What's it like to be the female Bruce Dickinson?

Kirsten Rosenberg – or Bruce Chickinson – has fronted the Los Angeles-based tribute band The Iron Maidens since 2009.

The band have released two albums – World’s Only Female Tribute To Iron Maiden (2005) and Route 666 (2007), The Root Of All Evil EP (2008) and one video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan 2010, which marked her debut release for the band.

We caught up with Kirsten to find out how she became involved with one of the world’s most famous tribute acts and her double life impersonating one of metal’s most legendary singers…

Can you remember the first time you heard Iron Maiden?
Kirsten: “I have a distinct memory of riding a school bus, it must have been when Powerslave dropped, because I remember hearing Aces High and 2 Minutes To Midnight and thinking, ‘Wow! Who is this?! Our school bus driver plays some really cool music!’ Then of course I went back and discovered their early catalogue and was blown away and smitten, just like everybody else. I do also have memories of lip-syncing in the bathroom mirror to Revelations with my curling iron as my microphone, so I was getting my moves down from an early age!”

What was your first Maiden show?
“My first show was on the World Slavery Tour, in Southern California, not far from where the whole ‘Scream for me Long Beach’ happened!”

Did anything come before Iron Maiden for you, musically?
“The first rock song I distinctly remember hearing as a really little kid was Barracuda by Heart. I loved that, it had such a great gallop in it it – and of course, Iron Maiden are known for that gallop! I was a metal kid, but I liked a lot of stuff. New wave was going on and I had my Duran Duran records, you know. But I never wore a Duran Duran concert shirt, OK?”

When did you first decide to become a singer?
“When I was a kid in my room I’d be listening to Cheap Trick on my headphones and singing along and I’d think, ‘Wow, I’m singing just like Robin Zander, this is great!’ So I thought I’d record myself. So I put on my headphones and pressed record on my tape recorder, and I’m singing along to Cheap Trick, and when I listened to the playback, it was the most horrendous sound I’d ever heard. I was mortified, I was crushed, I thought ‘I can’t sing, I will never sing publicly’. Because I didn’t realise you need to hear your own singing, and I wasn’t, I was just hearing Robin Zander. I didn’t realise that until decades later! When I was well into grown-up age I thought ‘I love to sing, it’d be fun to take singing lessons, if I can’t sing who gives a fuck? It’ll just be for me’. So I took a few lessons from Steve Whiteman, the singer of Kix. It made all the difference, and it turned out I didn’t suck so bad! There’s a moral in there somewhere. If you think you suck, give yourself another chance!”

What was the first band you joined?
“When I got brave enough to join a cover band I was soon trying to turn them into an Iron Maiden tribute! But the other guys said ‘We need to play things that girls are gonna get up and dance to, like Bon Jovi and Ratt’. I liked some of that stuff, but my heart was with Iron Maiden. So when I found out about The Iron Maidens, it blew my mind! I thought ‘Who are these ladies?!’ I was so excited, and I set my sights on it. I stalked them for a while, and threatened to kill them all if they didn’t let me join!”

Have you met Bruce?
“You’re talking to someone who has not met Bruce. And he’s not returning my phone calls! Come on Bruce, pick up! My bandmates met him when they played Mexico City and Lauren Harris was supporting The Iron Maidens. Wanda remembers seeing a hat in the crowd bouncing up and down, that was Bruce rocking out! I can’t imagine to be performing and suddenly see Bruce – I might just seize up! I have met Nicko, he’s just lovely, but I have yet to have my golden moment with Bruce. It will happen before I die! And when we’re over there playing London in April, Iron Maiden are gonna be playing Los Angeles, so that’s kind of ironic!”

The Iron Maidens

The Iron Maidens (Image credit: JoeDolanPR.com)

Will this be your first time in London?
“I’ve been there a couple of times, I absolutely love it there. I’m so excited to come back, but it is the first time The Iron Maidens have ever played London. We are all so excited to be coming to the birthplace of the band! It’s the Holy Land!”

Have you brushed up any songs from The Book Of Souls yet?
”I think Dance Of Death is the most recent album that we pulled from. I would love to do a song off the new album, I love the new album, but you know what, we’ll let Iron Maiden tour on their current material for now, and we’ll stick with their older catalogue!”

Have you ever been tempted to write your own material?
“You know, we get asked that a lot, and we always say no. We all have different projects going on, but finally we’ve decided, you know what? That could be really cool! So that’s something that might just happen. I’m not saying a full album, but maybe a song or two might be fun. It’d be really interesting to see what our chemistry can produce!”

So, what’s it like to be Bruce Chickinson?
“In a word, fabulous! To be in The Iron Maidens in the role of the front-person is just such a unique and amazing experience, one which I’m extremely grateful for, because I’m a huge Iron Maiden fan! So I get to sing these songs I love, prance about on stage and shout ‘Scream for me!’ at whatever city I’m in, and hope I get the name and the pronunciation right, which isn’t always the case! It’s a great joy. People treat us like real rock stars, but we say ‘We’re not rock stars, we’re mock stars’! Being Bruce Chickinson has given me so many opportunities.”

Are there any downsides?
“I get to wear some less-than-flattering outfits sometimes, if I really want to stick with Bruce’s costumes! Also, when I joined the band I inherited the stage name Bruce Chickinson, but all the other girls have feminised names, like Wanda is Steph Harris, and Courtney is Adriana Smith. And I got Bruce Chickinson! Couldn’t I be like Bryce or something? I still have the man’s name!”

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.