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Nicko McBrain

McBrain during a concert in Barcelona 30 November 2006.
Background information
Birth name Michael Henry McBrain
Born 5 June 1952 (1952-06-05) (age 57)
Hackney, London, England
Genres Heavy metal, hard rock, blues-rock, progressive rock
Occupations Musician
Instruments Drums, percussion
Years active 1975 – present
Associated acts Pat Travers, Streetwalkers, Trust, Iron Maiden, The Entire Population of Hackney
Notable instruments
Paiste 22" Signature Reflector Bell Ride "Powerslave"
Vic Firth "Nicko McBrain" Signature Sticks

Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain (born June 5, 1952) is an English musician, best known as the drummer for heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982. The nickname 'Nicko' originated from when the keyboard player Billy Day introduced him as "My Italian drummer, his name’s 'Nicko'". McBrain himself states that as a child he had a stuffed animal (bear) named "Nicholas" that he always carried with him so much so that his parents began calling him Nicky also.[1] Only when he may have been in trouble was he called by his given name. McBrain is credited as being an early pioneer of the heavy metal sound[2] and passes his experience on through drum clinics.

McBrain is frequently included in top drummer league tables and rankings as a result of his very influential and skillful performances in studio and on stage, as illustrated in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Drummers Of All Time, where McBrain was placed at No. 38.[3][4] In Total-Drums' 100 Best Rock Drummers Ever, McBrain was placed at No. 28,[5] and similarly well ranked in's Top 50 Drummers Of All Time, where he was at No. 26[6]. Recently, he has been ranked at No. 18 in Rhythm Magazine's 50 Greatest Drummers Of All Time [7].

Known for his affable joking personality, eagerness for interviews and public appearances, McBrain is considered by his bandmates as Iron Maiden's spokeperson.



McBrain joined Streetwalkers and recorded with them[8][9] before moving on to drum for Pat Travers[10] and then Trust. In the early 1980s he became the drummer for McKitty and it was with this band that he first met Iron Maiden bassist and founder Steve Harris. He joined Iron Maiden in December 1982 and recorded Piece of Mind album with the band, replacing Clive Burr. McBrain's previous band Trust supported Iron Maiden on the 'Number of the Beast' world tour earlier in 1982. On this same tour, not only did McBrain star as the Devil in 'The Number Of The Beast' music video, but also temporarily stood in to drum at a live show in Belgium, prior to being officially Iron Maiden's drummer.

During McBrain's responses to fan questions [11], McBrain highlighted that it was 'not a coincidence' that Piece Of Mind had many references to brains and minds, and that he, with the surname McBrain, had recently joined the band.

McBrain has stated on recordings for the Paiste website, to promote his signature drum sticks, that he first wanted to learn drums at a young age after watching a performance of Joe Morello, which immediately led him to play drums with kitchen utensils and pots, to the dislike of his father. After studying engineering at City & Guilds (which his father had wanted him to complete), he was able to pursue drumming at a professional level.

Drumming style

McBrain's drumming is an important factor in the Iron Maiden sound and was felt immediately on Piece of Mind. As described in detail on the band's 2008 'Live After Death DVD', the notorious opening track of "Where Eagles Dare" famously displays McBrain's ability to use the single drum pedal very quickly, plus his rapid tom fills. This song has since been explained in the drummer's numerous clinics, and is considered very complex and masterful.[12][13]

On this same video documentary, McBrain's drum technician notes that, on the World Slavery Tour, drummers such as Tommy Lee called McBrain an 'octopus' after witnessing the way in which the drummer's stamina gives him the ability to use all of his signature large drum kit in shows[14].

McBrain often employs the back end of his left hand drum stick to get more aggressive sound of the snare drum. He is able to play a variety of styles, with time signatures such as the 7/8 riff which follows the second chorus of "Alexander the Great". The 7/4 riff on the song "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" and the 14/8 riff that follows the second chorus on the song "The Longest Day" are other examples of his versatility. He is known not to use a double bass pedal (in 2008's Live After Death DVD, Bruce Dickinson says that Nicko considered double pedals as 'undrummerish'). Instead, he prefers to employ a fast, bare foot technique using a single pedal, as seen in the Flight 666 video on "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (Part 1)" at the 5:18 mark, and emphasized in the song "The Evil That Men Do".[15] It is for these reasons that Steve Harris remarked that "...he can play all kinds of music. Drummers from other bands sit round the back of him to see what he’s doing, but he’s got his kit set so he doesn't even look at what he's hitting half the time"[16] After McBrain joined the band in 1982, Harris also noted how much easier playing with McBrain was for a songwriter.[17]

His drumkit's array is known for being notoriously high, almost completely concealing him when playing live. This display allows bigger drums and cymbals to be placed within reach; he also places the snare drum higher and closer to the rest of the drumset, facing towards him; this allows him to have the bass drum closer to the hi-hat, giving him a more relaxed sitting posture.


McBrain currently uses Premier drums and Paiste cymbals (Bruce Dickinson mentioned, in the song "Sanctuary" on the "A Real Dead One" Album, that they do not pay him enough to play Paiste cymbals). Previously he had been endorsed by Sonor drums and switched to Premier in the early 1990s when Sonor were sold. For A Matter of Life and Death he used his Ludwig metal shell LM 402 snare drum which was purchased in 1975, making it the oldest drum in his kit. Nicko has been a long-time user of the Ludwig Speed King pedal, but since the middle of the '90s he uses a 1993 DW 5000 Turbo Single Chain and a newer DW 5000 Hi-hat stand. He endorses Vic Firth signature drum sticks, also using them for his own drumming.

Tour Kit (2008)

Premier Maple Classic Drums with custom finish

  • 6x6" Tom
  • 8x8" Tom
  • 10x10" Tom
  • 12x12" Tom
  • 13x13" Tom
  • 14x14" Tom
  • 15x15" Tom
  • 16x16" Tom
  • 18x16" Floor Tom
  • 24x18" Gen-X Bass Drum
  • 14x6.5" Ludwig LM402 Snare Drum
  • The puppet Sooty dressed as a Pharaoh in representation of the Somewhere Back in Time Tour.


  • Remo Coated Ambassadors (tom batter heads), Ebony Ambassadors (resonant tom heads), Coated Emperor X (snare), Fiberskyn 3 (bass)

Cymbals by Paiste [18]

  • 15" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash (custom)
  • 19" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash
  • 16" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash
  • 20" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash
  • 18" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash
  • 14" Signature Heavy Hi-Hat (Reflector Finish) (custom)
  • 13" Formula 602 Heavy Bell (discontinued)
  • 22" Signature Reflector Bell Ride "Powerslave"
  • 17" RUDE Crash/Ride
  • 20" Signature Crash (prototype)
  • 22" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash
  • 20" Signature Reflector Heavy China (custom)
  • 40" Symphonic Gong (Custom Brilliant Finish)


McBrain's drum kit and cymbals do not bear the standard Premier and Paiste logos. They are labelled with the brand name using the Iron Maiden logo font.

Personal life

McBrain converted to Christianity in 1999 after an experience in the Spanish River Church, near his Boca Raton, Florida home. His wife Rebecca had been asking him to attend her church with her and on entering the Church McBrain found himself crying as he experienced a "calling". Recounting the tale, he said: '"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."'[20][21]

McBrain has a pilot's license (rating twin engine)[22].

Films and fan rapport

He has filmed several short videos for the band's official website, also the Paiste Cymbal website and keeps a diary when the band is on tour. These diaries reveal his endearing sense of humour and affection for his fans.

As heard on the introduction of the Iron Maiden line-up on "Moonchild" on Flight 666 - The Original Soundtrack, McBrain receives the perennial chant of 'Nicko! Nicko!' when announced, something that is emulated in many shows, illustrating the popularity of the drummer as a musician and a character.[23]


  • His favourite Iron Maiden albums are Powerslave, Brave New World and A Matter Of Life And Death.
  • McBrain is a keen golfer, and in fact he was invited to speak to the European Ryder Cup team by captain Nick Faldo in July 2008.
  • He frequently plays the drums during Maiden downtime both in his drum clinics and his McBrain Damage band. He also formed a side project band called 7x70 with Dan Spitz from Anthrax and Vanilla Ice, but it is unknown if they are still active.
  • On the No More Lies EP, he contributes to the lyrics.
  • McBrain is an oenophile, and often discusses wine varietals in interviews.
  • He currently manages New York metal band Voices of Extreme (or V.O.X).
  • McBrain has also appeared as a guest on the children's television show Sooty and Sweep, where he was asked by Soo to "play something funky, Nicko." In reference to his appearance on the show, McBrain's drum kit is decorated with a Sooty puppet, which is often dressed accordingly with the band's corresponding tours. [24]
  • Before being Iron Maiden's drummer, McBrain was the Devil on "The Number of the Beast" videoclip and Beast On The Road tour.
  • He is friends with Swedish singer Lasse Berghagen.
  • On 'Rock Radio' in 2009, McBrain stated that his Vic Firth sticks, entitled 'Nicko Boomer McBrain', were called so not because of his hard hitting drumming but because of 'passing-wind'.[25]
  • Nicko says he is the sexiest member of Iron Maiden and they put him behind the drums not to distract the audience. [26]
  • In 2009 he opened a restaurant called Rock N Roll Ribs in Coral Springs, Florida.



  • Downtown Flyers (1975)
  • Red Card (1976)

Pat Travers


  • Marche ou Crève (Original French Release)/Savage (English Language Version) (1981)

Iron Maiden


  1. ^,_Nicko
  2. ^ Budofsky, Adam;Heusel, Michele; Dawson, Michael Ray and Parillo, Michael. The Drummer. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 99. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Nicko McBrain credits". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  9. ^ Wall, Mick. Iron Maiden: run to the hills : the official biography. Sanctuary. p. 256. 
  10. ^ "Nicko McBrain". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Live After Death 2008 (2-Disc DVD-EMI)
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Nicko McBrain". Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  17. ^ 'Band' interactive sub section of the Enhanced CD-ROM Piece Of Mind (1998 re-master edition)
  18. ^ "Nicko McBrain's cymbals". Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  19. ^ "Vic Firth Signature Artist: Nicko McBrain". Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  20. ^ "Nicko McBrain". Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  21. ^ WCA News (March and April 2001). "Cracking Through a Heart of Iron". Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Flight 666: The Soundtrack
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Nicko McBrain on Maiden Day". 
  26. ^


  • Budofsky, Adam;Heusel, Michele; Dawson, Michael Ray and Parillo, Michael. The Drummer. Hal Leonard Corporation (2006). ISBN 9781423405672.
  • Wall, Mick. IRON Maiden: run to the hills : the official biography. Sanctuary Publishing (1999). ISBN 9781860746666

External links



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