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Bruce Dickinson Interview
Bruce Dickinson, March 30, 2000.
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The Demon of Creation
Sitting down to speak with Bruce Dickinson ONCE was exciting. Getting an opportunity to hear Brave New World in its entirety a full two months before it’s release AND getting to speak to Bruce AGAIN was almost too much. As I sat in the room, letting the new Iron Maiden album pour over me, something I’ve always done with new ‘Maiden albums, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky. You can read about my impressions of the album elsewhere in this issue. Bruce was beaming like a proud parent at the mention of his new "baby." Obviously thrilled with the way it turned out and very eager for the fans and the World to hear it. Coming from anyone else in any other band, this attitude may have seemed cocky, but not here. Iron Maiden, with or without Bruce Dickinson, has been around for over 20 years and he should be proud of what they’ve accomplished both in the past, in the present with the new record and in the future where just about anything can happen.
Bruce Dickinson: Do your "worst" as the German said to the sausage.
Promethean Crusade: So this record…
PC: I’ve heard it, finally.
B: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
PC: It is pretty good. The Sony publicist came back into the room as "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate" was playing and asked who put the Oasis album on.
B: Oh yes, you know I said that to Steve [sings the slow part towards the end]. Yeah, that is reminiscent of Oasis, that last part of the last track. It’s a very unconventionally Iron Maideny last track. There are a couple of them on there, "Blood Brothers" again that is obviously pretty different.
PC: That was the first thing I noted as "Thin Line…" began.
B: The interesting thing about that is that both of those tracks were written and heavily, heavily influenced or written exclusively by Steve.
PC: Even Dave is writing on this album, what’s up with that?
B: Yeah, that’s right. That’s the thing, there are five writers in the band and everybody’s getting stuck in on things, so it’s pretty interesting.
PC: All the songs go through many time changes, is that because of the multi writer songwriting process with Steve writing one section and Adrian writing another and then splicing them together into one song?
B: Sometimes, sometimes, but not always. I think in "…Navigator" that was the case, where something takes off into a solo section [sings]. That was sort of glued on, "ok everybody turn left NOW!" and that has been a characteristic of Maiden. Sometimes it can sound kind of dorky, but sometimes it just works and you can turn it into a virtue.
PC: If you have the lyrics behind it to tell the story it will work.
B: Yeah and it works and you think, oh cool. The whole album basically hangs together really, really well. It has this kind of almost Prog element to it. Which I think is really pretty courageous in today’s marketplace because nobody would have the balls to do that.
PC: Steve’s bass sound has this organ-like sound on a few tracks, like a Hammond B3.
B: Well Kevin Shirley’s done a great job on the production. Best sounding Maiden record ever, I think.
PC: Did he approach it completely 180 degrees different from what you guys were used to?
B: Yeah, we did it live.
B: Yeah, the whole album is live.
PC: When did you go into the studio?
B: November. We finished the back tracks and therefore virtually ALL the tracks within twelve days. Then we sat on our asses for the next six weeks while everybody went through in minute detail the six versions of each song and decided. "Ok, this is going to be the master drum track, now, let’s have a listen to all the guitars," version one of the guitars, version two of the guitars and so on. That takes like a day for each song for each set of guitars is a day so there’s ten days. Then there’s the vocals, each song each six versions of the vocal is another day, so ten days of vocals. We worked five days a week with weekends off, that’s four weeks. So two weeks to do record everything live, four weeks to sort it all out, two weeks to mix it, there’s eight weeks and then two weeks to fool around with it and do overdubs and bullshit and backing vocals. There you have a three-month album.
PC: That’s fast for today’s standards.
B: Yeah, it could have been way faster if we’d worked weekends and longer hours. It could have been way faster, but we’re like, who’s in a hurry?
PC: It seems like it went fast from the Ed Hunter tour to now.
B: What people didn’t see or know is that we were writing for three months before the tour. So we started writing in February.
PC: When I talked to you last year, in the stairwell at your hotel, remember that?
B: Oh God, don’t remind me [shaking his head].
PC: The Sony offices are much nicer.
B: Oh yes.
PC: Anyway, you told me you were writing then. So everything on the album was "born" then, you didn’t drag anything old into the studio?
B: No, nothing out of the closet. Three months to come up with the basic nuts and bolts. Then off to do the tour and another six weeks rehearsing and refining them; really getting them developed so that we could play them live when we went into the studio. The whole thing was done live with no guide tracks at all.
PC: Knowing that makes it that much more impressive. Those are some long difficult songs.
B: We rehearsed it like crazy. I mean it had to be tight, with all three guitarists in the same room making constant eye contact. We were surprised when we heard it all back, how tight the whole thing was.
PC: You’re touring this summer?
B: Yes, [Madison Square] Garden over here on the East Coast. Garden, Boston, Philly then across the top of the U.S. and Midwest and finish up at Long Beach Arena. That’s America part one. Then we come back after doing Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and South America and do America part two until the beginning of December. So that’s the way it’s happening. And obviously we’re doing two months in Europe playing to about a million people in June and July.
PC: Who’s going out on the road with you?
B: Everybody from Slayer to Entombed to Korn to Nine Inch Nails.
PC: And who in the US?
B: [long pause] We’re thinking maybe Rob Halford. His new album sounds just fucking amazing, it’s really, really cool. I’ve done a track with him on it, a duet, Roy Z’s produced it and I spoke with Rod Smallwood the other day and he says that it just sounds brilliant. It’s like absolutely back to full screaming Metal.
PC: One of the guys in his new band is on this Maiden tribute on Meteor City, have you heard it.
PC: Last time I talked to you, you said you liked goofy versions of Maiden tunes.
B: Uh huh.
PC: There’s a great version of "The Trooper" on it by a band from Finland called Hoyry-Kone [see review last issue]. It’s nuts; it has a trombone playing the vocal line and a horn section.
B: Oh, brilliant, that’s fantastic. [Points to the track listing] I know The Quill. Do these sell?
PC: Maiden fans buy them. This one is much better than any other, and it has liner notes that explain why the bands chose their particular covers. Sebastian Bach says he learned everything he knows about singing from "Children of the Damned."
B: Oh no [blushing]. Help! This is great.
PC: I went to both NYC shows last summer and my wife, who was three months pregnant at the time, came with me. After the show, she told me that she had felt the baby really kick for the first time.
B: Oh no! He didn’t look like Eddie when he came out, did he?
PC: Actually… [Laughs]. So you’re back with a Major label with all these people in this huge Midtown Manhattan office building at your beck and call. Is that a good feeling?
B: Yes it should be… They are I think the best record company in America, so if they can’t do it, who can?
PC: Are you concerned about carrying the label s the biggest name?
B: Oh I don’t even know anything about that or even think about that.
PC: Do you still fence?
B: [surprised] Yeah!
PC: You still good?
B: [mildly dejected but honest] No.
PC: But you still do it for fun?
B: Yeah, I’m not like Psycho Fencer the way I used to be; although I could probably turn myself into Psycho Fencer again if I really wanted to. But I’ll be 42 in August; it’s like what the fuck are you trying to prove?
PC: What are you reading these days?
B: Ummmmmmmmmm what am I reading? I’m reading a bunch of boring textbooks about flying.
PC: They won’t seem so boring when you’re trying to pull out of a steep dive at 15,000 feet.
B: Hopefully not. I kind of enjoy reading boring textbooks about flying, I do.
PC: Lyrically speaking, are there subjects that you have yet to tackle that you’d like to or other subjects that you won’t touch?
B: Never given it much thought really because I tend to write… well on this album certainly the lyrical subjects tended to be suggested, with the exception of "Brave New World," by the things that pop in your head when you hear the music or when you hear the riffs. Like with "Ghost of the Navigator" when Jannick was playing the riff in kind of its raw state, somewhere along the line I sort of went, "Vikings!" And said ok, Vikings, Vikings equals ships equals boats equals sailing equals navigating equals going…Navigating! I know about navigating, a bit, ok one thing about navigation, Dead Reckoning, you don’t know where you’re going, but you do know where you’ve been. That’s an interesting concept. Hmmm. What happens is that I wander around going [stroking his chin in deep thought] hmmm, hmmm, hmmm an awful lot. Getting a tune together is the easy bit sometimes; it’s getting the philosophy of the song down and what it’s about right.
PC: That’s what holds this album together, every song has that.
B: Exactly. So that’s the hard bit.
PC: Anyone can make a cool sound.
B: It’s true, but that’s shallow. I’ll tell you a lot of the bands these days are like scary wallpaper. You peel off a bit and there’s nothing behind it, no depth.
PC: Do you have a favorite lyric that you’ve written?
B: "Nothing last forever, but the certainty of change." Quite like that one, it’s on a B-Side from Tattooed Millionaire, "Darkness Be My Friend."