Chris Dale had released the new book Inside The Skunkworks Machine, the fascinating and detailed story of how Bruce Dickinson and his band formed the Skunkworks project, the tours they made and the life-changing experiences they enjoyed.
Chris Dale – Inside The Skunkworks Machine
Release Date: Out Now
Dickinson’s last performance with Iron Maiden was on 28 August 1993, and, following the release of the Balls To Picasso, Skunkworks was intended to be the debut album of a band by the same name. However, his label would not issue the record under any name other than Bruce Dickinson.
As described by Bruce as “an advanced garage band,” Skunkworks featured Chris Dale on bass, Alex Dickson on guitar, and Alex Elena on drums.
“The band only lasted a couple of years,” Chris Dale told MetalTalk Editor Steve Ritchie, “before we all went our separate ways, but it was an insane time. We jammed, gigged and partied around the world in tour buses, private jets, limousines, dodgy propeller planes and military helicopters, from LA to Rio, Tokyo to Stockholm and most infamously to Sarajevo, during the Bosnian War. And we also made what we thought was a pretty cool album at the same time.”
The book results from two years of reconnecting with friends and fans over Chris’s Skunkworks Facebook group. “It was just for fun,” Chris says. “Alex Dickson shared some demos and live recordings from his vault, Alex Elena and I shared some fun memories and photos from our albums and quickly, the group built up. I was surprised by people’s thirst for knowledge of what we had thought was a largely forgotten project.”
The book is presented in chronological interview format, which seemed strange, given my job as MetalTalk editor, but by page three, when you are in that reading rhythm, you see why this is a perfect fit. That immense attention to detail elevates this into a well-told and unique story.
“People wanted to know how we got together as a band,” Chris says, “what happened on tour, how the album was made, the creative process behind the songs, who chose the producer and much more besides. We were happy to answer these questions, and as it went on and more questions came, more memories came back to us.
“I checked old diaries and tour schedules to verify facts and dates, and I scanned more photos. I soon realised we were accidentally building up an archive here of information between us.”
With Bruce having escaped the Iron Maiden machine, albeit temporarily, you quickly get how he wanted this to be different from the Maiden setup. The early part of the book details the writing and rehearsal process, and there is a sense that this is how grassroots musicians see their trade in respect of having fun and just trying things out.
The book has received Bruce’s blessing. “We went for a couple of pints a few months back,” Chris says, “and I told him all about it. He smiled and said it was a great idea.”
The early rehearsals tell the story of how Doogie White was involved, and this camaraderie and support among these musicians was great to read. Later in the book, you see a photo of Blaze Bayley and Bruce chatting backstage about microphone technique.
Memories were contributed by fans, crew members and other eyewitnesses. “Our legendary producer Jack Endino got involved,” Chris says. “Our press agent Robert Adams who was there through the whole recording shared his views and many other musicians such as Roland Grapow, Doogie White, Blaze Bayley, Renato Tribuzy, Andy Carr, Dicki Fliszar, Robin Guy and more.”
The book contains quotations from reviews and interviews by Bruce and others around that time. There are fan reviews of concerts as well as the full Scream For Me Sarajevo articles originally written for MetalTalk.net, which served as the later basis for the award-winning and highly recommended film of that name.
“We cover what happened onstage and off,” Chris says. “How Bruce warms up his voice, how scary Sarajevo really was, all our secret gigs, Bruce’s Dalek, details of unreleased recordings and video shoots and a day by day listing of everything that happened in those crazy two years and even more since.”
Producing the book has brought back many memories for Chris. “We were young,” he says. “We travelled the world playing concerts and experiencing the culture of each country. It was a truly amazing experience, many aspects of which changed my life, not least, of course, the unforgettable Sarajevo concert.
“We also made an album that we were all proud of and has recently seen a resurgence of interest. I have no complaints. This isn’t one of those bitching rock biogs as we had way too good a time for that. Instead, it’s a roller coaster of on-the-road antics around the world, studio insights, and what it’s actually like on a day-to-day basis to be in a band at that level. I think you’ll be surprised by some of it.”
Inside The Skunkworks Machine is available to order on hard or softback exclusively from Amazon outlets. Amazon uses local print to order services, saving costs, time, postage and waste. The hardback also has better print quality on the photos.
“Alex Elena and I thought early on,” Chris says, “that we’re only going to do this book once, so let’s put everything in there. Every stupid story, every song by song anecdote, every gig and every worthwhile photo. It’s ended up as 375 pages in large format and full colour with exclusive photos, tickets, passes or autographed albums on nearly every page.”
“The book’s bigger than I ever meant it to be, but it’s everything you ever wanted to know.”
If ever you wanted to know the challenges Bruce faced in trying to break the shackles of his Iron Maiden history, and the ups and downs of life on the road, then I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Chris Dale also writes for MetalTalk. You can read his musings at https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/chris-dale.
UK – amazon.co.uk
USA – amazon.com
Germany – amazon.de
France – amazon.fr
Italy – amazon.it
Australia – amazon.com.au
Canada – amazon.ca