Not many girls accept the challenge to “hide” their beauty behind a drum kit, but when they dare to pick up the drumsticks and start playing, the results are usually awesome. That’s exactly the case with our Metal babe this month, the amazing Heavy Metal/Hard Rock drummer Linda McDonald, also known as “Nikki McBurrain”, from the all-female Iron Maiden tribute band The Iron Maidens, and “Brandy Castillo”, from the all-female Ozzy Osbourne tribute band The Little Dolls . Besides those two tribute projects, she’s also the drummer for the cover bands Valley Dolls, Crabby Patty (I’m So Unclear!) and Unholy Pink, and the drummer/co-founder of the all-female Heavy Metal band Phantom Blue from its start back in 1987 until they parted ways in 2001.
Of Irish and Japanese descent, which kind of explains her exotic traces, Linda Ann McDonald was born in the city of Great Falls, Montana, United States, and by the age of 4 she was already drumming on her mom’s kitchen plastic containers, then taking guitar, piano, drums and violin lessons. Linda also attended several drumming and ear training courses at the Dick Grove School of Music to improve her playing skills.
Her biggest idols in the world of music are of course the beasts Clive Burr (R.I.P.) and Nicko McBrain, but she also mentions important drummers such as Simon Phillips, John Bonham, Alex Van Halen and Phil Collins as other influences in her music style. Linda is currently endorsed by Paiste cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks, Drum Workshop drums, pedals and hardware, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and in terms of success and media, she has been featured in lots of music magazines such as Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Modern Drummer, some Heavy Metal/Hard Rock radio shows, as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and won many prizes including “Best Drummer/Performance of Drums and Percussion” at the 7th Annual LA Music Awards in 1997, and “Best Female Drummer” at the 3rd and 7th Annual Rock City News Awards Show, in 1998 and 2001 respectively.
Although she’s more recognized nowadays for her contribution to the music of The Iron Maidens, in my opinion the most electrifying moment of her career were her years smashing the drums with the amazing band Phantom Blue, with whom she recorded two full-length studio albums entitled Phantom Blue (1989) and Built to Perform (1993), an album of previously recorded demos called Prime Cuts & Glazed Donuts (1995), the live album Caught Live! (1997), and finally the EP Full Blown (1998). If you don’t know anything about this band, I suggest you listen to the entire Built to Perform album HERE: it’s impossible not to bang your head with this pure Hard Rock release. Despite the band breaking up in 2001, Linda and Courtney Cox, one of her bandmates from The Iron Maidens, joined former Phantom Blue members Kim Nielsen-Parsons, Gigi Hangach (who was the inspiration for one of our previous Metal chicks, Mia Coldheart) and Tina Wood for a reunion at a very special öne night only” concert in 2009 for the benefit of brain research in memory of Phantom Blue co-founder Michelle Meldrum, who died of a cystic growth in her brain in 2008.
With The Iron Maidens, Linda has recorded the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005) and Route 666 (2007), the EP The Root of All Evil (2008), and a video in 2010 entitled Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan 2010. You can find a lot of excellent videos from Linda and the other “Iron Maidens” kickin’ ass on YouTube, as for example this amazing version for The Evil That Men Do live in Las Vegas in 2012. And it’s easy to understand why The Iron Maidens are so good in what they do: according to Linda, excelling as a tribute band is all about recreating the whole live show vibe of the original band, including first of all the sound, with the stage, clothing and signature moves of the members up next.
When asked about her favorite Iron Maiden songs to perform live, she always mentions the unparalleled classics Phantom of the Opera and Revelations as her top ones, mainly due to all the power and emotion they have. Furthermore, our gorgeous drummer considers the superb Maiden Japan as one of the most important albums of her life: in her own words, “Clive Burr is just on fire on that recording!”, and it was Clive’s perfect drumming on that album that made her decide to play the drums. Besides Maiden Japan, Linda said she would truly love to play the all-time classic Somewhere In Time from beginning to end one day. What can I say about that? That would be an impeccable concert without a shadow of a doubt.
In addition, among her favorite non-Iron Maiden bands and musicians, there’s a lot of awesomeness such as Pantera, Judas Priest, Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.), Steve Vai, some non-traditional Heavy Metal bands and artists like Static X and System of a Down, and even Barry Manilow. Linda also mentioned during one of her interviews that the song Fast as a Shark, one of Accept’s biggest classics and by far my favorite song from those Teutonic Heavy Metal masters, really opened her eyes to the power of Heavy Metal. All those formidable choices just corroborate her marvelous taste for music, don’t you agree?
And at long last, Linda is also an avid pet lover, having a dog, a cat and a parakeet in her home. I wonder if she has ever tried to teach any of those animals how to do that weird scream Nicko always does in between some songs during an Iron Maiden concert, or how they react to her intense drumming and to the music she listens to at home. Anyway, one thing I’m certain about is that those are really lucky pets.
“I just love knowing you are able to touch people with music and love sharing that connection.” – Linda McDonald