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Bruce Dickinson Interview
Finally, the shroud of secrecy can be lifted… The most anticipated event in metal 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 the return of Bruce and Adrian, the band is back firing on all cylinders as they gear toward a future of world dominance. In meeting with Mr. Dickinson to discuss the making of what will prove to be their most technically skilled and advanced work ever, "Brave New World," it was difficult not to think of this as indeed a new beginning in what has already been an historic career for the British bombers… Timing not only to restore the solid foundations of their past, but to erect a bold, new future for a band always at the ready to accept new challenges. For all the new additions, internal growth, and new outlook, there's little doubt the beast is back and never more formidable!
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The new album 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 its conception and how it's all come together at this point…
It's been great. The thing about the album, first of all, it's the best sounding… it's classic, vintage-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 on-stage but in the studio. In terms of writing the songs, we went right back to how we wrote the songs fifteen years ago. 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.
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. It sounds as though the chemistry between all six of you has never been better.
The chemistry's really really good and nobody's had a personality transplant or anything else like that. 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!
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…
IRON MAIDEN - 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.
What would you say he's added as a producer?
Well as a producer, just the very concept of going in and recording the whole thing live. 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. He doesn't have you hanging around trying to make you do something you don't want to do naturally.
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…"
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…so that's going to be the first single.
The song title brings to mind an early movie of the same name…
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…
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?
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. It's about a book, "Brave New World," by Aldous 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… 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.
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…
None whatsoever. There was no underlying concept whatsoever…
Are there any other songs out that you would consider real defining moments or future candidates to be released as singles aside from the previously discussed two tracks?
Well 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…
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…
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!
In following the well received "Ed Hunter" tour of last year, this year's tour is being billed as "Metal 2000" 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 worldwide tour gets underway… is there going to be any place left on earth that will be spared from Maiden's ensuing carnage?
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!
And we'll be expecting to see an unprecedented live visual presentation that recalls the long overdue glory days from the past…
Oh yeah, it's gonna be the biggest Maiden show we can possibly get together… absolutely!
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?
With great difficulty! (Laughs) He's a bit too big these days, but of course we'll be seeing him out there…
Many fans are depending on the band to really bring the metal scene back to the forefront. 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?
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!
For you personally, in coming back to the band, has it materialized into everything you had expected or hoped for?
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!