Adrian Smith reveals the origins of Iron Maiden's three-guitar lineup

Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers of Iron Maiden
(Image credit: Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage)

Iron Maiden’s three-man electric guitar lineup of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers has been going strong for a good two decades now. But according to Smith – who left Iron Maiden in 1990 and was replaced by Gers, who then stayed on when Smith rejoined in 1999 – the idea initially didn't seem so obvious.

In a new interview with the My Planet Rocks show (via Blabbermouth), Smith explained, “it could have gone horribly wrong, couldn't it? I mean, imagine that with three Yngwies or three Ritchie Blackmores. It wouldn't work.”

He continued, "Dave [Murray] and I go way back. At first, maybe I thought that Jan and I would do half a set each or something. But Steve [Harris, Iron Maiden bassist] came up with this mad idea. He suggested to them to have three guitarists. I'd like to have been in the room when he said that. But we tried it out.

"We went down to Portugal. We started knocking a few ideas together in this warehouse. It was like a motorcycle club; there was all these motorbikes in there. We were all standing and looking at each other, and someone said, 'Anyone got any ideas?' So I said, 'I've got a riff.' So I had The Wicker Man, and we started playing it, and it just clicked. So we went on from there."

As for how things have gone since then, he said, “It works out. Amazingly enough, it works out. In the old stuff, there's so many harmonies, unison solos, riffs — I mean, it's so much work. It actually really works well with three guitars, especially live."

Like every other band in existence, Iron Maiden cancelled all of their 2020 live dates in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Smith has been keeping busy, preparing for the release of his first book, Monsters of River & Rock: My Life as Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler, and also, it seems, collaborating with Richie Kotzen.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.