This interview had little chances to happen. First of all, it appeared possible only a week before actual date. Then, there wasn’t a call at the time appointed, as someone in Bruce’s office misspelt the phone number. Still, deep in the other commitments, there’s a call and voice coming through: “Hello, Dmitry! It’s Bruce Dickinson.” Mister Siren had scrapped his plans for a good lunch to share his thoughts and views in the wake of his first solo “Best Of” compilation release.
– First of all, thanks for your new album!
– Thank you!
– Why did you decide to release a “Best Of” now, at this moment?
– Well, it’s a nice quiet time for IRON MAIDEN, and I’ll be releasing a new solo album next year, so this is a really good time for the managing out my solo career, which is quite well. And I had a whole lot of new potential fans after the last IRON MAIDEN record, it was a success, so this is a good chance to give my material out to them, and also to keep existing fans happy with some unreleased and some rare material and also some brand new material.
– About these new songs. There is one called “Broken”. While you sing that you’re not broken, why did you decide to drop this “not”?
– Because it’s more interesting. (Laughing.) And if there’s a song called “Broken”, people think, “Why broken?”, and they find it’s “Not broken”.
– But it has something to do with a current situation, these new fans. All this keeps you strong, doesn’t it?
– Precisely, yes. I mean, there’s an expression in England: “Never let the bastards grind you down”.
– How to put it?.. You seem to be a very lyrical singer, with a kind of pop vibe in your approach. So why do you do such heavy albums?
– Because I like it – as simple as that! (Burst of laughter.) I’m trying to put in the lyrical things so that they can help the album as well. I’m quite happy with the success of the last album, “Chemical Wedding”, so whatever I’ll end up doing on my next solo album is what I’ll end up doing. And after that one, I guess, I’ll be making another one.
– Could you give any details of your next album?
– No! (Laughing.)
– It’s because you don’t know or because you don’t want?
– Both, actually. First of all, I don’t see any point in giving details of something which is not going to be released for another year, and secondly, I’m not even sure what direction it’s going to go in at the moment. I’ve got three of four songs but, apart of that, I’m not sure what direction the other half of the album is going to go in right now.
– And what is the “Catacombs” story?
– The “Catacombs”… CD two off “The Best Of” set was going to be called “Catacombs”, and it’s going to be a collection of unreleased songs and rarities. It got back and turned into “The Best Of” album by adding another CD which has two new songs on it and a lot of remastered tracks from the previous studio albums. So this “The Best Of” album includes what would have been called “Catacombs”.
– Are you going to tour this new album or “The Best Of” collection?
– No, I’m not going to do any more solo touring, the next tour I do will be with IRON MAIDEN in 2003.
– Let’s talk a bit about your influences. I think, you were influenced mostly by Gillan and Dio, or were there others?
– A guy called Arthur Brown, who did the song “Fire” from the late Sixties, was a big influence of mine. Peter Hammill from a band called VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. And also Ian Anderson from JETHRO TULL, particularly, his lyrics. Very different influences. As of Gillan, in the early days it was very much so, but it changed a little bit when I’ve been with MAIDEN, it became much more kind of operatic than the Gillan thing.
– And now you became an influence yourself. Who of your soundalikes you rate the best?
– Well, I don’t think he’s a soundalike, but the best rock voice… best two rock voices I’ve heard in a last few years both have been from grunge bands: it’s Eddie Vedder and the other one is Chris Cornell from SOUNDGARDEN.
– Those guys and many others are involved in this tribute album mania. And you took a part in the Alice Cooper tribute too. Was he an influence as well?
– I was pumping gas at a gas station, aged sixteen years old, when “School’s Out” came on the radio. Alice was not so much in the singing stakes, more of just whole attitude thing at the time when you’re fifteen-sixteen years old. Alice is much a focused rebellion, he’s a fantastic cartoon character almost, if you like, and therefore he’s still successful today – my kid, eleven years old, loves Alice Cooper. (Laughs.) And Alice’s character – you see him in the Marylin Manson thing, and all the things related.
– Do you like Marylin Manson?
– Yeah, I do like Marylin Manson, actually. I think, he’s very talented and he did make some great music.
– The song from Alice Cooper tribute, “Black Widow”, who chose it for you to sing?
– I think, it was the only one left. Actually, it surprised me, because I didn’t know how it was going to sound, but I think it’s done OK in the end. And certainly people who bought the record seem to like my version. And there obviously Adrian [Smith] was on the record but everybody else – all thing was put together by Bob Kulick, and the backing tracks were already done.
– And yet with MAIDEN you covered a couple of things too – LED ZEPPELIN, FREE… Were their influential too? I mean, Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant.
– Oh yes, completely! We’re all from the same era, we were all brought up on basically all those classic rock bands from the Seventies.
– You mentioned Ian Anderson’s lyrics. What are the sources for your lyrics? You’re deep into poetry, and your own lyrics are very different from many of other metal guys.
– Yes, it’s possibly true but it’s just the way it is – I’ve always enjoyed reading lyrics, trying to do them more than just lyrics, trying to have some more meaning in them. I know a lot of people are just happy to have a kind of broken word lyrics. I just wonder why, there’s no reason why they can’t at least attempt to do something a bit better.
– Why you went for Blake for “Chemical Wedding”?
– Oh, Blake’s fantastic, Blake was such a genius. He was so misunderstood during his time period. I mean, he has been an inspiration to generations of artists of all types, he was one of the very first multimedia artists.
– You talked about Arthur Brown’s “Fire”, that with Carl Palmer on it.
– Yeah, Vincent Crane and Carl Palmer were in the band. Vincent Crane was…
– In ATOMIC ROOSTER.
– …was the organ and bass player – yes, he used to do bass as well on his keyboard for ATOMIC ROOSTER. And the album was actually executively produced by Pete Townshend.
– How did you get in touch with Brown?
– I know him, he’s a friend of mine, and I have a beer with him now and again. That’s why I asked him to read the sections of Blake on the album.
– Interesting, there’s Blake, all this mystical thing, and you have a song called “King In Crimson”. I read the explanation as of who was the King Crimson, but is there any connection with the band?
– King in Crimson is actually an alchemical term. King Crimson is a metaphor for Devil or Satan, but at the same time it’s also a metaphor for one of the statures in the purification of man and the purification of mankind soul towards union with God and with Infinite, which is the philosophical aim of alchemists. Blake was also very into alchemy and alchemical symbolism, and that’s where to be a reference to King in Crimson. But knowing the background of the band, I’m sure than KING CRIMSON had a definite grounding in it.(Laughs.)
– Another song of yours is “Killing Floor”, and the first association comes with blues tradition. You know, this old blues, “Killing Floor”.
– Yes, but no-o-o, that song has no blues in it, whatsoever. (Laughs.) The title for it is an old blues song title, and that’s one of the reasons I picked it – just in case people thought it was no blues song and they would get such a surprise. (Laughing.)
– A kind of wordplay is always interesting. So there’s an album “Scream For Me, Brazil” – was it wordplay on “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”?
– No! (Burst of laughter.) No! The title “Scream For Me, Brazil” is simply because of this expression “scream for me”, it just became a kind of a personal catchphrase that I ended up saying on-stage a lot with IRON MAIDEN. It’s like Ozzy Osbourne says, “Let’s go crazy!” I would say, “Scream for me, Milan” or “Scream for me, London”, so “Scream For Me, Brazil” just struck me as being a good title. There’s no reference to “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”.
– Ah MAIDEN. What’s curious is that many singers, who break up with their bands and then get back, never sing songs recorded with their replacements – as, say, Gillan never sings songs from the Coverdale-period PURPLE. However you dared and sang the Blaze Bailey material. Was it hard?
– (Laughing.) No! I’m a singer! When I left the band, what the band did is really their own business. And their career – they got on with it, and I got on with my career. Everybody in that band, including Blaze, tries to offer the best of their abilities, I know that – and that’s all you can ask. I’m not the kind of guy who turns around and says, “Because I wasn’t in the band therefore it must be inferior”. That’s nonsense.
– The most successful MAIDEN song was “Bring Your Daughter… …To The Slaughter”, and it was taken off your solo album. How did it come about?
– They’ve heard it – I mean, Steve [Harris] heard the song and just loved the song so much that he said I had to record it with MAIDEN. So I said, “Oh OK, fine”, and of course it ended up breaking number one as a single, so that was pretty good. But at the same time the original version was still sitting around, so I thought it was about time that people heard it.
– But at this moment, when you’re in the band, where is the division between MAIDEN and your solo career?
– The division… I’m going to be working with Roy Z to do the next solo album early next year, and then I’ll go straight into making the new IRON MAIDEN album.
– Will you have enough songs for both projects?
– Oh yeah, absolutely! I mean, I keep the two things pretty separate. When I write with MAIDEN then I write only with the guys in MAIDEN, we don’t do songs from outside people.
– OK, but “Daughter” was meant for your solo album. Are you sure there won’t be a situation like this in the future?
– I doubt it, I doubt it very much, and I’m not worried about that. If it is, I’ll be discussing with everybody when it happens.
– Is Roy Z very different from the guys in MAIDEN?
– Yes in some ways, and in some ways not. He’s a musician like everybody else but he has immense ability to get inside the head of the person who he’s working with and really understand the world from their perspective, which is fantastic.
– Where did you find him?
– I met Roy years ago in Los Angeles with his own band TRIBE OF GYPSIES, they were very very good, and I was interested in his album, because he made a “Roy” album, and that’s how I met him. It turned out he was a fan of MAIDEN, and I said, maybe we should do some writing, so we wrote two or three songs. I loved it and I thought, the guy’s really great. Of course, now he’s a very successful producer but he deserves all the success that he’s getting because he’s so talented.
– Was it you who introduced him to Rob Halford?
– I was one of the people who suggested they should work together, yes.
– And that song you sang with Halford…
– “The One You Love To Hate” was the song that Roy and I wrote for my solo album, and we went, “Ah, that’s a cool song and for next solo album we must record that one”. Then Roy got the job with Rob Halford, and I forget whether it was me or whether it was him who said, “Why don’t we do “The One You Love To Hate” as a little duet, that will be funny and ironic, everything, it will be cool.
– Was it the same time that idea of the TRINITY project came about?
– Yes, for obvious reasons, but the TRINITY project is not going to happen for some time because nobody has any time to do this. (Laughs.) I mean, Rob [Halford] is busy and Geff [Tate, of QUEENSRYCHE] is busy and I’m busy, so…
– You were involved with AYREON project. What’s happened with that one?
– I’m not going to be doing anything with Arjen [Lucassen]. I did one track with him [“Into The Black Hole”], he’s a very talented guy. I was thinking to do some writing with him, possibly doing an album project, but what happened was this all got out into the Internet because he released details of it – either the e-mail or something to his fan club. And all of a sudden it was all was released, that I was doing an album with Arjen. So I asked him, I said this is not true, is it you who put everything out, there’s no professionalism. And he mailed me back saying, “Oh no-no-no, I’d never do anything like that”, but I found out that actually he did it. So I don’t have any plans to do anything with Arjen. He’s talented, he has his own career, and I wish him all the success.
– His are concept albums, like yours.
– That’s right!
– But are you going to do something concept with MAIDEN?
– I don’t know. We have to wait and see.
– Back to MAIDEN, this three guitars thing, does it work good?
– It works great, yes. The more guitars we have on-stage the better, as I’m concerned. (Laughs.)
– I mean, at the time of you coming back to MAIDEN I talked to Adrian and Dave [Murray], and they were worried of all these cords and three guys running across each other and falling.
– They run hand in hand! (Burst of laughter.)
– What about a guitarist called Stuart Smith?
– Well, Stuart Smith… Good Lord, yes! I early was kicking around with him and some friends. I’m afraid I’ve lost his number but somebody said he was around, he goes back from a long long time ago.
– I’m afraid I don’t have any information about Stuart Smith project, so I can’t help.
– But if you knew, would you?
– Probably not, because I’ve got enough stuff going on at the moment and I’d hate to add to the confusion.
– You took part in the “Rock Aid Armenia” project.
– It seemed a good idea, and we could raise some money that would go to a lot of people who were suffering.
– So could you comment on the current situation in the world?
– (Slowly, carefully choosing the words) What’s going on in the world at the moment is very tragic, and that’s really the only word for the situation. Nobody is being helped out by this at all. I think the best thing that people can do at the moment here, in the West and, particularly, in America, is to carry on living their lives as normal. And the best way to fight the kind of seemingly invisible enemy is to fight it by functioning as a democratic society, which is what they’re seeking to destroy. That’s the best thing that people can do at the moment, and just leave the rest of it up to security services.
– You sang about the brand new world, so this is not the kind of the world you wanted to see?
– “The Brave New World” – ironic, my friend. I have to revisit the lyrics but I think the world is still moving in that direction.