IRON MAIDEN's Adrian Smith has commented on the passing of producer Martin Birch, expressing his shock and calling it "very sad."
The guitarist, who worked with Birch for almost a decade during his initial tenure in IRON MAIDEN in the 1980s, made the comments while speaking to Eonmusic about his book "Monsters Of River & Rock", which is due on September 3 via Virgin Books.
Birch, who passed away on August 9, was perhaps best known for his 11-year stint with MAIDEN, serving as the producer and engineer of such classic albums as "Killers", "The Number Of The Beast", "Piece Of Mind" and "Somewhere In Time".
Adrian said: "Well, firstly, it was very sad when he passed away. I was shocked, really, I mean, he was quite young still. He was only 71."
The guitarist went on to recall his first encounter with Martin, with whom he first worked with during the 1981 "Killers" session. He said: "Martin obviously did a lot of great bands; before us, he did [DEEP] PURPLE and [BLACK] SABBATH. He was great, but he was a bit intimidating at first, because he had this big reputation."
Adrian continued: "I'd never been in the studio to do a proper album before. I mean, I could hardly eat in the week leading up to going in the studio. But he had an air of authority about him because of his reputation."
Smith also discussed Birch's martial arts prowess, which, he said, the producer would demonstrate at the most inopportune moments. "He also — as he reminded us on many occasions — he was a karate black belt, and there's a few stories about that in the book. If he had a few drinks after a [recording] session, he'd start doing his karate routine and practicing his kicks and his chops in the studio. You'd see all the roadies scurrying around, moving the guitars out of the way in case he kicked the headstock off a vintage Les Paul or something."
Eonmusic's interview with Smith, where he chats about "Monsters Of River & Rock", songwriting, studio sessions, "Somewhere In Time", A.S.A.P. and more, will be available from Tuesday, August 18.
The day after Birch's death, MAIDEN bassist and founder Steve Harris said about the producer: "He was just absolutely brilliant. He wasn't just a producer, he was a hands-on engineer too, so he knew how to get a great sound. He was also fantastic at motivating people; he just had a knack of getting the best out of you. He was also a really nice man, great fun with a terrific sense of humor and that made him easy to work with. We all got along with him really well and the whole band is very saddened by today's news."
Added singer Bruce Dickinson: "To me, Martin was a mentor who completely transformed my singing: he was a psychotherapist and, in his own words, a juggler who could mirror exactly what a band was. That was his special talent as a producer. He was not a puppeteer, he did not manipulate the sound of the band, he just reflected it in the best possible way. Apart from all of that, he was a wonderful, warm and funny human being.
"Martin and I shared a passion for martial arts — he for karate and me for fencing which gave us another bond too.
"I'm so very sad to hear this news. It's incredible that he has passed away at such a young age for a man who was so full of life."
MAIDEN manager Rod Smallwood said: "He was a fantastic guy who always shared a mutual respect with the band. He never, ever, let us down in the studio. He was a true gentleman and he will be hugely missed by everyone in the MAIDEN family."
IRON MAIDEN albums produced by Martin Birch:
1981 - Killers
1982 - The Number Of The Beast
1983 - Piece Of Mind
1984 - Powerslave
1985 - Live After Death
1986 - Somewhere In Time
1988 - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
1990 - No Prayer For The Dying
1992 - Fear Of The Dark
1994 - Maiden England '88
Birch, who began his career in the late 1960s as an engineer, also worked on recordings for DEEP PURPLE ("In Rock", "Machine Head"), RAINBOW ("Rising", "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll"), WHITESNAKE ("Saints & Sinners") and BLACK SABBATH ("Heaven And Hell", "Mob Rules"). He retired in 1992.
Speaking with Classic Rock about "The Number Of The Beast", Birch said: "I had the same feeling on 'The Number Of The Beast' as when we did DEEP PURPLE's 'Machine Head'. It was the same kind of atmosphere, the same kind of feeling, like, something really good is happening here.
"I remember we spent ages getting the vocal intro to the title track right. We did it over and over and over until Bruce Dickinson said, 'My head is splitting. Can't we move on and do something else and come back to this?' But I wouldn't let him do anything else until he'd got it perfect. It drove him crazy."