Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Blaze Bayley

Interview By Michael de los Muertos
Transcription by Ice Maiden

In his own words, Blaze Bayley is about old-school traditional British heavy metal. Everyone knows he cut his teeth as Bruce Dickinson's successor in Iron Maiden--arguably the best traditional British heavy metal band of all time--but since parting with the Irons, Blaze has been making a significant name for himself with his solo material. From "Silicon Messiah" to his new album, "As Live As It Gets " Blaze has been working on his own sound while still keeping within the traditions of the British metal background that inspires him. I had the occasion to speak to Blaze just before his live debut on U.S. shores. Here's what he had to say.

 

Thanks for doing the interview with us!

You’re welcome.

 

 

You are in New Jersey right now, for the Metalfest?

That’s correct.

 

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Have you guys played already?

Nah, we’re playing tonight.

 

 

Cool.

Yeah, we’re really excited about it. I mean, this is the first show in the US for the band. And we are really, really excited about it.

 

 

That’s great! So, what is going through your mind as you are preparing for this show? Was it difficult for you to get over here to play?

Well, we’ve had to change managers, because the old manager wasn’t able to get us a US release. So, we’ve got a new manager now, and he’s got us the albums out in the USA, and new live albums coming out, and our catalogue is coming out here, as well. So, that’s it, really. They’ve asked us to come out to play in New Jersey before, but we were touring in Europe at the time and we couldn’t make it. But we said we really, really want to come over here, so that is how it has worked out for us.

 

 

So, what are your feelings on getting into the US market? There is a perception that the US metal scene is different than it is in Europe. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Well, it seems to be a lot more driven by TV-by MTV and stuff like that. Perhaps the real metal bands…the true metal bands… don’t get as much play on the TV. I don’t think much has changed in that department. It’s still the same bands that…sometimes the crowds get bigger or smaller, but those bands seem to stay around, and I think we are a British metal band, and our sound is really British. And, I mean, we are one of those bands…we aren’t fashionable, we don’t have videos or anything like that really. It is all about recording albums and the music is the most important thing to us-not being “fashionable.” So that is the way we think of it, really, and I think that in Europe, perhaps in mainland Europe, well people tend to think, “That band’s been around awhile, they must be worth listening to.” Whereas, in, like, the UK, they think, “That band’s been around awhile. That’s really boring. I want something new.” It is a bit more fashion orientated. But, I think there are still the fans that want to listen to this music, and we found that at our shows we get some Marilyn Manson fans, and people with Slipknot t-shirts who are, you know, really just interested in getting into metal-anything heavy. Which is pretty much, when I was a boy, my first cds (well, it was vinyl back then), it was very much like that.

 

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Well, I went to the ProgPower festival last fall and it seems like you guys would be the type of band that would play really well to that type of crowd. And I know a lot of European bands were very surprised at the reception they got in the US because of that. You guys may be pleasantly surprised by the crowd response tonight.

That’d be great. I mean, we just don’t know what to expect. This is our first show, and people know BB from Iron Maiden, but they don’t really know a lot about Blaze, the band. So it would be really interesting to see what happens.

 

 

Are you going to do any more US or Canadian tour dates?

Well, what we are hoping to do is if we go down well tonight, if people like us and if they are into the music, then we are hoping that they will ask us back to do some more shows. We’d love to play a lot more shows over here, but we haven’t had the opportunity to do so before now because we just haven’t had albums out over here. But, now we’ve got a deal to release our catalogue and our new live album and our next studio album is going to be coming out over here. So, we’re really excited. We’d like to make the US a part of our regular tour.

 

 

So what has been the reaction to the live action release? What kind of responses have you gotten so far from the people who have heard it?

Oh, it has been incredible. I just can’t believe it. Do you have it?

 

 

I don’t have it yet-I’m sorry.

Yeah, it’s been great. I can’t believe the reaction that we’ve had. Everybody that has heard it so far has really got into it. They’ve picked up on the energy of the band and all of that, so, I think it’s been great! We didn’t expect anything like that response. The main reason we did the album was because even though we’ve got two studio albums out, we’ve had great reviews all over the internet and in the music press, but, even still, there are a lot of people who don’t know what Blaze, the band, sounds like. So, we thought, a live album…we basically recorded a whole live set (plus a little more) cuz the main part of our recording was our Christmas show at home in the UK. We thought, “Well, that will be a real good opportunity for fans to find out what the band is about.” If you don’t know what Blaze is about, then you can listen to that live album and that is it. You can find out that we are a live British metal band. And, hopefully, people will get into that and enjoy the album.

 

 

So, you think the essence of the band comes across more closely on the live album than on your studio albums?

Yeah-we are definitely a live band, because, years ago, when I started, that was it. All I wanted to do was go on stage and play live. And, I think in the band our ambition is really simple-we just want to live on the tour bus and wake up each day outside a gig. That’s my perfect day.

 

 

On the second disc there are a couple of Iron Maiden songs. What went into picking which songs you wanted to do and whether you were going to do them?

What happened is that we’ve always included a couple of Maiden songs in the live set because I’m very proud of the work I did with Iron Maiden. I’m proud of the songs that we wrote together and everything, and I’ve got great memories of that time. Just exactly the same as I do with Wolfsbane-it’s a part of my past. I’ve always played metal. I mean, it’s a part of who I am and where I am from. And a lot of people know me from Maiden, so it’s the same as say, Ronny Dio playing a Sabbath song or a Rainbow song. So, we’ve always included a couple of Maiden songs in the set, but we’ve also primarily made it our own material from our first album and from the second. We’ve been playing “Man on the Edge”-we’ve always had that in our set list-but a lot of fans have asked for “Sign of the Cross” or “Clansman”. So, I ran it by the guys in the band and we had a go at “Sign of the Cross” in rehearsals and it felt really, really good. So, we decided to go ahead and do it live. And on the live album that is actually the first time we ever did “Sign of the Cross” live and we wanted to do it for something different, because there are a lot of fans from the Maiden era who come and see Blaze and we thought it would be something different. And a couple of weeks later we got in the studio and were listening to all the tracks, and it turned out great. It was just great. Our arrangement is a little bit different to the Maiden version, so we decided to go ahead and put it on the album.

 

 

There are a lot of bands that are doing concert dvds now. With your emphasis on live performance, have you thought about doing something like that?

Yeah, we are planning a dvd. But we want to do something that we are really proud of. Because we are fans. When we make an album, then the artwork is very important to us and we try to make that the best that we can possibly make it, and when we are actually in the studio we want to make that the best that we can possibly do, and the best songs that we can, and all of that. So, when it comes to making a dvd we want it to be really good. But, from a fan’s point of view, we want it to be really good value and really say something. So, we are collecting footage at the moment so that we can have that put together. And I think we might work on that next year. And have that as the only thing we do. Because we don’t want to do a dvd at the same time as a live album. We want to focus on one thing. Because I really like the dvd format and we’ve got the ability to mix in 5.1 and everything. So we want to take full advantage of the media when we do it to use it in a creative way. So, when we do it we want to do it really well and do an interesting version, because I know from the dvds I’ve had of bands doing live performances it’s not that special. It may as well be a video in some cases.

 

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Well, I think that there is kind of a learning curve. That bands have really experimented with the format and are now starting to explore what it can do. So, yeah-it seems like you kind of view the live album as a stepping stone to that.

Yeah, I think so. The live album is…well, that is for people to have a sense of what we are about, and, hopefully, by the time we come out with a dvd it will be something that will be worth watching.

 

 

You guys played Wacken this last year-I know I saw you there. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience, because Wacken is…the people that have been there almost uniformly say that it is a really powerful experience to go there. So, I’m curious how the artists feel about it.

We’ve played the Wacken festival twice now, and the first time was like the only show that we had booked in for the Silicon Messiah Tour. It just went absolutely fantastic-much better than we ever could have expected. They had us back last year, and it was like two years down the line, and we had been together a long time, and we’ve played a lot of shows together. And we really, really enjoyed it. It was raining on the day, and it stopped raining just before our set. It was this huge, absolutely huge crowd, and it just was an absolutely fantastic experience. I mean, it’s like a 100 different bands, and meeting different bands and people that you know…it’s just a great vibe. And a great way-I mean, if you like metal music, you are totally 100 percent immersed in metal for a whole weekend. So, it was great fun.

 

 

So, are you guys gonna do it again? Are you going to come back?

Yeah, we’d love to go back and do that.

 

 

What do you see as your place in metal?

Well, we are a British metal band and I suppose that’s our place, really. We’ve been together for a couple of albums, and I think our sound is British. If people want to hear a British metal band, then we are probably the band to check out at the moment. We are one of the only new British metal bands who are playing our style of music.

 

 

Where do you think the metal scene is going in general? Do you think it is healthier today than when you started? Or, how have you noticed a change?

I think Grunge and Nirvana really split the scene. And I think it’s been in recovery ever since. I think at one time, on Mtv the rotation-you could be watching a Motley Crue video and then a Whitney Houston video or something like that. But that doesn’t happen any more. Everything has been segmented into this specific kind of music. So, you don’t get to see as many different things as you used to. And I think that when Grunge came our, and became fashionable and everything, that really hurt Metal. The more aggressive Metal bands and things like this. I think it has never really gone away, and it is slowly coming back now. I think now it is almost OK-with bands like Sum41 and Slipknot, now it is OK to like an older band like Iron Maiden and still like a new band. So, I think it is absolutely starting to change now, to the point where if it is heavy, then it’s OK-it doesn’t matter what particular label it has, you can enjoy it.

 

 

So, how do you feel about the fact that metal is kind of splintered-we have the death metal, power metal, and those types that seem to be very separate from each other, yet you seem to be talking about them coming together in more of a common ground. Is that how you feel about it?

Yeah, that seems to be what is happening. We are a British metal band and I think the format and everything we are in, we hang out and are in the same hotels as the death metal guys, and the grungy bands and all of this. We actually get together. There really is no division between the bands. Nobody in the bands thinks that, “Well, I can’t like your music because I’m in this kind of band.” Everybody just gets along and checks each other out. That’s what I really enjoy about festival shows-you get to meet a lot of other bands and see people that you normally wouldn’t see in a short space of time.

 

 

Tell us a little bit about your creative process, about how you come up with songs. What are your inspirations? Not necessarily what are your musical influences, but what gets you thinking about how you are going to put your songs together and how you are going to do them?

Well, I’ve always been a big science fiction fan, and always have been from a very young age. That has really started to come through with my writing when I started the Silicon Messiah album. When I started writing, the ideas were based all around futuristic and science fictions things, around different books and movies. That has stayed with me, really-I find that a big inspiration. I like big themes as well. So, on the Silicon Messiah album we had the big theme of computers taking over the world, and we tried in as many places as we could to get the music and the lyrics sitting together and reflecting each other. So, it was a lot stronger. And when we went to Tenth Dimension, that album was a whole concept. I wrote a short story for that album, and it is about the government stealing a scientist’s discovery and using it as a weapon of mass destruction. And it is about the way that he starts to realize this and question his values and what he has been doing. And he tries to get his discovery back from the government.

 

 

Do you have any science fiction writers or books that you take a lot of inspiration from?

Yeah, I like Philip K. Dick-he’s really out there.

 

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Yeah. Exactly. That is a great book. And on the first album I wrote the song “Identity” placed around sort of what I’d read in that book and some of my own experiences. So, I think he is a really good writer, and Robert Hanline as well.

 

 

Do you have some nonmetal music influences? Like classical?

I listen to quite a bit of classical music. And I like a bit of soul, as well. But I wouldn’t really call that an influence as much as for a laid back mood. But I really like female voices, so I like artists like Kate Bush and Susan Vega and stuff like that. When I’m chilling out I like to hear that. I really like female voices and the texture of a female voice. So that is the kind of thing I listen to in a mellow mood. But, basically, my favorite type of music is metal, so when I need to pick myself up or have something that reflects my mood, then I always choose something metal.

 

 

How does the creative process of creating song for Blaze differ from other bands you’ve been in. From Wolfsbane or even from Maiden? Is there a different process that you go through than you did with a different group of people?

Yeah, I think it is always different. I mean, the basic chemistry and relationship between the individuals is a big part of the writing process. I don’t think I understood that before. But in Maiden we wrote in a much different way than we did to Wolfsbane. And what I’ve done with my band is that we’ve got together and in the first album, I had a lot of ideas already done, but in the Tenth Dimension album it was really a collaboration and a real band effort. Basically, whatever is good-it doesn’t matter who has written it or whatever-the best stuff goes on the album. And that is it, really. That is the way we like to look at it.

 

 

Hypothetically, what if some sort of metal supergroup with an allstart line-up wanted you to join them. Would you?

It would depend for how long, really. It has been a lot to get the band Blaze together, and I’m just really proud of all the music we have written together and everything that we’ve done. So, I don’t think that I’d do that on a long-term basis. I’d probably do that to try to further my own career with my band, Blaze.

 

 

Would you like to do a tour with Paul DiAnno?

I’ve met Paul, actually. We got together when I was doing a UK tour. I don’t know, really-I wouldn’t see the point in it. Would you?

 

 

Well, not really. Actually it is a question that my editor had, and I’m not sure what he meant by that.

I wouldn’t see the point of that. We’re from different eras. I mean, when Bruce Dickinson was in the band, then people used to say that they wanted DiAnno back. And it was the same for me-when I was in the band, they always wanted Dickinson back. So, we both had the same thing, really, and when I met Paul for the first time I was bitterly disappointed because he said that he didn’t like metal! So, I thought, “Damn, I thought you were there at the forefront. At the forefront of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And now you are telling me that you don’t like heavy metal?!?” I thought that was really, really disappointing.

 

 

Yeah, I can see how that would be pretty shocking. It is coming through that the identity of the band is really a British metal band. What does that mean to you? I mean, obviously there is the long tradition of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and that, itself, has kind of evolved to a new concept. So how do you see the evolution of British metal, I guess?

Well, we certainly have a contemporary edge to what we are doing. The nature of the main writers in the band all have different influences within metal. But, I think we are a British flavor-we have that very strong two lead guitars, with a strong lead vocal. That is the sound that we have and what we always work from. We always think in terms of two guitars and with a vocal, and we are thinking about power and energy and excitement, but we still want to have the melody and the emotion in the song. That is where we come from as a British metal band.

 

 

Do you still listen to a whole lot of the NWOBHM from 20, 25 years ago?

Oh, I listen to everything. If it is a good song, it’s a good song. Just as much as I love “Reign in Blood” from Slayer-it is still as good as “British Steel.” The tough thing is that production values have moved on and technology has moved on so much that modern records sound quite a bit better now than old songs. But I think the stuff that really stands the test of time is all of the early Sabbath stuff. That could come out today and it would still wound contemporary. With the way the sounds are arranged and everything. I think Rainbow, as well, and Deep Purple, that stuff is-however they produced that-was in such a way that you could bring that out now and it would be like, “Wow! Listen to this new style of production.”

 

 

What have you been listening to over the last few days, as far as metal goes?

Last night I was getting drunk to Status Quo. Fozzy was on. So, that was quite a riot cuz I know all the guys from Fozzy as well because Andy Sneap is actually in that band and he produces my albums. So that was a lot of fun and we had a great time last night. So, that is what I have been listening to. And, apart from that, I’ve been listening to the live album, my live album As Metal As it Gets, trying to make sure that I get all the lyrics right! Whenever I get nervous I forget the words, so I really have to try to remain calm before a show. I’m really nervous about the show tonight because it is the first show in the US that we have ever done, so I don’t know what to expect so I’m just trying to remain calm.

 

 

When you go on stage do you think about these sorts of larger concerns? You know, like this is the first show, or are you just thinking on sort of the ground level about putting out the best show?

Well, anytime it is the first one, I always get nervous. The first one of anything, I’m always nervous about that. But when we boil it right now, it’s about doing each song the best that we can. Once we get through those first two songs then we are pretty much settled in and the adrenalin just takes over. But I always just try to settle in. If I just sing my first two songs well, then, generally speaking, I’m going to do well for the whole show. So I really try to concentrate and get those first two songs right. So, we’ll see how it goes! Hopefully people will like us, and get into it, and we won’t have any technical problems and we’ll be able to do what we do!

 

 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to American or Canadian fans?

Well, just check our website (planetblaze.com)-the main reason we have that site is to try to keep something as up-to-date as well can.

 

 

It is a great site.

Thank you very much. As soon as we get any news, and it is confirmed, and it is absolutely the truth, then we try to put it up on our site. So, it is a great place to get the up-to-date truth from us. So, if we have any problems it is straight on the site. So, we hope people enjoy the live album, and hopefully we will be back this year with some more touring.

 

 

Great! Well, best of luck tonight, my personal prediction is that you will have a great show. Typically, the European bands that come over, their first show is surprising in a positive way. Just seeing that from ProgPower last year there were several bands that came over for the first time and they were all pretty surprised at the intensity of the reaction. Hopefully you will have the same experience.

Great-yeah, that sounds good. I hope so.

 

 

Anything else you want to cover?

Well, thanks for talking…

 

Thank you…


Band Website: www.planetblaze.com