Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjala
Thanks to Duke for the Transcription
Blaze Bayley is probably best known for the wrong reasons because most people in the music world remember him only because of his brief period as the lead singer for Iron Maiden. However, he has done a lot more during his long-lasting career. Before Maiden, he did several albums with Wolfsbane, and after Iron Maiden, he formed a new band called Blaze, which last summer released their third studio album called BLOOD AND BELIEF. I was fortunate enough to meet Blaze before his performance at Wacken in 2004, and then we talked about Blaze, Wolfsbane, and of course, a little about Iron Maiden. Here are the results of that pleasant conversation. Enjoy!
This is a special event for you because you are here in Wacken to perform as a guest for Doro and the Classic Orchestra?
Yeah. It is a fantastic opportunity. They had the idea that they wanted to do some metal classics with an orchestra, and they asked me along to sing. We did a couple of shows, and it went fantastic, and now they have asked me along for the Wacken festival to do it. So I’m singing a couple of classic metal songs, and it is great. It’s very different to sing with an orchestra. Well, I think it’s pretty close to metal because it’s more about the music, whereas in metal. It’s loud, and you have lead guitars, and you listen to the music, it’s the same with classical music, I think. I suit quite well, and I enjoyed it last time. Just to come and play on the main stage in Wacken is an incredible honor? And really scary!
Well, you have done some shows with her and orchestra before. Is this going to be the same show and setlist which you’ve done before?
It is mostly the same show every night. When we did some shows at Christmas where I got up and sang a song with her when she was the headliner, and then on the orchestra shows, she sings most of the songs, and I sing about a third. We’re coming back again in October, and then my show starts in September, and it goes through to next May. There’s my Christmas show, Blaze’s Big Bash, with a signing where we auction off the backdrop and play songs that we never do on tour.
Anyway, is this show very different from what you usually do with your band?
Yeah, usually it’s really loud, and if you make a mistake, you can hide behind the loud guitars, but not with an orchestra “laughs.”
As for the latest Blaze studio album, BLOOD, AND BELIEF, how has it been doing overall?
So far, it’s done very well. We started the tour back to the roots, doing very small places in the UK, where I began with Wolfsbane to get in people’s faces. Cause it’s a live album, it was written to be played live with no extra studio tricks or anything. All the songs are 100 percent to be played live, and that’s how we worked on them in the studio. We rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed before we got near recording. So far, it’s gone really well, and I can’t believe how good the reviews are. I didn’t expect anything like that because it’s quite different from the first two studio albums. The reviews have been fantastic, and the reactions of fans have been incredible. I can’t believe it. It’s much better than I could have hoped for.
In my opinion, this new album sounds raw, and the songs are much heavier than anything you’ve done before?
Yeah, we tried to do that because we did our live album, AS LIVE AS IT GETS, and it took two hours to record. And the producer said, “This sounds heavier and better than anything else you’ve done. It sounds stronger.” So I said, “How do I get that sound on a studio album?” and he said, “Get the songs written and rehearse really well, like if you’re gonna play a gig with those songs.” So that’s what we did, and we knew the songs when we recorded them.
You did a lot of promotion for this album across Europe?
We tried to promote it a bit more, and it was good. I went out before the album was released. We did a bit of heavy metal. We went to a rock club and played the album to everybody y and played some classic 80s metal, and it seemed to go down well. People seemed to like it. The important thing is that I want people to hear the album and make up their own minds about it and have a chance to listen to it. That’s the difficult thing to promote it, and we’re still doing that.
What is your opinion about the Internet? It’s a perfect place to do promotion, but on the other hand, people keep on downloading stuff illegally from the internet?
In my situation, it’s like the radio. Real metal fans get a chance to listen to something and decide if they want to get into that band. If they like it, they download it, see them live, and then buy the album. I think a lot of the stuff that people download is stuff they never would’ve bought, but they might buy it because they downloaded something. That’s how I feel at the moment. I don’t like people who bootleg the album, people who download it, put a cover on it and make it out like it’s the official thing. That’s robbing the band. We don’t get any money, so we can’t go on tour. It’s stealing the fans as well cause they don’t get the proper thing.
I think it’s terrible for a big band because if you have a bad album that people have heard before the release date, they won’t buy it. If you make the greatest album, they will. But on the other hand, I think that the Internet has taken over from fanzines now. People used to do fanzines, and now they have a homepage or a fan site. I find out that I do a lot of interviews with websites. It’s down to the fans! If the fans like it and it’s good, they tell their friends that they found a new band. If it’s not good and they don’t like it, they won’t tell anyone.
So you are not following any discussions and stuff what people are writing there and so on?
No. I wrote an album called SILICON MESSIAH” about computers taking over your life. And since I don’t have a computer anymore, I’ve realized how much it took over my life. It’s great that people find out about my band on their computers, but I’m really worried that their computers will take over their lives. I don’t want my computer taking over the fans. Actually, my own computer was stolen while I was in the studio. My house was robbed, and all my musical equipment and my computer were stolen. I haven’t bought another computer yet.
Your official webpage address is www.planetblaze.com, and those pages are looking very good, and they are usually up to date. Who is taking care of your webpage if you are not following the web too much by yourself?
It’s the manager and the webmaster of mine: Neil and Dave. Dave is a game designer, he’s working on “Time Splitters 3” at the moment, and Neil is a web designer as well. They do it between them, and they do a fantastic job for us. We try to keep it up to date, which is challenging to do. Every gig that we’ve got confirmed, we try to make sure it’s on the website.
So far, you have done three studio albums and a live album but no promotional videos or DVD. Do you have plans to do some in the future?
Yeah, the next thing I want to do is to release a DVD. We’re going to film everything we do this year, and we’re doing a big Christmas show, and we’re going to be filming that for a DVD, hopefully. I’m hoping all the fans will come along and support us on that Big Bash on the 18th of December. We will also do the first-ever promotional video in the next couple of weeks to go with the song “Hollow Head.” I’ve talked to a guy who’s a film director. He liked the album, so he’s going to do the video to go with “Hollow Head,” and he said it’s going to be different, something crazy, not your normal rock video. I don’t know what yet; he just said, “Turn up on this day,” and I said, “Can I have my motorcycle in the video?”
Blaze is doing quite well in Europe, especially in Germany and some parts of middle Europe, but how is it in your home country in England?
It’s ok. It’s pretty quiet, but it’s ok. We have a lot of really loyal fans in England. We don’t get on the radio and don’t get on tv, so people don’t know about us if they don’t hear it from their friends. We don’t get in all the magazines, so people hear about us from their friends or read about us on the Internet. When they come and see us, they’re fans. It’s a very slow process. But every time we play, we get more fans, and everywhere we play, people say, “Please come back.” It takes time, but it always does with metal. If you play this kind of music, it is about being a live musician and musicianship rather than hype. Then it will take time. I don’t wanna be in a situation where I’m in a band that gets “Oh yeah, it’s great,” and then it’s just dead. I want to be known as a singer and a musician. That’s important, and you have to prove that to people. You have to go out and play for the fans. At the end of the day, the most important opinion is from the people who buy the cd, buy the t-shirt, and buy the concert ticket—they’re the people who keep metal alive, not the magazines.
When the next tour starts, are you going to do a headlining tour of your own, or are you looking for a tour with someone else to share it with?
I don’t know yet, but I think we’ll be headlining in smaller places? We’ll play for between an hour and a half and two hours for our usual live set. Mostly Blaze songs, just a couple of old ones from Maiden and Wolfsbane. Now that we have three studio albums to choose from, it’s much easier to do a live set.
Do you have any dates confirmed for the following summer?
Nothing confirmed yet, but we’re hoping to do some festivals. I don’t know yet, but I think we’ll be headlining in smaller places. We’ll play for between an hour and a half and two hours for our usual live set. Mostly Blaze songs, just a couple of old ones from Maiden and Wolfsbane. Now that we have three studio albums to choose from, it’s much easier to do a live set.
Are we finally going to see you at the Sweden Rock festival also?
I don’t know? We have been very unlucky with Sweden Rock, so if we don’t do that, we’re going to do some headlining shows.
Should you also try to do some festivals in Finland?
Oh, I’d love to come to Finland and play festivals. I did one with Iron Maiden. It was fantastic. I loved it. Crazy people in the middle of the woods. It was “Blair Witch Project” with heavy metal “laughs.” We want to get back and play more shows in Finland and Sweden, and Denmark, all over Scandinavia. We love it up there, and the last time we went there, we didn’t really have very long to promote the shows. We will book those shows for next year and then plan the promotion, so the fans know we’re going to play. We love it up there!
Blaze live in Finland with Iron Maiden.
There have been a lot of personnel changes in your band. Who plays with you at the moment?
It’s Steve Wray on lead guitar, John Slater on lead guitar, Wayne Banks on bass, and Crazy Legs’ Dave Knight on drums.
Are they permanent members now?
So far, yeah! We are hoping it stays that way.
Have you done any shows with that lineup yet?
Yeah, we’ve done a lot of shows together this year, all the shows. The last one we did was in Italy at a rock festival, and it was fantastic, it felt strong.
You recently did one gig together with another ex-Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno?
Yeah, we played in Turkey at the Rock the Nations festival. Paul was there, and we know each other from before, and we thought it would be good fun to do a song together. So we went up and did “Sanctuary” together. It was really good fun.
Is it possible that you might do something more together with Paul in the future?
There are no plans, but I wouldn’t rule it out. It was a lot of fun, but he’s not so much heavy metal. He’s more on the punk side of things, and my band is British metal through and through, but everything’s possible?
Iron Maiden live in Finland 1998
Because I just talked a few words related to Iron Maiden, I have to ask how your relationship with Steve Harris and the other Iron Maiden guys??
Steve and I are still friends. We still talk occasionally on the phone. Whenever they’re playing a gig near me, I go and see them. Steve came to see my band a couple of times, and he got up and jammed with us on stage for “Futureal.” So we’re still friends. I don’t have any animosity or bad feelings towards them. I think the management was responsible for what happened, not the band.
So there was nothing personal in it?
No, I didn’t take anything personally. It wasn’t easy to do my best. I felt I couldn’t do my best work when I was in Iron Maiden. I did the best I could, but I didn’t feel that I could do my best work under the circumstances. I spent a lot of time living in the shadow of Iron Maiden cause they have been doing their things, and nobody’s been interested in what I’m doing. But now, when Maiden isn’t doing anything, people have started to ask, “what’s Blaze doing?” and started to find out about my music. Lots of the Maiden fans from X-FACTOR and VIRTUAL XI have been starting to get into my own band, and that’s great.
After you split with Iron Maiden, did you ever had any plans to re-unite your old band Wolfsbane?
No, I wanted to move forward. I learned so much in Iron Maiden about songwriting and how to get my own voice to get an idea of what I wanted to do. I really wanted to work with two strong lead guitars, and in Wolfsbane, we had one guitar. And I wanted to have two guitars and have all the different variations you can get with that and with slightly different arrangements and everything. So I had a strong idea of what kind of band I wanted to be in and what kind of music I wanted to play. I wanted to move forward. I didn’t want to go back to the past.
Did any of the guys from Wolfsbane even try to contact you then?
No, not so far. I wouldn’t rule out doing a gig or a couple of gigs in the future just because it was fun. But no one has really spoken about that.
Do you know what other former members are up to now?
Steve Danger is the manager of a band. Jase Edwards is a session guitar player, and he’s got his own studio now, and Jeff Hately plays with different bands.
Ok. This question has been a long time in my mind. Are there any songs on your first album, SILICON MESSIAH, originally written for the next Iron Maiden album?
No full songs. I had a couple of ideas, but there were no full songs. I just had ideas in my notepad and on my Dictaphone, nothing that I’d worked on with anyone.
But some songs would have been on the next Maiden album?
Well, there are ideas that I would have worked on with the guys in Maiden if we had done that album. I thought we would do a third album, and I thought it would be a killer. I thought it would be an absolutely fantastic third album, but it just didn’t happen.
Our time seems to be running out, so this will be the last question? Do you have any opinions of the previous two Iron Maiden albums?
I like BRAVE NEW WORLD, and my favorite song from DANCE OF DEATH is “No More Lies.”That’s all I’m going to say, “laughs.”
Okay, thanks for your time, and see you later!
Special thanks to Mirko from SPV, who helped us to get this interview done !!