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Bruce Dickinson Interview
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By Vinnie Apicella / email@example.com
The rumors have been circulating… Fueled by illegitimate reports, the controversy surrounding the new Maiden album has been stirring… the questions have been arriving fast and furious attempting little by little to poke through the enveloping shroud of secrecy for what will become one of the biggest events the heavy metal industry's seen in years! Finally, that shroud can be lifted… slowly, and the truth begins to be uncovered for all. The highly anticipated event is about to get underway-Iron Maiden, at last, their long awaited plans revealed, have returned to lay to rest any potential doubts that last year's summer reunion was no fluke! With preferred vocalist Bruce Dickinson returning to the fold for their first recording together since '92's "Fear of the Dark," and along with guitarist Adrian Smith, the band will now be heard firing smoothly on all "six" cylinders as they gear toward a future of world dominance. In following a brief four song preview of the new album in the Sony studios, I met with Mr. Dickinson to discuss the making of what should prove to be their most technically skilled and advanced work ever, "Brave New World." And while their latest undertaking remains the focus for making this the pinnacle of the group's achievements, right away, for all the new additions and internal growth, there's little doubt this is a true Maiden record right from the first notes…
Me: From what I've just heard from the new album, it definitely captures the traditional Maiden sound but also has an advanced quality to it that suggests a new outlook and freshness within the material. Let's go a little into the conception of the new material and how it's all come together at this point…
Bruce: It's been great. The thing about the album, first of all, it's the best sounding… it's classic, vintage, whatever you want to call it-it's the Maiden sound that everybody wants to hear on this record. It's also the best sounding version of Maiden there's ever been in terms of the production values and everything else. The attitude of the playing is so enthusiastic and raw on the album because we recorded the whole thing live and therefore the vocals are live, the guitars are all live… everything was done all in the same room at the same time; no guide tracks or bullshit like that. It was like playing onstage but in the studio. In terms of writing the songs, we went right back to how we wrote the songs fifteen years ago. We all went and lived in the same place for three months and everybody knocking on each others doors and writing individual bits and then we all got together in one room and presented songs and that's pretty much how the record got made… with everybody writing with everybody else. In fact, because there are six guys in the band now, and five of us are all writers, it means there's an awful lot of variety on the record.
Me: The variety aspect comes through even from hearing only the first couple of tracks that are of course similar but do veer off into many different directions. But all in all, now considering that there are six members in the band, it sounds as though the chemistry between you all has never been better.
Bruce: The chemistry's really really good and nobody's had a personality transplant or anything else like that. So the potential for somebody to disagree is always there but the thing is we don't disagree about stupid shit anymore. Everybody is effectively reading off the same script here in the band. The record does have a kind of progressive element to it which is very rare in this day and age… I think Maiden is one of the few bands that doesn't give a shit, and so could go and get away with doing a record like this whereas a lot of bands worry about their image or whether it's commercial or not, or about whether it's radio… every song has to be three minutes… well our songs are nine minutes you know! It's completely unrepentant Maiden!
Me: When you say "progressive" that brings to mind your new producer Kevin Shirley who's known for some of his work with Dream Theater in the past…
Bruce: Kevin walked in the first day in the recording studio having not heard a note of music! So he just said, "okay guys, what are we going to start with today," and we said, "Wicker Man." "Oh, well what does that sound like?" And by the end of the day, we found out cause it went down in one day-and all the rest of it went down in similar fashion. At the end of twelve days, we'd recorded all the tracks. Kevin had no idea of what these songs were going to sound like until we started playing them for him…
Me: What would you say he's added as a producer compared with those you've worked with in the past?
Bruce: Well as a producer, just the very concept of going in and recording the whole thing live, he enabled that to happen. First of all, he's got a great grasp of live recording and he's a very good mixer. In terms of his mixes, I've never heard anybody mix so fast and so well and so confidently as Kevin. He understands rock and roll… he understands guitarists, and what they like to hear. When he's copping a solo out of three or four different takes, he puts things together and musicians just love it! He's very quick and very sharp and doesn't fuck around. He doesn't have you hanging around trying to make you do something you don't want to do naturally.
Me: I've noticed quite a bit of atmosphere embodying the new songs and several different substructures that brings to mind some of the later material. But the song slotted to be the album's first single, "Wicker Man," is typical of that hard charging straight forward direction in leading off the album… and it instantly has the same impact of say a "Two Minutes to Midnight…"
Bruce: Yes precisely. That was sort of the intention as soon as we'd written that song. I thought, wow, this is cool, great! And it turned out it's four and a half minutes long. It's catchy, it's got a huge anthemic chorus, it's got the big kick ass guitar riff in the beginning…fuck, single… radio cut… whatever. So that's going to be the first single.
Me: The song title brings to mind an early movie of the same name…
Bruce: The title comes from a reference in the song called, "The shadow of the wicker man is rising up again…" in the lyric. And we just lifted the title from that. Originally the song was going to be called "Your Time Will Come," which of course is the chorus. The song has nothing to do with the Wicker Man movie or anything else like that. But it just happens to have that one line in the song, that's all…
Me: Any album title the band could've chosen here for their return would leave open a broad entrance way to speculation as to how the title was derived and its meaning, but in boldly going with "Brave New World" for the album title-and third track-what sort of significance might this have on an overall theme, if there is one…
Bruce: It's an enigmatic kind of a title. Basically it means whatever you want it to mean. And then I thought, well seeing as it's going to be the album title, we better have a song, so we wrote it ass backwards. We kind of had the album title first and then wrote the song. The song is fairly straight forward… it's about a book, "Brave New World," by August Huxley, and it's just my impression of that book. The album title… yes, we're in a brave new world-Iron Maiden's in a brave new world… it's supposed to be ironic… maybe it's not a brave new world… whatever you want it to mean. It's only there as an introduction to the record. It's not there as a theme or a gospel to be preached to anybody. Whatever you think it means, it probably means that… or maybe not. (Laughs)
Me: So there was no conscious effort when you went into recording to say, "okay, well we want to have some sort of underlying concept here to fit in with where we are today," or something along those lines…
Bruce: None whatsoever. There was no underlying concept whatsoever…
Me: Are there any other songs out of the remaining six that you would consider real defining moments or future candidates to be released as singles aside from the previously discussed two tracks?
Bruce: Well you just heard the first four songs on the record. The other six songs-the whole album weighs in at sixty-eight minutes! So there's a lot of very long songs in there and so many great moments in the record, it's hard to single individual ones over and above anything else but… I think "Blood Brothers" is a stand out. It's pretty different for Maiden. It's got a full on sort of Celtic vibe-strings and the whole deal. That's pretty unique for Maiden. But there's a track called "Dream of Mirrors," which has got a drop-dead chorus and some great words. There's a load of great stuff on this record… it's everything that Maiden fans will need! And maybe a little bit more than some of them expect…
Me: It's safe to say it wasn't as though you were all getting back together and recreating your past with taking a nostalgic approach then…
Bruce: No, no not at all. I think we proved that with this record. A lot of bands get back together and what they deliver is certainly less than their best… and this is Maiden at its absolute peak!
Me: Let's briefly take a step back to last year and the successful reunion tour that was modeled after the "Ed Hunter" PC game and "best of" material as chosen by the fans. Did the game itself meet the expectations of the band members and how was it received overall?
Bruce: I think "Ed Hunter," is a great accessory if you're a Maiden fan. That's what it is. Is it the world's greatest video game? I don't think so. We knew that, so we shifted the focus of the game away from being a game for computer people into being a game for Maiden fans.
Me: In following the well received "Ed Hunter" tour of last year, this year's tour is being billed as "The Metal 2000" tour and the aura surrounding this new album and tour is obviously going to be huge. Compared to the light dusting of selected dates a year ago, once this album gets its official release (May 29th), and the worldwide tour gets underway… is there going to be any place left on earth that will be spared from Maiden's ensuing carnage?
Bruce: No… we start in Strasbourg in France and we're playing for around about a million people in two months! In Europe, there'll be big festivals with all kinds of people from Slayer, to Korn, to Nine Inch Nails-they're all supporting us on the various tours around Europe. Then we come over here and play the Garden in the beginning of August, going across America, and finishing up at Long Beach Arena-that's America part one. Then we go to Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, South America, and then we come back to the states for America part two! And that'll be at the end of October and November. Then we go back to Europe for some shows before Christmas!
Me: And we'll be expecting to see an unprecedented live visual presentation that recalls the long overdue glory days from the past…
Bruce: Oh yeah, it's gonna be the biggest Maiden show we can possibly get together… absolutely!
Don't get too excited, I couldn't get him to reveal even a trace of what fans can expect, but suffice it to say, it's going to parallel if not exceed those exalted performances circa '85/'86 during the "Somewhere in Time" spectacle! So be prepared…
Me: So how does Eddie, who's undergone quite a lot of physical duress by the looks of the last couple of releases, fit into the grand scheme of things today?
Bruce: With great difficulty! (Laughs) He's a bit too big these days, but of course we'll be seeing him out there…
Me: Many fans are depending on the band to really bring the metal scene back to the forefront-to levels possibly not seen since those glory days of fifteen years ago. Now with the surface melting a little bit these past couple of years, is the band ready to accept the challenge and bring metal full circle again?
Bruce: Absolutely! Maiden occupies a place that very few other bands can fulfill. The people seem to be more or less in universal agreement that this band "happens," in terms of live stuff, and "happens," in terms of sales, and people coming to shows and everything-that metal is definitely back!
Me: For you personally, in coming back to the band, has it materialized into everything you had expected or hoped for? Obviously the finished product is proof that the chemistry has been successful, but are you satisfied with what's been achieved in the bands' rebirth? All of the original doubts have been laid to rest…
Bruce: In some ways it's a little bit better-I mean, this is a great record. It's the record that I really couldn't have expected to make, 100% guaranteed. But I'm really pleased with it… It's a really good thing that we're going on this tour. The tour last year was probably the most enjoyable Maiden tour I've ever been on. So I just want to repeat the whole experience… but just for longer!