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BRUCE DICKINSON reflects on IRON MAIDEN’s democracy


During an appearance on the May 8 episode of the Brazilian TV talk show “Conversa Com Bial”Bruce Dickinson was asked if IRON MAIDEN is a democracy. He responded: “Uh, ultimately you can’t have a team as a democracy. A football team is not a democracy. You’ve gotta have a manager, you’ve gotta have a captain, you’ve gotta have a game plan, and people have gotta stick to the game plan. Now you can disagree, you can have discussions and you can have arguments, because when you’re passionate about something, you have arguments. But you can sometimes have areas where the coach will go, ‘You know what? I’m not in charge of the physiotherapy department. If the guy in charge of the physiotherapy department tells me that I need everybody to do this, this, this, that’s what we’re gonna do.’ So, with MAIDEN, we divide things up and things seem to work quite naturally now, organically. Like if Steve (HarrisMAIDEN founder and bassist) really is crazy about ‘I’m gonna do this, this, this’ musically, I’m, like, ‘Okay.’ So me and Adrian (SmithMAIDEN guitarist) will write stuff, and if it fits, great; if it doesn’t, not a problem. So we live with each other. It’s quite cool. It’s learning to be tolerant of each of each other, basically, because we’re not the same. We all have different interests, all have slightly different attitudes. We were put together as a band. We didn’t all know each other from childhood or anything else like that. So I would probably never have met Steve Harris if I wasn’t the singer in IRON MAIDEN. I would never have met (MAIDEN drummer) Nicko McBrain if he wasn’t the drummer. But we’ve all grown together, and we’ve ended up as a kind of family, because we tolerate each other, and we look after each other, and we care for each other.”

Two months ago, Bruce was asked by Stereogum why he thinks there haven’t been any lineup changes in IRON MAIDEN since he and Smith rejoined the band in 1999. He responded: “I think we’ve all grown up just enough to appreciate that we were all separate individuals who got together to play IRON MAIDEN music. I think what pissed Adrian off, and me to a certain extent, was this idea that we were just this homogenous blob that was IRON MAIDEN. That we were a single block of concrete. Adrian rebelled against that. I didn’t particularly like the idea either. Because it was, like, ‘Are we not individuals then?’ And then it was, ‘To a certain extent.’ Well, no. Now we’ve rejoined.”

He continued: “The reason we’ve rejoined is because we wanted to, so it’s a choice. And it was actually our choice. It was a request, and it was our choice to rejoin. And now, having done that, let’s have more adult relationships between everybody. It became a lot easier to get on with everybody, a lot easier to speak more honestly and open about things. And also, not to get bent out of shape about things, about somebody has a bad day or somebody’s turned into a megalomaniac this afternoon. Just walk away, because tomorrow morning, they won’t be like that. Whereas back in the ’80s, we’d have had a fucking argument about it, or people would have gone away and sulked about it for weeks. And that just breeds resentment and discontent and things like that.”

Dickinson added: “We’re in the state now where the band’s really successful, and we all get on, probably because — with the exception of [MAIDEN guitarist] Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, who lived in the same street together when they were growing up — none of us would ever have met each other if it wasn’t for IRON MAIDEN. I would never have met Nicko McBrain. I would never have met Steve. What brings us all together is MAIDEN. So, this is a great place to be. We’re probably one of the biggest heavy metal bands in the world. We mean a huge amount — and I do understand that — to millions of people around the world. And what’s not to love about still being able to do it?”

Dickinson‘s new studio album, “The Mandrake Project”, was released on March 1, 2024 via BMG. Across ten inventive, expansive, and absorbing tracks, Bruce and his long-term co-writer and producer Roy “Z” Ramirez have created one of 2024’s defining rock albums. Sonically heavy and rich in musical textures, it sees Bruce bring to life a musical vision long in the making and features some of the finest vocal performances of his career. “The Mandrake Project” is not just an album, but a dark, adult story of power, abuse, and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius.

The battle for immortality begins with “Bruce Dickinson’s The Mandrake Project” #1 available at comic retailers and direct from Z2Comics.com on January 17, 2024. The large-sized 9.35″ x 9:35″ 36-page single issue with cardstock cover is priced at $10 and arrives in a sealed bag with a first-printing certificate of authenticity — the first of a 12-issue run arriving quarterly over the course of the next three years, including annual trade paperbacks every fall. Release dates for 2024 and 2025 as follows:

“The Mandrake Project” #1 – January 17, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #2 – March 20, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #3 – June 26, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #4 – September 25, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #2 – March 20, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #3 – June 26, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #4 – September 25, 2024

“The Mandrake Project” #7 – June 25, 2025

“The Mandrake Project” #8 – September 24, 2025

“The Mandrake Project” annual trade paperback #2 – November 5, 2025

“Bruce Dickinson’s The Mandrake Project” #1 (of 12)

* Story by Bruce Dickinson
* Script by Tony Lee
* Art by Staz Johnson
* Letters by Troy Peteri
* Colors by Gabo
* Covers by Bill Sienkiewicz

Bruce Dickinson has recently released the official music video for his new solo single, “Afterglow Of Ragnarok”. The Ryan Mackfall-directed motion picture short is based on the graphic novel written by Dickinson and Tony Lee and features original artwork by Staz Johnson. “Afterglow Of Ragnarok” is the first single from the IRON MAIDEN singer’s upcoming solo album, “The Mandrake Project”, which will arrive in early 2024 via BMG.

Watch “Afterglow Of Ragnarok” below.

“It was important to set the tone of the project with this track,” Dickinson explains. “As befitting its title, it’s a heavy song and there’s a great big riff driving it…but there’s also a real melody in the chorus that displays the light and shade that the rest of the album brings… and just wait until you see the video!”

“The Mandrake Project” is a dark, adult story of power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius. Created by Dickinson, scripted by Tony Lee and stunningly illustrated by Staz Johnson for Z2 Comics, the series features 12 episodes that collect into three graphic novels and will be launched in 2024.

An eight-page comic prequel to “The Mandrake Project”, titled “Afterglow Of Ragnarok”, is included within the vinyl seven-inch single booklet which accompanies the single of the same name and sets the scene for the story to come. The seven-inch single also features Dickinson‘s original solo demo version of the song “If Eternity Should Fail”, which first appeared on IRON MAIDEN‘s album “The Book Of Souls” in 2015.

Having already announced Brazilian and Mexican live dates for April and May next year, Dickinson and his phenomenal band — which features guitarist Roy “Z” Ramirez, drummer Dave Moreno, bass player Tanya O’Callaghan and keyboard maestro Mistheria — will continue their touring with a run of European shows, alongside a number of festival appearances in Europe. The currently confirmed dates are below.

“The Mandrake Project” European tour

May 18 – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, UK
May 19 – O2 Academy, Manchester, UK
May 21 – Arena, Swansea, UK
May 23 – Rock City, Nottingham, UK
May 24 – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, UK
May 26 – L’Olympia, Paris, France
May 28 – 013, Tilburg, Holland
May 29 – De Oosterport, Groningen, Holland
June 1 – Barba Negra, Budapest, Hungary
June 3 – Arenale Romane, Bucharest, Romania
June 5-8 – Mystic Festival, Gdansk, Poland *
June 5-8 – Sweden Rock Festival, Sölvesborg, Sweden *
June 9 – Rockefeller, Oslo, Norway
June 16 – Huxleys Neue Welt, Berlin, Germany
June 17 – Grosse Freiheit 36, Hamburg, Germany
June 19-22 – Copenhell, Copenhagen, Denmark *
June 24 – Zeltfestival Rhein-Neckar, Mannheim, Germany *
June 25 – Circus Krone, Munich, Germany
June 27-30 – Hellfest, Clisson, France *
June 30 – Rockhal, Esch-Sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
July 3-6 – Rockharz Open Air, Ballenstedt, Germany *
July 5 – Ippodrome Delle Capannelle, Rock In Rome, Rome, Italy *
July 6 – Bassano Del Grappa, Metal Park, Vincenza, Italy *
July 9 – E-Werk, Koln, Germany
July 13 – Hala, Zagreb, Croatia
July 16 – Kolodrum Arena, Sofia, Bulgaria
July 19 – Kucukciftlik Park, Istanbul, Turkey

* Festival performance

Bruce Dickinson has released a video message earlier this year in which he offered a bit more information about his upcoming solo album, due in early 2024 on BMG. Titled “The Mandrake Project”, it sees him reunited with long-time musical collaborator and producer Roy “Z” Ramirez.

“The Mandrake Project” will be Dickinson‘s seventh solo album and his first since “Tyranny Of Souls” in 2005.

Bruce said: “So, everybody, everybody on the planet who’s been going, ‘Oh my god. What’s this solo thing gonna be all about when it finally happens?’ Well, it’s finally happening. It’s called ‘The Mandrake Project’, and’ of course, it’s music. But, it’s also much, much, more. More than that, I’m not gonna reveal for now, ’cause it will become self-explanatory and self-evident as we go through and reveal more layers of the onion for you all.”

He continued: “But, yeah, ‘The Mandrake Project’. We’ve been working on this since 2014, when it wasn’t called ‘The Mandrake Project’. And it’s had time to grow and mature. And, oh my God, has it ever. I think you will be really, really excited. And, I hope you love everything that we’ve created for you.”

When “The Mandrake Project” was first announced in September, Dickinson said in a statement: “This album has been a very personal journey for me and I am extremely proud of it. Roy Z and I have been planning, writing and recording it for years, and I am very excited for people to finally hear it. I’m even more excited at the prospect of getting out on the road with this amazing band that we have put together, to be able to bring it to life. We’re planning to play as many shows as we can in as many places as possible, for as many people as we can! As for what ‘The Mandrake Project’ actually is… all will be revealed soon!”

In March 2022, Bruce told Consequence about his next solo album: “I’ve been working on it, on and off, since ‘Tyranny Of Souls’. But between lockdowns and albums and MAIDEN tours and everything else, I’m looking for a clear space to actually nail and say, ‘Okay, this is what it’s gonna be,’ and get Roy to put some backing tracks down. And then we can do it. So we’re at the point now where we’ve already got — I don’t know — anywhere between 50 and 70 percent of the material for the album, depend(ing) on what we pick, from things we’ve already got. And I think we’d like to tweak it a little bit.”

Back in December 2017, Dickinson said that his next solo LP would likely include a reworked version of “If Eternity Should Fail”, the opening track on IRON MAIDEN‘s 2015 disc “The Book Of Souls”. At the time, he said that he had about “half” of his seventh record already written and he also confirmed that “If Eternity Should Fail” was originally penned as a Dickinson solo track.

He told Finland’s Kaaos TV that the original plan was for his next solo record to be “a whole concept album, which was gonna be called ‘If Eternity Should Fail’. And ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ was the title track to my new solo album,” he said. “And a bit like (Dickinson‘s 1989 solo song) ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ (laughs), it got commandeered for IRON MAIDEN. So if I did do another solo album, which I think I will, I might just stick to my original plan and have that as the title track. I mean, I did write it — it was the first track that I wrote for it. So, yeah, I’d probably still include that song. But it would be… the feel would be slightly different — not very much, though — from the MAIDEN version.”

In 2015, Dickinson told France’s Hard Force magazine that “If Eternity Should Fail” ended up being used by IRON MAIDEN after bassist Steve Harris heard the demos that Bruce was working on for what was supposed to be his next solo album. “And (Steve) went, ‘That’s a really cool song. Can we use that? That’s gonna be the opening song on the album,'” he recalled. “And I went, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And he was already writing, I think… He was already thinking of ‘The Book Of Souls’ as being the title, so he told me about the Mayan thing. And I’m, like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool. Okay. Yeah, I see where you’re going.’ But in my case, that song was written as part of a story. So the spoken word at the end is the beginning of a story that goes through the whole album. And one of the characters is Dr. Necropolis; he’s the bad guy. And the good guy is Professor Lazarus; he raises people from the dead. So that introduces Necropolis in the spoken-word thing. And I asked Steve… I said, ‘Look. Okay. I get having the song…’ ‘Cause it opens up with, ‘Here is the soul of a man.’ ‘Yup. Get that. But what about the end?’ I said, ‘Will people understand what this is about? Because this is nothing to do with the Mayans or anything. This is to do with… I’d come up with a concept album that doesn’t happen.’ (Laughs) And he went, ‘No, no, no. It’s just talking about souls and everything, and it sounds great.’ I went, ‘Okay.’ (Laughs)”

Dickinson made his recording debut with IRON MAIDEN on the “Number Of The Beast” album in 1982. He quit the band in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Blaze Bayley, who had previously been the lead singer of the metal band WOLFSBANE. After releasing two traditional metal albums with former MAIDEN guitarist Adrian SmithDickinson rejoined the band in 1999 along with Smith. Since then, Dickinson has only released one more solo album (the aforementioned “Tyranny Of Souls”) but has previously said that his solo career is not over.

In September 2021 IRON MAIDEN released their last full album ‘Senjutsu’, for which the band currently is out on a world tour.

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