BLAZE BAYLEY is best known as the man who, at their darkest hour, infused IRON MAIDEN with new passion and enthusiasm and bestowed his voice and songwriting talent to THE X FACTOR and VIRTUAL XI albums in 1995 and 1998 respectively, as well as the track "Virus" on the "Best of the Beast" compilation in 1996. Blaze’s career did, not begin nor end with IRON MAIDEN. The debut album, called LIVE FAST DIE FAST, of his first professional band, WOLFSBANE, was released in 1989. A second album, DOWN FALL THE GOOD GUYS, followed in 1991 and finally, after a live album called MASSIVE NOISE INJECTION in 1993, the band put out their final, selftitled, album in 1994. After diverging from the ranks of IRON MAIDEN, Blaze forged on with a new band simply called BLAZE and released, against great adversity, three studio albums, SILICON MESSIAH in 2000, TENTH DIMENSION in 2002 and BLOOD AND BELIEF in 2004, as well as a live album called AS LIVE AS IT GETS in 2003. By the year 2007, BLAZE has been transformed into BLAZE BAYLEY with the summer seeing the release of the very first DVD from the band. Hopefully later in the year a new studio album, as well as an extensive world tour, will also be forthcoming. Read on to learn what Blaze Bayley has to say about his ordeals and endeavours, past, present and future.
INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA AND JARNO HUOVILA
PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
You’ve got an all new band and management, how about record label?
It’s gonna be our own label. Because of all of the problems I’ve had with SPV/Steamhammer, Def American, Phonogram and Geffen, I’m really sick of the big business side of things. We’re about the music and the fans, and the way big record companies do things is all about the product, which I always hated. When you agonize over the lyrics, sometimes for days or even years, that’s not a product to me, that’s part of my fucking life. In the future everything will be our own and we’ll just have distribution.
You recently changed the band name from BLAZE to BLAZE BAYLEY. Was that to mark this as sort of a new beginning?
The thing is that I spoke to a lot of fans that knew me from IRON MAIDEN and WOLFSBANE and they kept asking what I was doing now. I had released four albums with BLAZE and they just didn’t know. But everybody knows BLAZE BAYLEY, so hopefully, there’s no mistake about my heritage, that I come from WOLFSBANE and IRON MAIDEN, it’s just easier to recognize.
David Bermudez, Nick Bermudez, Blaze, Rico Banderra, Rich Newport
Presumably the first BLAZE BAYLEY release is going to be the DVD that you’ve just shot?
That’s right, from Katowice in Poland.
Did everything go smoothly with the shoot or did you encounter technical difficulties?
We had loads of technical difficulties. Like Dave [Bermudez] played most of "Born as A Stranger" wondering how fucking quiet it was… he was actually unplugged. So, "Born as A Stranger" may not be on the DVD. The last time I did the live album, "As Live as It Gets", a fucking fire alarm went off during it.
When is the DVD going to be released?
That’s supposed to come out in June.
Probably way before the new studio album then?
Yeah, the album should be in November… or February.
Have you already started writing material for the new album?
We’ve just got some rough ideas at the moment because it’s new for all of us working together. The ideas we have worked on are very dark and quite aggressive because of what’s happened over the last couple of years with all the people that have lied, cheated and stolen from me. I think the new album will have a quite dark edge, some of it sounds very old school, some of it more modern, some of it’s really heavy, almost in a death metal sense, and some of it’s more classic in a Maiden and Black Sabbath sense. In June we’ll lock ourselves in a rehearsal room and won’t come out until we have fifteen great songs.
WORKING WITH DORO
A little while ago you played some shows with DORO and the classical orchestra. Can you tell us a little about that?
I had done couple of shows for Doro’s agent, with my band, and she was doing this classic thing and they particularly wanted to do "Fear of the Dark", I didn’t write that songs, but it was one of my favourites in the Maiden days to sing, a great live song. So they asked me if I wanted to do it, then picked out another couple of BLAZE songs and my hits from IRON MAIDEN and arranged them with the orchestra. As a singer you’ve always got a bit of a soft spot for doing something with an orchestra. It’s cringey, it’s sickening and all of this business, but there’s still something about standing in front of a 25-piece band and singing, it’s really magical. You think that classical musicians would be really stuck up, but they’re exactly the same as every other fucking musician that you’ve ever been on tour with, like "Where the beer, the girls, the cello players…".
Have you seen the "Classic Diamonds" DVD that was released from that tour?
Yes, but there’s also other footage, which I’m trying to get as bonus for my DVD, another couple of songs that were filmed in Hamburg.
Scream for me !!!
Thinking back, have you ever thought of what could have happened with WOLFSBANE, if you had carried on?
Nothing would have changed, that ["Wolfsbane"] still would have been our last album. The mentality that we had in the band was that we didn’t want to milk it. We had a reputation for being crazy and for writing the kind of songs that we did, we didn’t just want to carry on and on and become a parody of ourselves.
Did you do much touring with WOLFSBANE outside of the UK?
No and it was always a big disappointment for us in the band. We always wanted to tour outside of the UK, I think it really would have taken the band to the next level, but we ever only had odd chances to go outside of the UK, little bits and pieces, nothing serious.
WOLFSBANE had quite a lot of publicity in the early ’90s, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, it was stupid. I couldn’t walk down the street without being recognized, I was so famous I was like a soap star or something in the UK. Rock was big then as well and I was on TV and hosting a rock show, it was absolutely mad then. Even with that though, we didn’t sell that many records, we hardly sold anything.
THE GLORIOUS IRON MAIDEN
Were you asked to or did you simply decide to tone down your stage act after joining IRON MAIDEN?
Yeah, I did have to tone it down. I toned it down a bit because I thought that MAIDEN was so much more serious and more about the music and the songs as opposed to having a good night out. In WOLFSBANE we came from the pub and club background and before we had a record deal we had to get a reaction, no matter what it took. With MAIDEN you didn’t need to do that because people already knew the songs and were interested in what the new songs were like, everybody had come to see you. So I toned it down, but did get told off a couple of times for too much swearing and being too aggressive.
Do you still receive royalties for the IRON MAIDEN stuff, especially with all these compilations and live albums being released all the time?
Just a little bit, not much now.
Has it ever crossed your mind that perhaps joining IRON MAIDEN was a mistake?
Well, it was not MY mistake, because it’s a legendary band, one of the biggest bands in the world, one that I respected and was a fan of. I thought that it was an unusual choice to choose me and my voice, because my voice is so different to the previous singer [Bruce Dickinson] and different to the first singer [Paul Di’Anno].
Janick Gers, Steve Harris, Blaze, Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain
Did you have to go through the auditions?
Everybody had to audition, the only advantage I had was that the guys from the band knew me because I had supported IRON MAIDEN in WOFLSBANE. Steve Harris already had my records because I had given them to him, so I didn’t have to send a tape in. I still had to learn the songs, go through two auditions and sing with the band same as everybody else.
Any memorable stories from the times you played in Finland with IRON MAIDEN, the Nummirock festival for example?
Oh, that was absolutely fantastic. They had like an old caravan for the dressing room and it [the festival] was in the middle of nowhere. You would go on this road and it got narrower and narrower, you saw less and less houses, more and more trees and then eventually you came to a lake and next to it there was a small clearing and like 10,000 people jumping up and down screaming to heavy metal. We were headlining and it was great fun, but everybody was SO drunk and out of it.
As we were driving back… I don’t know what it is, but people feel "Oh, I’m driving an important band. I’ll show what a good driver I am." and suddenly they turn into fucking Schumacher. I’m not interested in how good a driver you think you fucking are, I just want to get back to the hotel in one fucking piece. I don’t know if this guy was trying to cap 200km/h on this truck or what, but it wasn’t quite dark and there… in front of us is this fucking great animal! I don’t know if it was a stag or a moose or what you guys have up here, but whatever they are they stand in the middle of the road in front of heavy metal bands at 200km/h. The breaks were schreeching and the horn was blowing, but the fucking thing wasn’t moving and as we got closer and closer. We must have been "that" close to the moose and then… it just fucking walked off the road, like that. There were signs everywhere "Careful, mooses crossing.".
Wow, IRON MAIDEN’s story nearly brought to an end by a moose. That must have been an experience.
It was an experience alright ! But I’m not saying anything against Finland, just that the driver was CRAZY! I like wild animals… especially when they’re cooked well.
Do you remember the time you and Nicko McBrain were doing promotion for the Virtual XI album here?
In a place called Planet Hollywood, it was great. The record company set up all the promo at Planet Hollywood here in Helsinki, they treated us like big celebrities. At the end I said I’d love to have a t-shirt or something and fucking hell, we got leather jackets, like 500 euros worth of leather jackets! We were drunk as anything by the end of the day, "Come and have a drink guys!", "Yeah, okay.". Of course you answer the same fucking question about fifty times and you can hear yourself speaking but there’s like a part of your brain that’s melting.
Any recollections from the last time you played with IRON MAIDEN here in Helsinki at the Ice Hall, back in 1998?
Yeah, it’s an ice rink? The way it is, especially as a singer, you sweat and instantly you’re cold. When normally we’re under lights, we’re sweating and being warm, now you’re sweating and you’re freezing cold, BUT the air is so dense, because it’s cold, that it’s great to sing. So you’re freezing cold, but your voice sounds better than it does at any other gig. It’s like torture!
It was actually a pretty nice sized tour compared to the previous one, wasn’t it?
That’s the surprising thing really. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the sales of "The X Factor" were the same as the last IRON MAIDEN album before me ["Fear of the Dark" in 1992] and the sales of "Virtual XI" went up, they exceeded "The X Factor".
Were you still growing together as a band at that point?
I’d got material that was ready to be worked on for the third album. I’d got ideas that I was going to ask Steve [Harris] if he wanted to work on them with me, or ask Dave [Murray] or talk to Janick [Gers]. I was ready for the third album and well… it was all over. I took those ideas and put them on the "Silicon Messiah" album.
A lot of stuff left over from the "Virtual XI" sessions, some of it written by you, made it’s way onto the "Brave New World" album…
I can’t talk about that…
Alright. Going back to "Silicon Messiah", it came out a little over a year after you had left IRON MAIDEN?
That album is my masterpiece… and my tragedy. When I left IRON MAIDEN, the management said "People don’t make it after IRON MAIDEN because they don’t get their album out on time. You have to capitalize on being famous from IRON MAIDEN and get your album out, so people can see what you’re doing." That’s exactly what I did and had my album ready for Christmas. I had a band together and was ready to go on tour, but the management wouldn’t let me do that. Then they said the album has to come out before IRON MAIDEN, so I got it ready with artwork and everything for Christmas and then the management made sure that the album came out the SAME WEEK as "Brave New World". What chance did I stand?
Thank you Blaze for the interview !
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LIVE PICTURES FROM HELSINKI SHOW !!!