Michael Henry McBrain (born June 5, 1952 in Hackney, London, England) is the drummer for heavy metal band Iron Maiden. The nickname 'Nicko' is from Michael’s childhood, where his favourite stuffed animal was named ‘Nicholas the bear’. Due to this, his parents called him ‘Nicky’. 'Nicko' was spawned when he was meeting a manager from CBS Records, with the keyboard player Billy Day. Billy introduced him as "My Italian drummer – His name’s 'Neeko'". Michael liked the moniker, so he decided to use it as a stage name, after adapting the spelling slightly.
In the 1970s, McBrain played drums on some Pat Travers
albums, and also played for Streetwalkers
from 1975 to 1976; he also appeared in the band McKitty in the early 1980s. It was during a McKitty gig in Belgium
that he first met Iron Maiden
bassist and founder Steve Harris
. He joined Iron Maiden in December 1982 for the 1983 Piece of Mind
album, replacing Clive Burr
, after McBrain's previous band Trust
had supported Iron Maiden on the 'Number of the Beast' world tour in 1982. As part of this tour, Nicko had to dress up as the devil
and scare the audience before confronting Eddie
. On one night of this tour, he stood in for Burr, and he has been with Iron Maiden ever since. In his role in Iron Maiden he has been cited as a major influence by many modern drummers in a wide range of styles, and often holds drum clinics for fans and drummers alike.
McBrain's first songwriting credit with the band is on the song "New Frontier" from the their 2003 album Dance of Death. McBrain also claimed he had written a song for 2006's A Matter of Life and Death but because he met with the band late in the writing process, there was no space on the album for it.
He has filmed several short videos for the band's official website and keeps a diary when the band is on tour, which can be read by Fan Club members. These diaries reveal his endearing, wacky sense of humour and his affection for his fans.
On Thursday, June 05, 2008 the fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, sang Happy Birthday to Nicko after Bruce Dickinson jokingly gave him a hard time about having to be carbon-dated to check his real age.
His presence can be said to have added a large amount to the Iron Maiden sound and was felt immediately on the first album he recorded with the band, Piece of Mind
. McBrain has been known to be able to play a variety of styles and with that time signatures
, such as the 9/8 riff
that features on "Alexander the Great
", the 7/4 riff on the song "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
" and the 15/8 riff that follows the second chorus on the song "The Longest Day
According to ten wasted years, Steve Harris and the band found his performance on the Piece of Mind album particularly the song "Where Eagles Dare" extremely exhausting to the eye.
McBrain currently uses Premier
drums and Paiste
cymbals. Previously, he had been a long-time endorser of Sonor
drums but he switched brands to Premier in the early 1990s. For the A Matter of Life and Death
album, he brought his "beast" snare drum "out of retirement". It is a Ludwig
metal shell LM 402 snare drum, and 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. Since the Brave New World album he uses a DW
5000 Accelerator pedal and a DW 5000 Hi-hat stand. He uses his own Vic Firth
Drums by Premier
- 06” × 06” Maple Classic Tom
- 08” × 08” Maple Classic Tom
- 10” × 10” Maple Classic Tom
- 12” × 12” Maple Classic Tom
- 13” × 13” Maple Classic Tom
- 14” × 14” Maple Classic Tom
- 15” × 15” Maple Classic Tom
- 16” × 16” Maple Classic Tom
- 18” × 16” Maple Classic Floor Tom
- 24” × 18” Gen-X Bass Drum
Coated Ambassadors (toms), Coated Emperor X (snare), Fiberskyn 3 (bass)
Cymbals by Paiste
- 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 "Power Slave"
- 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)
- Vic Firth "Nicko McBrain" Signature (SNM; Length: 16 in, Diameter: 0.595 in.)
McBrain's drum kit and cymbals do not bear the standard Premier and Paiste logos; instead, they are labeled with the brand name using the Iron Maiden logo font.
McBrain converted to Christianity
in 1999 after an experience in the Spanish River Church, near his Boca Raton
home. His wife, Rebecca, a Christian, had been asking him to attend her church with him, 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- On 22 March 2007, McBrain was banned from driving for six months and fined £500 after being found guilty of speeding on the M74 motorway near Lockerbie, Scotland. He was clocked doing 116mph and pleaded guilty to the offence by letter, as he could not attend court as he was on tour.
- Before being Iron Maiden's drummer, McBrain was the Devil on the Number of the Beast videoclip.
- Downtown Flyers (1975)
- Red Card (1976)
- Pukekmak kau"" (1980)
- Making Magic (1977)
- Putting it Straight (1977)
- Marche ou Crève (Original French Release) Savage (English Language Version) (1981)