begin by talking about ‘Dive Dive Live’, which was filmed
at the Town And Country Club in California during your first solo tour.
Was it a humbling experience to be back in the clubs when you’d
become so accustomed to arenas, or a refreshing change?
The entire tour was really refreshing. We had a great time. It’s
a shame in a way that we didn’t film ‘Dive Dive Live’
in Europe, because some of those shows were cool. It was an odd video
to make, frankly. I thought we’d have lots of hand-held cameras,
but what turned up were all these great big cranes and flying jibs. Half
the audience was excluded to make room for the camera tracks. It was really
unsatisfactory. The budget was obscene and if I’d controlled it
I could’ve made about three videos for the same price.
the audience that night wasn’t even allowed to drink?
That’s right! They weren’t allowed to do anything. They were
corralled in pens like cattle. It didn’t belong anywhere near a
rock ‘n’ roll show.
Was it a
typical arms-crossed, hard-to-impress LA audience?
Yeah. But the crowd was made miserable by being dry as a bone and bossed
about by all these self-important video idiots, or vidiots as I like to
these reservations, would you say ‘Dive Dive Live’ is a decent
representation of your first solo tour?
No. It’s crap, but it’s the only documentation of the tour.
At the end of the show, I went into the truck, got the 24-track master
audiotapes and threw them in the river. The bloke who was with me, Merck
Mercuriadis, was actually on his hands and knees recovering the tapes.
I was like, ‘Let them drown you fucker’. These video wankers
had come in and ruined what should have been a great night.
California, did you experience much of the brain-dead rock star egomania
that had inspired the song ‘Tattooed Millionaire’?
[Laughs]. I don’t think you can avoid it. But fortunately MTV and
VH1 televise it on a regular basis now. That Cribs show, I think, sums
it all up.
encore of ‘Black Night’ by Deep Purple was interesting, not
to mention 1970s folk rockers Lindisfarne’s 1971 hit ‘Fog
On The Tyne’…
We did that every night. With Janick [Gers, guitarist] coming from the
North East of England [as did Lindisfarne], he was familiar with them,
and I knew ‘Fog On The Tyne’ when I was a kid. We thought
that we were short of material for an encore, and it was a bit wacky,
so why not?
And how did
it go down with the LA crowd?
We didn’t care.
said many times since that becoming a full-time solo artist was not on
your mind at that point. Did you lose count of the times that journalists
asked you that question, and did it rile you?
I wasn’t counting, but I did expect it. How I reacted to it varied
upon whether the journalist actually gave a shit or not. Some of them
manifestly thought of it as a way to wind me up, but others were genuinely
concerned; those that might have been Maiden fans. So the red mist [of
anger] didn’t always descend.
But was there
a particular point on that first tour where you smiled to yourself and
thought, ‘This is cool… I can do this on my own’?
It was probably when we were doing shows in Europe that there seemed to
be a little bit less pressure. We were in Helsinki in the frozen North
[of Scandinavia] and I recall thinking, ‘This is absolutely brilliant’.
We were losing pounds of sweat and it was marvellous fun.
any nights when it didn’t go to plan?
[Straight-faced]: Yeah, the night that we recorded the video. [Laughs].
There was also a night in Germany when I had a Ritchie Blackmore [tantrum]
moment; a cup of water might have ended up in someone’s camera.
They just got a bit too close.
the time you started work on the ‘Skunkworks’ album, was an
element of doubt registering in your mind? It had taken three attempts
to record the previous album, ‘Balls To Picasso’, and its
experimental feel had been greeted by an air of bemusement?
Yeah, the strange thing about ‘Balls To Picasso’ was that
we got talked into making the album less heavy than it should have been.
With hindsight, Roy [Z, guitarist] and I both feel it should have been
produced differently. In fact, Roy should have produced it himself. But
at the time he was relatively unproven. So we went with the received wisdom
After the reception to ‘Balls To Picasso’, I threw the baby
out with the bathwater with ‘Skunkworks’. I was trying to
wipe the slate clean with a little artistic self-destruction. I was sure
that one or two tracks on that album would wind up the purists, and they
did. One guy in New York issued death threats, saying he’d stamped
on the record and burned it with branding irons. That was a little extreme;
it was only a record. But if people were reacting that strongly then I
knew I had to be doing something right.
said that Skunkworks was an attempt to “take a flamethrower”
to your life. It was certainly brave to sever just about all ties with
the past, hire Nirvana producer Jack Endino of all people and begin anew.
You see I love Jack’s stuff. His secret life is that he’s
a massive Rainbow and AC/DC fan. He used to say, ‘You mustn’t
tell anyone I have these records in my collection or my credibility’s
completely blown’. That’s what annoyed me about that era.
So many quote unquote grunge bands were simply trying something different
to the LA, cocaine-up-the-nose cock rock thing. The bands they really
wanted to pay homage to were the same ones that I grew up idolising; Deep
Purple, Sabbath and AC/DC with Bon Scott.
Did you almost
feel parental towards the young musos you’d pulled together as Skunkworks?
Er, in a strange way, yeah. [Laughs]. If being parental is closing the
bedroom door and looking the other way. On occasions I’d visit the
back of the bus and think, ‘Don’t go there. Or if you do,
make sure you take a Kleenex’.
the validity of this time in your career, do you now look back at it as
some kind of mid-life crisis?
[Contemplates in silence for a moment]. Um, not really. I’d already
had my mid-life crisis a bit earlier than that. I’d realised that
if we didn’t get some kind of life after I’d left Maiden,
then there was no future as a singer or a musician. Where I didn’t
want to end up was on the metal or rock cabaret circuit. Plenty of bands
do end up there, and I’m sure they have a laugh, but music’s
too much of a cathartic experience for me. It’s too life changing.
What do you
recall of the two Skunkworks shows included here, filmed in Pamplona and
Gerona in 1996?
We were intercepted by a French Mirage jet fighter as I flew us into Spain,
which was a little concerning. I’m staring out of the cockpit window
at this jet, which is just hanging there. I was tempted to slow down,
as the thing would’ve just fallen out of the sky, but that would
have been like annoying a wasp. I called the flight controller who said:
[in best Monty Python continental voice] ‘He has come to take a
look at you’. So we all waved at him, he gave us this Gallic daggers
look and then dived away. When I called the controller back he said: ‘You
are very lucky’ [laughs].
footage was shot for a Japanese video EP, but what we get here is pretty
much a full concert from the era. How did it make you feel to see it again?
I thought it was pretty darned good, actually. The Skunkworks video was
what ‘Dive Dive Live’ should have been. It also reminded me
that there was a crisis at the second show when somebody stole my trousers.
stole your trousers?!
Yeah. And being on a bit of a budget I only had one pair. They were black
fake leather snakeskin. Where in Pamplona am I supposed to find a pair
of those on a Sunday morning? We finally found some women’s disco
diva shop that had a pair of stretchy PVC ones that I could just about
I noticed during the show that everyone down in the pit was staring anxiously
up at me with a look of awe on their faces. I thought, ‘Well, we’re
going down well tonight’. Then I realised that my pair of hairy
bollocks had released themselves and were swinging around. The trousers
had split! So I walked manfully off the stage. We were only about three
songs in, so we used black Gaffer tape to cover me up. You’ve heard
of the Brazilian wax, afterwards I had the Pamplona version. I suffer
for my art!
DVD’s third live segment was shot in South America during the tour
that that 1999’s ‘Scream For Me Brazil’ would later
document. By that point you’d been back together with Adrian Smith
for two albums, and agreed to return to Iron Maiden after an absence of
six years for you – longer still for Adrian. A dip in album sales
had also been converted to a steady rise. How would you describe the mood
on those dates?
I was a little sad. We’d put together a great band with Roy [Z]
and the Tribe Of Gypsies guys, and we’d found a sound that was unique.
The ‘Accident Of Birth’ album [in 1997] had made a big start,
but I can look back on ‘The Chemical Wedding’  and say
that it was a really groundbreaking and influential album – not
just for me, but metal in general. I’m still immensely proud of
it. We had such a blast touring it – even some of the acoustic jams
we did at radio stations, which we’ve been unable to release –
but I’m so glad we were able to liberate all these tapes.
What do you
recall of the Sao Paolo show that was filmed?
The concert was part of the Skull Rock series, and with us on the bill
were the Scorpions and Jason Bonham, I think. On that particular night
we went down an absolute storm, which the Scorpions were very gracious
about actually, because a lot of the audience left after we finished.
presented here was originally a bootleg. What’s the story of how
you came to use it for your own purposes?
It was a bootleg from the TV screens, but it was also filmed for TV. So
we approached the TV company. The quality of some of the show wasn’t
good enough to be used, but the sound is untouched – it comes straight
off the mixing desk.
of the Brazilian fans is well known. Would you say that it’s unique?
Well, it’s not just Brazil. Argentina and Chile, Mexico, the whole
South American continent has always been big on metal. It’s not
just my solo stuff, it’s the same with Maiden. We were one of the
first bands to go there for the very first Rock In Rio [in 1985, a show
that was reportedly seen by 200 million people throughout over 60 countries].
Brazil has a unique musical culture because it’s such a melting
pot, and it has more people under the age of 21 than anywhere else in
the world, so the potential is enormous. They’re not stubborn about
that they’ll listen to, and they do so with great attention, so
they’re a joy to play for.
happen to be a particular student of Bruce Dickinson’s career, the
role of guitarist/producer Roy Z might go unnoticed by some. Have you
ever sat down and contemplated where you might be, for instance, had he
not played you the riff to ‘Accident Of Birth’ down the phone?
And you’d not flown to LA the very next day to make that album together?
[Laughs]. I don’t tend to dwell on things like that, but on such
strange coincides empires have been known to fall and rise. Small pebbles
dropped in large ponds make big ripples.
Roy Z has
certainly been in a big rock in your life.
Yes he has indeed. And I think he believes to be in the lives of many
others, if there’s any justice in the world. As a producer and mentor,
Roy is second to none.
talk now about the range of promotional videos that are also included
here. Many of these you have either storyboarded or been involved in the
production of. So you are a believer in the hands-on approach?
Yeah, well I quite enjoying mucking around and having fun with them [laughs].
So I’ve directed a few and co-produced a few of the others, and
had a hand in storyboarding virtually all of them.
any of your videos that you’re especially proud of, or perhaps even
some that you now have reservations about?
There are no reservations about them, no. They are what they are. ‘Inertia’
and ‘Back From The Edge’ [both from ‘Skunkworks’]
are two of my favourites. I directed both of those, so that’s probably
why. I’m particularly proud of the underwater stuff in the swimming
pool. To this day, people still think that’s trick photography,
but we didn’t have the budget for that.
Is the directing
of videos something you’d like to become more involved with further
down the line?
It’s pretty unlikely because I’d want to do everything my
that very few fans will actually have seen is the Biceps Of Steel movie,
filmed at the Rainbow Theatre in London during your time with the band
[Laughs]. Yes, it’s classic stuff.
it like to work with Julien Temple, the old Sex Pistols director?
Believe it or not, it was Julien’s first feature film. So I’ve
no idea what he made of it. I don’t think we even spoke to him.
We just turned up, slapped on a load of make-up and did our thing with
these great polystyrene Marshall cabinets. With belching bouncers in orange
boiler suits, it’s a fantastic piece of nonsense, it really is.
come up with the concept, or the members of Samson?
The concept, which is crass in extremis, wasn’t ours! Oh no! I’ve
no idea who thought that one up. It was the typical concept dreamt up
by someone who didn’t understand metal. They’d obviously sat
back and thought, ‘Samson. And super-roadie. Yes, and we’ll
have two huge Marshall stacks that kill everybody at the end’. Yeah,
right! That video comes under the category of ‘What a wonderful
piece of kitsch’. It also sums up pretty much the whole of Samson’s
career, and also the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
more than a little tongue-in-cheek. You have no reservations about bringing
it out of the closet after all these years?
Oh God, no. I’m not embarrassed by looking at things that might
make other people cringe. I find it incredibly amusing. It’s like
looking back at anyone’s family photographs; ‘Oh my God, did
I really look like that?!’ If I felt a bit insecure about sharing
stuff like that then I wouldn’t want to, but it’s great.
‘no regrets’ attitude apply to the rest of your career?
Yeah. You have to look at decisions you’ve made and learn from them.
I don’t think you can go back re-vamping your past, or regretting
it. Only if you’ve hurt others by what you’ve done. But as
long as it’s your own career that’s been potentially damaged,
it’s all a learning experience.
How do you
feel about the release of ‘Bruce Dickinson, Anthology’?
It’s not before time. There’s so much stuff on it that people
will either be unaware of, or would like to have but didn’t know
where to get it. The Samson video, for example, has been changing hands
for an absurd amount of money. Chopping it all together in one package,
everyone’s got access to it. We spent loads of time making the promos,
yet the people that bought ‘Skunkworks’, ‘Accident Of
Birth’ and ‘The Chemical Wedding’ would’ve had
no real access to them because MTV didn’t show them. Now everyone
can see all the fun we had.
cover art looks fantastic.
William Blake comes to the rescue again! As the inspiration for ‘The
Chemical Wedding’, he played a huge part in my life and the painting
we’ve used here is called Whirlwind. I rather liked the irony of
that because in some respects I’m a bit of a whirlwind myself.
are indeed. With so many things going on in your life – making your
own music and with Iron Maiden, plus deejaying
for the BBC and working as an airline pilot – how do you fit
it all in?
[Shrugs]. I just get on with stuff. There are still one or two things
that continue to loom, like a movie project that’s almost been made,
but they’re in a continual state of suspended animation. They have
been gathering dust for 15 years so I don’t lose sleep about them
anymore, I just get on with everything else.
‘Tyranny Of Souls’ was your first solo album in seven years.
Critically speaking and sales-wise, it received a great reaction. Schedule
permitting, of course, is it safe to say that we will we be seeing plenty
more solo action from you?
Yeah. Roy and I have a very tentative schedule for another solo album.
Obviously, there’s a new Iron Maiden album and nothing will happen
before the tour for that winds up next spring. There’s no hurry.
It took me seven years between ‘The Chemical Wedding’ and
‘Tyranny Of Souls’, and there were only slight objections.
People went, ‘Oh, at last. And about time, too’. ‘Chemical
Wedding’ was such a good record, I actually did scare myself with
it. So I was pretty relieved that ‘Tyranny Of Souls’ went
down so well. Now might be time to move things along, and experiment a
bit more. We shall see.