Iron Maiden‘s renaissance in the late 90’s/early 2000’s was a revelation. Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson returned to the band after some time away. The band was left with two options: go back to the classic Dave Murray/Adrian Smith lineup and leave out Janick Gers, or have three guitarists. It was a decision that apparently “could have gone horribly wrong” according to Smith. In an interview he did with My Planet Rocks, the guitarist went over some of the trials and tribulations the band went through.

Smith is also promoting a memoir titled Monsters of River and Rock. The book is due out September 3rd. He had this to say about the three guitarists.

Yeah, it could have gone horribly wrong, couldn’t it? I mean, imagine that with three Yngwies or three Ritchie Blackmores… It wouldn’t work.
“Dave [Murray] and I go way back. At first, maybe I thought that Jan [Janick Gers] and I would do half a set each or something

Adrian Smith on My Planet Rocks

While that would have been an interesting dynamic for the band, I don’t think splitting time would work. Adrian and Dave Murray are the backbone of the classic sound for the band. Janick is a great guitar player that also adds an element of fun and style to the band that no one else does. So what would be the solution? It would come from Steve Harris, because of course.

Steve [Harris, bass] 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…

My Planet Rocks

But What Went Into The Formation Of The Trio?

Adrian Smith then went on to describe how their first couple days working as a trio went.

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. 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.

My Planet Rocks

If their chemistry is anything like it is onstage, the three guitarist approach clicked immediately. It gives Iron Maiden a new wrinkle to work with. On the songs that used to have two guitarists, there’s that extra punch to the rhythm section. On the newer songs, they have that more orchestral sound with all the different tones and playing styles. You can really add to the heaviness and power of the riffs with three people complementing each other’s sound.

I really like the three guitarist approach that Iron Maiden uses. Other bands like Helloween and Judas Priest have leveraged it at certain points as well. For Maiden it just adds to their overall mystique and greatness.

You can check out the full gallery of Iron Maiden-A-Thon, an album by album review series right here.

So, what do you think of Iron Maiden’s three guitarist approach? Let us know in the comments!

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