Nicko McBrain

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Nicko McBrain
Drummer - Heavy metal

Bands: Iron Maiden, Pat Travers, Streetwalkers, Trust, The Entire Population of Hackney

Drumsticks: Vic Firth

Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain (born (1952-06-05) June 5, 1952 (age 70) in Hackney, London) is an English musician, best known as the drummer of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982.

Having played in small pub bands from the age of 14, upon leaving school McBrain paid his bills with session work before he joined a variety of artists, such as Streetwalkers, Pat Travers, and the French political band, Trust. He joined Iron Maiden in time to debut on their fourth album, Piece of Mind (1983), and has remained with them since, contributing to a total of twelve studio releases.


McBrain first wanted to learn the drums at a young age after watching Joe Morello performing with The Dave Brubeck Quartet on television. At the age of ten, he started to play drums with pots, pans and other kitchen utensils, before, to his parents' dismay, he began drumming on the gas cooker with a pair of knives and chipped off the paintwork. McBrain recalls that he was eleven or twelve before his father bought him his first drum kit, "which was basically one snare, one tom-tom, one cymbal, two drumsticks and a pair of brushes." He soon started playing The Rolling Stones and The Beatles covers with school bands, before he began regularly playing "pubs and weddings" by the age of 14.

Although he obtained a degree in engineering at his parent's request, upon finishing his education, McBrain paid his rent by undertaking session work, before deciding to join his first "proper" band, "The 18th Fairfield Walk", later known as "Peyton Bond". A small pub band, which he decided was "never gonna go anywhere" as they only performed Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who covers, McBrain soon left to join "The Wells Street Blues Band", which renamed themselves "The Axe" in 1969. Although this group would play their own material, the band split up after an argument between the singer and the guitarist, and McBrain began playing with Billy Day, a singer and keyboardist, and Michael "Mickey" Lesley, a guitarist, in 1971. At that point, he was known as "Nicky", a nickname given to him by his parents after his teddy bear, Nicholas, until an intoxicated Billy Day introduced him to Dick Asher, head of CBS Records, as "Neeko", while they were recording at CBS Studios, Whitfield Street. McBrain liked the name, changing it to Nicko "so that it sounded more English," and decided to keep it even after leaving the group.

In 1975, he began playing with Streetwalkers, before joining Pat Travers and then the French band, Trust, with whom he met Iron Maiden for the first time, while touring together in 1981. In 1982, the band asked McBrain to replace their previous drummer, Clive Burr, and, as news of Burr's departure had not yet been announced, made his first appearance with Iron Maiden on German TV disguised as Eddie. He formed a close partnership with bassist, Steve Harris, and completed what many critics consider the band's "definitive" lineup, releasing a series of gold and platinum selling albums throughout the 1980s.

Although the band's lineup changed frequently in the 1990s, McBrain remained in Iron Maiden and, since the return of Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson in 1999, the group has undergone a resurgence in popularity, and are now considered by some as "bigger than ever".

Although he writes the drum parts for all the band's songs, McBrain registered his first and only album songwriting credit for "New Frontier," from 2003's Dance of Death, which expresses his opposition to human cloning, arising from his religious beliefs. However, McBrain had received two previous songwriting credits for non-album tracks: 1984's "Mission From 'Arry", which was actually a recording of a backstage argument with Steve Harris, and 1992's "Nodding Donkey Blues", which were B-sides of the singles "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Be Quick or Be Dead" respectively.

Drumming style

McBrain's drumming has been an important element of Iron Maiden's sound from 1983's Piece of Mind onwards, with guitarist Adrian Smith remarking that, "he always had the chops and the technique, but in Maiden he really exploded, to the point where a lot of stuff we did after he joined was then founded on his playing, all those busy patterns he does, displaying tremendous technique." As described in detail on the band's 2004 The Early Days documentary, Piece of Mind's opening track, "Where Eagles Dare", famously displays McBrain's ability to use the single drum pedal very quickly, plus his rapid tom fills.

He is often considered among the best and most influential heavy metal/hard rock drummers of all time. In the 2008 Live After Death DVD, Steve Gadd, McBrain's then drum technician, comments that, on the World Slavery Tour, drummers such as Tommy Lee would refer to McBrain as an 'octopus' after witnessing the way in which his stamina gives him the ability to use all of his large signature drum kit in concert.

McBrain often employs the back end of his left hand drum stick to allow for more powerful "snare hits". He is known for not using a double bass pedal, with Bruce Dickinson commenting that he refused to use one on "Where Eagles Dare", considering them 'undrummerish'. He claims to have only ever used a double pedal once on "Face in the Sand", from Dance of Death, preferring to use a DW 5000 Accelerator single pedal. Since switching to the DW pedal in 2000, McBrain plays barefoot, stating that it gives him "more freedom."

Steve Harris remarks 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". After McBrain joined the band in 1982, Harris also noted how much easier playing with McBrain was for a songwriter, with Adrian Smith claiming that, "Steve loves playing with him. [They] used to work for hours going over these bass and drum patterns."

In 1991, McBrain released an instructional drum video, entitled Rhythms of the Beast, which was re-released on DVD in 2010. The video features McBrain demonstrating his technique, and covers tuning, soloing and parts of the drum kit.


Vic Firth Signature Series - Nicko McBrain
Designed by Iron Maiden's drummer.

Known as the drummer for heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Nicko designed a stick which features a 5B shaft with a beefed up neck and tip. A medium-sized stick that produces plenty of sound.

Each Vic Firth Signature Series model was conceived through extensive research with the finest drummers from a variety of musical styles. The designs reflect their musical requirements in terms of balance, feel, sound projection and cymbal color. Length: 16" - Diameter: .595"


Buy Vic Firth Signature Series - Nicko McBrain

Nicko McBrain Drumstick Collection

Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 14.

(1981) - 2594-2595 Nicko McBrain - "Trust in Us".
(1983) - 0103 Nicko McBrain - 6/1/1983 World Piece Tour (Piece of Mind), at the Jäähalli (Helsinki Ice Hall), Helsinki, Finland.
(1985) - 0898 Nicko McBrain - 2/8/85 World Slavery Tour, unused but tossed off stage, Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC.
1043 Nicko McBrain - used Shaw's signature model drumstick
(1992) - 1695 Nicko McBrain - 07/15/1992, Fear of the Dark Tour, Starwood Amphitheatre, Antioch, TN
(1996) - 0251 Nicko McBrain - 2/17/1996, X FacTour, The Electric Company, Philadelphia, PA, signed 9/1/2004, McBrain Damage Show, Allenstown, PA
(2000) - 0104 Nicko McBrain - 6/30/2000 Brave New World Tour, Ruisrock Festival, Turku, Finland.
(2013) - 0038-0039 Nicko McBrain - autographed, Vic Firth signature model drumsticks, signed at Sabian booth at the 1/27/2013 NAMM Show.
(2013) - 0993-0994 Nicko McBrain - unused Vic Firth signature model drumsticks.
0004 Nicko McBrain - signed generic drumstick from Iron Maiden drummer at the 1/19/2012 NAMM Show.

Drumstick Price Guide

Drumstick Price Guide
Date Drummer Condition Model Transaction Deal Type Price
2013-08-28 Nicko McBrain Used 1983-06-01 World Piece Tour (Piece of Mind), at the Jäähalli (Helsinki Ice Hall), Helsinki, Finland (single) eBay Auction Market SOLD 204.00
2014-02-23 Nicko McBrain Used 1983-06-27 World Piece Tour (Piece of Mind), Portland, OR (single) eBay Auction High Reserve Not Met 374.44
2014-02-07 Nicko McBrain Used 1996-07-25 X Factor tour, The Electric Company, Philadelphia, PA, signed 9/1/2004, McBrain Damage Show, Allenstown, PA (single) eBay Auction Low SOLD 42.94
2013-08-28 Nicko McBrain Used 2000-06-30 Brave New World Tour, Ruisrock Festival, Turku, Finland (single) eBay Auction Market SOLD 90.00
2013-12-16 Nicko McBrain Used 2003-07-25 Give Me Ed Til I'm Dead tour, Holmdel, NJ, Shaw X, autographed 2013 NAMM (single) eBay Auction Market SOLD 106.99
2013-07-19 Nicko McBrain New 2013-01-27 Vic Firth signature model, autographed at NAMM Show (pair) eBay Auction Market SOLD 67.00