Correct. However, what I said was, Nicko "interprets" tempos very freely, not that he's necessarily pushing the tempo. I'm referring to the slight decelerations and accelerations when he plays fills, switches grooves, or moves to new sections in a song. He has a looser grip on the speed of a tune than the fairly metronomic Clive, letting the song's natural ebb and flow (and indeed, Steve's playing ahead of the beat) come out more in his playing and, thus, be translated onto record.It's Steve who's pushing the tempo. Nicko lets it happen, yes, but Steve's bass is always slightly ahead of the kick. Had they recorded to a click-track, they would have lost this entirely. Take "The Wicker Man" or "Lord of Light" as examples. It's so wrong... But it makes the songs feel so eager that I can't help but love it.
Kevin Shirley commented on this, and named it as his main reason for letting the band record "live" in the studio.
Some examples: his intro fills in Wickerman, the breakdown in Longest Day, and the way he changes the feel of the bridge coming out of the solos in 2 Minutes live.