INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA AND JARNO HUOVILA
PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
BLAZE BAYLEY is best known as the man who 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, LIVE FAST DIE FAST, of his first professional band, WOLFSBANE, was released in 1989. A second album, DOWNFALL THE GOOD GUYS, followed in 1991, and finally, after a live album called MASSIVE NOISE INJECTION in 1993, the band put out their final, self-titled album in 1994. After diverging from the ranks of IRON MAIDEN, Blaze forged on with a new band 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 2007, BLAZE had been transformed into BLAZE BAYLEY, with the summer seeing the first DVD’s release 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 says about his ordeals and endeavors, past, present, and future.
You’ve got an all-new band and management. How about a record label?
It’s going to be our own label. I’m sick of the big business side of things because of all of the problems I’ve had with SPV/Steamhammer, Def American, Phonogram, and Geffen. 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 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 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.
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 aggressive because of what happened over the last couple of years with all the people who 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 is 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 a 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 song, but it was one of my favorites 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 cringe, 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 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 a bonus for my DVD, another couple of songs filmed in Hamburg.
THE WOLFSBANE YEARS
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 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 more serious about the music and the songs than 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. It was an unusual choice to choose me and my voice because my voice is so different from the previous singer [Bruce Dickinson] and different from the first singer [Paul Di’Anno].
Did you have to go through the auditions?
Everybody had to audition; the only advantage I had was that the band members knew me because I had supported IRON MAIDEN in WOLFSBANE. 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.
For example, any memorable stories from when you played in Finland with IRON MAIDEN, the Nummirock festival?
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, and I 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 screeching, 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 are crossing the road.”
Wow, IRON MAIDEN’s story was 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 promoting the Virtual XI album here?
In a place called Planet Hollywood, it was great. The record company set up all the promos at Planet Hollywood here in Helsinki, and they treated us like big celebrities. In 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 a pretty nice-sized tour compared to the previous one.
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 leftover material from the “Virtual XI” sessions, some of it written by you, made its 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 had 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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