band and stuck around to check us out. Steve gave us the thumbs up afterwards which was just the ultimate high ever!! South American audiences were so energized! Oh. the list goes on and on.
Wanda: Playing for our troops in Iraq was an experience not soon to be forgotten. It was an eye-opener being there and we really got a great sense of doing something worthwhile just seeing how grateful the guys were because we were there for them.
Another memorable show was at The Hard Rock in Mexico City when we were on the same bill with Steve Harris’ daughter Lauren Harris. Steve (Iron Maiden’s bass player) ended up sticking around for our set too and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden’s vocalist) was also in the audience. We were all very nervous having those two guys watching us but we managed to pull it off! After the show, we saw Steve backstage and he let us know that he liked our performance… so it doesn’t get much better than that!
Kirsten: Venezuela in front of some 40,000 people was pretty mind-blowing, and Latin American crowds in general are always very animated and passionate. Japan and Indonesia were very exciting, as well.
Nikki: The only time I’ve traveled over seas with the Maidens was actually just earlier this month. We played 3 shows in Colombia, which was such an amazing experience. The most memorable moment had to be headlining a festival during a storm while running out on a huge cat walk hoping not to slip and fall. And we had pyro. How can you beat that?
Coming back to next Monday’s show, what do you feel about AXS TV’s whole ‘World’s Greatest Tribute Bands’ endeavor to spotlight the best tribute bands from our city on national television in such a professional manner?
Linda: I think it’s a great opportunity for us all that they chose this subject to spotlight!! They know it is entertainment and they know people love to be entertained and we are just so grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to people in many areas of the U.S. that we have not yet been able to play live for!
Wanda: I think it’s great that they’re drawing attention to the tribute scene because those musicians have worked very hard to get their act “just right” so it’s nice to see them get a little recognition for all their work.
Kirsten: I think it’s awesome! It raises the reputation of the whole tribute band scene.
Nikki: I think it’s great that AXS TV is doing this. It takes a lot of work to be in a tribute band and it’s awesome that they’re finally getting some recognition.
It’s amazing to think about how big the tribute scene is in LA, and the sheer number of tribute bands based here. In your opinion, why do you think LA in particular has this kind of scene, which probably no other city in the world does?
Linda: Well, there are definitely a LOT of musicians here in L.A. and to many, playing in a tribute band is an easy way to get a gig and play out more often than in an original band just starting out I suppose. Plus there are a lot of venues to play at here as well. There are a lot of tribute bands all over the country though, in fact, all over the world these days.
Wanda: I don’t think that the tribute scene is only big in LA : it seems to be big in a lot of cities across the US because there always seems to be quite a few good tribute bands sharing the bill with us when we travel. One of things people like to do when they go out is hear music and, since everyone’s favorite band can’t be playing everywhere all the time, a tribute band is a nice alternative…less expensive too. 😉
Kirsten: It’s true, when I was still living on the east coast there were hardly any tribute bands, let alone a “scene,” while there were dozens in L.A. Los Angeles is very music/musician-oriented and has spawned tons of bands and launched trends so it only makes sense tribute bands would spring up here. It’s also home to a lot of performers, it is the “entertainment capitol” of the world, after all.
Nikki: I think it’s because of the huge music scene in LA in general. There’s so many musicians everywhere, so it’s natural that there’s a ton of tribute bands as well.
As you know, I have great admiration for the effort put in by tribute bands like yours to entertain us, but despite the success of tribute bands in LA, there’s still a large section of the rock/metal community that doesn’t respect tribute bands for what they do. What’s your take on that?
Linda: It’s hard for me to understand why people would think that we would just do a tribute band and have never attempted to do original music. It’s mind boggling to think that some people think it’s an original idea that we should become an original music band. It’s not so cut and dry. We all are or have been involved in other projects and original projects. This is a tribute band. It is here to celebrate the music of the band that most of the metal community loves, Iron Maiden. If you are not into tribute bands, that’s no problem!! We understand it’s not for everyone, but don’t knock it. It’s a FUN gig to do and I don’t see people not respecting the orchestras who do not play their own songs. They are glorified cover bands (laughs).
Wanda: There are a lot of people out there who think that if you’re not playing your own music, then you are less of a musician. I’m really not not sure why that is since the majority of musicians make their living playing other people’s music: big bands, chamber groups, orchestras, studio musicians, and most bar bands seldom play their own originals for example. In addition to playing with The Iron Maidens, I also play in an orchestra and, curiously, I haven’t come across a single person in the audience who thinks less of me for playing Beethoven or Mozart instead of my own original material..it seems that this phenomenon only occurs for musicians who play in tribute bands. I don’t get it. Once a composer passes away or isn’t available to perform for whatever reason (not on tour, etc., ), I don’t see the harm in having other musicians play their material if there are still people who enjoy it and want to hear it.
Kirsten: Whatever. That doesn’t bother me. There’s plenty enough people who do want to come out and enjoy tribute bands.
Nikki: I’ve met a lot of people who don’t take tribute bands seriously because they ‘don’t play their own songs,’ but it really takes a lot of effort to perfect the songs and get into character for the shows. I don’t think people realize how hard you really have to work at it.
Talking of Iron Maiden songs, as you are so used to playing certain songs in your shows, are there any songs in particular that you hate playing?
Linda: Nah, hate and Maiden songs do not go hand in hand (laughs). I don’t hate playing any of their songs, though I do tend to favor the earlier days and the epic songs they have written like Rime or Seventh Son, Alexander, etc. and the more upbeat Nicko songs like Sea of Madness and Clairvoyant.
Wanda: No, not really. There are some songs that I like playing more than others and there are a couple songs that I am tired of playing because we have played them so much..but nothing I hate, no.
Kirsten: Well…I definitely like performing some better than others, and I wouldn’t say I “hate” doing any of them…. But some of my less enjoyable ones would be “Heaven Can Wait,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “Purgatory.” All great tunes but just not as fun vocally to perform.
Nikki: I don’t really hate playing any song.. they’re all fun to play!
If you were to personally request members of Iron Maiden to play a song they have never played before (or haven’t played in a long time), which song would you suggest to them?
Linda: “Alexander The Great”!!!
Wanda: They have never played “Alexander The Great” live so that would be a nice very nice treat for all their fans.
Kirsten: A few years ago I would have had a decent-sized list but thanks to the last couple of tours, I’m pretty satisfied with the set lists.
What lies ahead for The Iron Maidens? Aside from these regular shows and being on TV next Monday, is there anything you want to achieve that you haven’t yet?
Linda: Action figure dolls. (JUST KIDDING!!!!) I would really like to get this band over to Europe. That is one area we have yet to get to. Keeping fingers crossed for that to happen someday soon. J
Wanda: We would like to do a new CD with our current members..hopefully one will be on the way soon!
Kirsten: Bruce and me to become besties (Bruce, you never return my calls, wassup?)—hahaha! For me, it’s really just a matter of continuing to do what we’re already doing: keep gigging, perhaps more festivals and high-profile shows, and, hey, maybe play a house party for the Maiden fellas if I’m really gonna dream big! But no matter the size of the venue or crowd, as long as there are Maidens fans there to rock out with us, it’s always a joy and a privilege.
Nikki: I just want to keep playing more shows and travel to other places I haven’t been yet. I think things are just going to go up from here!
LA folks, get your free tickets to The Iron Maidens’ AXS TV show here: