Q&A: Iron Maiden drummer talks ‘Legacy’ tour at Jiffy Lube Live

July 15, 2019

Singer Bruce Dickenson, left, and bass player Steve Harris of the Iron Maiden Heavy Metal band during their performance at the Bercy stadium in Paris Thursday, Sept. 9, 1999.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

You’d be hard pressed to find a heavy metal band as prolific as Iron Maiden.

Since 1975, the band has cranked out 39 albums and rocked over 2,000 live shows.

Now, Iron Maiden brings its “Legacy of the Beast” tour to Jiffy Lube Live on July 24.

“We’ve already been over in Europe with this tour last year and it was wild,” drummer Nicko McBrain told WTOP. “The stage set is the biggest production we’ve ever done. It’s based on the ‘Legacy of the Beast’ mobile app game. What we’ve got in relation to the music is the visuals. We’ve taken three different realms from the game.”

That includes three distinct visual themes on stage regarding their mascot Eddie.

“Eddie goes through this journey through all these different realms,” McBrain said. “The stage set starts off with a war theme, so we’re in a cathedral in ruins, then we go to the second realm with the cathedral in all its glory, then the third set is hell. … We’re old school, so we like the artwork, we’ve got lots of lovely drapes, fantastic fireworks. The problem is that we let Bruce [Dickinson] loose with a couple of flame throwers, so if I play a song a little too quick , guess what I get? It’s like toasting a marshmallow, mate!”

What songs can we expect on the set list?

“You get the stable diet: ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name,’ ‘Iron Maiden’ obviously closes, ‘Number of the Beast,’ ‘The Trooper,’ those are the main staples,” McBrain said. “Then we’ve got a couple of nice chestnuts thrown in, for instance, ‘Flight of Icarus’ we have not played that song in 30 years. Or, 29, because we played it last year on tour!”

Formed in East London in 1975 by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris, the band landed their first record deal in 1971. They released two early albums before iconic frontman Bruce Dickinson joined in 1982 for the breakthrough album “Number of the Beast” (1982), which featured the title song, “Run to the Hills” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”

McBrain joined the group in late 1982, replacing drummer Clive Burr.

“In 1979, they did their very first European date in Belgium,” McBrain said. “I was playing in a band called McKitty on the same bill with them. … Nazareth was the headline band. … That was the night when I really got to know the band. … Steve and I did an impromptu drum and bass solo, Steve remembered my solo and said it was one of the best solos he’s ever seen. … That set me up to be the drummer when Clive wasn’t playing too well, his heart wasn’t in it anymore, so the first fella that came to mind was myself.”

He has no hard feelings toward Burr. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

“The stunning Clive Burr is a great mate and a fantastic drummer,” McBrain said. “I took his drum stool. I was playing in a band in 1980 called Trust, and when I left Trust to join Maiden, Clive went and did an album with Trust that next year, so we kind of swapped drum stools. It’s quite a weird story. Not a lot of people know that.”

McBrain’s first album with the band was “Piece of Mind” (1983), which turned out to be the band’s most iconic with hits like “Flight of Icarus.”

“We were a lot younger with a lot of partying,” McBrain said. “We get in the studio and the first track we did was ‘Flight of Icarus.’ That was the first single released that I played on. We would lay a track down like, ‘That’s the first track, let’s go celebrate!’ We’d go down to a local pub called Traveler’s Rest in the Bahamas. … The next day we’d all be hungover.’

Between hangovers, they recorded “The Trooper,” arguably their biggest hit.

“As soon as we recorded it, there was an incredible vibe in the room like this is something special,” McBrain said. “There was something extra special. We were like, ‘This is going to be an anthem. It’s going to be another ‘Number of the Beast.’ … My goodness, it has become so synonymous with Iron Maiden. … ‘Trooper’ became the trademark track, even more than ‘Iron Maiden’ itself. … We knew we’d created the beast of the beast and it’s been here ever since, we’ve got beer named after it, we always play it.”

Over the years, the band has had some wild experiences on the road and in the sky.

“Mr. Dickinson learned how to fly a 747 jumbo jet!” McBrain said. “We rented a 747 for the ‘Book of Souls’ tour down in Santiago, Chile. … When you tow a large airplane you put a key in to disable the hydraulics so you can maneuver the airplane without having power on the engines. … The key fell out, therefore enabling the hydraulics. … It completely f****d the engine! We get this message saying, ‘Your airplane’s got two engines busted!’ … Two Boeing guys came down, they had to get two new engines $5 million a piece. Not sure who paid for that; God knows I didn’t! The plane was grounded for 12 days!”

Today, he takes pride in his long tenure with the band.

“I’m the second-longest surviving member of Iron Maiden, would you believe it?” McBrain said. “It goes Steve, Dave [Murray], then me. Not Bruce! Not Adrian [Smith]! Both of them had a hiatus from the band if you remember right in your history. It’s been an absolutely incredible, insane, wonderful, glorious, biting-fingernails journey. ”

Hear my full conversation with Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain below:

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