Michael Henry “Nicko” McBrain (born 5 June 1952) is an English musician and drummer of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982. Having played in small pub bands from the age of 14, upon leaving school McBrain paid his bills with session work before he joined a variety of artists, such as Streetwalkers, Pat Travers, and the French political band, Trust. He joined Iron Maiden in time to debut on their fourth album, Piece of Mind (1983), and has remained with them since, contributing to a total of thirteen studio releases.
Although he obtained a degree in engineering at Southgate Technical College at his parents’ request, upon finishing his education, McBrain paid his rent by undertaking session work, before deciding to join his first “proper” band, “The 18th Fairfield Walk”, later known as “Peyton Bond”. A small pub band, which he decided was “never gonna go anywhere” as they only performed Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who covers, McBrain soon left to join “The Wells Street Blues Band”, which renamed themselves “The Axe” in 1969. Although this group would play their own material, the band split up after an argument between the singer and the guitarist, and McBrain began playing with Billy Day, a singer and keyboardist, and Michael “Mickey” Lesley, a guitarist, in 1971. At that point, he was known as “Nicky”, a nickname given to him by his parents after his teddy bear, Nicholas, until an intoxicated Billy Day introduced him to Dick Asher, head of CBS Records, as “Neeko”, while they were recording at CBS Studios, Whitfield Street. McBrain liked the name, changing it to Nicko “so that it sounded more English”, and decided to keep it even after leaving the group. In 1973, McBrain performed on a single by Cockerel Chorus, “Nice One Cyril”, on the label Young Blood.
Also in 1973, McBrain played on a self-titled album by guitarist Gordon Giltrap. This is notable not only as McBrain’s album debut, but also because Giltrap in 1978 released an album called “Fear of the Dark” and used a font for his logo that is quite similar to the one used by Iron Maiden.
In 1975, he began playing with Streetwalkers, before joining Pat Travers, singer Jenny Darren, McKitty and then the French band, Trust, with whom he met Iron Maiden for the first time, while touring together in 1981. In 1982, the band asked McBrain to replace their previous drummer, Clive Burr, and, as news of Burr’s departure had not yet been announced, made his first appearance with Iron Maiden on German TV disguised as Eddie.He formed a close partnership with bassist, Steve Harris,and completed what many critics consider the band’s “definitive” line-up, releasing a series of gold and platinum selling albums throughout the 1980s
Although the band’s line-up changed during the 1990s, McBrain remained in Iron Maiden and, since the return of Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson in 1999, the group has undergone a resurgence in popularity, and are now considered by some as “bigger than ever”. When he’s not recording and touring with Iron Maiden, McBrain often plays with side projects including a band called McBrain Damage which played Iron Maiden covers. In March 2017, he was a guest drummer with the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Although he writes the drum parts for all the band’s songs, McBrain registered his first and only album songwriting credit for “New Frontier”, from 2003’s Dance of Death, which expresses his opposition to human cloning, arising from his religious beliefs, However, McBrain had received two previous songwriting credits for non-album tracks: 1984’s “Mission From ‘Arry”, which was actually a recording of a backstage argument with Steve Harris, and 1992’s “Nodding Donkey Blues”, which were B-sides of the singles “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Be Quick or Be Dead”, respectively.