IRON MAIDEN's NICKO MCBRAIN: 'We Do Not Plan To Make Long Songs'
September 18, 2021
During an appearance on a recent episode of the "Hangin' & Bangin': Artists On Lockdown" online show, Nicko McBrain discussed IRON MAIDEN's penchant for writing long, progressive intricate songs, including on the band's latest effort, "Senjutsu", which features three tracks whose running time exceeds 10 minutes each. Asked if he and his bandmates actually set out to write super-long songs on each new MAIDEN album, the drummer said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Absolutely not. Most of the stuff, these long epic tunes, are really written mostly by Steve [Harris, MAIDEN bassist]. On the last album, 'The Book Of Souls', we had 'Empire Of The Clouds' [written by singer Bruce Dickinson], which was 18 minutes.
"The songs are what they are. If they're five minutes long… I mean, we've got two songs on the ['Senjutsu'] album that come in less than six minutes," he continued.
"When the guys write 'em… The thing is, we sit in the control room and we get 'em played back to us, and we're, like, 'Oh, man, that's really cool.' And [producer] Kevin [Shirley] will [tell us], 'All right, boys, you know that's 12 and a half minutes bloody long.' And it's, like, 'What's your point? What's your point? Why are you telling us what the clock says? We don't care.'
"It's just the way it is," Nicko added. "Steve writes these incredible melodic tunes where he repeats these different parts of the song where you have these amazing melodies. And then we've got three guitar players, and all the guys say, 'My turn now,' so we have three guitar solos. There's one track called 'The Parchment', there's six guitar solos — each person will take their solo and then they repeat it. The first person will be the fourth guy to do a solo, which is stunning.
"So, no, we do not plan to make long songs. It's just the way it is," he repeated.
Earlier in the month, Dickinson was asked about MAIDEN's tendency to write long songs during an interview with SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation Virtual Invasion". "Steve and I are partially responsible [for that]. I did the whole thing about the airship disaster, the R101, which was 18 minutes or something crazy," he said, referring to the aforementioned "Empire Of The Clouds". "And that was basically arranged for an orchestra, which at the time we didn't have.
"For this album, yeah, Steve is a big fan of prog, as am I," he explained. "I was talking to somebody else about this, about the different bands that we both liked. Steve, for example, is a big fan of JETHRO TULL. I'm also a big fan of JETHRO TULL. He loves 'A Passion Play' and 'Think As A Brick'; I'm more 'Aqualung' and the early stuff. But nevertheless, we both meet in the middle there. He's a big GENESIS fan — the Peter Gabriel GENESIS, 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'; he loves all that. Me, I'm not crazy about GENESIS, but I loved Peter Gabriel's, I think it was his third solo album, [with songs like] 'Intruder' [and] 'No Self Control' — scary, dark, really moody stuff. And there was a band called VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, who were contemporaries of GENESIS, and in a way, they were even a bit more out there than GENESIS. Well, I loved them. And I borrowed bits of Peter Hammill, their vocalist's vocal style. So we both have this prog thing spinning around our heads, along with THIN LIZZY, DEEP PURPLE, [BLACK] SABBATH. He's a great fan of NEKTAR and the SCORPIONS.
"I was not that crazy about JUDAS PRIEST until I toured with them, till I toured with them in MAIDEN. And indeed the SCORPIONS the same. I never really got into PRIESTthat much apart from 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' until I toured with them, and then I went, 'Wow. They do some really cool stuff.'
"So, those are all the kind of influences that are pinging around that end up with us doing all these great long songs," he continued. "And I don't mind them because it's kind of… I mean, some of the stuff, like 'The Parchment', it's almost like self-hypnosis listening to that — it really is. [If we perform that song live], I'll be round the back having a glass of non-alcoholic water. I get a five-and-a-half-minute tea break in the middle of 'The Parchment'."
"Senjutsu" was released on September 3 via BMG. IRON MAIDEN's first LP in six years was recorded in Paris with Shirley and co-produced by Harris.
For "Senjutsu" — loosely translated as "tactics and strategy" — the band once again enlisted the services of Mark Wilkinson to create the spectacular Samurai themed cover artwork, based on an idea by Harris. With a running time of a little under 82 minutes, "Senjutsu", like their previous record "The Book Of Souls", is a double CD/triple vinyl album.
"The Book Of Souls" is the longest MAIDEN album, clocking in at 92 minutes, with lyrics heavily based in the themes of death, reincarnation, the soul and mortality.
"Senjutsu" marks MAIDEN's sixth album to be produced by Shirley, who has worked with MAIDEN for the past two decades.
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