By Jon Thibault and Bob Nalbandian

Jon Thibault, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson

In 1990 my buddy Mike and I would spend long hours playing drums and listening to music, contrasting different players, passing the time as young wanna-be musicians do. When the Chick Corea, Queensryche, and King Crimson CDs became tiresome, one of us would inevitably spark up Iron Maiden's "Live After Death" and we'd abandon any semblance of critical praise or analysis; we'd lose the unemotional objectivity necessary to really listen and compute, opting instead to spaz out with the juvenile writhing of zitty teenagers with too much testosterone, spilling the booze pilfered from Mike's dad's liqueur cabinet, banging our heads while screaming at the top of our lungs until one of us became too tired to continue or threw up...

So I'm in the Black Lodge on Sunset, idly sipping a pricey well drink, watching scantily clad women trying their best to look sexy on stage while a geriatric hack photographer clicks away at them. "I think they're competing for some kind of prize," a leggy babe offers, but that seems too simple, too goddamn logical and trite for the infamous Black Lodge, especially considering who tonight's guest DJ is.

Bruce Dickinson is lost somewhere deep in the weirdness of Venice--which is not a particularly good place to be when you're from England and not used to midgets with no arms or legs dancing with hellish glee for the spare change of unfazed tourists--Jesus, it probably reminds him of Ireland. But it's late at night so, ironically, perhaps he's safe from LA's most disturbing sideshows. Earlier the club sent out two of the best to rescue the migrant rock star, but that was hours ago and perhaps they-a 6'6" bouncer and a huge, bald Swede appropriately named Torbjorn Evil-scared him away forever. If I were him right now, surrounded by freaks of every size and defect, all screaming at me for money, and suddenly two big lugs jumped out of a car, reeking of tequila, numbly trying to explain that they've been sent to escort me to a place called the "Black Lodge," I'd pepper spray them both and jump into the ocean.

But I'm a quiet young Republican from New Hampshire, and Bruce Dickinson is a big rock star from England. So when he strolls into the Black Lodge, past the cashier-so nonchalantly that she doesn't even notice him-and starts mingling with two friends, explaining that, as he was walking down the streets of Venice, a couple of teenagers ran up to him and said, "Hey, you're Bruce Dickinson!" and gave him a ride all the way to Hollywood-it is I who suffers from culture shock, because Bruce Dickinson is not what I expected. And later that night, as I drive home with "Piece of Mind" spinning in the Alpine, I still have trouble making the connection between the quiet Brit who meandered-short, alone, unrecognized-into the Black Lodge and the quintessential heavy metal voice of one of the most popular heavy metal bands of all time.

The following Saturday, Bob Nalbandian and I cruise to the apartment complex in Marina del Ray where Bruce and Adrian Smith have called home for the past week while rehearsing for the tour for "Ed Hunter," Iron Maiden's soon to be released double CD/video game combo, featuring everyone's favorite album cover dead guy.

My theory that Venice is weird on an international scale doesn't jibe with the slightly hung-over Smith. "I love it here," he says. "I know Venice Beach is kind of crazy. I haven't been down there (the boardwalk) in years. I like the coast because the air's good down here. The Valley and Hollywood..." He makes that "yuck" face that only looks cool when British people do it.

We want to save the good questions for both of them, so when Bruce excuses himself and scours the complex for bottled water, Bob and I jabber about what the weather's like in England right now and how Adrian likes the weather here and what the weather is like in Rio, for which they leave tomorrow. To his credit, Adrian does an admirable job of humoring us, even as I frantically beckon and wave to a hot piece of ass that strolls by our table-a hot piece of ass that returns and is introduced as Adrian's wife. Thank the Christ, Bruce finally comes back with his goddamn water.

Dickinson is gregarious and funny. He and Smith sit across from us at a poolside table. They both refuse cans of beer when offered. Adrian Smith sits there looking contemplative; he is (forgive me-the analogy is irresistible) Derek Smalls to Dickinson's Nigel Tufnel.

SHOCKWAVES: So you guys(ie: Bruce Dickinson's solo band) are going to Rio tomorrow?
Bruce Dickinson: Sao Paulo, a place called Curatiba, then back to Sao Paulo for another show that's kind of out in the 'burbs-it's a couple of hours just outside Sao Paulo-a town I can't pronounce.

SHOCKWAVES: And you'll be recording a live album?
BD: Yeah. We'll be recording three shows-three out of Sao Paulo and the one that's near Sao Paulo.

SHOCKWAVES: Is that going to come out in the states on CMC?
BD: Nope. They will definitely not come out on CMC. I think CMC will keep selling "Chemical Wedding" and "Accident Of Birth" (Bruce's last two solo records) and that's it, really. They don't have any of the Maiden stuff either. CMC only had "Virtual XI", but they don't even have that one now.

SHOCKWAVES: Who's going to release the new Maiden?
BD: (Sighs Comically) Hmmm... Well...It's not going to be Nuclear Blast. It's not going to be any of those type of labels. At the moment, one of the things we're trying to do is figure out who's going to release the video game over here, because again it was going to go through Castle, but in the light of circumstances a few more offers came in so we're going to try and tie together the whole thing so that we go with a big distributor that will also help us out with the record. There's a lot of interest and it's real major-it's real high quality, headline grabbing stuff.