Source: Enfer Magazine (France) – Numero 17 Interviewed by Philippe Touchard
If Eddie had looked any different, the whole face of Heavy Rock music would have been changed. The new world tour that Iron Maiden just started (over one year on the road without a break!) could have just the right name: The World Slavery Tour 84/85.
At first glance, it really looks like a gruelling tour, with the musicians slaving away. But it isn't quite the case: never such a massive infrastructure thrown on the road has been moving so easily and in the most perfect peace of mind; no panic there at all! The tour started on 9th August in Warsaw and will visit all the regions of the planet.
I caught up with Iron Maiden on the first four French gigs, my ears still ringing with the sound of Powerslave (Note: take another look at the cover sleeve, you might have missed a few details) and with my Egyptology For Dummies under my arm. I was welcomed very kindly by everyone, including Mrs. Harris and her 7-month-old daughter who had come to say a quick hello before returning to London. As the album hadn't been released at the beginning of the tour, il was a complete discovery for the audience of this new show (a stage designed like an Egyptian temple, with magnificent backdrops and a somptuous light show). We also had the pleasure to hear five tracks from the Powerslave album, including the intro with 'Aces High' closely followed by '2 Minutes To Midnight', then another three new songs later during the gig: 'Losfer Words', 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' and 'Powerslave', the title-track itself. Here are a few snapshots of this brand-new tour that will be worth leaving your sarcophagus for.
The new release of an Iron Maiden album is always the cause for controversy within the world of specialised press and among those who follow the career of this band that never ceases to surprise us.
From Piece Of Mind to Powerslave, the gap is so wide that the listener is once again gobsmacked by the way Iron Maiden do things.
Even if the main concept of Powerslave related to Ancient Egypt, the album remains full of surprises and develops themes that are as deep as they are unexpected. Just listen to 'Two Minutes To Midnight', which deals with the threat of war, or to 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner', an epic poem inspired by 18th Century british literature.
So, as it's always better to ask God himself than his angels, we approached Bruce Dickinson, the fencing master, and humbly requested him to shed some light on the band's new album (and when I mention God, I'd better talk about St. Peter, considering Bruce's place within the band...)
There he is in front of me – Bruce the Great, Bruce the Lyrical – trousers in one hand, all of his chest hairs sticking out after a long and condescending photo session where he had to use a couple of swords for better effect, putting back into place all of his muscles – triceps, biceps, and the rest – ready to face once again the rapid fire of questions like the good slave to the power of the press that he is!
If you like, I can wait until you've finished getting changed!
(Stuck into his fencing outfit) No, no I'll be alright. I can get changed and talk at the same time (Note: now, here's someone who's on top of things!).
First thought. Bruce, where's Eddie?
He's still on the cover. You may not notice it right away, but that's him who's on the throne overlooking the entrance to the temple.
The album is called Powerslave, what the theme that Iron Maiden wanted to deal with here?
In fact, the whole theme of the album is contained in the song 'Powerslave'. The other songs deal with completely different things.
'Powerslave' tells us about a dying Pharaoh. He's about to die and he finds himself a slave to the power of death, as well as the slave to his own power.
When a Pharaoh dies, all the slaves that built his grave and prepared his funeral have to die too. Even if he didn't want it, his power implies without questions that these people must die, far beyond his own will. Basically, he's a prisoner of his power.
Couldn't we hope for a share of all this power after the death of this Pharaoh?
That would be utopic. This power has got its own logic in order to last, and that means that those who want it have to be sacrificed. It's horrible!
In Egypt, the Pharaoh incarnates life, he's a living god and controls the essential substance of the earth. When life departs his body, it must also quit the bodies of those who served him, as the rule dictates.
The paradox is that, even if he's a living god and decides on his death bed to carry on living, well he can't. His power is enslaved to the power of death.
From the Aztec concept dealing with Eddie's trepanation (see the Piece Of Mind cover) to that of absolute power in Ancient Egypt, it seems that Iron Maiden is never short of inspiration.
In fact, Eddie's trepanation was quite cynical and joking.
Here, the concept that you find on the cover deals with a typical Egyptian philosophy. After we trepanated Eddie, we made him be re-born in another world and his power has been amplified, as you can see from the illustration itself.
Should we suppose that he overlooks, or even controls, the Pharaoh's fate?
You must look for the answer in the illustration. In fact, there are many clues all over that cover and, if you find them all, you'll get the answers to your questions.
What is the main enigma found in the song 'Powerslave'?
At the beginning of the song, the Pharaoh dies. At the end of the song, he's still alive but a change has occurred. His spirit is still alive and tries to break free of his dead body.
How did you get the idea to write such a song?
While having breakfast! (Note: ?????)
I was thinking about 'Revelations', on the previous album, and I was looking for something missing. And I indeed found a "missing link". In 'Revelations', there are all sorts of signs related to Hindu and Egyptian mythology about life and death. But there was something missing: the power of death over life, which is a theme you find very often in Egyptian mythology.
So, I basically wrote 'Powerslave' while listening to 'Revelations', a cup of tea in one hand and bacon in the other.
Are there any similarities between the organisation of power in Ancient Egypt and in our oversized Western civilisation?
Yes, in the way that power is always in the hands of a few privileged people who won't let go of it. They power gives them a certain status, and this status makes them slaves to their power. In Egypt, power was spiritual before it was material. In our society, it's the opposite.
There's been a great awareness of this phenomenon when people in the US started imagining that Nixon could start WW III.
I that hope people who listen to this song, 'Powerslave', will draw the same conclusions. If not, well never mind, it would have been just another good story to tell.
Yet another allegory!
Yes, that's right. I write a lot of allegorical texts. 'Back In The Village' is somehow the sequel to 'The Prisoner', the story of some bloke who's trapped in a village. In fact, he's mostly a prisoner of his own fantasy and can't get rid of it, hence his imprisonment in this ghost-village, the place of both his dreams and nightmares. 'Two Minutes To Midnight' is also an allegory. It tells us about the dangers of a nuclear war.
The lyrics of this album seem rather pessimistic, don't you think?
It's true for this album. Steve's lyrics are however very interesting. For instance, in 'The Duellists', which describes a pretty traditional duel, he was able to efficiently put forward the futility and uselessness to die for a question of glory and pleasure to fight. Because in a duel, there's more than just honour, there's this sick gratuity that discredits any place honour could have in such events.
In a nutshell, 'The Duellists' is a song against stupidity?
Let's now talk about the highlight of the album, 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'.
Alright, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is a very old and very long English poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a poet who dies in 1850. It's the story of a sailor who causes a divine curse by killing an albatross. The poem starts when an old sailor stops a young woman who just got married. He takes her away from the wedding and forces her to listen to a legend.
A sailor was in the middle of the sea when he killed an albatross that was flying over his ship. The albatross is a good omen, but if you kill him, the good omen becomes a curse. The crew wanted to punish the culprit, but that death initiated a terrible storm, spreading the divine wrath. The ocean was poisoned and the ship out of control.
A real thirst starts and the whole crew feels powerless before the invasion of waves, hunger and thirst.
There is a line in the song that goes, "water water everywhere and not a drop to drink!"
The sailors all die, one after another, except the culprit who still wear the albatross around his neck as a symbol of the punishment that the other crew members imposed onto him.
Then, like in a dream, he sees the ship of Death, a lifeless, crewless ship.
He knows that, according to the tradition, he is going to die in order to redeem the lives of the other sailors. In fact, a struggle starts between Life and Death, and Life wins. So the sailor, the culprit stays alive.
Finally, the story ends when the story-teller reveals to the young woman that the sailor who killed the albatross so long ago is none but himself, and that he's bound to live eternally to tell his unbelievable story to people he meets, to teach God's word by his own example, which is to love any creature that God made.
So this is a fable and a warning.
Yes, a warning to all that imposes the respect of God's actions.
That all very moral.
Very. Steve says that if he hears again that we're stuck with stories about Satan and other things, it'll mean that people will never understand Iron Maiden.
Is it to stick to the concept that Maiden's tour will go to Tibet?
(Laughs) That's a load of bollocks from our PR person. The tour will go to Bangkok, which is in Thailand, as everyone knows expect our PR guy. He just thought that Bangkok was in Tibet and he was happy to announce that Iron Maiden were going to play there, in the middle of the lamas and priests, next to temples and to the Yeti.
Tell me about the new show.
Before I talk about our next gigs in France, I'd like to thank all of those who came to see us last year, mostly in Paris where the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. Everything was ready to make it a celebration, and it was! Right from the beginning of the show, I felt that something big was happening, which is why I tried to communicate as much as possible – and in French! – with the audience. I hope I didn't do too bad!
The Paris gig was the best of the European leg of the tour, last year. This year, we changed our habits. Until now we'd always toured the US in the Summer, and Europe in the Winter or Spring. This time, we start the European tour in the Summer and we'll tour the States in the Winter. Our show's changed a bit too, regarding the lights and the PA. We'll have much more power than last year and the whole stage will have an Egyptian theme to it (surprise, surprise!)
With sphinxes, obelisks and slaves?
Something like that. I don't want to give away to many details and spoil the surprise for the audience. This will be the first time that we'll have almost all of our American stage set.
On the other hand, we'll have 50% more lights and sound than what we had last year in Europe. In the States, we'll have twice as much power, meaning about three times what the French audience witnessed last year: about 150,000 Watts at the front. Twice as much as the PA we used at the Reading festival.
What kind of power are you looking for with this increase of sound and lights?
Nona at all. What we want is for the audience to have a good time and to keep great memories of the show. So we need to use the real power, both for the eyes and for the ears.
So, the Summer will be hot!
And the Autumn even more...
Time went too quickly. As Bruce was invited to a local radio show, I had to obey the mad screamer, my master, and end the interview. As I was putting my bicycle clips back on, while Bruce was happily climbing on board of his Limousine with his label manager, I just said to myself, "culture makes you rich and good-looking, so when I grow up I'll read all of Dickinson's works in their original version".
This interview is taken from The Iron Maiden Commentary