Nicko McBrain

Iron Maiden drum­mer Nicko McBrain on live ex­trav­a­gan­zas, crit­i­cal slat­ings and smack­ing Clas­sic Rock in the mouth.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Henry Yates Pho­tos: John McMur­trie

Keep­ing them out on the road all sum­mer, Iron Maiden’s Legacy Of

The Beast World Tour prompted a thou­sand fine words from the rock-press cognoscenti. But no­body has nailed the show’s mer­its quite as suc­cinctly as drum­mer Nicko McBrain. “From the band’s point of view, it was ab­so­lutely the bol­locks,” he tells us.

You en­joyed the tour, then?

When peo­ple go on tour they al­ways say: “It was the best yet.” But I have to be hon­est, this one was. Bruce [Dick­in­son], Rod [Small­wood, man­ager] and Steve [Har­ris] re­ally ex­celled them­selves with the vis­ual as­pect. We pulled out the stops with the Spit­fire replica that opens the show – it was just one me­tre in length and wing­span smaller than a real air­craft. And, y’know, Flight Of Icarus, with the blow­torches and Bruce’s cos­tume changes… He’s al­ways been a bit of a ham, to be hon­est. I love him for that. But I didn’t re­ally get to see the set. I watch the YouTube footage and I go: “Gawd, I never re­alised Bruce had a TNT plunger at the end of the night.”

Any chal­lenges along the way?

We had some lit­tle hic­cups, but that’s part and par­cel of liv­ing on the road and fly­ing with a pri­vate aero­plane. Com­ing out of Greece, the plane went tech­ni­cal and we sat on the run­way for an hour and a half in a hun­dred-plus de­grees. Our wives had a whole bunch of these sou­venir Ja­panese fans. I can’t tell ya, see­ing all the band wav­ing these fans about… I wish I’d have taken a pic­ture. It was pre­cious.

The story goes that when Clas­sic Rock was launched in 1998, Rod sent a fax say­ing “About fuck­ing time”. Was that the gen­eral feel­ing in the Maiden camp?

Y’know, you had your Ker­rang!s and a few other bits and bobs, but there was a lean pe­riod of time where there wasn’t re­ally any­thing hap­pen­ing in terms of pub­li­ca­tions for our genre. When it was an­nounced that you guys were kick­ing it off, yeah, it was great. And twenty years down the line we’re still hav­ing a nat­ter.

How were things go­ing for Maiden in 1998?

Ob­vi­ously it was a bit of a lean pe­riod for the band, in the re­spect that Bruce had gone off to pur­sue a solo ca­reer, and we had Blaze [Bay­ley] in, and we did two great al­bums with him. That Vir­tual XI tour was mixed emo­tions for me; some nights it was ab­so­lutely amaz­ing and other nights it wasn’t so.

Crit­ics were hard on that Vir­tual XI al­bum. Well, we kind of ex­pected the re­views. When you change the pro­file of a band – es­pe­cially when your front­man leaves and you get a dif­fer­ent guy in – you’re al­ways go­ing to have some crit­i­cisms. I’ve got to be hon­est with you, we do care. Don’t get me wrong, we are self­ish. We do the stuff that we do for us, pri­mar­ily. We’re very blessed to be in that po­si­tion… But, as you say, there was a bit of a downer in terms of the Vir­tual XI al­bum not be­ing re­ceived too well, and the crit­ics slat­ing it a lit­tle bit. I’d be ly­ing if I said it didn’t make a dif­fer­ence, but we shrug it off.

Bruce and Adrian Smith came back in 1999. What are your mem­o­ries of that time?

Well, it was twofold. First of all, Bruce de­cided that he missed the band as much as we did miss him. The added bonus was that af­ter we had the first meet­ing af­ter we got back from Ja­pan on that Vir­tual XI tour, and it was de­cided that we couldn’t carry on with Blaze, it all fell into place. All the stars aligned. I still be­lieve it was di­vine in­ter­ven­tion.

What was your re­ac­tion? I’ve got to be hon­est with you, when I was first told, I was sit­ting in a sake bar in Rop­pongi, Ja­pan, with Rod and Jan­ick [Gers]. And Rod turned round and told me that Adrian was com­ing back with Bruce and asked what did I think about it. I said: “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Jan­ick said: “We’re tra­di­tion­ally a two-guitar band. Three gui­tars? I don’t get that.

I’ll step down.” Rod said: “You’re not go­ing any­where, mate.” Then I looked at Rod and I said: “By the way, are you go­ing to cut your com­mis­sion down?” And he said: ‘What the fuck do you mean, cut me bloody com­mis­sion down?” I said: “Well there’s six of us in the band to be paid now.” He just looked at me: “Fuck­ing typ­i­cal drum­mer!”

It all worked out, though, didn’t it?

I laugh about it, but to be hon­est we had the ic­ing on the cake with Bruce de­cid­ing to come back, and then there was the cream and the cherry on top of that. It was a com­plete win-win sit­u­a­tion. Re­ally, if that hadn’t hap­pened, I don’t know whether you and I would be hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion. We are very blessed that Bruce came back.

Has Clas­sic Rock’s cov­er­age of Iron Maiden been fair over the years?

Yeah, ab­so­lutely. Cos if it weren’t you’d be eat­ing corn on the cob with no fuck­ing teeth, mate!

The first four al­bums in Iron Maiden’s The Stu­dio Col­lec­tion – Re­mas­tered are avail­able now from stu­dio­col­lec­tion.iron­maiden.com

Wa­hey! Nicko seems to be hav­ing a lovely time…

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