STEVE HARRIS BRITISH LION (Live at The Riverside, Newcastle, U.K., August 8, 2015)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Having just completed another leg of his latest mammoth World Tour with Iron Maiden playing some of the biggest venues available you’d have though bassist Steve Harris would put his feet up and relax for a while. Harris has other ideas and is embarking on a club tour of the UK and Europe with his side project British Lion. Mick Burgess chatted to Harris ahead of his tour to talk about his love of the more intimate venues.

You’re heading out on the road with British Lion next week. Are you excited ahead of the tour?

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got two shows left with Maiden then we fly back and I’ve got two days of rehearsals with British Lion and I’m straight back out on tour with them. Sometimes it’s just best to crack on and get straight back on it. The guys have been rehearsing without me and I rehearse on my own then we get together and piece it all together and get out and get on with it. It throws you in at the deep end sometimes. It’s quite exciting really.

On 1st August your back up to Newcastle. What is like for you as an artist to play in a City like Newcastle?

I love that part of the world. It’s a great little gig at the Riverside too. It’s a great area around there too. I played with Maiden in Newcastle recently and we stayed right near there so I was walking right past the venue thinking I was going to be playing there in a couple of months. I like it round there, there’s some lovely bars and restaurants. It has a great spot right next to the river.

Were you not tempted to put your feet up and have a bit of a break?

I just love playing and the more I’ve played with British Lion the more I love it. It’s like the Yin and Yang I suppose. I’ve just played sold out gigs everywhere with Maiden and with British Lion we’re in the clubs fighting to get every person in and get a reaction. It’s a challenge and I just love it and it’s almost like going back to those early days with Maiden. It just keeps me grounded and I love playing in clubs. We are actually doing some festivals too this year which is a new challenge for the guys. I’ve played many festivals but some of the other guys haven’t so it’s great to see them enjoying it so much. I do miss that really close intimate contact with the fans at gigs even though we do go out into the crowd on catwalks with Maiden but in the clubs the crowd are right in your face and there’s nothing quite like it.

You have been quite clear that British Lion is totally independent of Maiden so there’s no Maiden songs during the set. Does it make you wonder why some artists go out on a solo tour and just end up playing stuff from their main band?

It’s not something I would do, I can’t see the point of it when I can play any of those Maiden songs I want with Maiden. I think with British Lion we have enough strong songs of our own that we don’t need to do that. Maybe other artists do it because they think their fans expect it but I don’t really see it like that. It’s two separate bands to me with totally different styles of music. It’s a different set of guys and a different animal altogether.

What sort of audience do you get coming to your shows? Do you tend to see a lot of Maiden fans curious to see you in a club situation or are there a fair few here on the strength of your album?

Obviously Maiden fans are coming to the shows but I think there’s quite a lot of people coming along who aren’t necessarily Maiden fans. I don’t mind who comes. I just want people to come in and check us out. It’s like Maiden in the early days. All we want is to get people in there then we can prove what we can do. Most people seem to be loving what we’re doing so it’s great.

A couple of years ago the members of Kansas without Steve Walsh formed a band called Native Window and ended up opening for Kansas. So Kansas essentially became their own opening band. Would you fancy doing that?

It would be amazing to do that. I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I think I’m fit enough to play a 45 minute set and then go back on and do a full Maiden show. I quite often play tennis and football on show days and that gets the blood flowing. It’s an interesting concept so you never know.

Going right back to the start of the band. How did you first become involved with British Lion?

Grahame Leslie and Simon Dawson who were originally in the band were in The Outfield in the ’80’s and the other guys had been in smaller bands and I’ve known them and Richard our singer for many, many years. Simon was also in Dirty deeds who had supported us in the past so we go back a long way. It’s not like I’m going out and playing with a bunch of new guys. It feels comfortable being with people that I know and they are good guys.

You were clear on your intent on making music that was very different to your day job and musically there is a classic melodic British Heavy Rock influence from the likes of UFO and Thin Lizzy in there? Were these the reference points that you were looking to when you were making the record?

The UFO and Thin Lizzy references are definitely there and Wishbone Ash too. British Lion comes from that sort of influence. It’s just strong melodic Rock. I think our newer material such as Bible Black is slightly heavier and that might be a direction we head in on the next album. We are evolving into a really good, fully fledged band over the last 5 years.

You, Richard Taylor, David Hawkins and Graeme Leslie your guitarists co-wrote pretty much most of the album. How do you tend to write together?

We don’t get too much time together but when we do we do bits and pieces and we also do some writing on the road. With Maiden I never write on the road but with British Lion we do throw some ideas around on the bus. We try to make the most of the time that we do have together to discuss ideas and write. We also send some ideas to each other and it usually sparks something off.

Does the British Lion style of music enable you to play bass in a slightly different way?

I didn’t so much play a different way, more produced different sounds as I felt that’s what it needed but since we’ve been playing live I just play with my normal sound and it’s evolved into me doing what I normally do. Maybe the second album will be more of me playing my natural way.

One of the strengths of the album is that it’s not over long. 10 songs is the perfect length like the good old days of vinyl. Was that what you were looking for, a punchy album with no filler?

That’s what we were intending so I’m glad you picked up on that. Some people missed the point. It was produced in a way that was meant to sound like a traditional 70’s Hard Rock album. I think we’ve evolved into something slightly different now and the next album will reflect that.

You’re a West Ham fan. What are your hopes for the coming season?

Every West Ham fan’s hope is that we don’t get dragged into a relegation battle so that’s the first thing. I’m hoping that we pick up a couple more players and with people coming back from injury I’m hopeful we can be in the top half of the table but I don’t want to get my hopes up too much.

What are your plans for the rest of the year once the British Lion tour is over?

We were hoping to have a live album out by the time of this tour but some things cropped up with Maiden that I wasn’t expecting and that has to take priority. So hopefully we’ll be able to get that released. We’ve got some songs ready and we will go and record some backing tracks after the tour for the next studio album. We have a lot of new material and will be recording it as soon as we can. We will get some new stuff out, it will happen but it just takes a bit more time. It’s been five years since the last one, time really flies so we are ready to put out a new one as soon as we can.

British Lion are on tour in the UK now. See for full UK and European tour dates.

Interview and Photos by Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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