MY ISSUES WITH IRON MAIDEN: AN OPEN LETTER TO STEVE HARRIS

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DISCLAIMER: I had some trepidation about posting this. It will surely come as a blow to the bass playing community. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t censor myself and avoid controversy. Then the terrorists have won.

Iron Maiden was formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris. This is where the facts end and the opinions begin: This guy’s bass playing is just WAY too busy for my taste. Metal bass players are like trophy wives: better seen and not heard. Steve Harris just shows utter contempt for my sensibility. To give credit where it’s due, I do enjoy some of Iron Maiden’s stuff. Growing up I became very familiar with their album and poster art adorning my brother’s walls. But this Steve Harris really chafes my caboose. What’s the deal, man? You might as well play a baritone guitar. Too many notes! Too much melody! Leave that to the other TWO-TO-THREE GUITARISTS that are on stage. That’s just ridiculous. You might wonder who I consider to be a good heavy metal/hard rock bass player. Here’s some people you could learn from, Steve:

Rex – Pantera
Cliff Williams/Mark Evans – AC/DC
Cliff Burton/Jason Newsted – Metallica
Michael Anthony – Van Halen

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I appreciate the “less is more” approach. A lot of people shit on Michael Anthony – Van Halen included. They are wrong. Besides his bass playing, the guy just sings the shit out of those backing vocals. Furthermore, how many can drink Jack Daniel’s out of their own bass? I bet that doesn’t jive well with the current 12-step regime in the Van Halen camp. You can kick him out and replace him with a teenager, you can take his name and pictures off the records, but you can’t fill the place in my heart reserved for one Michael Anthony Sobolewski: bass-playing mastodon and hot sauce mogul. I left out practitioner of the Polack arts. I guess it’s similar to Lars Ulrich’s reputation as a drummer. Say what you want about his skill, I believe that what he played on those albums is perfect for those songs. For christ’s sake, don’t even get me started on Billy Sheehan.

Not that I despise virtuosity in bass players. Here’s a few who have tremendous ability AND exercise taste:

John Entwistle R.I.P. (this is actually quite contentious)
Mike Watt
Flea

I don’t mean to be a picky, I just really take exception to his bass playing. It’s entirely possible that in time my annoyance could turn into adulation. The same thing happened with my perception of Michael McDonald. His voice is simply amazing. What can I say, weird things happen to you as you get older.

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STEVE’S REBUTTAL

Steve Harris will surely refuse to confront me on this subject. So I’ve taken some liberties and formed a rebuttal for him. I give you Steve’s rebuttal.

Steve Harris: I see you’ve taken me to task for my bass riffs. You’re the one with issues, mate, sod off! I’ll play whatever I bloody want! My millions of fans don’t seem to mind.

Mike Jada: Sure Steve, just keep consoling yourself. I AM one of your fans, and I’ve got a legitimate bone to pick here. You fail to adhere to the traditional role of heavy metal bass player. This act is unconscionable.

Steve Harris: Eh, mate, Maiden IS MY BAND. I write the songs. I tear those basslines apart. No one wants it any other way.

Mike Jada: Touche, Steve. Even still, just exercise a little taste. That’s all I’m asking for. The end of “Can I Play With Madness” sounds almost like Billy Sheehan, for Christ’s sake. Otherwise it’s perfect pop metal. Could you not have exercised just a little restraint? Just once?

Steve Harris: Oh, c’mon! That’s ludicrous! Don’t lump me in with Sheehan!

Mike Jada; No, Steve. No. You asked for it. Your bass runs are just pure virtuosity, but there’s no place for it!

Steve Harris: I thought the fans were into virtuosity. Who am I to let’em down? I’m not on the dole, I’m no slacker!

Mike Jada: Steve, Steve, Steve… of course we love virtuosity! But it’s like you’re killing us with kindness. Look at Yngwie Malmsteen. Nobody cares about him anymore, he has faded from relevance.

Steve Harris: I love Yngwie.

Mike Jada: Yeah, but he’s a fossil, Steve. A fossil And so are you if you don’t smell the changes coming. You gotta have taste!

Steve Harris: Well what about Eddie?

Mike Jada: Van Halen gets a pass from me. You know why? No matter how many notes he plays, he does it with flair and taste. And he always sounds like he’s having FUN. Do you even remember what that’s like, Steve? Stop working so hard, and start working smart. Besides, Eddie plays GUITAR, not bass. That’s a difference you’ve lost sight of. But it’s not too late to repent.

Steve Harris: Huh. You’ve really opened my eyes.

Mike Jada: Thanks, Steve. I knew you’d see the light. I’m going to be the bigger man and call this a truce. Just remember: I love what you do rhythmically, just quit bungling it up so much with all those notes. And work on your tone. If I see any KORG rack effects next to your Trace Elliot’s, I’ll blow my fucking stack!

Steve Harris: Fuck you, mate. RUN TO THE HILLS!!! (mid-range bass fumbling heard in the background…)

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23 Comments

Filed under bass, Steve Harris

23 responses to “MY ISSUES WITH IRON MAIDEN: AN OPEN LETTER TO STEVE HARRIS

  1. Bass players have such long legs.

  2. Gotta agree with you here, Jada. Bass playing isn’t about having chops, it’s about knowing when to use said chops. Michael Anthony is a perfect example. He knows when to accentuate Eddie’s guitar playing and bust out a harmony when necessary. Does he do this on every song? No of course not. Though I have to take issue with Lars Ulrich. Awesome drummer, total loud mouthed douchebag.

  3. FUCK YOU MOTHER FUCKER RETARDED FOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    STEVE HARRIS IS GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Nin Nin

    You know what I see when I read this? Some narcissistic ass sucking his own pretentious cock. This little article proves nothing other except for the fact that you believe your some almighty god of musical tastes. I would’ve left this alone until I read one of the most horrendous massacres of writing I’ve ever seen in the form of that ridiculous faux interview. Its littered with childish opinions and comes off as nothing but a rant of an insecure teenager.

    - You say Steve’s bass playing at the end of Can I Play with Madness is pop metal. Well that’s cause Can I play with madness is a freaking pop song! Hear that cowbell? The major chords? The happy synth? How did you miss this? Oh, that’s right, because your too stoned into your own views to see the obvious.

    -Steve Harris bass playing… virtuosity? Steve Harris playing largely consists of gallops, eighth notes, and a few melodies here and there. Everything I can do in just a year or two of playing. I like Steve Harris a lot but of all the reasons, none of them are “virtuosity.”

    -Here’s the absolute worst: Failing to adhere to the role of traditional bass player? So you just want everone to adhere to the status quo? Just plain idiotic.

  5. nin nin,

    Thanks for commenting. It has been quite a while since Mr. Jada wrote this blog post. He may have changed his tune since that time….but I doubt it.

    Maybe he would care to comment

  6. Mike Jada

    Nin Nin: glad you enjoyed the article! I think it speaks for itself, as does your insightful comment. Tell Steve I said hi!

  7. Rance

    Wow this an old post, with recent activity.

    I don’t think Harris would give a shit about this open letter. He’s doing what he wants and apparently millions of people approve of it, you’re just not one of them. Which is fine really; to each his own. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen push their opinions online as if it’s the one way to be though. Asinine.

    Virtuoso bass playing isn’t something I can agree with though. I think bass playing is about keeping a solid groove. That’s why the bass and drums are the “Rhythm section”. However, if you think Harris is a bass virtuoso, you haven’t heard of Billy Sheehan or Jaco Pastorius.

  8. Well all that said 2010 seems to be the year for Steve Harris comments. However his stats do not touch Sheilyn Fenn in terms of traffic on this site. Sorry Steve you suck at the Internet too.

  9. Spitfire

    What is THAT? I quite can’t believe this…
    One of the things why I most adore Steve Harris is his ability to stand his ground. And – if you just look at the time when Maiden started to play – the punk scene was surely pushing them out of their course. No. Harris didn’t make the band go astray and so he is doing now.
    I appreciate his bass rhythms and melodies a lot – it is a nice change in all the metal that goes around now. So many bands replace good bass with too much bass drum and double pedals, but Maiden? No.
    I think Cliff Williams is not the right example for Steve. He’s practically invisible and his playing style is boring. I’m not a bass player (I’m guitarist and occasional drummer) but still I think you need all the memebers of the band to be somehow interesting. The Guitarist-Singer being centre of attention is old stereotype.
    Anyway, it all depends on the musical taste, but this article just made me speak.
    UP THE IRONS!
    (And Yngwie is also great, how can you possibly say he is a fossil?!)

  10. Spitfire. You just made the 100th comment on the website. You have won our 100th Comment Contest. Let me know where I can send your prize.

  11. Spitfire

    milesbogus:
    Hey what are you doing here? Seems like you’re posting absolutelly off topic comments!

  12. Steve

    How much more stuck-up and self-important can you make your view on music? You’ve just achieved impossible heights (depths is likely the better word). The ‘interview’ was a ridiculous way of making a statement, by the way.

  13. This post is so arrogant. You send a letter to Steve Harris criticizing his entire approach to bass that has been nothing if not successful and slander him with matters of personal opinion, and expect a response? That in itself is laughable, but the fake interview is rediculous.
    It’s not enough for you to spew your hatred unopposed, you need to create an imaginary friend to argue badly with. (neither side brings up an actual cogent argument to solidify their position.) This is pathetic.
    Steve Harris is what set Iron Maiden apart. Check out Edguy, A band that is pretty much a carbon copy ripoff of Iron maiden, but with a root note bassist. Not so special sounding.

  14. Hunter

    as a bass player I wanna commit suicide reading this. I don’t see why you seem to think guitar sounds better when it goes crazy, bass takes up like an entire clef of music!!! It’s so much more capable than people act like and when you bash one of the most talented bass players to ever exist your basically putting a bullseye on your forehead. If you look up ‘bass guitar’ on wikipedia and scroll down, you find no other than Steve Harris, just cuz you don’t like a type of music doesn’t mean you should go as far as to post an article talking about how “bad” he sounds. I’d say 98% of Iron Maiden fans appreciate ol’ Stevo’s bass playing, why should bass be limited to doing the absolute minimum? We already get crap about being unimportant and not being able to be heard because of people like you who manage to lead bands somehow. Bass doesn’t need to follow guitar, it’s NOT A GUITAR after all so why should play the same exact notes? Music is better when every instrument contributes something substantial to the song, rather than some cocky lead guitarist taking the reigns and not sharing the credit.

  15. Dustin

    I saw this post, Read about a paragraph or so. First of all, It’s Steve Harris, He is the mastermind behind Maiden, appreciate him because without him Maiden wouldn’t survive. No offense to any of the other performers in the Band. I’ve listened them since I can remember, my first thought I’ve remembered is listening to Number of the Beast at 3 years old. Look at most of the tracks they’ve recorded, he’s basically written most of the music, if not all of it. Steve Harris is should be seen and heard. Seriously I’m not sure if were talking about the same guy, the Steve Harris I know delivers every note with precision and it rings through loud and clear. He basically pioneered the bass “Gallop”. Therefore without him a lot of Metal bassists and bands would not exist.

  16. phman

    As a bass player, I read this article with a smile. Surely it’s meant as tongue-in-cheek and intentionally semi-humorous, at least that’s how I took it.

    As for Mr Steve Harris, well, he’s THE REASON I switched from guitar to bass after 30 yrs of playing. Is Harris a virtuoso? I wouldn’t say that he is. But I love his style, and I feel he lays off the busier basslines enough to accommodate a stage-full of guitarists.

    And although I love Yngwie and others like Paul Gilbert, bass virtuosos bore me after about two minutes. Sheehan, Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, Jaco…all unbelievably great bassists, and I’d give my left nut to be able to play at their level. But truthfully, I’d rather listen to Revelations, 22 Acacia Avenue, The Trooper, and Number of the Beast. Up the Irons!

  17. tkostell

    phman, the author that wrote this was absolutely being tongue in cheek. I have not been paying a whole lot of attention to this blog, but this has by far been the post that got the most traffic and received the most feedback…thanks for the reasonable comment and sorry if the post twisted people’s underwear! btw – I love Maiden they were a great band (or maybe still are? I stopped following them after Somewhere in Time).

  18. Rob

    Facetious article

  19. Kazmi

    Steve Harris is a fucking bass god you idiot jada ! Fuck you ! im really sorry butt its time you learn about music. your senseless !! you have surely lost your musical senses or else you would be appreciating Steve quite much.

  20. dave

    you sound like someone who grew up plucking one note basslines all day. you probably use a pick too. people always gotta give their opinion about Maiden sound, but they did what alot of other bands should do……stick to their brand of music and not sound like everyone else. Maiden is my band and I like them for how they sound. “I dont always play bass, but when I do…..I pick with two fingers. Play beastly bass my friends.”

  21. Bruce Dickinson

    I’ve got two words for you mate,
    FUCKED UP!!!!

  22. Marcus

    I agree with this article 100%.
    The bass playing in Iron Maiden is extremely annoying, and more importantly PREDICTABLE.
    Enough with the galloping bass parts already!!!!!!

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