Greg Prato for Songfacts spoke with Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, portions of the interview appear below.

Songfacts: To go back a ways in your solo career, was the song Tattooed Millionaire written about anyone in particular? Or was it an amalgamation of people?

Bruce Dickinson: Everybody likes to think it was all about [Mötley Crüe bassist] Nikki Sixx. And whilst he was kind of the frame, it was actually an amalgamation of a whole generation of stuff. Of course now, tattooed millionaires are absolutely the mainstream. Nothing to do with music.

Songfacts: What song is the most challenging to sing live?

Bruce Dickinson: The song I find the most challenging to sing in the Maiden repertoire would be Aces High. That’s not just because I’m 60-something years old. Trust me, when I was 26, it was equally challenging. I always said, “If we’re going to do Aces High, can we put it towards the front of the set please?”

But we still do all the songs in the original key. I’m sure it would be easier if we dropped the key, but then it wouldn’t sound as good. That’s the most challenging Maiden song to sing…

Songfacts: Which modern-day metal singers do you admire, or singers overall?

Bruce Dickinson: Singers overall, one who is unfortunately no longer with us, Chris Cornell, was one of the finest voices I’ve ever heard of any generation. And sadly, he’s gone. The guy from Angra [Andre Matos], he’s also gone. So, all of these guys have gone, and they had the ability to really move people. They could yell and scream like the best, but they had the ability to move people with their voices.

One of my favorite performances of Chris Cornell, to show just how damn good he was, was doing the James Bond Theme [You Know My Name from the 2006 film Casino Royale]. That’s a great vocal performance. And funny enough, he shares that honor of great vocal performances with Tom Jones, who did Thunderball.

If anybody wants to hear an amazing, balls-out metal voice, go have a listen to Tom Jones and imagine if that voice was doing metal or rock. Obviously back in the day, he wasn’t. But, oh my God, he’s just awesome. Power, resonance, tone… fabulous.

Songfacts: Did you ever get the opportunity to meet Chris Cornell?

Bruce Dickinson: Not in any meaningful sense, no. Not “sit down and have a nice chat with him.” I mean obviously, Ronnie Dio… there must be something wrong with me that all the singers that I love unfortunately are not on the planet anymore. I also have grown into loving Johnny Cash and his delivery, as well. He’s just something extraordinary, the way he delivers lines and stuff like that. That version that he did of Hurt – he owns that song. It’s the most extraordinary performance.

Songfacts: You just mentioned Ronnie James Dio, and I sometimes hear a correlation between Chris Cornell and Dio‘s singing with Black Sabbath and Rainbow.

Bruce Dickinson: Yeah. The thing about Chris, for me, was that he had a greater emotional range than Ronnie, if I’m honest. Ronnie did the Stargazer-type thing really beautifully, and then he did these medieval-type things like Temple Of The King, which is just gorgeous, to die for. That’s just lovely.

One of my favorite Ronnie Dio performances is on The Butterfly Ball: Love Is All. God. You can hear that is the younger-voice version of Ronnie, because Ronnie‘s voice got darker over the years, but all the power was still there. I remember listening to Love Is All and going, “Oh my God, his voice is like crystalline. Crystalline with this furry bit underneath.” It was gorgeous. I’m a huge Ronnie fan.

And Chris Cornell was taken away from us before he’d even begun to give his best, I think. Very sad.

Dickinson’s new solo album, The Mandrake Project, was released on January 17th. Read details about it here, and purchase tickets to his live shows, here.

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  • Rattlehead on

    I think Iron Maiden is the greatest metal band in the world……Either “Aces High” or “Phantom of the Opera” is my #1 Maiden song…..switches periodically.

    • Dana on

      You like them better than Priest?

  • Rattlehead on

    Hi Dana, yep, I do…..

    • Dana on

      Oh, I had no idea. For some reason I thought you liked Priest better?

    • Rattlehead on

      I credit Judas Priest as the first heavy metal band and Rob Halford is my favorite metal vocalist. But overall, I think Iron Maiden is the greatest heavy metal band.

    • Dana on

      Oh, I guess I got confused with Halford being your favorite vocalist.

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