When my September copy of Lufthansa’s inflight magazine arrived in the mail today, I was surprised at one of the featured headlines letting me know that my favorite band, Iron Maiden, would have their lead singer featured in an interview by Andreas Lampert. What a perfect combination for me……Lufthansa and Iron Maiden, but I digress.
Anyway, for those of you who are familiar with Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickinson, you’ll know that not only is Bruce a fantastic singer, but he is an airline pilot as well. In fact, during Iron Maiden’s ‘Flight 666’ tour, he was the pilot that flew the band’s 757 on various legs around the world, taking them from tour stop to tour stop.
I enjoyed reading the interview so much, that I decided to retype it in it’s entirety so that those of you who are fans of the band have a chance to learn more about the Rocker/Pilot without having to track down a version of ‘Magazin’. Enjoy!
Lufthansa Magazin (LM): Mr. Dickinson, what is more exhausting – a long distance flight or an Iron Maiden concert?
Bruce Dickinson (BD): They are both tiring, but in different ways. The physical element at the Iron Maiden show is the most tiring part. Your brain is so wired you can’t sleep for about 6 hours. With flying it is a very different kind of tired. You sit in a seat without any activity for nine or ten hours but your mind is exhausted because you’re actually done a lot of high-concentration work at the beginning and end of the flight.
LM: Apart from the obvious differences, what’s the biggest contrast between flying a plane and singing in a heavy metal band?
BD: Everything I do on stage is about exhibition, about putting on a show. Flying is completely the opposite, it is about the inside. You don’t operate an airliner like the old aviators with a stick and rudder, you manage modern flights. What pilots really are, although it doesn’t sound very sexy, are risk managers. Our job is to make the experience of flying undetectable to the passengers. When I was a pilot I enjoyed that role because it was so different from my job in Iron Maiden.
LM: That almost sounds like you miss the cockpit…
BD: When I walked away from the airplane I was finished, I was off duty! I went back to the hotel, put my jeans and T-shirt back on and met up with the rest of the crew. That was the first time I ever worked in a job like that. In Rock’n’Roll, of course, you’re never duty unless you’re unconscious. When you walk out of that hotel there’s still Twitter, there’s still YouTube. If you lose your temper with the waiter over breakfast it’s all over the internet. It is actually annoying, you have to be a bit of hermit.
LM: What got you interested in flying?
BD: My godfather was in the Royal Air Force during World War II as an engineer and radar technician. He absolutely loved flying. Every Christmas I got plastic model planes to make in every different kind of shape. He would take me to airshows and I’d see the big, very loud, gas-guzzling jets of the era. They are very impressive, especially to a five year old!
LM: Do you remember what it felt like the first time you flew?
BD: I remember it like it was yesterday. It as at Kissimmee Airport in Florida in the summer of 1990. I was quite a late starter, about 32 years old. When we did our takeoff, all I could remember was this overwhelming thought: Whoa, those trees are a bit close. But the further away from the ground my instructor and I got, the happier I became. It was a semi-mystical experience and I thought to myself: Why didn’t I do this years ago? But if I had I probably would not have begun singing.
LM: What did your band think when you took them up into the air the first time?
BD: Our bass player, Steve Harris, was terribly afraid of flying. The first plane I flew the band around in was a piston-engine airplane, a Cessna 421. it didn’t even have autopilot, so I was hand-flying it everywhere with the band and back. I ferried that airplane across the Atlantic twice. Steve would come up to the cockpit and ask me to explain what everything was for. We walked around the outside of the plane and I showed him how things worked. He was so impressed how impeccable everything was he decided he didn’t want to take the bus anymore. For the 2008 world tour we hired a Boeing 757. I flew 30 percent of the route myself. We toured the world three times in what we dubbed the Ed Force One
LM: Do you still find time to fly?
BD: With the business coming in at our aircraft maintenance facility, Cardiff Aviation, realistically no. It’s impossible because of my schedule. I had to turn down 30 invitations from big companies for motivational speaking because of the current Iron Maiden tour. All I find the time to fly are simulators and light aircraft. I was up recently in a little composite ultralight. It was like being a kid again. When I came home afterwards my wife said: “You look like you are twelve!”.
LM: You’re active on many different fronts: You sing in a band, you’re a pilot, a businessman, an author, a fencer, a motivational speaker – and you’ve even started brewing your own beer. Do you like doing all those things at once?
BD: It’s only possible to do one thing at a time. I don’t believe in multitasking, it’s a myth. Pilots don’t multitask either. They do all kinds of different things when they are in the cockpit, but always one at a time.
LM: Your workload is enough to fill several careers…..
BD: There is a story about me when I was just an infant. My family went shopping to a corner store and took me with them. Outside, I waited in one of those big old baby carriages with metal springs. I wasn’t able to stand yet, but I pulled myself up and rocked the carriage so hard that it fell over, throwing me out onto the sidewalk. What did I do? I started crawling down the street. That has been my reputation ever since. I’ve always had a lot of energy, and I admit that I’m easily bored, but I am also easily interested by things. When I decide to pay close attention to something, I delve right into the details because I want to understand the nature of it. To me, that is the exciting part.
LM: The energy between the band and audience at Iron Maiden concerts is extremely high. How do you explain that?
BD: As the frontman for a band you are kind of a shamanic figure. The concert is the ritual in which you take on the energy of the audience and give it back to them. That’s the feeling I have on stage. The energy does not come so much from me, the energy comes from them. It’s a really great feeling.