Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson has worn many hats and even "some incredibly ridiculous trousers,” as he puts it. Rock star, airline pilot and cancer survivor are some of what has defined him. Now he can add spoken-word performer.
Following in the heels of Henry Rollins, another rock star-turned-performance artist, Dickinson is about to resume his spoken-word US tour. Onstage, he speaks about his life, being a rock star and a host of other topics, including his bout with throat cancer.
Then, after a short break, he'll load up Iron Maiden’s plane - a 747 called "Ed Force One,” named after the band’s iconic demonic mascot, Eddie - and embark on a world tour playing festivals, arenas and stadiums.
Recently, the 63-year-old rocker and licensed commercial airline pilot spoke about the joy of shifting gears with spoken-word performances, his fan base, and whether he’ll pilot the band’s plane, as he’s done in the past.
What are the spoken-word shows like?
There’s no script, per say, and there’s no auto cue or anything else like that. I do have some images... I start to tell stories around the picture and then you just go off on a tangent about how I learned to sing and how I didn’t become a drummer and the weirdness of being in an English boarding school where you might have met Boris Johnson in another life and how I ended up wearing the world’s most ridiculous trousers on stage with Iron Maiden. It’s like, "How did that happen?” So, it’s kind of that story.
Is it like stand-up?
I do use some kind of stand-up techniques and a bit of physical comedy, impressions of people and stuff like that. But that’s not my main modus operandi.... As an entertainer, as a performer, I want to use all the little tricks I can to give people a rollicking good evening and not lose sight of the day job I’m going back to in May, which is going to keep me occupied till Christmas.
You talk about some really personal stuff?
I get everybody laughing about cancer. Because cancer is a big taboo. You know, about 50% of us are going to get it during our lifetime and we are scared witless of it. The very word sends us into a tailspin, as you know. And of course, I had my bout with throat cancer, as thousands of men do around the world every week. So that doesn’t make me special, but what I try and bring into it is my individual take on it. You know, "How do you deal with it?” Well, I don’t know how you deal with it, but here’s how I do deal with it.
How intense does that get?
It can get quite literal and quite graphic in terms of some of the descriptions of some of the very, very embarrassing and ignominious things that you have to get up to when you’re under cancer treatment.... So, yeah, you get people rolling around, hopefully about that and leaving with a positive statement.
Some rock stars have gotten their pilot’s license, but I can’t think of another that flies for a commercial airline, or the Boeing 747 that the band uses for touring.
What’s even more interesting than Ed Force One is how the hell did I end up being an airline pilot in the first place? And secondly, how do you become an airline pilot whilst you’re singing in a rock ‘n’ roll band? I’ve got more crazy airline stories than rock ‘n’ roll stories because, trust me, the days of the airline were way more rock ‘n’ roll than Iron Maiden is on stage. Well, off stage, rather.
Speaking of a world tour, are you piloting Ed Force One again?
Oh, no, no, no, no. We’re going to be flying and I’m going to be in the back. Hey, look, I’m 63 - I’m 64 in August. You know, when you get to 65, if you’re an airline pilot, they just take you out the back and shoot, right? So, I’m going to be sitting in the back being the backseat driver. - AP