IRON MAIDEN frontman Bruce Dickinson recently spoke to Argentina's Vorterix about the band's plans to record a new studio album, the touring life, his singing technique and his many outside projects, among other topics. A few excerpts from the chat follow below. (Thanks to MaidenRevelations.com for helping transcribe some parts of the interview.)
On when IRON MAIDEN plans to release a new studio album:
Dickinson: "Well, I mean, we are going to do another album. When we do it, I can't tell you."
On whether any new material has already been written for the next IRON MAIDEN CD:
Dickinson: "Actually I've written a load of stuff. You know, we're all writing little bits and bobs all the time. We'll see what happens, you know. But yeah, sure."
On whether IRON MAIDEN plans to revisit its '90s material on its future tours:
Dickinson: "We haven't got that far yet. Let's finish this one ['Maiden England'] first and see what happens next year. But yeah, I do not think MAIDEN fans are going to be too disappointed for too long."
On how IRON MAIDEN has managed to avoid the excesses that came along with being a huge '80s rock band:
Dickinson: "It's just kind of what we're like, really. I mean, I'm not saying that nobody in the band has ever tried or mucked around with smoking dope when they we're younger. Most kids have probably tried smoking dope. Most kids have probably tried a few other things that I've never tried.
"The reason why we started MAIDEN, the reason why we all became musicians, was because we wanted to be musicians, not to become druggies. We like a beer and beer is our favorite kind of stuff. We drink beer and we drink a little wine and too much coffee. That's it, really. Apart from that, we're just trying to have some fun."
On how has he kept his voice strong through all these years of intense performances:
Dickinson: "I suppose over the years, you could call it a kind of training, but it wasn't like going to school; it wasn't formal. I mean, I didn't have a singing teacher, like a trainer, or anything else like that. But I learned from other people. But one thing I did do was studied — just on my own, just looking at books and things — the mechanics of how the voice works. I'm not like a doctor or anything else like that, but I just read about it. It's kind of like a guitarist. You want to know about your instrument. You want to know why it sounds like it does, how to look after it. The one thing you can't do with a voice… You can put new strings on a guitar; you can't do that with a voice. Because the voice is such a subtle thing. And it does change with age, as you mature, as the spaces in your body change shape as you get older or when you're younger or whatever. So all of these things have a bearing on the voice. And it is like a wooden kind of instrument — the wood gets older and it develops tone and becomes… you know, subtle changes. But if something really goes badly wrong with it and you damage it, then you really run the risk that it's never gonna be quite the same again. I haven't had to cancel very many shows in my 35 years of singing in bands professionally, if you like. I've had to cancel a few shows — maybe 20 or something in total over 35 years. Maybe more — maybe 25 or something. So it's not that many. But that could be the difference between me still keeping my voice and not keeping my voice. I've never taken steroids that they give you for guys that have got problems with their voice. If my voice is so bad that I can't get it to sing without all that stuff, I shouldn't be singing. And if I'm sick with a cold or something, I can get through it. But if I'm really sick — with the laryngitis or something else, or bronchitis, or something really bad — I just take the doctor's advice. It's better to cancel three shows but have your voice be excellent for the next three hundred; it really is. A lot of singers allow themselves to be put under huge pressure, because they feel that if they cancel a show, they failed. And actually, you're really playing with your instrument there. You've only got one set of these, and there's no replacement, so you'd better look after them. But they're pretty strong stuff, if you do the right stuff."
On whether he studies other vocalists, and not just rock and heavy metal singers:
Dickinson: "I like other singers — I mean, not just heavy metal singers and rock singers. I like listening to people's voices. And sometimes you hear voices and you think, 'Ah, that's a really nice way that that person is using their voice,' or obviously they have a real talent with a particular piece of their vocal register.
"I've kind of got my own style now, in a way. So I'm sort of investigating what I can do with my voice. And my voice changes as well as it gets older. And I still try and do the stuff that I was doing when I was 23. But I can do stuff now that I couldn't do when I was 23. So I'm looking at ways of how can I do some different things with my voice? How can I introduce different tones? As I get older, it's quite nice, really, having that sort of stuff to be able to do with your voice; it gets fatter and a little bit deeper."
On whether there is anything he has learned on stage or from writing and performing music that he has applied to the entrepreneurial side of his life:
Dickinson: "Well, the one thing I know is that you don't get anything done without having a vision, having a sense of vision and purpose. And thinking the big picture. Thinking, 'Yeah, we're only a little band from East London today, but one day we're gonna be huge.' Now I didn't realize quite how big we were gonna get. I didn't know we were gonna be still here doing this stuff now. But I think, in an entrepreneurial sense, you have to have that same belief in yourself or whatever it is you're trying to do, and you have to be able to think way beyond where you are right now. And it might work, and it might not. But you have to have that drive. And if it fails, you have to just get up and start again."
On whether he applies his business way of thinking — "start with something interesting, follow the trail and see what happens" — to writing songs:
Dickinson: "Yeah, that's how I write songs. That's exactly how I write songs. When I start writing a song, or have an idea, I have no idea how it's gonna end up. I just think, 'That's interesting. I wonder what happens next.' And what happens next, or maybe what happens after that, might change the whole thing completely. But you just have to be open to ideas and open to… I mean, when I started writing a film script once, we were writing away and I did two years' work. And we tore it all up and started again, because we didn't have the mudget — that's 'money' and 'budget' put together — to make the kind of film that I'd been writing, because we couldn't afford to do [a] period [piece set in] the 1930s. But because we couldn't afford to do 1930s, we had to make the film now. So what that meant is we had to bring one of the characters back from the dead. And I went, 'Hey, that's a good story. That's a better story than the original story.' Now, the only reason we started with that story was because we couldn't afford to make the original one. So it's not always a brilliant idea that causes a better idea. Sometimes it's just, 'Hey, buddy, you can't afford it.' Look at all the guys that make albums or movies that are terrible — hundreds of millions of dollars spent on a film and it's bullshit. And yet somebody who has no money at all goes and makes a fantastic film for, like, no money. Why? Because they've got no money. And they have to make a great movie 'cause they've got no money. So just having resources is no guarantee that it's going to work."
On his recipe for managing so many different aspects of his life — being in a huge rock band, flying airplanes, fencing for a national team, making a film, writing books and being a businessman:
Dickinson: "Well, there isn't one. I wish that I could say it was all planned. I've always gone with the philosophy — and it's gotten me into trouble, because sometimes I try to do too many things — but I'd rather be doing too many things and having an interesting life than be super-successful and bored out of my mind. And I find that doing something new or something interesting in one area gives new life and invigorates everything else you do in your life. There's nobody more interesting to talk to than somebody that is really happy and enthusiastic and full of ideas. When somebody like that walks into a room, the room lights up. It doesn't matter how successful they are, but they are just full of positive kind of energy, and that communicates across a whole group of people, across everything. So the more people do stuff like this, the more people think, 'Yeah, I've got an idea and I'm gonna try to do something about it.' The more people think like that, the whole world gets to be a better place."
On whether music is his main passion nowadays:
Dickinson: "Oh, I've several main passions; I've got lots of main passions. I don't know whether it's beer or whether it's music, but they're related, because they both get me into trouble. I imagine I'm probably quite a passionate bloke, because I feel very passionate about a lot of things. And music, certainly, is something that still moves me. I find it amazing I'm still here. I mean, literally both physically… Because so many people I know are not here — people much younger than me who've been doing this whole music thing and died or crashed in cars or died of awful diseases and things like that. We're all still here, and we're really kicking it, and we're really getting an amazing young audience, and inspiring people, and anytime you're inspiring people, it's something that turns me on."