Gary James' Interview With Bobby Riegger Of
Iron Maiden Tribute Experience
Live After Death
Long Island continues to be a hot bed for tribute acts and one of the hottest acts is Live After Death, an Iron Maiden Tribute Experience. These guys have been around since 1997, long before the tribute band craze kicked in. Drummer Bobby Riegger talked with us about Live After Death.
Q - You actually had a jump on a lot of tribute bands because you started in 1997. That is when Live After Death started, isn't it?
A - Yes. There was a couple around here on Long Island. There was an Ozzy one that was kind of like one of the first Hard Rock / Metal ones. Then in '97, our guitar player, Lou, came up with the idea and a lot of people in our circle of friends thought it was crazy. Who's gonna want to hear this? The real Maiden at the time was kind of on a down swing in their career, but lo and behold people kept coming out. When Iron Maiden had their first website, they listed about five tribute bands on their website and we were one of them. That's going back to '98 '99, when bands were just getting websites.
Q - I don't believe there are many Iron Maiden tribute bands out there.
A - Not as many as you'd find with AC/DC or KISS, but there are quite a few. There's one or two in the tri-state area. I know of one in Chicago. There's one in Boston, but there's also a famous female one called The Iron Maidens from California. So, there's a decent amount.
Q - How did you settle on putting an Iron Maiden tribute band together? Is there a big marketplace for your group?
A - We've been successful in this area. We've been to eleven different states up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Massachusetts. We went to Puerto Rico four or five times. We were contacted by a DJ there who brought us over for some really successful trips. I went to Trinidad. We met a great booking agent from Texas who got us shows in Trinidad. Sadly, he passed away. But Maiden is huge internationally. They're bigger outside of the U.S than they are in the U.S.
Q - What were you doing before this band?
A - I was just in and out of original bands through my 20s as were most of the guys. Most of the guys had original bands. A lot of people see tributes and covers as sort of like the end of the line. What's funny is, we never thought it would last this long and we thought we were all "older guys" doing cover songs when we were actually 28, 29 and now we're in our 40s and still doing it. Our bass player was in a band called Cities, which put out a couple of records back in the '80s. Our singer was in a band called The Distracted, which put out some CDs in Europe, but nothing really overly successful. Even now we're all working guys with families and jobs. This is sort of a weekend thing.
Q - How many gigs a year do you play?
A - This past year we played about ten or eleven. At our peak we were playing twice a month. We were playing like twenty shows a year, but locally in the tri-state area you can't really over-saturate playing locally. So, the years that we've gone away we've done more shows, a dozen or twenty or so, but now we're about ten a year. We went to Florida a couple of months ago, so that boosted our number a little bit this year.
Q - You use the word Experience to describe what Live After Death is all about. That's different. How'd you come up with that?
A - I don't think there's really any heavy thought behind it, an Experience whose set lists are very similar to the set lists they play at the show. A couple of members in recent years dress like Iron Maiden. It's not really anything that deep. Iron Maiden doesn't really have a look. There's no KISS make-up. There's no Angus Young (AC/DC) shorts. We don't wear wigs of any kind. So, it's really more about the music than anything else. We don't kick anyone out if they get a short haircut. While most members of Iron Maiden do have long hair, the singer doesn't have long hair anymore. We have three or four guys in the band who at any given time who have the hair. The iconic members of Iron Maiden are the singer and the bass player, Steve Harris, who formed the band. So, we have members that can pretty much match those two. It's always been about the music. We never really wanted to go too crazy with leather pants and wigs. We picked the perfect band for it. If you did KISS, you'd have to do that. There's positives and negatives to the band you pay tribute to. For us it was we didn't have to go to the wig store. (laughs)
Q - Are you happy playing someone else's music or would you prefer playing your own songs?
A - I think every musician would prefer to play their own music, but when you get to a point in your life where families and job sort of take over as your main responsibility, you're just looking to play. Any musician that I know, if they don't play in a band, on stage for a few months, they're itching to do that again. So, a tribute band is a perfect way to get out, play music that you love, hang out with people who are into the music you love, and there's probably 50% of the effort you have to put into an original band. Now with that being said, I personally would probably appreciate playing to a hundred people appreciating an original song I was part of, than playing in front of a thousand people who thought I played an Iron Maiden song like the record. You really are just playing someone else's songs. As a musician, I'd feel more rewarded by someone appreciating my original music. But at the same time you get to a point in your life where you have to put 100% into an original band and a lot of us get to a point in our lives where we don't have the time to do that. The original music scene is so dead. I've played the same bars I've played with the Iron Maiden tribute. Two weeks later I play with the original band and got treated much worse, paid less. We still write and record. Our singer puts his voice on tons of projects that he gets offered. It's just not a 'live' thing anymore. It's become more of a Pro-Tools in your house, your home studio kind of thing.