Bruce Dickinson - 1996


There's nothing quite like riding in a Jag, but even in that comfort I was getting a little, perturbed, trying to find a parking space as Mr Whittaker and myself rushed to interview Bruce (we're not worthy) Dickinson at Manchester's Virgin Megastore.

After accosting the locals, we finally found our destination. Upon bribing the manager we were whisked upstairs into an office not big enough to skin a cat in, let alone catch it and kill it, and, like children at Christmas, we lovingly looked at our latest acquisition, a CD of Bruce's newest Larynx Labour 'Skunkworks'.

This is the strongest statement so far from the former Iron Maiden vocalist, and is, the first studio work from the band.

Bruce Dickinson has spent the better part of the last two years touring the world with; Alex Dickson on guitar, Alessandro Elena on drums and Chris Dale on bass.

The title Skunkworks comes from Bruce's love of flying, and the top secret research and development division of Lockheed Aviation, home of the impressive Blackbird and the legendary Stealth Bomber.

This is not Bruce's Grunge album, but a fresh and exciting grenade between the eyes. Going off on a tangent from his Maiden stuff, and building on the success of Tattooed Millionaire, Balls to Piccasso and Cadillac Gasmask.

On first sight, the graphics are amazing and employed the talents of former Pink Floyd man, Storm Thorgerson (also responsible for the Dark Side of the Moon), and, on closer inspection, all the information is written back to front.

The musical content is strong, well structured, and does not involve Bruce doing his usual air raid siren impression. Although the whole CD merits a good ten plays on LOUD, my personal favourite tracks are Back From The Edge, Inertia and Innerspace.

Finally, in walks Bruce, all 5 foot 6 of him, bottle of Brown Ale in hand, already half drunk (the bottle that is, not Bruce). A little unfair cries Nick, because all we got was coffee, and we had to make that ourselves.

Another 35 minutes on the telephone to some guy in America, and he was finally ready for us.

Luigi: So tell me about the new band, where did you meet them and how did it come to pass?

Bruce: I had to get a band together and had known Alex for about 7 years from his Gun days. I saw him in a pub, he was out of a job, and I needed a guitarist. Alessandro and Chris were recommended by Mickey Craig from Skin. So we all jammed and I left the room for about 40 minutes. What was coming out of the room was shitloads better than my records, so we toured (big grin) and wrote the album from day one (a very big grin, and arms held out).

Luigi: Why did you leave Maiden?

Bruce: I realised I couldn't carry on with Maiden, do solo work, and be taken seriously. So over the course of a week, I decided that I had to go, because I had done as much as I could with Maiden. I still like all the guys, and it was great being successful but it was time to move on. I'll take my chances, even though it's very easy to fall on your arse and never be heard of again in this business.

Luigi: Metal Hammer recently said that you'd been dragged, kicking and screaming into the 90s.

Bruce: (Repeats this laughing at the same pitch that he sings) That's probably something I would have said, I don't know what to make of it, what a strange thing to say. It sounds like somebody didn't like the album, but couldn't bring themselves to say it.

Luigi: Where's your hair gone?

Bruce: It's long now, haircut time again on Saturday, no, I was just getting fed up with it going (pulls hair in front of eyes), it's just not me any more.

Luigi: Any favourite tracks off Skunkworks?

Bruce: No, no one favourite track, it just depends what day it is, if you pull any one of six, and listen to them individually, you think, hmmm, that would make a great single, and the standard of song writing is so bloody high, it's difficult to put any one as the best. They play it every day at the in-store signings and I'm not sick of it, just dead chuffed. I'm really like a dog with two dicks.

Luigi: What do you think of Raw Power, one of the only rock music programmes, being taken off the telly?

Bruce: Well, it's happening in radio as well, a sort of transition period where the media knows there is something changing, but they are not sure what. A lot of traditional metal type bands are, well... people are getting bored. Take Purple or Rainbow where the tour is sold out, but the people attending are all 35-45, and it's probably their only day out of the whole year. So you have got to look where it is happening. Basically Glastonbury, Reading, etc. Rock bands that can, go there in their little niche and people discover and move towards them. I mean Smashing Pumpkins are not a million miles away from Rush. So a lot of people may have both albums and nobody's looking after that market.

Nick: Festival!!! Glastonbury's not happening and Donigton's only just made it, is there a problem with festivals?

Bruce: One of Donington's problems is that the site is not user friendly, whereas Reading is the best in the country. That's due to the public transport, its camping facilities, the fact that it's drained, more secure and there are just good vibes there.

Nick: I still prefer Donington, there's a good buzz and everthing's happening.

Bruce: Donington is more about 'who's the star', Reading is more about the festival, and Glastonbury is about the event itself. Things are topsy turvy at the moment and both the audiences and the music have to adjust, music has become extremely fragmented and diverse. Human beings are not diverse, that's why they buy Heinz 57 baked beans, because it's hard to change, and it's the name they know. So it's hard for someone who has got the last seven albums to get out of the habit. Even if the next one is crap (No Prayer For The Dying) and their loyalty is not returned in terms of band's shitty attitudes. I just play it all by ear because me and the guys have made a really interesting record, whereas with Maiden, it was about being a phenomenon and touring 'til you're 95. It's difficult to wake people up now.

Luigi: On the CD sleeve, all the information is back to front!

Bruce: Basically, the first thing people do is read the lyrics, but they should listen to the music first. On the 12" vinyl, they're the right way because of a printing error, but the artist thought, that if people were willing to buy the vinyl because of the artwork, then they deserve the lyrics the right way.

Luigi: What about Lord Iffy (his book out a couple of years ago), fencing and flying?

Bruce: No time, I'm just too busy and I'm flying on the job.

Luigi: Sorry!! (laughing loudly).

Bruce: Quite literally, no only back and forth to gigs and interviews, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cheers Dicko, whatever you make of his music, he's a very nice man, a very very nice man.