BRUCE DICKINSON – “What Does This Button Do?”

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Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjala

Bruce Dickinson is a man who needs no introduction to metal bangers. Iron Maiden has enjoyed and still does the fanatical following in most countries among the metal and rock fans decades after decades. Bruce Dickinson could be described as a modern-day renaissance artist. Besides being the Iron Maiden frontman, he has recorded albums with the Samson band and solo albums. Outside of the music world, Bruce Dickinson has been involved in writing books, movie scripts, being a radio DJ, and known as a highly ranked fencer. Iron Maiden’s legendary frontman is going and already has released the biography book of his long life called WHAT DOES THAT BUTTON DO, where he unveils more about all those activities. The book is his first, maybe his last (according to him) biography covering all his life from his childhood till the most recent events in his life. Dickinson has been traveling all around the world, promoting his book quite a lot. He also visited Finland, where he had two signing sessions. Hundreds and hundreds of fans arrived, hoping to get the books signed, and he signed all of them. Despite two days of long signing sessions, Dickinson also did a significant number of interviews with several journalists, including Metal-Rules.Com. He deserves all the respect and other bands out there. Take a lesson of Bruce Dickinson’s attitude and morals. Here is the interview.


First of all, welcome to Finland again!

Thank you very much. Very nice to be here just the day before your Independence Day celebrations.

The reason you’re here is that you’re promoting your new WHAT DOES THAT BUTTON DO book. What kind of feedback have you gotten about it?

Well, I’ve been very pleased with the reaction here. We are doing amazingly well with the book, so I think we’re already into the third reprint.

Are you the kind of guy who follows what media writes about you, the bands, your book, or do you try to stay away from all that?

Well, I don’t get much choice about it now because the book’s out so that people can write and say what they want about it. So yeah, I don’t have much control over it, so I don’t worry about it.

I think the book is overall entirely personal. There is a lot of talk about your own private life, like, for example, the cancer thing. How did you decide which topics and subjects are going to be included and which are not?

I didn’t necessarily need to go and affect other people’s lives; that much was quite enough stuff going on in my life to make an interesting book. So, anybody, looking for scandals about loads of other rock stars or more that sort nonsense, was not there. In any case, but the book is – I’m obviously a huge chunk of my life. But there are no other things in the book as well, which I think people might find a hope interesting. I see writer afterward, and I say look – I made a decision when I started writing the autobiography-; “What are you going to put in what are you going to leave out? You can’t put everything in is 400 pages. What are you going to put in, and what are you going to leave out?” I left out 40000 words anyway, which I wrote. Concerning wives and children and all the rest of it, then it affects their lives in a way which – I don’t think it is necessarily 100 percent positive. People just start gossip around them and talk about them and everything, and they’re not that they’re not obviously important to me. Still, they’re not necessarily important to the story of the autobiography of mine.

Bruce Dickinson in Helsinki 2017

Most of the rock stars’ biographies have the holy three themes included; sex, drugs, and rock n roll. There’s not much talk about sex or girls in your book. Was it something that you wanted to leave out on purpose?

Well, I mean, this is what it is. But it’s not that much about drugs, to be honest with you. Yeah, I smoked something; I smoked dope when I was at university. I put that in there just because I wanted to make the point that I don’t see the point in a drug; they didn’t do anything to a great extent for me. So, stopping was pretty easy. I mean, it’s not like I was an addict; it’s not like I’ve ever purchased a drug in my life. Actually, I’m the worst guy on the planet because I used to smoke everybody else’s dope. And as for the sex bit of it, there is a little bit of sex in it, but not to the point where I’m describing how incredibly I’m in bed and not basically because why would you want to do that. Like people don’t know what it’s like to have sex. Most people have, and most people who have sex have with girlfriends, boyfriends whatever make love their whatever. Yeah, I can tell you it’s no different. Everything works just the same game. It’s just something that happens to the entire planet. So, what’s different. Why did that have to go in the book? It’s just sort of it’s another kind of Rockstar narcissist. That’s not the thing with this book. I didn’t want this to be a confessional about how big my Willey’s or “Ok, I’m in Odessa” nonsense; it’s so tedious it’s boring. I think a book should be entertaining. It should be a little educational, a little bit informative and funny and I think it should celebrate life.

How this book writing process was different from writing a solo album – I mean, that’s always a quite personal project compared to working with any Iron Maiden stuff?

No, it’s not like writing a solo album. Writing a solo album is writing a solo album. You’re creating fiction with songs. So, it’s no; it’s not. It’s all right if I’m writing a book like this is a standalone process. I think because it’s not like writing a fictional book, and it’s not even like writing a nonfiction book, you can stand back and do research because you have opinions. But this one that you’re already in it. You know, so it’s a curious hybrid autobiography. And I know you have to be quite selective about it. You can’t put every single thing you’ve ever done in your entire life. Down here, the red. Any of you know when people have they keep diaries. I never keep a diary. I never bothered to do that. So I couldn’t be asked as like you expect me to sit down and write what I did every day. God Almighty is boring. And that’s the problem when I look at people that keep diaries, and they publish them. I got that boring and tedious. “Oh my god. Really,”. You know I mean Richard Burton’s diaries. I thought, “Oh wow. I bet these up. I learned something today I had halibut. It was undercooked, and the wind was disgraceful. However, the bed was beautiful and comfortable.” And so are many autobiographies. I don’t read them for that very same reason. In the build-up to writing this, I occasionally went and spent an hour or so just flicking through autobiographies. And the big thing that came across was like “Oh my god, who cares about things how I think I like to write an autobiography that might just be a little bit more of the wool that might be a little bit odd.” The people might read it and go oh I didn’t know that. That’s interesting. Or something. Not just that, the rock star autobiography.

When did you make the decision that you wanted to write a book about your life after all?

Well, I had all kinds of people chasing me to write a book for 10 – 12 years or so, and I never bothered to do that because I knew what was involved. You had to spend a long time doing it. And I thought, “Oh, I can’t be bothered.” Then I’ve got the cancer thing, and I got clear of that, and I did the BOOK OF SOULS too, and then at the end of it all kind of sorted out. After I get clear of cancer, I thought, “This is a perfect place to end a book because one of the biggest problems with writing an autobiography is the question, when and where you’re going to stop it? I mean, just before you die, I mean, that was the point of writing it. So, you’ve got to stop it somewhere. And I thought this is the perfect place to end it. Having just gotten a clear concept, that’s a great place to stop. And then, of course, the stop point is easy. It’s the beginning of the rest of your life. So, it’s a journey. I mean, in an autobiography like a novel should be, it should be a journey from the beginning all the way through. My editor at Harper Collins’s Jack Fog was great because he took all my stuff in sequential order and started editing it. He edited it like a novel. When we sat down together to do that, it took us about three and a half days to get rid of 40000 words that he thought would be difficult. But once I understood what he was trying to achieve, we were both doing cutting like crazy because it became really easy to lose eight or ten pages of one story because it was a story you didn’t if you didn’t know, it was that you didn’t know, it was gone yet. So, from that point, once he understood what he was after.

Life is a lot easier, so you can tell in the book that you missed the Genesis show because you attended the school like one year after the band played.

Yeah yeah.

Are there some other bands that do you have wanted to see, but it never happened?

Oh yeah, I have missed every single band I’ve liked most. I missed every show of those bands, except Uriah Heep with David Byron, who is my biggest influence. I’ve never seen those other ones, not even a single time. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Jethro Tull. I never saw them, and there is some specific reason for it. I was at school. Ok, so I was at boarding school. It was also money-related. I just couldn’t afford to go because I was in a boarding school. And it was as simple as that. And they weren’t around, you know so. So, I had to imagine what it was like in real life. It was a bit like the Marquis De Sade, for all of his crazy pornographic writing never had sex except in his mind because he was locked up in jail, and he had to write down all these crazy fantasies on toilet paper. And this is the truth. The more they locked him up, the more insane his fantasies became, and in the end, it became utterly absurd. I mean, it’s ridiculous. And it was a little bit like that with music. I imagined all these people doing all these amazing things on stage in my head because there were no videos back then. So, there was no footage you could see of people very much; you know there was nothing like a Top Of The Pops or something, and we only had. And that was very rare. We were allowed to watch TV, so I imagined everybody in a real sort of kinetic way. People ask me why I run around as I do on stage, and it’s because that’s how I imagined that all my heroes ran around on stage. When I finally saw them on stage, after most of them later on reunited, they just were just standing there.

Bruce Dickinson live in Helsinki, 2002

You have a lot of great stories about your old bands before Iron Maiden in the book. For example, Samson. You seemed to have quite a lot of difficulties with that group, but you’re very proud of those times.

I think we were such a strange band. I mean, we were all over the place in so many ways. It was a great experience. I mean, I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world because I learned a lot. I learned a lot of actually what not to do. I also got a huge amount of experience, particularly the second album that I did with them, SHOCK TACTICS. I learned a massive amount about singing from that album. And that led pretty directly into what I did with on THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. Martin Birch then turned it into what I became subsequently as a vocalist.

Before Samson, you were fronting a band called the Shots. That band has a horrible look, to be honest. Have you ever seen a really bad group but later on, one or a few of its members have managed to have a great career in the music business?

Probably there have been a few bands like that, but I can’t remember any of them personally. I’ll have to think about that more “Laughs.”

One special thing about the Shots was your unique dressing which included golden jockstraps. Whatever happened to those?

The golden jockstraps are long gone and have been eaten by worms that can be just me on the right one. So, those are finally in a better place, “Laughs.”

Shots promo shot. Bruce is pictured in the middle with the hat. Photo by

There are great stories behind your solo albums. When speaking a bit about your solo career, you recently released a box set, including your solo albums. Does that mean that you’re going to activate your solo career again sometime soon?

There’s half an album of solo stuff sitting on a shelf in Roy Z’s bedroom right now. I just need to go and get some time and go in and writes some more material. I mean, I was halfway through doing it. It was going to be a whole concept album, and it was going to be called “If Eternity Should Fail,” and “If Eternity Should Fail” was the title track to my new solo album. And a bit like what happened in “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter,” Iron Maiden wanted to use it, so that’s what happened again. But 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 there first. It was the first track that I wrote you know for it. So yeah, I probably still include that song, but it would be the feel would be slightly different, not very much from the Maiden version.

You have also said in the interviews that you really enjoyed writing this book. And like you already mentioned, you have some bits, some parts which you cut off. Do you feel that there could someday be another book about your life, or is this enough about that topic?

Well, there are 40000 words of stories sloshing around. I’m not sure how you would organize it or how you would put it together. I’m not even seriously thinking about it at the moment because I’m in the middle of this one right now. It’s only been out for a couple of months, so we’ve got a long way to go with this book. You know it’s going to go to the whole the hardbacks, and it’s going to get released in Germany next year and then Brazil and Spain and Italy and all these places. And then there’s the back’s going to come out later, and it’s going to be two years working on this book. I might write some other bits during that time, and I might not, but I need to figure out how they approach because you can’t do a second autobiography. You know people do that a lot. I mean, some people are releasing their fifth biography, and they’re only 25. There are lots more spaces on the pages, and the paper is really thick again. “Laughs.”

Our time seems to be up now. Here’s one more question left. The Maiden will be back on the road in spring, and then you’re also coming back to Finland. What can the fans expect from that upcoming tour?

Well, of course, you can expect surprises. The one thing I will say is I’m really pleased to be doing this indoors. We made a decision that we would try as much as possible to do indoor shows this summer. Obviously, there is some festival shows so we can’t do that 100 percent. The main reason is that the show is we’ve been designing the show for almost a year now, that “Book of Souls” was such a great show. We thought, wow, how we’re going to beat this. So, now we’ve come up with something which I think is going to be pretty spectacular.  You definitely will not want to miss the beginning of the show.


The interview is released courtesy of