BLAZE BAYLEY – No giving up!
After having caught and witnessed two brilliant shows in Bergen by former Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley, one last year and the other just recently, I figured it was about high time I got down to business and asked the singer a bunch of questions. Having listened to and loved his music for years, it was a pleasure to hear what he had to say regarding his time in Iron Maiden as well as his solo career and the music business in general. Read on, ladies and gentlemen.
How and when did the idea of launching Blaze Bayley Recordings come about? It seems that more and more bands want to take charge of and control their own music instead of being taken advantage of by greedy labels and suits. Today, as an underground artist, you can pretty much do the whole thing yourself and get your music out there on you own. Would you agree with that?
Yes, I fully agree. I was signed to labels before but that means a lot of people have to get paid with the money I make as an artist. I don’t earn enough as an artist. So I decided to release albums on my own. My wife has a good background in business so for the past few years, we have been running it together very successfully. We don’t sign any bands to it because we just about have enough time to do everything that is needed for my work but since I have had the label, I am actually starting to earn some money and get to release the products I want to release without having to compromise.
"Russian Holiday" is an awesome and very atmospheric piece of work. The title track is simply brilliant and the lyrics rule beyond belief. There is a reference to "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" in the lyrics. Was that because of the movie with Gary Oldman that came out a few years ago or the book by John Le Carre? The song also seems to be about longing and missing someone or something. Could you elaborate a little on the lyrics and the theme of the song?
Yes, it is a reference to the movie. In 2012, I had a small tour booked with Paul Di’Anno in Russia. My daughter was only a few months old at that time and I felt really homesick on that tour. That’s when I wrote the lyrics of the song. It is one of my favourite songs I have written.
Would you consider releasing an EP in that same musical vein again?
I would consider it but not in the near future. I don’t want my fans to think that acoustic music is becoming my priority, it is something I do for fun on the side.
"As Live as it Gets" is a stunning and intense album, definitely one of the best live albums I have ever listened to. That was actually the first Blaze record that I bought, and it simply blew me away. I also love "The Night that Will Not Die". That version of "The Edge of Darkness" on the aforementioned album rules beyond belief. Are you satisfied with how those two records came out? How do you feel about live albums in general?
I love live albums. They give the fans who are not able to come to shows a real vibe of a gig. I hope that my fans feel more part of my journey with a live album than with a regular one. You can put more feeling in the performance because you get more out of it. Studio albums are all about perfection and getting in right but live albums are more about passion and creating the vibe of shows.
I absolutely love and adore "The X-Factor". That was actually my introduction to Iron Maiden and I still listen to it quite often. It has so many layers and subtle nuances to it that whenever I listen to it, I discover something new. It is very dark, melancholic, and cinematic in my opinion. It is also very organic and dynamic, and your vocal melodies are haunting. Where did your inspiration for some of the melodies and lyrics and so on come from back then? Like I said, the album is downright sad and melancholic in places, it is very moving and just so different all-around. It was just so different to a lot of the stuff that came out in the 90ies. What are some of your own personal favorites off that album, both musically and lyrically? What does it mean to you on a personal level?
I try to write as much as possible from my personal experience. As a person who suffers from depression from time to time, a lot of my lyrics turn out dark. It suited the music very well so that worked out great. I sometimes try to write about books or movies that i have seen or about scientific theories because that really interests me. Whatever is on my mind at the time of writing is what I try to write about.
I mentioned "The Edge of Darkness" earlier on. Was that inspired by the Joseph Conrad book or the movie, "Apocalypse Now", or both? Speaking of movies, are you a movie buff? What are some of your favorite ones?
The Edge of Darkness was based on the movie Apocalypse Now. I love almost every science fiction movie. I also love crime movies but the science fiction movies always interest me the most and gives me the most inspiration. I spend a lot of time travelling to shows so I always have movies ready on my iPad to look at whilst on my way to a gig.
"Virtual XI" is a bit more up-tempo and less melancholic compared to "The X-Factor" and thus serves as the perfect follow-up to the aforementioned album in that we got two awesome albums that were different and yet unmistakably Maiden. I think the band was really adventurous, exciting, and unpredictable when you were a part of it. Do you prefer "Virtual IX" to "The X Factor" or vice versa?
I love them both, as you say they are a bit different so they each have parts that make them stand out for me.
Whenever you perform songs dating from your time in Iron Maiden, do you feel a sense of nostalgia and do the songs bring back a lot of good memories?
Mainly good memories. I really enjoyed writing the albums and performing them with the top heavy metal band in the world and being part of that, was a wonderful time in my life. I treasure these memories and it is nice that I can still perform these songs in my own set.
When choosing what songs to perform live, be they Wolfsbane, Blaze or Maiden songs, how do you go about that considering the insane amount of songs you can choose from? I have seen you perform three times now and every time you have pulled out some awesome surprises for us, "Judgement of Heaven" and "Virus" being but two examples. Do you find it challenging to do a song such as "Judgement of Heaven" and is it fun to watch how the fans react to that?
It is a lot of fun putting the set together. I am working with different bands now, who each have their strengths so I try to base the set around that and the type of show I am doing. I also try to vary based on the country I am at. I usually put more Maiden songs in a set if I haven’t played in the country before because I know that my own songs are less popular. If I know fans are familiar with my work, I try to sneak in a song that we haven’t done much before.
Speaking of nostalgia, do you ever put on one of the old Wolfsbane or Maiden records that you were part of and listen to those if you are just at home and relaxing?
I don’t listen to my own music that often. We have a young daughter so children songs are the most popular at our house at the moment. I really enjoyed my time with Wolfsbane and it is great fun doing the gigs now, I think that is a better way to remember those great times for me.
"Silicon Messiah" is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard. Every song off that album is great and the record is very, very consistent and solid from start to finish. How do you feel about that album nowadays? It is pretty damn underrated in my opinion. Would you ever consider performing the entire album from start to finish, say for instance when the album is 15 or 20 years old?
I would consider it, yes. I love Silicon Messiah. It has a special place in my heart but because of problems with the record label, it never got the release it deserved. It is a shame but I recently have received the rights back of this album. My wife made sure we had it back in hard copies on the merchandise and webshop and it is one of the best selling CD’s I have at the moment. A lot of fans are taking the time to go through my entire catalogue and Silicon Messiah is still the album with the best comments from fans.
You have different backing bands nowadays to support you depending on where in the world you perform. I can imagine that gives you a certain flexibility in that it is mostly you traveling around and hooking up with local musicians as opposed to having an entire band consisting of 4-5 members on the road all the time. Maybe little less headaches when it comes to logistics and travel plans etc.?
I would love to have a full-time band. It is musically the best way. But it is a nightmare in any other aspect. It means you have to pay wages you can’t afford. Especially with the two Columbians, we were restricted beyond reason because of the visa situation. Also, promoters are not keen on flying a full band to the other side of the world for a few shows. My family noticed I was in a very bad mental place when I had the band and that is why they asked my wife to take over at that time. After long deliberations, we realised that having a full time band was a luxury I could not afford. It took time to getting used to the new way of working, but it means I can work with anybody I want, do whatever shows I want without having to justify it to other musicians. It has given me a freedom that means more to me than having a full time band. I have played in Canada, USA and Australia since then, something that was never possible with the band because it was too expensive. Keeping the band would have meant the end of my career as a singer, which is something I am not willing to give up for anything!
A few months ago, I read "At the End of the Day" by Lawrence Paterson, and I must admit that I was very moved by a lot of the stuff in that book. All the obstacles and pains and the loss that you have pulled through and overcome, and you are still out there, playing shows all the time, releasing albums, never giving in, always fighting and delivering the goods. That is very inspiring to me. When looking back on your career in music, do you have any regrets or is it all part of a learning curve, a strengthening of the spirit of you will?
There are some regrets but I do realise that at the time, I was not in the right frame of mind to make those right decisions. You do the best you can and you learn from those mistakes. If I hadn’t made them, I wouldn’t have been in the position where I am now, which is the best I have felt in my life. I have lost a lot of people that I loved deeply but they will always be with me in my memory.
Would you say that each album of yours is a reflection of where you are in your life at the time of writing them and that they reflect your personal thoughts and feelings? Kind of like an audio diary in a sense?
Yes, absolutely. The most meaningful songs are those that reflect your thoughts and feelings at the time.
I think some of your lyrics say that even though one hits the wall and feels discouraged from time to time, one should never give in or give up but keep pushing forward. I am thinking of "One More Step" in particular, but also "The Brave". They are both uplifting in a lot of ways. What it is that pushes and drives you forward in life? What do you do whenever you feel that you cannot go on?
I used to keep going the same way I was doing things without realising my mistakes. Over the past few years, I have evaluated those decisions and learned from them. One More Step is a song that is also a favorite. A lot of fans have told me they relate to it and it has helped them through dark times in their life. Especially now, I feel that there is no giving up and the best thing you can do, is take one more step, each step at the time and you will make it to the other side.
How do you like Norway and the Scandinavian countries in general? I have seen you twice in Norway and once in Denmark, and you received a great and enthusiastic response every time, especially in Bergen.
I love it!!! I feel so frustrated that I haven’t been able to perform more in Scandinavia. Next year, we are trying to make Scandinavia a priority in the European tour so I can finally give the fans the tour they deserve! It has been far too long. I am getting so much support from the fans in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland .
What bands and albums do you typically listen to when at home? What are some of your all-time favorite albums?
I like country music and Ronnie James Dio. Those are the things I listen to the most. But as a musician, I find it hard to listen to music without analysing every song. It almost turns into work…
What was the first metal album you ever bought? Was there one album or one singer in particular that made you decide that you wanted to be a singer as well?
Heaven and Hell. Ronnie James Dio has been my inspiration. I saw him live in Birmingham many years ago and that show made me decide to become a heavy metal singer.
Thank you so much for your time. Any last words or final comments to the headbanging elite readers of Eternal Terror?
I would love to say a huge thank you for all your support and hope to see you all soon!
Other Blaze-related articles: