From the Archives: An Interview with former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno

By Andrew Bansal

Paul Di’Anno @ Key Club 2011 – Photo by Stephanie Cullen

Here’s one from the Metal Assault archives, which many of you folks currently following the site may not have come across when it was originally posted in video form. To start off this new series wherein we will revisit and transcribe some of our old interviews that were published as audio/video, we rewind to January 6th 2011, the day after former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno had played a show at the Key Club in West Hollywood, as part of a tour with Pittsburgh metal band Icarus Witch, who were both his backing band and support act. We sat down with Paul to discuss a whole variety of things, and the honest, straightforward man that he is, he answered our questions candidly. We hope you’ll enjoy this throwback. Delve into Metal Assault’s conversation with Paul Di’Anno below.

Paul, it’s great to have you on Metal Assault. How are you doing on this US tour so far?

It’s good, it was weird going back to Hollywood last night. I used to live there about 17 years ago and hadn’t been back there ever since. The fans were great last night, I must say. It was fun to get that kind of reception in “Hollyweird”, as they say. Yeah, it was quite alright!

It was a great show, for sure. So, you’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Iron Maiden self-titled debut album on this tour. How did that come about?

Well, doing the Iron Maiden 30th anniversary shows doesn’t feel any different to me than the other shows, really. But the thing is, Iron Maiden were not doing anything about it, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to come out and do a bit more touring. I should be really resting, to be honest with you, and I am actually going to retire in another year or two. We were only going to do this tour in a few select countries, like Australia, Brazil, Argentina and a few places in Europe, not in America at all. But then the opportunity came up to do it, and we got on with it. So far it’s been really tiring because we’re doing a much longer set than we normally do. We’ve cut a few of my songs out as well, otherwise I was going to die. It’s such a long time on stage. I’m getting too old for this crap (laughs). I think it might be easier if I was in better health. I’ve got a really fucked up knee and a tooth I have to get fixed. I was supposed to have an operation on my knee about five years ago but didn’t do it because of lack of time. I try not to cancel concerts and contracts and stuff. I will get some time off eventually, but it’s hard to do this everyday, and I do about 250 to 300 shows a year. The rest of the time I have off, I’m normally sleeping or messing around with my kids. I spent time with my family for the first time in 11 months about 2 or 3 days ago, right before we started this tour.

Last night you said on stage that you’re going to do one more album and two more tours, and then you’re out of here. Is that your plan?

Yeah, that’s the plan, although we always make plans and they keep changing (laughs). But we have some ideas. We basically want to get a farm together, me and my old lady, in Venezuela. And I’m going back to tattoo school in England as well, to get my diploma. So, it could be interesting.

Paul Di’Anno @ Key Club 2011 – Photo by Stephanie Cullen

I read that when you moved to Brazil in 2008, you did some touring with a band called RockFellas. Are you still with them?

No, RockFellas was just a one-off thing, a supergroup, basically. It was me, Jean Dolabella of Sepultura, and Canisso, the bass player from the biggest Brazilian band ever, Raimundos, Brazil’s version of the Ramones. They actually even covered Ramones songs in Portuguese. Their record label wanted them to do it because the Ramones were fucking huge! And then the second biggest band in Brazil, Charlie Brown Jr., they have Marcao the guitar player in it, and he also played in RockFellas. So, it was pretty awesome. We did one massive tour of Brazil. Monika Cavalera put it all together and it was very interesting. There was talk about doing it again on a boat up and down the Amazon this year, but I don’t really have the time to do that right now. But we’ll see what happens.

Right, coming back to this tour, you’re playing songs like ‘Charlotte The Harlot’ which you’ve never really played before. Did you have to practice that beforehand at all, or did it just come back to you?

I had to practice, but I’ll tell you what, it was surprising how quickly the song came back to me. The first time I did it on this touring run was in Australia. I listened to it about three times on the plane over there, we got to Sydney and I forgot about it for a couple of days, but we went at it in rehearsal, and I was surprised that I remembered the words immediately. It’s been the same since, and it’s been cool. The various backing bands I’ve had, all of them play the song in different sorts of ways, but it’s still been pretty consistent. It’s doing alright. It comes out pretty good every night. The thing is, we hadn’t done it for so long that now it’s sort of like new and fresh. So it’s been cool.

There are still songs that you’ve never done, and as far as I know, one of them is ‘Purgatory’. Have you thought about bringing that one back?

Well, that one’s from the second Iron Maiden album, and if I can help it, we’re not going to be touring on that album like we’re doing for the first one now. It’s just a one-off with this one. But who knows. I’m doing these tours but I don’t get any money out of this. I’m just doing it for fun. Whatever money I make, I give it anyway, and I basically play for free nowadays. I’m getting a bit tired of it all, to be honest with you, and I want to go back to the tattoo thing, just to take a break. Me and my wife are thinking about another child. I think I need to calm down, get off the road and get my hormones balanced out again before that happens (laughs). But yeah, I’ll do two more years of touring and then disappear for a while, and then may be after the break I’ll be in a position to start thinking about making a new record and putting together some new music. At the moment, I’m too wiped out. If I have a good song idea, it’s gone the next day.

Paul Di’Anno performing with Jason Myers of Icarus Witch @ Key Club 2011 – Photo by Stephanie Cullen

Talking about your backing band in the US, Icarus Witch, they’re really great and I was already a fan of theirs before they came on board with you. How did you actually find them?

They contacted us. I got 41 different bands to use around the world. Jason (Myers, bassist) got a hold of us and we listened to their stuff. They sounded like a good tight unit. I do call these boys the marine corps of heavy metal because they’ve gone through so much crap on the road with me. They’re doing two sets a night and I’m sure it’s tiring for them, but they’re real troopers. They’re fucking good guys and we’ve become really good friends over these last couple of tours. There’s another project we’re thinking about doing as well. Me and a couple of these guys have an idea for this band called Moose Knuckle. So we’re thinking about fucking around with that. But we need to tour together a little bit longer for that to happen. So, we’re talking about another long US tour next year, a bit longer than this one. I’ll probably be based in the US for about 9-10 months, so we can do about three months of touring and once we’re done with that, I can take time off to fly back to Pittsburgh with them and get this project together. It’ll be cool if that happens. We’re more like punk rock n’ roll.

That’s good to hear. Recently you also played this set in Australia. You have a good following there, and you’re much more popular, I think. 

Oh yeah, Australia is fucking great. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid growing up, before I went back home to England and joined Iron Maiden. But I grew up in Sydney and it’s really cool. A couple of my best friends are from the band Rose Tattoo. Their old bass player Steve King runs a tattoo shop in Sydney called House of Pain. That’s where I got the idea for doing my own tattoo shop as well. We’ve thought about doing another musical project over there as well, with me, Steve and some guys like Mark Evans from AC/DC and stuff like that, just putting together some fun rock n’ roll. I love Australia, although I should be quite happy that I did come back to England eventually, otherwise I wouldn’t have been in Iron Maiden (laughs). But yeah, I don’t get out to Australia as much as I’d want to. It’s such a long journey.

On that note, I want to follow that up with my final question here, Paul. Last night you did a cover of ‘Highway to Hell’ and you mentioned an incident in Australia which inspired you to play the song. Could you talk more about that?

I’ve been an AC/DC fan since I was a little kid, and I met Bon Scott and everybody in the band while I was growing up in Australia. But when I started high school in England, AC/DC played at the old Marquee Club on the ‘T.N.T’ tour. Me and my friend skipped school to go out there and see them, and we helped them in with their equipment and stuff like that. It was weird, because we were still in our school uniforms, and some old guy sipping his beer looked at us 15-year olds, but let us in anyway in the name of rock n’ roll (laughs). So, I kept meeting up with AC/DC along the way over the next few years. I even told them I was in a band called Iron Maiden. In February of 1980, Iron Maiden appeared on the ‘Top Of The Pops’ TV show recorded at Hammersmith, which was only a couple of days after Bon had died. But no one told me about it, they kept me away from the news and the papers and everything, because they thought it would affect how I would do on that TV show. But eventually, of course I found out. It has taken all time for us to visit Perth, and on this tour we finally did it. We visited the tiny little statue they have of him in Fremantle and I was actually quite annoyed by it, and then we went to the cemetery where they have his grave, and then we played in Perth on that night, and it was really weird. It was a band called The Driving Conditions. We were walking into the concert and heard their music, and it was like AC/DC songs we’d never heard before. The guy even looks like Bon and sounds like him. They were great, and it was like, “the ghost has come back” kind of thing. That really stuck in my head. We started fucking around with ‘Highway to Hell’ and just put it in the set. The Icarus Witch boys said they learned it over here on their own, so we just went and did it, and dropped ‘Sanctuary’. I think it’s a great fit. As you get older, you start thinking about your mentors or people you’ve learnt everything from and grew up with. I’m lucky enough to have played with all three of mine, Bon Scott, Alex Harvey, and Stevey Marriott from Humble Pie.

Thank you for sharing that, Paul, and thanks for the interview!

No worries, mate! Cheers!

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Paul Di’Anno links: website | facebook