Scream For Me, Bruce! An Exclusive Chat With Iron Maiden Frontman Bruce Dickinson
Friday, February 15, 2002 @ 4:56 PM
Bruce Dickinson Speaks About T
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A lot has happened on the Iron Maiden front since their charismatic frontman Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith re-joined the band in 1999. A computer game coupled with yet another best-of (Ed Hunter) was released and Iron Maiden went on a world tour to show that they were back. The Blaze episode soon slipped into obscurity and Brave New World became the big metal release in 2000. The single "The Wickerman" made it up to no 9 in the charts and once again Iron Maiden stormed the world and headlined the Metal 2000 festival in Europe. The 19th January 2001 saw Iron Maiden's biggest headlining event ever. At Rock In Rio, they played in front of about a quarter of a million fans, a show that was recorded and filmed for a double live CD and a DVD. The forthcoming release of the DVD and the live album are the next big events on the Maiden front. Before that, Iron Maiden are playing three charity shows at London's Brixton Academy on Tuesday 19th, Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st March 2002. The shows were set up when the band heard about their former drummer Clive Burr suffering from multiple sclerosis. There will also be a special release of "Run To The Hills,” their most successful single with Clive. All the profits from both the single, which will be released on 11th March, and the shows will go to the Clive Burr Multiple Sclerosis Trust Fund.
The Rio show, the new live album and the charity shows are reason enough for Bruce and Janick to go on an interview tour in Germany. KNAC.COM met Bruce in Cologne, Germany on 30th January. In the 20 minutes he spent with us there was also time to talk about Janick Gers's accident in Mannheim on 8th July 2000, his memories of NWOBHM veterans Samson before he joined Maiden in 1981, his solo career, the forthcoming Iron Maiden studio album and fencing.
KNAC.COM: There's a live album coming up. Can you tell me something about it?
BRUCE: Well, it is a live album and a DVD from the Iron Maiden performance at Rock In Rio last January [i.e. in January 2001 - D.H.], which is two hours in front of 250,000 Brazilian metal fans, which is the biggest audience Iron Maiden has played in front of as a headlining act ever. We took our entire show from the Brave New World Tour, set it up and basically did the full European show, recorded it with Kevin Shirley, mixed it with no overdubs of any description. It is one complete concert. It and the DVD document, I think, one of the finest concerts that the band has played for many years. It truly represents the way Iron Maiden is now. I think it demonstrates that the band has moved on a lot from the previous kind of classic live album, which was Live After Death. Great album, but that was an eighties band. This is a twenty-first-century band. It sounds absolutely contemporary. It rocks, it's a great record and it shows how much the band has developed over the years.
KNAC.COM: Were you nervous before you went on stage in front of 250,000?
BRUCE: Of course, I was. I was fucking terrified.
KNAC.COM: What did you do then?
BRUCE: [Thinks for a while] Well, sit around and be nervous [laughs].
KNAC.COM: Do you warm up for a concert, you know, do singing exercises or do you just walk on stage and do it?
BRUCE: No, the more nervous I am, the more I try to stretch and relax and breathe deep. You can end up being so tense and too nervous that you go out and hurt yourself straight away by trying too hard. You still have to ease into this big escapade you're about start. Especially because it's 250,000 people you've got to really take it carefully the first couple of songs, because if you blow out your suspension in the first two corners, you'll have nothing left for the rest of the race.
KNAC.COM: When you're on such a big tour like the Brave New World Tour and you play the same songs basically every night, don't you get fed up with doing something like "The Trooper" for, let's say, the 250th time?
BRUCE: First of all, we don't do 250 shows in one year. We're doing usually less shows but to more people. Every show is different. You're in a different headspace every day when you're on the road, different country very often, and so doing the same songs is actually a relief. You have to have something that you can rely upon and I think relying upon a set is a pretty good benchmark. Also we have the show, we have the lights and we have everything. It's very well co-ordinated. It's nice to do a show and have it all worked out, because people enjoy the spectacle, they like to be entertained by what they are watching, and in order to do that, it's good to keep the same set, because everybody is working to the same rhythm.
“This is a twenty-first-century band. It sounds absolutely contemporary. It rocks, it's a great record and it shows how much the band has developed over the years.“
KNAC.COM: What was the best moment you've had on stage with Iron Maiden?
BRUCE: I will have to say walking off stage at Rock In Rio. I say walking off stage because I knew we'd done it. I thought "shit.” That was the most exhausted I've ever been after a concert. In a good way. Exhausted not because I was injured or fucked up or something. Exhausted because I'd done every single thing I thought I could possibly do.
KNAC.COM And what was the most awful moment with Iron Maiden?
BRUCE: Seeing Janick fall off stage at a show in Germany, in Nuremberg...
BRUCE: ...was it Mannheim? Right, anyway. He stepped off and fell off. I just saw the guitar gone and him and it was awful! I'll never forget. I mean, I thought he was nearly fucking dead. I really did, because I saw how far he had fallen. He was unconscious. He was covered in blood and his whole head was covered in blood. And there were iron railings and posts. I was really freaked out. And he was so lucky. He actually fell onto a security guard, and that stopped him. And he headbutted an iron post. That's what cut his eye. He was so fucking lucky. He was lucky he was thick [laughs out loud]! That thick fucking head! Shit! I tell you, I couldn't... [hesitates] I mean, I did my singing bit ... I couldn't stay on stage. I was like, what did the ambulance guy say... And then as soon as I heard he was up, he was sitting up talking, you know... He didn't know what he was saying. Apparently, when they put him into the ambulance, his guitar roadie went to the hospital with him, he suddenly sat up and went: "Who's playing my guitar solo?" [laughs out loud].
KNAC.COM: There's also a special edition of "Run To The Hills" and some charity gigs coming up.
BRUCE: Yes, on the subject of horrible things. Clive Burr has got multiple sclerosis, which we found out just before Christmas. We asked his permission to do some shows to raise some money for him. So, we're doing three shows now at Brixton for that purpose. All the money that's raised in the shows will go to Clive's Trust Fund to pay for treatment and alleviation of the symptoms of his illness. But also the royalties from the "Run To The Hills" single will all go to Clive as well, and all the money from the merchandising of the three shows. So we hope that's gonna be a substantial amount of money.
KNAC.COM: A bit about your musical history. Before you came to Maiden you were in a band called Samson.
KNAC.COM: What memories do you have of Samson?
BRUCE: Samson used to drive around in his old saloon car, which usually had an interior fog of cannabis smoke. I was a non-smoker, but I don't think you can really help getting a contact high in the back. We were a very, very eccentric band and we made some interesting records, pretty cool stuff actually. But it was a very odd band. We were very uneven in our performances. It depended how much people had smoked, drunk, or what they'd swallowed. The first rehearsal I went to, the bass player was sniffing amphetamines, Paul was smoking big joints, I'd been down the pub and had three or four pints of beer and Thunderstick had swallowed a couple of downers. Halfway through the rehearsal, he almost fell unconscious at his drum kit. He fell backwards but there was a wall in the way, so he couldn't quite fall over. He still carried on drumming, even though he was basically just kind of semi-conscious, and nobody else really noticed. I thought, "Wow - this is gonna be an interesting couple of years.” And it was. I learnt a lot, because we made just about every mistake you can possibly make in the music industry in two years [laughs].
KNAC.COM: Somebody once said that your first solo album, Tattooed Millionaire as actually the sequel to Samson's Shock Tactics. What do you think about it?
BRUCE: Erm... [thinks for a while] not really. I may have described it as being more related to what I was doing with Samson than what I was doing with Maiden, which is probably true, because it was more of a straight rock album than anything else. And Samson was basically a rock band. In fact, before I joined Samson, it was a blues rock band, a three-piece. They had a singer who was writing all that stuff. I pulled it more in the direction of a rock band with a bit more metal things to it, you know, riffs and so on. And then, when a guy called Tony Platt came in as the producer, it went more in a kind of AC/DC direction in one or two tracks for Shock Tactics. That's why I described Tattooed Millionaire as being more of a successor of some of the Samson stuff. Related to Maiden, I think that's probably true.
KNAC.COM: Will you be working on another solo album?
“Buy it, steal it - whatever.“
BRUCE: I will be, but not for a long time, unless something strange happens in the meantime, because there's no suitable time period to actually put it out. If I put out a studio solo album, I'm really gonna have to do some serious promotion around the album and anything else. The only time I could make it and put it out would be the end of this year, when I'm recording with Maiden. And next year, 2003, the album with Maiden is gonna be released and we're gonna have a big tour... My guess is the best time to release a solo album would be after the Iron Maiden album.
KNAC.COM: There are some Maiden songs that are built around quotes from Shakespeare plays, such as "The Evil That Men Do" [Julius Caesar, III, ii, 75] or "Sea Of Madness" [Hamlet, III, i, 59]. Others are based on other literary works, like "Brave New World" or "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.” Who's the one in Maiden who reads all that stuff?
BRUCE: We all do. You can just pick a song and say, "who reads that stuff" and see who wrote it. There you go.
KNAC.COM: And "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”...
BRUCE: Yeah. Steve. I mean, people did "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" at school as well and it was obviously something that he latched onto and went "oh, this is cool.”
KNAC.COM: What do you do between the Maiden tour and the recordings of the new album?
BRUCE: I do all kinds of odd little things. I sometimes do TV shows, I do a bit of radio work with the BBC now. I'm gonna be a DJ on Radio 2 Digital Network for a year, doing some rock shows on Saturday nights. So, I keep busy.
KNAC.COM: Are you still into fencing?
BRUCE: Yes, I've been trying it a couple of nights a week, actually. I'm even going to the point where I'm thinking of maybe entering a competition one of these days, which I haven't done for nearly ten years.
KNAC.COM: Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to the KNAC.COM community?
BRUCE: No, not a sausage. Just go and buy the record. It's cool. Buy it, steal it - whatever.
KNAC.COM: Thank you very much, Bruce.