BRUCE DICKINSON Talks Setlist For Upcoming Solo Tour: ‘Effectively, It’s Gonna Be From ‘Balls To Picasso’ Forward’

In a new interview with Paul Cashmere of Noise11.com, IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson spoke about the upcoming tour in support of his new solo album, “The Mandrake Project”. Bruce‘s touring band features longtime co-writer and producer Roy “Z” Ramirez, drummer Dave Moreno, bass player Tanya O’Callaghan and keyboard maestro Mistheria. Asked if he is planning to play “The Mandrake Project” in its entirety on the trek, Bruce said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “No. I mean, it’s been God knows how many years since I actually went out on the road. I mean, it’s [19] years since [my last solo album, 2005’s] ‘Tyranny Of Souls’, Yeah, it’s a long time. So, given that, and given the fact that you’ve got seven albums to pick from now in terms of the setlist, I think it would be cruel and unusual punishment to have people listen to a brand new album start to finish.”

He continued: “We’re gonna do ‘Tears Of The Dragon’ [from 1994’s ‘Balls To Picasso’ album], we’re gonna do ‘Chemical Wedding’ [off 1998’s ‘The Chemical Wedding’], we’re gonna do ‘Accident Of Birth’ [off 1997’s ‘Accident Of Birth’], and all this, this stuff. I’m gonna limit it, probably, to the things I did with Roy, because that’s stuff that we share, with Roy and Dave Moreno, the drummer, and Mistheria did keyboards on all my records. So, you’ve gotta have a little limit that goes some way. ‘Okay, where’s our starting point?’ And effectively, it’s gonna be from ‘Balls To Picasso’ forward. I’m probably not gonna put any ‘Skunkworks’ [1996] stuff — not because I hate it, but just because we’ve got so many other great songs. I’m sure this won’t be the last tour that we do together, so we’ve got we got plenty of opportunity to go and do stuff. There’ll probably be three or four off the new record, for sure.”

Bruce added: “Roy wasn’t on ‘Skunkworks’. That was a completely different band, and a completely different feel to everything. But there’s some cracking songs on there. And, obviously, Janick [Gers, MAIDEN guitarist] was on ‘Tattooed Millionaire’. But, again, I’m not gonna do anything off ‘Tattooed Millionaire’ — not this tour. I mean, we might dig stuff up for future tours and things like that, but for now I wanna concentrate on the heavy stuff. And I think people will wanna hear stuff off ‘The Chemical Wedding’ because that was my little bit of a groundbreaking record in the ’90s.”

“The Mandrake Project” will be released on March 1 via BMG. Bruce and Roy recorded the LP largely at Los Angeles’s Doom Room, with Roy Z doubling up as both guitarist and bassist. The recording lineup for “The Mandrake Project” was rounded out by Mistheria and Moreno, both of whom also featured on “Tyranny Of Souls”.

Last month, Bruce told Brazil’s Omelete about the lyrical concept for “The Mandrake Project”: “So ‘The Mandrake Project’ is, one, is an album. It’s the name of the album. The comic is a 12-episode graphic novel, kind of adult. There’s lots of stuff in it — there’s lots of sex and drugs and violence and all kinds of stuff. But it’s basically a story about a guy who is looking for his identity, Dr. Necropolis. He’s an orphan, he’s a genius, and he hates it, and he hates life, but he’s involved in The Mandrake Project. And The Mandrake Project aims to take the human soul at the point of death, capture it, store it and put it back in something else. And the guy that’s running the project, Professor Lazarus, he has one vision of what’s gonna happen with this technology, and Necropolis has other ideas. And on we go with the story.”

Asked how he came up with the idea to mash together music and comics, Bruce said: “Well, I think they do kind of go together. They really do. Music and games, music and comics, comics and games, they’re all related.”

He continued: “Years ago, IRON MAIDEN, we were doing some cover art, and I said, ‘Why don’t we do a comic?’, like the comics that I used to read when I was a kid… When I suggested doing some covers, comic covers, we did some single artwork for IRON MAIDEN, and I thought, ‘You know what? This is kind of cool.’ Then later, MAIDEN had a video game called ‘Legacy Of The Beast’; we still do. But what came with a video game, somebody produced a series of comics. And I thought they looked fantastic, but they lacked a story. And that got me thinking, what if you had an album that had a story that could be turned into a comic and the two things would work together? As it happened, they’ve actually grown apart. So, the [original] album, in 2014, was gonna be one comic with the album — that’s it. Then, COVID happened, other things happened, seven years went by, and I had a 12-episode graphic novel. And I went, ‘I don’t wanna restrict the album to being like a script for this.’ These two things exist separately, but they inform each other. So you can look at the album and go, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s kind of related to the comic.’ And you look at the comic and go, ‘Oh, I see that might be a little bit related to the album,’ but they’re not dependent on each other. So you can buy the comic or you can buy the album — or both.”

On November 30, 2023, Dickinson unveiled the dramatic, action-packed video for “Afterglow Of Ragnarok”, the first single to be taken from “The Mandrake Project”. In front of a packed audience on the opening day of CCXP23, Brazil’s huge Comic-Con event in São Paulo, the IRON MAIDEN frontman premiered the spectacular film and revealed further details about the album and forthcoming comic series in partnership with Z2, including releasing 2,000 CCXP-exclusive versions of the comic to the delight of the international comic community.

“The Mandrake Project” track listing:

01. Afterglow Of Ragnarok (05:45)
02. Many Doors To Hell (04:48)
03. Rain On The Graves (05:05)
04. Resurrection Men (06:24)
05. Fingers In The Wounds (03:39)
06. Eternity Has Failed (06:59)
07. Mistress Of Mercy (05:08)
08. Face In The Mirror (04:08)
09. Shadow Of The Gods (07:02)
10. Sonata (Immortal Beloved) (09:51)

Bruce has previously described lead single “Afterglow Of Ragnarok” as “a heavy song and there’s a great big riff driving it… but there’s also a real melody in the chorus that displays the light and shade that the rest of the album brings.”

Directed by award-winning director Ryan Mackfall, written by Dickinson and acclaimed British writer Tony Lee (whose lengthy credits include “2000AD”, DC and Marvel ranging from “Dr. Who” and “Star Trek” to “Spider Man” and “X-Men”),the film unveils Dr. Necropolis, the main protagonist at the heart of “The Mandrake Project”. It also sets the scene for the story to come, reflecting the dark narrative contained in the eight-page comic book prequel which features in the seven-inch gatefold vinyl release of the single.

“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.

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.

Photo credit: John McMurtrie (courtesy of Wilful Publicity)


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