by Clay Marshall
-Interview with Bruce Dickinson (Iron
Tuesday (May 30) saw the release of Iron
Maiden's BRAVE NEW WORLD, the first album in eight years from the seminal
British heavyweights with the legendary Bruce Dickinson on vocals. The
highly anticipated recording has been winning the praises of metal heads
worldwide, including Dickinson's own.
But he has a right to be
excited about such a monster album. After all, the 41-year-old singer says
below that the thought of making this record was what drove him to rejoin
the band last year, when it released the greatest hits/video game package
ED HUNTER and toured in front of sold-out audiences.
almost always smiling and frequently running his hands through his shaggy,
shoulder-length dirty blond hair, Dickinson, wearing olive shorts and a
black, short-sleeve V-neck t-shirt when I spoke with him in a gold- and
platinum record-lined office at Sony Music's Santa Monica, Calif.
headquarters, said the ED HUNTER tour was just training for BRAVE NEW
WORLD, a feeling he hopes will come across on the album.
Quite simply, congratulations.
BRUCE DICKINSON: It rocks. We've
done it. If there was anybody out there who doubted that we were serious
about this--and there still are a few; they didn't see the tour last year,
or they saw the tour, and they said, "That's it; they'll just come back
and do another one of those"--think again, dudes.
D: What do you
think separates Maiden from other acts currently trying to cash in on past
BD: I think we've done it better. I think that this is
genuinely the best-sounding Maiden album there's ever been. All respect
due to PIECE OF MIND, which is my previous favorite record and still
sounds good, but this is just one level of brutality beyond that.
Maiden is the best heavy metal band in the world. The musicianship
within the band is so scarily good. People don't even realize how good the
players are in Maiden. That's why it's possible for us to do it. Also, in
our hearts, none of us are satisfied with second-best. If something's
worth doing, you've got to do it 100%. We're not sad old fuckers getting
back together to go and make a few bucks. That's sad and cheesy, and not
something I'm interested in. I would rather stack shelves. Not that I need
to, having given up what I could describe as a very viable, global cottage
industry--my solo career. Well, I haven't given it up, but as soon as I
rejoined Maiden, this avalanche just appeared in my life, the whole world
of metal suddenly descending around your ears going, "He's back in
I knew that would happen. Because I've worked so hard in
my solo career and gotten respect and integrity out of it, and great times
and [a] great audience--all this great stuff had come out of it. I
thought, "You know, if I'm going to potentially put that at risk, then I
better fucking make sure that this is all going to be really cool when it
all comes out." We all feel that way, regardless of whether the other guys
in the band have solo careers or not. We all feel that this is going to
put Maiden back right at the top of the league, in terms of metal, on
their own terms.
D: What are your expectations?
BD: I don't
know whether this album is going to go multi-platinum. Hey, you know, it
probably isn't, because no Maiden album ever has before in the States. I
still think the band may be a little too quirky in its own way for the
kind of triple-platinum type audience. In the '80s, we were too heavy, and
all the hair bands went quintuple- platinum. We sold a million, and we did
cool. Then, all of a sudden, everything's flipped around now, and now
everything's really atonal, and yelling and screaming and everything, and
people are wondering whether Maiden's heavy enough.
transcend all that bullshit. The thing about Maiden is, as a band, it
doesn't pay any attention whatsoever to the music business, which may
sound strange. We actually genuinely don't care. If you asked most guys in
Maiden, "What do you think about this band?", they'd say, "Who?" It's
like, "What do they listen to?" A bit of Bob Marley, watch TV most of the
time... Why do you need to listen to other people to create music? The
band does exist in its own space, and there are very few other bands that
have that sort of attitude or mentality.
D: I read somewhere that
you viewed this album as a crusade to save us from some of today's popular
BD: All of these fucking bands are dreadful. Nobody gives a
flying fuck what I think, because they're all making far too much money
out of it. But it is crap. It is complete crap. I don't suppose we matter
more than a boil on somebody in 'N*Sync's bottom, but I still don't
fucking care. It's bullshit. But there you are--people like bullshit.
D: How did BRAVE NEW WORLD's first single, "The Wicker Man," come
BD: It started off being a riff with [guitarist] Adrian
[Smith]. I thought it sounded very bouncy, and I started putting a catchy
little melody to it. I thought, "This could be a real good single," so we
started playing around with it. [Bassist] Steve [Harris] came in with some
of the anthemic bits at the end. And there it was, four-and-a- half
minutes long without even trying to get a single-length track. It was the
song we wrote together--the first song the whole band actually rehearsed
What I was trying to get on the lyrics was a feeling,
just this real positive vibe--the same vibe I get when I stand on stage in
front of all these people, and they're all yelling at you, and chanting
and singing with you. This huge, uplifting feeling [of] "It's just great
to be alive," right at that moment in time. The song is totally in favor
of promoting that attitude, that one day, something good is going to
happen to you, and when that day happens, don't back away from it. If you
get an opportunity, grab it by the balls with both hands and just do it.
Hence, "Your time will come" [in the lyrics]. When the audience goes and
sees Maiden, that's it--your time has come.
When I was writing the
words to it, you start free-associating things. What happens to this kid?
The first line in the song is, "The hand of fate is moving," and suddenly,
the finger [pointing]--"OK, out of bed. You--your turn today." The idea of
the finger of fate knocks you to your feet, says, "OK, what'cha gonna do
about it?" The dumb kid at the back of the class, who's always too shy to
speak, his tongue was frozen, all of a sudden he pipes up, he goes, "Hey,
I think you all suck!" He's got something to say. This whole thing--fly
from the gates of dawn, eternity calling you his way. In the song, he says
goodbye to gravity, he says goodbye to death. Live for every moment. One
of the lines in the song that just sums it up is, "Every second is a new
spark to set the universe aflame." If you just take that attitude in your
life--every second that's alive is another spark in eternity--it's great.
It's a great, uplifting vibe.
D: What made you call the album BRAVE
BD: BRAVE NEW WORLD is my fault, the album title,
really. I mentioned it as a possible title, and everybody seemed to like
it. Within about a month of rejoining the band. Then I thought, I better
write the song, "Brave New World," so I better re-read the book. I was
very impressed, and the song is my take on the book, or my take on one of
the characters from the book, Savage. The book's kind of a tragedy. Other
songs, I start out generally with not necessarily books or films. "Wicker
Man" is slightly strange; although the title is "Wicker Man," the song
itself is nothing to do with that, other than there is this kind of mad,
maypole dancing, pagan, "Hey, let's go and have a big, big orgy of
feasting and drinking and making merry in the field"-type vibe to the
song, with a big anthem at the end. And that's what sprang to mind--the
shadow of the wicker man is rising up again, looming over everybody.
Once I got the feeling of that song, it was just a matter of free-
associating. In the song, "say goodbye to gravity," we've conquered
gravity, we've conquered death; "Hello to eternity," he's leaving forever;
just all these ideas. "The ferryman wants his money," and you're not
supposed to pay the ferryman, because then you've had it; he's got your
number. In this case, the guy does the other thing--the ferryman wants his
money, but you're not going to give it back. He steals money from the
ferryman, and says, "Hey, you push your own fucking boat." So he's walking
out of hell (laughs), this guy's doing everything. That was the idea--the
whole uplifting, anthemic vibe. You can do what you want on one day, which
is a very May Day sort of spring theme, renewal and everything. I had the
whole Maiden thing in mind when I wrote the song as a context. It was
like, "This is what we're doing. We're bringing this monster back to life,
and we're breathing life back into everything that it touches, the
audience, the album, everything." It was a good song to do
D: What about "Ghost Of The Navigator"?
BD: So many
people have asked whether that song has to do with "Rime Of The Ancient
Mariner." It never occurred to me in a million years. This is a riff that
[guitarist] Janick [Gers] had, and when I listened to the riff, I just got
the big picture of boats, storms, seas, a journey, a quest. I thought,
"OK, that's good," and then I thought, "The quest. Vikings. Led Zeppelin.
Weird, woopy vocal things with a little bit of flanging on." Sort of
vaguely taking it in a Led Zeppelin direction. The drum [track] has got
that big, smashing, Bonzo-type feel to it. So there's a bit of the Zep
element coming in on that track.
"Vikings...vikings...no. Vikings--a bit too...(sneers)." But big, epic
sagas, some journey. What's the journey? The journey is life.
Navigation--navigating through life. Well, cool. You see how I just
assembled things--you're layering up this picture. Because I'm a pilot,
I'm interested in navigation. One of the things about the fundamentals of
navigation is a process called dead reckoning, which is short for deduced
reckoning, the principle being, you never know where you are. You only
know where you were, and you deduce where you think you are until you find
out where you really are by physical landmark, or some way of absolutely
determining where you are. Until that point in time, you're in the middle
of the ocean. You have no fucking clue where you are, really. You just
hope you are where you think you are. But deduced reckoning--hence the
line in the song, "Where I go, I do not know / I only know the place I've
This idea that the guy is on a journey; he's gonna make it
no matter what, even though he doesn't know exactly where it is he's
supposed to be going but he knows the course he's got to steer; he's not
going to be diverted by anything--not by storms, not by the sirens on the
rocks saying, "Come on over here"; not by the ghosts of all the other
navigators who haunt them in the dark nights. They all failed; is he gonna
fail? And he doesn't even know why he's doing it, but he's got to do
it--driven on by, like father like son, like whatever. Somehow, he's got
to do it.
D: Where did you come up with "Out Of The Silent
BD: "Forbidden Planet," the movie. "Monsters From The Id."
Such a fabulous concept, that I just wrote a lyric about a society--in
"Forbidden Planet," they discover a civilization long dead but run
extremely efficiently by these vast machines. The society itself has long
since perished, but the technical paraphernalia that they've constructed
will last forever. I kind of thought, "Well, that's nice," but took it a
few stages back, and thought, "If the society was dying--if it poisoned
itself--would it seek to export its insanity elsewhere, out of the silent
planet?" Hence the idea of a world which has poisoned itself with its own
prosperity and its own gods. It created its own gods, and its own gods
That was what was in my head, but that all comes
down to about two lines in the song. I try to create a life for each song,
that makes sense to me. Then I'm happy about singing it.
D: A lot
of the songs seem to have overlapping themes. Was that
BD: There's no theme to the album as a whole--it is a
collection of songs. Steve's songs are pretty much on the dark side.
Certainly some of the songs he's co-written with other people tend to be
fairly lengthy, like eight-nine minutes, and almost quite prog-rocky in
places as well. There's lots of atmospherics, "Rime Of The Ancient
Mariner"-style stuff, but actually, in my opinion, much better than "Rime
Of The Ancient Mariner." He's really developed his whole thing on this
record, and he has written some fucking great lyrics. There's a song
called "Dream Of Mirrors," and there's a lyric in that chorus-- huge
chorus--and the lyric is, "I only dream in black and white / I only dream
because I'm alive / I only dream in black and white / to save me from
myself," which is like, "Whoa." He's getting pretty deep on some of this
stuff. There's "The Mercenary"--it's about mercenaries. Generally,
mercenaries are a bad thing. What can you say? There's all levels going on
here. But "Dream Of Mirrors" is fantastic, and "Blood Brothers" I just
think is a fucking masterpiece. It's the only song he's written on his own
on this record.
D: What did producer Kevin Shirley bring to the
BD: The album was recorded completely live, which was the
first time we've ever done it. Kevin made that possible, or suggested it.
We went, "We'd love to, but it's technically very difficult." [But] he
really facilitated it. He's a talented engineer, [and] got the sounds
together for it. He actually has a whole set of equipment that he brings
with him into the studio, which enables each individual member of the band
to get exactly their own mix. We have our own little eight-channel mixer
by the side of each guy. It just turns what is normally a nightmare into a
little dream machine.
He also selected a great studio for us in
Paris called William Tell, which enabled us to realize the idea of doing
it live. [It had] a huge sounding drum room, [and] loads of glass so we
could all get eye contact with each other while we were playing. At the
same time, I could do my vocals completely live and just be separated from
all the racket. We knew we were going to be doing it live, so we rehearsed
all the songs up, having come off the back of the tour. We wrote the songs
before going on tour; left them, not unfinished, but unrehearsed,
certainly; and then came back to them after the tour with this whole
touring head [mindset]; and then we rehearsed them as if we were gonna go
and do a gig; and then we did a gig basically for each song, but in the
D: What are Maiden's tour plans?
BD: [We] do two
months in Europe; then we come straight to the States. Some time in August
we'll be on the West Coast. [We're] starting on the east, we're going
right away across, maybe 12 or 14 shows. That's the first time around.
Then we go to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South America, and then we
come to the States a second time around before Christmas.
going to be Iron Maiden with two or three other bands. We're thinking
about maybe having Rob Halford come out with us.
D: You recently
recorded a duet with him.
BD: "I'm The One You Love To Hate" is the
name of the song. It's pretty cool. Rob's album is actually...scarily
good. He's singing as good or better than he ever did in the best days of
Priest. The album sounds so fucking good. Roy Z produced it. They've just
finished mixing it. Label to be determined.
D: There were also
rumors about Helloween joining you on tour.
BD: Roy is in the
middle of doing Helloween's new album, or will be very shortly, so
Helloween won't have an album finished in time, I don't think.
After SCREAM FOR ME BRAZIL, are you especially looking forward to
returning to that country?
BD: Me plus Maiden in South America is
going to be, oh, scary. [grinning] You can't believe it down there. It's
D: You've said that the band viewed the entire ED
HUNTER tour as a warm-up for this album.
BD: We were kind of in
training. From the moment we started the songwriting process, we saw the
tour last summer as being just a small blip on the way to making this
record. Something to cheer us up. The tour last year, in many ways, was
the beginning of the campaign for this album. It started the ball rolling;
it started winding people up. People realized, "If they can still do this
live, can they still make a great record together?" It posed a question,
and a great deal of discussion.
We deliberately stopped the tour.
We could have kept on touring 'till the cows came home, but we kept the
tour deliberately short. In fact, the promoter in New York was screaming
for another show, and we said no. Next one will be at the Garden.
D: You alluded to your solo career earlier on. How
committed are you to Maiden at this moment? Of the 10 songs on this album,
you had a hand in writing four.
BD: The trouble is, we've got five
songwriters in the band. I'd be more than happy to write all 10 songs, but
I think Steve might have something to say about that. (laughs) There's
about five other songwriting ideas at least between me and [guitarist]
Davey [Murray], and me and Adrian, and me and Jannick, that are all
terrific ideas, that could all have been songs. But once we got 10 songs,
it's like, "We're not going to develop this now," because then I'll be
sick of it if it doesn't go on the record. Something won't be able to go
on the record, and then it'll get used as a b-side, and it's too good for
that. So, let's wait for the next album.
D: So you're thinking that
far ahead? When will that be?
BD: Next year, after this tour, I
should think there'll be a whole year minimum off for us. Then maybe
looking at starting to write. But in effect, for the next couple of years
after Christmas, there probably won't be any Maiden touring, or shouldn't
be. But we may very well get another record together. The exciting part
about this is after having done a record like this, I don't want to do
another record like this with Iron Maiden. It would be nice to take the
adventure a step further. That's gonna require sitting down and
brainstorming and having a bit of time sitting back from it, waiting for
the dust to settle. Everybody needs a battery recharge.
looking forward to the tour, but Steve's a bit fried, and he has been all
year. He had a pretty hard time with the whole [ex-vocalist] Blaze
[Bayley] issue, cause he was getting it in the neck full-on, and there was
nobody else to carry the can. I think he was looking forward to having
last year's time off, [but] he got cast straight back into the lion's den.
He's really pleased with how it's going, but at the same time, he's really
looking forward to having time off next year.
D: In that downtime,
you'll have time to finish CATACOMBS, right?
BD: CATACOMBS is a
rarities album. I was going to do it [in] September, but it's far too
crazy putting it out same time as all this stuff. CATACOMBS is going to
come out some time early-ish next year. Stuff like the original version of
"Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter," right the way through to some of
the unreleased stuff from the Keith Olson record, to a song called "Wicker
Man," which is not the "Wicker Man" recorded by Maiden--it's what I did
for ACCIDENT OF BIRTH, [a] completely unreleased track. Maybe some of the
other rare b-sides, some of the extra tracks that made it to BRAZIL that
didn't make it in the US. Things like that, Japanese tracks. Bring it all
together on one album, and it seems to have caught the imagination of a
few people. People think it's a pretty cool idea. I haven't heard anybody
on the Web site going, "Oh, that sucks--it's a bad idea." Another reason
for doing it next year, I will actually have time to sit there over
Christmas and listen to the tapes and try to master it, re-master it
perhaps, maybe do something a little special. It'd be nice to try and do a
-Still, BRAVE NEW WORLD obviously comes first for the
genuinely enthused Dickinson. When I spoke with him, the album was still
two months away from hitting stores, yet still very little was known about
it. I asked about the cloak of secrecy.
"The Internet just blows
all the drama," Dickinson said. "It's like a comedian--a comedian spends a
lifetime getting all his jokes together, and goes on national TV, and
suddenly everybody knows his jokes. The next day, he goes into the local
theater, and everybody's throwing things at him, going, 'Tell us some new
jokes--we heard all your shit last night!'
"My copy of the album, I
keep it somewhere safe. I've heard people say that they would
unquestionably steal it. People are nuts about this stuff, which is
great." After listening to BRAVE NEW WORLD, we're reminded