Martin Birch, the British record producer who sonically guided an era of heavy metal, helming albums for Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Deep Purple and more, died on Sunday (Aug. 9) at the age of 71.
The cause of death was not confirmed at deadline.
Born in 1948 in Woking, Surrey, Birch got a start in his career as an engineer in the last ‘60s and early ‘70s with Jeff Beck, Deep Purple and on five early Fleetwood Mac LPs.
When Birch worked with a band, he typically recorded in bunches. Across his career, he was invited back to record with bands again and again.
When he finally walked away from the desk, he’d assembled a list of production and engineering credits that read like a who’s who of British heavy metal, with multiple albums by Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Rainbow and Deep Purple, and projects for Blue Öyster Cult, Gary Moore, Faces, Skid Row and many more.
Birch retired in 1992 after producing Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark album, his tenth consecutive LP with the legendary heavy metal outfit.
His contribution to rock and metal was immense, but Birch stayed grounded.
“I don’t consider myself a super-technician,” he told Best Magazine in 1983, “what I do is to me pretty simple, but the fact that I’m used to the bands I have worked with helps me to know instantly what they want, or even what they can achieve, even if they don’t realise it clearly themselves. Or maybe bands trust me over long periods of time just because they find me a particularly likeable character.”
Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale led tributes to Birch, who he recounted was “a huge part of my life…helping me from the first time we met through until Slide It In.”
Sabbath’s Geezer Butler remembered Birch as a “brilliant producer.” Read the reaction to Birch’s passing below.