Fans get high with their rock idol

September 13, 2015 11:24 pm 22 comments Views: 45
Let’s rock: Bruce Dickinson gives Iron Maiden fans the metal sign before flying them to P

Let’s rock: Bruce Dickinson gives Iron Maiden fans the metal sign before flying them to Paris.
Source: Supplied

BRUCE Dickinson is a full time metal icon, occasional pilot and a semi-regular kazoo enthusiast.

The kazoo is one of the items Dickinson took with him on August 26, otherwise known as the day he made Maiden fans’ dreams come true by getting high with them. Really, really high.

Dickinson personally flew around 150 Iron Maiden fans and media from Cardiff, where he owns an aircraft maintenance facility, to Paris, where the British metal band recorded their new album The Book of Souls.

Fans were bussed to Guillaume Tell studio, a converted art deco cinema from the 1920s to see where the metal magic happened.

All aboard: Bruce Dickinson is a pilot when he’s not busy fronting Iron Maiden.

All aboard: Bruce Dickinson is a pilot when he’s not busy fronting Iron Maiden.
Source: Supplied

Dickinson, 57, introduced the first airing of the 92 minute double album which entered the Australian chart at No. 2 and the UK charts at No. 1 this week.

At Cardiff airport passengers were officially able to write ‘Flight 666’ on their customs declaration, the Maiden-friendly number given to the flight.

The Maiden fans, who paid around $ 600 for the return flights and accommodation in Paris, got

bespoke Flight 666 T-shirts.

Maiden’s monstrous mascot, Eddie, is visible all over the airport and even on the paddles on-ground safety staff are waving.

Dickinson pops his head out of the cockpit window as fans climb the stairs to the plane, many posing on the ground below him, throwing up metal signs for selfies.

Once on board, the pilot unnecessarily introduces himself to a round of cheers.

After the usual safety instructions, Dickinson has a special weapon to make sure everyone behaves on his watch — that kazoo.

The metal warrior then busts out the Benny Hill theme on kazoo.

“That song does sound especially ridiculous when played on the kazoo,” Dickinson explains a few days later.

Not your average flight: the boarding pass for Flight 666 with pilot Bruce Dickinson.

Not your average flight: the boarding pass for Flight 666 with pilot Bruce Dickinson.
Source: Supplied

Turns out Dickinson packs a kazoo whenever he flies. As well as the occasional charter flight for Maiden fans he’s also flown commercial routes for passengers who probably have no clue they’ve got a multi-millionaire, multi-million-selling rock star in the cockpit.

“The kazoo is very good for cheering people up at 4am when you need to do another flight to get people home and everyone’s down in the dumps,” Dickinson says. “Leap around a bit with a kazoo and everyone’s back on side.”

Unsurprisingly, the instrument has yet to surface on any of Iron Maiden’s 16 albums.

“Me, Nicko (McBrain, drums) and Davey (Murray, guitar) used to have a kazoo orchestra going in the back of the tour bus,” Dickinson says. “We had one of those drunken conversations, where we should all be locked up in a padded cell. We were saying ‘We could do a whole album on the kazoo’ and you wake up the next morning and go ‘What were we on? No. We won’t be doing that’. So the kazoo has yet to be on a Maiden album, but you never know your luck.”

Back on the short flight to Paris fans can’t hear The Book of Souls yet for security reasons, but are treated to a special in-flight refreshment: Trooper, Iron Maiden’s very own beer.

The fans range from lifers who discovered the band before their breakthrough 1982 album The Number of the Beast to teenagers who have had Maiden worship passed down. Two French teens discuss which eBay site they use to locate the vintage Maiden patches sewn onto their denim jackets, part of the metal uniform.

But aside from waving to Dickinson when boarding, the fans respect that for the flight to Paris he’s their pilot, not their rock hero.

Dickinson says he finds it strange to switch between his two jobs on special occasions like this.

Lengthy: the new Iron Maiden album The Book of Souls goes for 92 minutes.

Lengthy: the new Iron Maiden album The Book of Souls goes for 92 minutes.
Source: Supplied

“You have to compartmentalise it. You’ve got stuff going on outside the cockpit, you’re waving at people, they’re taking pictures, there’s lots of distractions. As soon as it’s down to business it’s a case of ‘Shut the window, shut the door, no we can’t do any more autographs, let’s get serious about the actual business of the flight’.”

For a man with a pretty interesting day job already, his work as a pilot is more than a mere hobby.

“It’s a completely different headspace from Maiden,” Dickinson says. “The flying bit is very internal. In Maiden you run around and show off the music to people and entertain them, it’s all very external. Flying is much more inside your head.

“Obviously it’s difficult to leap around the flight deck of an aeroplane when you’re strapped to the seat. Nobody really knows who you are, the flight deck door is always locked if you’re doing a normal flight.

“The satisfaction is in being anonymous and getting the job down efficiently and being on time. That involves quite a bit of problem solving, stuff that goes on in the background that hopefully the passengers never ever suspect. As far as they’re concerned it should be boring and seamless. But as far as you’re concerned as part of the flight crew your days can be quite interesting. But your job is to make the passenger’s day really quite dull.”

Not on this flight. Troopers downed, the plane lands in Paris and excited fans head to the studio. Dickinson arrives and points out where each band member set up to be recorded live.

“Put a drum kit in the middle of the room and it’s got space to breathe,” Dickinson says. “We’re recording real instruments and not enhancing everything electronically afterwards. Nothing wrong with that, kids record albums in their bedrooms now that sound amazing, but we’re Iron Maiden and we just can’t do that.”

Captain’s call: Bruce Dickinson in the cockpit of Ed Force One

Captain’s call: Bruce Dickinson in the cockpit of Ed Force One
Source: Supplied

As the 18 minute epic finale Empire of the Clouds ends, a 30-something man from Helsinki is in tears, proclaiming the album to be a “masterpiece”.

Relayed to Dickinson later on, the metal icon gets a bit misty himself.

“That’s so sweet,” Dickinson says. “That emotional response is the best thing you can possibly have.”

The band start touring The Book of Souls in February, a jaunt that will include their first shows in China and El Salvador. They’ll return to Australia in May.

At the Paris listening party, fans wonder out loud how the band will accommodate the lengthy new songs when touring a 92 minute double album.

Dickinson says they’re in the midst of trying to work out those logistics themselves, but there’ll be one absentee.

“Three songs off the new album is not enough. There’ll maybe be four or five. But we won’t be playing Empire (of the Clouds). It’s too ambitious and it’d dominate the set too much. That makes life a little bit easier.

“Some of the classics that we haven’t played for a couple of tours, we can bring some of those back. There’s a few songs people have been demanding for a couple of years, we might make a few people happy, they might get what they want. But you can’t do all of the tunes.

“Some songs we’ve been playing repeatedly over the past few tours so we can put those ones into mothballs for a while, make way for some other ones. We haven’t done the setlist in stone yet, we’ll put that out closer to the tour.”

Dickinson says the band take note of online feedback from fans.

“You get a feel of what the fans what, but you also have to go with what feels right for us and the effect we want to create as well. It’s important we’re not just a karaoke band. With the reaction to the new album, the excitement over it, and the last few albums, we’ve pretty much dismissed the idea of Iron Maiden being a nostalgia band, it’s just not the case.”

Bruce Dickinson turned 57 last month

Bruce Dickinson turned 57 last month
Source: AP

For Iron Maiden statistics fans

For Iron Maiden statistics fans
Source: Supplied

Indeed, for a double album released in 2015 by a band decades into their career The Book of Souls is getting roundly praised by critics.

“People genuinely seem to like it,” Dickinson says. “Even the people giving us begrudging praise, they seem to like it. When every single review is good some of them may be right!”

As with their last few tours, Maiden will tour the globe on their own private aircraft, Ed Force One, piloted by Dickinson. For this tour they’re upgrading from Boeing 757s to a Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, which can transport the band, crew, mammoth stage production and equipment.

Dickinson will need special training to fly the new plane (he has a simulator set up in Cardiff) but isn’t rushing into it.

“Ideally you want to schedule the training to as close as possible to operating the real aeroplane,” he says. “You don’t want, what do they call it? Oh yeah, skillfade.”

During the Paris listening session, Dickinson is the first to embrace the elephant in the room. The singer was diagnosed with throat cancer early this year after finishing the recording of The Book of Souls, and this is the first chance for many fans to see him back in rude health.

“There’s reasons too tumerous to mention,” Dickinson jokes because he can.

Once diagnosed he obsessively researched what was being put into his body during chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“In radiation your liver unzips itself and goes running down the road screaming ‘There’s a maniac inside!’ I did ask the doctor where it goes, they said the body tends to get rid of it. That means they don’t know! I’d like to know what they’re shoving into me, obviously it’s toxic, it’s not nice stuff.

Take off: this baby will be touching down in Australia next May, piloted by Bruce Dickins

Take off: this baby will be touching down in Australia next May, piloted by Bruce Dickinson
Source: Supplied

“I was very keen to know why things worked, how they worked, what was being done to me. All the various mechanisms. For me it helped me stay positive and be in some way enthusiastic about all the crap that was going on. That’s me. Other people might deal with it in a different way.”

The singer, who has never smoked, has said getting a tumour on his tongue was likely due to the human papilloma virus. The HPV generally presents as a lump on the neck; Michael Douglas claimed his throat cancer was due to performing oral sex. Dickinson hopes his diagnosis will encourage men over 40 to get checked; the virus is the same that causes cervical cancer in women.

After having part of his tongue removed, Dickinson said his voice is almost matchfit again, but admits the new tour, 35 countries, 88,500km over seven months, is daunting.

“I look at the schedule and said to our manager ‘This is kind of exactly the same intensity of touring we had before, if not more so’. And he went ‘Ah, yeah, we’ve got to get around to all these places’. That’s okay, as long as you appreciate this could be a work in progress for the first few weeks. But let’s see.

“The key to all this is to allow a really good long period of rehearsal and run up to this to get the voice dialled in, get everything back in shape. Don’t try and climb the mountain by the steepest path, take the gradual way up.”

And as for those nagging rumours about the end being nigh? “I really hope this isn’t the last album.”

Iron Maiden tour

Brisbane Entertainment Centre May 4

Allphones Arena Sydney May 6

Rod Laver Arena Melbourne May 9

Adelaide Entertainment Centre May 12

Perth Arena May 14

On sale September 24, midday, Ticketek.

Fan club member presale details at

In the air: Bruce Dickinson is preparing for another gravity-defying Iron Maiden world to

In the air: Bruce Dickinson is preparing for another gravity-defying Iron Maiden world tour.
Source: Supplied

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