An interview conducted with Bruce over the phone on the 27th of March 1997
I started by asking a question I assumed he'd been asked a million times until now, but nevertheless I wanted to hear it straight from him...
H: Why did things turn out as they did with Skunkworks?
B: Well, basically, it got to last summer and we were thinking about writing material for a new album and the direction that, particularly the guitarist was going in was like east and I was going west. I wanted to do a much heavier album. I was quite prepared to call it Skunkworks and carry on with the idea but the stuff that was coming through from them was really so far removed from hard rock music, so I was like, "this is not gonna work". I think Alex and Alessandro has got a band now together called "Fling". I think they've been touring with Ash over here. It's more compatible with the rock/pop music.
H: What about Chris (Dale, bassplayer in Skunkworks)?
B: Chris was originally part of "Fling", I think, but they got rid of him.
H: Didn't he fit in or something?
B: Maybe his hair was too long, I don't know. (Laughter)
H: Aha, It might be that, yea...
B: I don't know. I've actually got to get in touch with Chris but I can't find his phone-number anywhere around, cause he's moved. I've been running around like crazy, so I've hardly been able to speak to anybody.
H: How much of the Skunkworks material will remain in your live-set?
B: At the moment, if we're going out playing what we will be going out playing live, myself, Adrian, Roy Z and the guys, I can't really see much place for the Skunkworks material at all, because we're just not gonna have time to play it. I mean, all of a sudden we've got this enormous amount of material. We'll certainly be playing two or three classic Maiden tunes, like "2 minutes to midnight" or "Wasted years", at the end of the show because, if we didn't people would just kill us. And it would be great fun as well.
H: It would be nice if you'd dig up some more obscure tracks as well...
B: Yes that would be cool, but at the same time we wanna make sure that the three tracks we end the set with are real crowd pleasers that get people really get going. And then you're left with the balk of the set which could easily be from the new album. Then you basically add in the "greatest hits" of the other albums. So we do "Tears of the dragon" and we'll probably do "Tattooed millionaire" and maybe look at one or two other strange ones.
H:Do you mean B-sides or something like that?
B: Not necessarily B-sides, there's a variety of possibilities, you know. One is to do some old obscure Samson track or something like that...
H: That would be great.
B: Yea, interesting.
H: But I think it's rather strange, actually, because last time we talked you were very precise about not wanting to be the ex-Maiden vocalist and now you're working with Adrian and you have Derek Riggs doing the artwork...
B: Mmm, quite yeah.
H: ...and the music is much more metal, so to speak.
B: Yes it is. Obviously that was a conscious decision. Once I did dissolve Skunkworks there was no longer anything in the way. Skunkworks was kind of a "Tin Machine"- project, basically, and you commit yourself to that as long as you can and as soon as it became obvious that it wasn't working you just have to abandon it and start again. I think we had a situation where I think the guys weren't as committed to the idea of Skunkworks as a band as I was, you know. Otherwise, when I suggested that we cancel the whole thing they would have gone that "Oh no, What a shame", you know, but everybody went, "Oh, OK". Just like that (laughter)
H: "That's the way we wanted it anyway!"
B: Yea, exactly! So, if you feel passionately about something you'd argue. So I was left last summer with no band and no songs and an album to deliver in about six months time and a concept of Skunkworks which hadn't really caught peoples imagination. I mean, people still didn't go "Oh, Skunkworks, that's that cool band", they went "Skunkworks, that's that thing that Bruce did last year", so I figured that if I was gonna do a metal record then I might as well go back to being called Bruce Dickinson which is what everybody knows. And I went out to Los Angeles started writing with Roy Z and in about a week we wrote five songs and demoed them Then I came over here and played the demos to everybody and everybody went absolutely crazy. The demos was so good that one of the guys from the record company thought that it was already the album. And in fact, the demos are gonna be on the on the B-sides to the British singles...
H: Which song is gonna be the single?
B: Well, it's this strange thing in England, you know, we release singles but they're not real singles... and we only do it in England because it's such a strange place. We're gonna go with "Accident of birth". As I said, it's not a real single, it hasn't got a help in hell in getting any radio play or anything else like that, but the purpose is to demonstrate to everybody what kind of album it is. It's like an advertisement that you can buy. And that's, basically, the way kids are used to having albums presented to them here in England. And if you're a metal band, you have to give kids a reason for buying it, so you try and put extra tracks on it and stuff like that.
H: Have you shot any video yet?
B: No, we're not gonna shoot a video.
H: Not for any song?
B: Well, we may shoot one if we have like a real single and that would have to be, probably, "Man of Sorrows". But until we have a chance at a real single, there's no point, it's just a waste of money shooting a video, right now.
H: But you did, shoot a video for "Inertia", didn't you. Was that one ever official?
B: Oh yes, it was official, yea.
H: But nobody's ever airing it?
B: That's right, and that's one of the reasons we're not doing a video, because it just never gets promoted anywhere, which is a shame.
H: Yes, it really is, cause it's a brilliant video. Do you have any extra songs recorded, for B-sides and such stuff?
B: The Japanese album actually has an extra song that me and Adrian wrote and we're going to do is put that on the back of the British single. We're putting out the demos as give-away tracks on some other versions of the single and I think there are four songs left over in Los Angeles that we didn't finish. They're quite finished but, you know, all they need is a couple of days of me singing and three or four days of mixing.
H: And then they're fit for human consumption.
B: Then they're fit for human consumption, yea.
H: How did you come up with the idea to use Derek Riggs for the artwork?
B: I came up with a concept for the artwork and everything, only about four weeks ago. When I got back from America we started looking at pictures of puppets. They were thinking of trying to do a photograph for the front cover, but I said, "no, no, no, it has to be an illustration. Who do we know that can draw monsters?" And somebody in the office said "What about Derek Riggs? He doesn't do anything anymore, cause he's finished with Maiden" And everybody went "what a great idea", you know. So we asked him, and he said yes, and he's done it.
H: But I thought that he was kind of fed up with doing these album-covers and these monsters...
B: Yeah, but he doesn't work for Maiden anymore. I asked Rod Smallwood, the manager, and he said "No, no, Derek will never ever work for Maiden again".
H: But when you're digging back at all these Maiden things, I mean, you're working with Adrian and you use Derek for the artwork, why didn't you use Clive Burr as a drummer. Last time we talked you emphasised what a great drummer you thought he was
B: Yeah, I do like Clive, but I haven't played with him for a while and I haven't seen him play for a while.
H: Has he been active, musically?
B: Kind of, but I don't know what kind of quality of bands he's been playing in and stuff like that. And secondly, the bulk of this record is actually written with me and Roy Z, and Roy Z produced the record. And the bassplayer and the drummer, Eddie and Dave play with Roy all the time. So it has a great band feel to it because three of the guys are in a band and I didn't wanna lose that. And I've worked with Eddie and Dave before and they're fantastic. So it made no sense going into what looks like an "old mans reunion club" because this is not an "old mans reunion" type album.
H: No, that's definitely true. I have actually heard the new album, because I got this promo-copy from the record company over here and since there was no lyric sheet, just the album I had to rely on my lingual ear to figure out the words and the lyrics seem to be the traditional, sort of, metal stories. Am I right or do you have any message with the lyrics?
B: I had a lot of fun writing the lyrics, because I just went back to the idea that this album was going to be about escapism, you know, in terms of story-writing and story telling. But any good story has some kind of message behind it, you know, but there's no, kind of, pompous design behind the whole thing, it's just a selection of interesting little stories. I mean, some of them, I must confess, I had to construct quite an elaborate story-line and then maybe only tell half of it in the lyrics. I had to do that just for my own benefit to show that I could, you know, daydream properly.
H: So there's no "Inertia" or something, lyricwise?
B: Ahm.. What, do you mean in terms of the Sarajevo thing and everything.
B: Absolutely not. There's not a single thing on this record which is not rooted in imagination in some way, with the with the exception of maybe "Man of Sorrows", which is the only song on the album which was written about five years ago. All the other songs were written in the space of five weeks.
H: So it was written while you still were in Maiden...
H: Was it a song left over or???
B: No, no, I never even bothered presenting it. It was actually written for a movie that I was involved with. I was actually involved in writing a script and we sold it to America. It was a script about Alisteir Crowley and without going into the details of what the plotline was and everything else... cause it's a good story and somebody will steal it if I tell you... (laughter) But the title song to the movie was going to be "Man of Sorrows" and the small boy in the church at the opening line is the young Alisteir Crowley. The song is from the point of view of, you know, what makes a person want to be like that. He said, in his life he wanted to be the wickedest man in the world, he wanted to be the antichrist and the beast and everything else. And the question is, why?
H: Yes, I figured it had something to do with Crowley, when you used the line "Do what tha willt".
B: Yeah. It's about what makes somebody be like that and I went back and there was an accident incident in his childhood in a church and I just put that as a starting point.
H: Who does the keyboard parts?
H: And live?
B: Live, I don't know right now. Maybe we'll have to learn a bit of keyboards. (laughter) But I'm sure we could manage it somehow.
H: But, especially a song like "Man of Sorrows" couldn't be performed without the keyboards.
B: Mmm, yeah...
H: If you have the intention of doing it live, that is...
B: Yea, we might do it live, but not at first. It depends. If it's out as a single, and if it's some kind of hit then we'll grab somebody along who can play a bit of keyboards. I can actually play the keyboards to it because what I wrote it on originally was piano. And all you really need is keyboards at the beginning...
H: Then you have the piano at the end of "Taking the queen"...
B: Yea, that's right, and Roy can play that, cause he played it in the studio.
H: And now for something completely different. I heard you are doing a collaboration with opera singer Monserrat Cabballe, is that right?
B: Monserrat Caballe, yes indeed, yes, ha, ha.
H: Might I ask what?
B: Good question. Monserrat has done a solo-album, produced by BMG Classics in Germany and she's taken different artists and done collaborations with them. I don't know all the artists, I know there's some Swedish guys on it, there's a Belgian, there's Michael Bolton, I think Gino Vanelli is on it some way...
H: ...and Vangelis, I believe.
B: Yeah, right, Well, that's cool, ha, ha, ha. Anyhow, my involvement with it was simply that I got a phonecall from the producer, a guy called Mike Moran, who has done a lot of stuff with Queen and he produced "Barcelona", you know, that thing Monserrat did with Freddie Mercury and he asked me if I'd like to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" with her, with a full orchestra and a forty-eight voice choir. And I was like "Well, OK we'll try it", and it turned out OK. But that's about as far as it goes right now.
H: Has it been released yet?
B: It's not released yet. I have to say that we we're having a little bit of difficulty in getting precise information out of BMG Classics in Germany. They're not quite as good as rock labels are in moving quickly.
H: I have a question concerning the intro and outro tapes you used for the last tour. What were they lifted from?
B: The outro tape was from "Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters" with Arthur brown singing a song called "The gremlin". And the intro tape... I can't even remember what it was... Did we use "The prisoner" or something?
H: No, no, at the very beginning of the show. I don't remember what it was but I've never heard anything like it and I haven't got a clue of what it could be...
B: I can't remember what the intro tape was that we used! That's weird. I remember the outro-tape because Helloween said the outro-tape was putting their audience in a bad vibe for their set so they complained about it. (laughter)
H: By the way, did you know that there was a new Samson-CD out?
B: Yea. In Germany somebody gave me a copy of, "The BBC sessions".
H: Yea. Have you listened to it?
B: Yea, it's funny, isn't it? (laughter)
H: I have actually only heard one song from it...
B: I sound like a little squealing pig on helium.
H: But it still is very interesting...
B: Yeah, it sure is, yeah.
H: Now, I've got some more old stuff here. I totally forgot about it last time and it's about this single with the band "Xero" which has an extra track, "Lone wolf" featuring Bruce Dickinson What's the story behind that one?
B: That's a song I did when I was in at college...
H: ...and who is playing, why and when and how?
B: Well, I was in called "Shots", with two brothers, Phil and Doug Siviter on bass and drums. And we had a guitarist, Bill Leisegang, who then went on to play for Nina Hagen. A talented guitar player. Anyhow, he had is own band called "Xero" and when they put out their first single, I had already had a big hit with "Run to the hills", his manager said, "We put this track on the back and we'll put 'Bruce Dickinson' on the front and try and sell some singles".
H: Yea. But they didn't, I figure...
B: Only to Iron Maiden fans.
H: Yepp, I know from my own experience. A porta-studio recording?
B: Yeah, that kind of vibe, yeah.
H: And to finish off... When can we expect to see you on the road again?
B: We're looking around for festivals this summer and we're trying to get to America in august. We're gonna tour Japan at the end of July, and then we're gonna have a headlining tour in September, October time.
H: So you first do the festivals and then you go on a proper tour...
H: Any chance of doing Hultsfred festival again?
B: I have no idea, right now, it's all in the hands of agents and God knows what.
H: Well, we'll hope for it.
B: I hope so too.
H: Well, I don't think there is anything more, actually.
B: OK, cool!
H: So, thanks for taking your time to talk to me, I must say.
B: Thank you.
H: ...and we'll see you on tour, I hope.
B: OK, mate.
H: Yes, Thanks very much, bye-bye.
Special thanks to Jerker Ågren at Musikservice for making this interview possible.