As a kid, did you grow up in a musical environment?
Let's say that there weren't any musicians in my family, but my parents loved music and there was always a record on at home. Anything. From Frank Sinatra to The Rolling Stones or Montovani, and of course, let's not forget The Sex Pistols. At our place, there was an old piano in the living room, and I was trying to play – not very well! I was making a bit of a racket and even the neighbours were complaining! I was a fucking awful pianist and, one day, I sprayed the poor piano with lighter fuel and I set fire to it. Alright, I'd been drinking a bit beforehand and it seemed like a good idea at the time. My mum never forgave me! What a bad son, hey?.Even after reading your autobiography, The Beast, we don't know much about what you did musically before joining Iron Maiden. Apparently, you've been a skinhead, and you've played in a band called The Paedophiles (!). Can you tell us more?
Well, it's true that I was a right bastard and that I loved to go out on the piss and, whenever possible, get into a fight and ruin the evening for a maximum of people, and then do my utmost to pull some bird that was already with someone. That was my "special", the icing on the cake! I also remember Phil Collen of Def Leppard. We used to hang out together in the East End of London, the area where we were born. He was behaving exactly like me, he was even worse! I loved to be the centre of attraction and I was doing whatever I could to make people aware of who I was. As a teenager, I've spent a huge amount of time wreaking havoc, acting like a right cunt, and pissing off as many people as possible in the neighbourhood... just like Phil! I was such a bastard! But I've never been a Skinhead, I was more like a Mod [Note: fan of bands like The Jam, The Who, The Small Faces, etc. who would get into fights against Rockers on British beaches]. Anyway, as a kid I used to hang out with complete nutters, but it all changed when I joined Maiden and I converted to Metal.Before you joined the band, you apparently did like them much. So why did you audition and when did you feel that Maiden had something special?
Basically, I wasn't a Heavy Metal fan, but I have to admit that, after I saw Maiden play for the first time, I started to take some interest in this kind of music. So I started to go see other bands on stage, to buy loads of records so I could have a good collection. Before I joined Maiden, I used to listen to The Small Faces (Steve Marriot) and Punk. I think that the only Hard Rock bands I liked were Thin Lizzy and UFO. Afterwards I even found out that Steve [Harris] also loved these two bands. In fact, Steve always wore those tight, black-and-white stripy trousers 'cause Pete Way of UFO was famous and wore the same ones. He thought it was great, so he nicked the idea from Pete and made those stripy spandex even more famous. Steve Harris invited me to audition for the band, and I more or less realised that Maiden had the potential to become a successful international act, provided that they found the right line-up and mostly the right frontman. Maiden had had other singers before, but none of them had either the voice or the personality required to make the band a world-class success. That's when I auditioned that I realised that my voice fitted Metal perfectly and that, although I'd never sung this kind of music before, I was the one Maiden needed to become huge. And also Steve's incredible confidence in his music and in his band convinced me to accept the job right away, without asking myself any questions. After I joined Maiden, I became a Metal disciple and I blended completely into this scene. I loved the way of life and the attitude that went with it. I started enjoying every moment of my life as a Metal fan and I threw away – literally! – my old Punk records in order to prove that I was the new King of Heavy Metal! Meeting Steve Harris changed my life in more ways than one and I'll be forever grateful to him.
Did you know Maiden's previous singers, Paul Mario Day and Dennis Wilcock? What did you think of them?
Yes, I knew them 'cause I'd seen Maiden gigs several times and, looking at these former singers, I thought that the band was never going to make it big with either of these guys. I'm not trying to put them down, but it's just that they didn't have this magic thing, this charisma, that makes the difference between an amateur and a professional. Already at that time, it was obvious that Steve would become a great star some day, provided that he finds the right singer. I've been lucky and I arrived into his life at the right time and with the right voice. I'm sure that these two singers did their best, but they were just pawns in the learning and growing-up process of the band, nothing more. Bah, at least, they leave some trace in history.
What memories have you got of your first gig with Maiden at the Cart & Horses?
Great memories! I remember the the confidence I had that, from now on, the band could make it big because I was the singer, and the pride I had from it. I was very young and very self-confident, but I was also confident, I repeat, in Steve's abilities. I remember being on stage at the Cart & Horses, watching him and thinking, "Here we are! We're gonna become the greatest Metal band on the planet!" The reaction from the audience was incredible and I remember many fans coming over to tell me that they were going to tell their mates to come to our next gigs, something that had never happened to me before. I think that, that night, we got ?15 [Note: about 20 Euros] ! A bit of a fortune, innit? From then on, Steve started reinvesting all our earnings into the band to make it go further. With hindsight, I realise how much, so early in our career, he was involved and going for it. I remember that the same night, at the Cart & Horses, two different birds – in the very same pub! – gave me a blowjob in the toilets; that's when I realised that something different and exciting was happening in my life.What exactly happened between Iron Maiden and Judas Priest when you opened for them back in 1980? It looks like, even today, the two bands don't see eye-to-eye...
If I remember correctly, some paper was published saying that Maiden had been slagging off Priest, or something like that. But I'm sure that it was a load of bollocks 'cause we were all Judas Priest fans. The whole story got blown out of proportion, like it's usually the case, but I'm pretty sure that there isn't any resentment any more, 'cause I've met Rob Halford or the boys from Priest quite often and everything always went really well.
Can you tell me about the gigs with Kiss in Europe, still back in 1980? I've heard that Paul Stanley & Co. were very cooperative. It must have been quite impressive to open for such a band of legend...
The guys from Kiss were wonderful, especially Gene [Simmons] who was looking after my money (which isn't exactly my strong point): in fact, he was keeping my dough and was giving me the strict minimum when I really needed it, which prevented me from blowing it on rubbish. Gene has treated me like a son, he taught me what to do and not to do. We started the tour as support for Kiss and, all of the sudden, we became very popular. So, it was Kiss that looked like an opening act. It's also during this tour that Dennis Stratton's [Note: the guitarist who played on the first album of the band] fate was scealed.
How did you take his replacement by Adrian Smith?
To be completely honest, I think that it's impossible to compare Adrian and Dennis. I don't want to show any disrespect to Den, 'cause I really like him, but I never thought he was a good guitarist. I even think that, with such limited abilities, he's really been lucky to be in Maiden, mostly that he wasn't so keen on Metal. By the way, I discovered a few years later that Dennis was more or less "anti-Metal" and that he'd only joined Maiden because he felt that the band had a great potential. Adrian was – and still is – a brilliant guitarist and one of the major elements in Maiden. He has basically contributed to make the band what it is today. In fact, Dennis had a fantastic Pop voice and should have become a Pop/Rock singer – he loved this soft style. Before he joined Maiden, I used to go often to the Cart & Horses and watch him play with his former band, Wedgwood: he was then an excellent singer and seemed to be more comfortable there than as a member of Iron Maiden. Dennis has never really been part of the Metal world and he's never accepted this universe... even if he maybe says the opposite now. He was really into Pop and he wanted to have three-voice harmonies in Maiden, or crap like that. But Steve never gave in. We even had to force Dennis to wear a leather jacket, which he hated, and we tried to get him to act "Metal"! On the other hand, Adrian never pretended, he had the right attitude, he really was into it and he loved anything related to this genre. Steve and Dennis had a few ding-dongs 'cause he didn't like the Metal gear and was only listening to Pop music: he really pissed Steve off during the Kiss tour when, in Spain, he started complaining that he had to wear denim and leather – he used to call that the "Cunt Kit". Steve was doing his nut and I think that this is when he realised that he had to get rid of Dennis. During the whole time he was in the band, we had to pretend that he was one of ours, which was a outright lie 'cause he only liked the Beach Boys and the Eagles. I hope that what I'm telling you here won't cause him any trouble 'cause I like him a lot, as well as his voice, but even now he spends his week-ends playing covers of Oasis or Robbie Williams in pubs in the East End of London. Not really Metal, is it?
As a singer, what did you learn by working alongside a legendary producer like Martin Birch?
It was a very special experience 'cause he pushed me to do things that I didn't think I was capable of. At the time, I didn't have any recording experience and Martin was my first "real" teacher: he made me realise how I should or shouldn't use my voice. I was young and I thought I knew it all, but in fact, I knew fuck all, and Martin made me aware of it. He was a real inspiration to me and he'll always have a special place in my heart. And he was really good at transforming what we'd do "well" into someting "great". Even today, I remember a lot of his advice and I still apply what he taught me.
You've been the first frontman, after Roger Daltrey [The Who], to have sung live on Top Of The Pops. Why did this legendary TV programme accept your request, as Maiden wasn't known at the time?
I think that the programme's bosses were a bit surprised by the fact that we asked to play live, and we thought that they'd refuse. But Rod Smallwood must have used his magic to trick them into submission! In fact, at the time, Top Of The Pops needed something new 'cause the programme was going 'round in circles and maybe they thought that five young greasy blokes wearing leather and playing Hard Rock live was a good and unusual enough idea to try out.
Do you remember the exact day when you saw the Iron Maiden album in record shops?
Yes, I remember it very very well 'cause my mother hit her head pretty badly on that day and she even had to go to the doctor's! For the release of the album, EMI had put all those posters in the shopping centres of London and on the main streets. My mum was shopping in Walthamstow and found herself face-to-face with one of those massive posters, and she was so shocked, both by the picture and by the fact that her son was becoming someone, that she walked straight into a lamp post! Luckily enough, the doctor told her that she had nothing serious. As for me, I knew which week the album was going to be released and I went to several shops in London to see if the album was really there... and also, let's face it, in the secret hope that someone would recognise me! That week remains one of the best memories of my early career.
I suppose that it's not easy to face such a sudden success. How did the young man that you were cope with the world tours, the autographs, the groupies, only a few month after having worked for an oil company?
It was just as crazy as you can imagine! I was already a fairly excessive character, but there I really went fot it! I was on another planet, as well as the rest of the band. I was very young and I thought I was King of the World. One of the best things were all those birds that the others and me could pick up constantly without any problem!
Did you feel that you were part of the so-called N.W.O.B.H.M.? What did you think of bands like Tygers Of Pan Tang, Praying Mantis, Girlschool, Raven, etc.?
The term "N.W.O.B.H.M." was coined by a Kerrang! journalist. Maiden wasn't part of any movement whatsoever. And then, all of the sudden, we saw all those bands appearing and trying to copy us because we were generating a lot of interest and they wanted make the most of the scene that Maiden – well, Steve – had created. The only band that I could relate to Maiden, if we have to talk about the N.W.O.B.H.M., was Samson. 'Cause Paul Samson used to play before the same audiences as we did, at the same time, and he opened many doors for us. At that time, a band like Praying Mantis used to make me laugh 'cause I considered that they were doing crap, even if they were sometimes opening for us. And then, many years later, I ended up singing with them in Japan. One of the worst periods of my career... The truth is, I was really skint and I was ready to do anything to get back on my feet... including sing in a band I'd taken the piss out of all those years!
On the new Maiden DVD, there are two gig with you on vocals: one at the Ruskin Arms, your second "home", and the other at the Rainbow. What can you tell us about these two events?
We've played many gigs at the Ruskin Arms and, to be honest, I cannot tell which one is on the DVD. As for the Rainbow gig, that was the first major set of Maiden, and all our friends and families were there. That was the first concert my mum attended. We knew then, from the audience's reaction that night, and then that of the press a bit later, that we were heading in the right direction. I personally consider that everything really started with this show..
Steve Harris is not exactly an exhuberant musician. Working and being on the road with you must have been a real nightmare for him. How did you both manage your differences at the time?
Now that we're older and wiser, I can look back onto the past and realise that I was sometimes a right cunt. Steve must have wanted to kill me quite often. I had a big gob, I was a cocky young bastard who'd screw every bird passing by, who'd get on everybody's nerves and who'd always say the wrong things... In Steve's shoes, I would have probably hired a hitman! I was up to the most stupid things, like getting arrested by the old bill just before a gig: I'd find myself banged up in a cell whereas Maiden were on stage, waiting for me. Once, Steve had to sing instead of me – he's got a horrible voice! – 'cause I'd been arrested carrying a knife. Rod Smallwood managed to bail me out and I could sing the last two songs of the set. But when you're very young and you're faced with such success as quickly as that, it does you head in and I really went berserk big time, 'cause everything was crazy right from the start. "Nightmare", that the right word to describe what Steve must have experienced with me 'cause he's a lovable geezer, really laid back, fully involved into his music and all aspects of Maiden, and he had to put up with this fucking monster from outer space called Paul Di'Anno. In fact, Steve always managed to cope with my crazyness... 'cause he always had control over everything...
In your book, you write "I am the face of Iron Maiden". What do you think you brought to the band while you were there?
The voice. The attitude. The look.
I'm not big-headed, but Maiden looked like any other band on the planet, and me, I was the coolest frontman since Elvis. My look allowed the band to stand out. And then, there was my voice... The voice of the singers in the other Metal or Hard Rock bands was stereotyped, not mine. My vocals didn't sound like anybody else's – and it's still the case today – and when you heard me, you instantly knew it was Di'Anno. I've never sung high, those high-pitched girlie voices that were common in all Hard Rock bands. My voice had menace, aggression, soul. An unequalled sound.
Attitude. Let's say that the Maiden boys were lovely young people you could have introduced to your nan. She would have loved them. But if she'd met me, she'd have died of a heart attack within a minute! The Maiden boys were musicians without an attitude, without an image, nothing. Except they were the best Metal band in the country, but a band of nice blokes. They didn't have this spark until they met this nutcase called Paul Di'Anno. I brought them madness and an over-the-top aspect, all of this preventing them to be like those numerous Metal bands that remain stuck playing in pubs ad vitam ?ternam. Maiden was a great band, and I was a great frontman, a frontman that was different from all the others at that time, with a different look, without the compulsory long hair. I had this attitude 'cause I knew I was the best at the time, and I didn't give a fuck about what people thought of me. Iron Maiden may very well have been the best band at the time, but they needed an element to get out of the pub circuit. That element was me. And we helped each other. I was the Mike Tyson – when he was young and unbeatable! – of the Metal scene, and, at that time, no one could beat me.
Can you tell us about the time you met Bon Scott, who's one of you heroes? You declarer later that you really lied his attitude to life...
Bon was quite simply the best frontman of all time, and he was a hundred times crazier than me. I loved that man and I realised that we had a lot in common: he wanted to make the most out of life and he didn't give a fuck about what people could think about his behaviour. He'd also felt that AC/DC had the potential to become massive but that, without him, the band would remain stuck playing pub gigs. In fact, it was Bon who taught AC/DC to become a major live act.
I think that you also knew Phil Lynott. How did you meet him?
Phil came down one night to a Maiden gig, just to say hello. Incidently, there's a picture in my biography where you can see me on stage, and you can see Phil in the background. We got on together right away, 'cause I think we both had in common this "rebel" kind of nature. We immediately became friends. He was one of my heroes and, when I told him that, he seemed somehow embarrassed. Afterwards, we'd sometimes go out and paint the town red together, and we had some wonderful and funny times... That was far too crazy for me to talk about it and let you publish that! I have unforgettable memories of a great geezer, as well as an unmatched artist and songwriter.
Sadly, Phil and Bon are not with us anymore. You have also lived to excess, and maybe you still do. Do you consider yourself a survivor?
Yes, absolutely, I really am a survivor and I'm sometimes amazed to still be alive to tell my tales! I've basically done as much as Phil and Bon did and, on top of it, I even managed to end up several times in prison. Not that I'm particularly proud of some of the things I've done. No, I'm simply amazed to still be around today. Not only did I survive, whereas many people thought that I wasn't going to make it, but now I'm even back on my feet, I probably sing even better than I ever have. And guess what... I intend to bury the lot of you!!!
Is it true that you jammed with Trust at the Festival d'Orange and that Trust jammed with Maiden on stage at the Bataclan in Paris, in 1981? How did you know Trust and what did you play at these two gigs?
Yes, that's right. Basically, Trust were Steve's mates, then eventually both band got on really well. Besides, they were a very good band and we used to love hanging out with them. As to what we played during those jams, well, I don't remember and I suppose that Steve Harris would be the best person to ask.
If you were to highlight one or two Maiden gigs, which would they be and why?
The show I'll always remember is the first one, at the Cart & Horses, 'cause this is where we realised that the band was going to become massive and that all the hard work we'd put into it wasn't in vain. I think that this is the reference gig in Maiden's career, the gig that triggered the snowball effect..
With hindsight, would you say that leaving Maiden was a courageous, irresponsible or painful step?
I'd say "totally irresponsible", and I suffered later on because of this decision. I was completely burned out, at the end of my tether, when the story came to an end. But at the same time, I felt invicible, I thought that nothing could stop me 'cause I was the voice and the frontman of the Metal band that was becoming the most important on the planet. At the time of the split, I couldn't have imagined that somebody would have the right abilities to replace me... But at that time, I was out of my head, and I painfully became aware that there was another excellent Metal vocalist, Bruce Dickinson. I've always considered that Bruce didn't sing "my" songs as well as I did, but I have to admit that he was, and still remains, a gigantic singer and there's no doubt that he was the best vocalist Maiden could ever find. My style was far too aggressive for the band and Bruce's softer, more operatic voice fitted perfectly with the direction Steve wanted to go. I think that the band's first album with Dickinson [Note: The Number Of The Beast, released in 1982] is fantastic and that nobody else could have done what he did with Iron Maiden since the release of this record, in a style that's his very own. Now, neither Bruce, nor anyone else – and this is an established fact among the long-time fans and most of the journalists – is able outdo me on the songs from the first two albums.
Do you remember the first time you met and do you still meet him nowadays?
The first time I saw Bruce, he was singing with Samson down a pub... and the last time, he was singing with Samson at the Reading Festival. I don't have much to say about our meetings, in the way that it was each time just "hello!" He seems to me a nice and ordinary bloke..Is the anything you'd like to say about drummer Clive Burr, who left Maiden soon after you did? Do you think that your departure affected him?
Clive Burr is a god, I love him and I want him to bear my fucking kid! He's the coolest guy in the world and probably the best Metal drummer in history. Nicko is brillant, but if Maiden have ever made a big mistake, that was to fire Clive Burr: to me, that man was irreplaceable. As for me leaving the band, that didn't affect Clive in the least, but it drove us apart from each other.
As you agreed to give an interview for the new Iron Maiden DVD, it looks like your relationship with Sanctuary and Rod Smallwood has somehow improved. I even heard that Steve Harris asked Manu, the landlord of the Eddie's Bar, that you give him some news. Where do you stand nowadays?In the past, my dealings with Rod and Steve were not necessarily what the press would report. I have always, and it will remain so, had a lot of respect for both of them, as well as for the other guys in Iron Maiden, for their determination and professionalism. I'd say that our current relationship is pretty good, and I'm confirdent that it will remain like this forever. You have to bear in mind that we started all this together and that we experienced together both the good and the bad times, and that's not something that you can easily forget.
As you know, Iron Maiden will tour Europe this Summer and should play quite a few old songs on this occasion. Would you like to take part in this event somehow? Do you this this can happen?
I don't know if we'll ever work together again, but if they're up to it... well, I'm in! But there would have to be a major change as compared to the old days... This time I want to be paid!
Last Summer, you jammed with Blaze Bayley in Turkey. Who had this idea and what do you think of the man?
This was my manager's doing and everything went well 'cause Blaze seemed to me to be a good bloke. What's funny is that everybody thinks that I'm unmanageable. But when I met Blaze, he had an enormous shiner! Obviously, he'd been into a fight the night before in Germany. So it seems that I wasn't the only complete nutter to have fronted Maiden!
What are your current musical activities? It looks like you have different bands all over the world (Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico), and you tour with an Italian band called Screaming Monkeys. All this isn't very clear, can you shed some light on this?
Yes, of course, but first let me correct something: I have bands in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Israel, London, Japan, and there are about another four to add to this list! I also have a bird in Brazil, in the UK, in Italy, in Norway, in Sweden, in Finland, in the States, in Paris, in India, and in Japan... In fact, I could carry on like this all day, but this should give you an idea of what I mean. I love diversity and I don't want to be eating fish & chips for the rest of my life, 'cause there are many other dishes to discover. I have the same philosophy concerning sex, 'cause I don't think that a bloke who meets a bird at 17 still fancies screwing her when he's 98! Fuck that! Asking me to be faithful to a single band is like asking Mick Jagger to remain faithful to a single woman. It's impossible. Let's say that my regular band is the Italian one, but I like to broaden my range and not limit my voice. And the only way to do it is to play with a large number of different musicians, and that's what I intend to carry on doing. So, I won't get tired of it, and neither will the fans or the various artists I work with. I admit that this must look a bit confusing to those who do not share my view on things, but let me say it again: who would want to eat the same thing or fuck the same bitch day after day?
You were reported to have said that you wanted to play in France next year. Is that true and what are your plans?
Yes, that's true. It is planned for me to give 5 or 7 gigs in France in March 2005. Check out my website (www.pauldianno.com) to get the latest, 'cause as soon as a date is confirmed, the site is updated. I think that we should play at La Locomotive in Paris, and also in Marseille, Lyons and Bordeaux. I can't fucking wait 'cause I really love playing France. Just in case your readers are interested, I'll be giving those gigs with my Italian band.
You love touring, but you don't seem to be so interested in studio work. When will you release a new album, what are your plans?
That's a question you should ask my manager, 'cause I ask him myself all the time. I really want to record a new album as soon as possible, so tell my fucking management!
Special thanx to: Paul Di'Anno, Lea Hart, Francois Farmine and Andrei Kobakhidze.
Source: Rock Hard Magazine (France)
– Special Noel No 39, Decembre 2004