Legendary British metallers Iron Maiden return to Southern California tomorrow, headlining San Manuel Amphitheater with Megadeth, Anthrax, and Testament. Now 35 years into their career, they continue to transcend the heavy metal scene.
From a tour stop last week in St. Louis, Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson credits their longevity to their refusal to jump onto trends.
“We've never been interested in being fashionable,” Dickinson says. “I think there's an audience that thinks things like reality TV shows are a great contribution to society, but there's also a ton of people that think its bullshit. We have never sacrificed anything to the altar of media success. Sometimes that has meant that people didn't understand what we were about in the short-term, but it's paid off in the long-term, because we're still here!”
Indeed, the band was virtually ignored by commercial rock radio in the '80s when they were releasing landmark genre albums such as Number of the Beast and Powerslave. But as the band's legend grew over the years, the mainstream began to slowly accept Iron Maiden as part of the rock landscape. Nowadays fan favorites such as “The Trooper” are part of classic rock radio playlists across the country.
“It's kind of cool, but also strange and bizarre,” Dickinson says. “For years, we had people desperately working on our behalf to get us on the radio. We were always just of the attitude of 'If it happens, it happens.' We weren't going to change what we do to get a radio hit. We always wrote what we do primarily for us. If Iron Maiden fans like it, that's great. If they don't like it, they will tell us by going away.”
Dickinson has also become well-known over the years for his multiple offstage endeavors when Iron Maiden is not recording or touring. Earlier this year, Dickinson got involved in the process of formulating an official Iron Maiden beer, called Trooper.
“Originally, someone had the idea that we should do an Iron Maiden red wine,” Dickinson says. “I said, 'We're Iron Maiden! Beer is what we do!' If we were going to do some kind of alcohol, it should be a traditional English ale. I worked very closely with master brewer Martyn Weeks at Robinsons brewery here in the U.K. to develop the taste of it. I got really hands-on.”
He admits, however, that there was some nervousness as the initial release approached.
“The first taste was fantastic,” Dickinson says. “But then they spent the next two months brewing and bottling it. Time went by, and I started worrying about whether I had made a colossal mistake. I was concerned that it wouldn't be as good as that first taste. I was relieved that it has matched that initial first taste since it started getting distributed.”
Dickinson has also famously made excursions into the field of aviation, in recent years working as a commercial airline pilot while on hiatus from Iron Maiden. He flew the band and their stage setup from show-to-show on their 2008 world tour, documented in the concert film Flight 666.
He has also started an aviation repair business called Cardiff Aviation Limited. For Dickinson, this is not a vanity project, it's serious business.
“It's an MRO (maintenance repair organization),” Dickinson says. “We're fixing up and repairing Airbuses and Boeings and doing maintenance checks on airplanes. We have a five-year plan to grow it into a very lucrative business.”
Are there any parallels between his career as a heavy metal vocalist and his offstage endeavors?
“Whether you are starting a business, flying a plane, or starting a rock and roll band, you're like a magician trying to keep all of the plates spinning at the same time. Your main goal in the end is to keep all of those plates spinning.”
Iron Maiden perform at San Manuel Amphitheater on Friday, September 13th.
Follow Jason Roche on Twitter @JasonRocheLAW.