On the face of it, the members of Iron Maiden were having the time of their lives in the 1980s, as the band from London’s East End conquered the world with a succession of hugely successful albums and mammoth tours. But in the current issue of Metal Hammer, Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith admits that the pressures which came hand-in-hand with the band’s growth took its toll upon his mental health.
“I don’t really want to come across as ‘poor me’,” Smith tells Hammer’s Rich Hobson, “but it [depression] was a feature of the ’80s for me. The last gig I did before joining Iron Maiden was at a pub in London; I remember getting on the bus with my wah-wah pedal in a Tesco bag, playing that show then the next thing was a massive gig with Iron Maiden. Quite the jump! I managed with sheer bravado to get through the first tour, then it started to hit me a bit – people pay a lot of money to see us and there’s a lot of great musicians out there, meaning it’s very competitive. It got on top of me a few times, and when we hit America things really kicked in with booze and drugs, using it as a crutch. But you need to deal with those things, and knowing that now means I don’t have the same struggles. It’s all part of the process of growing up.”
Smith now credits his interest in fishing with giving him a sense of perspective and calm away from the stresses of band life.
“It’s good for your mind,” he says. “As Billy Connolly said, ‘Fishing is meditation with a punchline’. The cocoon of plane-to-van-to-hotel is a bit much at times, so it’s great to just go out into the country, and free your mind, get that space.”
Smith’s Iron Maiden bandmate Bruce Dickinson has spoken in the past about the toll which Maiden’s 80s mega-tours took on his own mental health.
“I remember being pissed, crawling on my hands and knees down a hotel corridor in Tokyo, looking for bread rolls from the room service trays because I was so hungry,” the singer told Classic Rock. “I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror looking like a feral critter and I thought: ‘What a state you’re in. Look at you!’ I thought I’d better sort this out, because I could already see that 10-month world tours were going to be my life for the foreseeable future.”
“We were young, and we were all chucked into this huge shit storm of success and we dealt with it in different ways. To a certain extent you make a Faustian deal when you join a successful band. There is a price that gets exacted upon you, and there’s very little you can do about that except hope to come out the other end of it right-side up.”
Iron Maiden will release a new live album on November 20 via Parlophone. The double-disc Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast: Live in Mexico City was recorded during the band’s three sold out arena shows in the Mexican capital in September 2019 and is a celebration of the legendary British metal band’s Legacy Of The Beast world tour which began in 2018 and will finish next summer in Europe.