Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain reflects on ministroke: “I thought, ‘This is it, I’m not going to be able to play.’”

Nicko McBrain behind a drum kit
(Image credit: Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain has commented on the transient ischaemic attack (TIA, or ministroke) he suffered at the start of the year.

The 71-year-old announced in August that he had had the ministroke seven months prior, and that it left him “paralysed on [his] right side from [his] shoulder on down”.

“I was very worried that my career was over,” the drummer wrote in an update on the Iron Maiden YouTube channel.

“I feel it’s important to let you know about this now instead of earlier as I was mainly concerned with doing my job and concentrating on getting back to 100% fitness. I’m not there yet but by the grace of God I’m getting better and stronger as the weeks go by.”

Talking exclusively in the new issue of Metal Hammer, McBrain elaborates on the effects of the ministroke and his recovery.

“Well, it was very, very difficult,” he tells journalist Alexander Milas.

“When it first happened I thought, ‘This is it, I’m not going to be able to play. I’ve got a tour coming up in three months’ time.’ I had a lot of time for reflection in the hospital. My wife was really my bastion of strength and encouragement and she was with me throughout.

“I did a lot of strength exercises, a lot of stretches with weird weights that they have and I got my stamina back.”

The drummer then comments on how supportive his Iron Maiden bandmates, especially bassist Steve Harris, were as he recovered.

“Through all this period of time I was in touch with Steve, obviously all the guys, and I’d have a bit of a chat with them on the phone and they were all very, very encouraging, and none more so than Steve. He said, ‘Look, the most important thing is that you get well and work on getting yourself together.’”

When asked if it was a relief to tell the world about his condition during the summer, McBrain answers: “I felt they deserved to know why I wasn’t giving it 100%, and that was my primary reason.

“The secondary reason was that if I can help one person as an example of my striving to get better then it’s worth doing, so it was kind of a double-barrelled thing for me to let the fans know and help someone say, ‘Well, if Nick can do it, I can do it. He had 13 weeks of recovery and he’s ended up doing a tour of Europe!’”

McBrain joined Iron Maiden in 1982, replacing the late Clive Burr. He debuted on the band’s fourth album, 1983’s Piece Of Mind, and has appeared on every studio release since.

Iron Maiden are currently taking downtime in the middle of their Future Past tour, where they play songs primarily from their 1986 album Somewhere In Time and 2021’s Senjutsu. The tour will continue with an Australian and Japanese leg in September 2024, then pass through the Americas in October and November.

Tickets for the Australian and American dates are available now, with tickets for the Japanese shows going on sale Saturday (December 9).

The new issue of Metal Hammer is on sale today (December 7) and features the essential review of 2023 in metal, including exclusive interviews with Iron Maiden, Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold and Ghost. Plus, read our picks for the 50 best albums of the year.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.