An Interview with Linda McDonald of The Iron Maidens & Phantom Blue

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Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with the hard-hitting drummer for The Iron Maidens, Linda McDonald. Among other things, we touch on what she’s been up to during these interesting times, her favorite Iron Maiden songs and albums, her time with Phantom Blue, and what she’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

If you would like to learn more about The Iron Maidens, you can head over to their website, and dig in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Linda. Cheers.

Andrew:
Linda, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Linda:
Hello!! Thanks for having me! The last year has been a very trying year both emotionally and financially for so many of us, but it has been very eye-opening on so many levels. I’ve been stressing out [Laughs] but simultaneously trying to be as productive as possible. I started practicing on my Roland kit at home and revisiting drumming basics that otherwise seem to get so neglected when constantly touring. I’ve discovered I now position my drum stool much higher than I used to and have flattened my toms more as well. I’ve addressed some issues I’ve been having with my right arm during this downtime with physical therapy and it all seems to go hand in hand for better technique, and more comfortable and better form. On a very sad note, my mother passed away during this time period (not COVID related) but we were blessed that it happened when the stay at home mandate was lifted so we could have a proper funeral for her with family, and our loved ones were able to celebrate her life with us. [Sigh]. But on a happier note, I got to spend a TON of time with my dogs at home and my husband. I also recorded drums on two tracks for Jim Peterik’s upcoming release on Frontiers Records due out in the third quarter of this year called Tigress. So that was really fun.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Linda:
Music is something that always was in my life from my parents and siblings. I found a lot of comfort and release from listening to music growing up and music was a common denominator for most of my friendships in my youth. I just fell in love with the way different kinds of music made me feel and how it could express the things you were feeling. I was never comfortable in school/institution settings and never felt that I fit in with most of the other kids I went to school with and music was an escape for me from that “real world.”

Andrew:
Specifically, when did the drums come into the picture? Who were some of your early influences?

Linda:
I got caught being a naughty girl at school and was sent home for a few days and discovered Iron Maiden’s Maiden Japan EP in my brother’s record collection, and popped it on the turntable. Oh my God! I was floored by the energy and tightness of Maiden captured live on that album, and it was at that moment I decided to give drumming a try, and wanted to play with the kind of energy and fire that I heard coming from Clive Burr on that recording! Shortly after this, I went with my brother to see Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Girlschool at the Long Beach arena, and I was so motivated to get drums, and start playing after seeing Girlschool sharing the stage with my favorite band!!! I borrowed some money from my brother and found a crazy kit through the local paper, and that was the beginning of my life with drums! My biggest influences in those beginning days were Clive Burr, Alex Van Halen, Simon Phillips, and John Bonham.

Andrew:
You were the long-time drummer of the all-girl Heavy Metal band, Phantom Blue. Tell us how you got the gig?

Linda:
I met Michelle Meldrum (RIP) through a mutual friend, and simultaneously through an ad she had placed in the local trade paper called The Recycler. I had circled her ad seeking female musicians into Hardcore Metal and intended to call later that evening when I returned home. I came home and answered an incoming phone call who happened to be Michelle calling me. She had been given my phone number from a mutual friend and it turns out she was the one I was about to call who had placed that ad for female musicians into Hardcore Metal. It was a trip! Anyway, we jammed a few times and eventually parted ways as she was planning to move to the Bay Area, and that was not in my cards at the time. Fast forward a few years later, I was in Guitar Center to pick up some drum things, and Michelle was working at the guitar counter! She told me about a new band she was putting together, and they were looking for a drummer. She said she literally just told the others that she used to jam with me, and was wondering where I was at…and boom, our strange connection happened a second time! We hooked up, I got tapes of some rough ideas and met the others, and that was how I became the drummer of Phantom Blue.

Andrew:
Phantom Blue came into the 80s Metal scene a bit late in the game. That said, take me back to what it was like to be a part of that era.

Linda:
There will never be another Metal scene like we lived through in the 80s! We were so lucky to be part of that era! I’m sure people growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s may feel the same way about their time periods, but the 80s were pure joy, larger than life, good times, and great music! The Sunset Strip was THE place to be to see bands and just hanging out on the strip. It was just packed with people dressed in that famous 80s fashion celebrating music, and life with reckless abandon.

Andrew:
Albums like Phantom Blue and Built to Perform are so solid, and really, incredibly underrated. Tell us more about the recording of those records. Looking back, do you feel Phantom Blue got the recognition it deserved?

Linda:
Nobody can ever say how much recognition anyone deserves. I believe success and timing are related, and it just wasn’t the right timing for us to really get out there. I am extremely grateful for each experience I’ve ever had with Phantom Blue, and the opportunities to work with and record with Steve Fontano and Marty Friedman on the first release [Phantom Blue], and Max Norman on Built To Perform!

Andrew:
As the 90s wore on, it became increasingly difficult for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal musicians to get ahead with the popularity of Grunge. Did that have any influence on the decision to disband Phantom Blue? That said, Phantom Blue did reunite in 2009. Can we hope for another reunion?

Linda:
It [Grunge] had a LOT to do with the disbanding of Phantom Blue. The music scene and climate for this style of music, in general, was sooo different and changing fast. It was actually pretty depressing especially after coming off the flamboyant 80s era! It was difficult for me to find joy in new music for a while, and after some serious thought, it was time to just call it a day and move on with other projects. The reunion was for a benefit for Michelle’s son after her unfortunate passing. (RIP Michelle). I say, “Never say never” about reunions, but it really would not feel right without having Michelle around to be part of it so that is not on my radar at the moment, but you never know what may happen someday.

Andrew:
In the early 2000s, you formed The Iron Maidens. Tell more about the beginnings of the band? What led you to form an all-female Maiden band?

Linda:
I was a founding member of The Iron Maidens. An all-female Iron Maiden tribute was the brainchild of Singer Jen Taylor Warren, who fronted a co-ed Maiden tribute at the time called Wrathchild. Phantom Blue got an invite from their guitarist, John Leighton, to come and check out a show, and Phantom Blue was seeking a bass player at that time, and we decided to go check them out because we love Maiden, and we also wanted to scout out their female bass player! [Laughs]. It turned out the tables got turned when we met the band, and Phantom’s guitarist, Josephine, and I got recruited to start this female Maiden tribute!

Andrew:
Tell us more about the early lineups and what led to the incredible, and talented lineup the band boasts today? How did you all come together?

Linda:
Well, as with any band, members come and go due to life and opportunities. With each member change, we feel we have grown stronger overall. I guess this band got a reputation for good musicianship (well, we are playing Maiden so you have to be at a certain level I suppose!) and with each new member rotation, the candidates were just more and more amazing! We are so blessed to have this current lineup for as long as we have been together so far — the current lineup is me on drums, Wanda Ortiz on bass, Courtney Cox, and Nikki Stringfield on guitars, and Kirsten Rosenberg on vox. We have been a family for about 10 years now (20 years overall since the first lineup). We found each other through word of mouth.

Andrew:
What are some of your favorite Maiden songs to play live? In general, what’s your favorite Maiden album? As far as singers go, are you a Paul, Bruce, or Blayze fan?

Linda:
Some of my favorites to play live are “Genghis Khan,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Alexander the Great.” My favorite Maiden albums are the first 3 studio albums (and Maiden Japan), though I am completely a fan of the later releases for sure!!!! I was drawn to Maiden for their raw, Punk-influenced energy with Clive Burr but also love how they grew with each following release. I am a fan of all three singers. They each deliver their own brand, and vibe to Maiden that the others cannot replicate.

Andrew:
You’re playing the role of Nicko McBrain in The Iron Maidens. As a drummer, how much of an influence has Nicko been on you? How would you compare your own personal style to his?

Linda:
I play the Clive Burr and Nicko roles! Clive is the main reason I started to play drums so he has always been a huge influence on me. I have been a fan of Nicko without knowing it listening to early Pat Travers and became a bigger fan once he joined Maiden. Nicko’s style has been a big influence on me because I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life learning his parts! [Laughs]. What a joy that is! My own style is not like Nicko’s at all — he hears things so differently, and is just stellar at whatever he does — but his single pedal footwork, and fill patterns have definitely upped my playing when learning his style!

Andrew:
Now that the hard ones are out of the way, how about some fun ones? Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums, and why?

Linda:
I actually still own an 8-track if you can believe that, and have lots of vinyl, and cassettes in storage! I like CDs because you can still have something physical to hold, and look at but also enjoy digital because of the convenience of traveling without CD players, and batteries!

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Linda:
I am passionate about dogs, animal rescue, and animal rights. I have a pet sitting company and take care of other people’s dogs, and other animals when they are away when I am not on the road drumming. Being compassionate and having empathy definitely have an impact on creativity and music. It is where it all comes from to me.

Andrew:
As a drummer, I am sure you are aware of those old-school “Drum Battle” records. That said, if you could face anyone in a drum battle, who would it be? How do you think you would fare?

Linda:
Wow, that is a tough one to answer! Those were epic!! I think I would want to do a multi-drummer face-off with a lot of fellow female drummers. I am part of a group of amazing female drummers (over 6,000 members strong!) called Drummer Girls United on Facebook who completely supports each other at all levels of playing experience, and ability, and I think something like this would be an absolute blast!!! On another note, if I could choose to create a battle, I would love to see Simon Phillips, and Thomas Lang go at it! Woohoo!

Andrew:
Last one. We seem to be nearing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. That said, what’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the pos-COVID world?

Linda:
I absolutely cannot wait to be able to return to shows abroad!! We already canceled Australia, Europe, and Canada a few times since COVID started, and really look forward to a healthier world, and returning to these areas!!!!

Interested in learning more about The Iron Maidens? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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