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Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain Interview
Nicko: He's going his way, we're going ours. Fuck 'im - let's get a new singer! That's it... cut 'n' dried.
Kerrang!: It's 2am in the bar of a hotel in Bremen, Germany. Nicko McBrain, Iron Maiden's outspoken drummer, has downed a few drinks, and sits here, possibly expressing the thoughts of a million hardcore Maiden-ites. Earlier this evening, Iron Maiden played for 5,000 rampant fans.
Nicko: My father, rest his soul, said to me once: 'Son, if anyone ever shits on the McBrain name, they'll only do it the one time'.
Kerrang!: Did Bruce Dickinson, one of Metal's most prominent frontmen, shit on Iron Maiden when he announced that he was going to leave at the end of this 'Real Live Tour'?
Nicko: Sure he did! He's fuckin' leaving the band, you dip-shit! Course he has! He's said, 'Fuck you, I'm off'. If that ain't shitting on you, then what the fuck is?! I told Steve what my old man said, and I think he thought it was a sensible analogy! It seems to have been a culmination of things for Bruce. He's been writing screenplays, books.... he's got his fencing and his family. It could have been pressure from his wife, for all I know. He hasn't said anything, but it's a possibility. Plus, he went to LA, and y'know what the fucking wankers are like out there!: "Oh, fuckin' Bruce Dickinson, you awesome mother-fucker, duuude! Yeah, you'll make a great fuckin' career on your own! Leave that bunch of fuckin' has-beens behind!"
Kerrang!: It should be stressed that McBrain, believe it or not, still regards Dickinson as a friend, and claims to 'love the geezer - I've worked with him for 10 years. I'l always be there for him, but I still feel hurt, cos I know he don't like the band any more. At this stage, that ain't fuckin' cool.' McBrain also reckons that Dickinson's performances on this final tour leg, which actually climaxes with a few Russian dates, have been a touch inconsistent.
Nicko: Some nights, I see Bruce sing like he hasn't sung before. Tonight wasn't one of them. Sometimes I can't hear him, and wonder whether me monitors are fucked! He's skylarking about-that's okay, that's the way he deals with it. But I eat, live, breathe and shit this band. And I do feel that he don't really wanna be here. Everyone's felt a little of the same about Bruce's effort, and how he's performing. But we mustn't let it get to us. We've got so much strength from each other, and from the whole fucking deal, that it's bonded us together. To me, this is still a 'Fear of the Dark' tour. It's not a 'Farewell to Bruce' tour. It's got fuck all to do with that. What I feel, although in a positive way rather than a hateful one, is good fucking riddance! I can't wait to get to the end of this tour and find a new singer. He and I have done interviews together, where I've said stuff like, 'I'm gonna take him outside and fucking do 'im!' It's a laugh, but there's also an element of truth in that! In my heart of hearts, I don't want to be doing this. I want us to find a new singer and do a new album. There's still a good fucking bit of mileage left in this band. We ain't dead yet. Where there's a will, there's a fucking way. It's gonna work for us; I know it will. Everyone's so positive... It's like the phoenix rising. We will rise again, as a stronger and more positive bird...
Kerrang!: "Have you met our new singer?" asks tour manager Bill Barclay, gesturing towards a six-foot stuffed cat, seated at a piano in this garish in-hotel shopping mall. Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Janick Gers guffaw from their respective positions at the bar. After enthusing about having recently attained his pilot's licence, Dickinson settles down with a cappuccino, and prepares to tell his side of the story.
Bruce: [The tour is] very strange, really. But I don't get the sense that it's anything other than a really enjoyable experience. This is certainly a lot easier than the other way of leaving Maiden, which would've been to sit there, gnashing my teeth and dumping it on the band after the tour's over. This way, it's out in the open. And all I see in the audience is people similing. It's like they're saying, 'Bye... it's been great!'. That's that!
Kerrang!: Surely some fans must have been imploring you to reconsider your decision?
Bruce: No. Not one! I've had no hate mail or death threats, either! In fact, I've been knocked out by how broad-minded people have been.
Kerrang!: Wouldn't you say that a lot of them must be rather puzzled by this move you're making?
Bruce: Well, yes... No, actually, I wouldn't say! Experienced Maiden-watchers were probably geared up to have me disappear two or three years ago, around the time of 'Tattooed Millionaire' (Dickinson's first solo LP)! At the end of this tour's first chunk, I was due to make another solo record, and looking back at the whole 'Fear of the Dark' thing, it hadn't quite worked out as I thought it might. I still think it's the best album we did since 'Powerslave', but I also think I've been creatively sleepwalking for the last five years. The rest of the band and all the fans love being locked in the straight, narrow direction that is Maiden, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I kept trying to deviate from the rut, saying, 'Look what's up here, guys!' I just ended up drained. I realised that I was trying to drag this huge thing somewhere it didn't wanna go!
Kerrang!: Dickinson claims that he's had absolutely no second thoughts about quitting Maiden, and strongly denies that there's been serious friction between himself and Steve Harris. He also laughs long and hard at the suggestion that he was in fact ejected from Maiden's ship.
Bruce: There was much more friction between '81 and '83 than there ever was afterwards! We nearly came to blows on the 'Number of the Beast' tour. In fact, Steve wanted to fuckin' sack me after two weeks, but Rod (Smallwood, Maiden manager) said he had to live with me! Steve isn't a guy who naturally likes change. He's conservative with a small 'c' - very quiet and reserved offstage. He's very determined about keeping control of Maiden, and maintaining its direction. All that early tension between us actually fuelled the band! But towards the end, there was this little something inside of me, screaming 'For God's sake - there must be something different that you can do!' Some nights on the last leg, I'd think to myself, 'Why does this feel so much like hard work?' You then start to realise that.... actually, perhaps.... you don't want to do this any more...
Kerrang!: According to the cheerful singer, Iron Maiden has one of two fates ahead of it. It will either "end up like Wishbone Ash, playing Guildford (Civic) Hall, or make a radical change. Do something fresh with a new singer."
Bruce: It will probably become very much more Steve's baby now, and I certainly don't think it'll plummet just because I've gone. Iron Maiden is like an old warhorse. The Trooper, the charging, Roy of The Rovers, the straight arrow, the ball at the back of the net.... that's what Steve is. From a personal point of view, I wouldn't like to see Maiden play Guildford Hall. I think that would be very sad. But then again, if people are happy doing that, it's okay!
Kerrang!: Dickinson expresses surprise at McBrain's comments, concerning his occasional "iffy" performances on this current tour.
Bruce: I thought last night was excellent! Nicko just sits with his head in the bloody tubs all night! Sometimes I'm running around, sometimes I stop, or drop the microphone... that's rock 'n' roll, I'm afraid!
Kerrang!: When presented with the remark that he and Steve Harris haven't been seen in conversation over the last 24 hours, he merely shrugs.
Bruce: Well, we haven't really had that many conversations over the last 10 years! He's not really the kind of bloke you could sit down with in a pub and pour your heart out to! He's more of a 'pass the salt' sort of chap. We have different approaches to feelings. He keeps all his locked up, and I'm in the process of trying to splatter mine all over my music. I would have liked to splatter more emotion over Iron Maiden's music. But it doesn't work! It's not the kind of music you can do that with!
Kerrang!: Has Maiden's overblown, fantastical imagery been a product of this Harris approach?
Bruce: Yes. At first it was quite intriguing, cos no one was doing it. But after a while, all the allegorical stuff I tried to slip in became so tenuous. I started to think, 'Why don't you just say what you mean?!' If I'd had my way, Maiden would have expressed more feelings and opinions, from the very beginning. Steve has always felt that it's dangerous to over-analyse things, and most of his songs are about fear.
Kerrang!: Does Steve Harris resent you for leaving Iron Maiden?
Bruce: Resent me... I don't know.
Kerrang!: Have you asked him?
Bruce: Mmmm... no. I guess all this has been out of the blue for both of us. But it's the right thing to do.
Kerrang!: Nicko believes that you've shat on the band by leaving.
Bruce: I disagree. I actually think this is an opportunity for them to grab by the balls, and change. They obviously don't see it that way!
Kerrang!: Steve Harris grins knowingly as interrogation begins, sitting in the band's Essen dressing room, in front of a light-bulb framed mirror which gives him a certain Godfatherly glow.
Steve: You bloody journalists - you're always trying to dig the dirt!
Kerrang!: Nevertheless, Harris admits that this tour might not have gone ahead, had tickets not already been sold.
Steve: Bruce is really only doing this because it's already been arranged. I know he wants to go out on a high note and all the rest of it, but I also know he'd rather have left beforehand. Maiden aren't going to split up. We were obviously disappointed at Bruce's timing, but the situation's known now, and we can find someone else. Bruce definitely jumped, rather than being pushed. I was surprised, because he seemed totally into the 'Fear of the Dark' tour's first leg. I was actually the last one to know, because I was out in Florida, mixing the live album. They didn't wanna tell me, cos they knew it'd do my 'ead in! The reaction was disappointment, sadness, being pissed off... all at once! But we've all felt that he's been doing so many different things, that something had to give eventually. The thing is, that if he can't give Maiden 100 per cent, then we don't want him in the band! That's no disrespect or animosity, but there's no point in persuading him to come back or anything. In fact, if he back-tracked now and said he wanted to stay, we probably wouldn't let him! Personally, I think he's maybe made a mistake, cos I don't see why he couldn't do his solo thing and Maiden. But I s'pose he wants to do other things too, and Maiden are a hard-working band.
Kerrang!: 'A Real Dead One', the second Maiden live album this year, has been put back from May to September. "For obvious reasons" says 'Arry, revealing that more tracks are being recorded on this tour; songs like 'Prowler' that weren't included on 1986's 'Live after Death'. He scans through a recent Kommunikation letter from Paul G in Bradford, which signs off, 'Iron Maiden, RIP'. He's not impressed.
Steve: This guy must be so pessimistic! He's probably got a rope hanging up in his bloody bedroom, wondering whether or not to use it every night! After reading this, I think I'll fuckin' help 'im! Does he think Bruce was the band, then? Maiden were together for eight years before Bruce joined. Why shouldn't we continue without him? If you think we should give up, then fuck you!
Kerrang!: Harris admits that some tension has been felt on this tour.
Steve: If I'm really honest, a little. It's weird having someone onstage who's going. Very odd. Both sides, if you wanna split up like that, wanna get on with their own things. At the moment, it's in limbo, but we're still doing really good gigs. It really pissed me off when someone suggested that we've only announced Bruce's departure cos the tickets aren't doing well! That's a fuckin' insult - we'd never do that.
Kerrang!: We can safely forget all the possible Dickinson-replacements suggested in the Big K!. Harris thinks Michael Kiske, Joey Belladonna and the rest are all very nice blokes; good singers and all that, but the clever money's on a British unknown. In a few weeks, the bassman will start sifting through the "shit-loads" of tapes himself. But does he really believe Iron Maiden can reinvent themselves?
Steve: Well, no, I don't believe we'll do that. I believe we'll carry on and be as good as ever. If I didn't believe that, I would stop.
Kerrang!: Do you resent Bruce?
Steve: No! You're trying to dig the dirt again! Me and Bruce don't 'not' get on. I like and respect him, and I like to think he feels the same, but I wouldn't say we're great mates. But that's not to say we won't go and have dinner at each other's houses!
Kerrang!: It's hard to believe that when someone says they no longer want to be associated with Maiden, your long-time love, you don't harbour even a little resentment for them.
Steve: I s'pose... but there's no point in getting too upset. You can't keep people on a ball and chain! Some bloke in Spain was saying, 'I want to kill Bruce - he's a traitor!', but that's ridiculous!
Kerrang!: His voice suddenly becomes noticeably quieter.
Steve: To be completely honest, this hit me at a time when I was at a bit of a low ebb anyway. But you have to pick yourself up and steam back in. That's the way I handle things... I think it's the only way I know how. When Bruce has problems, he doesn't really let 'em out. I think I like to talk about problems more than he does.
Kerrang!: He said it was the exact opposite
Steve: He said that?! That's weird! Mmmm... really weird. I s'pose sometimes we don't want to bother each other with our personal stuff in this band, cos there's so much chaos on the road as it is! A lot of personal stuff I've been through in the last yar, with my divorce 'n' stuff, leaves you at a low ebb. Anything else that goes wrong really gives you a kick in the teeth.
Kerrang!: He pauses for a moment.
Steve: What worried me was that I've always felt confident about Maiden. Bruce quitting knocked me for six, and I thought maybe the rest of 'em would be looking to me to be a leader. For a week or so, I didn't feel like that, but now I feel stronger as time goes on...
Kerrang!: Sentiments echoed by Bruce Dickinson, who now feels extraordinarily charged by his solo material. He has absolutely no second thoughts about leaving Iron Maiden.
Bruce: Having found my new musical direction, I have to go. I can't stay. 'Tattooed Millionaire' was a lot of fun, but it wasn't life-changing. My new record is changing my life; that's more important than anything.
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