During an appearance on a recent episode of the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast, hosted by FOZZY frontman and wrestling superstar Chris Jericho, IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson admitted that he still suffers performance anxiety, or "stage fright" as it is more commonly known.
"I get nervous right before I go on stage with IRON MAIDEN, especially at the beginning of a tour," he said. "Once you're sort of, like, five or six, seven shows into the tour, you're kind of back into the routine. So you kind of know what's gonna happen. But the big fear, especially for a singer, is that you walk on stage and open your mouth and garbage comes out, or nothing at all. And that's irrational, but it's valid. So just own up to it. I mean, I keep a copy of the lyric sheet backstage. I never look at it, but if I knew it wasn't there, I'd freak out. Then every tour, once I get to, like, six or seven shows in, the training wheels come off and I leave it in the wardrobe case. But the one-man show's a bit different because it's just you," he said, referring to his current spoken-word tour. "And if you stop, it all stops. If I forget the words [while performing with IRON MAIDEN], the band carries on."
Two years ago, Dickinson called out singers who use teleprompters during live performances, saying, "I don't use an autocue on stage. A lot of singers now, they just have the words there: 'Breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law.' Breaking the what? 'Breaking the law. Breaking the law.'"
A teleprompter, or autocue, is a display device that prompts the person speaking with an electronic visual text of a speech or script, and it is usually used by vocalists — including JUDAS PRIEST's Rob Halford and BLACK SABBATH's Ozzy Osbourne — who are getting on a bit and have a large body of work to remember.
Bruce previously brought up the topic of singers relying on teleprompters in a 2014 interview with The Guardian. He said at the time: "I never realized that people were using autocues. What the fuck is that all about? People pay good money and you can't even remember the sodding words."
The now-63-year-old vocalist continued: "The daftest one I ever saw was [JUDAS PRIEST's] 'Breaking The Law'. It's on the fucking autocue. 'Breaking the law, breaking the law/Breaking the law, breaking the law/Breaking the law, breaking the law/Breaking the law' — guess what? — 'breaking the law.' It's ludicrous."
A few weeks after Dickinson's The Guardian interview was published, Halford was asked about the MAIDEN frontman's comments during a chat with Australia's AndrewHaug.com. Rob said: "Well, the first thing I'll say about that is Bruce Dickinson is a good mate of mine; I love him to death. I think he's an incredible singer, he's a great showman, he's in a wonderful band, IRON MAIDEN, who are one of the biggest metal bands in the world. And as far as what people say about each other, I don't think it really means that much, to be quite honest. We say whatever we say, depending on the day and the emotion that we're at. I know Bruce's heart is in the right place, and he just said what he said, and that's all there is to it to comment, in that respect."
In a 2010 interview with the QMI Agency, Halford spoke about how using a teleprompter helped him when he was asked to fill in for Ozzy with BLACK SABBATH for a show after Osbourne was taken ill. "[Like Ozzy], I use a teleprompter now too because I do so many things," he said. "I can't remember. I wish I was like my mate Bruce Dickinson and could do everything, but I need that safety blanket."
During the 2005 edition of Ozzfest, the traveling festival's founder, Ozzy's wife and manager Sharon Osbourne, famously cut the venue's public-address system and the main stage's power on at least three occasions during MAIDEN's performance at the tour's final stop in Devore, California because she said that Dickinson was "talking shit about my family, night after night," and was being "disrespectful" to her husband during Bruce's "nightly outbursts from the stage" by saying that "we don't need a teleprompter' [like Ozzy]."