Adrian Frederick “H” Smith (born 27 February 1957) is an English guitarist, best known as a member of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, for whom he writes songs and performs live backing vocals on some tracks.
Smith grew up in London and became interested in rock music at 15. He soon formed a friendship with future Iron Maiden guitarist Dave Murray, who inspired him to take up the guitar. After leaving school at 16, he formed a band called Urchin, which he led until their demise in 1980. He joined Iron Maiden in November 1980, replacing Dennis Stratton. Following a short-lived solo project called ASAP, he left Iron Maiden in 1990 and, after a year-long hiatus, formed the bands The Untouchables and, subsequently, Psycho Motel. In 1997, Psycho Motel was put on hold when Smith joined the band of former Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. Smith and Dickinson would go on to return to Iron Maiden in 1999, after which the band gained new success. Smith had a side project called Primal Rock Rebellion, and has recorded a self-titled album with Richie Kotzen, under the group name Smith/Kotzen, due to be released in March 2021.
Early years and Urchin: 1957–1980
Born in Hackney, Smith grew up in Clapton. He purchased his first record, Deep Purple‘s Machine Head, at the age of 15. This led him to befriend Dave Murray, with whom he formed a band called Stone Free, which comprised Murray on guitar, Smith on vocals and their friend, Dave McCloughlin, playing the bongos.
After seeing the attention Murray received from girls, Smith took up the guitar, starting with an old Spanish guitar once owned by his brother, before purchasing an old guitar of Murray’s for £5. His early influences included Johnny Winter and Pat Travers, which he claims made him a “melodic player” rather than a “speed merchant or a shredder” as he “was inspired by blues rock rather than metal.”
Leaving school after completing his O-levels, Smith formed a band called Evil Ways, including Dave Murray on guitar, which was later renamed Urchin. Smith began writing his own material, including “22 Acacia Avenue”, which was later included on Iron Maiden‘s The Number of the Beast (1982).
At this point, Murray left the band to join Iron Maiden and Urchin signed with DJM Records and released a single, “Black Leather Fantasy”, in 1977. Shortly afterwards, Murray joined Urchin on their next single, “She’s a Roller”, as he had been sacked from Iron Maiden after a row with then vocalist Dennis Wilcock, although he was reinstated six months later. Smith was also offered a place in Iron Maiden while they were in the process of signing with EMI in 1979, but turned them down to continue with his own band, a decision he later regretted as Urchin split up in 1980.
First tenure in Iron Maiden: 1980–1990
Without a band, Smith was left “wondering what to do next,” before he “literally bumped into Steve [Harris] and Dave,” who asked if he might want to reconsider joining. After a successful audition, Smith debuted with the band on a German TV show, before setting out on a UK tour and recording the Killers album, released in 1981. Smith’s first song-writing contributions appeared on The Number of the Beast, co-penning “Gangland” and “The Prisoner”, as well as the previously mentioned “22 Acacia Avenue”, after which he began co-writing many songs with singer Bruce Dickinson, on the following Piece of Mind album.
Smith and Dave Murray combined playing dual lead guitars, creating what AllMusic calls “the most formidable twin-guitar attack in heavy metal, outside of Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing.” Smith, along with Steve Harris, also provides the band’s backing vocals, although he sang lead on “Reach Out”, the B-side to the “Wasted Years” single, featuring Bruce Dickinson on backing vocals. Originally written by guitarist Dave “Bucket” Colwell, whom he had worked with on The Entire Population of Hackney project, Smith would later sing “Reach Out” again for Colwell’s solo album, Guitars, Beers & Tears, released in 2010.
Departure from Iron Maiden and other projects: 1989–1999
While Iron Maiden were taking some time off in 1989, Smith released a solo LP with the band ASAP (Adrian Smith And Project), entitled Silver and Gold, which was a commercial failure in spite of a promotional club tour. Unhappy with the direction the band were taking for their next release, No Prayer for the Dying, and feeling that he could not help enough in the creative work, Smith agreed to leave Iron Maiden in 1990 during the album’s pre-production stages, and was replaced by Janick Gers. After releasing the experimental Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son albums in 1986 and 1988 respectively, Steve Harris had decided that the band should go for a “stripped-down,” “street level” approach, which Smith thought was a “step backward.” No Prayer for the Dying contained one last Smith song, co-penned with Bruce Dickinson, entitled “Hooks in You”.
After leaving, Smith started a family with his Canadian wife, Nathalie, and would not play guitar again until he joined Iron Maiden onstage at Donington Park in 1992 to perform “Running Free“. In the same year, after hearing King’s X for the first time, he decided that he would “love to play in a band like that” and formed The Untouchables, which later became Psycho Motel. The band recorded two albums, State of Mind in 1996 and Welcome to the World in 1997, during which they supported Iron Maiden on the British leg of The X Factour. The project was put on hold, however, when Smith joined Bruce Dickinson for his 1997 album, Accident of Birth, after which he became a full-time member of Dickinson’s solo outfit, embarking on two world tours and contributing to one further studio release, 1998’s The Chemical Wedding.
Return to Iron Maiden: 1999–present
In 1999, Smith re-joined Iron Maiden, along with vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who commented, “When he left the band in 1990, I think everybody was a bit surprised at how much we missed him and certainly, I don’t think anybody had realized how much the fans would miss him – big time. I wouldn’t have rejoined Iron Maiden if he wasn’t in the band. I just don’t think it would have been complete without Adrian, and now, it’s great having three guitarists.” The band embarked on a short tour, after which the new line-up’s first album, Brave New World, was recorded with producer Kevin Shirley and released in 2000.
He remains in Iron Maiden, with whom he has released four further studio albums, 2003’s Dance of Death, 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death, 2010’s The Final Frontier and 2015’s The Book of Souls. Smith claims that his guitar playing improved after leaving the band in 1990, in particular while working with Roy Z, from whom he “learned a lot about picking” and became “more disciplined.” Since returning to Iron Maiden, he has also continued experimenting with tuning (which he began doing in Psycho Motel), stating that he has used drop D tuning in live renditions of “Run to the Hills“, “Wrathchild”, “The Trooper” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name“. Although Smith had previously been known to contribute shorter, more “commercial” tracks, since his return to the band he has penned many longer songs, beginning with “Paschendale” from Dance of Death.
Primal Rock Rebellion (2012)
Smith performed lead guitar, bass and backing vocals on the album Awoken Broken, by his collaborative studio project with Mikee Goodman of Sikth called Primal Rock Rebellion. The title was released on 27 February 2012, while one song, “I See Lights”, was released as a free download on the project’s official website on 2 January.
Smith/Kotzen is a duo project between Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen (The Winery Dogs). Ultimate Classic Rock described their self-titled debut album as a mixture of blues, traditional R&B, and hard rock. A video for teaser track “Taking My Chances” debuted in January 2021.
Richard Dale Kotzen Jr. (born February 3, 1970) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. As a solo artist, Kotzen has back catalogue of more than 20 album releases. He was a member of glam metal band Poison from 1991 to 1993, Mr. Big from 1999 to 2002, and since 2012, has been the frontman of the band The Winery Dogs. Kotzen was signed to California-based Shrapnel Records from 1988 to 1991, and again from 1995 to 1997.
Kotzen began playing piano at the age of five. At the age of seven, he was inspired to learn the electric guitar by the band Kiss. He started his career in a band named Arthur’s Museum. Kotzen was eventually discovered by Shrapnel Records’ Mike Varney, and he recorded his first solo album by the age of 19, the first of two instrumental records, simply entitled Richie Kotzen. He created the video Rock Chops for REH video in 1989, highlighting many of his formative techniques, including using wide-intervals and fluid sweeping. One year later, a second solo album called Fever Dream was released, which was the first one to also feature his lead vocals. Since then, Kotzen has released a long series of more than twenty albums with musical influences ranging from Rock, Hard Rock, Pop, Blues, Blue-eyed-soul, R&B and Funk to Jazz Fusion.
In 1991, at age 21, Kotzen joined glam metal band Poison, co-writing and performing on the album Native Tongue. This album produced two top-twenty singles which Kotzen co-wrote, “Stand” and “Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)“. In late-1993, Rikki Rockett, the drummer of Poison, discovered that Kotzen was having a relationship with Rockett’s then-fiancee, Deanna Eve. Kotzen was dismissed from the band due to this incident.
Kotzen then focused on his solo career, regularly releasing song oriented, r&b/soul/blues & funk influenced melodic rock albums such as Mother Head’s Family Reunion, Wave Of Emotion, Something To Say, Break It All Down and What Is. He also made guest appearances on several albums by artists like Glenn Hughes, Stevie Salas, T.M. Stevens and others. In 1995 and 1997 he collaborated with Greg Howe on two Jazz Rock Fusion albums.
In 1999, Kotzen replaced Paul Gilbert as guitarist in the mainstream hard rock band Mr. Big, performing on their album Get Over It, which sold more than 175,000 copies in its first two weeks in Japan, eventually reaching platinum status. He also contributed guitars and songwriting to their subsequent release Actual Size. The record included the Kotzen song Shine, which debuted at number one on Japanese radio charts.
In 2001, while still in Mr. Big, Kotzen recorded and released another solo album called Slow, which contains a mix of some crunchy funky and bluesy rock tunes and softer R&B/Pop songs like “I Don’t Wanna Lie”, for which a music video was filmed. On some of the songs on Slow Kotzen experimented with the use of a drum computer, while on others he played drums. After Mr. Big disbanded, Kotzen continued his solo career. He released his next solo album Change, in 2003. The title track, a soft ballad, and the song Get a Life, a rock song in the style of Mr. Big, were featured in TV commercials throughout Japan.
In 2002, Kotzen bought a commercial building in Los Angeles and established a recording studio and production company. He has since produced his own acclaimed solo albums and collaborated with various figures in rock (e.g. Gene Simmons), jazz and fusion, including jazz legend Stanley Clarke, with whom he realized the project Vertú.
The 2004, follow-up-album to Change, Get Up featured a more edgy, aggressive rock sound. It was more hard rock oriented than any of his previous solo outputs since Fever Dream and contains the ballad “Remember”, which became a minor hit.
In 2005, Kotzen teamed up with three Japanese punk rockers to form the short-lived Forty Deuce-Project, which only lasted long enough to record and release one album.
Later in the same year, Kotzen collaborated with Funk Rock Fusion guitarist Steve Saluto on his album Rough Beat, where he contributed 50% of the vocals and co-wrote some of the songs. The album was first released on December 31, 2005, and got re-issued in 2009 under the name Resurrection, coming with five additional tracks.
During the year 2006, Kotzen produced and released two solo studio albums, first Ai Senshi Z×R, an album on which he played several English sung rock covers of theme songs from the Japanese Gundam anime franchise, and only nine months later Into the Black, containing ten self-penned rock songs. The latter starts with the angry song “You Can’t Save Me”, in which he uses the F-word extensively, which eventually turned it into a fan favorite.Kotzen performing in 2007
In 2007, Go Faster was released, which alternatively was named Return of the Mother Head’s Family Reunion in Europe and Japan. On the album, Kotzen showcases a firework of edgy, driving, yet melodic funk influenced blues rock songs with strong hooks and passionate guitar playing. It includes the eight-minute-song “Fooled Again”, which became a live favorite on the following tours, and the soft pop ballad “Chase It” with its significant mandolin riff, for which a music video clip was filmed in Venice.
In 2009, Kotzen also teamed up with songwriter/producer Richie Zito for a short-lived project they called Wilson Hawk. Wilson Hawk produced one album called The Road, on which they celebrate some R&B & soul influenced pop music in the style of the late 60s and 70s and many soulful pop ballads.Kotzen in 2009
After the “Peace Sign” world tour, Kotzen released one single in 2010 (the Rod Stewart reminiscent Angry Boy).
In 2011, Kotzen released a full-length Solo album titled 24 Hours, which features ten catchy, fresh 70s funk & r&b influenced melodic rock songs with strong hooks and vibes, garnished with a lot of fiddling around. The release was followed by another tour.
In 2012, he joined forces with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan to form the rock supergroup The Winery Dogs who released their self-titled debut album on May 15, 2013 in Japan, with a worldwide release on July 23 of the same year. A world tour followed.
After that, Kotzen went on an acoustic solo tour and started working on his 20th solo effort, which became the Cannibals album, that was released on January, 5th, 2015. Cannibals features a more relaxed, and often r&b influenced rock/pop sound. Kotzen’s wife, bassist/vocalist Julia Lage, added some background vocals and also appears in the music video for the song “In An Instant”. On the song “I’m All In” Kotzen shares the vocals with Doug Pinnick of King’s X and Kotzen’s daughter August Eve is featured on the ballad “You”, playing the piano. For “You” also a music video was recorded.
By the end of 2016, The Winery Dogs went on hiatus and Kotzen focused on his next solo record Salting Earth, which came out on April 14, 2017. From August until late September Kotzen completed a European tour.
On January 25, 2018, Kotzen released a video for his new single called The Damned via YouTube, which was filmed at Paramount Ranch in Agoura, California by director Vicente Cordero. On June 5, 2018, a second video single called Riot was released via YouTube, which was again directed by Vicente Cordero. On December 11, 2018, Kotzen announced a Winery Dogs Tour through the US for May, 2019, via his official Facebook page, which they completed successfully then.
For his 50th birthday in 2020, Kotzen wanted to offer his fans something special. So in the second half of 2019 he challenged himself to write and record 50 songs, and have them ready for release on February, 3rd, 2020, the date of his birthday. This resulted in the 50-track-triple-album simply entitled 50 for 50.
For the song Devil’s Hand, a video clip was filmed by the seaside, which was again directed by Vicente Cordero, and also includes scenes with Kotzen’s wife, Julia Lage.
Another music video for the song As You Are was shot by Kotzen himself, dancing and playing in his kitchen, wearing a funny pajama, while he was in quarantine with CoVid-19.
In the second half of 2020, Kotzen began working on a project called Smith/Kotzen with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith. Nine songs were created and will appear on an album, set for a release on March 26, 2021. The album is produced by Smith and Kotzen and mixed by Kevin Shirley.
- Smith/Kotzen (2021)