Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Steve Harris

Stephen Percy "Steve" Harris (born 12 March 1956) is an English musician and songwriter, known as the bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, leader, and primary songwriter of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he founded as a teenager in 1975. He and Dave Murray are the only original members of the band to have appeared on all of the band's albums, but Murray joined the band in 1976, making Harris the only person who has been a member of Iron Maiden since their inception. He used to work as an architectural draftsman in the East End of London but gave up his job upon forming Iron Maiden. During the mid-1970s he was a youth team footballer for West Ham United. He still is a talented amateur football player and often has the crest of West Ham on his bass,[1][2] and he has stated his first ambition in life before music was to become a professional footballer.[3]

Contents [hide]
1 Career
2 Influences
3 Equipment
4 Other musical talents
5 Trivia
6 Discography
7 References

Originally Harris wanted to play drums or be a professional football player; however, he did not have much space for a drum kit in his house, so he started to play bass and write songs[citation needed]. Harris is a self-taught bass player.[2] His first bass was a copy of a Fender Precision Bass that cost him £40 when he was 17 years old. He went on to use a signature Lado "Unicorn" model and an early 1970s Fender Precision with RotoSound strings.

Harris' first band was named Influence then Gypsy's Kiss and featured Bob Verscoyle (lead vocals), Dave Smith (guitar) and drummer Paul Sears. Harris and Sears later joined Smiler, of which all the band members were several years older than he was. He ended up leaving, as the members of the band made it clear that they did not care for a bassist who leapt around the stage and wrote complicated progressive songs with several time changes. After Smiler, Harris went on to create Iron Maiden, getting the name from seeing an iron maiden, a type of torture instrument, in the movie The Man in the Iron Mask.

Harris is Iron Maiden's principal composer and lyricist. His song writing typically showcases his trademark galloping bass patterns and progressive rock-influenced song with several time changes. Harris frequently writes lyrics about mythology, history or topics inspired from books and films, for which Iron Maiden has become notable in sharp contrast to most other rock bands where the themes are typically sex, drugs and rebellion.

Harris is often considered among the best and most influential heavy metal bassists.[4] He is most known for his "galloping" playing style: usually an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes at fast tempo (e.g., "The Trooper" and "Run to the Hills") or eighth note triplets, which he plays with two fingers. Before playing, Harris often chalks his fingers, to make these fast patterns easier to play, as shown on the bonus DVD for the A Matter of Life and Death album. He also uses power chords, which are unusual on bass on several songs. Harris has also stated that he never uses a pick, that he never warms up before a show, and that he rarely practices and never forced himself to practice when he was still learning.

He plays a specially-painted bass guitar which has been featured on every Iron Maiden album. The guitar has gone through four colour changes since construction. Originally white, then black, it was then changed to blue sparkle, then white with claret and blue pinstriping and the West Ham Utd crest. Harris is epitomised by his clunky sound on most albums. This is a result of a very low action and flatwound strings. However a close listen to the Maiden discography reveals many different sounds.


Harris has cited his musical influences as King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Wishbone Ash, Genesis, Deep Purple, UFO, Chris Squire, Phil Lynott, John Entwistle, Rinus Gerritsen, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Roger Waters and Geezer Butler.


Harris has been seen with different bass guitars during his career, mostly Fender P-Basses. This list may not contain every bass, and most of them are retired, and the first ones in this list are from his earliest days from his career as a musician.

Fender Precision Bass Copy: White, white pickguard, maple neck.
Fender '70s Jazz Bass: Sunburst w. tortoise pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
Fender '70s Precision Bass: Pearl White w/ West Ham crest and blue/red pinstriping (formerly white, then black, then blue sparkle), mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
Fender '70s Precision Bass: Blue / silver crackle finish (formerly white, then red sparkle), mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
Fender 1959 Precision Bass: Chess finish (formerly fiesta red or 'salmon pink' as described by Steve in a 1992-era Bass Player magazine), mirror pickguard (formerly gold anodized), maple fretboard (formerly rosewood).
Ibanez Roadster Bass: Black, maple neck (White pickups).
Ibanez Roadster Bass: Black, maple neck (Black pickups).
Danelectro Longhorn Bass: White, rosewood fretboard.
Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, black pickguard, maple neck.
Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, black pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
Lado Steve Harris Signature Unicorn Bass: Blue w. Unicorn graphic, rosewood fretboard. The bass has no tone control and Harris taps his head or body to cue the technician for treble or bass adjustments.
Lado Super Falcon Bass: Blue w. Falcon graphic, rosewood fretboard. (He's been using two such basses, one being a proto-type and was delivered back to Lado.)
Unknown brand: Natural, rosewood fretboard.
Unknown brand, possibly a "small luthier" bass: Golden, rosewood fretboard.
Fender '80s Precision Bass: Black, white pickguard, maple neck.
Ovation Acoustic Bass: Black, rosewood fretboard. Used to play the bass solo during the introduction of "Blood on the World's Hands".
Fender Steve Harris Signature Precision Bass: Blue, wine-red pickguard, maple neck.
Guild Acoustic Bass: Black, rosewood fretboard.
Fender Special Precision Bass: Sunburst, white pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
Fender Special Precision Bass: Black, golden pickguard, maple neck.
Washburn Force 40: Black with red lining. Shortly after Bruce returned to the band, he appeared with this bass in some photos. According to an interview by Bass Magazine (in Japan), he uses this bass only for exercise.
Steve uses his own signature RotoSound SH77 flatwound bass strings. Broken-in flatwound strings are not typically associated with Steve's bright sound; however, to retain brightness, Steve changes his strings on a daily basis while touring and recording.


Pre-Amp: Custom-made 'Electron'. This is a rackmountable virtual clone of a vintage Hi-Watt Solid State 200 amp (rare) and has been the center of Steve's bass rig since the early 1980s.
Compressor: Vintage DBX 160
Power Amp: C-Audio SR707 rackmountable power amp x 2
Switching: Custom-made rackmount unit built by Pete Cornish. Provides loops and mute for tuning, etc.
Cabinets: Quantity 8 Marshall 4x12 JCM 800 bass series straight cabinets loaded with Electro-Voice EVM12L drivers (32 speakers total).
Spare: Trace-Elliot GP12SMX serves as spare pre-amp.
Other musical talents

In addition to bass playing and writing music/lyrics for Iron Maiden, Steve Harris has taken on numerous other roles to support the running of the band such as:

music production/mixing
music video directing/editing
live music video directing/editing
backing vocals
string/bass synthesisers
Steve Harris has been Iron Maiden's principal keyboardist (other than at live shows and on a few songs where the work has been done by Michael Kenney who doubles as his bass technician) since keyboards were first used by the band on the album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Though since that album keyboards have played less of a role in Iron Maiden, the complexity and speed of the playing has increased as Harris has improved. Initially he was not even credited for it in the band credits, just the album ones.

For the album Somewhere in Time, Harris made his first experimentation with synthesised sounds, playing the bass synth (later on the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album referred to as 'string synth'). He has also done so on subsequent albums, although it has not featured as much as it did on Somewhere in Time because of the band's less synthesised sounds and also the use of keyboards.

Steve Harris is also known for playing an increasing role in mixing Iron Maiden's albums as well as producing them, and has done the work himself since Fear of the Dark. Harris also directs and edits many of the band's music videos, particularly live ones. He also owns a farm with music recording facilities. Harris' land has been used to write Maiden's albums on numerous occasions; it was also used to film the music video for the song Holy Smoke.

Harris has also contributed backing vocals on Iron Maiden records and concerts since the band's inception, though he is not always credited on the sleeves.


Given that Harris had been the centre of attention in Maiden's early gigs the addition of Bruce Dickinson to the band's line-up originally caused small scuffles between the two as they both wanted to be at the centre of the stage. Bruce mentioned in The Early Days documentary that Harris occasionally elbowed him away, and he returned the favour by causing Harris to trip on his extra-long microphone stand.
His eldest daughter, Lauren Harris, is also a singer and has released her debut album, Calm Before the Storm. She supported Iron Maiden on their A Matter of Life and Death tour as well as the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour.[5] In addition, his second eldest, Kerry, has recently been appointed a role as a production assistant for the band's "Final Frontier" tour.
His son, George Harris plays lead guitar in a band called Burn In Reason ([1]) who take a heavy influence from Iron Maiden, and also from bands such as Killswitch Engage, Atreyu, Funeral for a Friend and Underoath.
In 2001, Fender issued the Steve Harris Signature Precision Bass. This instrument featured a basswood body coloured in lake placid blue with a satin-finished maple neck, claret-mirror pickguard (i.e. West Ham United colors), Badass II Bridge, and Seymour Duncan Basslines SPB-3 pickups. This model was discontinued after a very limited run.
In 2009, Fender issued a new version of the Steve Harris Precision Bass. This new model more faithfully recreates the actual bass Steve has used throughout his career with Iron Maiden. This is as the bass appeared on (among others) the World Slavery Tour. It has an alder body in royal blue (darker than the lake placid blue of the 2001 signature), gloss-finished maple fretboard, a chrome mirror pickguard, Badass II Bridge, and the Seymour Duncan SPB-1 pickup Harris actually uses; whereas the 2001 signature model featured an SPB-3 (also known as the Quarter Pound).
Rotosound currently produce a set of Steve Harris signature Flatwound bass strings that are 50 - 110 gauge Rotosound 77's.
He is the father of six children. He has three daughters (Lauren, Kerry and Faye) and one son (George) with former wife Lorraine and another son (Stanley) and another daughter (Maisie) with current partner Emma.

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden portal
Lauren Harris portal
Main article: Iron Maiden discography
1980: Iron Maiden
1981: Killers
1982: The Number of the Beast
1983: Piece of Mind
1984: Powerslave
1986: Somewhere in Time
1988: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
1990: No Prayer for the Dying
1992: Fear of the Dark
1995: The X Factor
1998: Virtual XI
2000: Brave New World
2003: Dance of Death
2006: A Matter of Life and Death
2010: The Final Frontier
Lauren Harris
2008: Calm Before the Storm

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