AN INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE DICKINSON
'BRUCE DON'T BULLSHIT'
"Going into this record, we wanted to make it heavier than the last few records. It had to be heavy both lyrically and musically," starts heavy metal icon/screamer Bruce Dickinson over the phone about his latest metal masterpiece, "The Chemical Wedding".
"This is a brilliant record," continues Dickinson about his sixth solo effort, one of a long list of releases the ex-singer of Iron Maiden has delivered since leaving that band in 1993. "This album is a mixture of all the styles of music I have done up to this point. It has elements of Maiden and the solo stuff that I have done, but I also think it takes what I have done a bit further in terms of the sound. It is a much deeper record than [anything] I have done before. For me, this record really digs down deep."
"This record turned out better than I had imagined or planned it, too. I think the reason for that is that when I went into the studio I was a little apprehensive about making the record sound this heavy. I didn't think I could do it. It just got heavier and heavier and I was a bit worried that it was too heavy. Then I decided to go with it and it all turned out for the better."
For Dickinson, leaving Iron Maiden after many years seemed like the kiss of death. Why would he leave such a pioneering metal outfit? Many solo artists fail after leaving a prominent band. It has been the complete opposite for Dickinson. While Iron Maiden has recruited new singer Blayze Bailey to do the singing for them, their ship slowly sinks in mediocrity; Dickinson's ship is sailing strong, masts out and with no end in sight. While his past solo records (i.e., 1994's "Balls to Picasso" and 1996's "Skunkworks") haven't done as well as 1997's "Accident of Birth", he kept his momentum strong early on, which allowed him to get to this point. What creative energy or ambition within him keeps things going after all these years?
"I think I have come to the conclusion that this metal thing within me runs deep. It is a true and sincere part of me. That's why I keep doing this, rather than go off and do a jazz band or something like that. The challenge for me is to approach the music I play differently each time out. Being a solo artist and doing that is a lot easier than it is to do when you are part of a band. When bands get an identity or style all their own, you sometimes become a prisoner of that style and it's hard to break away from that."
Once again, as with the brilliant last outing "Accident of Birth", ex-Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith collaborates and plays on the record. What was it like to work with Adrian Smith again? "Working with Adrian again was brilliant. Working with him has been such a great pleasure. Stuff really works when we get together. We wrote three songs together for the last record, and two for this one. All the rest was written with the other guitarist, Roy Z."
What about the success of working with Roy? "Most of the work for where each album is headed is done in my head. But working with Roy is great. It's very easy to work together with him. We basically work on our own with the music and lyrics and then bring it together. It works out better that way 'cause I don't have to dictate to him I want things this way or that way. We both have just that added initiative to please each other with stuff we work on. Like I said before, a lot of the ideas go on in my head and all I am trying to do is make sense of it all and make it work well for the band's sake." [Note: Bassist Eddie Casillas and drummer Dave Ingraham round out the five-piece band. - Adrian]
To many who have heard this effort, "The Chemical Wedding" is Dickinson's masterpiece. He has not gone wrong here. It seems as though as the years have gone on, Dickinson's banging and clanging of musical ideas has shaped his music into a sound to behold. With vintage storytelling (heavily based on the works of poet William Blake), heavy riffs and a flare for old Iron Maiden sensibility, "The Chemical Wedding" is a masterful array of Dickinson's good old fashion know-how and his brilliance rolled into one. "This is one of those really heavy records. It's very dark and a definite evolution of what we did in the last effort. It also has a strong poetic theme to it. Very heavy poetry and that runs very deep within the music. We worked hard with adding flavors and odd guitar sounds to this effort. We tweaked things around in the studio. Out of all the things we focused on with this record, the guitars were a priority. This record has a lot of guitar work on it. We went to town with this record to make sure the production and the guitar work showed up predominantly. There are a lot of things going on with this record like distorted vocals, noises, keyboards, but in all it's shaped into a good piece of work."
While Dickinson is no stranger to putting out records and touring, he admits he is always worried when a new record is to be released to the masses. "I dunno. I just get worried about all the records I do. But when records come out, or leading up to their release, hearing what people say about them is very inspiring and keeps me calm. Especially if they really are into it. Every artist faces the worries of what people will think when their record comes out, but it's something you have to ignore. If not, it'll get the better of you and the creativity of what you are doing will be lost."
"When we hit hard with "Accident of Birth" and people were talking about it, it was a great time for us to be out on the road and doing press. It was a very instant record for us, in terms of putting it together and the feedback we got. This record, after two or three listens you really can see and hear the depth of what we did here. I'm hoping for some great feedback with this one. I'm tremendously proud of this record."
In closing, I ask Dickinson about his ex-band's current work. Two albums with new lead singer Blayze Bailey and the metal machine of Iron Maiden seems to be running on empty, especially with the absolutely horrific new LP "Virtual XI" (1994's "The X-Factor" being the debut of Bailey on vocals). Not prying too deep on his feelings about the band, I ask, "What do you think about the current direction of the band?"
"I don't know where it's going with them. While I am not part of them anymore, I still have an attachment to them. I still talk to the band. I always seem to put it this way: 'We may be divorced or separated, but we still share the same bathroom.' I don't want to see them disappear down the tubes or anything like that. It would just be a shame to see all the past work be washed aside if people don't like the new stuff."
Written October 1998
Go to the Official Bruce Dickinson Home Page
Reprinted with permission from Chronicles of Chaos
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