Adrian Smith

Adrian Frederik Smith (born 27 February 1957) is an English musician and one of three guitarists/songwriters in the English band Iron Maiden. Along with Steve Harris, he also performs backing vocals on some songs, and occasional lead vocals.

ADRIAN SMITH as known by Bruce Dickinson

 I first met Adrian when I was in Samson and he’d just joined Iron Maiden. We were over the road from each other in different studios; we were doing the second Samson album and he was doing ‘Killers’. He was very much the new boy in the band, but I was really impressed with the style of his guitar playing. And he was dead rock and roll. He was skinny, pasty and waiflike, and he looked really cool!

He’s a pretty mellow person, and he’s got a very dry sense of humour. His nickname in the band used to be Willie-Orwontee – not for nothing! He likes to take his time over things, which is not a bad thing and in the old days when we used to do soundchecks together, we’d all be waiting for him, he’s such a perfectionist over sound.

In a world populated by faceless guitarists who all go to school to learn how to do it and end up all sounding virtually indistinguishable, Adrian has evolved a tone and style that is all his own and is unique. Nobody sounds like Adrian, and that is priceless. His guitar playing sounds lazy, like the notes are almost falling over each other but they never do. You actually hang on every note that he plays, because you don’t quite know where it’s going to go next.

He’s a very good athlete. When he plays football or tennis, he has a natural grace, and that’s what his guitar playing’s like. When he plays football, he gets the ball and you think, ‘He’s never going to get past that guy’, but suddenly, there’s a little shuffle and he’s dribbled past him. And it’s like watching him play guitar. I swear to God the timing is the same!

When he left the band in 1990, I think everybody was a bit surprised at how much we missed him and certainly, I don’t think anybody had realised how much the fans would miss him – big time. I wouldn’t have rejoined Iron Maiden if he wasn’t in the band. I just don’t think it would have been complete without Adrian, and now, it’s great having three guitarists.

I think possibly one of the greatest tracks he’s ever written is on the new album; it’s called ‘Paschendale’. When I was writing stuff with him for the album, I noticed he had lots of Siegfried Sassoon and other war books lying around, and he was researching this track. It’s a fantastic song and really evocative of the whole horrific period of warfare – a stunning piece of music, ten minutes long.

Adrian’s philosophy, I guess, goes back to something we were talking about one drunken night. He turned around and said, ‘The thing about me is, all I’m interested in is just having a bit of a sing and a play’, and that is at the root of everything that is Adrian. He’s happy having a drink, having a sing and playing guitar. And for something that’s that simple, he does it alarmingly well – especially the guitar playing.


While at school, Smith befriended Dave Murray and the pair formed the band Urchin with Smith taking the roles of lead singer and lead guitarist. Smith had bought his first guitar from Murray, a Woolworths’ Top 20, for “five quid” (later he painted it silver and sold it again for “12 quid”, as he states in the Early Days DVD). Murray left Urchin to join Iron Maiden, the new band of another local musician, Steve Harris. Smith continued to front Urchin, with limited success, until joining Maiden in early 1980 for the Killers album (released in 1981), replacing Dennis Stratton. Smith first wrote songs for Maiden on the 1982 album The Number of the Beast, and was the band’s secondary songwriter from then on (often in co-operation with Bruce Dickinson). Smith and Dave Murray combined playing dual lead guitars helping to forge the trademark sound of Iron Maiden. Some notable lead duets are “The Duellists”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “The Trooper”, “Alexander the Great” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Notable Smith solos include “Wasted Years”, “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “The Wicker Man”. Adrian’s solos are usually composed rather than improvised. His legato playing is very smooth and fast, and typically even his very fast passages have a musical function and relationship to the chord structure behind the solo, drawing from modes and arpeggios which are more often from the blues licks. Adrian is one of the most accomplished metal guitarists of this age.

Smith released a solo LP with the band ASAP (Adrian Smith And Project) titled Silver and Gold in 1989. Following its release, Smith departed from Iron Maiden in 1990 when recordings for the No Prayer for the Dying album were about to start, and was replaced by Janick Gers. After releasing the experimental Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son albums, Steve Harris had decided to take the band back to a more traditional hard rock direction which can clearly be heard on the No Prayer for the Dying album. This album featured one last Smith song co-penned with Bruce Dickinson titled “Hooks in You”.

Bruce Dickinson’s comment on Smith: “When he left the band in 1990, I think everybody was a bit surprised at how much we missed him and certainly, I don’t think anybody had realized how much the fans would miss him – big time. I wouldn’t have rejoined Iron Maiden if he wasn’t in the band. I just don’t think it would have been complete without Adrian, and now, it’s great having three guitarists.”

In 1996, Smith joined forces with former Helloween vocalist, Michael Kiske on Kiske’s solo album Instant Clarity. He plays guitar on portions of the album in addition to co-writing some of the songs.

Later, Smith formed his alternative rock-influenced band Psycho Motel. This band was a progression from an earlier music project of his called The Untouchables, which featured former members of ASAP as well as former The Cult bassist Jamie Stewart. The band recorded two albums, State of Mind (1996) and Welcome to the World (1997). Smith would also play on Bruce Dickinson’s Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding albums. The influence of this more progressive direction, as well as Smith’s heavier rhythm guitar playing, is apparent since his return to Iron Maiden.

On 22 August 1992 Smith made a brief appearance onstage with Maiden to play “Running Free” during the Castle Donington ‘Monsters Of Rock’ Festival, which was released on the album and video Live at Donington.

In 1999, Smith re-joined Iron Maiden, along with Bruce Dickinson, for the “Ed Hunter tour”, a series of concerts in support of the video game of the same name. He remains with the band to this day, having released four studio albums, Brave New World in 2000, Dance of Death in 2003, A Matter of Life and Death in 2006, and The Final Frontier in 2010.

He also sometimes makes charity appearances for cancer awareness/patient rights activism organization The Maiden Flight, of which his wife is a member.

Personal life

Adrian attended St. Ignatius College, Enfield between 1968 and 1975 where among his contemporaries were Kenny Morris (Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Kevin Savigar (songwriter and keyboards for Rod Stewart). In his spare time, Smith loves fishing, as can be seen on the Rock In Rio DVD.

Singing style

Ever since joining Maiden in 1981, Smith has provided back-up vocals for the band, but took the lead vocals for some of his other bands (Urchin, A.S.A.P., The Untouchables). His actual singing voice in Maiden is rarely heard although he sang lead on the track “Reach Out”, the B-Side to the single “Wasted Years”, with Bruce Dickinson singing back-up.

Smith has a relaxed vocal style with a slight raspiness very reminiscent of young Joe Cocker and Paul Carrack. His voice type could be considered a baritone.


Smith currently prefers to use his Jackson signature ‘San Dimas’ Dinky, although he has used a variety of guitars over his career, including several different Dean models, various Jackson models including the Randy Rhoads, Fender Stratocasters (including three Fender Floyd Rose Classic Stratocasters; one of these stratocasters had a roland MIDI pickup installed), Gibson Les Pauls, Gibson Explorers, Gibson SGs, an Ibanez Destroyer and Lado Guitars. On the A Matter of Life and Death DVD, he says the first decent guitar he bought was a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop which he paid £235 for when he was 17. He’s still using it and says, “it’s still probably the best guitar I’ve got”.

Currently his touring guitars are: Gibson Deluxe Goldtop with Dimarzio Super Distortion in bridge position – both drop D and standard tunings, his Jackson Superstrat 1986 prototype (can be seen on the Maiden England concert) with the pickguard changed to resemble his signature model – standard tuning, Jackson Signature model with black scratchplate and maple neck – drop D tuning and mid 70’s Gibson SG as backup for Goldtop Les Paul.

As of August 2007, Adrian Smith endorses Jackson Guitars, his first guitar company endorsement in over fifteen years. With Jackson he has an Adrian Smith San Dimas DK model. Prior to his endorsement, he was seen using other Jackson guitars, such as a King V during his time in Bruce Dickinson’s solo band, before he went to Fender guitars. In August 2008, he had a Jackson guitar stolen from backstage at a show in Greece.

Adrian Smith
Background information
Birth name Adrian Frederik Smith
Born 27 February 1957 (age 54)
Hackney, east London, England
Genres Heavy metal, progressive rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals, bass
Years active 1975–present
Labels EMI
Associated acts Urchin, Iron Maiden, The Entire Population of Hackney, ASAP, The Untouchables, Psycho Motel, Bruce Dickinson, Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske, Hear ‘n Aid
Notable instruments
Jackson Adrian Smith San Dimas
Lado Earth

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