Tribute band isn't afraid to crank it up
The tribute business is booming these days as classic bands cash out Ñ or wear out Ñ and their fans don't want to listen to gangsta rap.
But tribute bands seldom strike such a major chord as the Iron Maidens, five Los Angelinos who first blended beauty and the beast 18 months ago.
'I've loved Iron Maiden my whole life,' vocalist Jennifer Warren says before a sound check at a Spanaway, Wash., club on the band's first Northwest tour.
'I'd started Wrathchild, covering classic metal with a female singer and four guys, but then I met these phenomenal female musicians and decided that an all-female Iron Maiden tribute band would be very rare.'
Warren's fascination with Steve Harris' (Iron Maiden bassist) brand of headbanging was amplified when her parents refused to let her go to the 1984 World Slavery Tour because she was too young.
'I had to wait till the 'Somewhere in Time' tour in 1986,' she said. And the seed was sown.
Famous for their speed, volume and spectacular live shows, Iron Maiden was founded by London's Harris in 1975 and often is cited as direct inspiration for Bay Area rockers Metallica. Both bands feature lightning-fast songs with pounding drums, guitar playing of chain-saw ferocity and pyrotechnic special effects.
Iron Maiden's career has lasted 27 years, with a revolving cast of about 20 musicians. They produced 18 albums and had a string of No. 1 hits overseas, playing before as many as 200,000 fans in South America.
The band's medieval accouterments and haunting, Gothic artwork define heavy metal Ñ particularly to critics of the genre. Albums include 'Fear of the Dark,' 'Powerslave,' 'Killers,' 'Number of the Beast' and 'No Prayer for the Dying.'
As part of their first 12-gig swing through the Northwest, the Iron Maidens will give Dante's a sonic workout with such revered tunes as 'The Trooper,' 'Number of the Beast' and 'Hallowed Be The Name.' Only wussies will have earplugs.
The Iron Maidens are
'twentysomethings' Warren, vocalist; Josephine Draven and Sara Marsh, guitarists; Wanda Ortiz, bassist; and Linda McDonald, drummer. Their career seems to be on a sharply upward curve, with a segment on the syndicated TV show 'Livin' Large' set to air in February and a full-page feature in Guitar World Magazine due out Dec. 20.
An Internet check lists 12 Iron Maiden tribute bands scattered across Canada, the United States and Europe, but only one is all women, Warren says with satisfaction.
Warren has two theories about why tribute bands are so busy these days.
'One is that the talent pool for original music has shrunk drastically because of the economic situation in the U.S.,' she says. 'With things so tight, people have to work one, two or even three jobs, and they don't have time to write music.
'My other theory is that the purchasing community wants to hear music from their teenage years.'
And female musicians are short on heroines, Warren says.
'There are no big role models like Joan Jett and Courtney Love. All women have to choose from are Britney Spears and Shakira, singer-dancers who don't want to learn to play instruments. They just want to dance, look pretty and get all their songs handed to them on a silver platter and get a record deal.'
Warren says that the original Iron Maiden's sound has changed over the years, but the band has kept up with the progression.
'We've got 22 songs in our repertoire, and we keep on learning more,' she says. 'There's still about 100 to go.'
Warren says she knew the band was on the right track when it first played Hollywood's House of Blues last year.
'We weren't the headliners Ñ some promoters still won't take a chance on an all-girl metal band Ñ but when we took the stage, the crowd went rabid and we starting getting a lot of publicity.'
This tour is a mixture of small- and medium-sized clubs The larger the club, the easier the show is to stage, Warren says.
'Small clubs can get scary when we have no security. There'll be people in front of us slamming and stage-diving when we're performing within 2 feet of them. It gets creepy when they're grabbing our legs and licking our boots.'
But Warren says the band's fan base is very loyal, and they try to give back when they can.
'We've met some wonderful people,' she says. 'When we ask for a street team to distribute fliers through our Web site, www.theironmaidens.com, we make some of them our Eddies (Iron Maiden's skull-faced mascot). They love taking part in the show.'
Warren's husband, Bill, plays with Metallica tribute band Creeping Death. Draven's husband, Danny, is a horror movie director who edited the band's video of 'Number of the Beast' on their Web site.
'Danny did a great job splicing us with the real band,' says Draven, known as Jo-Jo. 'He helps us with special effects, and he's done several movies.'
McDonald, the drummer, says the furious pace of most Iron Maiden songs makes her dig deeper. 'It's definitely a workout,' she says.
McDonald plays the same Paiste cymbals as Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, who knows of the tribute band's existence and says he'll look them up next time he's in L.A.
'I'd be nervous as hell to see him in the audience,' she says with a laugh.
McDonald's boyfriend, Mark Dawson, is the band's manager. He brings a solid show business pedigree to the job as the son of 1950s British bombshell Diana Dors and actor-game show host Richard Dawson.
Dawson says Geffen Records paid him $3,000 to rent his boat and show off the band members at a big Hollywood signing party. He told the group: 'You realize you girls are paying for all this, don't you? And they said, 'We are?' And I thought, 'Uh-oh, maybe somebody had better step in.' '
'It's wonderful to have management you can trust,' McDonald says.