"Steve Harris was very suspicious. He said: Why do you wanna come back?": Bruce Dickinson on rejoining Iron Maiden with a mission to "sweep away the past"

Iron Maiden in 2000
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

In a wide-ranging, career-spanning interview in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, Bruce Dickinson revisits his decision to rejoin Iron Maiden in 1999, and states that, at the time, he promised the band that they would "sweep away the past by doing an amazing future."

It was Maiden's manager Rod Smallwood who first proposed the idea of Dickinson rejoining the band following Steve Harris' decision to part company with Blaze Bayley in January 1999. The singer made it known that he would be open to discussing the idea, and agreed to meet with Harris, Smallwood and his former bandmates at Smallwood's home in Brighton for exploratory talks. Harris has subsequently admitted that he wasn't initially convinced that welcoming the group's prodigal son back into the fold was the way forward -  "Rod was being his bombastic, bullying best, ’cause he knew I wasn’t into it at all" he confessed - and, as Dickinson tells Classic Rock's Mark Blake, the bassist made little attempt to mask his scepticism.

"Steve was very suspicious," the singer admits. "He said: 'Why do you wanna come back?' I actually said [laughing], I want to come back, Steve, because, in the words of my mates, ‘the world needs Iron Maiden’, and secondly I think we can make amazing music."

When Blake points out that, at the time, Maiden may have also needed Dickinson, the singer replies, "Probably. But there was no point in saying that, because it would have sounded like sour grapes."

"What I said was: We will sweep away the past by doing an amazing future," Dickinson recalls. "Though the first words out of my gobby mouth were: Of course we are better than Metallica! People said: 'You can’t say that.' I said: I just did. Then they started going: 'Maybe he’s right.'

"You’ve got to have that attitude, though," he continues. "It’s like Mick Jagger didn’t get to be Mick Jagger by sitting there going [apologetically]: 'Oh, we’re quite good, you know, we’re almost as good as The Beatles.' I also told them that we are not to just do ‘greatest hits’ albums, we are going to do a new album and it will be fucking great. And it was. Brave New World [in 2000] really delivered. So suddenly we’re off to the races again."

For the full interview with Bruce Dickinson, including his insights into his forthcoming solo album The Mandrake Project, due on March 1, pick up the new issue of Classic Rock

The cover of Classic Rock 323 starring Kiss

(Image credit: Future)
Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.