This interview took place before the Iron Maiden Reunion!!!
After the incredibly strong showing for "ACCIDENT OF BIRTH" the safest thing to do, for any artist, would be to try and duplicate what is known to work and keep the streak going. "THE CHEMICAL WEDDING" is, in fact, very similar to its predecessor in that it is metal and it is distinguishably Dickinson but that is where the comparisons begin to fall away. The latest solo recording by the former (and likely future) IRON MAIDEN vocalist is it's own animal and a barely tame one at that. With 10 songs that revolve around themes first brought to full artistic splendor by William Blake, "THE CHEMICAL WEDDING" is a thinking man's metal album and there is nothing more dangerous than an intelligent mind that believes it has found its place in the cosmos. Dickinson has found that niche and it comes off both confident and mad, each connected to the other by a heavy coating of classical romanticism. The sheer sagacity of the compositions is complemented or opposed, depending on your perspective, by the fierceness that they each contain. Case and point can be made easily with one listen of the incredible "Killing Floor." This is the absolute best that Dickinson has ever done, it is also one of two numbers co-written with fellow MAIDEN alum, Adrian Smith so if their former band was ever your thing this will send you rushing to rediscover all of those classics as well. The buzz in the industry is that there will be a Dickenson fronted MAIDEN romping across the worlds stages shortly after the turn of the millenium and that would make this MAIDEN fan pleased as punch but only if this solo material will not be lost in the process. This is an absolutely phenominal work that just should not be given such short shrift. The future will bring what it will but for today we have Bruce Dickinson's "THE CHEMICAL WEDDING" to discuss and that is exactly what Bruce wanted to talk about when he phoned durring a break in tour rehearsals.
DAVID LEE You kept the same band together for this new record as you had on the last one and I think that is the first time that you have done that since MAIDEN.
BRUCE DICKINSON Yeah but you know, it is effectively the same band that did "BALLS TO PICASSO" it is just that Adrian wasn't with the band then.
DL There is definitely a different feel to this and the last record than there was to "BALLS TO PICASSO" record.
BD Sure. There was a different producer was the main thing there. I think that if Roy had been producing "BALLS TO PICASSO" we would have had records that sounded a lot more similar.
DL In the promotion that accompanied the CD they quote you as saying that this and the last record are very different and to my ears they are very much alike. Beside the fact that they are obviously different songs, how do they differ in style?
BD I think that "ACCIDENT OF BIRTH" was certainly a record that was much more of a restatement of everything that I had already done in metal. I mean, I think that it combined elements of the best stuff that I had done solo the best elements of stuff with MAIDEN the best stuff with SAMSON all kind of rolled into a ball. With "CHEMICAL WEDDING" what you get is a record which takes the heart and soul of where I started in music, which is, story telling and early BLACK SABBATH and stuff like but and transposes it to right now. The execution of this new record is totally like, end of the century hard core metal, like right now.
DL I had the chance to catch you on the last tour and that was a wonderful mixture of both the classic metal approach and a very current aggressive sound. It worked very well.
DL AIR RAID RECORDS is your own label that is distributing this record in Europe?
BD Yeah, that's right.
DL Do you have other artists on the label?
BD Not at the moment. AIR RAID was started with a pretty specific goal in mind and that was to do a really good job on my material and perhaps to extend to other projects that would be very closely linked. In other words we are not going to goof off and go and sign something that we really don't know anything about. We want to make sure that whatever we sign, if we do sign anything else, has already got a clear way that we are going to sell records because, you know, we don't really have the funding to be able to go out and break something form scratch. We just don't have the resources to do that but what AIR RAID does do extremely well is to take a band that already sells records but has been fucked up by people doing a bad job in other independent labels and we will sell 20% more records than they did at half the cost. We can do that in Europe so, that is the AIR RAID philosophy if you like. At a certain point in the future it might be that we take on an unknown band or something else like that but for the moment we are sticking to doing things that we know and things that we are familiar with.
DL I have to assume that you spend the most time working on Bruce Dickinson right now.
BD I am the only artist on the label right now.(laughs)
DL Are there other people that are going to move into management roles as you do take on other bands?
BD Well, no. We don't need to have a bunch of people with fancy brass name tags on the door or anything like that. I have got a guy named Steve McTagart who is the label manager and Nicky Aflack who works as sort of an A+R assistant and everything else and basically that is everything that we need. We've got Sanctuary, which is the management company, actually has an infrastructure for distributing and manufacturing the records so we use that, we plug into that. It is sort of like somebody coming along and plugging into the mother ship so we don't need to carry all of the overhead and all of the other bullshit because the Sanctuary mother ship is actually mother ship to ten or fifteen different labels. It is a really good situation.
DL So, you are still within that whole IRON MAIDEN family then?
BD Oh yeah, completely.
DL How is the relationship between yourself and your former band mates?
BD It is pretty good actually because I have always gotten on well with them. I think that, perhaps, might be a bit spiky between me and Steve, I actually don't know because I have not spoken with him for eight years but I have got no beef with any of the guys in MAIDEN. I am happy to see them doing well and I wish them all success.
DL I spoke with somebody the other day and they postulated that within the next five years there will be a full blown re-union with all the bells and whistles.
BD (Laughing)In the next five years! How about saying that in the next forty years that one of us will probably die?(laughing) I think that is about as equally as certain. I have no idea what is going to happen in the next five years, I mean I haven't got a clue, really.
DL This record was recorded in The States, was the last one recorded here as well?
BD Yeah, I did. In the same studio and exactly the same setup.
DL What is the difference between recording here and back in the U.K?
BD When I am in the States I don't have a lot of distractions, it's great. I am on my own, I get to do my thing and go home and go to sleep and wake up and all I have got to think about is doing the record, which is great. When I am at home I have got kids and family and distractions and friends and all of that stuff and it takes away form the focus of the record. The other thing in America as well is that the technology in America is cheaper and probably better in some ways than it is in the U.K. because I record all of my records deliberately on old fashioned stuff. I use old desks and old analog recording equipment and very little digital stuff on my records.
DL I have to compliment whomever produced the vocal tracks because they are so incredibly dynamic without being too far out front. They are truly some of the best done I have ever heard.
BD Well, thank you.
DL You also got to phone up Arthur Brown and have him come down to contribute to the record, what was that like?
BD I am a huge fan of Arthur Brown. Something like 40% of my singing style is stolen off of Arthur. I got to know Arthur a few years back and I just called him up and said "Arthur, would you be up to reading a bit of William Blake poetry?" And he said "Oh sure, yeah!"
DL Was there ever a temptation or opportunity to sing "Fire" with him?
BD You know what? I mean, at some point I would love to have Arthur on a record and do a record with him but I would have to sit down and figure out what we could do.(laughs) I am not sure that "Fire" would necessarily be the right one because that is a track that is virtually un-coverable. It is one of those songs like "Stairway to Heaven" or one of those type tunes. You just can't cover it, the original is like, it just can't be done any better.
DL Are you familiar with RAMMSTEIN?
BD Oh yeah! What a great band!
DL I hadn't know much about them but I got to see them live and it was just amazing.
BD (Laughing)No doubt! They are fucking insane! I saw the full show in Austria and what you saw the other night is nothing compared to what they do in Europe. It is unbelievable, they have forty foot flame throwers on stage! A forty foot jet of liquid fire!
DL It reminded me of some of those big MAIDEN shows back in the eighties.
BD I think that RAMMSTEIN are going to be huge. I think that for all the people that thought that THE PRODIGY were going to be big, naw, RAMMSTEIN are going to kick their ass!
DL They were certainly successful in that I went out the next day and bought everything that I could find with their name on it.
DL Immediately I thought of Arthur Brown and how he would set himself on fire back in the sixties.
BD Yep, exactly.
DL O.K. One last question before you go. The BLACK SABBATH reunion will be winding its way across America soon and I know you are a fan and I was wondering what thoughts you had on that whole thing.
BD Well, I think that it is just fantastic and I am jealous as hell that I am not on the tour!(laughs) I mean, they were the sound of my bedroom when I was fourteen years old.
DL You did a tune on the SABBATH tribute disc, didn't you?
BD Oh yeah, I did "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" but I mean, one of the very first records that I ever bought was the very first SABBATH record and it was just amazing. It was an incredible experience listening to that record when I was a kid.
DL Have you listened to a SABBATH record recently? Not a recent record but any SABBATH record?
BD Actually, not for a while and I am about due!
DL I can hear the guitars tuning up behind you there so I would guess that you are in a rehearsal now?
BD Yeah, that's right.
DL After I hang up maybe you can take a quick run through "Paranoid" or something?
BD (Laughs) I sang it the other night actually! I did a show in Bosnia for some soldiers and we sang "Paranoid."
DL That is an apt choice for that part of the world.
BD (Laughing) Yeah!
DL Alright, thank you for the disc it is wonderful.
BD Thank you mate, cheers!