Run to Marysville
Bruce Dickinson talks about Iron Maiden’s old-school set for Ozzfest, and his new solo album
For Iron Maiden, playing Ozzfest this summer is a chance to make something old new again.
The venerable metal band will limit its Ozzfest set to songs from their first four CDs—Iron Maiden (1980), Killers (1981), The Number of the Beast (1982) and Piece Of Mind (1983).
That’s the old part. What makes it new is that many of the fans who will see Iron Maiden during Ozzfest have never seen many of these songs performed by the band.
In all likelihood, this will be the only time these songs get played by the current lineup of singer Bruce Dickinson, guitarists Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain.
Hearing Dickinson sing songs from the first two albums will be especially rare, considering he wasn’t in Iron Maiden when those records were recorded. He replaced original vocalist Paul Di’Anno prior to The Number of the Beast.
“This is probably the first and last chance that anybody will ever have to see Iron Maiden in America doing these songs because there will be another Iron Maiden album out next year,” Dickinson said in a recent phone interview. “We’ll be doing some new stuff after that. There will be more tours subsequently, but we’ll probably never again get a chance to play so many songs from the first four albums, and in particular from the first two albums.”
The impetus behind spotlighting only the first four albums is the release of a new two-DVD set, The History Of Iron Maiden—Part 1: The Early Days. The set features a long-out-of-print concert video, Live at The Rainbow that features Di’Anno on vocals, plus footage from two of Dickinson’s early shows with the band, a 1982 concert, Beast Over Hammersmith, and a 1983 performance, Live At Dortmund, that was originally filmed for German television.
The package also includes a 90-minute documentary in which the band members trace their beginnings in London’s East End up through their arrival as an arena headlining act in the early ‘80s, as well as a 45-minute home video of a 1979 club show in East London.
Dickinson said The Early Years is the first of a series of DVDs that will chronicle the history of Iron Maiden, and the band is making a considerable effort to find rare concert and other material for each volume of the set.
“It is a huge project,” Dickinson said. “But I think it’s important [for] a band like Maiden that means so much to so many kids, that you detail sort of the heritage of it correctly and accurately, above all. So the depth that we went into was astonishing. Of course, it’s paying dividends because it really is a class product in the end. There’s so much great stuff on it. The next one is in preparation at the moment.”
The choice to promote “The Early Years” DVD with an appearance on Ozzfest rather than a headlining tour might seem a bit unconventional, considering Iron Maiden has been able to headline amphitheater tours in the past.
Dickinson said, however, that the band wanted to play Ozzfest because the tour would put the band in front of a generation of fans that might not be that familiar with the group’s music. Iron Maiden is receiving second billing behind a reunited Black Sabbath on Ozzfest’s main stage.
“We didn’t want to do a headlining tour to the same older audiences that show up every time we go into the sheds [a nickname for outdoor amphitheaters],” Dickinson said. “We wanted to get an audience that was going to be … basically, 15-year-old kids with attitudes who are really into metal and keeping the music alive, as opposed to an audience who had been like that, but have now grown up, gotten respectable, and just remembered the band from the early days.
“In Europe we play to mainly audiences who are all under the age of 25. In America, I’d say the average age of the audience is 30-plus,” he said. “That’s not great for us. And it’s also not great for young kids who come to see the band in sheds because they end up sandwiched between a bunch of fat old men drinking beer and eating hot dogs, and the kids are like ‘Shouldn’t we be really rocking?’ But apparently not. So what we want is the Ozzfest vibe, which I think is much closer to the audiences we play to in Europe. That’s the audience we want to impress, really. So we’re just going to go out like this rocket-propelled [band] on the Ozzfest show and just take no prisoners.”
Ozzfest, to a lesser extent, will also give Dickinson a chance to tout his newly released solo CD, Tyranny Of Souls.
This is the first solo album Dickinson has made while a member of Iron Maiden. He quit the band in 1993—after a 12-year run that took Iron Maiden to their peak of popularity—because he wanted to explore music he didn’t feel he could make within the band.
Dickinson’s move into a solo career produced four previous solo efforts, Tattooed Millionaire (1990), Balls To Picasso (1994), Skunkworks (1996) and My Chemical Wedding (1998). The latter release, in particular, received strong reviews and firmly established Dickinson as a viable solo artist.
Although Dickinson returned to Iron Maiden in 1999—replacing singer Blaze Bayley—continuing his solo career was also on his agenda.
But it took seven years for Dickinson and his musical collaborator, songwriter/ producer Roy Z, to both find the time to do a follow-up to My Chemical Wedding.
Dickinson said the diverse sound of Tyranny Of Souls—the CD runs the gamut from the fierce yet melodic “Soul Intruders” to the epic rocking title song to the acoustic “Navigate The Seas Of The Sun"—reflects the sense of freedom and confidence he had in making the CD.
“I think with Chemical Wedding, we were really trying hard to create a completely different sound than anything I had had with Maiden, and something that was really unique, just the pair of us,” Dickinson said. “I think we succeeded. But looking back on that album, perhaps we were pretty harsh on ourselves making sure that absolutely everything sounded way, way different. With this one, I thought we could relax a bit because we didn’t need to prove we sounded different. We already knew that we were going to sound different because we already had a history together.
“So I thought we could have a bit more confidence that we could branch out a little bit on this album [and] still sound very heavy,” he said. “That was the key. I had to wait until I felt confident about saying ‘yup, this is what we’re going to do on this new record,’ rather than ‘oh my God, I don’t know what we’re going to do on this record to cope with the legacy of Chemical Wedding.'”