In a new interview with Sweden's Bandit Rock radio station, IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson spoke about the lack of rock and metal bands who are able to ascend to an arena-level status to take the place of METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST upon their retirement. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I was with a big promoter in when I was in Brazil last week. I was at Comic Con [CCXP23] in São Paulo launching [my upcoming solo album] 'The Mandrake Project'…. So when I was there, one of the big Brazilian promoters was there and I was chatting away to him. And he goes, 'It's a real problem for us now, big festivals, promoters.' He said, 'There aren't any headliners.' You can count the headliners on the fingers of one hand, people who are capable of — you put them at the top of the bill and people say, 'Oh yeah, I'll go and see that.' And, unfortunately, the reason for that, I believe, is the big corporations took everything over, and they're interested in making money, so they propagate the big headliners, but they don't bring on the bands that create the drama to create the fanbase, to create the dedication to bring it up. Because you don't become a headliner overnight. You become a headliner by doing loads of gigs at loads of places and fans and people follow you and all of a sudden you're at Wembley Arena and you're thinking, 'Oh my god, these guys are playing arenas. And the next step up from arenas is, 'Oh, they're gonna go and headline a festival. Oh, yeah, great. They're a festival headliner.' And at that moment you go take a step up into that world."
Bruce continued: "In the USA, for example, when I was first touring with MAIDEN, all the arena shows we'd do, and we were like special guests or something else like that. But that's the point — we were special guests on a three-act bill, building a band in Chicago. And it would be one promoter who did Chicago, and there'd be another one that did New York, and there'd be another one that… And the promoters in all those places would go, 'Yeah, we're gonna bring you back in. We're gonna do this show with you. And then we're gonna do this. And we're gonna build you in Chicago. And we'll build you up to the point where you're gonna headline that place. And then when the reaction is, like, really cool, we'll bring you back and we'll headline something double the size.' And every promoter would do that for bands. And then, unfortunately, fortunately — I mean, we get paid a huge amount of money by Live Nation — but what they don't do is really bring on bands in the same way. You have to figure out that promoters, those individual promoters, were all taking individual risks. So they'd promote one show and they'd lose their shirt. And then they'd promote another show and go, 'Oh, we made some money this week. That's fantastic.' So you can see the temptation when along comes — I don't know where the money comes from, a hedge fund or something or whatever, venture capital, I don't care. But you can see the temptation when somebody comes along and goes, 'We'd like to buy your thing that you do in New York or Chicago or wherever, and we're gonna give you a shitload of money. But the deal is, you can't do anything after that. You're kind of gonna work for us a little bit or just take a holiday, 'cause we're gonna run the show from now on.' And they just kind of hoovered everything up. I mean, they were smart businessmen. But artistically, for the health of the live scene, I think it was troubling. I mean, I may be unfair, but I get the impression that the scene was much more vibrant in terms of upstart bands that could come up and surprise people. And the other thing as well, which I think has, sadly diminished is the number of small venues where bands can just get up and do a gig. And that diminishes the grass roots of people who go out and go, 'Oh, my God. I went to a live gig the other day. Whoa, it was cool. It was so much better than sitting in front of a screen.' … And you've just got to have the places to do that."
Elaborating on the need for the music industry to do more to support small venues for local and touring acts, Dickinson said: "I mean, there's an argument in London at the moment, that somebody's, they're gonna try and build the Sphere [venue], like in Las Vegas. I mean, what a waste of time. A waste of time, waste of money. You'd be much better off converting half a dozen old pubs into venues and saying to kids, 'Hey, there's a free venue. Go play.'"
"The Mandrake Project" will be released on March 1 via BMG. Across ten inventive, expansive and absorbing tracks, Bruce Dickinson and his long-term co-writer and producer Roy "Z" Ramirez, have created one of 2024's defining rock albums. Sonically heavy and rich in musical textures, it sees Bruce bring to life a musical vision long-in-the-making, and features some of the finest vocal performances of his career.
Recorded largely at Los Angeles's Doom Room with Roy Z doubling up as both guitarist and bassist, the lineup for "The Mandrake Project" was rounded out by keyboard maestro Mistheria and drummer Dave Moreno, both of whom also featured on Bruce's last solo studio album, "Tyranny Of Souls", in 2005.
"The Mandrake Project" is not just an album, but a dark, adult story of power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius. Created by Bruce Dickinson, the comic series is scripted by Tony Lee and stunningly illustrated by Staz Johnson for Z2 Comics, released as 12 quarterly issues that will be collected into three annual graphic novels. The first episode will be released in comic shops on January 17, 2024.
Bruce Dickinson and his phenomenal band will bring the music of "The Mandrake Project" to life with a major headline tour next spring and summer.
Bruce Dickinson's touring band features guitarist Roy Z, drummer Dave Moreno, bass player Tanya O'Callaghan and keyboard maestro Mistheria.
"The Mandrake Project" will be Dickinson's seventh solo album and his first since "Tyranny Of Souls" in 2005. It will be released via BMG worldwide on multiple formats.
Dickinson made his recording debut with IRON MAIDEN on the "Number Of The Beast" album in 1982. He quit the band in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Blaze Bayley, who had previously been the lead singer of the metal band WOLFSBANE. After releasing two traditional metal albums with former MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith, Dickinson rejoined the band in 1999 along with Smith. Since then, Dickinson has only released one more solo album (the aforementioned "Tyranny Of Souls") but has previously said that his solo career is not over.