On Board Flight 666 is the perfect pictorial accompaniment for any Iron Maiden fan’s coffee table. We got our grubby mitts on this wonderful book a couple of weeks ago and had a chat with the photographer, John McMurtrie about his journey with The Irons. You will be gutted if/when you spill coffee on it.
How did you end up becoming Iron Maiden’s official photographer?
I had shot Maiden several times over the years in my capacity as a photographer with Metal Hammer magazine so I was used to being in their company. In 2006 they asked me to shoot all the publicity pictures for the A Matter of Life and Death album. I then joined them on tour in the United States and had a great time. In 2007 I was asked if I was prepared to join them for the world tour On Board Ed Force One (Flight No 666) with Bruce in the cockpit. It is unquestionably one of the most ambitious tours that has ever been and will be forever remembered in rock history.
“Iron Maiden are the last true adventurers.”
How long did it take to put the book together?
It took nearly four months to finish the book. With over 130,000 pictures to sort through.The most exhausting part of the process was the picture edit. It would of been easy if I had decided just to do ‘another rock band annual’ but I was determined to illustrate the bands adventures in chronological order as they happened. This meant having to find obscure pictures that illustrated the bands journey. Like riot police in Santiago, Muslim fans praying in Jakarta, armed military on the Amazon and electricians trying to ‘hot wire’ a 110 voltage generator to give the correct 220 voltage in Puerto Rico. Instead of a book of staged photos this is a collection of real moments – basically everything that happens on a world tour. Iron Maiden are the last true adventurers. Originally the publishers had announced the book would have 250 pictures. The book has closer to 700. Each page is rammed with excitement. The comment I receive the most about the book is how big it is!
What’s your favourite page of the book?
A lot of Indonesia is very photogenic but my favourite spread in the book is probably Ecuador. The minute Ed force One taxied to the terminal it was clear there were thousands of fans outside. The military had to hold the crowds back and the chaotic scenes continued for the next few days. One of the most memorable moments is Nicko striking golf balls over the Ecuador line from south to north!
Amazon sold out of On Board Flight 666. How did that feel?
At first I was relieved how well the book was doing but then I felt frustration for the amount of people being told the book was out of stock! This led to the publishers shipping a phenomenal amount to meet the demand. I think it has been so successful because it has a lot of appeal on so many different levels. If you are a fan of Rock n’ Roll, Adventures, journeys and the nuts and bolts that go into touring the world with the biggest Metal band ever you will enjoy the book.
How many times have you been on Ed Force One?
Ed force One has toured the world three times and I was on board each time. The excitement as Flight 666 taxis towards the runway at the start of each tour is incredible.
How many times was Bruce “actually” flying the plane? he must get tired surely?
Bruce flies as much as is safe to do so and within the strict civil aviation guide lines that dictate how often he can fly. A lot of the landings are usually by Bruce. He loves flying and he is a brilliant captain. We are in very safe hands.
What’s the most rock ‘n’ roll Iron Maiden story you’re allowed to tell?
There is a 48 hour period in the book that is just crazy. It starts with the band in Rio attending the premiere of the movie Flight 666, then Bruce flies to Sao Paulo, we go straight to the venue and Maiden play an incredible show to 70,000 people at the Interlagos race track. The next morning we fly a helicopter off the roof of the hotel back to the race track to race cars and then later in the afternoon witness Bruce fence Brazil’s olympic team. The day ends with a late night at the bar having drinks looking out over Sao Paulo city. It is all in the book!
It really is all in the book. Iron Maiden – On Board Flight 666 by John McMurtrie is out now, published by Orion Books. Go and buy it for Christmas.