Ben Wener of The Orange County Register recently conducted an interview with IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson. A few excerpts from the chat follow.
Orange County Register: How would you characterize metal now?
Bruce Dickinson: It's kinda come full circle. Except, of course, that now more than ever the audience own the music, because of the Internet and downloads and things like that. Audiences have such a choice now. But because of that, it's really heartening when you see your ticket sales going through the roof. And with no radio advertising, no TV we don't even have a record out. Well, we do now
Orange County Register: But it's a greatest-hits record ("Somewhere Back in Time: The Best of 1980-1989").
Bruce Dickinson: Yeah, and it's designed completely designed to capitalize on people that are new to the band, who need some kind of reference to know what to dip into first. In effect, what we're looking at is a global phenomenon that is caused by word-of-mouth, and it's pretty unprecedented.
Orange County Register: It does seem that way. When I saw you at the Forum, I noticed the crowd was astonishingly young. To see 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids other bands who have been around as long or longer than you don't draw like that. What accounts for it?
Bruce Dickinson: The heartening thing is that it's happening in America now. This is what's been going on in Canada for ages, and it's what we expect in Europe and South America. When we go into a country and 45,000 people show up in Colombia, 30,000 in Costa Rica we don't even have a record company in Costa Rica. These are not old, die-hard fans. These are people who are seeing us for the first time.
And a lot of them are very, very young, which is great, because with all respect to old rockers, they don't put out like 16-year-old kids. You know, they sit there and nod their heads sagely and ruminate and they enjoy it for sure. But they don't really start leaping up and down and head-banging and taking their clothes off and sweating buckets. They'd end up in hospital.
But with kids and us it's like feeding the hurricane. You need those warmer-temperature waters to keep the hurricane fed. We get our energy from the audience, and we fire it right back at them.
Orange County Register: Some of why you're so popular with younger listeners must have something to do with older brothers and even parents handing down records. But I think a lot of it also has to do with metal now bearing so much of your influence.
Bruce Dickinson: Yeah, I think a lot of the bands that are around now will all name-check us as being a major influence. Because, you know, we went out and we did things our own way. We went, "Screw the Establishment, we don't care about radio, we just want to rock the way we want to do it."
Orange County Register: You continue to do that.
Bruce Dickinson: Exactly. But the thing I'm really proud of is that the stuff we've been doing really stands up to scrutiny. So many of the bands now the young bands coming up are much heavier than we are. We don't have a problem with that we're not gonna try to out-heavy them or anything else like that. We just do what we do.
Orange County Register: Yeah, but you outsing the majority of them. I think there's good new metal, fine, but there's also just a lot of growling and screaming now.
Bruce Dickinson: Look, I'm not gonna diss people's choices. People choose to sing that way, and audiences choose to buy it. They enjoy it. My son is in a band, and he's a singer, and his vocals they're screaming-growling stuff and he's got a pretty reasonable voice. Yet he practices really hard to get the screaming-growling thing without losing that voice every five minutes. So I'm, like, "Hats off to you." And then I go along to see him at gigs, and I'm like, "OK, I get this." It's not how I would sing it. But I get it, within the terms of reference.
At the same time, all the kids in his band are really into MAIDEN. They love it because of what it represents and its heritage, but also because of what we do right now. So many of these kids who are into the band now have gotten into us during the last five years. Effectively, that means that they've been listening not only to our heritage albums if even that but to the new stuff we've been putting out.
Orange County Register: Perhaps, but they must be hoping to recapture some part of your past, too.
Bruce Dickinson: Oh, one of the main reasons this tour has seized young people's attentions in particular is that they have no idea what it was like when MAIDEN played "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" back then but they would have given their eyeteeth to have been there.
And now we're offering them that opportunity. Not by doing kind of a pastiche or facsimile of the World Slavery Tour. But we are bringing those songs back to life with more experience than we did in 1984. Everything in 1984 sounded like we were really in a hurry to get to the end, 'cause we were just excited, and still pretty young. We'd come on stage and play everything at twice the speed.
Now, as we've gone down the slippery slope of doing this for umpteen years, we have the confidence to give our songs the power they really deserve. A lot of bands along the way lose the excitement level, 'cause they've been doing it for years. So they get really good at delivering music that kids are gonna look upon and go, "Yeah, but they look kinda bored." (Laughs.)
Orange County Register: You look anything but bored.
Bruce Dickinson: We figured this out a while back. How do we stop this happening to us? 'Cause all of us would be really disappointed with ourselves if that happened. And we thought, well, don't play too much. Treat this as a huge privilege. Treat it like when kids get together and they're in a band, and they've got their first three or four gigs each gig is just like the first time you do a world tour, 'cause it's so exciting.
So to keep that excitement, we just, you know, play a bit less. And we leave gaps in between. That gives us time to recover physically, but more importantly, mentally. It keeps that excitement level there.
Orange County Register: That also helps keep a mystique going.
Bruce Dickinson: Of course, once you go out, like when we did the initial part of the tour and we played in L.A. and we played in New York I mean, you could tell the sort of seismic ripples that went through on the Internet after we played L.A. That went all the way through North America. Kids were e-mailing going, "God, you should have seen it, it was awesome, they were fantastic." The business on this tour we've never done business like this for years and years and years in North America. It's really, really cool.
Read more from The Orange County Register.
IRON MAIDEN performing live in Porto Alegre, Brazil on March 5, 2008: