Rock chronicles: Rock Chronicles. 1980s: Adrian Smith

Here is an exclusive interview with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, that Steven Rosen conducted in 1982.

Rock chronicles: Rock Chronicles. 1980s: Adrian Smith
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UPDATED: When: February 16, 1982 Where: Backstage at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California. What: In the introductory essay of RC, two names were listed: Dave Murray/Adrian Smith. Iron Maiden's twin guitar demons, of course. Well, it happened again. It's not that I was unprepared exactly batteries, cassettes, all tools accounted for. It's that the location was a little lacking. Mark that as: could you have chosen a worse place to talk to them? And even that wasn't completely my fault; it was more a function of "Where is the least noisiest place you could find backstage after a Maiden concert where everyone is yelling like banshees because they've just been adrenalin-rushed from the band's grinding guitar marathon show?" Answer? Nowhere. I think we retreated to some closed-off room somewhere but you could still hear the hundreds of people milling around and screaming, drinking, clinking glasses, and just generally creating a white noise roar. So, I set up the microphone and cassette player and I don't remember if we're sitting around a table or not. More likely the scenario was Adrian Smith was near the microphone and Dave Murray may have been sitting across the room somewhere. In any case, when I listened back to the tape, Murray's voice was all but lost in the din of the backstage chaos. If you add to this the fact that his East London accent sounds like Greek to a boy from the west coast of the US, you have all the makings for a conversational disaster. We had one. Murray's voice is there and someday I might sit down and try and transcribe what sound like murmurs and grunts, assents and dissents. For now, however, you're stuck with Adrian Smith and what he had to say. I did this interview in 1982. I'd been interviewing people now for about 14 or 15 years and I was still trying to get it right. I mean, if you measure me like you would a ballplayer, my average of hits (well-recorded interviews) to strikeouts (poorly-documented interviews as represented here) is legendary great. I'm up around .850. But, I know I can only be measured interview-by-interview and for those of you who wanted to hear what both of these Maiden guitarheads were going to say, I apologize. For now, we're stuck with a single Maiden and for most of you, that should be enough. I also wanted to note that the Vinnie Vincent Invasion opened the show. Vinnie Vincent, nee Cusano, was the guitarist in Kiss for a brief period from 1982 1983. He played on the Creatues Of The Night and Lick It Up albums and appeared on a series of compilation sets. In 1986, he released the first album flying his own band moniker, The Vinnie Vincent Invasion, and followed this in 1988 with All Sytems Go. I'd met Vinnie several years earlier through my close friend, Jimmy Waldo (you may recognize that name from the Yngwie Malmsteen story in this 80s era collection). The Bridgeport, Connecticut-born guitarist was truly one of the unsung heroes of the day. He possessed a unique and musical style and could move from straight-up muscular rock jams to a very kind of melodic and rhythmic approach. He excelled as a songwriter, having co-written "Tears" for John Waite and a number of other pretty successful songs. He was even a staff songwriter for the Happy Days television show. So, Vinnie was walking around and hanging out and that was cool. And my final recollection of that night was that a band called Riot opened the show. No, not Quiet Riot, but a metal band formed in New York circa 1975. I have a tape labeled "Riot" and I'm pretty certain I interviewed them this same evening. But I could be wrong. I do know that Iron Maiden played at the Long Beach Arena for several consecutive nights, so it's possible I came back to interview Riot on a different night. Though the idea that I would have driven from Hollywood to Long Beach (a nasty 45-minute drive) simply to interview Riot and no offense to them seems a tad unrealistic. _______________________________________________________________________________

"On the album I just use one guitar. I usually find that one works consistently well."

What kind of guitars are you using right now? Adrian Smith: I've got an Ibanez Destroyer; I've got a Les Paul Goldtop and Gibson SG. Did you use all 3 today? Yeah; I changed just about every song, just to make sure it's in tune. Do you do the same type of thing for recording? No, on the album I just use one guitar. I usually find that one works consistently well. What did you use mainly for the last record (this would have been their sixth album, Somewhere In Time)? The Ibanez. What is it about the Ibanez that you like? The pickups are very good. With the Ibanez, we have 2 pickups. They're very powerful and I prefer the sound to like Dimarzio or even Gibson. That particular guitar, it sounds great. Did the band want 2 lead guitar players as opposed to one rhythm player and one lead guitarist? I think they've always had 2 guitarists. Dave has been in it from the beginning. I've worked with Dave in other bands before. So we knew each other and each other's playing. When the job came up, I just got in touch with him. So we already had a rapport. How would you characterize the 2 styles of playing? Dave grew up with a lot of Hendrix. You go down to his house anytime and he'll be playing that. So his approach is wah wah and lots of whammy bar, very, very fast. I tend to, when I do a solo in the studio, I'll just like work it out. Then I'll put it down and maybe I'll keep it. Dave will just rip it out 3 or 4 at once. So for those fast kinds of solos Dave does those more. You do more melodic things? Yeah, it strikes a nice contrast, as opposed to having 2 players going bananas. Did the band listen to bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin? I would say everyone in the band grew up in the early 70s with bands like Free, Sabbath, those sorts of bands. They were big influences. What does Iron Maiden do differently than, say, Black Sabbath? I think we sound different. For starters, the bass is very prominent in this band. He has a very unique sound. He writes a lot of the songs. He sits down and he works on, and that's a normal thing that you do on a guitar. So it's just little things like that. Does an Iron Maiden song come out of a riff that someone might play? I don't know. We just get a basic idea and then you just sit down quietly and go through it. You see what's working. Then you get into the studio and you play it together. That's when it starts coming alive and you can really see what's going on. You really work out songs in the studio? Not recording studio. I mean, rehearsal studio. Very rarely. It can get expensive when you start working on songs in the studio. Does the band tend to work pretty fast in the studio? Yeah. I think we put the backing tracks to the last album just under 2 weeks. And all together, I think we put a couple more weeks on to it for the solos and the vocals.

"It can get expensive when you start working on songs in the studio."

Does the band try to play as live as possible for the tracks? Yeah. You put the drums in a nice live room, then you get that symphony big sound. It's hard to get a really big live guitar sound in the studio. So you have to sometimes maybe put on a 2nd one. What's it like working with Martin Birch? Great. He doesn't try to make it a Martin Birch album. The very first thing he said to us was, This is your album. I'm just going to try and bring out what's there. He's not too pushy or he doesn't try changing the songs. He just gets a good sound and then we just get on with it. If we start slacking, he kicks us then! Was he someone you specifically wanted to work with? Yeah. We had a few people in mind that we wanted to approach, but friends knew Martin. So we met him and he came by to see us play. So I think he's going to do the next one. We might even do it in Los Angeles' Record Plant. We don't really know yet. Is that for tax reasons? No musical reasons, of course. You were aware of the stuff that Martin had done before? Oh, yeah. Sabbath. Some of his albums with Sabbath. And the Deep Purple albums? Yeah, the Purple albums. Would he physically help to get the guitar sounds? Oh, sure. Yeah. But you've got to work together at it. So we spent about 2 days and nights as well, just sitting out and working it out. He was in there, and that's really important. We would be sitting there, just having a break, and then we'd start talking about going over this bit. Did he do anything special for guitar sounds? I think we just did the backing tracks with just 2 mics, 1 close mic and 1 far away screened off because there were 3 of us. That's the only drawback to the studio we used. It wasn't very versatile. You had 1 live room with a drum room, and 1 just studio. Yeah, but he used different effects. I don't know exactly what he used. On the back of the album it says, Thanks to KISS, Priest, and UFO. Any special reason? I think because we just did tours with them. We did Kiss in Europe. I did about a 20-day tour with Kiss in Europe. We did about 2 months with Priest when I was here in the States. So we've toured with them. Do you feel comfortable on a bill like this one? Yeah. We just have got to do the show. It must be a nice gig for the band. Oh, it is. It's great. What does the band do next? We'll be touring over here until August. Then we go back to England to the Reading Festival, which we're headlining. Then we're coming back out here for about another 2 months with The Scorpions. Then we're going to Japan in about November. Then we go back to Europe, or possibly back here. We don't know yet. Some time in the winter, we're going the album after Christmas.

"You always get a lot of bands coming out with a new style, and you get 2 or 3 really good bands and maybe they'll carry on."

Have you thought about the album at all? I haven't had a lot of time! Yeah, we've got a couple of songs ready. Are there any songs that might veer away from what you've done in the past? I don't know. It's hard to say yet. It's still in the early stages yet. You don't really know until you start cranking them out. Is the current state of English metal one that embraces what the band is doing? There are a lot of different things happening in London. In England, it changes so quick. You always get a lot of bands coming out with a new style, and you get 2 or 3 really good bands and maybe they'll carry on. They're there when everyone else has sort of fallen behind. But as to our music, it never really sinks, like Cream. It has never really sort of gone away. It's always had its fans. It just got pushed in the background for a bit, but there is still a big audience for it. Are you a fan of Cream? It was a bit before my time. I couldn't call myself a fan because I wasn't really aware of it when it was going on, but there are some good songs. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    HomerSGR
    I agree with you who say that this can't be '87. On various pics from the that period, he has Jackson Super-strats on almost every pic.
    Think that answers what era this is.
    No, the author of this article has clearly put in that later. What does the band do next? We’ll be touring over here until August. Then we go back to England to the Reading Festival, which we’re headlining. Then we’re coming back out here for about another 2 months with The Scorpions. Then we’re going to Japan in about November. Then we go back to Europe, or possibly back here. We don’t know yet. Some time in the winter, we’re going the album after Christmas. The tour shedule is fitting perfectly to the "Beast On The Road Tour" in '82. It fits with the guitars he was using on that tour, the Reading festival headlining, tour in the states, and Japan in November. This is from '82! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_O... ad
    MaidenandEddy
    Ironpriest wrote: Plus, no mention of guitar synths and it sounds like they had met Martin Birch fairly recently.. I thought that too. this could possibly be the piece of mind era, they played long beach then didn't they?. Who cares though, it's an interview, it's maiden thumbs up!
    Have you even READ the interview?! 4th question in: [quote] What did you use mainly for the last record (this would have been their sixth album, Somewhere In Time )? Think that answers what era this is.
    Skuzzmo
    Robert Gray wrote: Skuzzmo wrote: If you look at the tour schedule for somewhere in time on February 16, 1987 they are playing at long beach arena.... and ok the Martin birch stuff does sound odd but does not to me anyway sound like they've just recently met...he's just answering questions about him... Sorry I think this is 1987.... Didn't you even read what I said? This was conducted in 1982. Not 1987 - 1982. "Special thanks to KISS, Priest, and UFO" is written on the back of 'Number of the Beast', and not 'Somewhere In Time'. Further above even, someone has pointed out further things proving this was conducted in '82. HomerSGR wrote: I agree with you who say that this can't be '87. On various pics from the that period, he has Jackson Super-strats on almost every pic. Think that answers what era this is. No, the author of this article has clearly put in that later. What does the band do next? Well be touring over here until August. Then we go back to England to the Reading Festival, which were headlining. Then were coming back out here for about another 2 months with The Scorpions. Then were going to Japan in about November. Then we go back to Europe, or possibly back here. We dont know yet. Some time in the winter, were going the album after Christmas. The tour shedule is fitting perfectly to the "Beast On The Road Tour" in '82. It fits with the guitars he was using on that tour, the Reading festival headlining, tour in the states, and Japan in November. This is from '82! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_O... ad
    Ohhhh...pissy. Ok, you are so wise.... yeah, it's basically what you said...happy now?
    ktulu51
    duzit89 wrote: adrian smith and dave murray.. definately mesh well together.. sometimes i think there better off without Janick Gers.. hes great an all.. but does anyone know what i mean?
    I know what you mean but I still think he's a good addition. I can't say anything about what he's like in the studio but when I saw them live for the somewhere back in time tour in early 08 he was by far the best performer of the 3 guitarists. I'm a huge Iron Maiden fan, but either way Adrian Smith and Dave Murray were kinda boring to watch.
    Robert Gray
    Skuzzmo wrote: If you look at the tour schedule for somewhere in time on February 16, 1987 they are playing at long beach arena.... and ok the Martin birch stuff does sound odd but does not to me anyway sound like they've just recently met...he's just answering questions about him... Sorry I think this is 1987....
    Didn't you even read what I said? This was conducted in 1982. Not 1987 - 1982. "Special thanks to KISS, Priest, and UFO" is written on the back of 'Number of the Beast', and not 'Somewhere In Time'. Further above even, someone has pointed out further things proving this was conducted in '82.
    HomerSGR wrote: I agree with you who say that this can't be '87. On various pics from the that period, he has Jackson Super-strats on almost every pic. Think that answers what era this is. No, the author of this article has clearly put in that later. What does the band do next? Well be touring over here until August. Then we go back to England to the Reading Festival, which were headlining. Then were coming back out here for about another 2 months with The Scorpions. Then were going to Japan in about November. Then we go back to Europe, or possibly back here. We dont know yet. Some time in the winter, were going the album after Christmas. The tour shedule is fitting perfectly to the "Beast On The Road Tour" in '82. It fits with the guitars he was using on that tour, the Reading festival headlining, tour in the states, and Japan in November. This is from '82! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_O... ad
    Lohnanmilitia
    Hes shown in the Aces High video playin the Ibanez, so he did use it after the piece tour.
    Skuzzmo
    If you look at the tour schedule for somewhere in time on February 16, 1987 they are playing at long beach arena.... and ok the Martin birch stuff does sound odd but does not to me anyway sound like they've just recently met...he's just answering questions about him... Sorry I think this is 1987....
    Nilpferdkoenig
    I think that some of his answers are really funny, he seems to be somewhere else with his mind.
    Robert Gray
    This has been brought to the editor in chief's attention, and he has promised that revisions will be made to the article - so that it reflects when this interview was conducted, which'd be around May-July 1982. So yeah guys, this was conducted in '82. No need to argue further about it. Steven's collection of interviews is extensive (he's been interviewing nearly 40 years), so it was an honest mistake to make.
    HomerSGR
    What he says about the tour fits with The Beast On The Road tour in '82, it fits with the guitars he was using, everything fits with that. So it's without a single doubt that I say that this must be from '82. And if it isn't it does certainly not fit with '87. Can't find anything that makes it believable to be from that year.
    Oddsbodkins
    MaidenandEddy wrote: Have you even READ the interview?! 4th question in: What did you use mainly for the last record (this would have been their sixth album, Somewhere In Time)? Think that answers what era this is.
    Obviously everybody has seen that, but the thing is, it's not true He didn't use the Ibanez on SiT, and all the other answers don't fit with that era either.
    sherry07
    It isnt a very good interview, but either way, iron maiden are amazing
    MaidenandEddy
    Messed it up first time, apologies for double post.
    Ironpriest wrote: Plus, no mention of guitar synths and it sounds like they had met Martin Birch fairly recently.. I thought that too. this could possibly be the piece of mind era, they played long beach then didn't they?. Who cares though, it's an interview, it's maiden thumbs up!
    Have you even READ the interview?! 4th question in:
    What did you use mainly for the last record (this would have been their sixth album, Somewhere In Time)?
    Think that answers what era this is.
    Genghis_khan
    I think this interview is from early 1982. 1- Adrian sounds very new to Maiden 2- He speaks of Martin Birch as if was the first time the were working with him. 3- The guitars, the Destroyer was there until the Piece Of Mind tour. 4- Bands Maiden is touring with. It sounds like if they are just an opening act, if it was in '87 Maiden were already big enough, don't they? I believe It can be a mistake... an old tape from 1982... could it be that the author saw the 2 as a 7?
    jthm_guitarist
    blitz88 wrote: ok first up i have my doubts about this being 1987, adrian never used his ibanez after the piece of mind tour as far as i know, he also started using his white jackson on the somewhere in time tour and maiden never headlined reading in 87 i would say this is closer to 82-83
    Oddsbodkins wrote: It sounds like Martin Birch had only just started producing for them as well, which would date it towards the early 80's. I dunno though, the writer of the article was there, I'm inclined to trust him :p:
    megaironpriest wrote: ...And then they toured with Judas Priest, Kiss and the Scorpions it was the early 80's. I'm going to have to say he has his years mixed up
    It does sound like a lot of the questions being asked are more 'basic'. I don't know if in '87 you'd be asking Adrian Smith if he's a fan of Cream and Deep Purple, and he mentions "they" always had 2 guitarists, as if he hasn't been in the band as long. But I wonder if Vinnie Vincent was really there then??
    British Josh
    This interview wasn't insightful at all... but Adrian Smith and Dave Murray are both highly underrated. Truly talented guitar players, they are.
    Oblivoath666
    It Might be around Powerslave as well ... he has been seen during the World Slavery Tour With the Ibanez....
    Ironpriest
    Plus, no mention of guitar synths and it sounds like they had met Martin Birch fairly recently..
    I thought that too. this could possibly be the piece of mind era, they played long beach then didn't they?. Who cares though, it's an interview, it's maiden thumbs up!
    duzit89
    adrian smith and dave murray.. definately mesh well together.. sometimes i think there better off without Janick Gers.. hes great an all.. but does anyone know what i mean?
    Sjusovaren
    Plus, no mention of guitar synths and it sounds like they had met Martin Birch fairly recently..
    megaironpriest
    ok first up i have my doubts about this being 1987, adrian never used his ibanez after the piece of mind tour as far as i know,he also started using his white jackson on the somewhere in time tour and maiden never headlined reading in 87 i would say this is closer to 82-83 sorry had to get that of my chest
    Agreed, Adrian used his Ibanez during the number of the beast tour, you can see it on the early days dvd. The Reading festival they were part of was in 1982.... And then they toured with Judas Priest, Kiss and the Scorpions it was the early 80's. I'm going to have to say he has his years mixed up
    Oddsbodkins
    It sounds like Martin Birch had only just started producing for them as well, which would date it towards the early 80's. I dunno though, the writer of the article was there, I'm inclined to trust him :p:
    blitz88
    ok first up i have my doubts about this being 1987, adrian never used his ibanez after the piece of mind tour as far as i know,he also started using his white jackson on the somewhere in time tour and maiden never headlined reading in 87 i would say this is closer to 82-83 sorry had to get that of my chest
    sneaky11
    yeah! adrian smith is amazing! very underrated, as well as all the members of iron maiden. and steve harris is a legend!
    Rock Pig
    It's not a great interview, but even so I don't think the several paragraphs of excuses at the beginning are too cool. But to be fair, they are watertight excuses. I love Maiden, but this isn't a very insightful interview.
    DimebagZappa
    Pretty lame interview. Fuck the irons, maiden rocks. But not enough for such a gay greeting