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Iron Maiden Drummer Bashes Out Great Barbecue

Larry Marano, Getty Image

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain is still waiting for bandmate Janick Gers to give him a guitar for the wall of his Florida restaurant, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ribs. The joint, which has a live stage, opened in Coral Springs, Fla. last year and is supposed to have ribs that are out of this world.

“We had two [barbecue ribs] judges come in to eat, just to check it out, and I got talking to them,” McBrain tells Noisecreep during a stop in Toronto. “They said, ‘You know we’ve been judging the Memphis Cookoff for the last 10 years, my wife and I?’ And I said, ‘Really? So what do you think of these ribs?’ He said, ‘They’re on a par with the rest of the country. The only thing you have to work on is your presentation.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not in a competition at the moment, am I?’”

“The ribs are very very good,” confirms Gers, who confesses he’s only had ribs once in his life and that was at Rock ‘n’ Roll Ribs. “And I’m not going to have any more until I go back there.”

“Steve Gadd, our tour manager, he’s not a big rib lover,” says McBrain. “He came to the restaurant twice and both times he had a rack of ribs. The first time he said, ‘I’ve never had anything so succulent.’ The meats falls off the bone. We, as English people, are brought up to eat with knives and forks, but you can pick the rib up and just tap the meat off and use your fingers.”

Menu items have names like House Band Salad, Security Staff Stuffed Potato, Tour Bus BBQ Salad, Road Crew Onion Loaf and Rock ‘n’ Roll Chix. The Nicko’s Boomertat Wings and boneless Lazy Roadie Wings can be done in a choice of sauces including Run to the Hills hot. His Rikathans Chili is even on the room service menu of the Sanctum Soho Hotel in London. But it’s the Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby Back Ribs that made McBrain get into a business almost as risky as the music biz.

“It’s not just Maiden fans that come in,” McBrain reveals. “We do get a lot of pilgrimages, people come in and look at all the stuff on the walls, but most people that come in always come out satisfied. And it’s not major expensive. A rack of ribs is $16, and you get a pound and a quarter to a pound and a half of ribs.”

The idea for the restaurant stemmed from a barbecue sauce recipe he “wormed” out of his friend Rick Baum, and then “embellished it” with his own ingredients. “He actually turned around and said, ‘What you done to my sauce?’” McBrain recalls. “I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘It’s better than mine.’ He won’t say that today. He denies it [laughs]. When I cooked ribs, he’d cook ribs and all our friends said, ‘You need to open a restaurant; these are the best ribs we’ve ever had.’ So we started thinking abut it, and two years later …”

Now Baum is a partner and main chef/operator at Rock ‘n’ Roll Ribs, along with a third man, family friend and wholesale grocery businessman Mitch Tanne. Not surprisingly, both are musicians and often take to the stage that’s set up in the restaurant. “Some nights we’ll go, ‘Fancy a jam?’ And we’ll get up and we’ll do McBrain Damage stuff or a bit of ‘War Pigs’ or a bit of [Black Sabbath] or [Dio],” says McBrain.

“I said to the guys when we were in rehearsal, ‘Lads, can I have one of your guitars each?’ ‘You’re having a laugh,’ Janick said. ‘I’ve only got five.’ I said, ‘No, I’ll take one of the ones you’ve got at home.’ He said, ‘I don’t have any at home. I’ve only got those five over there.’” Gers laughs at his lie.

“I said, ‘Yeah right,’” McBrain continues. “So they all gave me a bit of job about it. ‘I’m not giving you one of my guitars! Piss off!’ I said, ‘How about a temporary loan?’ And I put a sign, ‘On Loan From Dave Murray,’ underneath his guitar; one from Adrian Smith and one from Jan. Still haven’t got one yet and that’s six months ago. I’ve been waiting.”

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