If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, you’ll know the name Nicko McBrain. Bruce Dickinson might be the voice of the band, but McBrain is its pulse. Since joining Iron Maiden in 1982, he’s been the driving force behind fourteen studio releases, numerous world tours, and countless singles. Not that Iron Maiden defines him – a devout Christian, a keen amateur golfer, and a part-time restauranter, there’s a lot more to McBrain than a snare and a drum stick. Find out more with these 10 things you didn’t know about Nicko McBrain.
1. He plays in an Iron Maiden tribute band
McBrain has been an integral part of Iron Maiden for almost 30 years. But apparently, playing with the real Iron Maiden isn’t enough for him. When he’s not recording with the band, he’s playing with McBrainiacs, a covers band who do a little bit of AC/DC, a little bit of Deep Purple, a little bit of Jimi Hendrix, and an awful lot of Iron Maiden.
2. He’s counting down to retirement
Iron Maiden might still be rocking harder than bands half their age, but they’re not spring chickens anymore. And McBrain, for one, has absolutely no intention of turning into the next Rolling Stones. Although he reckons the band still has a few more years in front of them, he plans on stepping back before they risk becoming a parody of themselves. “It’s my job to drive Maiden, and one day I’m not going to be able to do it anymore,” he’s told Louder Sound. “Ideally… ten years? Nah, don’t see that. Imagine me trying to play Run To The Hills at seventy-three years old! So I don’t know. But I’m planning on bowing out gracefully.”
3. A schoolfriend broke his nose
If you’ve ever wondered how McBrain got his distinctive flat-faced features, wonder no more. His busted nose is the result of a schoolyard spat with a friend called Peter Beecham. McBrain hasn’t seen Peter for years, but as he decided not to bother with corrective surgery, he’s still got a little memento to remember him by.
4. He’s a believer
Back in the day, Iron Maiden took a lot of flack from the Christain right for being ‘Satanists.’ Considering their choice of mascot, not to mention some of their album art (who can forget the image of Eddie operating Satan like a marionette on the cover of The Number of the Beast?), you can kind of understand their point. But in the case of McBrain, at least, they’re way off track. McBrain has been a committed Christian since 1990. As he revealed to classicchristianrockzine.com, his conversion came when his wife, Rebecca, asked him to go to church with him. As soon as he walked through the door, he burst into tears as he experienced what he describes as a ‘calling.’: “I just sat there thinking, ‘I didn’t drink last night…why can’t I stand?'” I had this love affair with Jesus going on in my heart,” he’s recalled.
5. He’s a keen golfer
He may have dedicated his life to music, but McBrain’s other passion in life has nothing to do with the drums. When he’s not performing, he can usually be found hitting a golf ball around the green. So involved is he in the sport, he was once invited to speak to the European Ryder Cup team by then captain Nick Faldo.
6. He’s sober
McBrain gave up drugs in the 1980s but continued to drink until 2015. After seeing an interview he did after drinking too much wine, he put down the bottle and hasn’t picked it up since. He credits his ongoing sobriety to his faith, explaining: “When you’re God-focused and Jesus Christ-centered, it changes your life. I didn’t stop drinking straight away — I still was partying. And then, looking at what happened to Bruce Dickinson, when he had his cancer scare, and sitting on a plane with a serious hangover, basically, I said a prayer to God and said, ‘Dear Lord, I promise I’m not gonna have another drink.'”
7. Charlie Watts was a huge influence
Growing up in the 1960s, McBrain was hugely influenced by the Rolling Stones -so much so, in fact, the very first band he ever played in was a Rolling Stones cover band. Charlie Watts was his hero, and it was him, along with Ringo Starr and later Keith Moon and John Bonham, who inspired his early style. Understandably, the recent passing of Watts has touched him deeply, as he explained to Chaoszine. “Charlie was such a phenomenal timekeeper — a great player,” he said. “Charlie is a sad loss to the music world and the drumming fraternity across the table. He will influence all these drummers that are getting into that music from The Stones. Just a wonderful, wonderful player.”
8. He’s a multi-millionaire
If there’s one thing that McBrain really, really likes, it’s a Jaguar. He’s even had an XKR-S model custom-built to his specifications. A Jaguar is expensive at the best of times, but a custom-built one is a whole other ball game. Fortunately, McBrain has enough cash not to bat an eyelid at the price tag. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the drummer is currently worth the phenomenal amount of $30 million.
9. He nearly quit the band after a major live mistake
In 1984, McBrain came close to quitting Iron Maiden after making an epic fail on stage. As ultimateclassicrock.com explains, the mistake took place during a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon venue in London, which was being recorded for a live release by producer Martin Birch. “We were doing ‘Flight of Icarus,’ and Bruce always, before you’d get a kick out of it, he goes, ‘Scream for me Hammersmith, scream for me Hammersmith, scream for me’ – three times,” he’s recalled. “One of the nights, he goes, ‘Scream for me Hammersmith, scream for me Hammersmith …,’ and he didn’t get to the third one, and I counted it in.” The mistake drew some surprised looks from his bandmates and left McBrain feeling mortified. Once the gig was over, he slunk into the dressing rooms and told the band ‘I’m really sorry. You don’t have to fire me, I’ll just leave.’ Obviously, it was a bigger deal to him than it was to the rest of them, as almost 30 years later, he’s still there.
10. He owns a restaurant
McBrain may still talk with the London accent of his childhood, but he swapped grey UK for sunny Florida years ago. He now lives in Boca Raton, Florida with his second wife Rebecca. In 2009, he cemented his roots in the Sunshine State by opening up a restaurant in Coral Springs. Specializing in down-home cooking, Rock N Roll Ribs was an instant hit, and even managed to scoop the title of New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s “Best Ribs of 2012.”