Def Leppard Considered Replacing Steve Clark With Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith
Despite this era in Def Leppard's history being especially important, this factual nugget remains widely unknown to swaths of fans of both groups. Clark, who at the time was on a six month leave from Def Leppard, passed away at the age of 30 from a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs in 1991. This left Def Lep in search of a new guitarist as they prepared their next album, Adrenalize.
Having left Iron Maiden in 1990, a year after striking out with his one-and-done side project A.S.a.P., of which he was the singer and guitarist, Smith pursued his chance at occupying the newly vacant guitar spot in England's premiere rock act that had released the monstrously successful Hysteria album in 1987.
Smith spoke about the opportunity in a new interview with EonMusic concerning his debut memoir, Monster of River & Rock, which also details his love for fishing. Careful not to share too much about what appears to be a complicated story, the metal icon did confirm the truth to this piece of history when stating, "Well, emmm… [long pause] I was, yeah. Yeah I was. I’m not sure… I want to write more books; that might be in my next one! [laughing] There’s a whole story about that, there’s a whole story about that."
Ultimately, Def Leppard recruited Vivian Campbell, who has remained with the band through the present.
During the interview, Smith also divulged that he's been working on new music outside of Iron Maiden, but remained secretive once more. "I’m very excited about it, but I can’t say," said the steadfast guitarist. "I’m doing a lot of singing, but the person I’m working with, we’re sort of splitting the vocals. But that’ll be coming. I’m very excited about it, but I’m sworn to secrecy at the moment."
While looking forward, the Iron Maiden axeman also had time for reflection, commenting on the recent passing of producer Martin Birch, who was at the helm of each Maiden album through 1992's Fear of the Dark, after which he retired. Birch had also produced legendary records by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Whitesnake and more.
"Well, firstly, it was very sad when he passed away. I was shocked, really, I mean, he was quite young still. He was only 71," lamented Smith.
"Martin obviously did a lot of great bands; before us he did Purple and Sabbath. He was great, but he was a bit intimidating at first, because he had this big reputation. I’d never been in the studio to do a proper album before [1981’s ‘Killers]; I mean, I could hardly eat in the week leading up to going in the studio. But he had an air of authority about him because of his reputation," he continued.
Warmly recollecting one memorable trait of Birch's, Smith offered, "He also – as he reminded us on many occasion – he was a karate black belt, and there’s a few stories about that in the book; if he had a few drinks after a [recording] session, he’d start doing his karate routine and practicing his kicks and his chops in the studio; you’d see all the roadies scurrying around moving the guitars out of the way in case he kicked the headstock off a vintage Les Paul or something!"
Elsewhere, Smith was reluctant to comment on any future touring plans as the coronavirus remains a threat throughout the world. Iron Maiden did, however, announce their rescheduled 2020 "Legacy of the Beast" tour dates for next year back in the spring.
Monsters of River and Rock will be out Sept. 3 through Virgin Books.
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