ADRIAN SMITH On IRON MAIDEN's Three-Guitar Formation: 'If We Had Three YNGWIE MALMSTEENs, There Would Have Been A Fight After Five Minutes'

February 22, 2020

Chris Jericho of "Talk Is Jericho" recently conducted an interview with guitarist Adrian Smith of British metal legends IRON MAIDEN. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the "energy" that is often found at an IRON MAIDEN concert:

Adrian: "It's a different energy now because it's a much warmer — I remember in the '80s, it was a much more aggressive kind of vibe, touring with [JUDAS] PRIEST and SCORPIONS. The audience had a real crackle of danger about it, I think because young people are pretty out of it. There was a little bit of trouble here and there. Now, people are a lot older. Obviously, we're not going to be around forever. We're still rocking out pretty well, but you could feel the people, I suppose people wonder how we keep doing it. We're doing it at a pretty high level, I think, still, because we don't play every single night. We play two, three shows a week. We try to put the same energy into them, especially Bruce [Dickinson, vocals], who is pretty amazing. It's a different kind of energy now. I'd hate to say 'nostalgic' because we're still making new music, which is what I think is the lifeblood of the band, doing new music."

On whether the band is more likely to give each other space when making decisions, especially band leader and bassist Steve Harris:

Adrian: "Yeah, you definitely get older and a bit wiser. You get a bit more aware of other people as you get older, generally, and how they feel about things. I think it's a just natural thing. Yeah, there's a little bit more compromising in what we do, but I think we sort of the buy into the ethos of the band. We all got a much clearer idea of what it's all about, especially since I was out of the band for nine years. I came back with a different perspective. I can see it from an outsider's point of view. Whereas in the '80s, it was just album-tour-album-tour, there was no life outside of the band. It was difficult to get perspective."

On whether he was part of a "package deal" with Dickinson to rejoin MAIDEN in 1999:

Adrian: "Bruce surprised me sort of in the mid-'90s and he had written some songs with [producer/musician] Roy Z for his album with Roy. It wasn't his first solo album; [it was] around the 'Accident Of Birth' time [1997]. I really liked what they were doing. I just chucked my lot in with them and contributed a few songs and it went on from there to the next sort of three, four, five years. Then they wanted Bruce to come back. Blaze [Bayley] was fired from the band. I was playing with Bruce, then there was something in the air about me coming back, I thought, 'Maybe I'll do just one tour or come on for half the set.' [Laughs] I don't know. By that time, if you had asked me ten years before, I'd said, 'No. Probably never do it.' Things change. You get older and wiser. I thought it might be nice just to round it off. But, again, Steve, he does come out with some whacky ideas that at first, you think they're not going to work, so he suggested to guys, 'Why don't we have three guitars?' You can imagine what the room was like when he said that. [Laughs] Probably Dave [Murray] and Janick [Gers] looked at each other, like, 'What? 'LYNYRD MAIDEN.' But I joined up and we went down to Portugal to write some songs and I had the song 'The Wicker Man', I had the riff, and someone said, 'Has anyone got any new ideas?' I started playing that and then away we went. We never looked back."

On MAIDEN making the transition from a two-guitar to a three-guitar band in 1999:

Adrian: "Well, put it this way: If we had three Yngwie Malmsteens or three Ritchie Blackmores, there would have been a fight after about five minutes. But because Dave is one of my oldest friends — we've worked together for years — we know the score. Janick is a lovely guy. But I have to say Jan wasn't going to change what he was going to play. He's just very set in his ways. I sensed that immediately, so I started looking at different ways of doing things. I've been playing with drop-D tuning in Bruce's band, so I got used to that. When we first joined up, we played 'Wrathchild', I played it in drop-D tuning. 'Run To The Hills' was in D, so again, I tuned it down. It gave it a slightly different sound. I was bringing that in, playing lower octaves on the harmonies and stuff like that. I played a lot of stuff totally different than what I did when I was in the band before, which is quite interesting."

On Dickinson's 2014 battle with throat cancer:

Adrian: "It was awful. We got a phone call just before Christmas. Poor Bruce had this thing he had to deal with, but I don't know — I just had the feeling he would come through it because he's positive. I hardly ever heard him feel so sorry for himself or be negative. It's one of his strengths, although I can't possibly imagine what he went through. I thought he was going to be okay. And the foremost thing, we just wanted him to get better, then let it take its course. If we carried on, so be it. He's come back and he's absolutely throwing himself into the band again. The show, a lot of the stuff, he had a big hand in a lot of the props and the actual show aspect, apart from the singing. He's really brought out that theatrical side that he's got. He's absolutely loving it. He's like a kid in a sweet shop. With this set, musically, the set, it's really a lot of fun to play. The whole production has peaked on this tour even though we're at the veteran stage now. Certainly from my point of view, I never get complacent about it. I'm always trying to push myself a bit."

On whether he's in awe of the massive scope of MAIDEN's current live show:

Adrian: "Maybe when I'm older, I'll be sitting in my armchair and reflecting on it. I guess the songs they evoke sort of these feelings. They're pretty dramatic. That's the only way I could put it. They're just great fun to play live and I think the audience sort of gets into that as well. Yeah, certainly you do go through a lot of themes and playing a guitar solo with a spitfire [airplane] two feet from your head is quite a thrill, I tell you."

Last December, rumors spread that IRON MAIDEN had already completed work on a new studio album.

The British heavy metal legends haven't released any fresh music since 2015's "The Book Of Souls" LP, which was recorded in late 2014 in Paris, France with longtime producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley.

If the reports of a new MAIDEN album are true, it will mark the band's 17th studio effort and the sixth to be produced by Shirley, who has worked with MAIDEN for the past two decades.

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