Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 9: “Scream For Me John Dee”

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

If you are into classic Heavy Metal you are most likely also into Iron Maiden. I have been fortunate enough to talk with most members (both former and present) a few times. They are really nice and down to earth guys for the most part. I actually never had the chance to interview the boss himself, Stevie Harris. The closest I have been was an interview with his daughter Lauren a few years ago. Nice girl, but not quite the same. You can check out the interview on our YouTube channel.

As I’ve mentioned before, I discovered Iron Maiden when they released The Number of the Beast. The first time I saw live footage of the band was in 1983. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) used to air Hard Rock during the night on May 1st (the International Workers’ Day) to prevent youngsters from causing riots in the streets. The troublemakers were mostly Punk fans anyway, but it was a real treat for us Hard Rockers. In 1983 they aired a live concert from Dortmund in Germany with Michael Schenker Group, Krokus, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden. What a line up! This was the last show on Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind tour, and it was an excellent performance. The band actually “killed” their mascot Eddie at the end of the show! Of course he would reappear as a mummy on the World Slavery tour, from which one of the best live albums and videos of all time was recorded: Live after Death.

The first time I saw the band in real life was during Somewhere on Tour in 1986. I regard Somewhere in Time, the album they were touring in support of, as one of their best ever. The band got some negative reactions for the use of synth guitars (just like Judas Priest did on their Turbo album), but I think it gives the album a unique sound. W.A.S.P. was the supporting act on this tour. Getting Iron Maiden and W.A.S.P. on the same bill was like a dream come true for me at the time.

W.A.S.P. were touring in support of their recent album Inside the Electric Circus. Unfortunately rumors of their stage shows had reached the executive committee in the city of Drammen where the show was to take place, so they pulled the plug and forbid W.A.S.P. from performing. It didn’t help that they were told that the stage show for this tour was completely different from previous tours, without any raw meat or blood. Blackie Lawless was of course pissed off and did several interviews on television and in the papers. I have talked to him a few times many years later and we have returned to this subject several times.

So, Iron Maiden ended up playing without a support band for their Norwegian show. The band was on fire and the stage production was out of this world compared to what I had seen before. There were still elements from the previous World Slavery tour and of course the more futuristic elements from the new album. It’s a pity that the band never filmed any shows from this tour. I also think it’s a shame that the band neglected this brilliant album when they toured later on.

One of Norway’s biggest daily newspapers, Dagbladet, sent some random reporter to cover the show. The reporter wasn’t into the music and probably didn’t even know the band. In his review the following day he wrote that the drummer could have played in a mediocre dance orchestra and that there were fists in the air in the first two rows only. The former statement is unjustified but the latter was obviously a lie. The crowd was boiling and energetic that night. I was furious and called the paper multiple times to talk to the reporter. I didn’t have a plan for what to tell him. I just wanted to yell at him I guess. But he was always out of office. At least that’s what they told me…

The Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour concert in 1988 was another great show, backing another excellent album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Some fans accused the band of going commercial when the first single, “Can I Play With Madness”, was released. I didn’t mind the track, I just remember thinking the video was boring since it only contained old live footage of the band. For some reason they had the Norwegian Boogie Rockers Backstreet Girls opening for them at this show. It’s an excellent band, but this was kind of a mismatch. They were even asked to leave the stage before their set was over. Some said it was Steve Harris who made the request. Others said it was because vocalist Bjørn Müller poured beer over his own head (like he always does) at this non-alcohol event, and apparently the organizers didn’t like that. I guess only the people onstage knows the truth. In any case, we were there to see Iron Maiden so we didn’t give it too much thought. This was the last Iron Maiden show with guitarist Adrian Smith for more than a decade.

The first time I interviewed any member of Iron Maiden was when vocalist Bruce Dickinson was about to release his debut solo album Tattooed Millionaire in 1990. I was thrilled to be asked to do the interview even though it was over the phone. I wasn’t a big fan of the album (he released quite a few good ones later though), but this was Bruce Dickinson. THE Bruce Dickinson! The interview was scheduled to take place at midday. The downside was that the station was on air at the time and we only had one control room. I asked the host of the show that was scheduled at the time if she could pre-record 30 minutes of her show so that I could use the equipment to do the interview. SHE SAID NO! What a disaster! Damn, she didn’t know how big this was. The technology was a bit more primitive back then so I didn’t have any other options. I said yes to the interview anyway and hoped to find a solution.

Luckily for me the aforementioned host got sick and had someone fill in for her. I asked the new host and he said “of course” without hesitation! I felt quite proud when Bruce Dickinson called the station and asked for me by name. He was in a good mood which isn’t always the case (I’ll get back to that) and could reveal, in addition to details about his solo album of course, that the new Iron Maiden album had just been finished in Stevie Harris’ barn and that Janick Gers was the new guitar player. Hey, this was before the internet so this was the biggest news of the year, hot off the press. The new Iron Maiden album, No Prayer For the Dying, turned out to be one of my least favorite Maiden albums of all time though.

I was graduating from upper secondary school that spring. A Norwegian tradition is that the graduates, called “russ”, have huge parties from January until mid May. The parties peak right before the final exams. Yes, you read that right… It’s also a tradition that you and your fellow co-students buy a bus and drive around while partying (the driver had to stay sober of course). Me and my friends’ bus was the greatest. It had a bar inside and a huge Cerwin-Vega sound system on the roof, perfect for blasting loud music. We named the bus POWERSLAVE after the Iron Maiden album. Obviously I had to ask Bruce to make a jingle for our bus. It sounded like this: “Hey, this is Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and if you’re not on the Powerslave party bus you better get out of the way, because it’s gonna run you down!” That was a really cool audio clip to bring back to the bus and blast through the PA system.

Iron Maiden came back to Norway later in the same year touring in support of No Prayer for the Dying. It was a weak album, but to make matters worse, the show was totally stripped down. An Iron Maiden show is supposed to have a huge stage production and not only backdrops changing throughout the show. While we were used to seeing the guitarists more or less standing still on stage, it was interesting to see the new member Janick Gers running and dancing across the stage. He even made Dave Murray move a bit too.

The front of the RUFF STUFF t-shirt

The highlight this evening was actually Anthrax who were the supporting act. They were promoting the album Persistence of Time, and I interviewed guitarist Scott Ian before the show. I remember giving him a t-shirt, from my radio show RUFF STUFF. For some reason he thought I asked if he could wear it on stage and the answer was a definitive NO. Totally understandable because the shirt didn’t look Metal at all.

Iron Maiden returned in 1992 with a better album, Fear of the Dark, and big stage production just the way we like it. This was a very temporary peak since Bruce Dickinson quit in 1993. The band’s popularity decreased and they were forced to play smaller venues with Blaze Bayley as the new vocalist.

In 1995 Adrian Smith put together a new band called Psycho Motel featuring Norwegian vocalist Solli (known from the band Sons of Angels). They released an album called State of Mind which is worth checking out. It’s definitely a forgotten gem. Psycho Motel did a promotional show at a legendary music club called Smuget in Oslo, and I was asked to do an interview with Adrian. The interview took place in his hotel room, and I remember that he had a gorgeous woman sitting beside him; a girlfriend or wife I assumed. It was nice to have a relaxed chat with the guy who had quit one of the biggest Metal bands on the planet. He talked about how being in Iron Maiden made him unfocused because everything was always arranged and scheduled for the guys in the band. It was also interesting to hear about his lack of interest in listening to Iron Maiden’s current material.

Picture of Bruce Dickinson
Bruce Dickinson during the Skunkworks days

Bruce Dickinson also jumped onto new projects after quitting Iron Maiden. He wrote tracks with his backing band and decided to call the band Skunkworks. The label didn’t accept that, so he had to release the album under his own name and use Skunkworks as the title of the album. The album is totally different from Iron Maiden’s music. It has a 90s contemporary touch to it. I liked the album, but I don’t think the sales numbers exactly went through the roof. The band came to Oslo supporting Helloween at Rockefeller Music Hall. Before the show I interviewed Bruce Dickinson on the tour bus. Here is an outtake from the chat where he claims that the Iron Maiden guys are writing to a formula wether they agree with it or not. In the end Bruce ended up writing to that formula again after all. I believe the album with Skunkworks was his chance to create something completely different.

Funny enough, while looking for the Skunkworks interview I came upon a Bruce Dickinson interview I had totally forgotten about. We did a phone interview in 1999 when he released the live album Scream For Me Brazil. This was actually right after he had rejoined Iron Maiden. He had clear plans of still doing solo stuff while fronting Maiden. Well, we got one more solo album at least after this. Here is an outtake from the interview.

I think Bruce Dickinson’s solo albums were far better than what Iron Maiden put out in the same time. In fact, some of them are even better than some of the Iron Maiden albums released after he re-joined the band. One of my favorite albums from that time is Chemical Wedding. He headlined a tour in 1998 to support the album and played a club show at John Dee in Oslo. It was an excellent show and it was a huge bonus that Adrian Smith was in his touring band as well as playing on the album. This time we did the interview in the venue’s kitchen and Bruce was obviously not in the mood for an interview. While leaning against the kitchen counter with frying pans he did answer all my questions, but he kept the answers short.

John Dee can hold about 400 people (no seats) and I think maybe he was a bit pissed that he had to play a small club in the cellar beneath Rockefeller Music Hall (which holds 1350 people) where he had previously performed with Skunkworks. We recorded a station ID that is still on rotation “This is Bruce Dickinson and you are listening to Metal Express Radio, so help you God”. When the show was over he said: “Next time we’ll play upstairs, OK?!” It was a bit weird to hear “Scream for me John Dee” when you are used to hearing “Scream for me Long Beach!” But still, it was an unforgettable show and it’s cool to have seen Bruce Dickinson perform in a tiny club.

Press pass for the reunion tour

In 1999 Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson finally returned to Iron Maiden. The comeback album Brave New World (2000) was stellar and they went back to playing arenas with a huge stage production, just the way we like to see them. Before the album was released, the record label EMI called and asked if I wanted to hear the album and do an interview. I went to the Grand Hotel in Oslo where I was taken to a room with a couple of CD players chained to the table to give the forthcoming album a spin before the interview. After I had heard about 10 seconds of the album, basically the intro to “The Wicker Man”, someone came to fetch me. Guitarist Dave Murray was ready to see me. He’s a really nice guy. It was interesting to hear him confirm what Adrian Smith said in the interview from 1995, that the schedule was too tough for the band and brought it apart in the end.

Iron Maiden returned to Oslo during the Brave New World tour I was offered to have a chat with drummer Nicko McBrain. Since I already had interviewed Dave Murray about the album, it was a perfect opportunity to talk about anything else. When I entered his dressing room I noticed he had a drum kit there. Since this obviously would be a different interview we agreed that he should beat the hell out of the drums as I entered the room just to interrupt him for the interview. It was a good opening. We had a really cool chat about warming up before shows, about who is inside the mascot Eddie and a lot more. Nicko is a really pleasant and funny guy as you can hear in the interview

Iron Maiden original vocalist Paul Di’Anno did a show in Oslo to support his live album The Beast Live in 2001. It’s basically an album filled with tracks from the two albums he did with Iron Maiden. Why not jump at the chance to milk it, right? There are so many stories about Di’Anno being a nutcase, but he was a cool guy to interview. It was the first time I saw him live and he did okay.

I also went to one of Nicko’s drum clinics once. That was a lot of fun. He didn’t have a backing tape, but everyone knew the Maiden songs he played, so we sang along with his drumming on tracks like “Where Eagles Dare” while simultaneously checking out his drum techniques. His single bass drum technique is phenomenal. The clinic was actually just as much a stand-up comedy show as a proper drum clinic. I remember him making fun of Bruce Dickinson’s moves on stage. The band nicknamed him “Bubbles” after Michael Jackson’s monkey, because of his chimpanzee-like moves every now and then.

I didn’t talk to any of the members during the Blaze Bayley era, but I did interview Blaze a couple of times after he left. Some of his solo stuff is actually really good, like Tenth Dimension from 2002. He went on tour supporting Savatage when I caught up with him the first time. He’s a tremendously nice guy as well!

The second time I interviewed him we had a chat in his tour bus on the headlining tour for his Blood and Belief album. He played in a small club in Oslo called Rock In. I didn’t go to the show and I’ve heard the attendance was very low. I always feel sorry for artists when people don’t show up to their shows. But as he says in the interview he doesn’t care if he plays in front of 3 or 35.000 people. To have fun is must important. That’s the spirit!

That was the last time I spoke with a member of Maiden, at least this far.

I’ve seen Iron Maiden live a bunch of times. I really appreciated the tours when they revisited the older albums. I didn’t care much for the A Matter of Life and Death show where they played the whole new album instead of mixing it up. I respect their idea of promoting the new album to the fullest and doing something new, but to be honest I think it was a bit boring.

Luckily the band is still going strong and I was looking forward to seeing them again this summer, but the show was cancelled due to the Corona pandemic.

Through the years I have interviewed all members from the most classic Iron Maiden era, but Steve Harris. The closest I got was to interview his daughter Lauren Harris when she did a show in Oslo in 2009. Unfortunately I missed the gig, but she was a sweet person to interview.

Playlist from the radioshow in 1998 with the lost interview with Bruce Dickinson done during the Chemical Wedding tour  Playlist Bruce Dickinson

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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