Author - Paul Elliot
His mother tried to get rid of him, Iron Maiden's bassist Steve Harris frequently wanted to kill him and we slaughtered his efforts as a novelist - but Bruce Dickinson has battled on regardless. Now he's ready to face an interrogation from Kerrang! readers...
The Air Raid Siren they called him, when Iron Maiden were the biggest metal band on earth and Bruce Dickinson fronted the band with a voice that blared like a four-minute warning. Now, five years after he walked out on Maiden, Bruce is about to launch his sixth solo album, 'The Chemical Wedding'. Like its predecessor 'Accident Of Birth', it's an album of solid, distinctly British metal.
Today, Bruce is meeting his public: five Kerrang! readers who've followed the man's career from Maiden to the present. Fittingly, the old Air Raid Siren has chosen to be interviewed at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London. A qualified pilot, Bruce acts as unofficial tour guide as he leads the K! readers around the war machinery - after he collected us from outside the Kerrang! office in his eight-seater motor. Which was nice. We settle in the museum's cafe - tea and a rock cake for Bruce, lager for everyone else - and the K! readers begin firing questions...
Why did you only do one UK show last year?
"Because live ticket sales are rubbish right now, and my own standing was frankly not amazing. I was still re-building things. If the show wasn't a success... I needed it like a hole in the head. The reviews for 'Accident...' were good, but people writing nice things in the press doesn't necessarily translate into people buying tickets."
Why the return to your heavy metal roots on the last two solo albums?
"I had absolutely nothing to lose. When I thought about doing a straight metal record I really didn't know if it'd be any good. How could I add anything to what I'd done before? In the end, I didn't think about it too deeply, I just did it."
Is this the direction you wanted to take Maiden?
"Probably. When I left Maiden i had no idea what I wanted to do. But i felt like I should be taking some kind of chance. If we had made an album like 'Accident...' I wouldn't have left!"
What's your verdict on 'The X Factor' and 'Virtual XI' - the albums Maiden have made since you quit?
"I have a verdict but I shall remain schtum about it. Partly out of respect to the fans. Me and Maiden, it's like a divorce but we're still sharing the same bathroom. We have to live with each other.
"I'm still friendly with everybody, except Steve. I have a lot of respect for the guy, but i think he's a bit peeved about things. Everyone else I'm cool with, including Blaze."
In the new Maiden biography 'Run To The Hills', Steve Harris claims you made very little effort on your final tour with the band...
I've got my version of events and he's got his. It all comes down to how you see the world. For Steve, Maiden's more important than anything. To me, there are some things that are more important than the band I'm in.
"I didn't know it was going to be that much of a big deal when I left, but as soon as I walked out onstage and looked at the audience I thought 'Shit!'. If I run around grinning like a fool, the audience is going to think, 'What a wanker! If he's so happy, why is he leaving?'. And if I wander around looking miserable as sin, they'll wonder why they paid £20 for a ticket to see this tosser. I was stuffed. Some nights the audience was hostile. It was like doing a gig at a wake! Some nights I enjoyed it, but on others I was thinking, 'I wish I wasn't here!'.
"The moment I left maiden I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't do anything that I didn't believe in ever again. Steve and myself always used to clash. He wanted to fire me after the first month of the 'Number Of The Beast' tour - because i kept getting in his way onstage! I had an extra six inches added to the base of my microphone stand so i could trip the bastard up! I got fed up of him standing in front of me when I was singing. I got all these chips in my teeth where he used to elbow me. After a gig in Newcastle in '82 we were going to go outside, sleeves rolled up. But we learned to live with each other. And if Steve hadn't had that personality, Maiden would never have existed."
Would you consider a Maiden reunion?
"I don't think it's a realistic possibility, but equally it's not something I'm dead against. A few gigs would be a really good laugh, but I'm not holding my breath."
How do you feel about Blaze singing your songs?
"Well, I sang Paul Di'Anno's songs. Blaze is a very courageous guy. It's a difficult job singing those songs. It was difficult enough for me and they were designed for my voice. I think he's done really well - good luck to him."
Any of the new Maiden tracks you'd fancy singing?
"I quite liked 'Futureal'. When the singer writes a track the melody is a lot more singer-friendly. Some of Steve's songs are a bugger to sing because the words are incredibly awkward. You want to leave out half of them, basically."
Any plans for another Lord Iffy Boatrace book?
"I did one because i was bored on the road. I got ridiculously good sales and very good reviews in straight papers, but I was crucified by the music press. I wrote one-third of 'Lord Iffy III', but I stopped because I didn't think it was funny. I might dig it out again, but the problem now is time. I've done an album per year for the last three years and when I go home I get attacked by three kids."
Would you put on the old spandex trousers again?
"Depends how much you pay me! You know, the spandex was largely a myth. Actually, no it wasn't. It's like Bill Clinton saying, 'I never had sex with her'. Technically it wasn't spandex. I'll have the FBI doing the fibres on my spandex."
What's been the lowest point of your career?
"After Skunkworks, I had no band, no songs, and I wasn't feeling in the most jolly of moods. It seemed like my career was in tatters. Then I had a conversation with my mother in which she decided to tell me at the age of 35 that I was actually a failed abortion. Apparently there was a pill you took to get rid of the offending bulge, and it didn't work. So i called the next album 'Accident of Birth'. Stuff it! the irony wasn't lost on me."
And the high point of your career?
"It hasn't happened yet. I get a high point every time I make a record."
Do you think you'll always be thought of as the guy who fronted Iron Maiden?
"I think you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who's bought one of my records who doesn't have a bunch of Maiden's as well. Nevertheless, I think people are getting into my stuff now."
How do you see your music developing from here?
"'The Chemical Wedding' is a big break out for me. This is going to succeed because 'Accident...' was a good record, not because I was in Iron Maiden. It's the first record of the rest of my life. Life begins at 40!"
So how does it feel to be heavy metal legend at 40?
"About time! Ha ha ha!"