IRON MAIDEN’s BRUCE DICKINSON Says His Cancer Battle Changed His View Of Life And Death

In a new interview with Sweden’s SVT, IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson spoke about his upcoming solo album “The Mandrake Project”, which will be released on March 1 via BMG. Bruce Dickinson and his long-term co-writer and producer Roy “Z” Ramirez 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 keyboard maestro Mistheria and drummer Dave Moreno, both of whom also featured on Bruce‘s last solo studio album, “Tyranny Of Souls”, in 2005.

Regarding the lyrical concept for “The Mandrake Project”, Dickinson told SVT (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “There’s a lot of kind of — not exactly — yeah, kind of like meditation on life and death in there, probably ’cause I had a little bit of a too close encounter with it when I had cancer. I didn’t think that changed my view of life and death. People asked me that question after I got better from it, and I was, like, ‘No, no. Easy-peasy. No, no, no. [Laughs] And, yeah — no, it did, but not in a bad way. Every day is, like, great. ‘Wow.’ So I try and live in that space.”

Dickinson, who was diagnosed with throat cancer back in late 2014, spoke about his recovery during the question-and-answer portion of his January 2022 spoken-word show in Orlando, Florida. Asked what advice he would give to anyone getting ready to start their own battle against cancer, he responded: “Here’s the way I dealt with it… And people will deal with it in different ways. I embraced the treatment. So I went along to see the big radiation machine and I said, ‘Okay, how does this work then? What does it do? And how much are you giving me and where? And how are you making a difference between this one and this one and this one? And you can do what with it? Wow, that’s really cool. That’s amazing. It’s insane, the technology.'”

He continued: “I would say embrace the treatment and always remember the [likelihood]… I don’t know what your cancer is. I don’t know the individual circumstances. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not gonna make any predictions. I can’t do anything like that, nor would I, ’cause it’s very private. But I have to say that the therapies that people are coming up with now are so on the edge and successful that you really do stand a very good chance. ‘Cause half of us are gonna get cancer, and it’s not a death sentence anymore, and you can deal with it. And the things they have to do to your body to get rid of it are getting better and better and better as we go down the line. They did some nasty things to my body. I’m lucky I’m completely clear of it and everything.

“I only really talk about it when I come to do these shows ’cause people want to know,” Bruce added. “I quite enjoy talking about it because you kind of demystify it a little bit for people. It’s a scary thing.”

Approximately 39.2 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer of any site at some point during their lifetime, based on 2016–2018 data.

According to Healthline, the cancer death rate in the United States dropped by about a third (32 percent) from its peak in 1991 to 2019 — from about 215 deaths for every 100,000 people to about 146. Much of the reduction is due to the progress made against lung cancer, which remains the leading cause of cancer death in the country.

Dickinson, who had a golf gall-size tumor on his tongue and another in the lymph node on the right side of his neck, got the all-clear in May 2015 after radiation and nine weeks of chemotherapy.

Bruce previously told iNews that he wanted to cover his cancer battle in his 2017 autobiography, “What Does This Button Do?”, to raise awareness of the condition, which affects people who often have no or minimal history of tobacco or alcohol abuse. The individuals with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer who undergo treatment have a disease-free survival rate of 85 to 90 percent over five years.

During an appearance on the Swedish TV show “Malou Efter Tio”, Dickinson spoke about how his singing voice has changed following his cancer diagnosis nine years ago.

“[It’s] a little bit different,” he said. “Two things are slightly different. One is my saliva, which obviously lubricates your throat a little bit, is a bit less than it used to be. Although, back ten years ago, if I had the same cancer, I wouldn’t be making any saliva. But now, I’m probably 70 percent, which is great. Thanks very much, everybody upstairs. [Laughs] And the other things is that I think that the shape of possibly the back of my tongue, which forms vowel sounds and things like that, might have changed shape slightly, because, obviously, it had a big lump in it, and the lump’s gone. So maybe the surface has changed shape. So I notice a few differences. Funnily enough, the top end of my voice is maybe even a little bit better than it was before. [Laughs]”

Dickinson said that he was given “the all-clear” by his specialists following an MRI scan after a course of chemotherapy and radiology.

“I was amazed,” he said. “My cancer was a 3.5-centimeter tumor in my throat and a 2.5-centimeter one in my lymph node, and that was the one that I could feel — that was the secondary one. But I did 33 sessions of radiation and nine weeks of chemo at the same time, which is fairly standard therapy for it. And it was gone. And I said to my oncologist: ‘What do you mean it’s gone? Where has it gone?’ And he said, ‘Well, your body just gets rid of it.’ A body is an amazing thing.”

This past November, Dickinson 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, 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)

Fans of both Bruce Dickinson and IRON MAIDEN will notice that the album features the curiously named “Eternity Has Failed”, which first appeared in a different form titled “If Eternity Should Fail” on IRON MAIDEN‘s 2015’s album “The Book Of Souls”, illustrating how long the creative process for “The Mandrake Project” has been in the works.

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. 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‘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.


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