Interview and Live Photos by Robert Cavuoto
Twitter : @RobertCavuoto
Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden has just released his new fishing memoir book, Monsters of River & Rock, My Life as Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler on November 3rd via BMG Books / Hardback & eBook.
Not many bands can leave a lasting impression and legacy like Iron Maiden have done over the last 40+ years. Arguably one of the biggest metal bands in the world, Iron Maiden, have become a household name due in part to guitarist Adrian Smith who has helped catapult the band to success with his talents as a songwriter and technically precise guitarist. He has written such Maiden classics as “Flight of Icarus,” “Prisoner,” “Wasted Years,” and “2 Minutes to Midnight,” to name just a few. Selling upwards of 100 million records internationally, Iron Maiden continues to fly the flag for heavy metal to their legions of fans around the world.
In his book, Adrian chronicles how his father inspired his interest in fishing at an early age and how guitar playing seduced him away from it. It wasn’t until 1980 when fellow bandmate and former Iron Maiden drummer, Clive Burr, turned him back on to fishing while touring the world. He now uses his passion for fishing as a source of mediation and escapism from the rigors of touring. Through the years and with every tour, he has become a more experienced and seasoned angler. Adrian takes readers on his journey to some of the most exotic locations in the world while shares his exciting and sometimes dangerous experiences like fending off sharks and bears.
Monsters of River & Rock is a must-read for Maiden fans to fully appreciate and better understand one of their favorite guitarists’ passions and potential inspire readers to pick up a rod and head to the nearest body of water.
In my candid interview with Adrian, he shares why he choose to write a book about his fishing experiences, the importance of showing his fans another side of his life, and the escapism fishing provides in recharging his batteries for touring and making new albums.
Robert Cavuoto: Most rock stars write books about their rags to riches story or brag about their road to sobriety after indulging in years of drug and alcohol use. Your book couldn’t be any further from those types of topics. Tell me about the decision to write about fishing and how it ties with Iron Maiden while touring?
Adrian Smith: It started with a group of friends sitting around telling stories, and one of them saying, I should write a book. I had done a bit of writing for some fishing magazines, so I thought it was a good idea. Things quickly started to snowball as I wrote a couple of test chapters, and some publishers expressed interest. I decided to do a timeline starting from when I was a kid, where I grew up, and when I started fishing with my Dad. The day I discovered music was when I heard a Deep Purple song; I instantly knew I wanted to be in a rock band. I gave up everything, including fishing for about ten years. Ironically, I took it up again when I joined Iron Maiden in 1980 because our drummer at the time Clive Burr, was an excellent fisherman, so we started going fishing together.
Robert Cavuoto: What I found fascinating about the book was it shows you as a multi-dimensional person with interests, hobbies, and personal experiences outside of Maiden. How important was it to show that side of you?
Adrian Smith: We are pretty private as a band; Bruce is the most high profile and does a lot of things outside of the band. We typically don’t promote ourselves. I have done some music projects, but I’m still pretty low profile. I thought this would be of interest not just to fishermen but to fans of the band. I would say it has about 30% non-fishing content. There are stories about the band, being on tour, how I write the songs, and how we come up with ideas at rehearsals. Although it started off as a fishing book, once I started doing the timeline and weaving words around it, I started adding a lot of personal things. It’s about my journey on a personal level other than catching fish.
Robert Cavuoto: Your fishing experiences were quite detailed. Did you keep a diary?
Adrian Smith: Not a physical diary, I have a good memory, and all the stories in the book were done from memory. I have such vivid memories as these stories burn bright in my mind that I can easily recount them. I do write down the fish’s weights because that is what we fishermen do [laughing]. I also have my heroes in fishing writers, with my favorite being John Gierach, so I took a lot of inspiration from people like him.
Robert Cavuoto: I remember that you said the worst place you ever fished was Central Park in New York City, but I can’t recall which is your favorite place?
Adrian Smith: There are just so many great places! The book takes you around the world to Tasmania, Austria, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and then through North America. I have been so lucky to travel as much as I do. In the last week, I found a place that is 10 minutes from where I live in England. It’s been some of the best fishing in my life, so you never know! Sometimes what you dream of is right under your nose. The novelty of travel has worn off a little.
Robert Cavuoto: I have to imagine catching a big fish is similar to coming up with a great riff. You can play guitar for days without coming up with anything usable, and you can fish everyday without catching anything. Tell me about the patience that is involved with fishing?
Adrian Smith: When I go fishing, I don’t really think of anything other than fishing. That’s the great thing about it. It’s like meditation, and it clears your mind. You are concentrating on the line, you’re concentrating on the water, and everything else goes out of your mind. Sometimes I’ll be out there and get a riff in my head, and when it really starts to nag me, I immediately have to get home to do a demo. Mainly I go for the peace and quiet as I find it offset the craziness of life on the road with a big band. Fishing compliments what I do with the band and recharges my batteries.
Robert Cavuoto: That makes me wonder when you are on stage playing “The Number of the Beast” or “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” do you ever find yourself drifting off and thinking about fishing?
Adrian Smith: [Laughing] Not really. Sometimes if I have the next day off, I’ll think that I have to get my rods out. I still do a lot of fishing on the road in America. On the last tour, I was in Minneapolis because the hotel was next to the Mississippi River. I made a video of my experiences, which is on my Instagram account, misteradriansmith, and my YouTube channel. It was crazy because I heard gunshots in the distance, which was still too close for comfort, so I headed back to the hotel. That’s just some of the things you’ll experience while fishing.
Robert Cavuoto: It’s supposed to be relaxing, yet you have to deal with gunshots and fend off sharks and bears!
Adrian Smith: Yeah, we have had some close encounters with bears. You learn to respect nature. I always try to treat the wild with respect as I usually put the fish I catch back. They are none the worse for wear. It’s important as I had good teachers growing up with Dad and my Uncle Stan, who was a character. They both taught me the way.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you a supporter of catch and release?
Adrian Smith: It’s how I grew up. During the Second World War, my Dad would go fishing as a kid with the older guys, and they would take everything they caught back home to cook because food was scarce. They would fish for Ruffe, which is not like Salmon or Trout. They are not great to eat. After the Second World War and then I came along much later, people didn’t need to keep up with that tradition because they didn’t need to catch their food. I think the sport of fishing survived because people enjoyed it. A working-class man would work all week and then on Sunday, go fishing to clear his mind. It wasn’t about putting food on the table. It was a working man’s meditation.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there ever a Maiden song that was released which you dreamed up while fishing?
Adrian Smith: No, I don’t think there was one. There is a story in the book about the song “Stranger in a Strange Land.” I wrote that song on the way back from visiting a dentist while on the road. I was in a great deal of pain, so you never know where or when inspiration will strike.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve watched several of your YouTube videos. Do you ever bring a guitar with you when fishing?
Adrian Smith: I sometimes take it with me before a tour or before we are going into the studio. I feel like I should be practicing every day, but I really wanted to go fishing! Sometimes when I go away for a couple of days, I’ll pack my guitar, a tent, my cooking stuff, and a bottle of wine. Then I can put a couple of hours of practicing in. That is not typical, though.
Robert Cavuoto: Any plans to have your own broadcasted fishing show?
Adrian Smith: I’m open to offers. I enjoy making the little videos, but it’s difficult on my own. I had two GoPro cameras that I used on the road, but unfortunately, they both got stolen out of my hotel. I enjoy making videos on my own, but I would like to do something with slightly higher production values.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you think that will impact the escapism it provides if you have a film crew behind you?
Adrian Smith: Yeah, I know what you’re saying. Maybe a short series would be great. I don’t want it to become work. People said you should own a piece of a lake or river. I know people who have done that, and it can be a bit of a headache. I like going to places I have never been where it’s a mystery and trying to work it out.
Robert Cavuoto: Over the course of 40 years in Maiden, do you have a favorite image of your mascot Eddie?
Adrian Smith: In the early days, the images of Eddie with all the bloody axes made me feel a little uncomfortable as I thought it was a bit violent. As we get older, the imagery is slightly more subtle, like with the Brave New World album cover. It’s broader, and you can still use the Eddie imagery in a subtle way. I’m big into subtlety.
Robert Cavuoto: It’s no secret that Maiden’s sound has started to get more progressively influenced with more technically challenging guitar playing. Is that a conscious decision to continue challenging yourself and for the band to evolve?
Adrian Smith: Yeah, I think you are always trying to move forward. I think it’s important to keep on recording and coming up with new stuff rather than just playing all the old stuff even though people want to hear it. We will play again when this bloody virus dies down. Some of the first songs I wrote with Maiden like “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Prisoner” were straight-ahead rock. I’m getting more progressive now, like with “Paschendale.” I’m just trying to stretch out what I’m doing.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve always loved your iconic cherry red Ibanez Destroyer II guitar, which you started playing on The Number of the Beast Tour. I purchased the same guitar back then because you were playing it. What was your initial attraction to playing that guitar?
Adrian Smith: The first time we when to Japan, I was using my Gibson Gold Top Les Paul and a Hammer Explorer, which I both really liked. We did a gig in Tokyo, and people from Ibanez and Yamaha came down, showing us all their products. They brought in the Destroyer, and when I played it, I really liked it. I went to give it back to the gentleman, but he didn’t speak English. The translator said, “He wants you to have it. Keep it; it’s yours!” I couldn’t believe it! I used it for quite a few years, as it sounds great and stayed in tune. I still have it somewhere. Actually, it was in a flood and lost for a couple of years. When I found it was corroded, had turned green, and rusted over. It was horrible, so I had it restored. Jackson guitars built a replica of it for me. So I have a soft spot for that guitar in my heart.
Robert Cavuoto: You have been using Jackson guitars for a few decades and even have your own signature series model. Tell me about your association with them?
Adrian Smith: The Les Paul was always my main guitar, but I was having tuning problems with it. I don’t like to change guitars too much on stage. I was tearing my hair out a little bit over it, and then we played in California in the early to mid-80s. Grover Jackson came to the shows and brought some of his guitars with him. He had this Strat type of guitar with an unfinished neck and locking Floyd Rose tremolo system. I loved. It was the answer to my prayers as it stayed in tune the entire gig and was user friendly. That’s when I started using Jackson. Grover was such a great guy, and he went out of his way for me, like with changing pick-ups right before the show. He was always handing me different guitars to try. He really put the work in! That is how and why I started working with them!
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have another book in your where you may share more stories from your career with Iron Maiden?
Adrian Smith: I used quite a bit of stories in this book, but I also held a lot back as well. I think there would be another book as I really enjoy writing. I have always loved English at school. Who knows, its quite possible?