Q: Where are you calling from?
B: I'm in New York. I've got two days off and then they've got me heading for Los Angeles on Tuesday, where it's warm. There's sunshine there and I have two days off. I took a look at the Weather Channel and said "get me out into the 90 degree heat, please."
Q: Are you into the whole Internet/e-mail trip yet?
B: I don't have an e-mail address at the moment. It's fascinating but I think it's like writing, only quicker. Apart from that, I don't think there's anything fascinating about it. I've surfed around the Internet and there are a few useful things on it, but by and large, it's a wasteland.
Q: All the bands I've interviewed who have a Website or e-mail address have tripled their fan base.
B: It's good for that kind of stuff, but the Internet in general is pretty inadequate for what it's supposed to do. The Internet would be really cool, if you could download instant pictures and images, but, with all the hanging around just to download something, you could have had a six course meal while you waited. One of our problems with a Website has been, certainly in Europe, that there are a few kids on line over there, but it's not that big of a deal yet.
Q: Where did the name "Skunkworks" come from?
B: "Skunkworks" is actually named after the Lockheed Advanced Development Corporation in California. They build lots of pretty trippy high technology fighters and airplanes. They continue to build lots of stuff that the governments doesn't want us to know about, right now.
Q: Side A Cut 1 is "Space Race." You let us know in no uncertain terms what you think about that, with lyrics like "why are we acting like we own the place?"
B: (laughing) It's the way I feel about the whole thing. I was a kid and brought up with the Apollo missions. What I thought was cool, was the concept that people were just doing all this because it was there. It was an exploration. Then I realized it had nothing to do with exploration, it was about domination of some other country and putting nuclear bombs in space. It sucks.
Q: The tune "Inertia" is all about playing Sarajevo. You actually played the front lines.
B: That's what the song is about. It all started with "Kerrang!," the metal magazine in England. The British U.N. Forces had quarters in Sarajevo and had been trying to get a rock and roll band out to cheer up the troops. A bunch of bands said they'd do it but never did. When they called us, I just asked when. We actually drove through open battlefields.
Q:" I Will Not Accept the Truth" on Side A. Is that a tip of the hat to the Fox Network show "X-Files"?
B: I've seen the show. You could take that song many ways. For me it was about the way people feed you information and try to scare you and try and control you. They tell you that you had better be careful because if you lose this job, you'll never get another one.
Q: I met Alex, with you, in San Francisco on the '94 "Balls to Picasso" promotional tour. He's really an amazing guitarist. What else did he contribute to this album? It has a harder edge than Picasso had.
B: He's amazing for sure. He wrote the whole thing. I wrote the lyrics and vocals, but he wrote the music. This is a band album. We're calling the band Skunkworks too. That's the essential difference between this album and all the others. It's so far ahead of everything I've ever done before. What you're hearing on this album is the birth of a band.
Q: How was it working with Jack Endino?
B: Jack is really cool. Jack can't stand the fact that he's got this reputation, as the "godfather of grunge."
Q: What can he do? He produced Nirvana, who changed the face of music a couple of years ago, like the Sex Pistols changed the mid-70s.
B: Exactly, I agree. Jack's thing is that he wants to make great rock music. He saw an opportunity with this band and this project to turn around the way people thought about me, and to turn his own work around as well. You listen to the production on this album, the way he's got his sounds together and everything. It stands up with the best of any of the big shot producers and he's such a humble guy. I'm just so pleased that the album is going down as well as it is, he deserves all the success that comes from the album.
Q: I have to tell you, I'm so thrilled about Castle Records putting out all those Iron Maiden CD's of old.
B: It's great that they've re-released those albums with the B-sides. A lot of kids used to spend a great deal of time, trying to find the B-sides. The people who've gone and gotten the originals, on vinyl 7," won't have them devalued at all because of the re-releases, if anything, it probably makes them worth more. It just means that everyone has access to them all.
Q: I probably have more Iron Maiden goodies than anyone else. I have Christmas cards going back years, jackets, a watch, flashlight and all the picture discs.
B: Goodness me. You've got a helluva lot more than I do.
Q: That's what Steve Harris said the other day when I was talking to him about the paraphernalia.
B: We keep silly, weird stuff from that era.
Q: Do you collect anything, fencing swords, airplanes?
B: Airplanes. I wish I had the money to collect them. I have a small collection of swords and fencing books as well. Apart from that, I don't collect much. I collect ketch.
Q: I still love the video you did for "Tears of the Dragon." Any videos planned for this album?
B: We've got a couple already made. One for "Back from the Edge" and the other one for "Inertia."
Q: What's the touring schedule going to be like?
B: We're going out in Europe for a three and a half month tour starting next month. At the moment, there's nothing booked for the U.S., although we do have dates coming up in Japan and South America, then back to Europe. We want to get to America as soon as possible after Europe. My guess is we'll be here in the summer and depending on how long we're here for, we could be back in the fall or winter months.
Q: Do you keep up with your chart positions?
B: Yes, at Gavin we were #2 or #3 most added across the board. FMQB, CMJ and The Hard Report, we had similar numbers. It's pretty cool. (Editor's note: These are radio industry mags that chart airplay.)
Q: I asked Steve Harris if Bayley was he the best voice he heard to take over for you. He advised they didn't want to duplicate your voice. Bayley gives Maiden a whole new feel.
B: I think one of the things with Blaze...the album that the guys have done, "X-Factour," is really pretty similar to the style that they would have written, had I still been in the band. Blaze does have a different voice and I think it's unfair to judge him by the same yardstick. The reports I've been getting about their live shows, is that everyone is loving his voice. I think the next Iron Maiden album will be adjusted and they'll change the writing style a bit, to fit his voice, which will be cool.
Q: What are you listening to these days?
B: There are some weird bands coming out of England these days. There's a band called Skyscraper who are only available on a little indie label. They're amazing and they sound like a rastafarian hard-core band. Like dub reggae and AC/DC together. There are other bands I really like, but my mind has just gone blank on the question. Reggae is really cool. I'll tell you who's really into that, Dave Murray. He's a Bob Marley fanatic completely. The big American names like Soundgarden and people like that I really respect. I'm really intrigued by the whole Marilyn Manson trip.
Q: It's back to Iggy Pop.
B: Right, Iggy and Alice. They're cool but they're getting on in age. Iggy is really big in Europe right now.
Q: I love those Sepultura guys.
B: That's pretty trippy, that stuff.
Q: I'm in Austin now and this town is so hot with over 150 live music venues, going every day of the year.
B: Yeah. Austin is really cool and if you should bump into my good friend Arthur Brown, tell him hello for me. He's a chum of mine. Give him my regards and I'll be in touch with him. Arthur was my big inspiration. Listen to the album "Crazy World of Arthur Brown" and the tune "Journey" and take a listen to my vocals. You'll find where I stole most of my stuff from.
Q: If you had the power to change the music business today, what would those changes be?
B: If I was in charge, I'd abolish all payment for everything. I'd say the only way an artist could get paid for anything, would be by a direct debit from a person's index finger. People just have to point to an amount, say 50 cents and it would go through some psychic network. So the artist that didn't suck would instantly get paid and Axl Rose would be on the bread line straight away. When you pay all this money for a concert and it sucks, you've wasted your money. In the old days the street entertainers had to be good, otherwise they didn't get paid.
Q: Is this a fun part of your life? Are you having fun?
B: This is a fun time in my life. I'm having a great time right now. I'm having a better time than I have had in years, honestly.
Q: Do you feel blessed and very lucky to have such a great voice?
B: (laughing) Yes, somebody has smiled on me, on this record. You've got to have the vision to do something with your talent. I think there are a lot of people with great voices and a lot of people who are talented out there. What makes the difference is focusing on it for five minutes in the right place. I've been lucky that I've worked with two great bands in my life. Once with Maiden and now with the Skunkworks guys and Jack, who've been able to help provide a focus.
Q: How's Castle Records treating you?
B: They're amazing. They are outstanding and better than any major label I've ever worked with. As a label, they've got something to prove and they're gunning for everyone right now. I've turned up and given them some of the ammunition they need to accomplish their goals.
Q: It's always a pleasure to talk to you about your music. Be sure to come to Austin.
B: Sheila, Austin is such a cool place. If I have half a chance I'll come and visit you there.
Interview conducted by Austin-based - Sheila Ren