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Bruce Dickinson Interview
Expectations are riding high for Iron Maiden. Last year, their renowned singer Bruce Dickinson and equally revered guitarist Adrian Smith reunited with their bandmates after years of separation. The news sent shockwaves through the metal world. Announced simultaneously with the $30 million securitization of Maiden\'s back catalog, it no doubt raised some cynical eyebrows. But many hardcore old-school metal fans felt that this reunited classic lineup could recharge the slumbering traditional metal scene in the States and further ignite the classic metal wave thriving in Europe.
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Before going into the studio to record their new album, Brave New World, the band played a limited number of reunion shows last summer to packed concert halls throughout Europe and America, proving that they had recaptured their chemistry despite the years apart. \"We had no excess baggage as a band, we hadn\'t started off on the wrong foot,\" recalls Dickinson. \"We started with a clean slate and walked out in front of all these people, and it was great. All we had to worry about was whether we were in tune or not. It was fantastic. I enjoyed that tour last summer more than any other Iron Maiden tour, or any tour actually that I\'ve ever been on in my life. I honestly believe we played better on that tour than at any time in our careers. It\'s a tough act to follow this time around. [But] I like a challenge.\"
Given the current dumbed-down state of popular music in America, many metal connoisseurs foresee the release of Brave New World as an important event. After all, there\'s a whole generation of kids who know nothing about intricate, epic songs, blazing guitar solos, or dramatic vocal melodies--all of which are principal ingredients for classic Iron Maiden.
\"It could be that we\'ve tapped into something that\'s latent, a hidden demand,\" observes Dickinson, \"and I believe that may very well be the case with this record, that there are a lot of kids out there who are curious about Maiden...They [may] get this thing and then talk to all their friends: \'A nine-minute song, man! I\'ve never heard anything like this!\' It could be that it\'s like their version of \'Kashmir.\' I remember when Led Zeppelin came out with the whole \'Kashmir\' trip, people were flipping out; they\'d never heard people do that sh-t before.\"
Produced by Kevin Shirley (Dream Theater), Brave New World flies in the face of modern rock conventions. For starters, the 10-song album runs 67 minutes, with only three songs under five minutes: \"The Fallen Angel,\" \"The Mercenary,\" and the first single and video, \"The Wicker Man.\" The sweeping arrangements on tunes like \"The Nomad\" and \"The Thin Line Between Love And Hate\" require attentive rather than casual listening, especially with some tranquil bridges inserted throughout the record. Although the album was recorded live, the fact that the band now has three axemen means there\'s a thickness to the sound that most acts would have to rely on laborious studio multi-tracking to achieve. Best of all, nowhere on Brave New World does Maiden attempt to sound anything like the detuned new school of metal like Static-X, Staind, and Slipknot. This is traditional British heavy metal, pure and simple. As Dickinson said last summer, they are being \"metallically incorrect.\"
So after all the hoopla, what was it like to get into the studio again and create something new with old friends? \"It was better than what I expected,\" admits Dickinson. \"I expected it would be pretty good, but I never expected it would be this good or this different. I was surprised by the prog-rock thing from [bassist] Steve [Harris]. Some of the older influences are coming to the fore a bit more, some Jethro Tull and things like that. At first I didn\'t think a track like \'The Nomad\' was necessarily going to work, but it works f--king brilliantly, so I was really pleased that I was going to have to eat my misgivings on that one.\" The sprawling \"Nomad\" exemplifies a new facet of the band with its sampled strings and horns and Middle Eastern overtones, as does \"The Thin Line Between Love And Hate,\" the last three minutes of which are relatively restrained--an unusual but tasteful way to end this rip-roaring ride.
But can the Maiden sound reach new ears in 2000? The key to that will be getting their music heard, and so far, initial reactions to \"The Wicker Man\" have been positive. \"If [the kids] get \'Wicker Man,\' it\'s all over,\" Dickinson says. \"I think the record could be as big as [Maiden\'s 1983 breakthrough] Piece Of Mind.\" One industry heavyweight on their side is Dean Karr, the hip director who\'s made videos for Marilyn Manson and Godsmack. Reportedly a big Maiden fan, he directed the slick \"Wicker Man\" video, which features a 7\'6\" actor dressed as the band\'s ghoulish mascot, Eddie. But it remains to be seen how much airplay the video will garner in America.
One thing that bodes well is the intense advance buzz about Brave New World. Fan appetite has been so insatiable that a fake track listing for a \"new\" Maiden album called Majesty Of Gaia was recently taken as gospel by some on the Internet. Furthermore, the band and Sanctuary Management have upped the mystique factor by opting not to send out advances of the album. In Europe, each individual label handling the record was sent only one copy apiece of a four-song sampler. American and Canadian journalists interviewing Dickinson in New York were allowed to listen to the full album but not to take a copy with them; their new label, Portrait, only had one copy, anyway. Maiden and their management see bootlegging as a legitimate concern, a fear made more real by the Internet. \"We\'ve had journalists basically admit that they would steal it given half the chance,\" the singer confesses.
Another Sanctuary artist receiving royal treatment for his upcoming album is former Judas Priest, Fight, and Two singer Rob Halford. There are even rumors he may open for Maiden this summer on their North American tour. Halford\'s got another Dickinson connection, too--his producer and collaborator, Roy Z, co-wrote songs and performed on Bruce\'s last two solo albums, and the two legendary singers stepped into the studio with Roy recently to record a duet entitled \"I\'m The One You Love To Hate\" for Halford\'s eagerly anticipated Resurrection album. Those expecting a lightweight Ozzy/ Lita Ford-type collaboration can breathe easy; Dickinson assures us it\'s a heavy track that pokes fun at the resentment the two frontmen faced after leaving the bands that made them famous in the early \'90s. \"Yes, the lyrics were a little bit about that,\" confirms Dickinson. \"It\'s a tongue-in-cheek thing. People have got to bitch about some things, so they might as well bitch about us.\"
It\'s unlikely that Maiden fans will be bitching anytime soon, with the new album, video, and upcoming arena tour headed to America in August. Some might say that the more things change, the more Maiden stays the same. The band are making no effort to overhaul their sound or style for a new generation, and by holding their ground they may represent something new to younger fans while still pleasing loyal traditionalists. On their upcoming world sojourn, Dickinson promises that \"there will be a Wicker Man, there will be big Eddies, and there will be explosions.\" Would we expect anything less from one of the most influential bands in heavy metal history?