News of his death was revealed by Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale on Twitter on Aug. 9. The cause of death is as yet unknown.
It is with a very heavy heart I’ve just had verified my very dear friend & producer Martin Birch has passed away…Martin was a huge part of my life…helping me from the first time we met through until Slide It In…Mt thoughts & prayers to his family, friends & fans…💔💔 pic.twitter.com/J4UyDiG9zR
— David Coverdale (@davidcoverdale) August 9, 2020
The Surrey-born Birch began his career in the late 1960s as an engineer, working on recordings for Jeff Beck, Fleetwood Mac (“Kiln House” “Bare Trees”), Deep Purple (“In Rock” “Machine Head”) and Rainbow (“Rising” “Long Live Rock ’n Roll”). A craftsman of early recording technology, he ably captured the energy of live bands and loud amplification, helping create clear, focused recordings that brought a new power to the heavy rock of the 1970s as the psych-rock edges of the 1960s faded away.
Known for a midrange-forward approach that favored guitars, Birch, whose nickname was Headmaster, would become perhaps best known for his 11-year stint with Iron Maiden, serving as the producer and engineer of canonical records like “Killers,’ “Number of The Beast,” “Piece Of Mind” and “Somewhere In Time.” He followed up the success of those releases with work on Whitesnake’s 1982 album “Saints & Sinners,” which included the original version of future single “Here I Go Again.” The song would be rerecorded in 1987 and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Birch’s long-term collaborations extended beyond Maiden and Whitesnake to work with other metal acts like Rainbow and Deep Purple, the latter which led to Birch helming two Black Sabbath albums, “Heaven and Hell” and “Mob Rules.”
Although he retired in 1992, Birch was a key player in ushering in a second wave of British Metal in the 1970s and into the 80s when the genre dominated globally.
Update: Commenting on Birch’s death to radio personality Eddie Trunk on August 10 were Iron Maiden members Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson and manager Rod Smallwood. Read their statements below:
Steve Harris: “He was just absolutely brilliant. He wasn’t just a producer, he was a hands-on engineer too, so he knew how to get a great sound. He was also fantastic at motivating people; he just had a knack of getting the best out of you. He was also a really nice man, great fun with a terrific sense of humour and that made him easy to work with. We all got along with him really well and the whole band is very saddened by today’s news.”
Bruce Dickinson: “To me, Martin was a mentor who completely transformed my singing: he was a psychotherapist and in his own words a juggler who could mirror exactly what a band was. That was his special talent as a producer. He was not a puppeteer, he did not manipulate the sound of the band, he just reflected it in the best possible way. Apart from all of that he was a wonderful, warm & funny human being. Martin & I shared a passion for martial arts – he for karate and me for fencing which gave us another bond too. I’m so very sad to hear this news, it’s incredible that he has passed away at such a young age for a man who was so full of life.”
Rod Smallwood: “He was a fantastic guy who always shared a mutual respect with the band. He never, ever, let us down in the studio. He was a true gentleman and he will be hugely missed by everyone in the Maiden Family.”