Hi Joey, how and when did you get the idea to perform Iron Maiden songs in an acoustic setting?
I had the idea for this already for a very long time, but I actually started to execute the idea in 2006. In that year there was a fan club convention and I was asked if we could do something special for this one. At that time I felt that the opportunity was there and it was the very first time that we performed an Iron Maiden set acoustically. Of course it was kind of scary to do this at an Iron Maiden convention, because people either love it or hate it. It proved that people really liked what we offered and shortly thereafter we did two more shows with this concept, one in Germany and one in Belgium and then it became clear to me that I had to do this in a more professional manner. That took us about three years and in 2009 we started with the recordings for the first Maiden United album.
If I’m not mistaken you first discussed the idea with Ruud (Jolie), who was immediately into it. But how did you get the rest of the band involved?
Ruud and I have quite a history together already and we played together in our first band. The contact has remained over the years and when I wanted to take this Maiden United idea to a professional level it was the opportunity to do something with Ruud again. The very first line-up was actually just a bunch of friends with Mike (Coolen), who wasn’t part of Within Temptation back then, and Marco (Kuypers). We still had to find a suitable singer though and Ruud and I made a list of who we wanted to take this position. We both had Damian (Wilson) as one of the top candidates and because of the fact that Damian had played as support act for Within Temptation with his band Threshold, there was already a connection. So we asked Damian if he wanted to join, but at first he wasn’t very keen on participating as he thought it was really weird to play Iron Maiden songs acoustically, but after some persuasion he went for it and he’s still with us so he must have liked what we were doing.
In 2010 you released the first album ‘Mind The Acoustic Pieces’, on which the integral ‘Piece Of Mind’ album is featured. Was it the intention from the start to release albums and why the complete ‘Piece Of Mind’ album as your first release?
When I had the plan to bring this to a professional level, I had the intention to record the material. When we had the first recordings as demo versions in 2008, it sounded so great that we decided to release it as an official album as well. So in 2009 we did record the material in a professional studio and it was ready for a release in 2010. Why we decided to record the complete ‘Piece Of Mind’ album is beyond me. It may sound a bit weird, but we really can’t remember why we chose to do this and the fact is that we didn’t make it easy for ourselves as it is quite a complex album to play acoustically.
On ‘To Tame A Land’ Anneke van Giersbergen was featured as a guest singer. Why did you feel the urge for a female voice on this song and why Anneke?
We had the idea to use the original mid-piece as intro and outro and to start experimenting with the vocals a bit. I had a canon vocal in my mind, so we needed a second voice for that part. We started looking for possible options and which voice would fit best with Damian’s voice. We knew Anneke quite well and of course she’s one of the best female vocalists around, so we thought we might give it a try. Anneke came over to do her parts and it sounded really great. She also recorded ‘Sun And Steel’ and she even did a couple of live shows with us.
Where you surprised by the success of that first album?
Yes, absolutely! Especially because we didn’t have any references back then as we were quite unique in what we were doing. By the way, what surprises me is that even today we’re still the only band that is doing this. As a result of that first album I had planned maybe a dozen performances in small bars, but in April of 2011 we were playing in several European countries and we performed at the Paaspop festival. In the summer of 2011 we were even playing Donnington, Bang Your Head and Wacken!
Later on you released the second album ‘Across The Seven Seas’. How did you determine which songs should be featured on this record?
‘Across The Seven Seas’ contained the rest of the songs that we played during our live shows. With our first album we only had forty minutes of material, while we had to do shows of one and a half hours. Therefore we started to do other songs as well like ‘Wasted Years’, ‘Infinite Dreams’ and ‘Prowler’. We really experimented with different Iron Maiden songs and as such we figured out what would work best in a live setting. I think that we used five songs from the live set for ‘Across The Seven Seas’ and that we added some additional material like ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’ and ‘Only The Good Die Young’ later on.
How did the song selection work for the third album ‘Remembrance’ and how did you get the big bunch of well-known guest musicians like Blaze Bayley and Paul Di’Anno for instance?
The base of Maiden United has always been to play Iron Maiden song in an acoustic setting, but the “United” part is also very important. Therefore we try to incorporate many guest musicians onto our releases as well. During our live shows we already worked with a lot of guests as almost everybody is influenced by Iron Maiden and they all want to participate in performing one of their songs if the opportunity is given. We also wanted to document this on an album and therefore we asked different people for a contribution to our third album. As a result we could work with Wudstik, Blaze Bayley, Paul Di’Anno, Marcela Bovio, Thunderstick and many more, which was absolutely incredible to do. What was also important on this album was that we started to use the Hammond organ in our music, which made our sound a bit fuller and heavier. Concerning the song selection, we just started to look which tracks would work for us, which resulted at one side in ‘Charlotte The Harlot’ from the debut album and at the other side in ‘Futureal’, which is featured on ‘Virtual XI’. ‘Remembrance’ was the album that gave us the opportunity to do the real big live-shows.
How did you get to the idea to do the Carré show?
Of course it’s also a matter of seeing how far you can go as a band and to push the boundaries of what you’re able to do. As we were capable of selling out a lot of the venues in the Netherlands, we started to think what would be a possible next step for us. Then we got the idea to maybe to a theater tour as the concept is very well suited for that. So when you start thinking about possible theaters in our country, you end up with Carré at a certain point. At first we had to laugh about this idea, but slowly but surely things became more serious. Quite coincidentally, we were still in the idea phase when the request came from Carré, because you have to be invited as it is a Royal theatre. And then you just have to plan and do it.
The theme of the show will be the song ‘Empire Of The Clouds’. Why did you choose for this?
‘Remembrance’ is from 2015, so we had already done quite some shows for this record. We wanted to make something special out of our last ‘Remembrance’ show and new material like ‘Empire Of The Clouds’ from ‘Book Of Souls’ would bring that special element, especially since Iron Maiden have stated that they will never play this long epic song live. That’s exactly the reason why we chose to incorporate it in our Carré show, although it absolutely is a challenge to play live.
Are you going to perform more new material that you have never played before as Maiden United?
When we started the preparations for the show in the studio, also Dennis Stratton came by to support us and to help us out. During those sessions we have done quite some new things as well, but we’re not sure yet if it will be played at the Carré show. We worked on a special song with Dennis, which will probably be played but I’m not going to tell you which song it is yet.
One of the things that are also very cool are the weekly ‘Flight To Carré’ mini documentaries that you’re placing on Youtube. How did you get this idea and how many episodes will follow in the coming period?
Every Monday a new episode will be placed on-line until the actual Carré show on January 27th. The idea for these mini documentaries was a result of the interviews we did with all the media. It proved that there was a big interest in the band in general and the Carré show in particular, so we decided to document the things that we did in the past and the stuff that we were working on right now and present that to the music community. The original intention was to create episodes of three to four minutes, but there was so much interesting material available that they soon began to go over the ten minutes.
Are you going to use this material for a longer documentary for a possible DVD-release, maybe in combination with the Carré show if that’s going to be recorded?
First of all, we’re not going to record the Carré show as we don’t think that it’s interesting enough for a DVD-release. In an acoustic setting there are just five guys sitting on stools and besides playing music nothing much is really happening. Furthermore it’s quite an exciting an intimate setting with the audience and you can’t portray that in a good way on a DVD.
There are quite a number of guest musicians invited for the show, like Wudstik (For All We Know), Perttu Kivilakso (Apocalyptica), Dennis Stratton (Iron Maiden) en Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation). The first three have been involved with Maiden United in one way or another, but what is the idea with Sharon?
We’ve worked with Anneke and Marcela in the past, so incorporating female vocals has always been the case with Maiden United. Sharon is part of our circle of friends and we thought that this would be a great show to feature her and we’re very happy that she was willing to participate in this special event.
Okay Joey, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would still like to express to our readers?
Thanks for the opportunity to introduce Maiden United in more detail and hopefully a lot of your readers will join us in Carré!