Mick Burgess speaks to Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris ahead of his tour with band British Lion.

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.

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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 it up 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 Ying 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. In the clubs the crowd are right in your face and there`s nothing quite like it.

Have you ever thought about British Lion opening up for Iron Maiden?

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.

British Lion has 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 background. 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`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 about Sunderland and Newcastle, what do you think of their chances this season?

It`s good to see Newcastle back up there. They are a massive club with a huge fan base. They need and deserve to be up there and Rafa is a great manager so I think they`ll do OK. I`m not sure how Sunderland will fare after relegation last season. Hopefully their new manager is able to turn things around and they make their way back up again quickly.

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 play at The Riverside, Newcastle on 1st August