Doctor Metal and Bruce Dickinson


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Text Version of the Interview

Bruce Dickinson, best known in the annals of metal as the singer of Iron Maiden during their most successful years from the early 80's to the early 90's, is also an extremely well accomplished solo artist. I personally have followed his solo career since he first left Maiden earlier this decade with much more enthusiasm than I have followed Maiden's career since then. Accident of Birth and Chemical Wedding are two of the best metal albums made during the 90's, and Bruce's current live release, Scream For Me Brazil, is one of the better live albums that have been released recently. Currently, he is somewhere in France recording the new Maiden release. I think he'd be better off recording a new solo release with Adrian and Roy Z. Here's what Bruce had to say when we spoke on the 23rd of November:


Doctor Metal: How's it going man? The live album is fucking great.
Bruce Dickinson: Thank you. We're actually going really good at the moment. We're recording the new Maiden album, and it's sounding great. The live album is going absolutely fantastic, and I'm going to be doing some new material with Roy Z next year.


Out of all the places you've played in the world, why Brazil?
Because Brazil is just about the most awesome place to go and play a metal show in the world, and it has been for a long, long time. Brazil has increased its support for metal year on year more than any other country in the world.


What makes the fans there different from say, European fans, or American fans?
I don't know that you can say they're awesomely different, but they do have a real commitment to things which goes way beyond just being like commercial. With Brazilian fans, it's not just something they read in a magazine. It's something they're passionate about for their entire lives. In certain parts of America, that's like that as well, and in most of Europe, it's like that with Maiden too. But I think you find that in, well certainly I find in America that some places, a lot of fans are a bit shallow. They like stuff because they think it's cool, or they like stuff because they've read about it or seen it on MTV or something. They don't seem to make up their own minds very much, whereas in Europe and the rest of the world, people make up their minds about Maiden and then they follow the band really really doggedly and they do not change just because the band isn't cool for 5 minutes.


You just released a live album 4 or 5 years ago, Alive in Studio A. Why release another one so soon?
Well, Alive in Studio A wasn't a great live record. I mean, that's the truth. Scream For Me Brazil is a really really cool live record. Alive in Studio A was not anything like the kind of quality that I would have wanted to have put out had it been my big statement as a live record. I was a little stuck because my record company back then, which is not my record company now wanted to put out something. So they suggested a live album, and probably rather foolishly, I agreed to it. I went, "OK, yeah, yeah. Let's put out a live record." And we put out a live record I think too soon.


For this new live record, did you record all the material in one night, or did you do it over a couple different shows?
The idea was we were gonna record it on one night. Unfortunately, we fell foul of the gods of technology, and the first 4 or 5 songs in the set screwed up big time because of technical faults. We had to record the first 4 or 5 songs from two nights later on down the line. But other than that, it's all from the first night in Sao Paulo.


Also, the name of the album - Scream For Me Brazil. When did you start that whole "scream for me" thing when you do live shows?
The short answer is I'm not sure. When I became aware of it was when the singer from a band called Heaven started cracking jokes about it at a swimming pool party way way back in the midst of the decadent 80's. He started cracking jokes about "Scream for me this, and scream for me Long Beach, and whatever." It was at that time that I realized that I had somehow managed upon some sort of weird catch phrase. But that's when the "Scream for me" thing probably started.


When you toured over in Europe, you didn't tour with Roy Z. I heard that the guy you had playing for him was pretty damned smoking on the guitars. I was wondering who exactly the guy was.
Oh, yeah yeah yeah. That was a friend of Roy's, and Roy couldn't play. So we had this guy. We just call him the Guru. He actually was Z's guitar roadie during the Chemical Wedding. But Guru is a really great guitar player. At the moment, I mean if you want to hire him, if anybody's out there and wants to hire the Guru, they can just get in touch via Roy, and Guru will come and play guitar on your record or even he'll pro tool it or whatever. He's a really cool guy.


Over the years, you and Roy have done some really awesome stuff together. How'd you get together in the first place?
Well, I heard his album, Tribe of Gypsies, his very first album, which has still never been released. But I heard this record, and I was just like "Wow, who's this guitar player?" Actually, the whole band was amazing. When I found out who was writing all the songs, I was like "Geez, who is this guy?" So we just got on and wrote some songs.


And for the past two releases, besides this live album, you've had Adrian do guitars. When did you come to the decision to get him into the band, and how'd that come about?
As soon as I moved away from the idea of a one guitar band to a two guitar band, I needed two guitarists. So I knew Adrian was not doing anything, so I gave him a call.


You've got your own label, Air Raid. Is that going to be putting out your previous work, like Tattooed Millionaire?

Air Raid actually puts out Tattooed Millionaire and Balls to Picasso at the moment. We'll be putting out four Samson albums next year as well as two Metal For Muthas albums, which were the ones that started the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Then subsequently, we may also put out some other albums by solo artists. We're looking at the moment basically for new artists. It's very difficult though.


You ever hang out with Thunderstick anymore?
I saw Thunderstick a few months ago. We are actually putting out 7 Samson albums, so I'm sure he'll be in touch.


When exactly can we expect another Bruce Dickinson release?
There'll be one next year, which is going to be called Catacombs, which is a combination of all kinds of different unreleased tracks that have been cooked up by me for the last 10 years. Then, I guess in about 2001, there will be a brand new, all new material solo record from me and Z.


One of the things I find so refreshing about your work, especially Accident of Birth and Chemical Wedding, is that you constantly are keeping things new and fresh in a genre thatís so overloaded with the same old stuff. How exactly do you do that?
I actually have no idea. Iím sorry to be so vague and bland and everything, but I just donít have a clue. I just try and do things that Iím interested in, that sound new, that sound interesting to me. And thatís about it. Itís not really a big deal.


One of the things I personally looked forward to in 1999 was a Bruce Dickinson tour in the States, and I know a lot of other people did as well. What happened there?
CMC refused to pay the money to support the tour. So I offered to pay the money to support the tour myself. But I did suggest that maybe it would be a good idea that they actually promoted the record at radio. And they said, "No, weíre not going to do that either." So I went, "Whatís the point in me shelling out several thousand dollars of my own money to support a tour which is not going to be supported by the record company?" This strikes me as being just an exercise in self-humiliation, and Iím not into that. So we parted company.


Did the reason have anything to do with the Accident of Birth tour?
Well, the Accident of Birth tour was actually very successful in that it sold an awful lot of records. But I suspect that it didnít make the amount of percentage on the dollar that they calculated or something. Actually, I donít give a shit, because all I care about ultimately is the fact that the art gets out there, and itís presented in the right way, and that I can go and buy my friend a pint of beer down at the pub and have a meal and my kids donít starve. Itís not a huge amount to ask for, particularly if you have a big fan base and all the rest of it. I donít know. The whole thing with CMC really really pissed me off, deeply and profoundly. Without getting involved in the law courts, thatís all one can say.


Also, I was wondering - while you tour, why no material from Skunkworks?
A very good question. I actually regret not doing material from Skunkworks. However, it was one of those scenarios where the Skunkworks material just somehow fell through the cracks. Weíd done a lot of good stuff between ourselves, and so I always felt a bit guilty about asking them to go and do versions of other stuff. And Skunkworks sort of fell between the cracks as it were. There are some Skunkworks songs which I would love to do, which in a way I regret not having asked them to do.


Wasnít there talk at some point of changing the name of the band to Skunkworks?
Oh, when I was doing the Skunkworks project, absolutely. I think almost every solo artist goes through a stage in which he wants to not be a solo artist. He wants to be known as just a band, or just a name, or going through this big anonymous thing. I understand it, and I went through it, exactly the same thing. But itís just not very realistic. People donít really understand when you turn around and say, "No, no, no. Iím not Bruce Dickinson. I am the Blob, the Artist Formerly Known as Squiggle." They donít really get it, and so I just sort of though, "This is rather silly. I might as well just go with being Bruce Dickinson and just do musically what I want."


Do you have any plans to have Derek Riggs do any work for you in the future?
Well possibly. Yeah.


Whatís behind the cover on Scream For Me Brazil, with just a simple fish on the cover?
Itís a pirahna fish.


Yeah, I know.
Pirahna fish come from Brazil. If you eat one, youíll scream. Or if they eat you, youíll scream. Itís not really brain surgery.


Out of all the albums youíve released over the years, which one have you enjoyed doing most?

Accident of Birth.


Also, as far as Chemical Wedding goes, where does the interest in William Blake come from?
From when I was a kid, when I was a small, unpleasant youngster at school. I was fascinated by his artwork.


One of my personal favorites off of the Chemical Wedding was Return of the King, the Japanese bonus track. Do you have plans to put that out so people here in the States can pick it up more easily.
Catacombs.


I wanted to know - have you kept up doing anything with fencing over the past years?
Not as much as I would like. However, there is a fencing club here in France, and Iím planning to go and reinvent myself, albeit very embarassingly.


Have you just found that you donít have the time for that kind of stuff anymore?
Itís true. I donít. Itís just kind of the way it is. You make sacrifices, and theyíre worth it.


Back in the day you wrote a couple of books, including The Missionary Position. Do you plan on writing anything in the future?
Again, possibly. I keep writing pages of some novels, but I find it very difficult at the moment.


Also, awhile ago, you did something on one of the Mr. Bean things. Howíd that come about?
Not too difficult really. A bunch of people just asked me whether or not Iíd do it. And, being an idiot, I said yes. And I had a tremendous time, and a good laugh, and so really that was it.


You a big fan of Mr. Bean?
Iím an extremely big fan of Mr. Bean.


Whatíd you think of the movie?
Oh, the movie? Ah, itís OK. I have to say Iím a bigger fan of TV series than I am of movies.


Another thing you participated on was the Alice Cooper tribute record.
Oh yes.


Why Black Widow?
They asked me to do Black Widow. Iíd never actually heard the track. I was hoping to do like Schoolís Out or something. I was like going, "Oh, yeah, I want to do Schoolís Out!" and theyíre like "No, no. You can do Black Widow." I was like, "Huh?" But when I heard it, I was like "Oh great, I can go completely mental on the Vincent

Price bit."


Do you think all these tribute albums and cover albums are getting a little bit tedious?
Yes. Yes, the tribute and the cover albums are getting a bit silly.


You also did a cover of The Zoo. Was that by your own choice or another one given to you?
Oh no, that was given to us.


Why a wrestling album? Or did it not matter what it was on?
A wrestling album?
Yeah, the ECW thing.
Oh, itís probably because...no. I mean, one of us gets overheated ankles, and we need to cool our ankles down with something. I donít know. Iím being facetious. No, the wrestling thing is just one of those things that people say, "You must do a wrestling album." Weíre like, "why?" And they say, "Oh, you must. Oh, weíll go ahead and do one anyway." And they do.


Do you have any idea why all these metal bands have this connection with wrestling?
Yeah, because theyíre all young kids and they have loads and loads of energy, and they want to get really aggressive and if they look at most grownups, thereís no way of doing it.


Have you ever thought of involving your cousin in any of your work?
Yeah, my cousinís en route actually.


I was looking through the liner notes for Scream For Me, and I was wondering - whoís Austin Dickinson?
Austin is my eldest son

You sound kind of tired. Has it been a long day?
Oh yes, a long day. A long day indeed. A long day doing the do, and squawking the squawk and new Iron Maiden songs.


What do you think of the death metal tributes out there?
I donít have any problem at all with the tribute albums.


Do you have any plans of re-releasing any of the old videos?
Well next year, maybe the EMI video, which should be the Tattooed Millionaire video, then possibly a Skunkworks video, and then possibly a live video, but Iím not sure where thatís gonna come up from.


Well, I better let you go.
Yeah, Iím ready to go, sort of like tits up here. Iím about ready to go and permanently disappear into the land of the Underworld, as one may gallop, because I just ended up wizzing in and going and having a few beers with Janick and getting completely shit-faced. However, all this is going to be worth it because youíre gonna get the most amazing Iron Maiden album you ever heard for fucking centuries.


If you say so.
Itís true.


OK, I trust you...
Good. You should. If Iím lying, youíll be back.


What do you mean?
Well if Iím lying, youíll come back and torment me and ask me more fucking questions.


Is that how you see this? Torment?
Well, thatís how most journalists are. They always want to ask you more questions. So what you have to do is give them answers which provoke further comment. Well what you need to do is get your thing together on the air. Really, what you need to do is play the record.


Well, Iíve been playing on both shows here in Cleveland.
I will be back in Cleveland sooner than you can ever have imagined.


On behalf of Cleveland, I want to apologize for the amount of people that showed up at the Accident of Birth show.
Oh, donít worry about that. That was just like shittily advertised. Donít sweat that one. You know, I was in Cleveland for a whole week? You know the Cleveland National Air Show?


Oh yeah?
I was there for a whole week.


Whatíd you think?

Oh, it was great. I had an airplane in the hangar there at the Lakefront. And I actually flew it across the Atlantic. It was the airplane I was flying Iron Maiden around in it and I flew it back across the Atlantic, and then flew Iron Maiden around in it through the whole of Europe.


You gotta be careful with those private airplanes, or you might wind up like Kennedy.
Well, rumor has it, especially when weíre flying across 2,300 miles of ocean. So I was sitting in Cleveland for awhile, just sort of going, "Hmm, Cleveland. Hello, Cleveland."


Yeah, I was hoping youíd come by for that Chemical Wedding tour

So was I. I was utterly bummed out that we didnít end up doing it, an American tour. I was very, very bummed out.


To be honest, I was looking forward to it more than the Maiden show.
I think weíll be able to get something together next time.