We’ve never featured a tribute band on LRI before but anyone with even a passing interest in hard rock and metal knows that The Iron Maidens are hardly your garden variety tribute band. The west coast lovelies have earned a sizable fanbase and deserved reputation as the most notable and in-demand tribute band of this generation. What’s most interesting though, is the fact that drummer Linda McDonald, bassist Wanda Ortiz, singer Kirsten Rosenberg and guitarists Nita Strauss and Courtney Cox operate with zero attitude and nothing but mutual admiration and respect for their fans. That may be the most important attribute they’ve copped from Harris, Dickinson and the gang and a big part of the ladies’ appeal. Be warned: If you go see the band you may walk away a converted fanboy/girl with your own favorite Maiden (Coutney “CoCo” Cox here, hey…she’s been friendly with me and helped arrange this) but you will most definitely walk away impressed. The Maidens will soon be featured on “World’s Greatest Tribute Bands” on AXS TV and will again be on the Monsters Of Rock and they’re always touring but for now, pour a Guinness and read on….
Legendary Rock interviews: Thanks for talking to us ladies. I finally saw the band live a while back when I was in Vegas for business and was blown away. I think a lot of people hear “tribute” band and just don’t take it seriously or think of the ones that get too drunk onstage and fuck around, entertaining themselves but not necessarily making a good impression in general. Is some of that stigma something you are very aware of?
Linda McDonald: I think that applies to any genre of band really. I don’t think it’s as common as it may seem, but it’s really embarrassing when you do witness this type of thing happen and it’s always nice to feel grateful it’s not you or your own bandmates doing that crap.
Kirsten Rosenberg: Sure, we are aware of that stigma but I think the stereotype we are most subject to is the one that girls can’t play metal. Love proving ‘em wrong!
Courtney Cox: I don’t know. I drink every show, definitely relaxes me before we start because the adrenaline is quite intense. We fuck around but I don’t think it hurts the band. We have fun and the crowd joins in. We have a rule in this band that the notes must be there first before you go off and do whatever. Another aspect about being in a band, whether it is an original project or tribute, is performing. We are entertainers. I would say this world is half musicianship and half performance. Maybe we can add in 1 percent wine somewhere in there (laughs).
Wanda Ortiz: No, I’ve never been aware of that for tribute bands specifically. Instead, I think a lot of people have that impression for most rock bands in general, unfortunately.
LRI: Linda you formed the band, play drums and seem to oversee a lot of the biz end. You kick drums and kick ass. You are also an ex Phantom Blue member and were involved in many other great projects. What has been so different or satisfying about Iron Maidens that you have seen it through to this point?
Linda: Thank you, John! The Iron Maidens is unlike any other project I’ve been in, period! It has all the opportunities that a successful original band has as far as touring and press goes and there is a built-in audience around the world! I can’t take credit for forming the band, it was a work-in-progress when I came into the situation and they were just looking to find a drummer and guitarist to complete the lineup. But, I am an original member and am just having too much fun to not be involved in this band.
LRI: Wanda, Courtney, Nita and Kirsten….What were your individual impressions of Linda when you first joined and how have they changed over the years?
Kirsten: The only impression I had of Linda when I first joined was “holy shit, this woman is one helluva drummer! How does someone so petite and beautiful pound the drums with such precision and power?!” That initial impression has only been reinforced over time plus I feel so very fortunate that not only is she my band mate, but she has also become a very dear friend.
Courtney: I remember watching Linda on youtube before auditioning for the band and I thought she was crazy. Not much has changed (laughs)! Crazy in a fun way, the way I am….. Or so I think I’m fun? (laughs) She is one of my closest friends and I’d do anything for her. She is my pal, my drinking buddy and the one I can always turn to when I’m down in the dumps. Did I mention she is also a machine on the drums? Yea,I don’t think you could find a better drummer.
Wanda: I thought she was a great drummer , a great person, and a lot of fun! I still think that. We’ve been in the band together for well over ten years now and while we’ve occasionally had our differences, there is no other female drummer I would rather play with.
Nita Strauss (guitars): Linda is a powerhouse! From my first rehearsal with the band she’s been a solid heartbeat for the band and very easy to follow. She’s a blast on stage too. I don’t see that changing over any amount of years, even if we do this band when we’re old and gray and in nursing homes!
LRI: Wanda you play possibly one of the most scrutinized roles in the band, next to Kristen, given the legacy of Steve Harris, the great ‘one leg on the monitor’ galloping leader and bassist of Iron Maiden. Does that lofty comparison inspire you, concern you or enter into your head nightly or do you just have to go on autopilot?
Wanda: Well, as a bass player, I’ve always been inspired by Steve Harris. As for playing that role, I just make sure I practice so I’m well prepared for each show. I’m most concerned with doing my part well for the people coming to the show : I don’t want anyone in the audience to be disappointed.
LRI: Kirsten. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence and talent to do what you do on a nightly basis leading the group. When did you first discover your abilities as a singer and do you still get excited singing for the Maidens as much as you did when you first took on the role?
Kirsten: Thanks! I thought I was a terrible singer (never sang publicly) but I thought it would be fun to take lessons anyway from KIX frontman Steve Whiteman. So, about 10 years ago, that’s what I did—and the lessons made all the difference in the world! I absolutely still get every bit as excited singing for the Maidens today, and I never tire of listening to Iron Maiden either. Lucky me!
LRI: Courtney, like all the ladies you are easy on the eyes, but when you launched into the opening notes of my all time favorite Maiden song “Wasted Years” I and many others in attendance, literally stopped looking at you and started staring at your fretboard. Do you take great satisfaction in playing with guys heads like that and in playing that song which was obviously very important to Adrian Smith??
Courtney: When I play, I play from the heart. What you see and hear on stage is what I’m feeling at that moment. Our looks, clothes, attitude, stage moves/banter, and all of that stuff are irrelevant if the music is not there. I’ve been to many shows where I see drop dead gorgeous musicians running around like crazy, wearing ridiculous stage outfits etc etc and I am in the crowd asking myself ‘Where is the song? ‘Music is passion and I take my Adrian parts very seriously. It is an expression you can’t really describe. There is no in between, you either do it right or you don’t. And in the end, it is solely your decision.
LRI: Nita you seem to approach your instrument with a shitload of confidence and like all the girls, have the skill to back it up. When I interviewed Dave Murray he seemed like the sweetest, most unassuming man on the planet so I have to ask. You seem very aggressive and intense onstage…..are you a completely different person offstage with family, friends and fans?
Nita: Thanks! Am I really that aggressive? I don’t notice it all that much! I guess whether I’m on or off stage I’m pretty rowdy and loud and like to have fun with whatever I’m doing.
LRI: The great thing about the band is that you are so tight and Maiden-like that you seamlessly appeal to anyone who likes the band but at the same time play lots of material Maiden either doesn’t play anymore or in some cases, never has. Have you had any feedback from Maiden band or management in terms of your setlist or some of the more obscure cuts you tackle ?
Kirsten: The band has received feedback from Iron Maiden members before I joined and the other girls have some good stories to tell about that.
Linda: We heard that Steve Harris was impressed that we played “Alexander The Great” at our show he was at in Mexico City, but it still wasn’t enough to make him want to do it with Maiden! (laughs)
Wanda: Aside from Steve Harris letting us know that he enjoyed our show when he saw us play in Mexico City, there hasn’t really been any direct feedback from Maiden or Maiden management to us in regards to our setlist or the more obscure songs we play.
Courtney: After meeting some of the guys a few times, it is cool just to know they support what we are doing. To me that is the greatest honor. I could not imagine being asked to stop (laughs). With the songs, we don’t think too much the choice really. We pick the songs that we love and grew up jamming to. I don’t think there is a song that is off limits.
LRI: The band has risen to heights few bands have, playing in front of some Maiden-esque crowds in excess of 40,000 but also can be found grinding it out in clubs, winning them over slow but sure. Is there something about playing one that has taught you a bit about playing the other?
Kirsten: I think it’s all about connecting with the audience—with individuals if you can actually see their faces—or on a larger scale. I once heard Bruce explain that the reason he may seem overly theatrical in his physical movements and gestures on stage is because he wants to make sure people in the nosebleed sections also can see and connect with the performance. For me, I like the audience to feel like we are all just Iron Maiden fans, enjoying their music together. Plus, when I goof up, I like to let the audience in on it rather than try to cover my mistake. That way, we all get a laugh together and I think it endears me to folks.
Courtney: No. To me, playing in front of 40k or 4 people is the same. A show is a show and it should be treated as the same regardless of the venue size or those in attendance. I am happy to play anywhere. If we didn’t have the success that we have achieved, we’d probably just be doing the same thing but in our garage. Hell, I’d still do garage shows!
Linda: I found that I don’t have to worry about what I wear at festivals because I am not visible to the audience anyway – just kidding!! …. and that I love goofing with the stage hands and crew at any show, no matter what size crowd! (laughs)! Actually at larger festival style shows I do miss the eye contact and connecting to people that is easier to do on a smaller stage, but I do like the sound of a big stage, especially with my DW’s!!
Wanda: Playing smaller clubs definitely gets you experience when it comes to dealing with problems that may arise on stage : lack of space, no monitors, electrical issues, etc., If you can deal with this in the smaller venues then, chances are, you’ll have a smoother show when it comes to playing the larger venues.
Nita: I’d say it’s actually harder to play in front of a smaller crowd! If there are 15 people in the audience you see 15 pairs of eyes watching your every move. If there are 15,000, it’s easier to let go and let the music just happen.
LRI: Iron Maidens released a dvd and also a highly bootlegged collection of studio recordings. Is it simply a difficult legal undertaking for you to release stuff or is there a possibility you could be coming out with more music?
Linda: Oh no, there are no legal issues at all involved! We pay all the appropriate fees required to do this. It’s all good. All of those previous releases do not feature our current lineup so we have discontinued them forever. Absolutely yes, we want to get another one out as soon as we are able to with the current lineup. It’s a fun process to do and so awesome that people want to hear it!
Kirsten: We are certainly overdue for releasing new studio material and fans let us know this (haha)! It will happen and I, for one, can’t wait!
Courtney: We have released two cds in the past with the previous line up and released a dvd from our tour in Japan with the more current one .So anything is possible. A new release is currently being discussed. Can’t wait!
Wanda: We are definitely planning on doing a new CD with our current line-up. We’re not sure when yet..but soon, hopefully. Please keep checking our website (www.theironmaidens.com) for updates.
Nita: I didn’t have the chance to participate in the last Maidens recordings so I’d love the chance to do an album with this super talented group of girls and show our take on these awesome songs.
LRI: I know its difficult to undertake an expensive tour these days and you play out a lot of on the west coast where you are based. Still, there are so many fans just hearing about the band or just seeing you live. Would you like the band to do more national touring either as a headliner with a band like Steel Panther or even another serious metal band?
Kirsten: Hey, as long as I can pay my bills and am not separated from my boyfriend and companion animals for too long, I would love to do a national tour or at least get back to the east coast.
Linda: If it was a legit tour we’d be there in a heartbeat! Strangely enough, we’ve been blessed with touring in South and Central America a lot in the recent years, Guam, Japan, Iraq, Canada, and many other “far away” places, but we have yet to return to the East Coast due to costs! ???? Go figure.
Courtney: I am definitely a road junkie. I would tour all year if I could. So my answer would be yes! Sign me up! I don’t care with what band or if we went ourselves. METAL!
Wanda: Yes, I’m sure we would all love to if the right opportunity comes along.
Nita: There’s always logistical things to work out with any band but I think it would be a blast! We’ve done extensive touring worldwide but it would be fun to get out there for an extended period of time and expose some new fans to what we do!
LRI: Last question, anything you would like to say to the loyal Iron Maidens fans or people who are just now discovering the band???
Kirsten: Welcome to the party—woohoo! Let’s have a great time celebrating and rocking out to the best classic metal band in the world: Iron Maiden! And thanks for your support—up the irons!
Courtney: Beer is god. Long live heavy metal. Up the irons! Wear deodorant. Cheers! J (high pitch scream!)
Wanda: Thank you!! We really appreciate you and feel extremely fortunate and thankful to be able to play in front of people who enjoy what we are doing! For more information on the band and upcoming shows, please visit our website: www.theironmaidens.com . Up the irons!
Nita: Come out and hang with us at a show or on facebook, twitter, or our official forum on our website! Up The Irons!
Linda: Thanks so much for taking the time to read this interview! Drop us a line on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TheIronMaidensOfficial , check us out on youtube and then come catch a show if you haven’t already!! Up the Bloody Irons!!!! \m/ Cheers!