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Bruce Dickinson Interview
'Can I Play With Madness'.
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Bruce: "The single's a real collaborative effort. The beginning bit, the riff - with apologies to Pete Townsend! - was me on acoustic guitar at home. Then Adrian came along with some chords and I went, 'Hang on a minute, I've got some words here that fit', so we sat around and worked on it. And I said, 'Can I write an instrumental bit in the middle?' - because I normally don't write bits like that since I don't have to play them - and Steve came in with the time-change bit, the Zeppelin-y bit, and we had a tremendous argument with Nicko saying, 'Oh it won't work it's too radical'. And I thought, no it will work, so long as everyone takes the plunge and does it."
How did the writing of this album differ to that of previous efforts?
Bruce: "Instead of looking at it like Lego bricks - this bit goes here and that bit goes there - it was just getting the feeling right that made it work. Whereas before I think we tended to plan everything out a lot; on the new album we sort of loosened up a bit and that made all the difference. There's a lot more experimentation. I think we've broken the mould a bit. With all the previous albums you can say, 'Well, this is a bit better than that one' or 'That was a bit like that one'; they all refer back to one another. But this - although it's obviously Iron Maiden, it's quite distinctly different from anything we've ever done before. We didn't get a keyboard player for the album, it's mainly one-finger stuff from Adrian, Steve, the engineer or whoever had a finger free at the time. Some parts of the album are much more sparse than other things we've done, and there's a lot of depth and complexity at times but it still sounds a lot clearer. Before, sometimes we tended to have a bit of a wall-of-sound and you had to listen quite hard to get through to what individual layers were doing. But it's very transparent, the solos really leap out of the speakers and you can hear everything. There's a track on the album called 'Infinite Dreams' which starts out really dreamy and Hendrix-y and has all kinds of things all over it, and the whole thing just builds up. And there's also a lot of uptempo stuff, that certain kind of feel that Maiden's got anyway, where people will say, 'Yeah! Back into the groove' sort of thing. This album is as different from the last album as 'Number Of The Beast' was from 'Killers'. About the closest you could get to it is probably 'Piece Of Mind', but it's very different from that too, much more upfront. We wrote the album round Steve's house in Essex in his old barn, which sounds great, a good atmosphere to work in. And Adrian came around my house a couple of times, and then we all went into the studio. We gave ourselves a starting point. We all guaranteed that we would not bother each other until this point, and then after that it was really a free-for-all. It's nothing personal, nothing to do with not liking each other, it's all to do with the general situation. As you grow older you realise that rock music is not actually the real world. Being on the road and all this rest of it is only a part of your life, and with any luck most of your life is going to be lived outside of tour buses and inside theatres. And you either have to come to terms with that or become a casualty of some description. What we're tending to do now is try and get the real life and the rock life to co-exist. Steve's going to have Lorraine and his two kids and his nanny in a complete tour bus of his own when he goes to tour in America, and Nicko's going to be flying his own aircraft around that sort of thing. With this tour we've said, we'll keep it to six months, make it in the Summer to avoid getting flu and being miserable and killing yourself, and just go out and have a good time. When it's got a starting point and an ending point I can plan my life around that, I know what time I've got to relax in and when my life is not really my own - because that's what it really amounts to, you're giving up your freedom to drop everything and commit yourself 100%. When you're 18 and you don't have anything else you want to do anyway that's easy. But I'm 30 next year and I'm the youngest in the band! And you start thinking there are other things besides the myth of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle - which fell out of favour with me a long time ago, apart form the odd evenings, when you say, 'Yeahhhh!!! Let's go wally!' I was yards away from checking into the Funny Farm after the 'Powerslave' tour. But it's completely turned around now. I'm really looking forward to this one. But that is exactly how I felt at the time. I didn't give a damn, as they say in all the best films, because if that was what it was going to do to me then I didn't want to know. So I went out and wrote a book on the last tour, the tale of Lord Iffy Boatrace, a transvestite from the knee down, and an infernal mechanical penis called Pelvitron that has been built by his psychologically twisted butler who's a runaway undertaker from Wormwood Scrubs. And in the midst of this comes the Spanish Armada and the history of the Hispanic-Scottish village and the pub called the Bonny Hacienda! Reading it, it's completely lunatic, so I think I've probably got it all out of me. If ever you go through a period like that, whatever it is going on in your brain-box, something good usually comes out of it in the end, as long as you come through it with most of your marbles still intact."
Why were there none of your compositions on the 'Somewhere In Time' album?
Bruce: "Well the more I look at it now, the more it was like a conscious reaction, like your brain throwing a temper-tantrum saying, 'I'm not going to write any more of this stuff! I hate it! Look what it's done to me! Why can't I stick my finger in my ear and go and be a folkie and drink beer like everybody else?' I was very messed-up in the brain department at the time. I was talking to Steve about it and even he had a lot of head problems after the 'Powerslave' tour, and nobody had really resolved them by the time we came to do 'Somewhere In Time'. I think I came to terms with it more after we'd done the album. We had quite a long gap and then went out and did the tour - which still ended up being two months longer than it was supposed to be, of course! But this year I'm feeling in much better shape. I'm much happier being a singer again."
Are you looking forward to playing the new material live?
Bruce: "I think it'll go over fantastic. There's so much energy in it, there's so much energy in everything, a real desire in the band to go out and really rip things up. I saw a major group in London recently and I closed my eyes and it could have been the record, and I opened my eyes and it could have been a bunch of people that learnt all the poses from a book and sprayed the sweat on, it was pure Courvoisier! I'd really like to go and do something a little bit original again."
Rumour is, you'll be playing Donington this year...
Bruce: "It's still up in the air a little bit, the whole touring situation; chances are we will do Donington but it's still not absolutely 100%.
We can't have the yanks taking over again!
Bruce: "Well, I can't see why British or European bands can't come back with some really good ideas - because to me everything that's happening in America is so completely stale. It's either derived from sub-Motley Crue Glam stuff, which doesn't turn me on in the slightest, or it's a really nightmarish bad version of Kansas or Styx-type vocal harmonies with people singing songs about I don't know what. It just seems to me that there's no real sincerity coming over from America."
What about Thrash?
Bruce: "Basically it's alright for a bit of a laugh, I think. But it immediately limits itself. It's like Punk - as soon as it's born it's dead. If Thrash bands think they're going to take over the world by being Thrash bands.... It's impossible! Because to most people it just sounds like a noise, they can't play their instruments properly and they can't sing in tune and there's no tune to sing anyway, except for the odd song like Megadeth's 'Peace Sells...' or something! "Metallica and Anthrax? They're not Thrash bands, no way. They're straight-ahead heavy rock bands. Steve thinks exactly the same as me. What disappoints us is a lot of bands come along and cite us as a primary influence, some Speed Metal bands, and we think. 'God, where did we go wrong?!"
What, if anything, has become of that movie you were supposed to be working on with horror writer Shaun Hutson; something to do with Eddie getting buried alive way back in pre-history and coming back to destroy the world?
Bruce: "Shaun drafted out a basic script, I got together with him and we made some alterations, and apart from that I haven't heard anything about it. But I have just read an absolutely brilliant book called 'The Vampire Lestat' and I was talking to Steve about it. We'd love to do some film music sometime, so somebody should make a film about it and we'd like to volunteer our services!"
Bruce: "I did some stuff with Jimmy Bain one night at the end of the last American tour - I went around to his house one night and we wrote the bare bones of about five songs, recording the stuff on a little demo machine. It was quite good, quite different - a bit sort of Procul Harum-ish, soully. I'm going to be seeing him again next month, and we were talking about maybe doing something. I like things that happen like that, just with your mates, unusual projects that just happen naturally."
Like the duet with Fish of Marillion at the Prince's Trust charity thing?
Bruce: "The version we did of 'With A Little Help From My Friends' was absolutely unbelievable! It was recorded on the BBC mobile and we were going to release it as a joint single for charity. I don't know what happened - I heard something about Michael Jackson (who owns the Beatles' publishing) not giving permission, so I don't know."
Have the others been up to anything on the side?
Bruce: "Adrian's going to do a solo album, we're all convinced. But I don't think Adrian's ever convinced about anything," laughs. "But in as much as any man is convinced about what he want's to do, I think he wants to do something with Nicko. It would be, I imagine, much more straight-ahead, American rock kind of thing, with a bit of Small Faces in there or something. I think he needs to do it, he's got a lot of ideas and wants to get them out of his system. "I think Dave is just happy to be doing his thing with Maiden, and I don't think Steve really contemplates doing anything much outside of Maiden either. I tend to be pretty much like that too - take everything you've got and sling it in the pot and there it is, take whatever you want. "In fact, the relationship between me and Steve gets better and stronger with every album. And probably me not writing anything on the last album made it stronger still. Because in some bands there would be a temper tantrum, like, 'I'm the singer, I'm going to do this, that and the other!' Obviously my nose was put out of joint a bit, but you have to behave like an adult; people aren't doing it to spite you, they're doing it for the good of the band. And that sort of situation just makes the whole unit stronger - that obviously it's a team effort and people can't prize you apart."
You're currently working on the video for 'Can I Play With Madness', and decided that you wanted to do something different and hired an animator...
Bruce: "The idea also was that we weren't going to be in it - which I loved! I hate making videos at the best of times because it's always a bit fake. You're in a never-never world between acting and doing the real thing, and you feel a bit weird. So any excuse to get out of standing in a rehearsal room for two days doing it for the 16th time!"
Are there going to be animated Iron Maidens in there then, like you as Fred Flintstone, Dave as Barney Rubble?
Bruce: "No, but that would be great! We're still finalising the script. At one point Alexei Sayle and Eric Idle were going to come in and do some stuff. But I'm not entirely convinced. It's not supposed to be Comic Relief or Bad News."
What do Maiden most want to achieve this year?
Bruce: "I'd really like to have a hit single. We haven't had a genuine hit single since 'Run To The Hills'. I think this one stands a chance because of the kind of song it is, the chorus is quite catchy. "And it would be nice to go out and do an absolutely rip-roaring tour. We'd like to give everybody something to think about before the 1990s. Like, there's life in them there hills, and nobody's going down without a serious fight!"