Radio DJ

Q. Did you play bass for Bruce Dickinson, that bloke out of Iron Maiden?

  Chris says "Yes!"

Bruce Dickinson's Balls to Picasso Tour line-up
When Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden he already had the ‘Balls to Picasso’ album recorded and ready for release. What he needed was a live band. Coincidentally me and Sponder were leaving Machine and needed a metal band to take us out of the house more often. Ex-Gun/Midnight Blue guitarist Alex Dickson had already been recruited when we sent in a tape of our recently recorded Machine demo to Bruce via Sanctuary Management. Much to our delight we got a call back and were asked to learn a few songs from "Balls to Picasso" and some Deep Purlple and AC/DC covers for an audition. As it turned out nobody else came down to the auditions so we got the job.

Bruce impersonating an aeroplane, St Louis Mo USA 1994

A month of rehearsals followed, going through the whole of the Balls to Picasso album, a few tracks from Tattooed Millionaire and some classic rock covers such as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sin City and Black Night before final setlists were chosen. The tour kicked off in the US Mid-West supportting Jackyl, with Richie Kotzen from Poison opening. In LA Dee Snider's Widowmaker opened for us. We were like kids on a big heavy metal holiday!

Bruce Dickinson band Live at the Marquee London 1994

We went straight from the American tour into a European headlining tour. Our metal party took us across France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Belgium and the UK before finishing up for a break by recording a live album at the Marquee in London. It was packaged with a live session recorded at Metropolis Studios in London as the "Alive in Studio A" double album.

Super-roadie Andy Veasey and a nervous Chris in Bosnia 1994
Our next stop was a one-off gig in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. What at first seemed like a good deed with an excuse for some rock with a ride in a tank thrown in (as it happened we got a ride in an Armoured Personnel Carrier, a Sea King Helicopter and a massive Hercules Transporter plane) turned into harsh reality as we saw the devastation and misery around us. Having  couple of mortar rounds fired at the venue didn't cheer us up much either. War isn't fun. 

Chris, Alex and Sponder on tour in Germany 1994

While the people of Bosnia continued to suffer we ditched our brush with real life and headed off on a South American Tour to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The contrast couldn't have been greater, we lapped up the sunshine and party atmosphere with the World's craziest metal fans. Then back for a few more European and UK gigs before starting work on a brand new album.

Alex Dickson and Jack Endino during Skunkworks recording 1995
For the new album, entitled Skunkworks, Bruce wanted to get away from mainstream metal and make a more alternative album. Former Nirvana and Mudhoney producer Jack Endino was brought in to record the new songs that Alex and Bruce had been working on. Jack's a great guy and a real rock icon so the six weeks in Lindford Manor in the countryside flew by. While he perfected the mixes, we perfected cooking chicken in red wine. I was quite pleased with both results.

Skunkworks live in Belgium 1996
The Skunkworks tour started with six weeks around Europe supporting Helloween. It might not have been the ideal tour to promote an alternative rock album on but those whacky Germans kept our spirits up with their joshing and japes. Along the way in Spain, we filmed a Skunkworks live video for Japanese release entitled "Skunkworks Live Video", which I thought was a very nice name for it. The headline part of the tour took us round the UK, France, Japan and a few gigs in the USA finishing in Detroit Rock City.

The writing ws on the wall- things were going wrong for Skunkworks
Unfortunately not everyone was quite as keen on the Skunkworks album as us four. Opinion was in fact sharply divided over it. On the one hand Kerrang saw it as "positive, vibey and energetic" and Metal Hammer as "a tour de force of modern metal" , while on the other hand Melody Maker described it as "Flaccid arthritic metal" and NME summed it up with "To hear this record is, perhaps the first time in your life to thank the Lord for Terrorvision". The album turned out to be the least successful of Bruce's solo career and taking stock of the situation he wisely went back to true metal while me, Alex and Sponder went to Pizza Express and made some Sack Trick albums instead. 

Bruce live with Sack Trick at the Kings Head London
As it happened I stayed in touch with Bruce, after all he's a nice bloke who's not shy of getting a round in at the pub every now and then. He quite likes Sack Trick too. He got us to open at a few shows on his Chemical Wedding Tour, invited us to play at his BBC Radio Show and he also got up and sang with us at a gig once. Me and Bruce also guested on Renato Tribuzy's album and some gigs in Brazil too.

The Bruce Dickinson band Germany 2002

Then in 2002 between re-forming Iron Maiden, becoming a commercial airline pilot, filming some documentaries about planes, DJ-ing on the BBC, bringing up three kids and writing a couple of novels Bruce found the time to play a handful of European solo festival dates to back up his new "Best of Bruce Dickinson" album. Rather then go to the bother of auditioning a new band he quite sensibly hired Sack Trick to be his backing band with me, Alex Dickson, Robin Guy and Pete Friesen. 

Alex Dickson, Pete Friesen and Chris live in Athens 2002

This time round there was no alternative theme to the band. It was heads-down, foot-on-the-monitor true metal with loads of the heavier tunes from Bruce's solo career and a few Maiden classics thrown in for fun.

"What can I tell you? It was the best Bruce show I've seen with or without Maiden." raved the Scream for me .com website. 

See the Bruce Dickinson Official Website and the Bruce Dickinson Well Being Network for more...