Adrian Smith: What I Learned Watching Iron Maiden Play Without Me in the ’90s
In 1990, Adrian Smith made the decision to leave Iron Maiden after joining one decade earlier and contributing to six albums. He was replaced by Janick Gers and in our recent interview discussing his new book, Monsters of River and Rock — My Life as Iron Maiden's Compulsive Angler, he recollected what it was like watching the band perform without him.
"I didn’t do anything musically for a couple years and I gradually got back into it and realized I needed to do it as it’s a big part of my life," said Smith of exiting one of metal's most successful bands 30 years ago. "I didn’t really follow Maiden," the guitarist and lifelong fisherman continued, "because I didn’t want to get hung up about it and start feeling bad. I got married, had kids, got a house and started writing my own music and I was happy."
Smith had tested the waters with outside musical projects prior to his 1990 departure, having released the one-off Silver and Gold album under the moniker A.S.a.P. (Adrian Smith and Project) in 1989.
As captured on Maiden's Live at Donington record, Smith enjoyed a guest spot with the band for the final song of the night at the 1992 gig.
"Steve Harris rang me up and said, 'Why don’t you come down and play "Running Free" with us?' So I went down there and I didn’t expect to feel the way I felt," Smith recollected.
"The tour manager brought me up to the side of the stage and I watched a few songs," he went on. "I got really, really emotional. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was overwhelmed — the guys are playing the songs I used to play in front of thousands and thousands of people."
Iron Maiden, "Running Free" — Live at Donington (1992)
Getting another chance to watch Maiden perform without him, Smith noted that it paid dividends as he was able to bring something fresh to the table once he was reinstated in tandem with singer Bruce Dickinson in 1999.
"I saw them again at another show and it did give me a different perspective on it. I could look at it as an outsider," asserted Smith. "When I rejoined the band, I remembered seeing them and remembered some things I’d like to put into the band to cover those things. I brought something I saw that was maybe missing before."
Prior to his return, in the mid-'90s, the guitarist formed The Untouchables, intent on working the club circuit a bit rather than the enormous venues populated by Iron Maiden, Eddie and all of those outrageous stage productions. Eventually, this lead into the formation of Psycho Motel, who released two albums — State of Mind (1995) and Welcome to the World (1997).
Then came a two-album stint in Dickinson's solo band, which resulted in the 1997 album Accident of Birth and 1998's The Chemical Wedding where Smith played alongside axeman Roy Z.
"He’s a shredder/virtuoso and I had to up my game to play with him, so that improved me. Sometimes you get knocked down a bit and you have to get back up and run with it and get better," attested the Maiden icon, who acknowledged, "When I returned to Maiden I thought I was a better player. I was more on top of it and could enjoy it more."
Amid the triumph and tribulations of his fishing exploits in Monsters of River and Rock are anecdotes from Smith's career in and out of Maiden, offering a rare insight into the private life of one of Iron Maiden's principle members. Get your copy here and read our full interview with the legend at this location.
Meanwhile, Iron Maiden's new live album, Nights of the Dead — Live in Mexico City, will be released on Nov. 20. The record captures the band on their stunning "Legacy of the Beast Tour," which is slated to return (for now) in 2021.
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