Run to the Gills: How Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith Got Addicted to Fishing | The music

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isIt’s not hard to spot Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith walking down Thames Street in Windsor: he’s head to toe in the fishing clobber. 63-year-old debut book Monsters of River and Rock is a beautifully written account of his experiences in the hard rock band that sell 100 yards and a seemingly very different life as “Iron’s Compulsive Angler.” Maiden ”.He spent two years writing it on planes or in hotels. “There’s a lot of downtime in the group,” Smith thinks over coffee before our visit to a prime fishing spot on the Thames, a metal-headed barn crawling under its fisherman’s hood. “But when you go on stage, it’s like a rush. Angling is the same. You sit and wait for these big, cunning old fish to climb to your bait, but when the action kicks in, it’s incredibly exciting.

In the book, Smith explains that as soon as he gets the tour schedules from Maiden, he searches for nearby rivers. He carried worms on the tour bus (“When you open it to take out the luggage after a few days, it’s not a good aroma”) and often fishes at night. He even slept by the river, much to the amazement of the morning walkers.

Once, on tour in the United States, he drove to “a tank in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t grab a bean”. Then the rental car didn’t start, and he only got back to the show on time because two guys came by and picked him up. “They were drunk like lords,” he laughs, “so it was a little scary, but even at my age I love the adventure of going into the unknown. It’s an escape from our increasingly regulated lives.

We make our way to the river, where Smith meticulously installs two rods as twilight dances across the water. “Sometimes I bring a book and I don’t even look at it,” he says. “Fishing absorbs me.”

Smith grew up in east London and was taken fishing as a child by his father, a painter and decorator. The sight of a ‘beautiful silver roach’ in the polluted stretch of the Grand Union Canal gas works got him hooked before fishing trips to Hertfordshire broadened his horizons. “I had never even seen the countryside before. I would wake him up saying, “Come on daddy! Let’s go fishing. ‘ ”

After hearing Deep Purple’s Highway Star in my mid teens, hard rock took over and angling didn’t seem appropriate for a potential rock god. “I couldn’t imagine [Purple guitarist] Ritchie Blackmore is trying to catch a carp, ”he says.

Smith’s companion, Dave Murray, got a guitar and joined Maiden first. By the time Smith followed in 1980, they were already playing “big concerts, even stadiums in Europe.” I went to this from a pub group [Urchin]. I never had this interim. In the book, he talks about “shyness numbed by alcohol”; he quickly succumbed to the rock’n’roll lifestyle.

“Most of us have. Not the whole group, I must say. A few guys were straight arrows, which is probably why we’re still here. I’m not Keith Richards, but for a few years I went a little bit crazy, ”he says. “Because it’s so crazy. At first I threw myself in, running on adrenaline. But then you’re on tour seven, eight, ten months at a time. The lifestyle wears you out.







Big fish… Smith on stage with Iron Maiden in Sweden in 2018. Photograph: PYMCA / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Even in those Roaring Twenties, founding bassist Steve Harris – a West Ham fanatic who can still play a football game before a concert – drove the rockers to practice sessions: “Some of the guys hadn’t gone to the bed, I’m sure. Gradually, in the mid-1980s, Smith quit smoking, started playing football, and “returned to those activities – like fishing – that I used to do before. It balanced me out.

Fishing also helped him with depression, which affected him in his teens and twenties due to “social anxiety.” Fishing gives you something to focus on, which helps you get by. In my youth, I did everything to settle down [as a musician and songwriter] rather than going fishing. But then maybe if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have done so well.

Suddenly there is a beep on Smith’s cane: he has a bite, and coils neatly into a 3lb chub, beaming with pleasure before letting him swim. Smith left Maiden in 1989 but returned (with returning singer Bruce Dickinson) in 1999. The success brought the freedom to fish for sturgeon in Canada or for bonefish in the Caribbean. “It’s far from the canal with my dad but yeah, I guess it’s the same experience.

He continues to fish in the dark, long after midnight, landing another chub and two barbel. “I sometimes think, ‘Am I crazy?’ Crawling along the bank in the wind and rain at two in the morning, ”he laughs. ” But I love this. ”

Monsters of Rivers and Rock is now available, published by Virgin

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