Adrian Smith rocks his Floyd Rose-equipped Jackson on the World Slavery tour, June 12, 1985,
at Pine Knob Music Theatre in
Clarkston, Michigan. Photo by Ken Settle
With three guitarists, how do you get the
subtle nuances of harmonized bends and
vibrato to sound cohesive?
We sit down and listen to each other,
and you hear what someone is doing and naturally
go there. It’s not hit or miss. Obviously,
if anything is bent totally out of key, we’ll just
go back and redo it.
If I need to match them, I’ll match them,
but more often than not we don’t plan out
these things. The whole point is that you have
three very different guitarists. I mean, if we both
sound exactly the same, why don’t we just track
Adrian? Music is personal. I’ll play how I play.
Smith: It can be very difficult with three guitarists,
though. I’m really sensitive to tuning, intonation,
and bending right together. I notice
that a lot of people don’t hear it, but I hear it
and it really bothers me. Kevin doesn’t hear it,
and Steve doesn’t hear it. Sometimes I have to
fight to say, “That does not sound right.”
So you will redo a track to, say, match the
rate of a vibrato?
Yeah. Dave and Janick probably have
similar vibratos—a quicker vibrato—and I have
a slower vibrato. Sometimes, if it’s for the
good of the song, I won’t do a vibrato. I’ll just
play it straight and it fits in with their vibratos.
I’ll compromise. Performing live is easy, but
recording three guitarists is very difficult.
However, you can take it to the extreme
and get us to play it exactly the same, and put
the bends in exactly the same place. But then
you might as well have just one guitarist do
all the tracks. If you listen to [Deep Purple’s]
, you’ll hear two voices and one might be
slightly off kilter. Ian Gillan did this a lot in the old
days of Deep Purple. I love that. If you listen to
the early Sabbath solos, Tony [Iommi] would play
two solos and one would be doing a completely
different thing than the other. I love that!
Adrian, I know you sometimes tune down to
D or lower, but Janick and Dave don’t. Was
that the case on this album?
I actually pleaded with the other guys to
tune down for one song, “Mother of Mercy,”
because they don’t really like doing it. The
original demo was in E, but it was too high for
Bruce to sing so we moved it down to D—which
isn’t really a heavy key. I played with Bruce’s solo
band, and he was really into the dropped-D tuning.
Steve didn’t tune down though.
Since you use Floyd Roses, do you have a
separate guitar for the dropped-D tuning?
Yeah. You have to.
What piece of gear do each of you
In the studio, I just use what I use
on stage—a 100-watt Marshall DSL and an
American Strat loaded with DiMarzio pickups.
Sometimes I’ll use Stevie Ray Vaughan singlecoils
just to get a different sound. Kevin Shirley
isn’t really into messing around with different
amps and different sounds. Sometimes, in the
past, I’ve recorded with just a guitar straight
into a Marshall. I wanted to go back and try it
with different amps and stuff, but I wasn’t able
to because the band wants to keep it like a live
setup. It can be a little frustrating, to be honest.
For example, because you want to keep a
pure sound straight into the amp, you have to
compromise on the clean sound in the studio.
Instead of getting a nice Fender Twin for a clean
tone, you’d just use a Marshall with the guitar
volume down, which isn’t really ideal.
I just got a Fulltone Deja’Vibe I really
like. Also, using just a little bit of delay is nice
for ambience, so it’s not completely dry. With
Maiden, because there are three guitarists, you
need to cut through everything, and having
that ambience helps. And maybe a little bit of
a chorus—anything that can add some spark
and make it more musical and less flat.
A Marshall amp.