Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain (born 5 June 1952) is an English musician, best known as the drummer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden since 1982. Having played in small pub bands since 1966 from the age of 14, after leaving school McBrain did session work before joining a variety of artists, such as Streetwalkers in 1975, Pat Travers, and the French political band, Trust. He joined Iron Maiden (replacing Clive Burr), in time to debut on their fourth album Piece of Mind (1983), and has remained with them since, contributing to a total of fourteen studio releases, as well as being the third-longest serving member of the band.

Nicko McBrain
McBrain in Costa Rica during the Somewhere Back in Time World Tour, 2008
McBrain in Costa Rica during the Somewhere Back in Time World Tour, 2008
Background information
Birth nameMichael Henry McBrain
Born (1952-06-05) 5 June 1952 (age 71)
Hackney, London, England
OriginChipping Barnet, London, England
Years active1966–present
Member of
Formerly of

Biography edit

McBrain was born in Hackney, London, and first wanted to learn the drums at a young age after watching Joe Morello performing with The Dave Brubeck Quartet on television.[1] At the age of ten, he started to play drums with pots, pans and other kitchen utensils, before, to his parents' dismay, he began drumming on the gas cooker with a pair of knives and chipped off the paintwork.[1] McBrain recalls that he was eleven or twelve before his father bought him his first drum kit, "which was basically one snare, one tom-tom, one cymbal, two drumsticks and a pair of brushes."[2] He soon started playing Rolling Stones and Beatles covers with school bands, before he began regularly playing "pubs and weddings" by the age of 14.[2]

McBrain had his nose broken in a fight at school which left him with his trademark flat features.[3] He never underwent surgery to repair his nose.

McBrain's first "proper" band was "The 18th Fairfield Walk", later known as "Peyton Bond",[4] a small pub band, which he decided was "never gonna go anywhere" as they only performed Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who covers. McBrain soon left to join "The Wells Street Blues Band", which renamed themselves "The Axe" in 1969,[4] a group which played their own material. This band split up after an argument between the singer and the guitarist, and McBrain began playing with Billy Day, a singer and keyboardist, and Michael "Mickey" Lesley, a guitarist, in 1971.[5] At that point, he was known as "Nicky", a nickname given to him by his parents after his teddy bear, Nicholas,[1] until an intoxicated Billy Day introduced him to Dick Asher, head of CBS Records, as "Neeko", while they were recording at CBS Studios, Whitfield Street.[5] McBrain liked the name, changing it to Nicko "so that it sounded more English", and decided to keep it even after leaving the group.[6] In 1973, McBrain performed on a single by Cockerel Chorus, "Nice One Cyril", on the label Young Blood.[7]

Also in 1973, McBrain played on a self-titled album by guitarist Gordon Giltrap. This is notable not only as McBrain's album debut, but also because Giltrap in 1978 released an album called Fear of the Dark and used a font for his logo that is quite similar to the one used by Iron Maiden.[8]

In 1975, he began playing with Streetwalkers,[6] before joining Pat Travers,[9] singer Jenny Darren,[10] McKitty and then the French band, Trust,[11][9] with whom he met Iron Maiden for the first time, while touring together in 1981.[12] In 1982, the band asked McBrain to replace Clive Burr,[9] and as news of Burr's departure had not yet been announced, McBrain made his first appearance with Iron Maiden on German TV disguised as Eddie.[13] He formed a close partnership with bassist Steve Harris,[13] and completed what many critics consider the band's "definitive" line-up,[14] releasing a series of gold and platinum selling albums throughout the 1980s.[15]

While the band's line-up went through several changes during the 1990s, McBrain remained in Iron Maiden, and since the return of Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson in 1999 the group has undergone a resurgence in popularity,[16] and are now considered by some as "bigger than ever".[17]

When he's not recording and touring with Iron Maiden, McBrain often plays with side projects including a band called McBrain Damage which played Iron Maiden covers. In March 2017, he was a guest drummer with the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[18]

McBrain writes all the drum parts for Iron Maiden's songs. He received only one songwriting credit on an album, for "New Frontier", from 2003's Dance of Death,[19] which expresses his opposition to human cloning, arising from his religious beliefs.[20] He had previously received two songwriting credits for non-album tracks: 1984's "Mission From 'Arry", which was actually a recording of a backstage argument with Steve Harris, and 1992's "Nodding Donkey Blues", which were B-sides of the singles "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Be Quick or Be Dead", respectively.

Drumming style edit

McBrain's drumming has been an important element of Iron Maiden's sound from 1983's Piece of Mind onwards, with guitarist Adrian Smith remarking that, "he always had the chops and the technique, but in Maiden he really exploded, to the point where a lot of stuff we did after he joined was then founded on his playing, all those busy patterns he does, displaying tremendous technique."[13] As described in detail on the band's 2004 documentary, Piece of Mind's opening track, "Where Eagles Dare", famously displays McBrain's ability to use the single drum pedal very quickly, plus his rapid tom fills.[21]

He is often considered among the best and most influential heavy metal/hard rock drummers of all time.[22][23] In the 2008 Live After Death DVD, Steve Gadd, McBrain's then drum technician (not to be confused with the other one), comments that, on the World Slavery Tour, some drummers would refer to McBrain as an 'octopus' after witnessing the way in which his stamina gives him the ability to use all of his large signature drum kit in concert.[24]

McBrain often employs the back end of his left hand drum stick to allow for more powerful "snare hits".[25] He is known for not using a double bass pedal, with Bruce Dickinson commenting that he refused to use one on "Where Eagles Dare", considering them 'undrummerish'.[21] He claims to have only ever used a double pedal once on "Face in the Sand", from Dance of Death, preferring to use a DW 5000 Accelerator single pedal.[26] Since switching to the DW pedal in 2000, McBrain plays barefoot, stating that it gives him "more freedom."[27]

Steve Harris remarks that "...he can play all kinds of music. Drummers from other bands sit round the back of him to see what he's doing, but he's got his kit set so he doesn't even look at what he's hitting half the time".[28] After McBrain joined the band in 1982, Harris also noted how much easier playing with McBrain was for a songwriter,[29] with Adrian Smith claiming that, "Steve loves playing with him. [They] used to work for hours going over these bass and drum patterns."[13]

In 1988, McBrain collaborated with Andrew Chapman on a book entitled Iron Maiden & Nicko McBrain's Rhythms of the Beast, which was published by Warner Bros. Music in 1990. The book featured complete transcriptions of McBrain's drum work on twelve classic Iron Maiden songs, including six live versions as recorded on the band's 1985 album Live After Death. After selling internationally for several years, the book was taken out of print. Used copies are occasionally found for sale online.[30]

In 1991, McBrain released an instructional drum video, entitled Rhythms of the Beast (not related to the above book of the same name), which was re-released on DVD in 2010.[31] The video features McBrain demonstrating his technique, and covers tuning, soloing and parts of the drum kit.[32]

In 2020, McBrain was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.[33]

Equipment edit

McBrain is a long-time user of Paiste cymbals[34][35] and currently plays British Drum Company drums, moving from Sonor Drums and[36] having previously endorsed Premier.[37] For A Matter of Life and Death he used his Ludwig metal shell LM 402 snare drum which was purchased in 1975, making it the oldest drum in his kit.[38] He endorses his own signature line of drum sticks made by Vic Firth.[39] As of 2016, McBrain also uses Remo drumheads, Sonor hardware, an LP cowbell and a DW 9000 single pedal.[40][41]

While touring in 1986–87, he played a Sonor Phonic Plus High Tech drum kit.[42]

In 2010, McBrain used a Premier Elite drum kit.[37] In 2016, McBrain played on a Sonor SQ² Custom drum kit made of beech, with a snare drum of birch.[43]

In 2022, McBrain announced his new endorsement with the British Drum Company (or BDC).[44]

In 2023, McBrain announced his switch from Remo drumheads to Code drumheads.[45]

Personal life edit

McBrain is married to Rebecca McBrain (née Dempsey) and has two sons from his first marriage, born 1983 and 1992.[46][47] He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

McBrain converted to Christianity in 1999 after an experience in the Spanish River Church, near his Boca Raton home.[46] His wife, Rebecca, had been asking him to attend with her, and upon entering the church, McBrain soon found himself crying as he experienced a "calling". Recounting the tale, he said "I just sat there thinking, 'I didn't drink last night... why can't I stand?' I had this love affair with Jesus going on in my heart."[48][49]

In 1988, McBrain appeared as a guest on The Sooty Show, in which he played drums with Sooty and Sweep.[50] In reference to his appearance on the show, McBrain's drum kit has since been decorated with a Sooty puppet, which is often dressed accordingly with the band's corresponding tours.[51]

McBrain has a pilot's licence, for which he has a twin engine rating.[52]

In 2003, McBrain was arrested prior to an Iron Maiden show in Wantagh, New York. While pulling into the venue's VIP parking lot, an attendant asked for McBrain's credentials. Following a misunderstanding, McBrain threatened to drive into the attendant, and did so twice, injuring the attendant on the second attempt. McBrain was arrested and charged with third-degree assault and second-degree reckless endangerment. He was released on an appearance ticket, allowing him to perform in the show.[53]

In 2009, he opened a restaurant called Rock 'N' Roll Ribs in Coral Springs, Florida.[54] The restaurant received positive reviews on an episode of Check, Please! South Florida[55] and was awarded "Best Ribs of 2012" by New Times Broward-Palm Beach.[56][57]

McBrain is a fan of snooker and has attended the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.[58] He also enjoys playing golf in his spare time, along with his bandmate Dave Murray,[59] and is a friend of Swedish golfer and Florida resident Jesper Parnevik, whom he met at Ullna Golf Club in Sweden.[60]

Jaguar XJ6 Greatest Hits customised for McBrain

Since he is a lifelong enthusiast of Jaguar Cars, the manufacturer built a custom XKR-S model to McBrain's specifications in 2012.[61] In March 2018, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works revealed a customised Jaguar XJ Series III for McBrain.[62]

In 2015, McBrain stopped drinking alcohol after seeing an interview in which he had had too much wine and has remained sober to this day.[63]

In 2018, he also launched a musical instrument store named Drum One[64] in Manchester, England. The retailer specialises in drum kits and related merchandise.[65] To promote the launch of the store, McBrain conducted an interview with Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice.[66]

On 3 August 2023, McBrain released a statement via the bands' YouTube page,[67] explaining in a video that he had been unwell in January 2023. It was explained further in the video description that McBrain suffered from a stroke in January and was paralysed on his right side from the shoulder down. After 10 weeks of intensive physical therapy, McBrain was able to join the rest of the band at rehearsals in May 2023, ahead of their European leg of the Future Past World Tour. Manager Rod Smallwood also put out a statement saying that "The rest of the band and l think that what Nicko has been able to achieve since his stroke shows incredible belief and willpower and we are all very proud of him. With this new and musically very complex set to learn ahead of him, he just got his head down and concentrated on recovery. We honestly did not know if he would be able to play a whole show until band rehearsals started in May and there was just so much support for him from the band and then genuine relief for all when we saw he was going to be able to do it!"[68].

McBrain has so far performed every show on the European leg of the Future Past World Tour, and as mentioned in the update on 3 August, his recovery is continuing well. Iron Maiden's final date on the European leg is at the Wacken Open Air Festival, where they were the headlining artist.

Discography edit

Cockerel Chorus
Gordon Giltrap
  • Giltrap (1973)
Pat Travers
Jenny Darren
  • Jenny Darren (1980)
  • Marche ou Crève (Original French Release)/Savage (English Language Version) (1981)
  • Rhythms of the Beast (instructional drum video) (1991)

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c Wall 2004, p. 235.
  2. ^ a b Wall 2004, p. 236.
  3. ^ Kielty, Martin (20 May 2016). "Nicko McBrain's message to school friend who broke his nose". Louder Sound. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b Wall 2004, p. 237.
  5. ^ a b Wall 2004, p. 238.
  6. ^ a b Wall 2004, p. 239.
  7. ^ "Outside Iron Maiden: Exclusive interview with Erwin Lucas". IRON MAIDEN BRASIL. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Gordon Giltrap". www.giltrap.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Wall 2004, p. 240.
  10. ^ "Jenny Darren Best of 1977–1980". Music News. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  11. ^ "SONOR welcomes IRON MAIDEN's Nicko McBrain back to their family of artists!". ironmaiden.com. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  12. ^ Wall 2004, p. 234.
  13. ^ a b c d Wall 2004, p. 241.
  14. ^ Prato, Greg. "Piece of Mind > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  15. ^ Wall 2004, p. 242.
  16. ^ Moffitt, Greg (23 May 2011). "Iron Maiden: From Fear to Eternity – The Best of 1990–2010 Review". BBC Online. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  17. ^ Green, Thomas H (28 July 2010). "Iron Maiden: doing it their own way". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Iron Maiden Star Sitting In With Late Night With Seth Meyers Band ::Iron Maiden News". Antimusic.com. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  19. ^ Ling, Dave (2005). "Nicko McBrain". Metal Hammer Presents: Iron Maiden 30 Years of Metal Mayhem: 103.
  20. ^ Wall 2004, p. 374.
  21. ^ a b The History of Iron Maiden – Part 1: The Early Days (DVD). EMI. 23 November 2004.
  22. ^ "50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2". MusicRadar. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  23. ^ "The 100 Best Drummers Ever". Totaldrumsets.com. Archived from the original on 18 July 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  24. ^ "The History of Iron Maiden – Part 2". Live After Death (DVD). EMI. 4 February 2008.
  25. ^ "Nicko McBrain fan club interview". ironmaiden.com. maidenfans.com. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  26. ^ "Nicko answers your 20 questions". ironmaiden.com. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  27. ^ Grow, Kory (4 June 2009). "Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain on the Flight 666 DVD". Revolver. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  28. ^ Harris, Steve. "Nicko McBrain as known by Steve Harris". ironmaiden.com. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  29. ^ 'Band' interactive sub section of the Enhanced CD-ROM Piece of Mind (1998 re-master edition)
  30. ^ Maiden, Iron; Chapman, Andrew; McBrain, Nicko (1 January 1990). "Iron Maiden & Nicko McBrain's Rhythms Of The Beast". Warner Bros. Publications – via Amazon.
  31. ^ "Iron Maiden Drummer Nicko McBrain's Rhythms of the Beast Remastered on DVD". Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  32. ^ "Iron Maiden Drummer's 'Rhythms of the Beast' Available on Limited-Edition DVD". Blabbermouth.net. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  33. ^ "2020 Readers Poll Results". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  34. ^ "Nicko McBrain's cymbals". Paiste. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  35. ^ "Nicko McBrain's Treasures". Paiste. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  36. ^ "Sonor- Nicko McBrain". Sonor. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  37. ^ a b "Premier Artists- Nicko McBrain". Premier Percussion. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  38. ^ "Documentary". A Matter of Life and Death (DVD). EMI. 28 August 2006.
  39. ^ "Vic Firth Signature Artist: Nicko McBrain". Vic Firth. Archived from the original on 31 March 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2008.
  40. ^ "Video rig rundown Iron Maiden-tourkit Nicko McBrain". Slagwerkkrant (in Dutch). 20 August 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  41. ^ Jarnstrom, David (August 2012). "Nicko McBrain: Unleashing The Beast". Drum!. Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  42. ^ "SONOR displays Iron Maiden Tourkit @NAMM". Sonor.com. Sonor. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  43. ^ "Iron Maiden kick off tour, unleash Nicko McBrain's SQ² kit". Sonor.com. Sonor. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  44. ^ Iron Maiden. "Iron Maiden - Nicko's New Kit". YouTube. Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  45. ^ Nicko's new drums - The Future Past, retrieved 6 June 2023
  46. ^ a b Brannigan, Paul (2002). "Nicko McBrain". Kerrang! Legends (2): 38.
  47. ^ Iron Maiden (6 June 2011). "Iron Maiden Thank- Nicko McBrain". From Fear to Eternity Booklet. EMI.
  48. ^ "Nicko McBrain". Godscare.net. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  49. ^ WCA News (April 2001). "Cracking Through a Heart of Iron". rockgod.co.nz. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  50. ^ "The Sooty Show – Hidden Talent". TheSootyShow.org. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  51. ^ Simpson, Dave (26 July 2011). "Iron Maiden Guardian review". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 August 2011. "On drums ... Sooty", yells Dickinson. And sure enough, perched on Nicko McBrain's drum kit, there's a tiny bear.
  52. ^ Wall 2004, p. 267.
  53. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (28 July 2003). "IRON MAIDEN DRUMMER ARRESTED AFTER ALLEGEDLY DRIVING INTO LOT ATTENDANT". MTV. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  54. ^ Linn, John (30 October 2009). "Rock 'N' Roll Ribs Pairs Metal with Barbecue in Coral Springs". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  55. ^ "Nicko McBrain's 'Rock N Roll Ribs' Featured On 'Check, Please! South Florida'". Blabbermouth.net. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  56. ^ "Iron Maiden Drummer's Restaurant Honoured For 'Best Ribs'". Blabbermouth.net. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  57. ^ "Best Ribs – 2012, Baby Back Ribs from Rock 'N' Roll Ribs". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  58. ^ Emons, Michael (May 2014). "World Championship final, Live Reporting". BBC Sport. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  59. ^ LeClerc, Yves (11 July 2012). "Maiden à La Tempête". Le Journal de Québec (in French). Quebec. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  60. ^ Liljedahl, Ola (July 2010). "Party hos Parnevik". Café Magazine (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  61. ^ Davey G. Johnson, Johnson (16 November 2012). "Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden's customized Jaguar XKR-S". Autoweek. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  62. ^ "JAGUAR CREATES UNIQUE 'GREATEST HITS' XJ FOR IRON MAIDEN DRUMMER NICKO MCBRAIN". media.jaguar.com. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  63. ^ "IRON MAIDEN's NICKO MCBRAIN Says BRUCE DICKINSON's Cancer Battle Inspired Him To Get Sober". Blabbermouth.net. 5 April 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  64. ^ "Drum Kits | Nicko McBrain's Drum One | Manchester Drum Centre". Drumone.co.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  65. ^ "Nicko announces the launch of his first drum store". Ironmaiden.com. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  66. ^ "An Evening With Ian Paice | Nicko McBrain's Drum One". Drumone.co.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  67. ^ "A Message From Nicko". Retrieved 3 August 2023 – via YouTube.
  68. ^ "A Message From Nicko". Retrieved 3 August 2023 – via YouTube.

Literature edit

External links edit