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Bruce Dickinson Almost Wrote Himself Into a Bind With New Song

March 6, 2024 - News

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Bruce Dickinson almost wrote himself into a bind with “Afterglow of Ragnarok.” That was one of the revelations to come from the singer’s guest appearance on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show, discussing his new album, The Mandrake Project.

It was quite the undertaking by the Iron Maiden frontman, working out not only a new album but a corresponding comic and some intriguing video work as well. Within the chat, Dickinson delves into how much time he spends considering the themes and concepts that have gone into the conceptual story.

He also discusses how he’s been able to balance the storytelling between album, comic and video and the challenges that has presented. He even revealed that one of the album’s key songs, “Afterglow of Ragnarok,” almost put him in a creative bind. Plus, he also shares some insight on what fans can expect from his live show this year.

Dickinson also spends some moments in reflection with Full Metal Jackie, speaking about the accolades that truly mean something to him and the challenges he still faces creatively and artistically moving forward.

Check out more of the chat below.

It’s Full Metal Jackie. On the show with us this week, once again, the one and only Bruce Dickinson. We’re here to talk about your new solo record, The Mandrake Project. And Bruce, this is quite the rollout for the new album with a full fledged comic and story to coincide with the new work as well as the new video for “Afterglow of Ragnarok” tied in. I know this album and story concept has been years in the making. What’s been the most rewarding part of seeing this all now coming to fruition?

Just that, [laughs] Seeing it all come to fruition because we basically finished the album just over a year ago. So it’s been a little bit frustrating, sort of playing it to people in secret and having them all go, “Oh my God, when’s it out? We can’t believe this is so good” and everything. And you can think, “Well, no, we’re gonna have to wait for another year.”

But I appreciate why. I mean, we’re doing, apart from anything else, we’re doing a double vinyl gatefold for the album. And it just takes forever for production things to ramp up in terms of vinyl. But it’s given us time to work on the artwork and indeed to work on the comic and the video and all that other good stuff that needs to happen to make it all look like you intended it to be this way in the first place. .

Speaking about The Mandrake Project, Bruce it’s been said that this story hinges on two sides battling to use science and magic to gain immortality. Can you speak about developing the concepts of the story and how much of your own time you spend pondering how the concepts of science, magic and immortality impact our lives?

Well, the answer to the second bit of that question, how much time do I spend pondering it, it’s difficult to quantify, ’cause I think about it all the time. I think about it if I’m on the bus, so I think about whatever and I’m always ready to scribble something down or have some different insight into a character. So the story is kind of growing within itself, really.

I’ve got a synopsis of all 12 episodes, but they’re not all carved in stone, as it were. They are rough templates, but the deeper you get into the writing of the story and the deeper you get into the character, sometimes it poses more questions than it answers. So you’ve got to resolve all that. It’s a fascinating process.

Bruce Dickinson, ‘The Mandrake Project’

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READ MORE: The Things We Love Most About Bruce Dickinson’s ‘The Mandrake Project’ Album

I know there’s this full comic tying into the story as well. Do you see even more videos on this cycle, or will the focus be more on the comic for the storytelling element? And if it’s a bit of both, how are you balancing the narrative between platforms?

So basically back in 2014 when I was gonna make the record, the idea was I was gonna do one comic with the record. But between throat cancer and Maiden and Covid, seven years went by and during that seven years, I kind of developed the story a lot more than one comic. That enabled me to make the decision to divorce the record from the comics.

So the record doesn’t have to slavishly follow a storyline, which means you’re free to do whatever tracks you want. That was a problem with “Ragnarok” ’cause “Afterglow of Ragnarok” we wrote as soon as I got back together after lockdown, COVID, all that horrible stuff. So we wrote that song together straight away. And I went, “Wow, this could be really good. This could be like the opening cut to the record.” Unfortunately, it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with the story of The Mandrake Project and comic.

It does have connotations of all this Viking stuff which I want to avoid like the plague ’cause I’m not a bloke who walks around with like pointy like bear horns and like skins and pelts and all the rest of it. So I want to avoid the connotations that people think, oh my God, yes, this is gonna be a Viking album, or something terrible like that.

So I had to come up with a video story that joined the two things together. And the short answer is, “Oh, it was a dream, it’s a trip.” Dr. Necropolis, our character has taken the Mandrake potion, which I don’t recommend ’cause it’ll kill you. But it will give you some pretty severe hallucinations, including the hallucination that you are at the end of the world, Ragnarok.

So I wrote a treatment for a video and then realized that in my opinion, it was gonna cost so, so much to make this video that we could never afford it. So instead I turned it into a comic, an eight-page comic, like a prequel to the whole idea. And it was like a dummy run.

We had Staz Johnson and the artists doing it. We had Tony Lee, who I do the scripts with for the comic doing the story with me. So that worked really great. But so far no video director. So we have got a comic but no video director.

I find the video director, a guy called Ryan Mackfall. And we get on amazing talking about the same kind of films, same sort of directors, same kind of stuff in our background. And I said, “Well, what video are you gonna make for me, mate, because obviously we can’t afford to do the thing I sent you.” He said, “Oh no. I’m gonna make the comic.” I went, “Huh.” I said, “We can’t afford to make the comic.” He said, “Oh, well I can,” because he’s gonna pull in loads of favors and he’s gonna shoot it into the southwest of England in Cornwall, where shooting costs are notably less than they would be in the USA. So that’s how he made it.

Bruce Dickinson, “Afterglow of Ragnarok”

Bruce, you’re always such a pleasure to watch in the live space with Iron Maiden, a true showman. And I know Iron Maiden is its own beast with elaborate production. With solo dates scheduled for the spring, what can fans expect from the live show? Will there be large production elements? Are there ties to some of the storytelling aspects that translate to the stage? And how excited are you to bring this album and music to audiences?

Well, we’re doing a mix of festivals and headline shows so far in Europe up till July 21, about 40 shows. Luckily, I think most of the headline shows are almost sold out or near sold out now. So we’re gonna be sold out in most places in Europe, about two and a half thousand seaters. So they’re cool size venues.

For me, the whole essence of this is letting the music do the talking, let the music do the storytelling. And so I’m not planning on having monsters or pyro or any of that stuff. There will be a screen and of course we’ll have a lot of stuff to put on it because we’ve got a great director and and he’ll be able to give us some content. But even then, I’m not gonna have a show that’s choreographed to like a time code or click track or something else like that.

This is gonna be a show where the music and the musicians take the story to people. So I’m not thinking, you know, 2002, I’m not thinking 1982. I’m thinking 1972,

Bruce, you’ve made your thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame known over the years. And while that may not be the “be all, end all” of recognition for you, surely there have been other forms of recognition, be it from peers or fans or award shows or special moments in your career that have stood out as truly rewarding moments for you. What are some of the moments that have touched you most for their sincerity and recognition of what you’ve accomplished?

Honestly, it’s not organizations. Usually it’s individuals, not people who are famous or anything else like that. But it’s just that people who come up and say something you said or something you did or helped to change my life around or make things better when things seemed like hopeless. Or you inspired somebody to do something. That means more to me than all the bucket loads of awards.

You’ve had a pretty storied career with lots of adventures, both on and off stage, from Samson to Iron Maiden, your solo works you’ve been able to accomplish quite a lot. And outside the group, your pursuits of aviation, brewing beer and fencing are well known. Is there anything you haven’t done that is still on your wishlist, just waiting for time to free up?

Yeah, I just want to do all the above, but better, which is impossible. ’cause I’m getting older. So, I mean you are in a constant struggle against life, but I quite like struggling. It’s good fun. It’s good fun to have a wrestling match with life. I think storytelling is, and in terms of music as well, it’s something that’s not really that age dependent. And now we’ll see how it goes with the comic world and writing world. I love writing. So I can’t see that anything much getting in the way of that unless I just write stories that are rubbish, in which case I’m my own worst enemy.

But no, I still do all the other things, I don’t fly anymore basically because I don’t have any time. It’s as simple as that. And I’ve got to prioritize things that I do musically, visually and artistically.

And if I can just say for a moment, ’cause you talked about, you know, time passing and getting older. I’m looking at your face right now, and I don’t know if you signed a deal with the devil or if you found the Fountain of Youth, but you do not look like you are aging at all.

That is actually what happens in video number two. That is the deal with the devil. I just signed, you see,

Bruce Dickinson, “Rain on the Graves”

Before we go, what does 2024 hold in store for you? What’s on the horizon?

A lot of air miles and hopefully a lot of joy to a lot of people.

I love it. That’s a good plan. That’s a good plan. The Mandrake Project from Bruce Dickinson. Thank you so much. And you know, as we set off air last time I saw you in person, I was hanging out with your son Austin, and we all went and saw Rammstein in Los Angeles. Please tell Austin, I said hello. He’s quite lovely. You raised a nice gentleman.

Yeah I will tell him. He has some interesting things on the go as well at the moment. Hopefully that works out for him.

Thanks to Bruce Dickinson for the interview. The Mandrake Project album is available now. Keep up to date with Bruce on his music and touring through his website, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.

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Gallery Credit: Lauryn Schaffner



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