So how has flying on Ed Force One been so far? You had some issues in Chile ...

Well we had bit of a mishap with the plane [the plane suffered engine damage while being towed at an airport ] which was a difficult thing to get over. But it was amazing - our management and crew managed to sort out the next gigs on time in two different countries. It was incredible that they managed to pull all that together.

The Iron Maiden Plane Ed Force One.
The Iron Maiden Plane Ed Force One.

We got the Icelandic engineers [the plane is leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic] to come out and fix the plane and everything's been great, other than that.

So with Bruce Dickinson flying the plane, has the novelty of "this is your captain speaking" worn off?

Oh I don't know really. No not really. You have to pinch yourself when you get on. It's a massive plane and when you land and you pull up to the dock there are so many people who want to take photos of it and you realise just how special it is. We don't take it for granted really. It's a pretty amazing thing. Especially when you see it flying as well.

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It's a great billboard for the band.

It certainly is. At times, you feel like "wow it's like being in Led Zeppelin or something". It's amazing.

How have the shows been?

The shows have been going great. We've been getting fantastic reactions. When we kicked off the tour we hadn't played for quite some time because of Bruce's illness [Dickinson underwent chemotherapy for tongue cancer in 2014-15]. So it took a few shows to get going - it always does, but probably a few more than we would have liked. I don't think people noticed too much but we did. It just took a while to get our match fitness if you like, but we are firing on all cylinders now.

Coming back after Bruce's health scare must feel good.

Definitely. There was a period of time where we weren't even sure we had a future. So just to be out here is fantastic again. We don't take it for granted. We are loving every minute of it.

After so many years of Iron Maiden, are your shows attracting fathers and sons?

Yeah. Sometimes you get three or four generations of family all coming to the gig. I suppose we've been going for 40 years or so I suppose it's bound to happen really. It's scary from our point of view that we are getting that told but it makes you wonder what some of the youngsters down the front must think ... Christ!

Does it worry you that Iron Maiden has become family entertainment. That you aren't as dangerous as you once were?

I wouldn't say we were family entertainment. I don't know if we have ever been that dangerous really. We've not exactly been rock'n'roll rebels as such. We've had our moments over the years but we just go do what we do and people seem to like what we do. We've not tried to be too outrageous really with our behaviour off stage, that is for sure.

Having Eddie as the symbol of the band has maybe kept the band's image oddly timeless.

Yeah we were aware of it right from the start - that we didn't want to be on the front covers of albums back in the day - or now. So I think that's a plus point.

Last year's The Book of Souls was your 16th album and your first double album, why so ambitious?

That is the way it turned out really. We never had any plans to do it like that. It just turned into a double album with long songs. Hopefully there will be another album or two before we hang the guitars up.

Is there an end to the band in sight?

I guess there is. We don't think too much like that, other than the fact we just try to cram in as much as we can between now and when we decide to knock it on the head. I like to think we've become better players over the years. We have to work hard before a tour to keep fit and everything like that. The fact we have kept ourselves in shape over the years and not done anything too outrageous has stood us in good stead now.

On this tour you've got a stage set modelled on a Mayan temple and of course Eddie turns up at some point to do his monster thing. Can you take all that stuff seriously?

Well yeah it's fun. That's what it's meant to be - it's not meant to be anything too serious. The music is serious. People come for the music first and foremost and I think it is a good show, but of course we are facing the other way. We saw it in pre-production and thought it looked pretty bloody and and by all reports most people seem to be really happy with the show. But the music is the main thing - the bottom line is the music stand up on its own.

What: Iron Maiden, seasoned British heavy metal outfit on The Book of Souls world tour in a 747-400 dubbed "Ed Force One" piloted by band frontman Bruce Dickinson

When and where: Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, Friday April 29; Vector Arena, Auckland, Sunday May 1