: Juillet 2000
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Iron Maiden: Back To The Old School

In the metal universe, one word is bound to inspire headbangers to reverently throw up their metal horns and nod in approval: Maiden.

Before Korn, before Metallica, before any of today's hard rock elite were piecing together riffs in their garages, Iron Maiden was bolstering the British metal prototype and road-testing it around the world. Maiden's early '80s output on albums such as "Killers," "The Number Of The Beast," and "Powerslave" brought together fantasy imagery, musicianship, and sheer volume in a combination that would come to mean "metal" to legions of fans.

But there was a time when it looked as though the band's legacy would die in the '90s. Following the 1993 departure of frontman Bruce Dickinson, dark days followed and Maiden limped along, seemingly bound for the metal scrap heap. However, instead of fading into obscurity, Maiden regrouped, refocused, and came up with what could be the biggest hit of its 24-year career. So far, "Brave New World" brought Maiden a top 40 debut and its biggest radio hit in the form of "The Wicker Man."

Recently, Dickinson sat down with MTV News' Robert Mancini to talk about recording with his mates for the first time in seven years. He also dished on capturing the "classic" Maiden sound, the group's plans for Eddie, and why "no other band on Earth can touch us."

MTV News: I have to say that the new album sounds classic without feeling dated.

Dickinson: Yeah, it's the classic sound. If it was the Rolling Stones, you'd say it was a great Rolling Stones record, and nobody would be disappointed that it doesn't sound like Nine Inch Nails. It's like, "Duh." It's a great sound, and there's nothing wrong with it.

MTV: There must be a struggle that a musician has after you've established yourself and you've created a signature sound. There's got to be something inside of you that makes you think "Maybe I want to do something a little bit different. Maybe I want to go the David Bowie route and change it up every time, or maybe I would rather go the AC/DC route and find one thing and be really good at it for an entire career."

Dickinson: Well, it doesn't suit everybody all the time. Obviously I went off and did my solo thing, and in a sense, that's in many ways what made it possible for me to come back to Maiden.... I saw going back to Maiden as being almost like a new frontier. [I said] "Wow, here's a chance to make this thing huge again," because it's truly a great sound. I mean, when the band is on and we're doing it live, there's no other band on Earth can touch us. I really, really believe that.

It's kind of a cool challenge as well, 'cause so many people have written the band off. A lot of people who've written the band off were not very experienced Maiden watchers or Maiden fans. They didn't really know how good the band was deep down, so it's very easy for them to be dedicated followers of fashion and write off everything that's metal every five minutes. So coming back to the band and making the record, most importantly, was a good way of achieving the end result.

We've done it collectively as well. It's not like I have anything more to do with this record than anybody else on it. On the songwriting credits, I'm [only] involved in four songs out of the ten songs on the record. There are five writers in the band, so if the record sounds uniformly strong, it's uniformly strong because of the uniform strength within the band.

MTV: You talked about the band's expectations, and fans' expectations are cropping up online. People who haven't heard the album are already talking about what they want it to be. Do you ever visit those sites?

Dickinson: Yeah, I visit the sites, but only after we've done it. I'm not going to allow myself to be influenced [by them]. This is not politics. This is not where you get people saying, "Hey, Picasso, stop right there. Should it be an up stroke, down stroke, or a left? Take a vote." You can take this whole bullsh** thing too far.

MTV: You hooked up with Dean Karr to shoot a video for "The Wicker Man." What was that experience like?

Dickinson: Working with Dean was great. The only problems we had were courtesy of the Los Angeles weather, which really did us absolutely no favors at all. As I recall, we filmed it in a gravel pit in Burbank at night. It was a night shoot, which meant sundown was at 6:30, and we shot until dawn the next morning for two nights running. The first night I was actually up for 25 hours straight, because I got up fairly early that day. By the time we started shooting, I'd been up for 12 hours, and by the time we finished I was, like, wasted, and it was three Celsius, which is cold. There was hail, rain, and freezing rain and howling winds all night long on and off.

Steve got food poisoning from the catering, and we had a bunch of extras who actually were soaked hanging out under little tents. You had the compulsory Los Angeles union break at midnight, when all shooting stopped for three hours. We actually lost several shots that were going to be in the video because we just ran out of time. We had to burn the Wicker Man that day because the fire permit that they'd gotten only lasted for that day. So of course, it was chucking it down with rain when they went to burn the Wicker Man. That was a day of adversity.

MTV: Not exactly a glamorous shoot.

Dickinson: Ha! Yeah, really. But it got made, and I'll tell you what, we did loads of band performance, and the band looked great. We could have done with a few more of the naked nymphs, because they were great. They stood around naked the whole night in all this stuff. Wow. They were underpaid.

MTV: Have you guys yet figured out who you will be touring with this summer?

Dickinson: We don't know for sure. I know that there is certainly one person I would love to tour with, and that would be Rob Halford, because he's just made this amazing record. He is totally back with the whole [Judas] Priest "Screaming For Vengeance" thing. He's singing like a bird, albeit a tortured, twisted bird. I know that there's a lot of talk about maybe Rob going out with us, which I think I would be pretty exciting. I think a lot of kids would really get off on that.

MTV: That wouldn't be bad. Didn't you record something with him?

Dickinson: Yeah, we did a little duet one enchanted evening. We did a song called "I'm The One You Love To Hate."

MTV: At this point, is there a home for that?

Dickinson: I think we could have found a home at various points. He's managed now by the same manager as Iron Maiden. We could have found a home for him a while back, but he hadn't finished the record. So as our record starts to create the huge buzz and as the whole metal thing starts to roll, I think it's going to be a better place for Rob to have the record finished. The fact that he's going back to the things that made him strong is a great thing. It's a great thing for him, and I don't think he's going to have any problems getting a deal.

MTV: Finally, the obligatory question: What do you have planned for Eddie and your stage show?

Dickinson: Yep, the stage show.... Yes, there will be one. Will it be big? Yes, it will be very big. We can't get away with making a record like this and not doing a huge stage show. Wicker Man? Yes. Flames? Yes. Human sacrifice? Well, I don't know about that. Vestal virgins? Yes, if they'll fit... and of course, Eddie.