Iron Maiden celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, so it’s fitting that the band is being celebrated by a host of compatriots. “Numbers From the Beast: An All Star Salute to Iron Maiden,” which arrives tomorrow (Oct. 11) via Restless, features participation from members of Twisted Sister, Dokken, Motorhead and Fishbone, among many others.
Cautious fans needn’t worry, since according to producer/musician Bob Kulick, who is friendly with the band, Maiden approves of the album.
“Numbers” is the latest multi-artist tribute that Kulick has conceived and overseen. He previously helmed projects dedicated to Metallica, Queen, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and Kiss (of which his brother, guitarist Bruce, once belonged). In fact, Motorhead won the 2004 best metal performance Grammy for the version of “Whiplash” it recorded for a second album Kulick devoted to Metallica, “Metallic Attack: Metallica — The Ultimate Tribute.”
The roster of 50 musicians on “Numbers From the Beast” is a staggering assembly of talent from across the rock/metal spectrum. Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, former Dokken members George Lynch and Jeff Pilson, Jason Bonham (of Bonham) and Kulick (who plays guitar on three tracks) handle “Wasted Years.” Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Phil Campbell perform “The Trooper” along with Rocky George (Fishbone, Suicidal Tendencies), Chuck Wright (Alice Cooper, Quiet Riot) and Chris Slade (AC/DC).
“I really try to take the proper tools for the job,” Kulick says of how he determines who plays on which song. “And also, a lot of these guys played on tours with Maiden or were influenced by Maiden or [are] just huge Maiden fans.”
Some of the names feel like blasts from the past, since those musicians’ profiles have dropped in America since the ’80s. Indeed, not a lot has been heard about former Iron Maiden vocalist Paul D’Anno, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and guitarists Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X) and Richie Kotzen (also of Mr. Big, Poison) of late.
Kulick explains, “Richie Kotzen [for instance] may not be a real big name value here, but in Japan, because he was in Mr. Big, they know who that is more than they know some of the people that we know. So because these records are released worldwide, it’s also important for me to make sure that there’s enough people on there that will appeal to any individual territory.”
“I can’t reiterate too much how much the fun part is part of this,” Kulick says, noting the camaraderie among the players in letting each other to do their own thing. And often, musicians were star-struck with each other. Take the case of Gilbert and WWE wrestler and Fozzy vocalist Chris Jericho, who are heard on “The Evil That Men Do.”
“The guy was going to wrestle me to the ground if I didn’t put him on this record,” Kulick jokes about Jericho. “Paul Gilbert’s going, ‘This guy’s a superstar wrestler who happens to also sing,’ and he’s in awe of him and asking for autographs for nephews and relatives and friends, and here’s Chris Jericho just drooling because [Gilbert is] one of the guys that he thinks is one of the greatest guitar players to ever walk the planet.”