Steve Harris

STEVE HARRIS as known by Janick Gers

 I was introduced to Steve and Bruce when Gillan were playing Hammersmith Odeon back in the Eighties. I quite liked the lad at the time, and I met him subsequently at a few Maiden gigs after that. He always seemed quite intense and serious and aware of what was going on.

As a person, Steve is one of the few people you meet that you can trust totally. He wouldn’t sell you down the river, he wouldn’t badmouth you behind your back; he’s a very straight fella. You can confide in him and it won’t get passed around, and he doesn’t bullshit. He has the ability to stand back and look at both sides of a situation, but if he’s convinced that he’s right, he will argue with every fibre of his body and he’ll never change his mind, which I think is a great strength. He has very strong mental tolerance.

In situations where other bands might have caved in, the one thing that has kept Iron Maiden doing what it does best is Steve, because he has this belief that what he’s doing is right. When you’re in a young band and your record company come to you, saying, ‘You need to soften up your sound, we need a single’, Steve’s the kind of guy you need to turn round to them and say, ‘Fuck off!’

Steve has a very fertile imagination and a very simple way of writing lyrics. It’s not highbrow stuff – it’s deeper than that. He writes it as he sees it and you really get the feeling the words are from inside him. Every time I play the song ‘Blood Brothers’, it makes me shiver, because he hit the nail on the head. He lost his dad when he was on tour and when things like that happen to you, sometimes you go to deep places – everyone experiences that – but to be able to write it down is another thing. When you read his lyrics, there’s an honesty in there that comes out and he opens himself up more than he does when you’re talking to the guy.

He’s a great football player and he had the choice to play football professionally or play music when he was a kid, but I think he made the right decision. I don’t think he could cope with the discipline of the footballer’s life at the time when you’re a teenager and you’re starting to meet people and get into music. He’s his own man. But having said that, he doesn’t drink much and he takes care of his body – that’s very important to him. Being a sportsman, his attitude is that if your body is healthy, your mind is too, and I think that helps with the band, because you don’t get locked into that stupid rock’n’roll ‘let’s go party every night’ lifestyle.

He is an idiosyncratic bass player. He picked up the bass and taught himself in such a way that nobody can really copy it. People say it’s like a lead guitar, but it’s not. It gives the band a basis and it moves around quite a lot, but it’s the tone that he has. He has a way of hearing things and a tone that isn’t normally associated with a bass, it’s more like a rhythm guitar. Him and Nicko provide the pulse of Iron Maiden, the body of the band. You copy it at your peril, because the sound of Maiden is built around the way Steve plays bass and the only band that it would work in is Maiden.

Steve has been very involved in the new album. He has this tunnel vision where he can really hone in on things and he has this tremendous focus when he’s recording albums – or doing anything with Iron Maiden really. He wants to get it right and he’s prepared to put the time in. Not many people have that kind of determination and focus.

He is a very, very strong personality. Without his drive and ambition, it wouldn’t be Iron Maiden, no doubt about it. He’s its heart and its power.

Stephen Percy “Steve” Harris (born 12 March 1956) is an English musician and songwriter, known as the bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, leader, and primary songwriter of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he founded as a teenager in 1975. He and Dave Murray are the only original members of the band to have appeared on all of the band’s albums, but Murray joined the band in 1976, making Harris the only person who has been a member of Iron Maiden since their inception. He used to work as an architectural draftsman in the East End of London but gave up his job upon forming Iron Maiden. During the mid-1970s, he was a youth team footballer for West Ham United. He still is a talented amateur football player and often has the crest of West Ham on his bass,and he has stated his first ambition in life before music was to become a professional footballer.

Career

Originally Harris wanted to play drums or be a professional football player; however, he did not have much space for a drum kit in his house, so he started to play bass and write songs. Harris is a self-taught bass player. His first bass was a copy of a Fender Precision Bass that cost him £40 when he was 17 years old. He went on to use a signature Lado “Unicorn” model and an early 1970s Fender Precision with RotoSound strings.

Harris’ first band was named Influence then Gypsy’s Kiss and featured Bob Verscoyle (lead vocals), Dave Smith (guitar) and drummer Paul Sears. Harris and Sears later joined Smiler, of which all the band members were several years older than he was. He ended up leaving, as the members of the band made it clear that they did not care for a bassist who leapt around the stage and wrote complicated progressive songs with several time changes. After Smiler, Harris went on to create Iron Maiden, getting the name from seeing an iron maiden, a type of torture instrument, in the film The Man in the Iron Mask.
Harris is Iron Maiden’s principal composer and lyricist. His song writing typically showcases his trademark galloping bass patterns and progressive rock-influenced song with several time changes. Harris frequently writes lyrics about mythology, history or topics inspired from books and films, for which Iron Maiden has become notable in sharp contrast to most other rock bands where the themes are typically sex, drugs and rebellion.

Harris is often considered among the best and most influential heavy metal bassists. He is most known for his “galloping” playing style: usually an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes at fast tempo (e.g., “The Trooper” and “Run to the Hills”) or eighth note triplets, which he plays with two fingers. Before playing, Harris often chalks his fingers, to make these fast patterns easier to play, as shown on the bonus DVD for the A Matter of Life and Death album. He also uses power chords on several songs, which are unusual on bass. Harris has also stated that he never uses a pick, that he never warms up before a show, and that he rarely practices and never forced himself to practice when he was still learning.

He plays a specially-painted bass guitar which has been featured on every Iron Maiden album. The guitar has gone through four colour changes since construction. Originally white, then black, it was then changed to blue sparkle, then white with claret and blue pinstriping and the West Ham United F.C. crest. Harris is epitomised by his clunky sound on most albums. This is a result of a very low action and flatwound strings. However, a close listen to the Maiden discography reveals many different sounds.

Influences

Harris has cited his musical influences as King Crimson; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Wishbone Ash; Genesis, UFO, Chris Squire of Yes, John Entwistle of The Who, Rinus Gerritsen of Golden Earring, Geddy Lee of Rush and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.

Steve Harris
Background information
Birth name Stephen Percy Harris
Also known as ‘Arry
Born 12 March 1956 (age 55)
Leytonstone, Essex (now London), England
Genres Heavy metal
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass, keyboards, vocals
Years active 1979 – present
Labels EMI
Associated acts Iron Maiden, Smiler, Gypsy’s Kiss
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass

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