A chat with Bruce Dickinson

Globe Hotel, 31/10 -98

We started out with being late to the appointed time with Bruce's Swedish label representative so we missed the first of two scheduled interview slots. Probably to our advantage. After circa 45 minutes Bruce came over to our table in The Globe Hotel lobby and we commenced doing the interview by getting the background story to the birth of his latest album "The chemical wedding".
H= Henrik Johansson
B= Bruce Dickinson
M= Mattias Reinholdsson

H= So, you released an album called "The chemical wedding" which is based on Alchemical philosophy and William Blake poetry. Did you just wake up one morning and go, "Wow, William Blake and Alchemy, that would be a cool concept for a album", or how did it come about?
B= No, when I was a kid I used to sing a hymn called "Jerusalem" at school, with the words by William Blake and there's a cover of an Atomic Rooster album that had "Nebucanessar", a William Blake painting, in the innersleeve and that was my introduction to Blake. Now, fast forward twenty years to me researching alchemy.
M= Was it for the filmscript?
B= No, it's for the album. I wanted to call it "The chemical wedding", cause I think it's a great title. So I'm thinking "OK, chemical wedding..." So then, normally when I start writing albums, I start off by going to bookstore and I just walk around the bookstore looking for strange stuff. I was just browsing and this thing caught my eye which was an encyclopedia in art history of alchemy... A big thick book with loads of great pictures in it, ranging from early pictures of alchemical engravings, right up to H.R. Giger and stuff like that. And what's linking them all together is that they all have an alchemical thread to them. And Blake features very heavily in this book, both his paintings and his poetry. One of them was this painting of Urizen and Los which completely blew me away. This was at the time when I had written three or four songs for the album already... And I was stuck. I thought "Alchemy, yea it's kind of interesting" but I'm not sure there's another four songs I can write about alchemy that's gonna be up to it, you know. Then all of a sudden... enter William Blake! So I go off to the bookstore and found "Selected poems of William Blake". I started reading and there it was...
H= A new world unfolding...
B= This is a new world, literally, and I said "this is alchemy but with a soul behind it" And the more I read about Blake, even after I'd done the album, the more I realised I felt really sympathetic to his philosophy of the way he worked. And, Jesus Christ, this guy had a hard life. I mean he made it hard for himself.
M= Non compromising...
B= Brutally non compromising, you know, and so much of a fucking genius. Way beyond any of his contemporaries.
M= How was he looked up on by other people?
B= They thought he was mad! They said his paintings were old fashioned, right, and this is two hundred years ago, and they said his paintings were boring and incomprehensible and his poetry was mad and not even English.
H= That's one of those things, you can't really put a label an artist like William Blake. He doesn't fit into any of the genres
B= No he doesn't, he created an entire mythology
H= Blakeism...
B= Yea, he took his subconscious and the constant battles between Urizen and Los between his creative side, and the part of him that belonged to his father.
H= The repressive God...
B= Urizen, yes, and the battles, the guilt and the conflict and everything, and he took that and with that energy created a world which was both a world of vision and imagination. And a world of terror, superstition and reality at the same time. I just got this really clear idea that William Blake saw everything here and on top of it he had an overlay of ghost, gremlins, people and figures, and he lived in this world all the time. And if you live in that world his poems make perfect sense and you have to go into that world when you read his poetry. So I thought "Oh Jesus, if I can get that kind of philosophy and use it in the music..." Music is alchemy, you know.
H= Are there any direct references to William Blake, other than the obvious songs.
B= There's lots of references and hints all over the place. Blake used to do the same thing in his poems and his paintings. He would borrow, he would go along and see an exhibition and go "O, I like the hands" or something and he would go away, go home, get his engravers tool out and create something because the hands fitted his vision. You know, he never did it and just copied something, like a just a reproduction. He took it and he made everything his own. And that's what I tried to do on the record, I mean, I could go down the lyrics and go "That's mine, that's mine and Oh, that's this and that's that..."
M=Which were the songs you had written before you got off on this William Blake thing?
B= "The Alchemist" was one... To be fair, I actually had most of the songs written...
H= Lyricwise?
B= No, it was written musicwise, but lyricwise a lot of them were maybe two thirds completed. What happened was I went in there after reading Blake and went "this is what I need to complete them all". And then the songs came alive, then I wasn't worried anymore. A song like "Trumpets of Jericho" or "King in crimson", suddenly made sense. "The alchemist" started out as almost like, what I would describe as reciting a shopping list of things you should do. "Sulphurs in burning, starting with the window to the west in Taurus", you know... "To make the philosophy stone you do this, you do this, you do this..." It's not really a song, it's a list, right. But when I thought of Blake I thought "he's the alchemist". So the song is William Blake creating his vision, and as the alchemist in the chorus, what does he say... He throws the world back in peoples faces, he utterly rejects it, he says he's the little hermit on the hill. You know, "I don't need anyone else, I don't need anybody else's art, I don't need your approval, I don't care if you like me or if you don't like me. And if you're too stupid to know that, that's your problem, not mine, and I'm gonna die with a smile on my face" which, in fact, he did in real life... When he had no money and he had very few friends and he only had three people in the room with him... He should have been not particularly happy, but he died with this huge grin on his face singing loudly saying "you should see where I'm going, it's fantastic"
M=That's one of the things we noticed it's "the secret of the hanged man", I guess it's from the tarot cards... You used it in "Revelations" and it's used again on this album...
B= That's right...
M= So when you tell me he died with a grin in his face saw a connection...
B= The hanged man always has a smile and nobody knows why. But he knows, It's his own little secret. "The tower" for instance... How many tarot cards are there in "The tower"... "Lovers, the tower, sun, the moon, the priestess, the magician, the fool, the hanged man..." Going through the lyrics there may be a few more.
M= And all of them are in the video?
B= Yes, they're all in the video. We squeezed them all in the video and the song is about fate. I was trying to think about Romeo and Juliet as the lovers and the sun and the moon and everything... You know, the star-crossed lovers, doomed by fate. No matter what happens, how in love they are, it's gonna end up as a tragedy. So that's was "The tower". In fact, that what the tower symbolises, is that somebody who was falling out of the tower has been struck by lightning. The tower symbolises that you can never look safe and secure and solid. It means something is gonna happen but you don't know what.
M= Did you have the ideas behind the lyrics before you started to make the music for the album?
B= Yes.
M= Did you know you were gonna make a metal album?
B= I knew that, I discussed it with Roy and Roy said "Can we make it really heavy" and I said "yea". Then he played me a couple of demos, so I went around scratching my head and started looking for some heavy lyrical stuff.
M= I can see there's a great difference between "Skunkworks" and "The chemical wedding" but do you see there are similarities between the two albums as well?
B= Oh, yes, I see similarities, only because both of them had the same type of philosophy behind them . Neither with "Skunkworks" or "The chemical wedding" am I happy to just sit down and be a Bruce Dickinson version of Hammerfall. [a sigh of relief from the interviewers] You know, I'm not getting down on Hammerfall or anything, but there are bands who are content to reproduce traditional metal that has been just on the same way since the end of the eighties. The closest I ever came to that was "Accident of Birth" which was an album which grabbed everybody and re-established me with the metal community... Because they'd all freaked out that with "Skunkworks" I was somehow in denial and I was rejecting metal. But I was like "hang on, this is a heavy record..."
H= Yes, I find it really strange because there are a lot of really heavy songs on the "Skunkworks" record...
B= ...There are, very heavy songs, it's a really heavy album...
M= "Meltdown"...
B= "Meltdown"...
H= "Strange death in paradise"...
B= "Strange death in paradise", I'm glad you said that, cause that is fucking unbelievably heavy.
H= And that brings us to part two of the question and that is, why is there no "Skunkworks" material in your live-set?
B= Because, I'm uncomfortable with asking the guys to learn it because they weren't part of it. I don't want people to get bogged down in learning "Skunkworks" stuff, because if I do it I want it to sound as good as when we {Skunkworks] did it and that might take a little time. We had ten days to rehearse for this tour and we had a new guitarist to break in...
H= I think he managed to fit in very well...
B= Oh, yes, cool...
M= We were very impressed...
B= Oh, you saw Guru in Gothenburg?
M= Yes, and we spoke to him, he seems a bit... weird.
B= Oh, yeah, he's insane [laughter]
M= But you are the boss, it's your name on the poster, you should be the man to say "Well, this is it, we're going to play this song and this song and this song..."
B= Yea, that's great if you have performing dogs, but they're human beings.
M= Is it that they don't like the material?
B= Oh no, I haven't even asked them to learn any new stuff... I know how hard they worked just learning the stuff they already know, so the last thing I want to do is dig out even more... We were going to learn a Samson song, you know, and then I thought "Oh, why don't we learn this song and let's go in on this song" and all of a sudden their heads were so full of stuff, you know, and, musically, this is a very difficult set to play. There's four or five different guitar tunings in it and there's three different types of guitar to play. If you're given a guitar it's like "Shit, what kind of guitar is this, and what tuning is it in and where do I put my fingers", I mean, it's like a real mindfuck for guitarists, this set.
H= So, do you feel stuck in selecting the songs for your live set, then?
B= No, I'm not stuck in selecting the songs but, you see, this is the first headline tour I've done in Scandinavia and Europe since '94. So I want people to be left in absolutely no doubt, as to what it's all about. And the set as it is at the moment, works great and it's working better and better and better each night and it hasn't got to a peak yet... One of the problems is that we've been short of time. All the time we've been doing this whole project we've been short of time... I've done one world tour already doing promotion, you know, done over 350 interviews for this album, around the world. When I got back I had ten or twelve days to rehearse for the tour with everybody. Guru had done three days in LA with the guys and that was it! He'd been just brut learning his stuff at home in, you know. So we had ten days and three days into rehearsals I got this dreadful flu. So that was me, singing, forget it! I went to the throat doctor and he said "OK, it's a virus, go rest, drink plenty of water, don't sing!", and I was like "Great!". I got rid of my flu one day before the tour started. The first show I was opening my mouth to sing I hadn't sung for probably ten days and four days earlier my voice sounded like shit. So my rehearsals started the first night in Helsinki. That's what I mean by saying that, everybody's come together so fast. To ask people to learn more material would have overloaded them completely, I mean their little brains would have been popping with material and they've just got to be able to concentrate on guitar changes, the tunings and everything else plus the fact that every night we've got a different PA. Every night we've got different lights, every night it's a different sized stage. I mean last night in Lithuania we we're playing a 4000 seater and we had three thousand people in there, a huge stage, massive PA, big lights, you know...
H= How was it playing in the eastern Baltic countries?
B= It's really great and really cool! The night before [Estonia] the stage was half the size, smaller PA, but 1200 people in a 1400 capacity venue and it was great show. I mean, take a situation like Gothenburg which was total fucking chaos. The show got moved three times on the same day, it was ludicrous. And we played in Turku in some night club which was like utterly bizarre! It was a great show but it was really strange, a tiny little stage... And Guru has never done a tour like this! So he's holding up really, really well.
M= Actually he looked a bit relieved when we told him that e thought it was OK.
B= Yea, he works so hard, I mean literally, when he said that he was working 24-7, twenty-four hours, seven days a week he wasn't joking. He really was working that hard to learn everything. And I've been trying to persuade him to loosen up a bit. I said; "Guru, all those guitar-solos", which he learnt by the note"... if you wanna fuck with them, go ahead..."
M= He's almost learnt Dave Murray's solos as well
B= Yea, I said; "Just play with them a bit, do your own thing a bit, be the Guru, you know". I admire him so much for his determination and how hard he's worked, so I can't criticise him, cause he takes it so much to heart. You've got to be very gentle cause he knows immediately. So you'd have to go like "this bit, if you did it like this, it might sound a wee bit better" and Guru would go; "Wow, you mean I've been doing it wrong, Oh, God!" ...And he'll go out and punch himself on the head or something... "No, no, you just try and make things better..."
M= Let the dog chew on his leg... [laughter]
B= Yeah, the Molossian, yeah... If ever I have to try and make a suggestion to him I always tell him about how many fuck-ups I did the night before as well, you know. [laughter]
H= And he was a big part of the recording of the album as well...
B= Yeah, he was the guitar-tech, and he was really integral to the whole team, in fact.
H= Yes. And speaking of recording; You managed to get Arthur Brown quoting some William Blake poetry on the album. How did it feel to have your all time vocal hero on your own album?
B= Oh, it was cool, it was really great. He read loads and loads of poetry, actually. I've got a tape somewhere at home, of all the quotes, about 20 minutes of it...
H= So you got to pick and chose the best of those 20 minutes...
B= Yea, yea...
H= What was his view on the thing, I mean, did he know about you?
B= Oh, yea, I've known Arthur for about three years and I was big fan since I was fifteen and I've got his phone-number, so...
M= Actually we listened to "Spirit of Joy" just before we left off for this interview...
B= What, my version or his version?
H= His version, from the "Journey" album...
B= It pisses all over my version. His version, it's fucking fantastic!
M= Yea, with the drum-machine...
B= Yea, with the Bentley Rhythm Ace. It was the original name of, the first drum-machine ever.
M= It must have been cause it's recorded in '72...
B= Yeah, first drum-machine ever, it was tape-loops actually... It's the same as a Mellotron, but it was drums.
M= Cause it sounds a bit "[Bm-ts-bm-bm-bm-ts]".
B= Yea, you see, I really like the sound. The album's amazing... all the synths, Theremins and Mellotrons... Way ahead of it's time...
M= Well, we though, now you've had Arthur Brown on the record, the next thing would be, what, to co-write some lyrics with Peter Hammill?
B= Oh, no, no, no, you mustn't get into, no! I was talking about this with the manager of Entombed, Dave Thorne, who's a huge Van der Graaf generator fan and we were talking about how amazing some Van der Graaf generator songs would sound if a metal band did them. It'd sound really fucking heavy... I mean, can you imagine "A plague of lighthouse keepers" done by a real prog metal band, it'd be amazing.
M= Or "Scorched earth"...
B= Yeah, it's fucking great. I might get there before them... [laughter] Peter Hammill was one of my childhood lyrical hero's but, you know, you say "Peter Hammill" to most people and they go; "Huh?"... And it's such a shame cause they had so much more to them, I think, than Genesis. They were a bunch of pansies compared to Van der Graaf, really...
H= Alright... Total change of subject. News from Japan: Something about a Samson reunion?
B= Oh, yeah, this is a rumour, yea... [laughter]
M= Well, we heard that Airraid records is going to put out some of the Samson albums...
B= Yes.
H= Are you putting out both albums that you were on?
B= Four albums! There's the "Head on" and "Shock tactics" plus the "Live at Reading" and there's also the "Survivors" album that I redid vocals on...
H= So you're gonna release the entire album this time?
B= No, cause I didn't do the vocals on all the tracks. I only did five songs. We will be releasing that, which is the one that was released years ago.
H= Special packaging, re-mastering or just releasing it, properly?
B= Haven't quite gotten to that decision yet. It's a bit ahead in time. It will be next year, cause it's the twentieth anniversary of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal next year, so...
H= But you will be working with Paul Samson again?
B= Well, you know, the phone-lines have been active and Thunderstick is back with the mask and Chris is back as well so the ingredients are all there but nothing is certain yet...
M= Do you have time for it?
B= That's another question as well, and if it did happen it would only be for a limited period, because I've got a solo-record to do the next year. Well, I'll make it next year but it won't be released until probably 2000, cause this millennium thing is just gonna... From November until like February, just forget everything, you know, cause I don't think you get sense out of anybody during those four months, you know [laughter].
H= People turn paranoid...
B= Yeah, they will be trying to get pregnant now so they can all have the baby on January the 1st 2000.
H= While we're still talking of Japan... The "Skunkworks" live-video was released in Japan a couple of years ago.
B= Yea, yea...
H= Are there any other videos or live-things that you are planning to release, with this line-up...?
B= We haven't done any live video of us. One of the problems is that people are reluctant to pay for live videos because they don't sell enough.
M= Is that why the Skunkworks video was only released in Japan? Cause it's very difficult to get hold of... And the live-EP is even worse...
B= Sure One of the things I want to do next year, with Airraid, is make sense of my back catalogue. So when the activities around "The chemical wedding" comes to an end we'll try and make sense out of the catalogue because there's so many extra songs floating around and unreleased stuff as well...
H= Like from the Keith Olsen sessions?
B= Oh, no not even that. There is stuff from "Accident of birth", two or three tracks kicking around, which we didn't finish. I finished them, this time, actually. We mixed them and just put them aside. And there's this little acoustic thing I did this time, as well, which turned out fantastic, which was put away...
M= Is it acoustic like the "Back from the edge" B-sides or?
B= It's me and Roy, more like "Darkness be my friend". And while we're at it, there's "Darkness be my friend" and a whole bunch of other stuff... You see, what I liked was the Iron Maiden two-CD reissues. A great idea, to have two CDs for the price of one with all the extra tracks on the bonus CD. Right, so, there's enough stuff on "Skunkworks", there's enough unheard stuff across the whole thing, including "The chemical Wedding". One problem is that Castle Records still has the rights to "Skunkworks", "Accident of Birth" and...
H= Alive in Studio A...
B= ...Alive in studio A. But I'm sure, after a while, when we get around to it we can talk to them and work out a way of doing it. And later on, when DVD becomes, like, the popular standard I can have the whole catalogue out on DVD and include the actual videos.
M= Yeah...
B= I would almost rather do that than release a VHS compilation, although videos are fucking great. We've got "Back from the edge" and "Inertia" which I've directed myself. You've got "Tattooed millionaire" and "All the young dudes", "Tears of the dragon", "Shoot all the clowns", and then for the last album, "Accident of birth", "Road to hell" and "Man of sorrows".
H= I've only seen the "Accident of birth" video, are the other two the same kind of video, a plain performance?
B= They were done the same day in the same place, we just reorganised the set with completely different lighting, different look. You could never tell they were in the same place.
M= The budget version that you used to do, did them in the same day...
B= Yeah, the same day and a half. It's budgets, you know, people cut all the budgets back on videos so I go in and I try and do deals with the production people, so that we can squeeze two videos out. We deliberately went, "totally live" on the "Accident of birth" videos probably, just to make sure there was no doubt it's a fucking metal band. And on this one, I thought we'd have some fun, you now... "Killing floor"... I still have the fantasy of doing the album and the movie.
M= Is there anything definite yet? I mean, you've worked with Julian Doyle and he's a movie director
B= Nah, I'm still dreaming...
M= But you had the script...
B= Oh, I have it, but it's out of date now. It needs a real big re-think and re-look. I'm still scratching my head. I've got all kinds of ideas bouncing around my head at the moment...
M= Are you planning to sign new bands to your Airraid label?
B= No, we're thinking of signing stuff, whether or not they're new groups, I'm not so sure about that... I'm not sure if we have the resources to just take something from zero to a certain level, you know. So, honestly there probably isn't a lot of point in deluging us with tapes because we're not gonna sign millions of bands. We might sign, like, two.
M= And you don't have to ask people for tapes you get them anyway...
B= Yeah, but we're not soliciting them and we're not saying "Please send us your tapes" because I get them anyway, it's true... But there's not usually a lot we can do. Our resources are limited. We know what my album is gonna sell, at least, so, we know how much money the record company is gonna get in, so they can say "Ok, we can spend this amount on marketing it and paying the adverts and stuff. But we don't have the money to do that for a small band, cause you're gonna lose money for the first two or three years, guaranteed.
M= Yeah, sure, but you're in a position where your name linked to a certain new band it is bound to make people interested and also that you can bring these bands along as "special guests" on tour.
B= The answer to that is maybe... I'm not entirely convinced about that... I'm also not entirely convinced about the economics of it because the economics of marketing and touring are horrendous. What happens is that you end up with a lot of very pissed off people. You end up with a record-company that loses a lot of money. And you end up with a band to who promises have been made that may not happen and then they go to the press and say "We were ripped off". And I just don't need that in my life. If I'm gonna help somebody then I have to go in and sort of go "OK, here's the deal, we can probably sell you some records but you won't make any money out of it and we won't make any money out of it". I would go and say, "Look pal, this is how much it costs, this is what you do, this is where you begin and this is where you start to make any money at all" The investment involved is actually horrendous. If I wanted to sign a young band I have ideas on how I'll approach it, certainly. There is a little bean of an idea here that if I got the right band and it did need to be built from square one but you know... I keep those ideas under my hat. [laughter]
M= Alright, I've got a totally different question for you here... Always, when it comes to heavy metal music, or really, any kind of music at all, if a band changes direction... I wonder what you view is on what your responsibilities are towards the fans, to your audiences and even in a greater extends like yourself being a role-model in some way, for people... How do you look upon this?
B= Well, I see a certain amount of unpredictability as being a virtue. I don't like being as Patrick McGoohan said "pushed, filed, stamped, briefed, debriefed, indexed or numbered". "My life is my own". So in that sense I can be an awkward little fucker and it may be that, in a way, I'm almost my own worst enemy, because of that. My life would be easier if I just settled down and made predictable heavy metal records... But I don't regret anything I've done in the past and I think, that what business people forget, is that people do talk and people realise that, whatever I've done, has always been an attempt to be different, or to be interesting, or to be innovative. It hasn't always worked, hasn't always connected with the general public, but if you look back over the records, I've never made a shitty record... My solo records... Not one single record can I look back at and say; "Ah, that record really stinks", you know. There's some records that's better than others but there's nothing I've looked back at and been really embarrassed by, nothing!
M= Cause when we talk to people, Henrik and me, we are really big fans of "Skunkworks", we thought it was, well, it's one of my favourite albums ever, actually, and when we tell people that "That's the greatest record" they go "Naeh..."
H= And everybody keeps referring to it as a grunge album...
B= Yes, I know, I know. Just, imagine for a second it was a grunge album... So what??? Is a Soundgarden record a grunge album? And if they say yes, I say, "Oh well, I'm very proud" then, cause Soundgarden is a great fucking band... If people wanna call it, "grunge" then it's fucking grunge. It was really exciting, it was a lot more fucking exciting than the shit that was coming out at the end of the eighties [laughter] with big hair from out of Los Angeles! I also don't accept that heavy metal is over and done with because all of what is exciting about this music (grunge, that is) is the influence it took from heavy metal. All these bands in Seattle, all had a big fucking party on new years eve, Jack told me, and all they played all night long was AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, fucking Iron Maiden. So, somewhere, what has poisoned this whole atmosphere is the media. The media has chosen to set people at each other's throats, in terms of the fans... And it plays on the psychology of some metal fans. You know, it's not the worlds best kept secret that a lot of metal fans are quite conservative, musically. They're not incredibly open-minded to different typed things. All you have to do is have somebody going "Ahrg, he's denying metal" and everybody leaps on a big bandwagon and it's very sad because it should not be about labels and tribalism, it should be about music. Back in Seventies it was about music. You could have a Motörhead album and a Fleetwood Mac album sitting alongside on the same record-shelf and not have a problem. And have Jaco Pastorius living alongside ZZ top, BB king and Deep Purple...
H= Because it's music and not some kind of gimmickry...
B= Exactly, it's music not marketing. I mean, on of my favourite albums is Ritchie Blackmore's "Blackmore's night", this acoustic medieval album that he did. I just happen to love that record. I got turned on to it by a bunch of people who were all metal fans who loved the record and they made tapes of it for me. I know this German bloke who loves the record too and he said all his friends were like "Arrgh, Blackmoore, what a traitor! What a traitor he's doing stuff with lutes and flutes and stuff and like". And what's so sad is that when he did that album he did what he has been playing and wanting to play for twenty years and you can hear it in all the early Rainbow stuff... You can hear it in "Temple of the king"... It's exactly the same, but they've never heard that. They've spent their whole life listening to the records and never heard beyond...
M= ...all they hear is the distorted guitar and the drums..
B= ...yes and that makes me... If I didn't have people who understood what I did then I would be tempted to take a flame-thrower to the whole fucking world. I would stop making music...
M= But this means you must have been kind of disappointed that "Skunkworks" didn't get the response and respect it deserved...
B= Oh, I was actually fucking gutted!
M= And then you release "Accident of Birth" and everybody goes; "It's heavy metal, and it's great".
B= I was devastated by the "Skunkworks" thing. I was on the verge of saying "This business is so fucked, I just don't care anymore", you know. "Skunkworks" was a record which I tore myself apart to make and nobody seemed to give a shit. I don't think anybody in the management, really understood what was going on either, because otherwise we wouldn't have been touring with Helloween. They were totally the wrong band for Skunkworks to tour with. It was actually Roy that dragged me back into some assemblance, because he called up and he said, "Listen, I've got some stuff and it's like a metal record". And I wasn't thrilled, I wasn't really sure that I had anything to offer... After all those years in Maiden, I'm not sure that I can do it any better than I did it the best back in 1983, 84, you know. So was really not sure that it's what I should be doing... Then he played me some backing-tracks he'd done for what was to become "Accident of birth" down the phone and I thought "There is something there" So there I was, boom, in Los Angeles, on my own, it's kind of sunny and I thought "let's see what happens". So I went in and we came out with "Accident of birth" and I was like "That sounds great". And then it was like a big light went on in my head. "I can do this, I know exactly what to do on this record, exactly". I don't know any of the songs yet but I know I can write them. It was almost a huge relief that I was going to do something that I knew exactly what to do. And in actual fact "Accident of birth" is nothing new. There is nothing on "Accident of Birth" which I haven't done before, either in my solo-career, or in Iron Maiden, or in Samson. The difference is that it all gets put together in a package where all the songs fit together. If I was a rock fan and I just wanted a great metal album, nothing complicated, no agenda, this is it. I just wanted to make an album that fucking rocked and I guess that makes me a sort of a some kind of weirdo. [laughter] Because nobody's making an album like that. "That's brilliant, excellent, thanks Roy, good idea". Then I thought, "If this fails this will be the last album I ever make" and I thought "I don't give a shit". If this is gonna be the last album I ever do, I'm gonna do the best straight heavy metal album I ever made in my life. And it was a great album... Then all the reviews came in and all of a sudden I was back up there on the Richter-scale and everything was cool and I sat back and thought "wow, what do I do now...". I could do the same again but it would be fake...
M= It would be dull...
B= It would be dull, so I can never achieve that same kind of excitement in peoples minds. If I do the same thing again people would say that that's all Bruce Dickinson can do. A few other people got caught in that trap. So what could we do? We thought, well, let's use some modern sounds and go really heavy. Let's see how heavy we can go. And it's very interesting watching the way the audience reacts to the way that I'm presenting songs. You know, we can't afford a show, we're losing a significant amount of money on this tour even without a big show and stuff, so I mean, how can I make a show of what we have? So we just came up with the idea of using this big red light in between the amps, we didn't have it in Gothenburg actually cause of the venue, and I've got my book of poetry and I get down there and the red light illuminates my face like some kind of demon and I just read some poetry in between each song and you know what... The first time I did it the place was like "hush, hshhh"... Silence! And I thought "this is fucking great" And it's starting to evolve into something now and I'm thinking "This is storytelling... Sit down and I'll tell you a scary story", BOOM, then the music starts. So, that's giving me ideas for presentation and possible directions in the future for the next album. The next album is gonna move along a little bit... I want it to be coming out in the year 2000 but we've got a nice long period of time to write it and to record it which I think w need, cause we need to come out with flak..
M= Actually I was very much amazed at the show in Gothenburg and the way that people responded to the new material. It was as if it was the fifth tour you played the songs cause people were like singing...
B= First half of the set was completely "Chemical wedding"
M= People regarded it as classical songs and everybody was signing along..
B= I know, it's really exciting... Sometimes you almost feel like you wanna carry on and play the whole fucking album. I'm glad we stop when we do cause it feels right to stop there...
M= You should play "Jerusalem" instead of "Gates of Urizen"...
B= Well, the problem is that "Jerusalem"...
H= ...has a mandolin...
B= ...has loads of mandolin and stuff, and I think we'd have to wait till Roy comes back for the tour...
H= So he will be back for the tour?
B= Won't be back for the European tour but he might be back for the festivals next summer, in which case we probably keep Guru, you know, you know, he can come out and play Mandolin and stuff like that...
H= I really liked his performance, he has a very personal style...
B= Oh, yeah, he's fantastic and he walks like that normally.
M= I've heard you played "Revelations" on rehearsals...
B= We've been rehearsing it and we might maybe have to start working that one up but we won't be playing it on the Scandinavian leg.
M= Cause I think Revelations also would fit in, lyricwise...
B= I think "Powerslave" is a really good track to end with...
M= It felt great to se Powerslave because I've never heard it live, and Flight of Icarus as well...
B= ...and we have to finish up here...

H= I have a couple of questions left here that we received through our website... It's from Alberto in Italy. His favourite track is "Tears of the dragon" and he would like to know, what the philosophy behind the song is, who's the dragon and who "you" in the chorus is? Is the dragon a part of your soul?
B= I know what the song's about, I don't know what "Tears of the dragon" means
H= I heard in an interview somewhere that is was about your creativity...
B= Yeah, well, actually the song's more about, if you look at the video, the video is about this big fucking thing that I beat with a stick... And there's this general feeling of being held back by some kind of strange night of the soul in which you're seeing things but you can't break through. Its just this thing and when it comes, you gonna smash through before you can just go with the flow.
M= And the line "Tears of the dragon" just sounds like a good piece of poetry?
B= "Tears of the dragon" sounds great and dragons don't cry... For a dragon to cry something's gotta be really sad.
M= Where did you get it from? Was it something that popped in your head, or?
B= No it popped in my head... A dragon breathes fire and it's supposed to be evil but for a dragon to cry, something's gonna be really wrong, it should not be happening, you know...
H= Alright. And Reka form Hungary is a fencer and wants to know if you are still fencing now and then...
B= Oh!
H= Reka's coach was the brother of your coach...
B= Zsolt, yeah!
H= And it says here "unfortunately Attila became an alcoholic and is believed to have passed away because nobody has seen him for a long time...
B= Oh, right?? Yeah, well, I still see Zsolt, yes, I still fence...
H= ...but more for recreation...
B= Yea, it's more for fun now, yeah...
H= And about your internet-site, I think it's the quietest place on the web...
B= Yeah, well, they keep trying to have a meeting with me and I'm always too fucking busy, I'm always running around doing interviews and everything else. Honestly, I'd rather put gossip out through everybody else's internet-sites. I do all these interviews with other Internet-sites...
M= Cause people turn to us, cause they think that we're somehow related to you....
B= Well it's fine, I don't mind, cause you get the real stuff, whereas official internet-sites are all full of "please buy this and please buy that and go and get this merchandise" and all the rest of it, and I hate that really... I suppose it's necessary I mean, God, I make money out of it but, you know...
H= I also read that you dug up some old merchandise from past tours and such...
B= Oh, yeah. One guy is actually supposed to be revamping the whole thing... Sanctuary's gonna have an internet-shop where you can buy anything from Maiden, Helloween or me, you know, everything from records to shirts, older shirts. So what I said was "I've got a bunch of shirts and merchandise going right the way back to the "Balls to Picasso" tour". Now, I don't know how much stuff, but, I said, "let's bundle it together and see if we can put a pack of three or four shirts together for a really cheap price or something"... You know, kids want my archive type shirts, you know, tours that maybe they never saw and this way they can get them really cheap and it also cleans out my warehouse which is full of shit... At the same time, it's something really cool and it's a really good deal, because it's good for everybody. We'll see if the internet does actually work... Alright, I've got to go now...

And off he went, to the boring cells of business-misery, for a meeting to which he was 30 minutes late because of us. It's great to see that he wants to stay in touch with his fans!

Special thanks to Suzan Kverh at MNW-ILR for making this interview happen.