Bruce Dickinson: "My self-belief was completely irrational"
We catch up with Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson about his new autobiography - plus read an exclusive extract from the book below!
If you only read one book this year, you need to read more books. But if you do only read one, it absolutely must be Bruce Dickinson’s new autobiography, What Does This Button Do? Arguably the only figure in our world who can lay claim to being a metal megastar, airline pilot, fencing champ, cancer survivor and all-round Duracell-powered force of nature, Bruce has more and better stories to tell than most. Unsurprisingly, the book is every bit as entertaining and bursting with energy as you might expect.
Speaking to Hammer during a rare moment when the Dickinson backside is planted in a chair and not whizzing off to do something spectacular or dangerous, Maiden’s seemingly indestructible vocalist is as ebullient as ever, as he lays out his approach to sharing his life and times.
“Well, first off, I’m not sitting on a couch with a therapist, saying ‘Poor me, I’ve always wanted to get this off my chest…’,” he chuckles. “I didn’t want it to be that. One of the most fun autobiographies I’ve read, [legendary Hollywood actor] David Niven’s The Moon’s A Balloon, has nothing desperately horrible in it; it was just a really good romp through his life. That was the sort of thing I wanted to do. It certainly didn’t want to be [Mötley Crüe bio] The Dirt, because that’s not who I am. I just think that all the mad things I’ve done are more entertaining and interesting than an endless tale of drug abuse and shagging!”
While it goes without saying that Maiden fans will be all over Bruce’s book like a dose of shingles, there is far more to What Does This Button Do? than a cosy trawl through the history of the world’s best-loved metal band. Stretching from his birth in 1958 to the brink of Maiden’s recent Book Of Souls tour, it’s a fascinating and endearingly rambunctious account of a life lived at full pelt, with Bruce’s many obsessions – music and flying planes the most significant among them, of course –looming large throughout. The early chapters are particularly revealing, as he recounts being raised by his grandparents for the first five years of his life, while his parents toured the nation’s nightclubs with, um, “a performing dog act”. In their absence, it becomes plain that other family members had the biggest impact on the young boy’s development, not least his grandfather Austin and, in particular, his “uncle” John (Bruce’s godfather), a former RAF electrical engineer whose tales of aircraft and airborne derring-do would spark Bruce’s lifelong interest in aviation. And we all know how that turned out.
What comes across strongly in those early tales is that, despite its slight air of unconventionality, Bruce remembers his upbringing with fondness.