A Conversation with Bruce Dickinson

Gino, 28/4 -96
An exclusive interview that me and my friend Mattias made with Bruce when he visited Stockholm on Sunday 28/4 1996 to play at Gino. We were offered thirty minutes of time by the tourleader but as it happened Bruce was very talkative and interested in answering our questions and correcting our speculations on where he'd got inspiration for certain lyrics and such, so we ended up talking for one and a half hour about everything concerning music and his career...

B = Bruce
M = Mattias
H = Henrik


M: We have some pretty unusual questions, not about your new haircut or your flying or writing or anything…
B: Oh, fuck, you're actually gonna talk about music?
M: Yes, we're gonna talk about music
B: Oh, thanks, yeah, that's cool, that'll be different.
M: Yea. First I have a very big question for you, about music. Now, you've been in different bands and projects over the years, Samson, Iron Maiden, and how do you work musically and how have you developed your music over the years and was there any differences between the bands; Samson, Iron Maiden and your solo projects?
B: I think there's a difference sometimes in intention behind different things that you do. For example, let's take Iron maiden, cause it's twelve years worth of music. The intention behind that changed after the first couple of records for me, because it became obvious that Maiden worked to a time table. A table that wasn't absolute but it had to be stuck to. "Now you'll write for six weeks, now you'll make a record for three months, now you're rehearsing for two weeks, now you'll tour. …for eight months". It was organised like that and that seemed to suit the style of writing of the band. Maiden was not the kind of band which I would term experimental. In the early days they were doing stuff that was very different, but it didn't stay that different, It didn't continue the process. It pretty much developed into a formula.
H: So they were consciously working towards a formula in the early days?
B: No, it wasn't a conscious decision for the band, I think it just happened and everybody got really comfortable with it.
M: But why do you think it happened?
B: Because of the personalities involved, and fundamentally, I think, because of Steve, cause Steve is not that flexible a personality, it's just the way he is, you know. He knows pretty much what he wants and I think he tends to exclude a lot of options. He's never taken a drug in his life, he doesn't smoke, he never smoked dope, he's never taken acid or anything that would alter his possibilities. He very rarely gets drunk even, because he likes to stay in control and I think that's the fundamental difference between me and him. Sometimes you have to be in control of things and there are times when you need to be out of control. There are times when you have to let things happen and that can be very scary for somebody who is a control freak. And that's sometimes when the best ideas happen, it's when you just take a big leap into the unknown and you don't know what's gonna happen. That can be very creative and it can be absolute shit but some of the best and the most exciting pieces of music have been created out there on the edge of destruction. But people have different interpretations of that and, fundamentally, to me "being on the edge" means being on the edge of actually destroying the creativity. Not being on the edge by playing fast, technically, but to try stuff that are so out there at a gig that the whole show might fall flat on it's face or it might be completely brilliant.
M: How was it in Samson then, compared to Iron Maiden?
B: Samson was very much like that, very much on the edge. We used to play some terrible shows and we used to play some brilliant shows and you never know what you're gonna get. Half the time in Samson we were so fucked up and it's a miracle I even remember making the first record. We were very stoned and it was a druggy sort of a band, we used to smoke a lot of dope we used to drink a lot and we used to do a lot of chemicals and go on stage in that state. I kind of stopped doing that when I joined Maiden cause it became obvious that Maiden was not that kind of a band. It's not the kind of band where you stop a song in the middle and go; "Let's jam, let's go somewhere else". Maiden was very strict, very regimented. Above all I saw Maiden as a whole area of perhaps not missed opportunities, but the band was OK as far as it went. In terms of the ability to put big melodies on top of this cool instrumental structure, that had never been done before with a band of Maiden's intensity. It had been done with bands like Kansas, Genesis and that kind of big bands but they were very pompous at some times and very keyboard oriented. When I first heard Maiden the first thing I thought was; "Wow, this sounds like classic Purple". Especially songs like Wrathchild, Murders in the Rue Morgue and Killers. And I joined thinking that that's what it would become but Maiden, or Steve, never had any desire to take things to the extremities of Purple, with twenty minute jams and such which were brilliant, musically. I don't think there's ever been a rock band since Purple that's been… as good, frankly, at playing instrumentally, jamming, on stage and having moments of sheer brilliance. Nobody's ever made a live record, heavy rock live record, as good as Made in Japan ever. Nobody. Which is an incredible testament to that band.
M: But didn't Martin Birch try to put in something of the Purple vibrations into Maiden or was it more like he was just a producer?
B: Martin, he is a great character and he's a great producer. He taught me a lot about singing. Martin's philosophy of a good producer is that the producer is just like a mirror that he holds up to the band and he reflects what the band is perfectly.
M: But he doesn't add anything on his own?
B: No, because if it's a great band it doesn't need anything added.
M: Did he think that that was the case with Iron maiden in the early days then?
B: Yes, frankly.
M: But, I mean, for example, with "No prayer for the dying" and even "Fear of the dark", didn't he kind of feel like it's supposed to be something more?
B: I think, at the time we got to "No prayer for the dying" Martin wasn't making any records at all, apart from an Iron Maiden record every year and a half. He'd basically gone into semi-retirement. He earned his cash doing the Iron Maiden records and he gets lots of royalties from back records from all the other bands he's done as well. And Martin was a character who would push himself to the point of destruction making a record. Far more so than any other else in the band. Martin, as a producer, threw himself into albums to the point where he would almost have a breakdown. In fact, at one point he almost had a complete breakdown. He went through a very rough time when he was working really hard and he was under a lot of pressure. He's not the kind of person that compromises easily, in terms of creativity. But after Live after death basically I think that Maiden had become quite civilised.
M: Everybody knew their position and there was a formula…
B: Yes, kind of, but I'm not sure if it was necessarily conscious, I think it was just something that everybody had just slipped into. And I saw my position in the band as being the one to try and take Steve's ideas, reinvent them and fuck around with it as muck as I could, or as much as he allowed. For example, Rod, the manager would ask me "Is there any chance you could get Steve to try and do this?" and I just said "Fuck, why don't you ask him yourself". Why come to me... So we'd go through these things and I must say, when we got to "Seventh son" I was quite optimistic about that album. I think it was the last really good record the band made and it was a record where everybody was really trying hard to come up with directions, but it was so slow developing that record and it took such a long time to record it and it was so terribly expensive. But it was a pretty good record and there were several ways the band could have gone at that point but as it turned out, the next one "No prayer for the dying" was a huge backward-step", I thought. I don't think that the production of that record was in any way correct.
M: But wasn't the intention with that record to do a very low key and very simple one?
B: Yes, but not one that sounded shit. The idea was to do something at low key and not particularly complex. The idea was to do something that was the opposite to "Seventh son", and the idea was to do something that was very street, very happening and something that was gonna sound good. The fact is that it sounded terrible and everybody kind of acknowledges it now. We all collaborated with it and we all had a great time making it because we were out in the middle of as field making a record in a barn on a twenty year old mobile truck. But basically the Rolling Stones mobile is a piece of crap! It's exactly the same as when Deep Purple recorded "Machine head" on it. And the only reason they recorded "Machine head" on it was that their real studio had burnt down. It wasn't because it was such a great sounding equipment, and it certainly sounded much better twenty years ago. They didn't even have a pair of monitors in it that were suitable for mixing on so they got in a pair of small monitors and I believe they mixed the album on the Rolling Stones mobile as well which, I think, is completely crazy. Martin Birch suggested that we'd do the album in a proper studio at the very beginning but everybody was like "No, no, no, this'll be really cool. And Martin did the best he could. Steve, at that point, started getting very interested in the idea of himself being a producer, and he was already editing Iron Maiden's concert videos. Something which I argued with him against as well. I said that I didn't think much of his editing, basically. The we did "Fear of the dark", and I took Nicko aside and said "You heard this band called Dream Theater?" I had some demos of theirs and I played the album to him and I played some of their demos and I said "Listen to these, these are 24-track demos, no samples, no nothing, no machines, listen to this band" and then I said "Now listen to 'No prayer for the dying', this is our album, and these are their demos. It blows Iron Maiden's sound into next week and it shouldn't". I said "We've got to get our shit together and make a good sounding record". "Fear of the dark", then, was recorded in Steve's studio because he wanted it to be. He'd bought it and he'd paid for it and the band were gonna pay him back for using his studio so it was a foregoing conclusion that "Fear of the dark" would be recorded in his studio. I think it was the first album where we were attempting to recapture something in the past. In many ways I think that we were looking backwards to other albums that we've done in the past while other bands are looking forward to something new. And that was the last studio album I made. Shortly afterwards I just woke up to the end part of the twentieth century and went "Shit, I'd better try and do something different"
M: And then you tried to something different and recorded three solo albums. What were you thinking when you were supposed to make the music for these records? I guess the intention wasn't to make three records…
B: No, no, definitely not.
M: I mean, the first one, judging from the B-sides that is on the singles is pretty much just another average Heavy Metal album.
B: Yes, that's why I scrapped it. Cause I didn't want it to be and average record. I realised that I was just going along on autopilot.
M: And then you tried to do something completely different and you contacted Keith Olsen.
B: Yea, and that was so completely different and in the end it wasn't particularly what I wanted to do.
H: Who, played on the Keith Olsen album?
M: I took Myke Gray over who did the original guitars on the first album but I didn't use him on all of it. I used some session guys over there in the States and I used the keyboard player and the bass player from Saga to do a lot of programming. The recording was basically put together electronically, written on computers, keyboards and shit and I then got human beings in to replace that. It was an interesting experience and I learned an awful lot about what I didn't want to do out of that record…
M: It was a good lesson. Expensive though…
B: Very expensive, but I did get two good things out of it which was "Tears of the dragon" which finality came together properly and I met Roy Z.
M: So you met him during the recording…
B: Yes, and he played me his band, "The tribe of gypsies", and I just listened to his band and said, "Fuck what am I doing fucking around with computers and all this LA crap". And he was really into writing some songs with me, so I said "OK, let's do that", and originally I was gonna write three of four songs, heavy tunes, and add them to the Keith Olsen record. I had spent so much money by now, and it was my money too, it wasn't EMI's money. But I made the artistic decision to scrap the whole thing and just record an entire new album and that was finally the third album "Balls to Picasso", which got released. Then the intention was to try and find a band to tour with. We went through all kinds of possibilities and one was taking the "Tribe of Gypsies" out and maybe let them doing their own show as this full band and then I would just come out and sing with them.
M: What are they doing today?
B: They're still trying to get a deal and I think they've just got a little deal and I hope they're gonna get something out of it. Roy has produced the Downset album... Anyhow, I went in favour of trying to put my own band together cause trying to have a band that's based in LA with me being in Europe was gonna get crazy and in any case, at some point they would want to do their own record and I had to have my own thing. So then I met Alex. I've known about Alex for a long while and he's one of these guitarists I really like. He's just like a more modern, younger version of Jannick Gers, in his attitude on stage and everything. I think he goes a bit beyond Jan in terms of his influences…
M: I think that he's technically much better than Jannick, actually…
B: Yes, I think, some of the best guitar Jannick's ever played is on "Tattooed millionaire", I don't think anybody knows how to get the best out of Jannick in the studio in Iron Maiden. Jan is one of these guys who needs to be on the edge. If anybody is close to the whole Purple Ritchie thing it's Jan. He needs to feel that kind of vibe.
M: And he's played with Ian Gillan...
B: Yea, he's played with Ian for years and Jan's completely fearless. He used to tell me stories where Ian would be on stage and he'd go off stage or behind the amps and Jan would go off stage, still playing, go up behind him and kick him up the arse, and say "Go on stage and fucking scream!".
M: But didn't you hope that when Jannick was brought to Maiden that he would tumble it around a bit?
B: Yea, I did...
M: But it didn't happen?
B: No. ...oh well (laughter)
I realised that Jan has a streak of conservatism in there and with everybody else it kind of got reinforced a bit. I'm still very good friends with Jan and everybody so in a way that was the right decision for me to quit. If we started arguing about music I was gonna be completely uncompromising about music, I was gonna have some really big arguments which were not gonna get resolved. Basically, the other guys didn't see the world in the same way that I did. If that was gonna be the case and if I wanna stay friends with everybody I should just leave and take my chances. It's a much more sensible thing to do. Which brings me, of course, to Skunkworks. And Skunkworks, for me, is stepping forwards into a whole new world that actually existed, funnily enough, back in 1980 when I was in Samson. Because the Samson era of being able to jam have freedom and being able to just constantly create something is really back now.
M: But with better musicians...
B: Yea, the problem with Samson was that we actually had a lot of really good ideas but we were pretty limited. I mean, Thunderstick in particular... He had great drumming ideas, but was really short on the ability to execute them. I met him a few months ago and we talked about it and he said, "I've got to admit, you know, on those records we made, some of the drumming was terrible". But Samson worked together as this crazy, fucked up set-up, and when you took Thunderstick out of the equation and replaced him with Mel Gaynor who was in the band very briefly, Simple Mind's drummer, this phenomenal drummer, there was no excitement in it there anymore. When he played he played everything perfectly. Everything was in time, there was no mistakes, there was no danger anymore. And Thunderstick had provided that predictability so I got bored. I had time to think about the shopping list on stage and that's not good. And I realised that this was what Paul wanted. It enabled him to go into more ZZ top, boogie sort of areas. That was the polarities in Samson. I was the heavy rock, Heavy metal end of Samson and Paul was a traditional rock blues boogie guy and we glued the two things together and got this exciting sound. With Maiden I much more into less technical bands. Steve was into a lot of these technical bands like Nektar, Genesis, Yes and some of the more obscure Jethro Tull albums which were very technical. And to me all that stuff was just fiddling around. There's very little of that music that I find moving.
H: But I read somewhere that you were a fan of Van Der Graaf Generator…
B: Oh, yea, I love Van Der Graaf cause they were a band that were on the edge, and although they had quite complex arrangements, they made some great sounds. An they were an incredibly depressing band, music to commit suicide to and that's why I loved it, because it was so out there. You put Van Der Graaf on and you could clear an entire room of people and I loved it. I love music like that. It's the same thing with other bands like Magma these weird jazz rock bands. Arthur Brown too. There's moments of real genius in full clusters in various bits of their music, and I'm into those. I'm not into this "Vulgar display of power", to quote a famous band. The first time you see it, it may be cool, but the second time, it's just boring.
H: Yes. Well, I got this idea of thinking of Van Der Graaf when I read this line in "Solar confinement" saying: "Chaotic energy that sucks the life from H to He".
B: Yes, well spotted. There you go.
H: So you got the idea from there?
B: Yes, "From H to He who am the only one". It's the fundamental life force of the universe, it's what powers the stars.
H: And Peter Hamill lyrics, is that something that's influenced you?
B: Oh, yeah, when I was a kid I used to go through his lyrics with microscope. Lyric wise I was really into Peter Hamill, Ian Anderson and Gillan. Gillan's lyrics I though were pretty cool and they were very rock 'n' roll. Especially the early stuff from "Deep Purple in rock". I was never particularly into Robert Plants lyrics. They just never really got to me. I like them more now than I did then. In general I sort of appreciate Zeppelin a bit more now than I did when I was a kid. And Peter Hamill had some really good poetical lyrics which are very cool. I'd like to write more of them in the future.
H: So you write all the lyrics for Skunkworks?
B: Yes
M: And in Samson, did you write the lyrics too?
B: Yea
M: And the lyrics are very different in the various bands you've been in through the years. Do you get different inspiration from the music or what?
B: Yes, I get different inspiration from the music and from people and from what I'm into in general. I mean, a lot of the lyrics in Samson are about sex and shagging.
H: Did you consciously repeat yourself twice in Samson? "Leading me on you've been a bad, bad boy. Betcha since you've been a kid you've been a Mama's toy". That's the first line in "Take it like a man" and it's in "Too close to rock" as well.
B: Yes, it is, yes it is:
H: So it meant something special or was it just something cool to say?
B: Oh, it's just cause those songs are about being at school and "Too close to rock" is about leaving school and I was pretty close to school. I was only nineteen, I had just left university. "Too close to rock" is about having your parents threatening you with this and that, saying "You can't go and be a singer, just you wait, you'll come home with your tail between your legs and you want some money".
M: Was it like that for you?
B: I didn't get any assistance from the at all. They were pretty dead against it. They "what makes you think that you can succeed?"
H: I see. Well, I've studied your lyrics a little bit.
B: Oh, that's dangerous...
H: I have another thing that you've repeated, and it's "Nothing lasts forever but the certainty of change"
B: Oh, yes, I've repeated that one deliberately
M: From the brilliant "Darkness be my friend"…
B: Yes it is, I've repeated it cause I was so proud of that line I though it had to be used again and if people spot it then it's excellent. The guys have still never heard it and I wrote that song in about five minutes on acoustic guitar.
H: Who's playing the wind instrument, the flute thing on it?
B: It's not, it's a keyboard. Don Airey.
M: He just popped in to the studio and played?
B: Yea. Well, I've known him and he was in town. I just gave him a call and said "let's come down for five minutes and do that"
H: And it sounds really nice. And when we're talking about B-sides, I've been looking on the bonus tracks on the "Back to the edge" single and it's produced by somebody called Oggi Skinner. Who's he?
B: He's the engineer at Mayfair studios and we just went in and we made four songs in a day. And he was the engineer. So that's who he is.
M: So it's not produced in the classical way?
B: No we just went in there, wrote them, did them…
H: So you wrote the songs there as well?
B: Yea. No, actually, "Americans are behind" and "I'm in a band with an Italian drummer" were written by Chris and we just jammed them and did them and I asked what I had to sing and then the other two songs were written on the spot. Me and Alex just wrote them in there
H: I think they sound very, I'd say, Led Zeppelinish.
B: Yea, well the original titles we had for them were "Zep 1" and Zep 2".'
H: So that's why you call one "R 101" cause the "R 101" was a zeppelin.
B: Yea, it was a Zeppelin that crashed. You are very good! Very well spotted. So we went in and said "Hey, let's to a couple of Zeppy type songs" and so we had one little riff, which was the very Led Zeppeliny sounding one and then there's another one which sounds a bit more like big country, because I wanted to do a Celtic sort of thing.
M: Right. I was thinking very briefly. In Iron Maiden it was kind of big, production wise and in the staging. Was it something that you wanted, because, I mean, Arthur Brown, wasn't he kind of very theatrical?
B: Yea, Arthur was very theatrical. With Maiden we were limited on how theatrical we could go.
M: Was that feathered mask from the World Slavery tour something of that?
B: Yea, the mask was an attempt to go in that direction. It was about as far as you could go in Maiden. That tour I think was the best tour the band did that I was on. All around in terms of material, the performance and everything.
M: So how do you like it now when it's kind of, low profile. Would you like to have a big stage with a big audience...
B: Oh, fuck yeah. Are you kidding?
M: But adding this theatrical part must be pretty hard with that kind of music that Skunkworks play...
B: Right now we're just back playing our music and you'll see the way the show is tonight. We're using rather different kind of lights to your traditional Heavy Metal. We basically got a Hawkwind vibe going with the light, with the projectors we're using. So it's really very different to the traditional average Heavy metal stuff.
M: I have another tourrelated question here. The T-shirt design for the T-shirts you sold on the last tour, the "Woman with cock". Who made that one? Cause it doesn't say on the shirt...
B: It's actually a Picasso and it's called "Woman with cock".
M: But aren't you worried that you will be sued or something for using his artwork like that?
B: I don't know. Somebody said it was public domain and no problem. Maybe we pay them a royalty, I don't know.
M: This name, Skunkworks, who came up with it and for those who doesn't know, what is it?
B: Skunk works is the name of the design bureau of Lockheed Aviation company that very secret and advanced aircraft. Planes that can't be seen on radar and the Blackbird which is the worlds fastest and highest flying aeroplane. They designed the U-2, Americas first jetfighter back at the end of the second world war, the F-104 Starfighter, all kinds of really very revolutionary jetplanes. Skunk Works is their nickname which became the semi-official title. So we changed it from being two words to just one word. So on the cover it says Skunkworks
H: But you have a Stealth fighter inside the CD-cover...
B: Yes, it's actually a kind of a Blackbird, it's derived from that shape.
M: Was it you that wanted it or was it Storm Thorgerson, the album artwork designer, that came up with the idea?
B: I gave Storm a bunch of books on Skunk Works, with pictures of aeroplanes and asked him to do whatever he liked with that.
M: Whose idea was it to reverse the lyrics?
B: Storm's. I still don't know why, but it's cool...
M: Yea it looks good but it's quite irritating actually. Was it hard to get him to do the cover or was it something that you really wanted?
B: Well, I've known Storm for ages. He directed two videos on "Tattooed millionaire".
M: "Tattooed millionaire" is a bit wacky...
B: Yes, that's all my ideas, my directorial ideas.
M: It's a bit different from the Maiden videos where you just stood on the stage and played the song. Didn't he direct the "Kids of the century" video for Helloween?
B: I don't know actually.
M: Cause it's a kind of a wacky video as well with fish and forks flying around...
H: Yea, on the Helloween video it's forks and on Tattooed millionaire it's spoons.
B: Yea it was Storm, cause he was heavily into spoons at that time.
M: Aren't you ever concerned that your hobbies, like, fencing and flying and all that sometimes get more attention than your music?
B: Yea, that's why I've pretty much stopped talking about them. And also why I've pretty much stopped doing them. (laughter) I hardly get time to do it anymore.
H: But you started this flying business, didn't you?
B: No, that's complete bullshit. What we did was that we we're gonna do this April false joke on April false day and we set up this company to say that we were gonna start this airline. Then it sort of got a bit out of hand. So we scrapped the idea just before April false day, but somebody got hold of it afterwards and said that I was gonna do this company.
H: And the press picks up on it immediately
M: Actually yesterday in the second biggest newspaper in Sweden there was this half a page article about it and it had a picture of you sitting in a cockpit.
B: No, ha, ha! Oh, God! (laughter)
H: And they don't even verify the facts they get in?
B: No, it's really funny.
H: Well, I have an old Samson question actually. It's about this cage that Thunderstick insisted on using. It says that the only place you got to use it was at the Reading festival.
B: No, we used it in a few other places where it fitted in. But it was usually too big to go up.
H: So you used it on Reading Festival 1980, cause Mel played there 1981?
B: Yea, that's right.
H: But it's on this "Biceps of steel" thing.
B: Yes.
H: Was that a concert of just that you invited a lot of people.
B: Biceps of Steel was done because GEM records, the record company, were owned by a parent company that was called GTO. GTO were given money by RCA who funded the whole fucking lot. RCA gave all this money to this guy at GTO. He spent most of the money on a film called "Breaking glass" with Hazel O'Connor in the punkdays. And it was a full length feature film. He spent so much money on the film that the record company ran out of money and went bankrupt, and us with it. Which is why "Shock tactics" was on RCA. Because the record company went bust and then RCA had to pick up all the bits that were remaining.
M: They felt a bit of responsibility...
B: Well, they didn't have much responsibility but they put it out and it sold a few thousand copies. So, anyhow along comes a guy in our record company and says, "Listen, we've got this guy called Julian Temple who wants to direct this movie" so Julian Temple directed Biceps of steel. Something which he's probably extremely embarrassed of now. (laughter) And the idea was that "Breaking glass" would go out around the country and our movie would support it, but that didn't happen. And so we ended up with this Biceps of Steel thing. A piece of it with "Vice versa" appeared in the horror movie "Incubus". If you look in Incubus and there is a big chunk of Biceps of steel in it with our heads going; "She was a real two timer..." just before some woman gets cut into pieces in a bathroom. I haven't seen Incubus but loads of came up to me after when I was in Maiden, saying "Wow, you're in Incubus". And I'd go "I am?".
H: Does Samson get any credit for that, on the soundtrack or something?
B: I have no idea. Probably we don't get any money for it cause we signed a piece of paper saying we didn't want any money. We were like that in those days. Stupid. Anyhow, that was the story of Biceps of steel. It was filmed at the Rainbow Theatre in London in front of an assembled audience and everything was just put together as a movie and not as a gig.
H: But did you play live or did you mime?
B: We mimed, it's all mimed.
H: But I think some differences in the songs compared to the albums.
B: Might have been edited...
M: But you and the band didn't have anything to do with the script for it or anything?
B: No, we had nothing to do with the script at all.
M: Well, we talked about the Samson and all this. Do you think it's good or bad that you've been in Maiden? Is it like that you get lots of attention just because you're the former Maiden-singer, or is it kind of like it's really disturbing?
B: Well, in some ways it's useful because it does give you some attention and it does enable you to point out you got a new album out. But right now, I don't think I'm selling any more Skunkworks records because I used to be in Maiden
M: No, I think actually it's quite the opposite, cause people don't go "he's from Iron Maiden, better check out his record".
B: Precisely, and that's why I wanna get rid of the Bruce Dickinson thing. Because it's very backward looking.
M: What does the other guys think of all this attention that you have, because of your "heritage"?
B: They just put up with it. I mean, they're not Iron maiden fans. The sooner I can get rid of this Bruce Dickinson thing that promoters insist on sticking on posters, the better.
M: It's quite strange cause the new single and the album is brilliant, and we don't get paid saying that, but "Back from the edge", for example, don't get played on the radio. It's not that that the radio stations go, "Oh no, it's heavy metal, we can't play that", but still you don't get that kind of attention on the music. It's more attention on your person and what you have been...
B: I think to an extent, that's just something that you have to try and change as much as you can and then just put up with it... Grin and go, "OK, that's very nice, thank you, next". And Ozzy Osborne still has to put up with that. Ozzy Osbornes records have all been consistently better that the Black Sabbath records since he left and he still has to put up with people saying "when are you gonna join Black Sabbath again?" Take North America for example. The new Maiden record in North America has sold sixty seventy thousand copies. In the same period of time the reissued Iron Maiden back catalogue has sold four hundred thousand copies, which means that somewhere there's a bunch of people buying all these old Maiden records. And it's interesting looking at which ones they're buying. They're all buying "Number of the beast", "Piece of mind", "Powerslave", "Seventh son" and "Live after death". So there must be a bunch of kids discovering that who've never ever seen Maiden.
M: I know, because I was to Gothenburg on their last visit here and it was a really small place. And it was kind of weird cause it was sold out in a week and still they had this gig and it took about nine hundred people. And the band themselves couldn't understand why the promoters had put them there. And in North America I guess it's the same thing, they're playing ballrooms and things like that...
B: Yea, that's right. It's so that not many people can see them. And effectively, what that means, is that there's gonna be a whole generation of kids over the next years looking up to the old "classic" Maiden. I don't see how they can afford to do a US tour again after this tour, cause they spent so much money on it. But in the mean time I'm a Skunkworks guy and we're just gonna be doing the whole Skunkworks thing. And we should say that this album, has got an incredible reaction everywhere. In America too. I really feel that I'm back on track, headed the right direction.
M: I am a big Maiden fan but I heard the last Maiden record I thought, "this album represents everything you wanted to get away from in Maiden".
B: It made it so easy for people to understand why I left. It's completely clear.
M: Actually I felt kind of strange because when I heard about the album, everybody said that it was gonna be a long album, long tracks, more epic side of Maiden, which I really liked, but then when I heard the album, it felt like it didn't matter. And that's a shame.
B: It is a shame actually. Probably, in a long term, it's probably not gonna me, but it's a bit of a shame to see Maiden go down the tubes. But they can still make the right decisions. They only have to make two or three decisions. Give up control, get a new producer, do what he says. The guy from Rage against the machine wants to make their next record.
M: Is it true? That'll be something (Laughter)
B: That would be cool, wouldn't it? Get the guy, do what he says. Just surrender.
M: But that won't happen, because of Steve.
B: Probably not, but it'd be a great thing if it did.
M: But the others, like Dave and Janick, don't they care or are they really satisfied with the band and the direction it's taken.
B: It's not they don't care, it's just there's nothing they can do about it.
M: The tracks that kind of stands out on the last album are the Janick tracks.

B: Janick's still got a lot of life. I mean, you can't get rid of Steve cause he owns the name, the bands name.
M: Well, he started it and they've been going on for almost twenty years now. How long do you see yourself in a band making music, going out on tours, cause you have, is it three kinds and a wife? Is it like this is the most important thing or the family?
B: Basically the whole thing it's a juggling act. I can afford to go home sometimes during a tour. I pay for myself, it's not part of the tour budget. And we're not this boring rock 'n' roll bullshit thing, where we all have to go around and pretend and follow each other round. We all have individual lives, we're all individuals. "Oh, yea, yea, Bruce is off going to see the kids for the day..." Big deal. "The boss has gone to London for the day"... It doesn't matter. Whereas, in Maiden there was this thing that everybody had to stick together. I was given a uniform when I joined. I was told to go and buy a pair of white boots, a pair of jeans, a black leather jacket and a white T-shirt and that's what I wore, that's what everybody wore, as a uniform. I was given cash, to "immediately go and buy these sort of boots, the sort that Dave's wearing. Here's the shop where you can buy them." That didn't last for that long because after a while I thought "fuck this, I'm just gonna wear what I wanna wear" and by the Powerslave tour I was being as rebellious as I could be in terms of just disappearing and saying "I do not wanna play football. I'm not interested in soccer. If I wanna play soccer I'd play soccer. If I don't wanna play soccer I'm not gonna be put under this peer pressure shit which was my position. Just being an artist or whatever. I don't see where soccer comes into this. So with Skunkworks we try to be as non-traditional as possible which sometimes upset some of the more traditional people that comes along . But it makes for a very entertaining time.
M: I came to think about it. You and Adrian wrote some pretty good songs together. Was he fired from the band or what was the actual reasons? As far as I know he wasn't that interested anymore but made the tours and went along with it.
B: He wasn't fired but he didn't quit entirely willingly. Adrian is a great guitarist. He sort of agreed to leave. It came to a big discussion one day before No prayer for the dying. And it started off with him suggesting that maybe we should write more that eight songs per album.
H: You didn't?
B: No, I think the only record that we ever wrote more songs for was "Number of the beast", where we had "Total eclipse" left over, which was a huge mistake it was not on the record. I thing I think we all admit now. For legal reasons I couldn't be credited with some of the rights.
M: But did you contribute with anything?
B: Well, it's difficult to say. (laughter) But I think you could say I had a very big moral contribution to certain songs. Like "Children of the damned", "Run to the hills" and "The prisoner" Those three songs were the songs in which I had the biggest moral contribution.
M: Was it lyrically or musically?
B: Ehh, I had a fairly big moral contribution. (laughter) I had a very big moral contribution on "Gangland" too. But "Gangland" kind of sucks. "Gangland and "Invaders" are my two least favourite songs on that record.
M: But who made the decision, cause as far as I know it was between "Gangland" and "Total eclipse", which song that should be on the B-side?
B: That's right. The whole "Number of the beast" album was put together in five weeks. And shortly after the album was due to be finished a single had to be out in England. So we had to make a decision what the single was gonna be before it had been recorded. We decided it was gonna be "Run to the hills", so we set up the studio for doing backing tracks. We did "Run to the hills" and "Gangland" was gonna be the B-side. But we all got so crazy about "Run to the hills" and had such a blast doing it because it sounded so amazing. Then we did "Gangland" and we didn't know what the rest of the album was gonna sound like but this sounded so much better than anything we'd done before that Steve went, "'Gangland's to good to be a B-side, let's have 'Total eclipse' instead". Cause it seemed to him that it was a bit more different.
M: And it is, and that's why it's such a great song.
B: Yea. Because it bas a bit more different he was a bit suspicious of putting it on the record.
M: But Steve has said in an interview that it was due to a mistake that it was not on the album.
B: That's bullshit. It was an unwillingness to experiment with "Total eclipse" and putting it on the record, which was a shame. At the time we were all so caught up in the enthusiasm of it and we did "Total eclipse" and I said "Are you sure about this, this is a real shame that this is gonna go on a B-side", but we didn't have any of the other tracks recorded. It's hard to judge, so it was a mistake which, in the circumstances, was very easily done and it was a very tough call what to do. We then had to mix it and go straight back in and completely reset the board manually and start again doing backing tracks for the rest of the album. There was no computer controlled mixing in those days, so thank God it was done on 24-track cause it was easier. I have to say that Clive's drumming on that one is unbelievable. I love Clive's drumming, I'm a big, big Clive Burr fan. And he's a huge Deep Purple fan. I mean the drumming on "The prisoner" which is the Maiden song we're doing tonight, is a straight Tommy Bolin Deep Purple-era type drum beat. And it's about the only Maiden tune that we thought we could do, because it doesn't really sound that much like Maiden. And when we started listening to it, learning it and playing it, everybody was like, "Fucking hell, solo section is straight Deep Purple" And I went like, "Yea, yea, yea, yea, yea, yea, right" (laughter). Cause all the guys are huge Purple fans.
M: I didn't know that you were planning to do any Maiden songs but was it a big decision?
B: I though it would be nice to do a Maiden song partly because it buries it to me in a kind of way. It puts Maiden and Skunkworks in perspective. Where does Maiden belong? Maiden belongs at the end of the set, one song, where we used to do "Sabbath bloody Sabbath". Instead of doing "Sabbath bloody Sabbath" as a cover, why not do a Maiden tune?
M: Why not any Samson songs, like "Walking out on you"?
B: I thought about that but the guys are basically reluctant. They're not crazy about, and it is a band so there's no point in making them do so.
H: Will you be putting out another single?
B: I don't know...
M: I read that "Inertia" was gonna be the second video.
B: Yes, we've got a second video which may mean there's gonna be a second single. Honestly, we don't know.
H: But you have B-sides recorded, or extra tracks?
B: There's a couple of tracks that we don't have vocals on, that we recorded with Jack. One of which we won't use cause the backing track sucks. The other one sounds really cool. It's basically "Headswitch" but with the riff turned round and slowed down. So it's virtually a half speed version of "Headswitch", really heavy, and it sounds great. The working title for "Headswitch" was "Fastgarden", cause it's a very Soundgarden inspired riff. So we had "Fastgarden" and "Slowgarden". And "Slowgarden" is still in the can and I haven't done any vocals on it.

At this point a Roadie comes in to fetch Bruce for Soundcheck and the interview, or discussion, rather, is kind of ended, having lasted for almost one and a half hour.

We'd like to thank Micke Andersson and Jerker Ågren at Musikservice for making this interview possible.