NICKO MCBRAIN Says When He Joined IRON MAIDEN He Wanted ALEX VAN HALEN’s Snare Drum Sound - “My All-Time Favourite”

September 15, 2021, 6 days ago

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NICKO MCBRAIN Says When He Joined IRON MAIDEN He Wanted ALEX VAN HALEN’s Snare Drum Sound - “My All-Time Favourite”

During BraveWords upcoming chat with Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain about the band’s new album, Senjutsu, he reminisced about working with Martin “The Headmaster” Birch, who was with Maiden from Killers right through Fear Of The Dark. The treasured producer - who spun the knobs on Rainbow‘s first three studio albums, Black Sabbath‘s Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules and seven Whitesnake studio albums between 1978 to 1984 - passed away in August 2020 at the age of 71.  

“Oh my gosh, Martin. Oh God, I love that man,” McBrain laments. “I’ll never forget, the first time I met Martin was when he was doing Number Of The Beast as I went to the studio and I met all the boys. Later, when we were rehearsing in Nassau, Martin came over to visit with us before he went over to the studio to get everything set up for us. He said to me, ‘Right, dear boy, what is your favourite snare drum sound? What snare drum sound would you like me to get?’ I went, ‘That is easy—Alex Van Halen, please.’ And he turned around and went, ‘Who?’ (laughs). He was joking, of course. Anyway, ‘Who?’ No, I love Alex’s sound; that is my all-time favourite snare drum sound. So if you can get my snare sounding like… and I use a 402 Ludwig Supraphonic. And so I said the snare drum that Alex uses, the Bonham snare; John Bonham is famous for that sound as well. That was one great memory. And the other memories of Martin, with the drum sounds, were just, every time I would set that big kit of mine up in the studio, he went, ‘Do you expect me to mic the lot of those drums up? Can you get rid of a couple of them for me?’ (laughs). I’m like, ‘No! You’ve got all those widdly knobs in there. You get on with it.’ Oh, we had so much fun. He was one-of-a-kind. And sorely missed. He had basically retired after all the Purple stuff he did and all the other bands that he worked with. He kind of came back out for us and he stayed with us for many years, doing those records for us. And of course we ended up jumping in with Kevin (Shirley) in 2000 on Brave New World. So yeah, Martin was one-of-a-kind.”

Watch for BraveWords scribe Martin Popoff's complete interview with Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain later this week. 

Iron Maiden's Senjutsu album was released on September 3rd via BMG, and is available to order/save at

For Senjutsu - loosely translated as ‘tactics & strategy,’ the band once again enlisted the services of Mark Wilkinson to create the spectacular Samurai themed cover artwork, based on an idea by Steve Harris. With a running time of a little under 82 minutes, Senjutsu, like their previous record The Book Of Souls, will be a double CD/Triple vinyl album.

Steve says: “We chose to record at Guillaume Tell Studio in France again as the place has such a relaxed vibe. The setup there is perfect for our needs; the building used to be a cinema and has a really high ceiling so there’s a great acoustic sound. We recorded this album in the same way we did The Book Of Souls in that we’d write a song, rehearse it and then put it down together straight away while it was all fresh in our minds. There’s some very complex songs on this album which took a lot of hard work to get them exactly as we wanted them to sound, so the process was at times very challenging, but Kevin is great at capturing the essence of the band and I think it was worth the effort!  I’m very proud of the result and can’t wait for fans to hear it.”

Bruce continues: “We’re all really excited about this album. We recorded it back in early 2019 during a break in the Legacy tour so we could maximize our touring yet still have a long set up period before release to prepare great album art and something special as a video. Of course the pandemic delayed things more - so much for the best laid plans – or should that be ‘strategies’!?  The songs are very varied, and some of them are quite long. There’s also one or two songs which sound pretty different to our usual style, and I think Maiden fans will be surprised -  in a good way, I hope!"

Senjutsu is available in the following formats:

- Standard 2CD Digipak
- Deluxe 2CD Book Format
- Deluxe heavyweight 180G Triple Black Vinyl
- Special Edition Triple Silver And Black Marble Vinyl
- Special Edition Triple Red and Black Marble Vinyl
- Super Deluxe Boxset featuring CD, Blu Ray and Exclusive Memorabilia
- Digital album [streaming

"Stratego" video:

"Senjutsu" visualizer:

"The Writing On The Wall" video:

Featured Audio

IRON MAIDEN – “Stratego” (BMG)

IRON MAIDEN – “Stratego” (BMG)

Featured Video

SUMMONER’S CIRCLE – “Chaos Vector”

SUMMONER’S CIRCLE – “Chaos Vector”

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