With the eagerly awaited autobiography ‘Monsters of River & Rock’ from Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith hitting bookshops this week, in Part Two of our interview, Adrian spoke about making Powerslave, leaving and rejoining Maiden and how the balance is better for everyone these days.
Part One of the interview is here.
Adrian Smith – Monsters Of River And Rock (Virgin Books/Penguin Random House)
Release Date: 3 September 2020
MetalTalk: Do you have any favourite moments in the studio? You mentioned the famous ‘Powerslave’ solo in the book…
Adrian Smith: “Yeah! That’s a funny story actually. It’s literally connected to fishing too, since I used to fish right out the front of the studio into the sea.
“One day I cast out and there was a guy fishing from his top floor balcony right next to the studio.
“To cut a long story short I eventually got a bite so I pulled the line. The guy on the balcony came out because I accidentally cast over his line and he thought he had a fish too.
“Turned out it was Robert Palmer! He looked at me and said “In all of the Caribbean you had to do that”.
“Anyway, fast forward to the time we cut ‘Powerslave’ – we were having a bit of a late night in the studio and doing the guitar overdubs. I went to bed fairly drunk at 3.00 am, not expecting to work the next morning but, typical Martin, he called me up 10.00 am and said come do some more work.
“My head was pounding, but Martin is a legend and if he says its time to work then its time to work.
“So I went down to the studio and it turned out Martin hadn’t been to bed at all – he had stayed up with Robert Palmer.
“So the two of them sat behind the desk and said “come on then, what do you want to do?” and I said “Powerslave”.
“With Robert Palmer there I was pretty nervous, but I just went for the solo – it came off alright and Robert Palmer really liked it too.
“At the end of the session he looked at me and said “I know you don’t I?” (laughs).
“That’s when fishing and music literally cross lines.”
You also told the story behind writing ‘Wasted Years.
“‘Wasted Years’ was written in Jersey. We used to rehearse in the Channel Islands then go to the Bahamas to record.
“I’d bought one of the first Roland guitar synthesizers, since we all liked to mess around with new guitars and new pedals.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, I just switched this thing on and it started making this repeating sound and it inspired me to write the start of what became ‘Wasted Years’.
“Then I recorded it on my little 4-track and at the time I thought it didn’t really sound like a Maiden track to me.
“Then there was a knock on the hotel room door and Steve Harris came in and asked if I had any ideas for the new album. I played him a few things I had, then by accident I played him ‘Wasted Years’.
“So I stopped the tape and said “nah you don’t want to hear that”.
“Steve said “no I like it – play it again!”, then he said “that’s got to be on the album”.
“I wouldn’t have played it for the guys if it wasn’t by accident – sometimes things happen like that in life.”
You took a break from Iron Maiden in the 90s…
“I had a lot of time on my hands in the 90’s and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to be in a band or do solo work or what. I just spent a lot of time writing at home, did a lot of fishing and kind of made up for lost time really.
“I gave up fishing when I was 15 and only started again when I was around 25.”
Then (Maidens manager) Rod Smallwood basically called you up and said “Bruce is coming back, do you want to come back too?”
“Initially, I didn’t know how it would work.
“Lots of bands do it differently, like do it for one tour or play half a set – we didn’t know.
“But Steve Harris, being who he is, he does tend to come up with some off the wall ideas.
“He said “well lets have three guitarists!”
“I think the rest of the guys might have needed some convincing, but we convened down in Portugal to do some writing and that’s how it started again.
“We ended up standing around, before someone asked who has some ideas. I said I had this riff and it was ‘Wicker Man’, you know.
“Very straight forward, everyone piled in and we had a song. We realized this might work.
“Its funny because now we have breaks. We haven’t seen each other for six or nine months and we start jamming and it feels like we just played yesterday – its very intuitive.
“It’s great fun now.
“I mean I certainly enjoy it more now than I did in the 80’s. Maybe because it’s a bit better paced now.
“There was no balance in the 80’s, it was all or nothing.
“Now there’s a good balance of family life and music and fishing!”
Do you think that’s what keeps the band energized? Almost no other bands are still putting out vital new material so far into their careers?
“It’s definitely a unique band. I think the fact we do have some breaks and we give each other space helps.
“It all contributes to the longevity of the band and it’s managed very well and the fans are great.
“The band has been going since the late 70’s, taking the music directly to the fans.
“We never relied on having any radio hits, even though we have had a few.
“I think when you gather the fans like that, they’re part of the band almost. They take an interest in what we do and I think it’s important that we keep making new music, even thought we play the old stuff too.
“It helps to keep us interested too. We have to be creative because thats the lifeblood of a band, otherwise you’re just a cabaret band.
In ear monitors must have made a big difference too?
“My God (laughs!). Sometimes in the old days it would just be a cacophony.
“Sometimes Steve and Bruce would get into a bit of a battle, because Steve likes to play loud, you know.
“He can’t help himself, he just hits the strings so hard and Bruce wanted to hear himself too, so he wanted to bring his own P.A. on stage to hear himself.
“The volume escalated and sometimes it could be a nightmare to hear yourself onstage.
“Now with in ears, it’s a piece of cake, doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.
“I see young bands coming through now and that’s their norm, strolling about onstage with perfect sound.
“Sometimes I think, my God, these guys haven’t paid their dues (laughs).
“Having said that, we used to just power through it, especially in the early days supporting other bands when you didn’t get a soundcheck.
“Like when we did Rock in Rio in 1985. It was the biggest crowd we had ever played for and it was probably the worst sound ever!
“It was so chaotic and it was being broadcast across South America, so you had to put on a brave face and carry on – inside you’re dying (laughs).”
In the book you mention a very funny story of running into a certain singer while you were recording…
Yes (laughs!!). It was during the recording of a more recent album, but I cant remember which one. Janick and I were doing some guitar overdubs while Steve and Kevin Shirley were behind the desk.
“Janick and I were outside in the recreation room, which was shared between the studios, when this guy came out of one of the other studios and swaggered across the foyer. I turned to Janick and said “ohh! these young guys all think they’re in Oasis, the way they walk around” – with that spiky hair and those jackets.
“We laughed about it and when the guy came back he walked straight over to us and it turned out it was Liam Gallagher!
“He came up and he said “Fookin’ respect…. Iron Maiden” and shook our hands very vigorously.
“It was naive of him to come over. I was happy to leave it at that, but Janick, being more outgoing, started chatting to Liam and invited him into our studio.
“I hate going into other bands work spaces because you just feel out of place.
“So he dragged Liam into our studio and started showing him around and by this time Liam is getting uncomfortable (laughs).
“He showed Liam our guitars and said “don’t worry we’ve counted them all!” Then we all walked into the control room where Kevin and Steve were working on a mix and they just looked at us (laughs).
“He was probably the last person they expected to see and they were playing back a new song and Liam started grooving and goes “fookin’ heavy, I love it!” (laughs).”
Any last words for the fans?
“Well I hope they enjoy the book ! I enjoyed doing it.
“It’s my story, mostly fishing, a lot of music stories, especially about the latter tours and the big jumbo jet.
“So I hope they enjoy it.”
Monsters Of River And Rock (Virgin Books/Penguin Random House) is out 3 September. Keep an eye on MetalTalk.net for an in-depth review tomorrow.