Fear Of The Dark is supposedly the album of the "rebirth" of Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson is convinced of it as he whole-heartedly comments the lyrics of the various songs on the album and describes the current state of mind of the band. Although it was early morning and the night had been – according to Bruce himself – quite "heavy", he was once again quite happy to discuss this album that you most probably already own.
So, Bruce, have you listened to the new Iron Maiden album?
I might have!
What do you think of it?
I think it's really incredible. It's without any doubt the best album we ever recorded!
I think you're going a bit too far to be believed on this one!
But I'm being honest. I think it's the album that sounds the best in the band's discography. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think I've sung so well since Piece Of Mind. I think that my voice has never so perfectly matched the songs than on Fear Of The Dark.
So, Iron Maiden seem to have found a new orientation...
I think that's right. Iron Maiden are now focussing on the future. We don't look back anymore, we don't compare what we're doing now with what we've done in the past. It's really a new beginning for the band.
But you seem to have found a frame of mind that's very similar to that of the beginnings of the band
Yes, this is also right. We've kept the best of the past. It's also true that we are now more direct and that there's no doubt anymore concerning the topics we deal with in our songs. And the music's really really heavy, much more than during the period covering Powerslave to Seventh Son.... We are nowadays much more "real".
Can you tell us more about the themes of the songs, as they seem to be very important to you?
'Be Quick Or Be Dead' deals with money, dodgy business, and corruption. Some people are supposed to rule your life, deal with financial stuff, but you just can't trust them because they try to cheat you at the first opportunity. But if you have no choice but to work with them, then the only way you can deal with it is to be more clever than them.
Do you feel that this applies to you?
No, we have managers that are quite adapted to this kind of situation! Let's take an example: if you're a band and you do just what your record company wants you to do, then they don't hesitate to cheat you. But if your management is powerful enough, they can weigh in and deal efficiently with the record company. It's the only way not to be cheated.
Is a record company able to cheat even a band that's older and supposedly "wiser"?
Oh, without a doubt! And this happens all the time. You have to be careful, to know who the baddies are, what they do, and when you deal with them, you simply have to be more clere than they are.
Does the second track, 'From Here To Eternity', also deal with such a serious topic?
No, it's just a good laugh, a joke. In the song, we talk about the return of the famous Charlotte The Harlot, who's back on the back of a motorbike. There's nothing really important in this song, text-wise anyway. However, it will be our second single because it's got a really catchy tune, even if the lyrics aren't very serious.
Right, let's carry on with the rest of the songs on this new album.
'Fear Is The Key' is about the fear that exists nowadays in sexual relationships because of AIDS, of course. "Sex" has become a synonym for "fear". When we were writing the songs, we heard about Freddie Mercury's death. There's a line in 'Fear Is The Key' that goes: "nobody cares 'til somebody famous dies". And that's quite sadly true. In the States, mostly, nobody really cared about AIDS until "Magic" Johnson, the basket-ball player, announced publicly that he was HIV-positive. As long as the virus was confined to homosexuals or drug-addicts, nobody gave a shit. It's only when celebrities started to die that the masses began to feel concerned.
Another song is called 'Childhood's End'. Did you know that this is also the title of a song by Marillion?
No, I didn't. I didn't write this song, Steve's the one to blame! (laughs) This one mentions the fact that there isn't a single place in this world where humans can remain kids. In ten years, we've made almost completely disappear the water, the air, the sun... and now, you have to be out of your mind to be willing to give birth to children when you see the current state of the world. So we wonder where this will all end.
I almost forgot 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers'. This is about the Gulf War. It's about a soldier who starts shooting during the Gulf War, and he doesn't want to kill anybody, but he knows that his duty will force him to do it (Note: to be honest, he wasn't forced to join up, if he feels this way). But if he doesn't shoot, maybe another one will shoot him. So, he hasn't got much choice. It's a cruel dilemma, but there's no other way to get out of it.
Do you think that the Gulf War was, as some claimed, "necessary"?
I think that what the politicians really wanted to achieve was to suppress Irak's military potential, all those chemical weapons and those plans to make a nuclear bomb, in order to render that country harmless. I think that no war is good. I really have a lot of mixed feelings regarding this offensive in the Gulf. I'm not really able to decide whether it was justified or not. I must admit that I'm not a great pacifist either, some things have to be done. You have to be able to fight for the right cause, and I'm convinced that what Saddam Hussein did was entirely reprehensible. What is not so clear are the real reasons why the countries took part in this war. Anyway, we've been told too many lies to have an clear idea about this.
Let's move on to 'Chains Of Misery'...
'Chains Of Misery' is about the little devil that sits permanently on our shoulder. This little devil who can ruin your life. For instance, you meet a girl, you have a great relationship, and all of the sudden you do something stupid with no apparent reason, and you wonder... "Why am I doing this?" You don't really know why you act the way you do, but you feel that you have to do it. Maybe it's a feeling of guilt that drives you, maybe you feel that you're not "good enough" to deserve all this... In any case, you act against your own interest without really knowing why.
It's about those who jump from one bed into another, those who sleep with whoever comes their way, without giving or receiving whatever they're looking for, because they are very lonely. They are lonely within themselves, but they are continuously in action, collecting short-term relationships in order to fill the void they feel.
It is often said that musicians are like this, that they have many one-night-stands during the tours...
That's right. I've often seen people like that. Life on the road is tough and I know that many musicians find it hard to emotionally "open-up", because they have those worries and those feelings that they cannot share with anyone, and that they keep buried within themselves. They believe that, in their position, it is impossible to have "true" relationships with people, so they end up in bed with those of the opposite sex without thinking any further.
Do you think that relationships within the world of music are warped?
No, not all of them. To be honest, I think that, among all relationships, those with the fans are the purest. Because they're just fans and that's it. They like the music and don't care about the rest.
How about the groupies?
I think that if a groupie goes up to a musician and says, out of the blue, "I want you to fuck me because you're a musician," he won't be interested. But if the groupie starts having a chat with the musician, lying to him, telling him what a great guy he is, if she rubs him the right way, then he'll be more likely to say, "well, you're right!" (laughs). Then he starts believing it, they sleep together, and she goes back to her mates to tell them she's slept with a musician, that he's not so good and that he's got a small willy! Groupies are no answer to any problem. I don't know anyone who was ever happy in this type of relationship, no musician, and the groupies aren't happy either in the end.
So it's one of the bad sides of being a musician, basically?
No, I wouldn't go that far. The problem is that, when you're young, you find those girls and it's great, you're happy 'cause you've never fucked so much in your life. But after a while, you start thinking and you realise that you don't know anything about them, their names, or what they did before. So you reach the conclusion that life must be made of other relationships than these ones. So you have a clear choice: either you carry on, knowing perfectly well that these relationships are shallow, or you simply stop.
And what choice did you make?
I stopped fucking groupies when I met someone I really loved. That was eight years ago.
But isn't it difficult to find people and to have honest relationships when you're famous?
Personally, I try to remain naive in my relationship with people. This is very valuable to me. The fact that there are people who are evil or ill-intentioned doesn't make me change. Why should I become like them? If they want to be paranoid or anything, I just don't follow them into it. When I find out that someone isn't quite who I thought that person was, I just say, "Never mind, I thought you were someone nice, but it isn't the case. It doesn't matter, see ya!" Basically, I trust people. I prefer that because, for 10 dishonest people, I get to meet one nice person, and it's that one who matters. And anyway, I have developped a good nose to detect those leeches by now!
Let's continue with the album. The Fugitive'.
That's one of Steve's. The story is pretty straightforward, a bit like an adventure. It's about someone who's on the run, he escaped from prison and everyone's after him. The lyrics are thereofre quite paranoid, to tell the truth! He eventually makes it, he gets out, and he's still running at the end of the song.
Roughly, these are Steve's views on the world (he wrote this song). He exposes all his feelings, his anguish, his fears, his preoccupations.
'Judas Be My Guide'.
This is a pretty ironic song, actually. I don't know if it will be well received 'cause it's somehow perillous to to be ironic in the world of rock music. It's about the dark side in all of us, and I decided to call this dark side "Judas". It's this trend that would make anyone sell anything, that would make them care about nothing, that's this little Judas who's inside all of us, and if he becomes powerful enough to rule the world, then... bye-bye! (laughs)
That's a very good song. Steve wrote it. It's about football and all the violence that surrounds this sport. Hooliganism is a terrible thing. You have those people who don't have any other interest in life but the football game on the week end. Those people indulge in whatever violence they're capable of during the game, having fights with supporters of the other team, screaming insults, then they go back to their little jobs on Monday morning, and that's when you realise that they're nothing.
Steve knows what he's talking about! – the score of the game played by the French press versus Iron Maiden (7 or 8 – 0 for Maiden) was quite violent too!
Well, I have to admit that Steve loves football!
'Fear Of The Dark'
That's also a bit of a song! Steve, who wrote it, is really afraid of the dark. It's the story of a man who walks in a park at night and, as it's getting darker, he sees all sorts of worrying things. He becomes totally paranoid 'cause his imagination is working overtime. It's a great track.
All in all, it looks like Fear Of The Dark is musically very similar to No Prayer For The Dying, but maybe with more atmosphere.
Yeah. I think that, basically, there's a break between Fear Of The Dark and the old Maiden albums. I really believe that it will make a hauge impact, we're going straight into the 90s, this time. But the Iron Maiden style remains, we didn't do any compromise, we didn't renounce, but we really focussed on the song writing process. We took some of the energy that's currently in the world, and we transposed it into our music.
Anyway, it looks like you've found a new motivation and that you really want to play.
That's obvious. We had a really good time recording our last album and we had great fun during the tour that followed. Since Janick is in the band, I think that each of us has got his enthusiasm back.
Do you think that you'll do as well in the 90s as you did during the previous decade?
I'm keeping my fingers crossed! I know that there's still a long way to go, but I'm convinced that many people will be very surprised by Fear Of The Dark and very surprised that we could record such an album. When they'll listen to it, I hope they say, "We thought that the last Metallica was good, but check THIS out, now!"
Earlier on, you were talking about not making any compromise. Did this attitude play a part in your success and do you think that honesty always pays in the end?
Sometimes. The thing is, we've got fans and we never let them down. We never cheat them and if we were to quit tomorrow, that'd be the most important thing to our eyes.
Will these fans you cherish so much have the opportunity to see you on stage soon?
Yes, we're about to start a big tour and be sure that we'll visit Paris next summer, as we're headlining the Monsters Of Rock festival. This time, we'll be back with a lot of equipment, we'll have this famous 3-D stage set, pyrotechnics, monsters, and explosions. We decided to make it big this time. For the No Prayer For The Dying tour, we had decided to have the minimum, and that was good. Now, we'll have the maximum! But you'll still be able to see the amps, there won't be anything to cover them. There will be the five band members, the equipement, and explosions all around!
How about this famous live album that everyone is expecting?
Tell everyone that we'll record it in Paris! In Paris and during the whole tour. This time, we've really decided to release a live album.
Source: Hard Force Magazine (France) – Numéro 2
Interviewed by Henry Dumatrey