MusicMirror.net recently conducted an interview with IRON MAIDEN frontman Bruce Dickinson. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
On the new IRON MAIDEN album, "A Matter of Life and Death":
"I think this is one of the finest MAIDEN albums we've ever done. I'm really proud of it. I think, sound-wise, it's probably the best album we've ever recorded. Obviously I'm a huge fan of Martin Birch and his work with us, but… you know, I think this is just a great-sounding record, and I don't think we've done as good as this, ever.
On why the new album is the best-sounding LP so far:
"I can't think of one other than that the sun and the moon and the planets were in the right place."
On how the new album compares to the previous CD:
"I think you could look at 'Dance of Death' as being a kind of preparation, stepping stone, if you like, towards this album. But I think this album has so much more than 'Dance of Death', and actually more than almost any other IRON MAIDEN record. Other IRON MAIDEN records up until this moment… there's a depth to some of the songs and there's depth of feeling to some of the lyrics on this album that I don't think we've managed to achieve for a long, long time. We've tried with other records, but this one, it's just… I mean, if you listen to a song like, say, 'Out of the Shadows', there's nothing about that song which sounds like we were making an effort to sound like that; it just sounds natural, and it's clear and natural. And so much of the album sounds like that. When it's getting complicated, it doesn't get out of control — it keeps the power. The intros, they are 'folkey', but without being kind of embarrassing. Everything is just pitched in the right place, and it's very rare that that happens. And it all happened very quickly."
On the songwriting and recording process for "A Matter of Life and Death":
"Well, it was three weeks to write it, three weeks to rehearse it, and three weeks to record it. The very shortest time was, actually, 'Number of the Beast', but we rehearsed this faster than any other album. I mean, we spent 15 days rehearsing it, we spent 15 days recording it, and then we spent an additional 15-20 days doing some overdubs and mixing. But to learn this album in 15 days and then go straight into the studio and play it live is incredible. I mean, for Nicko [McBrain, drums] alone to learn all the drum parts and then go and play them one by one and get it all done in 15 days is outstanding."
"We wrote some of the songs and everyone went away and had a think about their own parts individually and then we went into rehearsals. Every day we'd start with a rough tape and at the end of the day we had a song — written, run through, maybe some of the words finished, maybe not finished all the words, but we had the melodies and the arrangement. And then the next day we did a different song. So yeah, we rehearsed, learned each song, and then by the time we got to the end of three weeks, we just managed to learn all the songs, just managed to get through every song, and then we'd sort of forgotten the first one. But we had it on tape, so we went straight into the studio the first day, and went, 'Hey, let's listen to the tape. OK, it's coming back now.' Play it two or three times. Right, start recording. And that's how we recorded the album — each song at a time."
On the lyrical topics covered on the new album:
"It's not a concept album. But it doesn't mean that some of the subjects in the album aren't related — they are related, but they're related by the fact that we live in the world that we live in, and so, yes, there's a lot of songs about war, there's a lot of songs about religion, and things of that nature, because when we look at the world outside us, that's what's going on at the moment — there's lots of fear and paranoia about life and death and religion and war and things like that. So a lot of the album is about that."
"I think 'The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg' is gonna be the track we release, and if people say, 'Well, it's not a single,' we say, 'Well, we don't give a fuck.' 'Cause we wanna release something which is representative of the album, and that track, the first track ['Different World'], is really the odd man out of the album. It's the most normal sounding track on the album — probably my least favorite track on the album — so I think 'Benjamin Breeg' is such a great track — it's so heavy. What matters is what rock fans get when they listen to the track. We don't wanna appeal to… There's no point in playing to pop people, and expecting they'll buy an IRON MAIDEN album. Why bother? We're just going for the rock audience, because that's who our people are."
On how the IRON MAIDEN's sound has progressed since he rejoined the group:
"When I came back to MAIDEN, I was a very different singer to the guy that I was when I left. Having worked with a lot of different musicians, having done solo records — in particular, 'The Chemical Wedding' — I really expanded my range, not just vocally, but in terms of songwriting, and I brought that back, I think, into MAIDEN, and each album, I think, we've been moving towards really interesting territory. And I'm so pleased with this one. 'Brave New World' was good as far as it went. It didn't step into any really, really new territory. And then 'Dance of Death', yup, we tried a few things on 'Dance of Death' — some of them worked, some of them didn't work quite so good, but you know what? It gave us the confidence to do this album, and this album, I think, is really special. I think a lot of people are going to be, when they hear it, it's gonna take them a few weeks to get their heads around it. But that's all gonna be good."
On how the breaks between tours and recording sessions affect his passion for singing:
"The more I stay away from singing all the time, the more interest that I have when I sing. I'm one of these guys that if I do something absolutely every single day, I get bored very, very quickly. So to have a nice three- or four-month break from singing and then to go back to singing is to rediscover it every time, and I love that. The same with touring — to go on tour for two or three months is fantastic; it's like taking a holiday that you get paid for. But if you tour for much longer than that, I'm like, 'Oh, God. This is… I'm kind of bored now.' So it's just great to be able to create a record, to not be tired and bored while you're doing it, to make it, have fun, and then to go and tour it, it's great. It's a lovely, creative period."
On whether the recently issued "Anthology" set was his final solo release:
"No, absolutely not. I think the record company would be very disappointed 'cause they just signed a contract for another three records. [Laughs] The reason why we put the 'Anthology' out — the 'Anthology' was supposed to come out two years ago, but we kept putting it back because the MAIDEN thing came out, then 'Tyranny of Souls', and so this seems like a perfect time to put it out. It's a very interesting anthology — I mean, it's great value; it's nearly four hours of stuff. But I'm involved in a movie project which I am the writer of, and it appears that we might be involved in a movie in January. And so, if that happens, I will be doing the soundtracks, so, of course, there will have to be a solo album."
On whether he has a problem with former IRON MAIDEN singer Paul Di'Anno making a career out of singing MAIDEN songs:
"I'm not going to try and… I'm not going to annoy anybody by saying anything bad about Paul. He's trying to make a living like anybody else the best way he can, which is by singing, so good luck to him. People know the difference between Paul Di'Anno doing IRON MAIDEN stuff and IRON MAIDEN with me — it's not like he's pretending to be IRON MAIDEN or anything else like that, so I don't feel… I don't have any problem with him doing whatever he's doing."
On MAIDEN's future plans:
"2008 will be the big — probably the biggest — IRON MAIDEN festival tour that ever has been, and it will be the 'Powerslave' set. Whether or not we play all the same songs — because it will be the songs from the next four albums — but the actual stage set we're gonna rebuild, maybe even a bit bigger."
MusicMirror.net's entire interview with Bruce Dickinson can be downloaded as an 18-minute audio file at this location.