Nicko McBrain is long time drummer in heavy metal legends Iron Maiden. He also formed a side project band called 7x70 with Dan Spitz of Anthrax and Vanilla Ice. More recently he founded another side project called McBrain Damage.
In the 1970s, Nicko McBrain appeared 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 Steve Harris. Nicko joined Iron Maiden in 1983 for the Piece of Mind album, replacing Clive Burr, after his previous band Trust had supported Iron Maiden on the road during 1982. He has been with Iron Maiden ever since.
Nicko was born as Michael Henry McBrain in Hackney East London on the 5th of June 1952. The nickname "Nicko" is from Michael's childhood, where his favourite stuffed animal was named 'Nicholas the bear' - which he apparently carried everywhere. Due to this, his parents called him 'Nicky'. "Nicko" was spawned when Michael 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, having first adapted the spelling slightly.
As far as inspiration goes, Nicko insists "It was all Joe Morello's fault" he started drumming in the first place: "I first saw Joe playing in 1961, when Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five' was number six in the charts. My father had an old black and white TV. I can remember it was bath night. We had to heat the water in a copper kettle, and it took forever. On the TV comes this great BBC show with Brubeck live. Joe Morello did this solo, and I could not believe what I was hearing. I shouted, 'Thats what I want to dol' I was ten years old."
Nicko McBrain spent months driving his mother mad playing pots and pans. He then went on a pilgrimage to his local music store to ogle the glittery drum kits. He also built a vast collection of catalogues. When he was eleven and a half, his parents finally gave in and bought him his first kit for Christmas. It was a John Grey 'Broadway' outfit, with a 20" bass drum, a 10" single head tom, a snare drum and a splash cymbal, with no hi-hat or floor tom. He played this kit "for ages" and gradually built it up, adding Super Zyn cymbals. Now he was all set for his first gig.
Strangely, unlike most heavy metal drummers, McBrain has refused to use a double bass drum pedal, since he considers it to be "too complicated", and "un-drummerish". Instead, he has developed an incredibly fast technique on the single bass drum pedal, following Steve Harris' gallops with no problem whatsoever. The first (and last) song Nicko McBrain recorded using a double bass drum was "Face in the Sand," on the Dance of Death album, 2003. He subsequently announced that it had been one of the hardest things he had ever had to play and that, for that reason, the number would not be included in the set list of the Dance of Death World Tour.
He has been cited as a major influence of many modern drummers over a wide range of styles, and often holds drum clinics for fans and would-be drummers alike.