Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #126. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Paul Southwell finds out what it takes to be the world’s best Iron Maiden cover band from The Iron Maidens’ shredders Courtney Cox and Nikki Stringfield.
British heavy metal heavyweights Iron Maiden have influenced generations of guitarists worldwide. They quickly attained the top position in the new wave of British heavy metal decades ago, whilst today, their live shows are mammoth productions that continue to inspire with new music.
Their celebrated back catalogue has naturally spawned many tribute bands, which notably includes the Iron Maidens – the world’s only all-female version. Australian Guitar spoke to established guitarists Courtney ‘Adriana Smith’ Cox and Nikki ‘Davina Murray’ Stringfield about their impending (and fast-selling) tour that promises a unique presentation of a plentiful selection of classic Iron Maiden songs.
What got you into heavy metal at the start?
Cox: My older brother was a huge metal fan, so I’d always hear him blasting his albums through the wall – then I’d get in trouble for stealing his albums, so it spawned from that family feud. My mother jokes that she’s glad I wasn’t alive in the ‘80s, because I probably wouldn’t have survived.
It’s curious that a Maiden tribute band comes from LA, given the ‘80s shred era with bands like Racer X.
Stringfield: I’m from Dallas, so I grew up listening to Pantera and got to see Damageplan, but I was born in 1990 so I missed the golden era. I love instrumental shred, especially Marty Friedman and Paul Gilbert’s Racer X stuff. Maiden is going to be the last of the big metal bands. There are not many people doing what Iron Maiden, Megadeth or Metallica did.
Adrian Smith and Dave Murray have a large amount of equipment in their live rigs, so replicating their setups would be unrealistic. Do you use amplifier simulators and effects processors?
Cox: I use a tube amplifier, and my pedalboard is simple with delay for songs such as “Moonchild”, chorus and a boost pedal to cut through. I’ll use a harmoniser pedal for “Can I Play With Madness” and a wah pedal for songs like “Killers”.
Stringfield: I just got a Kemper, so I can get pretty close. I’ve been using an ENGL tone. Travelling with your exact tone everywhere makes life so much easier. I was using an auto-wah for “Number Of The Beast” and “Run To The Hills”, and now that I’ve got the Kemper, I’m revamping my whole setup.
What guitars are you using these days?
Cox: I was with Jackson for 12 years and they made me a green Adrian Smith model. Now I use Caparison Horus-M3 guitars, and I’m releasing a signature model in September.
Stringfield: I play Schecter guitars and have a signature model – the Nikki Stringfield A-6 FR-S – which has Seymour Duncan pickups. I don’t play Stratocasters like Dave since I’ve got an awesome endorsement and a signature guitar. Mine is a stock model, so it’s exactly what you get if you buy it.
Maiden’s early sound has that distinct twin-guitar style. Do you improvise at all onstage, or do people demand the Maiden experience and want to hear the solos as they are on their records?
Cox: Learning the material, I tend to do it note-for-note. But I’m not Adrian, so I try to keep the key notes and then be my own player. I think that what separates us from other tribute bands is that people identify us as ourselves. People seem to see us apart from the people that we are onstage. We’re bringing the powerhouse tunes, but we still sound like ourselves.
Dave and Adrian have different guitar styles. Have you spent a lot time studying their techniques?
Stringfield: Dave uses so much fluid legato with hammer-ons and pull-offs. I always liked alternate picking, so I really had to put time into trying to emulate him. His solos are so fun to play, bluesy and fast. I try to get that tone, but there’s always a part of you that goes into the playing.
If you follow the career trajectory of the band’s lineup, given Adrian left temporarily, at least Courtney can return and you’ll have a three guitar lineup with a Janick Gers character.
Cox: If we were playing stadiums, no problem. We’re at the mercy of sound engineers in these tiny clubs, so adding one more instrument would drive them insane. We’re not trying to be anything we’re not – we just try to stay humble and have our laughs onstage. If I wasn’t onstage, I’d be in the audience. We’re not trying to take over the world; we’re just playing one show at a time.
Wednesday May 30th - The Zoo, Brisbane
Thursday May 31st - Manning Bar, Sydney
Friday June 1st - Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday June 2nd - Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Sunday June 3rd - Badlands, Perth