Iron Maiden Drummer Says His Bandmate’s Cancer Battle Inspired Him to Get Sober

By May Wilkerson 04/07/16

But quitting the sauce hasn’t always been easy for McBrain, who says he still struggles with the temptation to drink.

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Iron Maiden Drummer Says His Bandmate’s Cancer Battle Inspired Him to Get Sober
Drummer Nicko McBrain pictured second from left Photo viaEverett Collection/Shutterstock.com

Nicko McBrain, the drummer from British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, finally made the decision to get sober after his bandmate, vocalist Bruce Dickinson, nearly died from tongue and throat cancer in 2015. Dickinson’s brush with death and miraculous recovery was the wakeup call McBrain needed to recognize he was putting his own life at risk, the drummer told the Drummer’s Journal in a recent interview.

“When he got the all clear, I looked at Bruce and thought, ‘Here’s my mate, he’s been through hell, beaten cancer, and none of it was his fault,’” McBrain said. “And there I was, putting myself through hell too, except I was doing it to myself with drink. So I knew I had to stop. I took a lot of inspiration from Bruce, it made me realize how stupid I was being.”

McBrain, 63, says he realized he had a problem when he saw footage of an interview he had done while intoxicated. “I’d probably been drinking for about four days straight. My eyes were red and bloodshot, I was slurring words and not making any sense,” said the drummer, who joined Iron Maiden in 1982. “I don’t remember doing the interview at all. I realized that is not good situation to be in. So I haven’t had a drink in a while now. I’m not saying I’ll never have another but something had to change.”

But quitting the sauce hasn’t always been easy for McBrain, who says he still struggles with the temptation to drink. “I was at dinner last night with some friends and everyone was getting a bit drunk,” he said. “I love red wine and this bottle went right past me, and I immediately thought ‘give me that bottle,’ but I let it go. It wasn’t a nice feeling. I know that all it would take is one drink.” 

Iron Maiden is currently touring the world to promote their most recent album, The Book of Souls. Dickinson says he purposely waited until the album was recorded before seeking medical treatment for his cancer, risking his voice in doing so. Though it was a close call, he is now making a full recovery. Says McBrain of his bandmate: “I’m just glad Bruce is alright. He seems to be running on 20 cylinders at the moment.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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