Metal Edge magazine recently conducted an interview with IRON MAIDEN frontman Bruce Dickinson. An excerpt from the chat follows:
Metal Edge: In past discussions, you've expressed a strong distaste for "greatest hits" tours. Yet now you're doing another one on Ozzfest. Why do you have such an issue with them?
Bruce Dickinson: "'Greatest-hits' tours are very seductive things, but what annoys me is, when we do the 'hits' tour in Europe, it's got a different perception. When you do the 'hits' tour here [in the U.S.], the audience is smug, and there's a sense of self-satisfaction, like, 'We got what we wanted…' In Europe, there's a sense of celebration, an ecstasy that goes with it. If I'm looking at an audience that is self-satisfied and happy and fat, and getting what it wants and isn't prepared to get off its ass, what am I? A cabaret? Am I dancing bear that just performs in little circles and they clap? I cannot exist for longer than about five minutes like that. Every now and again I don't have any objections to it, but if it becomes a regular thing, that's not why I got involved. I got involved to become a creative artist. I know human nature, and I accept that people like to hear songs that they know, but not withstanding all that, seeing people who are spiritually dead, applauding not because you did a great version of a song, but only because they're familiar with it, is soul destroying. For all of us in MAIDEN, we put so much into the performance… We're actually better, and more effective, now, physically, than we were when we were 25. When we were 25, we were young, dumb and stupid, drunk all the time and hung over. We appreciate what we can and can't do now, and we feel like we owe it to ourselves to give people 100 percent of our heart and soul. When it's the audiences that are apparently just there for the ride, for a while it's disappointment, then it just turns to anger. Why are we doing this to ourselves when the people apparently don't care? They want to see some pastiche shit, and they don't seem to understand that this is our life!"
Metal Edge: That's America, though. This country doesn't want a challenge, they want to be spoon-fed.
Bruce Dickinson: "I understand that's America, but we don't have to tolerate it. It's not a question of being childish and trying to punish them, but if people don't understand what we really do, why do we beat ourselves up by coming here to do it, only to torture ourselves? Because you need the money? We are permanently astonished, in the band, by the different reactions throughout the country, and we can't make any sense of the whole pervasive influence of corporate U.S.A. When you can talk to kids, one on one, it's a completely different than when you get 6,000 of them together. I don't know how we're going to approach America in the future…"
Metal Edge: Does it bother you that people are so driven by the hits that they don't give new material a fair shot?
Bruce Dickinson: "We're very philosophical about it, because we're very aware… Going back to the earliest days of IRON MAIDEN, our first label said we'd never happen in the States, because we were too aggressive, and too out of left field. This was even before I was in the band. Then when we had 'Number of the Beast', people thought we'd convert to TWISTED SISTER and be a flavor of the month. In reality, though, we have more in common with the GRATEFUL DEAD — that's more of who we are. A GRATEFUL DEAD now would be impossible in the United States. The closest you'll get is PEARL JAM, or maybe NEIL YOUNG. We're going to do what we do, which is what we have done. Europe, South America, they've embraced MAIDEN, and to a certain extent, it's unbelievable how the fifteen-, sixteen-year-old kids continue to embrace us there. Where in America we headline a 6,000-seat [venue], in Europe we'll headline a 50,000-seat stadium. For example, French Canada is such an amazing market for us, we deliberately go back there and return the favor. But if people think they just want to see a rock version of 'David Letterman', why should we go there? The money is irrelevant. We can make more money with a two-month hits tour in America than we can touring Japan and Europe. Yes, it's about making a living, but it's about making a living with dignity. Do we really need to go down on bended knee to people that don't care that much about the band? I hate Walmart, and I hate the corporatization of everything in America. I despise it. People need to have their minds made up for them, at this moment, and they need to liberate themselves from that. It drives me nuts… And it's not just America."
Bruce Dickinson's entire interview with Metal Edge is available in the magazine's September 2005 issue, out on the stands now.