Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson Is Doing a LOT in 2022 (Interview)
Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson will embark on an "Evening With"-styled spoken word tour in North America this January and, in advance of the run, Loudwire spoke with the living legend about this relatively new performance venture... as well as nuclear fusion, space tourism and what's going on with that long-awaited new solo album.
Even for one of metal's greatest live entertainers, the spoken word format is something that took some experimenting to land on a winning formula as he strives to enthrall theater crowds with riveting stories from his life for upward of two hours. It proposed an entirely new challenge, and, as usual, Dickinson mounted any and all hurdles on his path to success.
Fans can expect to be regaled with tales of first-time experiences throughout the polymath's life and, in our interview, Dickinson noted that the show embraces "comedic slice of life storytelling along with some uplifting bits of information."
Considering the Maiden frontman is also a certified airline captain (among countless other achievements), the opportunity to prod the aviation enthusiast about the on-the-rise space tourism industry could not be passed up. Naturally, this gave way to chatter about alternative fuel source agendas he deems are of actual importance on earth, rather than humans acting as "self-loading freight" and shuttling themselves to the brink of space just to float around for a few moments.
Our conversation wraps up with Dickinson confirming that he and Roy Z., his longtime solo songwriting partner, will reconvene once the spoken word tour is finished to continue work on what will be the successor to 2005's Tyranny of Souls.
Watch the full interview in the video below or read through the chat (edited for length and clarity) further down the page.
View Bruce Dickinson's upcoming "An Even With" spoken word tour dates and gets tickets here. To see Iron Maiden's 2022 tour plans and to purchase tickets, head to their website. Keep up with everything Maiden are doing by following the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.
Interview: Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson Is Doing a LOT in 2022
My first recollection I have of you engaging in this spoken word environment goes back to 2012 when you gave the IBM Smarter Business keynote speech in Sweden. Is this was first seeded your pursuit of the spoken word format for live performance?
It went back to when I did the autobiography, What Does Button Do? — the publishing company [booked] two or three small theaters in the U.K. and the idea was people would sit there and I would read some passages from the book, then I'd signed some books. It was a little bit dull.
I thought I should tell some stories or do a little something that I saw when I was an undergraduate student at university. I went to see a one-man show by a guy called Quentin Crisp, who was an early LGBTQ activist — he was a very funny, very witty guy. He did the Q&A at the end of it with cue cards that the audience wrote. I thought that was really clever because the audience is writing the show for you for the second half.
I did some more of these shows and it became obvious that doing it with the book was kind of superfluous — the show had taken on its own life and I was free to riff and do all kinds of things. The show has evolved to the point now where its kind of comedic slice of life storytelling along with some uplifting bits of bits of information.
You have a philosophy podcast now as well. Can we expect you to bring any philosophical topics to the spoken word routine?
If that was going to happen, that would happen in part two. I take the cue cards from the audience and I basically have 20 minutes to put them together into a kind of a format. Sometimes I can get quite a lot done before the show.
As far as where the show starts, I just start with birth and concentrate mainly on the first time that things ever happen in life. The Iron Maiden tours are so well documented — you don't need to go through those. But what's interesting is the first time [I] came to America, first time I was invited to an orgy in America... I didn't know it was an orgy. I had no clue what a hot tub was. I thought it was something to do with apple bobbing — why would you do apple bobbing in a hot tub? I thought, "This is intriguing. I'll go along," and it wasn't that at all.
Well, you're a quick learner, so I'm sure you picked up on things there...
So, crowd control is one of the many, many, many things you are good at in your life — how is feeding off the energy of a crowd in this format different than a Maiden show? Is there anything that is perhaps not so different that caught you by surprise as far as maintaining an audience's attention at length?
The difference with a Maiden show or a musical show is you don't change the song mid-song because of the audience's reaction. With the stories, if you sense that they're really getting it, or somebody is absolutely about to spontaneously combust with laughter, then you pause it, and you wait for that to sink in and take effect. You can play with the emotions in the room and sometimes things can start to take on a life of their own.
It's very different because you really are feeling the audience paying attention to it, you're slowing things down or speeding things up if you think that the audience has really got it. That might lead you to do something else — you have to keep your wits about you.
My timekeeping when I first started doing these was all over the place. Some nights it was two hours or more and the audience kind of loses the will to live — their bladders give out, they explode, get carried out feet first...
Your love of airships is quite known. You wrote about the R-101 for "Empire of the Clouds" on The Book of Souls... But what do you think of the new privatized space travel industry that's coming up in terms of aviation?
The space tourism element of it is the least important thing for mankind in the world. Honestly, people say, 'Oh, wouldn't you want to go up on the top of a firework and spend a quarter million or half a million dollars,' whatever people pay for it? Well, no, because you're basically just kind of self-loading freight. You just sort of floating around going, "Oh, yeah, that's cool," — that's not doing anything.
I can think of lots more interesting and useful things to go and blow however much money on than just floating around looking at the 'Blue Marble.' There's a lot of stuff going wrong down here that needs fixing. Space is very important — it is — but I think space tourists are the least important bit of it.
Do you see the industry as being necessary [to further develop technology] to help push humankind into space? Ultimately where we're going to need to go there as we keep exhausting our resources on this planet.
There's plenty of resources on the planet if we manage it correctly. We can use technology as we always have done to make the world a better place. When technology has been used in the past, it really improved the lives of everybody. We're living longer, medicine is great... but you can't necessarily always see the downsides.
Nobody saw the downside of global warming when they invented the steam engine, but the steam engine enabled all these things. Beyond climate change, there's lots of really cool things happening, nuclear fusion being one of them.
The problem in the future could be confronting a situation where we have such over-choice of where we go. At the moment, everything's going to be battery-powered cars. What about hydrogen? It takes a lot of electricity to generate hydrogen, which is true, however, if in 10 years’ time you've got viable fusion reactors that are basically non-polluting, you can produce enormous amounts of hydrogen.
I can remember a time when everybody was told that what they had to do was all buy diesel cars because it burned less gas... now we know it's not less polluting and it has all kinds of problems.
These were government initiatives and sometimes I think that governments tend to jump feet-first into things and sometimes it's too much 'sloganeering' and not enough concentrating on the realities and the choices that people are going to have to make because it's people that are going to have to live with these decisions. It is a human characteristic that humans don't like too much choice and, unfortunately, our behavior as a species lends itself to stop-and-go policies until we can evolve, but in another 10,000 years we might be extinct because AI might just do away with us.
It's been a long time since your last solo album, Tyranny of Souls, was released. Have you had any opportunity in the last couple years to work with Roy Z and get some solo material going?
When I get to the end of the one-man show in the end of March, I've got about three weeks pulling my feels somewhere — I might lie down in a darkened room for a couple of days and recover from the tour and then put my singing head on and go and have a chat with Roy.
We've already got a bunch of material — demos and everything — but we need to organize it a bit more properly and be a bit more serious about it. [We have to] maybe write a few more tunes and then basically leave it down to Roy. He can go off and start doing backing tracks and things like that.
Obviously, I'm going to be going out on tour with Maiden [next year], but we made Tyranny of Souls that way. Tyranny of Souls was done kind of remotely — I wasn't physically present when some of the backing tracks were done, but he sent me the backtracks and I listened to them and, some of them, I wrote the words to the backtracks. Mixing and matching like that sometimes gets great results.
With the 'Legacy of the Beast' tour coming up, word is there's going to be a Senjutsu world incorporated into the production. What can fans expect to see that's new?
We can't change the tour that much because they've all paid their money to go and see the 'Legacy of the Beast' show and it is a great show. We're going to keep all of our Spitfires, flamethrowers, Icarus, graveyards, London, loads of Eddie's... Of course, [there] are at least two [Eddies] now, because we got a samurai Eddie to come on.
We're not going to subject people to more than two or three songs from the new album. [We'll] probably do them at the beginning. Obviously, "The Writing on the Wall" everybody knows, a title track [is one] we [have] got to do — "Senjutsu" is a fantastic opening song.