From The Mouth Of Maidens


  Chris Ingham talks to Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson about his recently released 'Best Of' album, plans for the next Maiden record and just what happened to the much mooted Trinity project with Rob Halford and Queensryche's Geoff Tate.

How did the 'Best Of...' come about, Bruce?
"There had been a plot to do a rarities and live thing called 'Catacombs'. But Rod [Smallwood, Maiden manager] talked me into doing a 'Best Of'. I'd thought that all my fans would already have it so what would be the point? But Rod explained that there are 1.5 million Iron Maiden fans haven't bought my stuff. Which is why he's the manager I 'spose 'cos the sales are going very nicely thank you.

"So what we do have is a double CD with one disc being the 'Best of' and the other 'Catacombs' for mega fans only. There's also 2 new tracks so I'm happy that I haven't ripped anyone off."

Looking back on your solo career from a critical point of view it seems that the records were of two separate halves. On one hand you had the 'Tattooed Millionaire'/'Balls To Picasso'/'Skunkworks' stuff and then the latter half a very metal sounding 'Accident of Birth' and 'Chemical Wedding'. Does that two part approach sit nicely with your own vision?
"It makes sense to me, but only if you look backwards. If you look at the albums from 'Tattooed...' forwards it doesn't make nearly as much sense going from 'Chemical...' backwards.

"'Tattooed...' was different to the rest because it wasn't a 'serious' attempt at making an album. It was done because we could. And I was in Iron Maiden which was different. Adrian (Smith) had been doing one for months at that point, Janick (Gers) was around and he was depressed and thinking about quitting playing and I had this itch to scratch so we wrote it in his front room. We presented 'Bring Your Daughter...To The Slaughter' to various labels and it went from there. We did that for fun and sold enough - 80'000 in the UK off the back of two hit singles 'All The Young Dudes' and 'Tattooed Millionaire'. We ended up selling half a million copies of 'Tattooed'...yeah, it fucking amazed me as well!|

"The next time I came to make a solo album I actually made three. Only one of which I released - 'Balls To Picasso'. It was a very expensive process that. I made two thirds of one album and abandoned ship. I was trying to re-write 'Tattooed Millionaire' with the band who formed Skin basically. Janick was a mate and we were close so it worked being lose and chummy. Skin we're assembled already so I was the outsider. I scrapped it because of me - I wasn't happy with my attitude not theirs. Finding yourself that way is an expensive form of therapy I can tell you."

What was it that you were looking for?
"I figured that I should be making an album with some artistic merit - not 'Tattooed...' which was a glorified bar band album. So I was trying to dig out something new and I was shocked by how difficult it was for me. Shock then turned into panic. Like, 'I used to be able to have ideas so what's happened?' kind of mentality.

"It seemed to me that there must be something wrong in my life 'cos I couldn't write anymore. Everything I did was in Iron Maiden's style - terrifying for me as someone contemplating a solo career. Basically I had no clear idea of where to go or what to do.

"So off I went to LA and working with Keith Olsen. I was after a dark, scary and moody vibe, like Peter Gabriel's 'Intruder' and 'Self Control' stuff and all that. So if I was drawn to dark rock then I should scratch that itch, Unfortunately Keith wasn't the man to capture that idea, though a lot of good stuff did come from that session - 'Tears Of The Dragon' for example."

How did you finally talk yourself into taking the solo plunge full-time?
"By the time that I'd finished working with Keith I'd made the decision to leave Maiden. It was prompted by my internal state of mind. A lot of it was due to this creativity issue. I was unhappy with myself and I felt that I had to try and find something else otherwise I would be the 'successful, well paid singer of Iron Maiden'. I wanted to find out whether I could do anything else and the only way to find out would be to leave. I had to leave to find if a Bruce solo album could have value. If I had stayed in Maiden then no one would take it seriously, including me, because Maiden would have been an escape route."

Was there a defining moment of clarity that you stumbled across?
"There was one: I was in LA and I read a thought for the day line in the LA Times or something. It was a quote from Henry Miller and it said: "All growth is an unpremeditated leap in the dark with no idea of where you will land". I read that and I understood what I had to do. So for the next three year in terms of commercial success nothing did happen. I had more success than what people think but not as much as I'd hoped."

But now you have travelled a full circle - you are in Maiden again and yet you are doing solo albums - so how will you avoid the same mistakes? How will you maintain your freedom?
"Ah, but I'm a lot happier being me now - that's the important thing to remember. I was a very unhappy bunny for years after quitting Maiden. I was uncertain and unattentive to some things. I'd see certain projects and ideas as being the most important things in my life and launch myself at them for 6 months before sitting back, exhausted, and wondering whether it was any good. The way I saw it was that if it hadn't quite achieved the end result yet I was emotionally satisfied with what I'd been able to accomplish then it was still a personal achievement. But nine out of ten times there would be that nagging doubt that it wasn't quite right and that was all that matters to the rest of the world. So I'd drop the project and move on. It must have been very difficult for people working with me."


What will happen if you and [long time Bruce producer] Roy Z write a song and Maiden want it again?
"It's not likely to happen because Maiden have never used anything written by an outside writer and I reckon I'm on safe ground saying that Maiden never will.

"There is a new song on the best of called 'Broken' which is Roy and me messing around with a classic Maiden style song. While we were writing the new tracks for the 'Best Of' we were also doing stuff for my new solo album and I heard Z play a what was a Maiden song basically. It was a 1985 Maiden type riff so we recorded it with vocals for a laugh. It's Roy Z and Bruce doing Maiden '85. We did it for a laugh but we wouldn't do an album. We're all of us involved in 'Chemical Wedding' so proud of it that we wouldn't wanna fall off the wagon and move back into cliché territory."

So you don't perceive the dual career thing as a problem anymore?
"We're doing a big tour in 2003 and the new Maiden album I hope will be finished by next Xmas. So we can release it for early 2003 and have a big summer tour to put on. I'm really looking forward to that. I don't intend to tour the solo album - effectively there isn't a band anymore which is why we did 'Scream For Me Brazil'. Dave is in Ireland, Roy's producing career has taken off, another one is making big bucks as a studio engineer in LA.

"It's good that all the people that I worked with in my solo career went away and did well for themselves. I couldn't live with the idea of stumbling across anyone I'd worked with living under the arches somewhere...the idea if you'd stuck to the green grocers and not followed me on some wild dream then at least you'd still be safe in the grocers..."

You seem to have formed a tight bond with Roy Z - he's produced most of your own work now, what are his strengths?
"I have a great relationship with Roy over 3 studio albums so far. We write together all the time and the creative spark is definitely there. We have history and I love working with him. All those people who spend thousands on therapy should just make a record with Roy Z 'cos he gets inside your head and sorts out all the problems."

Won't it be hard to go straight from writing/recording one album into the next?
"It might be but the nice thing, which I'm looking forward to, is that I'll be working with different sets of people. I wouldn't be able to do a Maiden album then tour and then do a solo album - too draining. So doing it this way round is way better - it gets the creative juices flowing and gives me a run up to prepare myself for the Maiden demands.

"Because of the nature of Maiden's sound - and years ago I had a big thing about trying to fuck around with it - it's a challenge to work within it and still satisfy your needs. Maiden is what it is and that will never change. And it's a different challenge again to do a solo thing. We're not as limited as with Maiden but it's a hell of a challenge to get it right in Maiden with the stakes being so much higher.

I never thought I'd live to hear you saying that...
"That's because I'm a lot more chilled out about things now. It's quite nice to write a lot of material and know what will fit where. The Maiden song writing process is about presenting outlines or demos of songs like a series of sketch books which you show to different people. From that you gauge reactions from the 'hmmm, maybes' to the 'fucking great!'. The more fucking greats you get you know you're onto a winner."

I thought it was just about whether Steve [Harris] liked it or not?
"No...well, yes, there is that, but there is everyone else to consider as well. And to be fair to Steve if he has an idea that everyone else is unsure of he does back off. We have got better at that sort of stuff these days. People don't take things as personally as they used to anymore.

"Another reason why I'm looking forward to doing it this way is because as a genuine solo artist you have to work to deadlines. I had to deliver an album every 18 months or I'd starve. Now I don't have to come up with an album every 18 months. I have a comfort zone. I do think that there's been a comfortable gap between the last Maiden record and my next solo one. But if it wasn't working for me I'd now have the comfort zone of being able to say, 'Nope, lets shelve it'.

What happened to the Trinity project involving you, Rob Halford and Queensr˙che's Geoff Tate?
"I put the Trinity project on hold. It was me who pulled the plug. It was a project too far and nobody had the time to do it properly. And it had to be right. I said to everyone how would you like to be responsible for killing 3 careers in one move and also be the first stiffer on Sanctuary records? Its not good position to be in and not worth rushing.
"I do think Trinity is a fine idea and would work if it was executed extraordinarily well. Roy and I wrote three songs for it with the intention of using all 3 voices in each song. It wasn't here's Rob's song with Bruce and Geoff backing him and so on. We actually wrote songs whereby each voice had its own area and the lyrics were written for each voice too. "There were bits written where Geoff and I would sing harmonies and stuff where Rob and Geoff would do stuff - all the phrasing was written for each singer too but it was fucking hard work. After three weeks Roy and I were sure that we couldn't get it done by the summer.

"It was bloody interesting writing in that way. I was there doing demos in three different vocal styles singing Rob'isms and Tate-isms to indicate whose voice should be doing what."

You worked with Rob Halford for a cover of 'I'm the One You Love To Hate' already so were you looking forward to doing a full album?
"I've heard Rob sing acoustically without a mike. Now some singers who are apparently reknown to make mad noises are in fact singing very quietly and it then gets produced loud - a lot of back divas who go really high for example. But Rob is so fucking loud you can't believe it. I've seen him get in a studio where his voice is so hoarse that he can barely talk and he'll drink this pint of anaesthetic shit so he can't feel the pain and he'll start screaming. I'm covering my ears cos it's that loud. He's a living banshee - a jet engine whine. When we did 'I'm the One You Love To Hate' it was as loud as fuck. I was astonished at what he was doing.

(Laughs) "I don't know what Rob Halford has down his throat but it ain't natural..."