Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has admitted he had concerns over the quality of his voice when he returned to the band after beating tongue cancer.

The British icons delayed the release of their 16th studio album, The Book of Souls, as a result of his illness, which was diagnosed at the end of 2014. When the tour in support of the LP began in February 2016, Dickinson had been forced to take a 10-month break for recovery.

“I was pinching myself for the first shows back, because none of us knew how it was going to sound, my voice," Dickinson told Kerrang! "Unquestionably there were some things that had changed and it was difficult. There were so many things that were uncertain. You just had to open your gob and see what came out – if a bag of spanners fell out you’d think, ‘Oh s---.’”

He also recalled how he suffered a period of depression before deciding to face cancer head-on. “I turned down things like feeding tubes," he said. "They wanted to put bloody pipes and holes in me. I went, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that. I will feed myself somehow.’ I thought, ‘Let’s just get stuck into things as quickly as possible, and if it doesn’t work I’ll have to make another plan. I was very lucky I didn’t lose a catastrophic amount of weight, as a lot of people do. You can feel sorry for yourself, and I went through a phase of that. But I thought, ‘There’s no point in assuming I’m going to get a bad result here.’”

At the same time, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris admitted that the band was aware it couldn’t go on for ever, but they were taking steps to stave off retirement for as a long as possible – especially drummer Nicko McBrain.

“It’s got to happen at some point, but I don’t really want to think about it," Harris said. "We’re not getting any younger. Lo and behold, after all these years Nicko’s given up drinking. He gave up about 18 months ago. He’s better for it – I think everyone’s thinking that they want to go on longer, and are doing whatever they think is necessary to do that.”

Harris added that, even if the band ended its career, he wouldn’t want to be “pottering about the garden.” “If I’m able I’d still do some gigs with British Lion, and I would still like to record,” he noted.

Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls World Tour continues in the U.K. this month, with U.S. dates to follow in June and July.

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