Video footage of IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson playing parts of the band’s epic 18-minute song “Empire Of The Clouds” on a piano during a listening session for the group’s new album, “The Book Of Souls”, on August 26 at Guillaume Tell Studios in Paris, France can be seen below.
In an interview with Noisey, Dickinson stated about the writing process for “Empire Of The Clouds”: “I won a piano in a raffle. That’s how it all started. I got this little electric piano and took it home and started tinkering around on it. And I am really a kind of one-fingered Rachmaninoff. [Laughs] I’m pretty limited; I mean, I’m a two-fingered typist, and that’s as good as I am on piano.”
He continued: “Sometimes you just gotta know what you want. You don’t necessarily have to be able to play it terribly fluently, but you need to be able to describe how to play it fluently. In my case, I actually had to play on the record, so I played the piano on the record, and so that took a little bit of time. But by the magic of midi and a bit of editing, you know, some of my shitty bits got rearranged, and we could actually move the odd bum note around so that we could get some semblance of a piano track that makes sense. But I have been practicing. I’ve been trying to get a little bit better at it, and I’m actually doing quite a bit of writing on it now for other stuff as well, other stuff which I don’t know where it may lead…you never know.
Asked if MAIDEN will peform “Empire Of The Clouds” live on tour, Dickinson said: “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t think we’ll play ‘Empire’, In fact, I’m certain we won’t be playing ‘Empire’ on the new tour. You need strings, you need cellos, you need horns, you need all this stuff to play it properly, and it’s such a dominating song. In the format of a regular IRON MAIDEN thunderous stage show, it would be altogether too dominant, I think, so we’re definitely not going to be playing it.”
IRON MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith told Total Guitar magazine about “Empire Of The Clouds”: “[Bruce] was working on [‘Empire Of The Clouds’] for about a month on his own. Every single day we’d be in the studio blasting out stuff and he’d be in the soundproof glass booth playing piano. Like Beethoven with his ear to the piano, concocting this masterpiece. I think he wrote every single note in it.
“We interpreted it and we did it in sections,” Adrian continued. “[Producer] Kevin [Shirley] and Bruce would be in the control room and say, ‘That’s too bluesy, can you make it a bit more classical sounding?’ He recorded all the piano from start to finish and then we played along to that. Then I think they put on all the orchestration afterwards. It’s a bit of a story on its own that one.”
IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris told Kerrang! magazine about the song: “I think it’s a masterpiece, actually. I think I can say that because I didn’t write it! It sounds like MAIDEN, but it’s totally different from what we’ve done before.”
He continued: “Eighteen minutes sounds like a long time, but it’s actually such a journey that… Well, it’s best just to leave people to listen to it and see what they think. But it’s very interesting. It’s certainly not boring.”
“The Book Of Souls” was eleased globally on September 4 through Parlophone Records (Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG in the U.S.).