In a brand new interview with TVMaldita, IRON MAIDEN drummer Nicko McBrain spoke about his 1999 conversion to Christianity and how being a Christian has affected his life as an artist.
"When I was a kid, I was very versed in Christianity — I went to Sunday school, and we had religious instruction as a lesson in schools in those days," he told host and fellow legendary drummer Aquiles Priester (see video below). "As I got older and I started to get wilder, religion didn't really play much of a [role] and I wasn't God-focused. In the '90s — probably '98, somewhere around there; maybe earlier — my wife was born again, and she started reading the Bible a lot. And she basically said, 'You wanna come to church with me one day?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure. I'll come with you.' And it was Sunday morning. I was sleeping. My wife thought, 'Is he coming? 'Cause I'm ready to go.' And I'll tell you what — it was as though God had gone like this: 'Get up. Come on. Enough.' So that was the first thing that I felt was really important. Anyway, we go to this church, and it was a little church, and I wasn't that impressed. It was all about raising funds and stuff. Now I know that to function and do charity work and missionary work, they need money. But this particular sermon wasn't cup of tea… Anyway, we went to a different church called Spanish River church. They had a chapel, and later on, they built a bigger church. The band was phenomenal. The music was just… I'd never been to a church where there was this contemporary rock music. And I remember standing, listening to this music, thinking, 'This is fantastic.' The pastor comes out, starts his sermon and he said a prayer. Normally, later on, he would close in prayer. And he basically said, 'Where you're standing now, ask God into your life. Ask Jesus Christ to come in there. Give your heart to him.' And I stood [with] closed eyes, and I swear that God and Jesus pushed me, and I kept moving forward as though I was being pushed over. I couldn't feel anything. And this is the God's honest truth — I thought, 'I haven't had a drink. I'm not in a hangover here.' I felt his presence. And right there and then, I gave my heart to God, and I asked Jesus in my life."
McBrain went on to admit that there have been times when he "turned away from the cross. And believe me, when you've gone focused and Jesus Christ-centered, it changes your life," he said. "I didn't stop drinking straight away — I still was partying. And then, looking at what happened to Bruce [Dickinson, IRON MAIDEN singer], when he had his cancer scare, and sitting on a plane with a serious hangover, basically, I said a prayer to God and said, 'Dear Lord, I promise I'm not gonna have another drink.' And that was five years and two months ago.
"The way it changed my life is it never makes you sinless, it makes you sin less," Nicko explained. "We've all got crosses to bear, baggage that we always hang around, and sometimes when you love the Lord, you read your Bible, you say your prayers to the governor, some of that baggage, all of a sudden it's gone. And it's a great savior for me."
A few years ago, McBrain spoke to Canada.com about how his faith allows him to play songs like "The Number Of The Beast", with lyrics like "666, the one for you and me." McBrain reasoned: "It's a story. If you look in the Book of Revelation, it tells you about all that, all that grief, all that business. And that, by the way, was a song written from a nightmare that [IRON MAIDEN bassist] Steve [Harris] had.
"I can tap people on the shoulder and say, 'I'm not glorifying him [the devil]'; if I was, then I wouldn't be Christian. Because I understand, and most Christian people understand, that sin is the Devil's domain, and the ultimate sin is death, but we have a way up, and that's where your faith and your Christianity comes into play. Sometimes I've had an opportunity to talk to people about my faith, and what I feel, and maybe that's the way the good Lord's working with me."
He continued: "To still be able to be in such a great band, where people think we're demonic or Satanic, most people that know and have a modicum of sense and intelligence know that not to be true. It doesn't take an Einstein to listen to the records and listen to the lyrics of the songs to know what's going on.
"Okay, so Eddie's the mascot of the band, right? And he's a… sort of… well, he's a demon, you know! He's whatever you want him to be, you know? I mean, listen here, look at the number of the Beast, here he is, the Devil's the puppet! But you know, we're not glorifying Eddie as being evil. It's just … he's just a cartoon character.
"But people can look at that and say, 'Wait a minute, Nick. How can you say you're a Christian [when] you're playing in a band that's got this kind of stuff going on?'"
Tapped to replace Clive Burr in 1982 after touring activities for "Number Of The Beast" concluded, McBrain brought a degree of finesse and technicality that was largely missing from IRON MAIDEN's early output. Whereas Burr was often lauded for his heavy-handed, punk-oriented style, McBrain was largely the opposite, playing with a degree of dexterity and flair that helped primary songwriter Steve Harris take MAIDEN down more adventurous paths. He is now the third longest-tenured member of MAIDEN, behind Harris and guitarist Dave Murray.
McBrain spent his early drumming years playing for the likes of Pat Travers and French rockers TRUST, eventually falling onto the radar of Harris and MAIDEN during the group's initial European tour.