Bruce Dickinson of Iron MaidenIron Maiden is still on the road
By Naughty Mickie

“The Books of Souls,” Iron Maiden’s 16th studio album, was already in the works when lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his tongue. The effort was put on hold while he recovered from treatment and in May 2015 Dickinson was given the all-clear, so the album was released in September and the tour was set for 2016, allowing him time to recuperate. 

In late June Maiden, Dickinson, guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain, were working their way through Texas towards Southern California. Murray took a few minutes to chat with us and remind everyone why and how they continue to rock us after four decades.

DB: How, after 40 years and numerous albums and tours, do you keep things fresh?

 DM: I think mainly playing the new stuff keeps it fresh and it keeps you on your toes and that way you’ve got a new stage set. And probably the adrenaline of getting up and playing, that in itself, the adrenaline rush of playing and the audience’s reaction and that interaction with the band. It’s still a lot of fun. When you’re doing something you love doing - it’s been fantastic even after all this time - but obviously seeing the kids’ reaction that gives it a big lift. They’re singing along to the new songs and the old songs obviously as well. Basically it’s just pure adrenaline and enthusiasm for playing music. I think everybody on the planet pretty much likes music, what kind of music you like it doesn’t really matter, but there’s something there, some kind of emotional content that awakens something in you that makes you feel good.

DB: Tell me about "The Book of Souls."

DM: It’s got the Iron Maiden kind of identity with the way the band plays together. The songs always drive a new album and it’s got the same characteristics, if you put it on, you go, "Yeah, that’s Iron Maiden." I think that’s kept the identity of the band, that’s one of our strengths.

We like to keep exploring. There’s so much stuff to do with the band, a lot of time changes and the melodies, the themes of the songs, we’ve written about everything that’s been out there in reality and unreality, fiction and nonfiction. So you go in and it’s always great fun recording an album, it’s a bit more focused and everything’s under the magnifying glass, but I think if - after we’ve done 16 studio albums now - you begin to find there can be similar answers in just the style of playing, but you’ve got the different melodies and the different songs and the different hooks.

DB: The song, "Empire of Clouds," clocks in at 18 minutes, might that be a little too long for today's audiences?

DM: When the band started we were pre-internet, pre-cell phones, pre-computers, we would make albums and they would come out on vinyl, then it was CDS and cassettes. Funny, everybody is starting to buy vinyl now, everything’s gone retro because there’s a quality there and the warmth of a vinyl. They’ve become really more popular now, everyone’s going back to the vinyl and that’s a really good thing. We started off that way and with the Internet now everything’s out there, there’s no secret for anybody any more.

Now we just stick to our guns. Songs on the album, like "Red and Black," they’re playing and that’s about 13-14 minutes, but there’s a lot of stuff going on there and it gets a really great reaction... Because of the internet everybody wants everything yesterday, I think we’ve been able to step aside of that and been able to absorb and do what we want. We’ve never sold out to what we thought, we just played to our hearts and what we liked playing and the fans come along and join us as opposed to the other way round. I think in the car, we’ve got traffic now and driving everywhere takes hours right? A lot of people listen to music in their car, so you’ve got enough time to absorb a 14-minute song, definitely. That’s like two traffic lights. (laughs)

Dave Murray of Iron MaidenDB: The last time we spoke we chatting about music and the internet and you weren't happy about free downloads, what do you think of the internet and music today?

DM: It’s inevitible now, you can listen to every song by every artist in the world for free if you so wish. Everything now is out there. Once again we started pre that and a lot of bands they can record an album at home, release it and upload it to YouTube and everything. It’s great for new bands, but in a way it could be tough because there’s too much information, whereas way back you had to hunt it down.

There’s not a lot you can do about it, you just get on with it and that’s why we’re touring and putting on live shows and we’ve continued to make albums anyway. There’s been a few bands where their albums have been put on YouTube even before they were released, somebody leaked it. It’s like the movies. It’s going to get out there eventually and there’s nothing you can do about it so you just live with it. The fans, if they want the album of the band, especially with the artwork, you go out and buy the album. Especially like "The Book of Souls," there’s a gatefold and a lot of information, you get the big picture. It’s like a book and you have the beginning and end and all that’s going on there, whereas you can randomly pick out songs on the internet and get them for free. We’ll just keep on doing our thing and I think the fans, if they want to buy it, they will and if not, so be it.

DB: What one think would you like to do that you haven't?

DM: If it was to finish tomorrow I think I could say quite honestly that I’ve been very happy and very lucky and done everything, enjoyed most of it, because of all the places we’ve traveled to, you’d never go there. We’re lucky enough in that respect to see the world several times over by being on tour. That itself has been a brilliant experience, the amount of places. You can Google it, (laughs) that information is all out there, probably everywhere we’ve ever been. That in itself has been a great experience and also playing music and being able to express ourselves in a melodic form, an aggressive form and just have fun with that. The future, there’s still things to do so you just keep inventing new things all the time, try to create new things every day. Trying to get up in the morning and create a new day.

DB: What's next? Are you planning to retire yet?

DM: We’re not stopping after this tour, this isn’t the last tour by any means. We’re going to finish this one out, which we’re having a lot of fun, and then we’re going to take some time off and next year there’s going to be some surprises. This is definitely not the last tour and we’ve got some nice things coming up for next year that’s going to be a lot of fun.

Find out when Iron Maiden is coming to your town and check out their new album at www.ironmaiden.com

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