Bruce Dickinson: I think of our fans like layers of plywood, and we keep building

Bruce Dickinson pondering
(Image credit: Paul Harries)

Classic Rock 300 logo

This interview was conducted to mark the 300th issue of Classic Rock magazine, which launched in 1998. The anniversary issue is available to purchase online, and also features interviews with Gene Simmons, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Geddy Lee, Justin Hawkins, Rick Nielsen, Slash and many more.

Given the sheer joy of witnessing an Iron Maiden show with Bruce Dickinson front of stage, few would likely have shaken a fist at his rejoining the band had it been solely for a nostalgia trip. 

You get the feeling Dickinson would have been one, however. As illustrated by his endeavours outside Maiden – which include books, radio and six solo albums – this is a man whose creative mind never rests.

We interviewed you in our first issue, with the headline ‘This Maiden’s not for turning’. It ended with you saying: “Maybe to go back and do a couple of gigs [with Maiden] one day would be a laugh, but it’s not something that’s likely to happen or that either of us needs.” How soon afterwards were you asked about rejoining, and was it a tough decision to make? 

I think the first I heard of it was from Merck Mercuriadis, who was working with [Maiden management] Sanctuary Music. I discussed it with Roy [Z] and the guys in the solo band. They told me: “The world needs Maiden… go for it.”

In 1999, Iron Maiden were our cover stars for the first time, marking yours and Adrian’s return to the band. What were your feelings at the time? 

After we got back and wrote together again I was amazed how good it was. Honestly, the band felt brand new, fresh and exciting. That’s when I nailed my colours to the mast about how confident I was that this would be the best Maiden tour ever.

Twenty-four years and six albums later, Maiden are now not just bigger than they were before you and Adrian left, but massively bigger. With your hand on your heart, did you have any inkling of how incredibly well it would go from there? And at that point did you think you’d still be doing this twenty-four years later? 

I had no idea just how big Maiden would get. I had no idea about Ed Force One, no idea that stadiums would become a regular destination, or that we would be making albums like Senjutsu and animated mini-movies like Writing On The Wall.

Over the past decade or so it feels like a new generation of fans are discovering Maiden’s legacy. 

I think of our fans like layers of plywood, in that we seem to grow another layer every year, which in turn adds to the previous layers and makes the overall even stronger. So eventually you end up with a table which is ten feet thick, comprising fans who have been with us from the start, joined by younger fans who have maybe heard our music online or came to a live show with their parents, and they then start to go back and discover our catalogue and an album like Number Of The Beast is all new to them, which is great. 

The beauty of it being that we didn’t lose any of our original fans, they’ve just been joined by a new generation, and we keep building that way. 

You’ve also released solo albums, written books, presented radio shows, among other things. 

I think, like most people, all your interests and accomplishments will give you different sorts of pleasure in their own ways. In my one-man show I talk about how it’s kind of incredible that this short, spotty kid from a town nobody’s ever heard of, ended up wearing the world’s most ridiculous trousers and fronting Iron Maiden. There’s great fun and pleasure to be had in delving into exactly how all that came about. 

What piece of advice would today’s Bruce impart to the thirty-nine-year-old Bruce? 

That life is better than all the other options, and to never stop asking: “What does this button do?”

Iron Maiden headline the Download Festival on Saturday, June 11. Tickets are on sale now

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.