Published Apr 27, 2009They hit a homer with underdog music documentary and anthropological study Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. An account of the heavy metal sub-genre and its impact on the world, that film is revered by genre supporters and unknowing alike. Then came a film that went out of the park: Global Metal. A step-up from its predecessor, Global Metal delves further into the roots heavy metal has planted internationally. From Japan to China, Israel to Brazil, it focused on the lifelong commitment people the world-over have made to the religion that is heavy metal. Therefore, it's almost a no-brainer that Banger Productions - Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn - would be prime suspects to make the world's first official biography on one of metal's Holy Trinity members, Iron Maiden.
Following the band during their bold, adventurous 2008 Somewhere Back In Time Tour that had the band converting a Boeing 757 and carting 70 band and crew members around the world for 23 sold-out shows in 45 days, Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is a compelling, strategically brilliant move on both Maiden's and Banger Productions' parts. From jaw-dropping live footage and sound to the interesting peeks inside of what Iron Maiden is actually about when not tearing out progressive metal for the masses, this feature film is yet another grand slam for two 'bangers trying to spread the word.
How did this documentary come about?
Scot McFadyen: They were in our first two films so we have a relationship with them. We brought the idea forward to the band's manager Rod Smallwood and said we should do a documentary on them sometime as the P.S. in an email. I never expected to hear back from them but about ten minutes later, he said he thought it was a great idea. They're recording an album in 2010 and he thought it would be good to do it then. But when we saw the plans for the tour, we thought, "this is it." We went to England and tried to convince them to go for it and how we wanted to do it. He was hesitant about it, thinking they wouldn't agree to having cameras around them. Months later though, we got a phone call saying it was on.
What happened to change everyone's mind?
Sam Dunn: You haven't met Rod Smallwood [laughs]. He was bike riding through the Peruvian Andes and maybe he had some epiphany. Managers who have built bands such as Iron Maiden, it's their job to protect the band and Maiden has always protected themselves against media. They're leery about who they talk to and they've never let cameras into their world. I think that initial reaction came from not letting an outside camera crew into the Maiden world.
It makes sense for a protective manager to immediately say no to cover his bases, then get everyone on board. That way, they give an answer and can ruminate?
SM: Yeah, then I think he approached Bruce [Dickinson, singer] and they realized the scope of this tour. This is one of the most ambitious tours in rock history. Bruce was into it because of the flying and the other guys could show this doc to their grandkids. They're at the peak of their popularity.
What's the reaction from your side, knowing you got in when Iron Maiden have always held their cards tight?
SD: Mainly we were nervous and anxious realizing the potential of the film. When you're making a film about Iron Maiden, you're automatically plugging yourself into something already huge. At first, there was a bit of joking and jostling. Bruce we knew and Nicko [McBrain, drummer] seemed up for it but we didn't know how the rest of the guys would respond. We were nervous about it.
SM: I had nightmares like it was the first day of high school. You don't know anyone and there's pressure. You have to get to know them 'cause you'll never get a film if you don't break down the barriers.
SD: Knowing the band - especially [bassist] Steve Harris - is so hands-on was weird too. He edited the band's last two concert films personally. Rod is the seventh member; as hands-on as you can get as a manager. We had that added level of anxiety coming in. It wasn't just, here's a legendary rock band and the first film they're gonna do with a documentary crew. They like to control as well. That added to the nervousness.
In their eyes, how did you do?
SM: We got an email from Nicko that said we'd done it. It was out of the blue and then Adrian [Smith, guitarist] and Dave [Murray, guitarist] gave their feedback that they loved it. That was great to think we nailed it. Now can we nail the Maiden fans? That's the goal. Then there's appealing to non-Maiden fans.
Since you felt nervous about the ordeal at first, did the adage of time breaking down barriers eventually prevail?
SM: We were tense. The first day, they knocked the cameras away, which you see in the film. We thought there was gonna be this whole story about them slowly letting down their barriers. The fact is that it was just us being nervous. Looking back at the footage, we were over-analyzing it. They were actually quite nice. It was the wives that helped us. Adrian's is Canadian and Bruce's had seen Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and are best friends. They were like, "Oh it's you guys doing this!" Then they made it their campaign to get the band to open up to us. You get the wives on-board and then the band follow. To this day, we get texts from them all now. It's a great relationship. We're a part of their family.
What do you say to the teenage boys inside of you who never would have dreamed of what you've done with your heroes?
SD: They're my favourite band. I've grown up with them since a young age and to get on a plane with Steve Harris, my all-time idol, was a pretty nerve-wracking experience. If I could have it all back, I would've played tennis with him on the first day. It was the ice-breaker where I gained his respect. I think one thing I gained insight into that I didn't have when I was 12, was the commitment it takes to be a band like Iron Maiden. It's easy for people to look at them like rock stars who only get on stage for two hours a day and that's all they do. Granted, people working in the mines are working a lot harder, there's no question about that. But you don't see all the things that go into making Iron Maiden who they are. There's a work ethic, commitment and loyalty to the fans that's surprising. They're doing press conferences, meet-and-greets and signing autographs... they've sold 70 million records, they're in their 50s and sold out the whole tour. They don't need to do that but that's how they got to that point. And you realize that they're never gonna stop. That gives you a huge respect for them.
After the actual tour, you get home, your mind's reeling and you've got 500 hours of footage to sift through. What's next?
SM: Some perspective is that there was down time because you had to load it into the computers at real time. There was time to let our editors cull it for a bit. We went through and gave them a verbal/write-down memory of everything we remember being cool to make sure they captured it. Then they culled it down to get it to a workable point. [Our] editors have been doing it for 30 years. If it was just the two of us, we'd never get it done. We were hoping Steve Harris would take it off our hands but it would take him ten years to get it done. They'd never get another album out. It took three editors and us 11 months to find the story and get it done.
SD: Yeah, not easy. We went on a beach first and foremost. I did nothing for a week. That was absolutely necessary. In terms of carving the story, a big part of the process was finding the balance between concert footage and the behind-the-scenes interviews. There had to be a certain amount of music in this film because Iron Maiden built who they are on music. Without it, it's not a film about Iron Maiden. It was about retaining enough music to keep us fans satisfied but also offer that right amount of material so people feel they're getting to know the band. The juxtaposition between who they are personally and who they are on-stage; the music and performance is quite interesting.
SM: It is cool watching the movie when you know them. You have a new understanding of what and who they are.
This is just coming out but you're already onto your next documentary which is about Rush? It's non-stop for you guys.
SM: Yeah. We're in the middle of editing. We're being more concise about what we capture. There are interviews and archives... there's a whole other level with this doc. It's more historical, not a snapshot of a moment in their lives like the Iron Maiden film. It's more difficult in some ways. After you get a band to say yes, there's the reality of the task at hand. You have to get in there and get your hands dirty.
SD: The garden's not gonna grow just by watching it.