Bruce Dickinson Talks Childhood Life Lessons, How Corporal Punishment Leads to ‘Permissive’ Culture of Abuse [Exclusive Interview]

Iron Maiden‘s career is one of the most well-documented in the entirety of heavy metal thanks to the masterful talents of managers Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor. Every move has been decidedly calculated and their crafty efforts have also kept the personal lives of Maiden’s members unbelievably private. In What Does This Button Do?, the gripping new autobiography from Bruce Dickinson, the singer lifts the veil on his personal life, detailing his childhood and upbringing and we jumped on the opportunity to learn more in our interview with metal’s Renaissance man.

Dickinson was raised by his grandparents until the age of five while his parents toured with a traveling dog act to earn their living. “My grandfather gave me all kinds of emotional stuff — my emotional makeup, my moral compass (for what it’s worth) is largely from him,” the singer told us.

Eventually, his parents settled down as his father took on various projects to provide for the family, which instilled in the youngster, “Wow, that’s how hard you have to work.” Another paternal lesson, which would prove to be invaluable in Dickinson’s life, was, “Have a go at everything; even if you’re no good at it, just have a go at it, try and see.” This, of course, lends itself to the polymath’s curious nature and the title of the autobiography.

We then got an example of this lesson applied during Dickinson’s childhood. He recalled entering a go-kart race with an inferior vehicle, but was encourage by his father to finish the race and not to worry about winning. “If you finish every race, you will end up in the points,” his father imparted. When the race was over, Dickinson was awarded a little trophy and learned, “It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you’ve just got to finish it. Finish the race. If you never finish the race, you can never win.”

The conversation then shifted to Dickinson’s teenage years, which were predominantly spent at boarding school where bullying and sadistic corporal punishment was as much of a way of life as indulging in a “smorgasbord of everything” from education to a breadth of activities, both physical and skilled.

“I think things have kind of moved on now, but I still think that culture sort of persists,” Dickinson said about the system of corporal punishment in school. He noted the current affairs of scandals and sexual misconduct, detailing incidents which took place at the BBC and elsewhere “doing multiple pedophile acts and things like that over years and years and years and you can see how that culture becomes permissive when you have schools where you allow this kind of stuff to go on.”

The singer condemned the school’s use of corporal punishment, which even found his housemaster changing into his rowing kit and rearranging furniture to get a better strike at bent over boys using a variety of different instruments depending on the severity of the punishment deemed necessary. He exclaimed, “These people should be locked up, they shouldn’t be in charge of adolescent children!”

What Does This Button Do? is out now and to grab your copy to pry open more about the life of Bruce Dickinson, head here.

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