Iron Maiden got its first real push forward with the song Prowler.
Prowler is a very special song for us. When we made the Soundhouse Tapes we took
the actual tape to Neal Kay who was a d.j. in north London. He used to have a heavy metal
chart which was compiled from record requests and printed in the music magazine "Sounds".
Prowler got to be number one just from the requests for the demo tape. That's why we had
the tape made into a record, because so many kids were asking us how they could get hold
of the demo tapes.
Is there a big difference between the version on the record and the original on the tape?
Oh yeah, there's quite a difference. The Soundhouse Tapes were the very first thing
we recorded. It was just a demo. It only cost us about $400 to make the whole thing.
It really wasn't great quality.
Was Prowler composed in pieces and put together?
That's pretty much the style of a lot of our songs.
Are parts conceived for a specific song or could you possibly
switch sections with other songs?
A lot of songs were written in different sections that could possibly have been used in other songs.
Remember Tomorrow also has one of your favorite devices.
I'm thinking of the slow start that builds up.
That song is an old stage favorite. The crowd's used to really be into that one.
Paul Di'anno wrote the lyrics to it. I wrote the music. Actually I played him the parts
I had and he worked it out. There's a lot of feeling in that song. Mind you I think
any song should be filled with feeling. But on the slow parts of this one I think
there is that extra measure.
Running Free also has a signature with the bass riff up front.
I think the songs sound a bit different because they are written on the bass.
Do you start with a melody and fill in with the chords?
It depends on the song. Some I write with a main bass riff and work out the melody
on top of it. Some songs begin with a strong melody line and I work out the music
behind it. I pretty much work everything out on the bass, the actual riffs and the harmonies.
Running Free came together when I put a riff to the main drum beat by Doug Sampson.
He was the drummer on the Soundhouse Tapes.
The harmony riffs sound very structured and almost classical.
Sometimes maybe. Mainly they are little melodies which have harmonies put to them.
The part in the middle I worked up from a bunch of bits I wrote.
It's certainly not based on the blues.
I was never really into the blues. Dave (Murray) is into the blues. I was into blues influenced bands like Free.
There's no improv in this song.
We thought we'd try and do something a bit different. Most songs have a guitar solo
in the middle. We've always tried to do things a little differently. We thought instead
of a guitar solo we'd have a guitar break which would consist of guitar runs and harmonies.
Next up is Phantom of the Opera.
That's a very long song that was done in sections. The middle part was totally separate
but it fit in very well. It felt right to go from the slow part into the middle section.
The initial idea on this one was to have Iyrics. It originally had a melody line for the vocal,
but when we played it, it sounded so good as na instrumental that we never bothered
to write lyrics for it.
It's one of the only sort of slow songs we've done. But it's got a lot of feeling.
It used to be a stage favorite. Dave really enjoyed playing the solo in this one.
We may bring it back in the future.
Santuary is a straight ahead rock and roller.
It was released as a single in England, but it wasn't on the British album. It was done
at the same time as the first album, but we didn't release a single in the states, so we
thought we'd add an extra track on the album. It's a rockin' number. We still play it.
Next up is the famous Charlotte the Harlot.
That's really Dave's song. I would have been proud to say that I'd written it. I like playing it
live because it was something a bit different than I would write.
As long as I can remember we've closed our set with this song. It's quite simple.
The bass line is fairly straight forward as is the drumming. But the guitar is over
the top with harmony, and the bass is descending behind it. I think this makes it
In parts it almost sounded like a Chris Squire line.
I take that as a compliment because he's one of my favorite bass players.
What would you point to as the highlights of the first album?
I'd say Phantom of the Opera and Iron Maiden. Phantom is one of the best pieces
I've ever written, and certainly one of the most enjoyable to play. It's got all of these
intricate guitar lines which keep it interesting. Then there's that slow middle part
which creates quite a good mood. It's also got the fast heavy parts which are really rockin'.
And it's also got areas for crowd participation. It pretty much covers all the bases for the band.
It was also a good example of what I wanted to get across.
The second album, Killers, begins with the instrumental intro, Ides of March.
We used to play that through the P.A. before we went on. Then we went right into Wrathchild.
Wrathchild was originally recorded on an album called Metal for Muthas along with Sanctuary.
That was before we had a record contract. The version on this record is pretty different. A lot
of people asked us why we didn't put it on the first album. But we felt because it was on
Metal for Muthas we didn't want to put it on the first album. By the time we did Killers
we weren't happy with that version so we wanted to record it properly.
That's the first song you've done with guitar fills around the vocals.
That was from Adrian. Originally they weren't there, but when Adrian joined the band he decided to put them in.
Murders in the Rue Morgue has some harmonics on the bass. That's a twist.
That was a bit of an experiment. I'd never played harmonics on the bass much before that.
But with the mood of the intro, it felt really natural to play those harmonics. We wanted to create
a mood and then come in and hit people across the head with it. The vocal melody is pretty much
the same as the riff. That's to give them both more power.
I really enjoy the harmony parts on this one, and the intro fills by Dave were really good.
Genghis Khan is the second instrumental on Killers. The sharp break
in the B section is like shifting gears without a clutch.
That freaked out our producer as well. It was sort of a change at right angles. We really liked
that element of surprise. This was another song where there could have been a vocal melody
on top, but it felt good as an instrumental. A vocal would have cluttered it up. Originally it was
written to depict the feeling and sound of Genghis Khan's army going into battle.
Again there are no solos.
It wasn't a conscious thing, but it worked out that way. It felt better not to have any guitar solos on this track.
Innocent Exile has another one of those intros which have nothing to do
with the body of the song.
That was one of the very first Iron Maiden songs. It was an old stage favourite, but
we haven't played it in a while. That opening bass riff was originally played on the guitar.
It was written on the bass for the guitar. The bass was originally playing crashing chords
behind it. Then we switched it around.
That's a song we still do live. Now we bring it down to a beat and get crowd participation
with a sing-a-long. We recorded it live as a B side for one of the British singles.
The slow section in there is one of Dave's blues things. The different parts in this song
really flowed together. It wasn't a song that was done in separate sections. On this one
I pretty much knew what I wanted.
Killers has a bass intro with a lot of dynamics. Then it breaks into
heavy rock that pushes like a train.
Paul wrote the lyrics to that one. It felt really natural for him to scream at the start of the song.
Some people may be wonder about this one if they have a copy of our video. We did a half hour
video about three years ago, before the album came out. The lyrics on the video are totally
different than what came out on the album. We weren't happy with them, but they exist in
their original form on that video.
That was a single in England that wasn't on the British album. We put it on as
an extra track over here. Dave came up with the riff for this one. I wrote the melody
line and the lyrics. But the main riff was Dave's.
That 's quite an old song. In a slightly different form it was originally called Floating.
Then we changed the lyrics and a couple of bits in the middle section.
Do you have any bright moments on the Killers?
The title cut and Murders in the Rue Morgue. The first album really sounded like a first album.
With Killers we started to sound more like Maiden. It was the first album where we felt some
satisfaction as far as the sound of the album. Those two songs stand out because they are
great live favourites.
That brings us to The Number of the Beast.
Invaders felt like a great rock 'n' roll opener. Funny enough we've never played it live.
This song was an extension of another song called Invasion, which was the B side
of the single Women in Uniform. It's like an invasion of Britain.
Children of the Damned is next on the album. It's based on the film of the same name.
The mood was sort of like Remember Tomorrow.
What's the story behind 22, Acacia Avenue?
It's an extension of Charlotte the Harlot. This is where she's living in London's East End.
Is there a real Charlotte?
Sort of. We should have mentioned the Prisoner before 22. The opening for that song
is from the actual Prisoner TV series with Patrick McGoohan. Adrian took the solo on
that one and it's one of his favorites. It's a very strong live number, although we don't play it
in the set now.
Side two opens with the title track, inspired in part by the movie Omen II.
Basically that song is about a dream. It's not about Devil worship.
It builds nicely to a great scream.
The idea was to get a blood curdling scream like the one on Won't Get Fooled Again. It worked quite well.
Run to the Hills was a single wasn't it?
In England. This song is about the American Indians. It's written from both sides of the picture.
The first part is from the site of the Indians. The second part is from the side of the soldiers.
I wanted to try and get the feeling of galloping horses. But when you play this one, be carefuI
not to let it run away with you.
That's by Adrian and Clive. The intro is very much a drum thing which Clive got together.
It's probably a bit jazz influenced and a bit different than things we'd done before. But the
basic riff is very much a rocker. It's a very good song, but one we've never done live.
Hallowed be Thy Name.
That's one of my favourite songs and still one we play live. We're trying to create a mood
with the build up of the song. The classical guitar-like opening was Dave building the mood,
with bells in the background. It's about someone with only a few hours left to live.
In concert the end part of this one takes off. Dave takes the first solo and then Adrian.
And highlights on The Number of the Beast?
Hallowed be Thy Name, 22, Acacia Avenue and the title tune.
The opening number on Piece of Mind is Where Eagles Dare.
Was that taken from the movie title?
There's an instrumental section in there that sounds like a machine gun.
It's supposed to sound like a machine gun. It's not very loud in the mix, but we wanted it
that way so people who listened to it a couple of times would say "what's that?"
That song was done in two takes.
That's Bruce's. To me it's sort of a heavy version of the Wishbone Ash feel.
The end of the intro reminded me of Jethro Tull.
Bruce and myself are very big Tull fans. We recorded Cross Eyed Mary as a B side
for The Trooper single in England. Revelations comes together more live. That tends to be
like that with us. Usually the numbers are better live than on record. That has to do with
the feel of the songs. Most of them were written to be played on the stage. They're not
really for the recording studio.
At the same time you're not really thrilled with your live EP, Maiden Japan.
It was okay for the time.
Flight of Icarus.
It's a really good song but we much prefer it live. We tend to play it a little bit faster live.
Looking back on it now, we feel we could have played it at the faster speed on the album.
This little extra touch gives it a bit more fire. If you're counting solos, this is Dave.
Die with your Boots on.
Adrian and Bruce came up with the main riff. Bruce came up with the Iyrics. I came up
with the chord sequence behind the verse and the cross section that goes into the main chorus.
This is another personal favorite of mine.
And it has more chords than riffs.
Which I suppose might make it strange as to why I really like it that much. It's a very powerful number live.
I get off on the aggression of it.
Which war is the Trooper based on?
The Crimean War with the British against the Russians. The opening is meant to try
and recreate the galloping horses in the charge of the light brigade. It's an atmospheric song.
Can you tell me the backwards message that comes at the end of this song?
We put it on so people could find out for themselves. I don't want to say what it says.
Basically it's an answer to the religious freaks for giving us such a hard time on the
Number of the Beast.
What's the story behind Still Life?
It's basically the story of a guy who is drawn like a magnet to a pool of water. He sees faces
in the lake. He has nightmares about it and in the end he jumps in and takes his lady with him.
It's a very enjoyable number to play because there's a lot going on. Again we're creating a mood
and coming in with a very heavy guitar sound. Adrian takes the first solo. After his solo there is
a really tight bass and drums staccato part which goes right across the top of the riff.
I like that part a lot.
Quest for Fire is obviously after the movie of the same name.
Sun and Steel is a bit more obscure in its origin.
Bruce wrote the lyrics to that. It's basically about a Japanese guy who builds himself up
to peak fitness and wants to kill himself hara-kiri style. I think it would be a good live song
but we have never plaved it on stage as of yet.
To Tame a Land makes you out as a fan of the book Dune.
Very much so. This is the best song I've ever written. I was really pleased with Phantom,
but now I have to say this is the best.
Aside from To Tame a Land what other songs stand out on Piece of Mind?
The Trooper and Die with your Boots on. Both are very good live numbers, and in the case
of the Trooper because we managed to capture the right mood for the song.
Iron Maiden (without Nicko McBrain) – 14th August 1983
Interviewed by Kevin Thompson for Artist Magazine
The following interview was recorded in Cleveland Ohio with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith
before the band's World Piece tour and was first published in Artist Magazine, San Francisco.
Bruce, you joined Iron Maiden in September of '81, just after the Killers tour...
Bruce: Yes, it was after Paul Di'Anno had left the band. The rest of the band members
had welcomed me by locking me in a rehearsal studio so I could learn the set, and then we were off
to Italy in October for my first live work with Iron Maiden.
What was the first band you were in?
Bruce: My first excuse for a band was while I was at school. I had a pair of bongos.
We did "Smoke on the Water," and I used to beat the crap out of those bongos because we didn't have
a drum kit. The band realized that the singer couldn't sing, so I got the job (mainly to stop the noise
of the bongos)! We played in each other's bedrooms, annoying our mums and dads.
How did you come about joining Samson?
Bruce: I saw an ad in a local paper wanting a singer for recording.
Together, we put down a song called "Dracula" and called the band Shots. I was then
working as the social secretary at the college, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band was
going to play, so I put Shots down to play, and that's when the guys from Samson
heard me sing.
Which do you prefer, touring or recording?
Dave: I enjoy both, but touring is more fun, and I get off better
when I'm playing to a live audience.
I hear that one of your guitars belonged to Paul Kossof.
How did you come about owning it?
Dave: I bought it from an ad in the papers. [Other than that, I have]
three Fender Stratocasters and an Ibanez Destroyer I picked up on tour.
Which is your favorite guitar?
Adrian: My Les Paul.
And your favorite Maiden song?
Steve: "Phantom of the Opera" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue".
What about non-Maiden tracks?
Steve: "Love to Love" by UFO.
What's the venue you like playing the most?
Steve: Any industrial area in Britain.
It seems that the band doesn't have so much a "sound" –
an "Iron Maiden sound" – but rather a style which has developed as each member
has become more comfortable with his role. On the new album, Piece of Mind, there seems
to be more emphasis from each individual member.
Steve: Well, on the Killers album, Adrian was very new and it really
wasn't until he'd been with the band about a year-and-a-half that he really felt he was
a full member. He always had been, but he never really seemed to accept that it was
happening. [Perhaps] because he went from a local band in the East End to Iron Maiden,
which, even at the time, was quite a big act. It took him quite a while to settle in, and it also
took both he and Dave a long time to get the right guitar sounds. Even on the last tour,
which was the second world tour, they were still changing equipment at various intervals
to get the sound they were looking for... because they're both perfectionists when it comes
to sound. Then, Bruce came in and he really did fine things for the band too. As the tour
progressed last year, we just gelled more and more as a band. And I think on this album,
because Bruce has been with the band awhile and also was very involved with the writing,
he's more relaxed. So the vocal performance is tremendous. He's so quick in the studio
because his ear for pitch is so good; he just gets up there and bang, it retains a great live feel.
The other really big difference is the new drummer, Nicko, because his drumming is some
of the best rock drumming there is. His feel is magic. Nicko toured with us when he played
with the French band Trust in 1981 and '82. So he's been on the road with us. Trust and
Iron Maiden have always been big friends anyway, and personality-wise there was no problem.
He was actually born about a mile and a half from me, and he's just a couple of years older
than I am. His drumming, I think, has given us a different dimension. It's tougher, and his timing
is perfect. He's a total rock drummer; he's got a great feel and he hits it real hard. So the whole
thing's grow up. Every album's improved both in term of production and musicianship. I think
now it's really becoming what Iron Maiden is all about, and we expect it's going to develop even
more from here.
What influence has producer Martin Birch had on Maiden?
Steve: The reason we use Martin is that he puts down the sound
that we want, the way we like it. And we think the first three albums were really leading
up to this one in terms of quality. In general, bands are being given producers that make
the music for them and, in some cases, even co-write it. With Martin, that's not the case
at all and never has been. What Martin has always added with us is his expertise in the studio
and his great ability at recording our sounds. We've only just come to this point in our drum
and guitar sounds, which are exceptional now; it's just a team growing up together.
Martin's also become aware, obviously, with the experience of working with us,
of the way we want to proceed. The suggestions going both ways are very fluid,
so Martin's very much a part of the band in the studio.
With the World Piece tour underway, what's left on the itinerary?
Adrian: After the US, we end up in Canada on October 16,
then we go to France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Yugoslavia.
We're quite willing to keep coming over and touring because it's the touring that we enjoy most.
You can't play 180 concerts a year all around the world unless you really enjoy
the gigging and the travel.
Martin Birch – December 1983
Interviewed by Hervé Picart
Source: Best Magazine (France) – Number 185
The Man in the Vinyl Mask
Behind the albums of Iron Maiden lies hidden all the expertise of a legendary producer:
Martin Birch. As he has worked with Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake and a few other
little bands, Hervé Picart though that it was about time to let him out of the darkness
of the studio.
After being the privileged craftsman of a first generation of British Hard Rock, Martin Birch
is nowadays involved with the second batch, taking in his hands the musical fate of Iron Maiden,
and this will apparently last. Many mentioned "Purple Number 2" when talking
about Maiden because of the style of the lyrics, the intricate and fast melodies, and also because,
coincidence or not, the band had recorded a Made In Japan/Maiden Japan and had
taken on Purple's own producer. As far as Birch is concerned, there is no doubt: both bands have
hardly anything in common, except the quality of their riffs, and both generations of British
Heavy Metal are significantly different.
"At first, I could objectively judge them and I think that they are very different from the
hard rockers of the early seventies. Nowadays, I'm not so sure I can judge them, as we have
become very close friends and I can't do that anymore. The first time I saw them at work,
I was surprised and seduced by their energy and their attitude. I have rarely seen bands
with so much energy. In this way, they reminded me a bit of the early Purple. But their attitude
towards rock is very different, and so is their conception of it. It was said that they were a second
Deep Purple, but I don't agree with this. Obviously, Steve Harris was a Purple fan, but he's
mostly influenced by bands like Jethro Tull, UFO or even Genesis. Nothing to do with Deep Purple.
Of course, in both cases we have a very melodic hard rock, and not just speeded up noise like
with some other bands in heavy metal, but I don't think we can compare any further.
I personally wanted to produce them because it was a way out of the Purple family. There are
in fact many differences. Musically, a band like Iron Maiden is typical of the second generation of
hard rock and stands out from the first one because the band is more consistant, more compact.
They don't fall into easy – and very boring – solutions with 20-minute guitar solos,
then keyboards, then drums, like I experienced with Deep Purple. I think they're more robust,
musically speaking. Another difference is their attitude towards the outside world. They are not
into the 'star-system' and remain very accessible. Success has raised any barriers between
them and the others, press, audience, which wasn't the case before. Moreover, they listen to you,
and they are not convinced right away that they are right. This is why I think that this is my favourite
band to work with, the relationship producer/band is much more constructive. Even within the band,
although Steve Harris is the boss because he founded it and writes most of the songs, there is
a great unity and nobody tries to stand out individually from the team. It's really nice, and mostly
really exciting because their music is full of energy."
What is also noticeable in Maiden's career is that, with each new album, a slight change of line-up
constantly added some improvement to the band:
"It's true that it's a band whose line-up changes quite a lot, which is a good thing in this case,
as each newcomer brings a certain amount of freshness to each album. As Adrian Smith was as new
as I was when I produced Killers, I can't compare with the guitar player he was replacing. But it's
certain that Bruce Dickinson has improved the band as compared with Paul Di'Anno, who was isolated
at the human level and who wasn't very productive. As for Piece Of Mind, the contribution of
Nicko (McBrain) was tremendous. He really is a great drummer.
What is good with Iron Maiden, and that wasn't going to happen with Rainbow for instance,
is that they always explain to me what the reasons are for the departures and arrivals, so I always
remain within the band's logic and I find those changes quite natural. I understand their necessity
because they were necessary. These guys never act on a whim."
This is obviously not Steve Harris's style, this fearsome bass player who leads the pack with so much
lucidity and intelligence. But is he as well a tyrannical leader like Birch has known so many?
"Not at all!" states 'Black Night' "Well, it's obvious that he's the boss,
even if he denies it himself. Iron Maiden, that's him. Moreover, the situation of the band made that,
for a long time, all the song writing was down to him. Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson needed
some time to settle down. As for Dave Murray, who's an excellent guitar player, well he doesn't
write that much. He writes very little and he's very demanding. For Number Of The Beast,
for example, everything was down to Steve. Nowadays, Adrian and Bruce are perfectly comfortable
and they start to write, so there's a better balance. By the way, I think that Piece Of Mind is
by far their best album, and not only because it's the latest release. The fact that we know each other
much better now has improved the quality of our collaboration. In fact, I am now as comfortable with
Iron Maiden as I was in the best moments of Deep Purple, and we've agreed to work together again
for the next album."
So Birch remains faithful to his image of familiar producer, an image that he's the only one to have
in the world of top-notch production.
"It's difficult to explain clearly why," he confesses. "I certainly
think that you can only make the most out of a band if you know it really well, very much in depth.
Occasional producers who make an album with a band, then move on to another, are bound to
do something pretty shallow. The results are always brilliant, excellent at the time, but you realise
later that the true colours of the band don't come out and the album loses quickly its prestige.
I don't consider myself a super-technician, what I do is to me pretty simple, but the fact that I'm
used to the bands I have worked with helps me to know instantly what they want, or even what
they can achieve, even if they don't realise it clearly themselves. Or maybe bands trust me over
long periods of time just because... (laughs)… just because they find me a particularly
In fact, if there is any link between Iron Maiden's devilish music and this quiet and smiling character,
it must be that signing him him is like signing a pact with Satan: it lasts a lifetime. The advantage is,
of course, that you get a hell of a sound!
Bruce Dickinson – December 1983
Interviewed by Philippe Touchard
Source: Enfer Magazine (France) – Number 8
There is a rather hot atmosphere on this Wednesday 16th, in this hotel of the
Champs-Élysées quarter of Paris. The whole Iron Maiden staff just
arrived at the bar and, as the musicians of the Michael Schenker Group are already there,
the discussions are quite loud. With the help of the PR man of Pathé-Marconi, I managed
to corner Bruce Dickinson, looking merry with his cap on and a great smile.
So Bruce, you're doing it again this year. Are you still ready to wreak havoc
like last year?
Oh, yes. I heard there was some kind of trouble in the metro after our gig in the
Pavillon Baltar last year.
You could say that! You got the kids so hyped up that they tried to chase Eddie
down the metro and the seats suffered quite a lot. Well, that's rock'n'roll! (cheers!)
(cheers!) I love Paris, this is the town where we've given our wildest gigs. It's a great city and
that's where we find the craziest audience – the hottest and the funniest, in fact!
It looks like, since you joined the band, Iron Maiden went very quickly
from success to success. How did you become the vocalist of the world's most
popular band (with the infamous Kiss)?
Steve Harris asked me. I already knew Steve before I joined Samson, and the first time
I saw Iron Maiden rehearsing, I was immediately impressed by their music and mostly
by Dave Murray. To me, he was a real "Guitar-Hero" and his playing reminded
me of Ritchie Blackmore's, who's my favourite guitar player. From then on, I was waiting for
somebody to leave so I could replace him, 'cause I was crazy about that band. Then I joined
Samson and, as it happens, we toured with Iron Maiden. I remember that, one night after a gig,
I had a long conversation with Paul Di'Anno. He was asking me for advice, he wanted to know
everything about my vocal technique, 'cause Iron Maiden was really starting to get big. They didn't
have any album out and it was a good opportunity for them to open for Samson.
Then, two years later, we all found ourselves in the same studio. Iron Maiden were recording
Killers at the Battery Studio and Samson were recording Shock Tactics at the
Battery Studio I. So, we all lived together; Clive Burr used to come over often to watch us
record, and I used to go and see Steve and the others.
It's at that time that I realised that problems were starting to happen between Paul and the rest of
What kind of problems?
The same probles as those that occurred with Clive Burr and forced him to leave this year.
In fact, I think that Paul never fully understood what Iron Maiden was really about.
Psychologically or musically speaking?
The problem was both psychological and musical. The music you want to make comes
from your attitude towards a musical concept, so wherever there is creative process, there
is also psychology through subjectivity.
Paul had lost all creative pulsion. When he was singing, it felt as if there was no more conviction,
and he didn't have any critical sense anymore, he was unable to tell wrong from right.
The problem became obvious when they recorded Twilight Zone, it went to the point where
Steve had to tell him how he should sing.
When I record the vocals, I can tell if it's good or not, and if I feel it's not good enough, I do it again
until I think it sounds good, then I ask the others what they think.
In order to do things right, you need to feel this inner fire that pushes you onward and forces you to
do everything as close as possible to perfection.
You have to be proud of what you're doing. You cannot do things right if you have lost your self-confidence
and need to refer systematically to the others, whereas it's not their job.
The last sessions with Paul were really pathetic. He was completely out of it and unable to control
himself. I had to leave 'cause it really pained me to see that! Afterwards, I haven't seen the band. I went
on tour with Samson. Iron Maiden started their European tour for the promotion of the Killers
album, and half of the gigs had to be cancelled because Paul had problems with his voice.
What do you think was the cause for this low point in Iron Maiden's career?
I think that the whole problem was a conceptual problem. You can't afford to play in a band
where you're not happy. You have to have a professional approach, mostly in Iron Maiden
where there are permanent confrontations between strong personnalities. If you don't stand
your ground, you get crushed, and no one can stay in a band if he feels that he's not
fully a part of it. In Iron Maiden, everyone must be able to bring his contribution and his initiative,
if not, you're not really part of the band and you suffer from it, and the others too.
Finally, after the KillersWorld Tour, was getting rid of Paul the only solution?
It was a collective decision. Steve asked me to sing for Iron Maiden. It was at the Reading festival.
Two weeks later, I was rehearsing with them. Then, they went back on the road again to Sweden,
Norway, Holland, with Paul who just left right afterwards. At that time, we started working really hard.
I had to learn all the songs that were already there and I was preparing the Number of the Beast
album. At the end of 1981, we toured Italy, where I familiarised myself with Iron Maiden on stage.
Then we came home to record the album, and we went out again for the European tour. From
August 1981 until August 1982, I've never been so busy in my life. I didn't stop working.
Going back to the making of the Number of the Beast, I've noticed a lot
of progress on this album, as much in the song writing as in the production itself (Note:
don't think I'm brown-nosing, I really mean it!). Can you explain?
The problem with Paul had demoralised the rest of the team and, when I joined, everybody had
to get a grip on themselves in order to re-build Iron Maiden. On stage, they'd lost the fire 'cause
they were worried sick. Paul was not able to front the band like a singer should do on stage, and
Steve was the one to address the audience and to look after everything. But Steve only wants to
concentrate on his bass. He loves playing bass and get off like this, with peace of mind as to
what the band does on stage. So when I joined Iron Maiden, everyone trusted me and this energy
came back. All of them could do their jobs without any worries and this new-found serenity can
be felt on the Number of the Beastalbum, I think.
Would you say that it is a concept-album?
No. To me, a concept-album is in fact the same song throughout the entire album, with different
passages and tonalities. But Number of the Beast is nothing else but a compilation of tracks.
Yes, but there is a certain continuity and many similarities in the songs of the album.
I agree, but this is due to our approach at the time, and we all have more or less the same ideas
concerning the great problems, may they concern society, business, or our attitude to the world.
People often ask me if Piece of Mind is a concept-album, but it isn't. No more than
Number of the Beast. This is due to the fact that we are a real band and we all share the
To me, there was a domineering concept in the Number of the Beast album,
whose highlight was 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'.
We think that 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' is Iron Maiden's best song. Musically, I think it represents
a turning point in Maiden's music. Steve wrote this song as a follow-up to 'Phantom Of The Opera'.
In fact, the writing of this song represents in itself a series of concepts. So we can say that it's a
"concept-song". Concerning the lyrics, the original idea is in line with that of 'Purgatory'
or 'Twilight Zone'. Steve writes a lot of lyrics where several scenes appear one after the other.
Every time, he tries to build up an atmosphere, a bit like a theatrical piece.
That's right, when you listen to 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', it's easy to imagine a film.
What's interesting in Number of the Beast, and mainly in 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', is that the music
Yes, the story is seen through the eyes of someone who is about to be taken to the gallows. At the end,
he sees it differently and, from fear, hope arises because he knows that he will return, hence the reference
to the Bible, "hallowed be thy name".
The lyrics end on the realisation that life is an illusion. What do you think of this?
Well, I don't think that life itself is an illusion, but I think that the way the majority of people look
at their lives is an illusion. I mean, they have the illusion that the life they live was meant for them.
In fact, they don't look far enough and their original plans are warped by the illusion they have of their
So many things happen on this earth, and so many people miss them because they are blinded
Do you think that music can be an eye-opener on the possibilities life offers
and that are ignored?
Maybe, yes. Music can cause a shock inside you and incite you to look beyond your traditional universe.
In Iron Maiden, the context and the way our minds work are so present that they can only be expressed
through violent music.
Our lyrics are also very importants and the spirituality we'd like to get across are in par with the aggression
of our music, because aggression pushes always further the boundaries of understanding, and therefore
the intellectual effort, and therefore the opening of the mind.
Take' Revelations', for instance, on the last album.
That's what I wanted to discuss. How far do you, and the other members of the band,
get involved in all those questions of spirituality and religion that you have developed on the recent
I take a lot of interest in all the religions of the world and the different forms they take,
because I think that all the religions are the mirrors of the various possibilities and
opportunities of life that could benefit mankind without being aware of it. I think that,
at the beginning of our era, man was much more conscious of supernatural phenomena
and that religion has helped to reconcile human nature and paranormal forces.
Well, why not? Although I don't agree.
You don't agree?
No, I think that if there are any such things as supernatural phenomena, they originate
in the power the brain has to influence the environment, without man's consciousness being able to
intervene. So, I also believe that religion has for aim to make people guitly in order to channel these
phenomena and to draw its nature, its essence as a refuge for man who is afraid in front of a mystery,
hence the manipulation of human behaviour.
I agree with you when you say that the power of the brain is much more important than we can imagine.
However, the advent of religion brought some "officialisation" to these phenomena. Before
it reached a level of intense industrial development, society allowed man to become aware of these
supernatural powers, which are after all the basis of the religious discourse. So, if you go back to
pre-medieval societies, man was living in a world of insecurity, where paranormal phenomena
and the awareness of their existence gave him some sense of security, as a counter-balance to
the violence of the environment. Today, every individual lives in a safe world and the brain, as well
as its powers, has no more need to get protection from nature's dangers. So, only religions appear
to incite the lifting of the spirit through a mass-discourse.
And it's no surprise that the great mystics nowadays are all religious. The yogis, the bonzes, the brahmans,
and even the christian monks, all practise meditation in order to control their brains that they use like a
muscle. If a muscle isn't used regularly, it quickly becomes useless. This is what they know and what
the rest of us tend to forget as far as our brain is concerned.
So, you understand my approach. I'm interested in the place of man within the universe, his original
relationship with nature, and this is why I have to study religions, in order to define the fondamental
It looks, however, that your approach has considered more the Jewish/Christian
discourse. 'Number Of The Beast' refers to the Bible and 'Revelations', on the last album, to
Saint John's Apocalypse.
In fact, 'Revelations' has a double meaning. Of course, on the one hand it refers to
the Christian mythology, but on the other hand, you can invert the basic idea and it
becomes something else if you read between the lines. Do you know Aleister Crowley?
Yes, of course. This mystic who was experiencing drugs, sex, and all these
things, in order to make abstraction of his body so he could feel only his mind? I think that
he's also criticised all religions, one by one, in his books, right?
Exactly. As an atheist philosopher, he's written fantastic books. He thought that through
the mind, by concentrating all his energy in his brain, man could influence the course of events.
He denouced religions as deceiving, useless and inviting to passivity. To him, religion was
leading to the death of man's mind. According to Crowley, man has to struggle against nature
to exercise his brain and the powers it possesses in order to attain supreme felicity. I chose
to write 'Revelations' in reference to this theory. Beyond the biblical meaning, there is the
principle of man revealed to himself. So, there's a pun because on the one hand it's linked
to the biblical theory, and on the other hand there is something that religion want to keep quiet.
The first verses of 'Revelations' are taken from an English hymn that we used to sing at school.
The song is in three part. It's pretty complicated!
So it's a 'concept-song', right?
Oh yes, absolutely. So the song is in three parts. The first one is made of the first verses
from this hymn, and I chose it because there is something visionary in these verses. They
were written about a century ago (Note: see text on the cover sleeve of Piece of Mind),
and they describe exactly what's happening nowadays.
A lot of money goes around in our society, and the more money you have, the more miserable
you are, in fact. The last verse, "Take away our pride", is the centre of the whole
mystical universe. The main obstacle to communication and fulfilment is selfishness and
a misplaced self-esteem, and these things divide the men.
The next two verses are a reference to hindu philosophy. "Just a babe in a black abyss"
is an allusion to Aleister Crowley, the word "babe" refers to the human being, and
"black abyss" refers to a desperate world. "No raison for a place like this"
shows the nonsense of man's existence on earth if hope is no more. The second sentence in the
second verse mentions the "secret of the hanged man".
In popular hindu imagery, the hanged man signifies to "good luck". This is why the
hanged man has a "smile on his lips", and this is basically the secret of the hanged
Then, we get to the third verse. The most important sentence is"The venom that tears my
Have you ever heard of the significance of the Hindu snake called "Kundalini" in
the Yogi mythology?
In Yoga, there's a snake called Kundalini who is supposed to live at the bottom of the spine of
each individual. During orgasm or an intense meditation, a spiritual entity called "Samadhi"
is created, symbolising the transcendental union with God. Then the Kundalini is freed and goes up the
spine all the way to the brain, where it releases its venom. The mixing of the venom with the brain
substance create a union with God.
Next verse, "The eyes of the Nile are opening", imply that a whole universe of possibilities
is opening as soon as the venom is released inside of you.
So the snake has a constructive value.
Yes, absolutely. In the Bible, it's a representation of evil, whereas in Hindu philosophy,
it's the symbol of creation and ecstasy.
In the next verse, there's the expression "Serpent' Kiss", something Crowley
discussed in length. Then, there's "The Eye of the Sun". The Sun is the symbol
of the creator; it represents the male side of life. A bit further, there's the female side appearing
in the term "Moonlight", where the Moon represents the woman. The verse goes,
"Moonlight catches silver tears I cry"; and everything's revealed, because silver
is the colour of the Sun. So, you find here the universe, with the male entity and the female entity,
both being inseparable.
In fact, the universe, as seen in this philosophy, is dual, binary, and any notion only exists through its
opposite. In other words, there isn't any manichean separation like in the Christian way of thinking,
where good and evil are dissociated while trying to eliminate evil, only the Christian system of values
is monolithic. All the other great philosophies encompass this duality of notions, like the Ying and the
Yang in China, or the Jewish Caballah. Well, you know, you have to be careful with all these notions
because it's all very complicated.
I suppose that you gather many documents long before you start writing
lyrics like 'Revelations'?
Oh, yes. I have a large library with all the main works concerning human mystic.
Don't you think that it's somehow a shame that the audience doesn't always
understand what you're singing about, as the meaning is apparently only understood by very few?
No, I think that as long as there is some mental energy coming out, there's nothing to regret.
Here, I'm explaining everything in detail, but if only a fraction of the lyrics stands out and touch
some people, then I think I won't have wasted my time. You can't convince everyone because
many notions that are not used are in fact unknown by the majority of people. What's interesting
with this song is that you can take only one verse and you can reconstruct a whole new text,
make a brand-new song.
How, in your everyday life, do you apply this search and this exploration
of the philosophies of the mind?
I read a lot, I listen to people, and I take the time to think and ponder everything I discover in books.
Anyway, I don't practise meditation. I tried, but I never could do it. I think that if I could meditate I'd
certainly feel better.
The thing is, I feel a tremendous happiness and a fulfilling serenity just by being on stage, because
I think this is where I belong, and this is for me the best way to locate myself in spave and time.
I think we all have somewhere where we belong, where we can express ourselves and feel absolute
satisfaction. The hardest part is to find where.
What do you think about the Japanese philosophy that deal with the role of man
I think that this philosophy uses the study of human behaviour in order to rationalise the economical
activity of the society. So, you have four major categories of individuals, all complementary, who
actively participate to the life and evolution of the social group. You have the workers, the artists,
the warriors, and the priests.
Alright, but this compartmentalisation of individuals is based on a religious and
rather elitist vision, as the the leader of traditional Japan, the lord, is closely associated with the
monks and priests.
True, but the organisation of societies has always been related to the natural order, therefore to
the religious doctrine.
What's important is that you have to find your place, the direction of your existence, because it is the
key to fulfilment. In the Japanese doctrine, you can right away find this place in the organisation of
society. Too many people around the world cannot find their way, or don't even look for it, and they
Yes, but don't you think that you're forgetting a problem? How about the level
of economical development of society? From this point of view, it is difficult for many to reconcile
economal survival and mental fulfilment.
OK, there is a material part to cope with, and that's work. But what do many people do after work?
They slump down, they drink, they make love... and when they're 70, they retire and get bored
because they have nothing left to do. And in the end they die of boredom, without leaving a trace.
Others have an inner fire and look for a way all their lives until, maybe, they find their place, a place
that gives them absolute satisfaction. This approach corresponds in fact to the way of creation.
OK. You know a lot of things and you have thought about them, but don't you
consider yourself very privileged to have enough time to work towards your inner fulfilment,
and mostly to have had the chance to get into contact with knowledge, something that many people
cannot do, not necessarily because they don't want to, but because they didn't get the chance?
In fact, this is a massive problem. I think that knowledge is a field large enough for anyone to access it
any which way they want. You have to be "mentally organised", I mean you have to know
whether you want to spend most of your time searching for a particular piece of knowledge, even if it
implies casting aside your material problems, or if you want to earn money quickly and ignore your
mental happiness, in which case you find yourself rapidly sucked in and crushed by the economical
Let's take the simple example of a carpenter who spends his time in his shop making tables and chairs.
He's probably happier in his creative work, watching things appear through his handiwork, than the top
manager of a large company who doesn't create anything and only piles up millions. His happiness
probably comes from the fact that there is the trace of his personality and of his knowledge in what he
Don't you think that little craftsmen, like the carpenter you mentioned, will have
less and less room in our society, where machine is gradually replacing man?
There lays the problem. The educational system raises kids as if, twenty years down the line,
they will have a job and will be profitable. But there will be less and less work opportunities and,
raised according to these economical laws, people will end up with nothing. They won't have
any insurance, either material or intellectual, and they will therefore be unable to give a direction
to their lives.
Can you roughly tell us what's your education?
I was raised in a very traditional system. My grand-parents were miners from the Sheffield area.
My parents sent me early to a private school. They had followed the social evolution of the British
working families. So my parents, who were earning money, had risen from working-class to
become middle-class, and they wanted me to succeed to get to the next level.
I was unhappy at school, I didn't get on well with the others who, to me, were just greedy opportunists.
Eventually, when I was 16, I got kicked out of the school and, as I didn't know what to do, I joined the
Forces for a year. Considering my education, I was supposed to take the exam to become an officer.
But I strongly disliked officers and army men in general, so I went to London and registered at the university
where I studied History for three years. During those three years, I reconsidered everything. It was the first
time in my life that I really felt free. I spent the first year partying with my mates – we were pissed
every night! At the end of that year, I had put on twenty pounds! During that year, I let myself into all sorts
of things: I got into politics with the students, I started playing rock'n'roll, and I tried out all sorts of
substances. Anything coming my way was interesting to me, and I'd get into it systematically!
At the end of that year, I decided it was time to calm down a bit. I looked at myself in the mirror
and I thought, "I have to stop!" No more beer, or I'll end up dead! I managed keep
away for for months, not a drop of beer. In the meantime, I got further involved in rock'n'roll,
playing with one band or another, until I joined Samson, which looked like a robust band.
I thought that rock'n'roll was giving me the best chances to express myself and to create.
And you know the rest.
(At that point, the manager signals that the interview is soon to be over, amazed that we could have
chatted for almost an hour without realising it. Considering that most interviews last for only
15 minutes, I've been really lucky, and I wish to express my gratitude to the PR man,
Denis Leprat, who contributed a lot to the good conditions of this interview.)
One last question, Bruce. What is the meaning of Eddie's trepanation
on the album cover?
It's an allusion to an old Aztec custom. Originally, the idea was to kill Eddie, but we thought that
it was too much. So we trepanated him, like the Aztecs used to do to the sacrifice victims that
they offered to their god. In fact, the album was going to be called Food For Thought,
but we decided that Piece Of Mind was more subtle.
What is Eddie's place in Iron Maiden's imagery?
Look at a band like Kiss, for example, when they had their make-up, what did you see on stage?
Well, you didn't see anything else but four Eddies. They didn't look like musicians anymore, but like
clowns. Nobody cared about their musical abilities because they were hidden by the image they
were giving of themselves. It's the same with Ozzy Osbourne, although Ozzy's music is worth
listening to it! Nobody considers Ozzy like a musician anymore, but like a clown, which is a shame.
So, in order to have this character, this clown, and keep our identity as musicians at the same time,
we created Eddie.
What values does Eddie represent?
He represents neither good nor evil, he's a pantomime. You see in him whatever you want to see.
OK. Bruce, many thanks for the substance and intelligence of the conversation.
P.S.: I have to humbly add that, in seven months of interviews with all sorts of people,
Bruce Dickinson is the only one who managed to teach me something.
Although he is trying to make himself look like a character straight from Quest For Fire,
and the press makes it even worse – pictures with his face covered in tomato ketchup,
or puking spaghetti (Kerrang), or even holdisg a dish with the bloodied remains of some bird
of prey – you need to know that this is pure theatrics. Bruce's intelligence and subtlety
are only equalled by the quality of Steve Harris's bass playing!
Bruce Dickinson – December 1983
Interviewed by Philippe Cuisset
Source: Metal Attack Magazine (France) – Number 3
Since the founding of Iron Maiden, singer Bruce Dickinson's arrival wasn't the least of all changes
of line-up, and those were legions since 1977!
Originally a four-piece, with Dave Murray (guitar), Steve Harris (bass), Doug Sampson (drums)
and singer Paul Mario Day (nowadays with Wildfire after a tenure with More) who was quickly
replaced by Paul Di'Anno, the band rapidly became a five-piece with the arrival of a second
guitarist, Tony Parsons. Because of musical differences, Sampson and Parsons were replaced
by Clive Burr (who has played with Samson) and by Dennis Stratton. After the first album was released,
Stratton – there again because of musical differences – was replaced by Adrian Smith,
who used to play in Evil Ways and Urchin, with a guitarist called... Dave Murray. New album, Killers,
and new line-up change: this time, Di'Anno is replaced, due to problems with his voice, by Bruce Dickinson
(ex-Speed, Shots and... Samson). A new album is released and... here we go, this time the drummer,
Clive Burr, is out and replaced by Nicko McBrain, freshly arrived from Trust. And this is the story
Despite all these changes and an ever growing success, Iron Maiden never strayed away from their
musical line and retained this intense musical power that has been there since the very beginnings.
The American tour has just finished, with bands as varied as Saxon, Coney Hatch, Quiet Riot or Axe.
But the band has never been so united and Bruce Dickinson seemed to be perfectly happy during the
interview he granted me. And he ought to be, as he is the frontman of a band that confirms day after day
that it is at the top of Heavy Metal worldwide.
So, back in London already?
Yes, we just finished the tour and it was really successful. It was the first time that we were headlining
in the States and about 20–25 dates were sold-out, not forgetting a fantastic concert at the
Madison Square Garden in New York, before 18,000 people. But we've been on the road for the
past 18 months, and it's knackering. Moreover, as we were headlining, our gigs were played for
almost 2 hours, it was very physical and very intense.
Doesn't the success of the tour result from the success of the last album itself?
Certainly. As Number Of The Beast and Piece Of Mind are already gold in the States,
I think that our last album will go platinum (300,000 copies sold) before the end of the year,
which is pretty good for a pure Heavy Metal record (laughs). It's even more satisfying that
the American audience is the hardest to get get through.
But this success is less impressive than that of Def Leppard.
That's for sure, but this success is not "compromising" in the way that we have our
own sound, and this sound has nothing to do with the "FM" sound of Hard Rock that
is aired on American radio. We conquered our audience more with our gigs than with radio airplay.
But we remain a fundamentally "European" band and I wouldn't want to change this style.
Whatever happens, the European scene is much more important to us than the American one.
What should we think of the rumours indicating that Dave Murray might be about
That's complete rubbish. However, these rumours were such that, during the American leg
of the tour, we had to go on TV to deny all these allegations. No one is thinking about leaving,
and the band has never been so united.
Going back to the gigs, what role do they play for you?
They are a way to communicate with people: communicate our intentions, transmit the
feeling behind the lyrics. Once, I received a letter from a French fan telling me that she didn't
understand the lyrics of the songs, but that she could understand almost everything just by
looking at my face and into my eyes. This is what I call success. My ambition is to carry on
communicating with the audience, but this is only possible if every single band member is
really happy on stage, which is currently the case.
Don't you think that Heavy Metal is becoming some kind of "industry"
(records, books, t-shirts, badges, etc.)?
I think all this comes from the public and the kids' demands. I am a Deep Purple fan,
and when I was younger, I used to collect anything related to the band. It's the same for
the Iron Maiden fans. But as we are – in all modesty (laughs) – a
great band, we have to ensure that anything that is sold with our name on it is of the best
quality; that the t-shirts don't fall apart after a few days, that the pictures in the books are of
good quality, and so on...
What do you think of Speed Metal, Satanic metal, and the like?
Heavy Metal is just a genre where you find many extremes. At one extreme, you find a very fast
Heavy Metal, very close to Punk Metal, and in which the lyrics aren't really important. At the other
extreme, there's a slower type of Heavy Metal, heavier, where the lyrics are essentailly satanic,
dealing with hell, damnation, or I don't know what else. I find this quite ridiculous, 'cause it
catches attention for only a few minutes, then it gets quickly boring. This is why we try not to be
too serious, not to lock ourselves in a particular style. We alternate extremes anyway, with short
and very fast songs, while others are longer and more elaborate.
But isn't it a problem to renew styles?
We'd have problems if we were stuck with only one musical style. But, as we write lyrics that
mostly deal with fantasy, instead of having political themes or other, we are quite free to do pretty
much what we like. However, it would be more difficult for us to write another album like Killers
than another one like Number Of The Beast. A song like 'Run To The Hills' is also easier to
write than something like 'Where Eagles Dare'. And this is why – to me –
Piece Of Mind is the hardest album to listen to among the four we recorded. But
we all think that's it's our best one so far.
Didn't you get some problems in the States because of the ambiguity of some lyrics?
Yes. The Americans don't have the same sense of humour as the English or the French, and some of them
took very seriously some of our lyrics with satanic undertones. Some religious lobbies demanded that stickers
be applied on the Number Of The Beast album, warning people of the so-called satanic aspect of the lyrics!
Many considered Eddie, our "mascot", like a dangerous character, even a subversive one.
As for the reactions to the cover of our last album and the picture with the brain, that was pretty close to
McCarthysm. Most of these lobbies are very rich, and they have ads on TV against Rock, condemning
all those whose hair's not short, whereas all this isn't really serious.
What does the inverted message at the beginning of 'Still Life' mean?
We recorded it to scare all those fanatics who are so narrow-minded and so hostile to Rock.
I can tell you 'cause I don't think that many of them read Metal Attack. It basically means:
"Don't meddle with things you don't understand". It was Nicko (McBrain) speaking,
but he was completely drunk and had such an accent that, even if you listen to it the normal way,
no one can understand this message!
Is it true that you had problems with Frank Herbert, the author of Dune,
bacause of the song 'To Tame A Land' on the new album?
That's right. We first wanted to call the song 'Dune', like the book, but he threatened to have
the album banned. It's stupid because he'd already sold us the right at a very high price. Anyway,
we stayed true to the book. If he only knew how successful the album is, and what publicity this
could have been for him...
Do you keep contact with former members of Iron Maiden?
More or less. Concerning Paul Di'Anno, I don't really know what he's doing with his band,
Lonewolf, but what he's doing now hasn't got much to do with Metal. As for Clive Burr, after
a brief stint with Trust on their last album, he spent a few months with Graham Bonnet's band,
and he seems now about to start a new band with ex-members of Praying Mantis.
How about Iron Maiden's future?
Well, in the near future, there's the tour with Michael Schenker opening for us.
Isn't it surprising to find a band like MSG as an opening act instead of a
I think that for Michael Schenker, this tour is mainly going to be a test following all the changes
that occurred within the band, with the arrival of Derek Holmes, who played before with Ted Nugent.
But I think that both our bands are complementary, with Michael playing mostly Hard Rock, and us
more on the Heavy Metal side. And having MSG as an opening act is for us an honour. Anyway,
we never had any problem with any band during our previous tours, so I don't see why this should
So, no holidays in sight?
Oh no! the tour only ends at the end of the year, after 8 months of travels around the world.
In Januars, we'll start writing for the new album, and the recording will probably start some time
in the Summer. Steve Harris will probably write half of the songs, like he did on the last two albums.
All this is pretty tiring: touring, recording for ages. There must be other ways to get rich and covered
in glory, but isn't life more interesting when you constantly question yourself?