“The lights would go out and 15 kids would beat the crap out of me”: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson opens up on traumatic boarding school days

Brice Dickinson wearing flying goggles
(Image credit: John McMurtrie)

Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has opened up about his difficult experiences in boarding school during a new interview.

The 65-year-old, currently promoting his new solo album The Mandrake Project, reveals to The Quietus that he “got the shit kicked out of [him] on a regular basis” during his time at Northamptonshire public school Oundle as a teenager.

“The lights would go out in the dormitory and 15 kids would beat the crap out of me,” Dickinson says.

“It was pretty horrible, but it builds up a degree of magical toughness which stood me in good stead. Not that I’d recommend it. There are other ways of doing that which are less unpleasant.”

Dickinson is then asked whether these experiences gave him ‘Boarding School Syndrome’, symptoms of which include not feeling at home anywhere, depression and finding it hard to form relationships.

“I think probably all of those apply to me,” the singer answers. “With the exception of depression.

“I built up an overinflated sense of self-esteem in response to having the shit kicked out of me every day. You can either go, ‘Oh, I must deserve it.’ Or you go, ‘You’re a bunch of idiots. You won’t hit me again. It won’t hurt.’

“You build up this shield of mental invulnerability because that’s the only way you can deal with it. It’s not generally useful because you don’t want to go wandering around under an invisible shield. It makes you aloof and distant.”

Dickinson also reflected on his Oundle education in a recent interview with The Telegraph, where he revealed he formed “[his] own sort of mini-terrorist organisation” at the school.

“I sent two tons of horseshit to my housemaster,” he remembered.

“I was beaten but it was absolutely worth it. Six strokes of a cane and your arse would bleed, but it was definitely worth it, seeing two tons of steaming horseshit on the front steps of this ornate Georgian facade and thinking, ‘I did that.’”

The Mandrake Project was released on March 1 via BMG.

Dickinson is currently touring to promote the album with his solo band. See the list of the frontman’s upcoming shows below.

Bruce Dickinson 2024 tour dates:

May 18: Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom, UK
May 19: Manchester O2 Academy, UK
May 21: Swansea Arena, UK
May 23: Nottingham Rock City, UK
May 24: London O2 Forum Kentish Town, UK
May 26: Paris L’Olympia, France
May 28: Tilburg 013, Netherlands
May 29: Groningen De Oosterport, Netherlands
Jun 01: Budapest Barba Negra, Hungary
Jun 03: Bucharest Arenale Romane, Romania
Jun 05-08: Gdansk Mystic Festival, Poland
Jun 05-08: Solvesborg Sweden Rock Festival, Sweden
Jun 09: Oslo Rockefeller, Norway
Jun 16: Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt, Norway
Jun 17: Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36, Germany
Jun 19-22: Copenhagen Copenhell, Denmark
Jun 24: Mannheim Zeltfestival Rhein-Neckar, Germany
Jun 25: Munich Circus Krone, Germany
Jun 27-30: Clisson Hellfest, France
Jun 30: Esch-Sur-Alzette Rockhal, Luxembourg
Jul 03-06: Ballenstedt Rockharz Open Air, Germany
Jul 05: Rome Ippodrome Delle Capannelle, Italy
Jul 06: Vincenza Bassano Del Grappa Metal Park, Italy
Jul 09: Koln E-Werk, Germany
Jul 13: Zagreb Hala, Croatia
Jul 16: Sofia Kolodrum Arena, Bulgaria
Jul 19: Istanbul Kucukciftlik Park, Turkey

Get tickets.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.