The Air Raid Siren, Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated heavy metal vocalist of all time and in a 2016 interview with Metal Hammer Bruce noted the singers that most inspired him as a young lad.
“Ian was a big vocal hero of mine. There was Ian Gillan, Arthur Brown, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, surprisingly enough, and a chap called Peter Hammill from Van Der Graaf Generator. They’re all in the same area of voices – they all had a ballsy sort of tenor, extended baritone thing to their voices.”
Bad Company – Shooting Star (Live at Wembly)
“Paul Rodgers. I just thought that Rodgers was just stunning, and I didn’t even really try and copy his phrasing because I thought you just can’t it’s just he’s just so good. At 15 or 16 I discovered Ronnie Dio on The Butterfly Ball [a 1974 concept album, produced by Roger Glover]. I heard that on the radio somewhere and thought, Who the hell is that kind of singer?”
Bruce Dickinson & Deep Purple – Hush
Metal Hammer: You were a big fan of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as well…
At 15 or 16 I discovered Ronnie Dio on The Butterfly Ball [a 1974 concept album, produced by Roger Glover]. I heard that on the radio somewhere and thought, Who the hell is that kind of singer? Wow what a voice! And then of course Rainbow came along with Rainbow Rising [in 1976] and I heard that and that was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to investigate this guy because this guy can really, really sing and in a very different way to the other guys.’ Ronnie had a lovely soulful voice but it wasn’t bluesy.
I never got the blues out of Ronnie in the same way I got out of Ian doing something like Lazy.
Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson – Man On The Silver Mountain (Live)
Metal Hammer: Iron Maiden and Deep Purple have both worked with producer/engineer Martin Birch…
Martin worked with Purple on just about everything, and was our producer in Maiden for many years, so we’d sit down over many beers and talk to Martin and you’d get the low-down. I think it was more focused back then on creativity and what you were doing in the studio. Now touring is the only way to make any money, to make a living now. Now when people go out and tour, it’s like an endurance test – can you survive the amount of touring that’s involved now? It used to be that you toured to support the album, and the album subsidized the tour. Now it’s the other way around.
In a 2021 interview with BBC Radio, Bruce Dickinson revealed that he was extremely nervous during his first meeting with Ian Gillan that he ended up vomited:
“We’ve done an album in Ian Gillan’s studio. We’ve all been up the pub and had a few pints. In walks my god, Ian Gillan, and goes, ‘Hey, what a great vocalist. Who’s the singer?’ At that moment, I felt the sudden urge to vomit. I ran out of the room, puked up for about 45 minutes in the toilet.”
“In comes my idol, kicks the door and goes, ‘Come on, mate. Out you come. Let’s get you wiped down with a towel.’ He put me in a taxi and sent me home. I’ve never forgotten that – and he’s never let me forget it either.”
Bruce Dickinson also discussed which band was better: Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin
“I was always a bigger Purple fan than Zeppelin. But I never saw either Zeppelin or Purple when I was a kid, when they were in their heyday. Zeppelin were adopted by American radio big-style. But I’ve got to confess that the thing I loved most about Zeppelin was their English folk roots. Not their copies of American blues tracks. Ramble On is one of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs. But that’s just me.”
Metal Hammer: How was it finally working with Jon Lord?
My wife was really big buddies with Jon’s wife. So way before this, I knew Jon personally. Actually, it was my first time with an orchestra. I don’t read music, and as a singer you get your own little repertoire of ad libs and things like that that your voice goes to naturally. Most of the stuff that we do with Maiden is all this standard tuning, so you do get into these well-worn grooves and patterns in your voice. So it’s nice singing a note like that, that I never normally would go to.
Celebrating Jon Lord ‘Burn’ (Dickinson, Hughes, Paice, Airey & Wakeman) Official Video Preview
Metal Hammer: Does it ever feel strange that you ended up working with your teenage heroes?
When you’re 21 or 22 and your idol is in their mid-to-late-30s, it’s like ‘Hi Dad’. By the time you get to 35 and they’re 50-something it’s not ‘Hi Dad’ any more, it’s like ‘How are you doing?’ I think by the time you’ve been at it for long enough, you’ve done a few albums and you’ve done a few world tours and everything else, you share so many common experiences in terms of the way life is as a musician. Ian and these guys can tell stories and stories and stories, and frankly I would just sit up all night and never get fed up of listening to them.
So many of them are similar to experiences you’ve had yourself. They’re wonderful stories. Somebody someday should write them all down, record them or do something with them.