Metal polish

Resilient Iron Maiden rock on

IRON MAIDEN with Motörhead and Dio at Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), Sunday (August 3). $49.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

Iron Maiden’s drummer, Michael “Nicko” McBrain, was arrested for allegedly hitting a parking lot attendant – on purpose – with his black Jaguar after some kerfuffle over McBrain’s VIP credentials before a concert at Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, New York, this past Saturday. Ohmigod. Like, how heavy metal!

“I can’t shed any light on the situation,” Maiden’s lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, tells me on the phone two days later. “I wasn’t there. All I know is that Nicko hadn’t shown up for the show yet. He was a bit late.

“And the next thing I knew, he was at the drum kit saying, ‘Hey! I got arrested tonight!’ But he wasn’t thrown in jail or any rubbish like that. He was given a ticket.”

Judging by McBrain’s online diary, the 51-year-old drummer seems like a pretty nice guy, so what really happened is still anyone’s guess. But lots of folks will read about the incident and chalk it up to the antics of either a self-important aging rocker or a violent, headbanging metal freak. I ask Dickinson – who has a history degree and pilot’s licence and is also an author, radio show host and avid fencer – what he thinks non-Maiden fans’ perceptions of him and his band members as people might be.

“Oh, pretty appalling, I should think,” he ponders. “If people aren’t into the music they probably think we’re all ignorant goat stranglers.”

Goat stranglers? Is that some kind of Satanist thing?

“No, It’s just not very pleasant if you happen to be a goat.”

With Maiden on the Give Me Ed Till I’m Dead tour are Motörhead and Dio. You might imagine Bruce, Lemmy and Ronnie James would be together all the time, playing Monopoly, having slumber parties and pillow fights, telling ghost stories – but you’d be mistaken. Dickinson says they actually spend virtually “no time” together.

After this tour, Maiden will embark on yet another leg, nine months long, to support the release of their forthcoming Dance Of Death record, due in stores September 9.

“It was recorded the same way as the last album, so it’s live straight down the line,” asserts Dickinson. “It sounds way better and heavier than the last album, though, and at times goes into some weird acoustic, melancholy moments that you might find quite surprising. We’re very happy with it.”

But then that’s it for the extensive road trips. The band will no longer venture out on nine-month odysseys every time they put out a record. They’ve all got families and stuff. Instead, they’ll concentrate on “places we like where the strongholds of Maiden fans are,” namely certain places in Europe and Canada, particularly Montreal and Quebec City. Believe it – Quebecers love their metal.

Dickinson seems much less hyped about returning to the U.S.

“The shows at Madison Square Garden and in New Jersey were awesome, but then we go to other cities and there are some older people there and sometimes I don’t know why they’re there. Nostalgia, maybe. But what they encounter is an English rock band that’s not into nostalgia.”

When the conversation turns to contemporary music, Dickinson seems annoyed by the fact that many heavy rock bands sound the same.

“I have a radio show on the BBC, so I play them on a regular basis. I must confess that I have great difficulty distinguishing one from the other. So I’ll play bands that sound the same back to back and say, ‘OK, is it Nickelback or Stickleback? You be the judge!’

“You’ve got your Avril Lavigne and all the record labels are out there trying to find clones of Avril Lavigne. That’s why the major record labels are in the mess they’re in today. ”

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