December 31, 2020 Interview – Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden
In the modern world we live in maintaining a balance is vital to your physical and mental health. Sadly it is easy to lose track of balance within the fast-paced chaos that ensues around us, but fortunately for Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith, peace of mind comes as a fisherman. Fortunate to find an outlet of stress relief through many years as a touring musician, he reflects on fishing and his life in music within the new book Monsters of River & Rock: My Life As Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler. Written during his downtime amidst a busy touring schedule with Iron Maiden, Smith recently sat down to discuss his book, life lessons learned, appreciation, plus a bunch more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for nearly five decades now, and have had a tremendous amount of success as a key part of Iron Maiden. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music to this point?
Adrian Smith – Good question. I feel very lucky to have made a career out of it. As I said in the book, when I was fifteen I discovered Hard Rock music such as Deep Purple. That was kind of a revelation and made me realize that is what I wanted to do. We are still going and it’s pretty incredible really.
Cryptic Rock – It is incredible to see what you have accomplished with music. Speaking of which, your book, Monsters of River & Rock: My Life As Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler, is out now. What inspired you to put this book together after all these years?
Adrian Smith – Well it started off sitting around talking and someone said you should write a book; that put the seed in my mind. I wrote a couple of test chapters about fishing – it was going to be a full-on fishing book. Then I got some interest from a publishing company, they gave me the go ahead, so I started writing. I then came up with a timeline from when I was a kid growing up in the sort of the concrete jungle of London fishing in the dirty old canal with my dad, then discovering music, stopping fishing and everything else to concentrating on music.
Ironically, when I joined Iron Maiden, I started fishing again because a couple of the guys were fisherman, as well. We started going fishing and we started bringing fishing rods on tour with us in America; that’s where it started again. I found it was a great way to switch off from the craziness of life on the road. I also write about in the book the ’80s touring with bands like Mötley Crüe and W.A.S.P. – it was a pretty rocky ride. (Laughs) Fishing really balanced it all out.
Cryptic Rock – Interesting. Yes, you talk about how fishing kept you at peace and grounded. Was it a challenge to keep a balance on the road?
Adrian Smith – Yes, something like the Powerslave tour was over 12 months, it was closer to 13 actually. I finished that and I was absolutely just fried. I ended up going to Canada with my girlfriend who is now my wife, Nathalie. She said, “I know what you need, you need open space and clear water.” I went up there, loved it immediately, and I just fished for a month to decompress from the tour. I really got back into fishing then and that is when I realized it was a great benefit to my mental health. I did struggle a bit with that on the road, because you are in hotel rooms for 12 months, living with the same guys in each other’s pockets, and it can really be rather stressful. It can also be great as well, but there were a few real lows, as well, which I write about in the book.
The book is 70% about fishing, but I tried to incorporate my life. I tried to incorporate a few stories about what it was like touring in the ’80s, as well as being in the studio and some funny stories of how we came up with certain songs.
Cryptic Rock – It all works and the balance of topics makes the book a fun read. You mentioned how you and your father were both quite shy. That said, you had a bond through fishing. Did writing about these times in your life bring back fond memories of your dad?
Adrian Smith – Of course, yes. It pretty much flowed – I wrote a lot of it when I was on the road. There is a lot of downtime on the road; I wrote it on planes and in hotel rooms. It’s great you just let your imagination fly and go back to your memories.
I was always into sports, I loved soccer like most English kids, but I gave that up as well to dedicate myself to try and make it as a musician. I took sports back up when I got more established as a musician. I had the time to get back into sports and fishing was one of them.
Cryptic Rock – It is wonderful that you able to rediscover other passions beyond music. With the book out, would you consider writing another one?
Adrian Smith – I enjoy writing and reading. I would love to write another book if I had the chance. Maybe a full-on music book, I still have a lot of material for that. Who knows! If I get the opportunity, I would love to do another book.
Cryptic Rock – That will be something to look forward to! In your book you speak about the loss of the countryside being ravished to pollution in a very interesting manner. Could you tell us more about that?
Adrian Smith – Yes, we just seem to be getting away from the nature side of it. We are becoming more isolated, especially with the virus. People are doing all their shopping online for their food – it’s becoming more impersonal. For me, it’s important to connect with the countryside. Although I catch fish, I have a respect for the countryside; I don’t like litter and pollution. Someone’s got to keep their eye on nature and preserve it for future generations. I think you can do that in a small way. For example, the fishing clubs where I live, you often see guys out in the winter clearing banks out, clearing rubbish out of the river, making sure it flows, and improving spawning habitats. I think they do a lot of good work for self-conservation.
Cryptic Rock – That is all very important, not only for the present, but as you said, for the future.
Adrian Smith – Yes, as the world gets more sort of digital, it’s nice to feel the fresh air. I think it’s important to appreciate the wild side of nature and not lose touch with it.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed completely. Those who have not read the book yet need to check it out. As someone who enjoys reading and writing, what would you say are some of the most important things you have learned from life on the road and everything which has transpired in your adult life?
Adrian Smith – Wow, I wish I knew then what I know now. (Laughs) I’m actually in a unique position because I left Iron Maiden for nine years and then rejoined. When I was in the band the first time I was still a kid, really. I had no experience outside of being in a band to sort of compare anything with; I used to get very introspective and I was in my own little world.
Having left the band, getting married, having kids, running a house, and being out in the real world, gives you a different perspective. Having a second chance to join the band again has been amazing. I’ve probably enjoyed it more the second time around, so I have been lucky in that respect. I think I have been able to go back and do things a better way the second time around. I have enjoyed it more just from the benefit of having the time off and gaining a better perspective on it.
Cryptic Rock – It is wonderful when you grow as a person and are able to appreciate things in a different light. Speaking of life and what it is all about, with the pandemic that has overtaken the world in 2020, you really start to appreciate the little things more. For example, you might have felt going out to dinner with your family was a bit monotonous in years past. However, it really is not when it is taken away from you.
Adrian Smith – Yes, what is going on could never be a good thing, but at least it makes you appreciate normal life. People are craving to get back to normality, no matter how much they used to complain about it before. We don’t know if things will ever be the same, but I think it will calm down and hopefully we can get a handle out. People need to have fun. We had another lockdown here in England recently, but if it’s going to save lives, you have to do it.
Cryptic Rock – Of course, let us hope we can have some normalcy sooner rather than later. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror or Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Adrian Smith – I do like some Horror films, I’m not a fanatic or anything. There have been some great ones over the years, starting with Psycho (1960). I think I was too young when I watched that and I couldn’t sleep for months afterwards. Then you had the remake of The Fly (1986) which was good. I like a few Horror films, but I don’t particularly like gory films for the sake of it; there to be some sort of story. I thought Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) was fantastic and very well done.
Cryptic Rock – Good selections. You are an avid reader, what are some of your favorite books?
Adrian Smith – I read a lot from a fishing writer named John Gierach. He writes about fishing, but he manages to incorporate so much more in his writing. He is probably my favorite writer right now.