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Exclusive! An Interview With Blaze Vocalist Blaze Bayley

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2003 @ 2:48 PM

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On the sleeve of the Blaze disk titled As Live As It Gets, the opening liner-notes read; ĎYou know Blaze Bayley, donít you?í For those intransigent fans of old-school Iron Maiden, this probably prompts a roll of the eyes, as you remember him as the Ďguy who temporarily took over for Bruce Dickinson.í But as a fan himself, and a remarkable vocalist, itís undisputable that his musical resume and prose is quite extraordinary.

Blaze Bayley got his start from fronting the band Wolfsbane back in 1986. After a few years of cult status success in the UK, and waxing and waning records sales, Blaze got a call from Steve Harris who invited him to audition for Iron Maiden. Being a huge fan of Iron Maiden, Bayley didnít really think at the time heíd be a serious candidate for the position. But he auditioned, and was asked to join Maiden in 1995.

Replacing such an icon as singer Bruce Dickinson, wasnít going to be easy. Although Blaze was well received by most fans and had a few years of successful recording and touring with Iron Maiden, he parted ways amicably in 1998. Bayley, then wasted no time and formed his new band, Blaze.

Blaze released their first album, Silicon Messiah, in 2000, followed by Tenth Dimension in 2002. Neither album was released in the US, until their latest CD, As Live As It Gets, which will be released worldwide.

The band feels as if theyíre in their best element when performing live, thus As Live As It Gets, is a compilation of live material recorded at their gigs in Switzerland and the UK, during their last tour in 2002. Produced by metal guru, Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Napalm Death, among others), the new album gives its listener the raw, commanding crash of metal resonance, with the unassailable vocal vibrato of singer, Blaze Bayley.

* * *

BAYLEY: Hello, itís Blaze Bayley for the interview (In such a thick cockney accent that I instantly envisioned a tiny replica of Stone Henge being lowered down onto a stage).

KNAC.COM: Hi Blaze! (laughs) So where are you?
BAYLEY: Iím at home in England. Iím in Birmingham; itís in the middle [of England]; the birthplace of heavy metal and the industrial revolution. (The next few minutes we talk about our locations.)

KNAC.COM: So, letís start from the beginningóyou started off with British metal band Wolfsbane. Did you see a lot of success from that band?
"We hated being home because weíre all from a small town in Englandóand one of the reasons we got [Wolfsbane] together was because we just didnít want to be there."
BAYLEY: It depends on how you measure success, really. We were very popular in the UK. But we never really had the opportunities to tour in continental Europe or in the USA. Really, we just wanted to play in every bar and nightclub across the United States, but we never got the opportunity to do that.
Iím proud of a lot of the songs that we wrote, but we had a lot of ugly compromises and things we had to make with the record label. We always had arguments over the artwork and the kind of songs we should put on our album. We had a lot of fights with the label, artistically. That would start a lot of the fights in the band. We all had really different influences, also, like Motorhead, Van Halen and AC/DC and then shot off in wildly different directions as diverse as New York Dolls and The Who.
We were very much a rock ní roll band in the traditional sense of hellraising and very defined rolls of guitars, bass and drums. But who knows, we probably drank too much. But those were the days when we were a lot younger starting off with a lot of enthusiasm.
Basically, we hated being home because weíre all from a small town in Englandóand one of the reasons we got the band together was because we just didnít want to be there. Every time we went away, the first couple days of the tour were absolutely insane. It was like weíd just been let out of the asylum. But thatís the way we carried on, really. As we went on gradually, we became less interested in hellraising and more interested in the kind of songs and music that we were writing.

KNAC.COM: Do you still have the same feeling of wanting to be on the road all the time?
BAYLEY: One of the things that I really enjoyed about being with Maiden was that when they booked a tour, you knew it was going to be a nice, long tour. The main part of the tour would last for over nine months, and then thereíd be festivals. I enjoyed that. I never wanted to go home. I felt comfortable. Thatís where I seem to make sense, is out there on the road, doing interviews, on the stage, singing my songs. I still enjoy it now. I really donít care if itís for forty thousand or forty people that Iím playing for.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever miss being home?
BAYLEY: No, not really. I used to bring my girlfriend out on tour with me with Iron Maiden, and as long as she was with me, then that was home. It was so long where I didnít have a home, when I was with Wolfsbane, and I was so broke all the time, I went from different friends houses and menial jobs just so I could pay for a room here and there. I didnít really have a permanent home, and itís only now, that Iíve gotten a little bit more settled.

KNAC.COM: Do you feel uneasy when you come off of your tour? Iíve spoken to a few musicians, who find it hard to settle back into the routine, so to speak, and actually go through a period of depression.
BAYLEY: Thatís how it was for me on the Maiden tours. Generally, for me, if thereís nothing on the calendar, nothing on the diary, then I do start going insane. I think itís true of anybody who comes out on tour with us, whether itís two or three days, or for months at a time, anybody that goes on tour, then you really start to feel that gypsy thing. People donít want to go home. They want to get a job on the crew. For me as a musician, thatís what Iíve always loved and Iíve never felt Iíve had my fill of touring. Thatís all I want to do.

"I was very honored that [Iron Maiden] asked me to audition. But I thought, well, my voice is so different. Iím more of a heavy rock singer."
KNAC.COM: After five years with Wolfsbane, you get a call from Steve Harris, who invites you to audition for Iron Maiden, replacing Bruce Dickinson. Tell me what that was like. At the time, did you think your chances were good that youíd be Bruce Dickinsonís replacement?
BAYLEY: No! I never thought it at all! I mean, I was very honored that they asked me to audition. But I thought, well, my voice is so different. Iím more of a heavy rock singer. Iím more about the emotion and Bruce was a lot more of a technical singer, like a typical metal singer that you can think of, they can scream and everything like that. I never thought really that I had a chance, but I wasnít going to turn down that opportunity. Even if it was just to play with the band in an audition. So I turned up to the audition, thinking that I didnít really care how it turned out, Iím going to just really enjoy the experience and the fact that I was there singing with Iron Maiden for an hour or so. But they asked me back and I was asked to join the band. I was blown away, really.
When we started doing the X-Factor album, we didnít have anything written. They didnít ask me to sing any songs that were already prepared. We started from scratch, and it went from there. Iím really, really proud of the music. It enabled me to try a lot of things I havenít been able to do with Wolfsbane. It was a way for me to really find out a lot more about my voice.

KNAC.COM: Your vocals are very powerful, I would say your range is more that of a tenor? With some of the older Maiden tunes, did you find it hard to reach the soprano benchmarks set by Bruce Dickinson?
BAYLEY: Well, it was a lot more technical for me, for sure. But for Dickinson, it was a natural thing. I had to concentrate a lot and really focus on my technique to be able to do that.

KNAC.COM: Embrace your falsetto.
BAYLEY: (laughs) Yeah, and its right up there, you know? And you have to rehearse and practice to get up to it. When Iím writing, itís not a place that I choose to go, because I like to stay in the ranges where you can get the expression out of a song. But they were classic songs I was singing, so I really enjoyed them. But from my point of view, and as a fan, I really wanted to put some energy and enthusiasm into those songs. Dickinson had been singing them for a long time, and I hadnít. I really enjoyed singing those songs. I tried to bring them to life and bring them a step back closer to the studio versions to what Dickinson had been doing live. And well, some people liked it and some people didnít.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of that, do you ever get tired of being compared to him?
BAYLEY: I donít think there is a comparison to him really, do you? Besides, my teeth are a lot better and my smile is a lot nicer than his. Apart from that, if you compare in whoís got the nicest smile, itís obviously mine.

"Iíve always been very proud of the fact that a legendary band actually approached me, and wanted to write songs with me."
KNAC.COM: (laughing) I mean as far as identity goes, do you ever get tired of people saying that youíre the Ďex-singerí of Iron Maiden who replaced Bruce Dickinson?
BAYLEY: Well, no, not really. I mean, if you hated heavy metal like Paul DiíAnno, then it would be a pain. But Iíve always loved heavy metal, and Maiden is a legendary band. Perhaps when Bruce Dickinson left, he didnít like heavy metal as much as I do. Maiden along with Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, are who started heavy metal. Iíve always been very proud of the fact that a legendary band actually approached me, and wanted to write songs with me. I did two albums, I had two songs on The Best of the Beast album, they just released the Greatest Hits album, which Iíve got a couple of songs on that, so really, itís just something Iím very proud of.

KNAC.COM: How did you handle the fans and critics that were scrutinizing?
BAYLEY: I have a lot of support and encouragement from fans all over the world. I think, because Iím a fan as well, it makes a difference. I think that doing my first few shows, people wanted to see what youíve got, you know? Theyíre a hundred and seventy percent behind the band, but they want to know what the new singer is like. And you know, thatís the way I am as well. As a fan of a band, if itís your favorite, youíve got a lot invested in it emotionally. And thatís a normal part of it. I loved what I did, and I did my best. And again, the incredible support I got, you canít even imagine the reaction to some of those great, great songs. ďThe Number of the Beast,Ē right through to ďFear of the Dark,Ē and ďSign of the Cross,Ē the reaction of the crowds and the welcome that they gave, was just unbelievable. Especially when youíve just come from a band thatís done a few shows, to one or two bigger shows, to be headlining and singing for Iron Maiden. Itís just unbelievable.

KNAC.COM: Whatís the biggest venue you played?
BAYLEY: Sixty-five thousand. We did a couple of thirty-thousand gigs and even some with only twelve-hundred people. We did every kind of venue. And our opinion for each one was that, well, weíre going to just cram these five articulated lorries into this venue and we donít really give a fuck what anybody thinks about it. It was great.

KNAC.COM: So after two albums with Maiden, in 1999, you amicably parted ways. With all the brilliance that came with touring and recording with this band, was it hard for you to leave?
BAYLEY: Well I think it was such a great experience, and I learned so much that it gave me so much confidence -- a really deep down confidence that I never had before. Working with people at that kind of level who are so successful and so respected for such a long time and actually writing songs and working closely with those guys, that when it came time to set out on my own course, then it gave me the confidence to get my own band together. When I started writing my own songs, then I felt like a completely different personóto the person who had joined Iron Maiden years ago. Iím now looking at the whole writing and recording thing in a different way.

KNAC.COM: You didnít waste much time in forming your new band, Blaze. Tell me how you found the right group of players.
BAYLEY: Well I wanted people who were interested in the music. That was it for me. I didnít want people who just wanted to be a star on MTV.

KNAC.COM: Did you audition people?
BAYLEY: Yeah, I put out a press release asking for people who loved metal music to get in touch. I had tapes from all over the world, the USA, Brazil, Canada. I had over two-thousand tapes come to my home. Some of them absolutely stunning musicians. But at the end of the day, I decided to keep it as a British band, and really get that British metal sound.

"Iíve met hundreds of people who go, ĎAh, Blaze Bayley, from Iron MaidenÖwhat are you doing now?í And I tell them that Iíve already got two albums out. Itís a reality check, really."
KNAC.COM: The response has been good?
BAYLEY: Yeah, excellent. You know, I think a lot of people know about Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane, and know a lot about Blaze Bayley from Iron Maiden. But there are really a lot of people that arenít aware of what Iím doing now. Iíve met hundreds of people who go, ĎAh, Blaze Bayley, from Iron MaidenÖwhat are you doing now?í And I tell them that Iíve already got two albums out. Itís a reality check, really. This is one of the reasons Iíve done the live album. Iím proud of everything Iíve done, really, but my heart and my soul now is going into my new material and I feel itís the best Iíve ever done in my whole career. As I get established, and people see that Iím writing music now and working within that bands structure, I think it will be just the same as Ozzy in his early years. It was always the ex-singer of Black Sabbath. And he just gradually established himself over time. Hopefully, with the grace of God, I can walk in the footsteps of that madman giant!

KNAC.COM: Your two studio albums with Blaze, Silicon Messiah and Tenth Dimension, were both critically acclaimed. Did this come as a surprise to you?
BAYLEY: The first album was a really big decision to even go ahead with it. And even though I had offers to go and join other bands, I had ideas for songs that I thought were really good. And when it was finished, I couldnít believe the reaction that I got. Really, I wasnít trying to say anything other than, ĎThis is me, and this is what I love to do.í And Iíve gotten some great responses.

KNAC.COM: Lyrically, a lot of your music is pretty relevant with what is occurring right now in the world and the state that civilization seems to be progressing or perhaps better said, regressing toward.
BAYLEY: I think with the Tenth Dimension album, it was kind of a metaphor really. The writing was around the idea of the Oppenheimer story, which I suppose was the first real weapon of mass destruction, the Atomic Bomb.
During the making of the Tenth Dimension and the lyrical content of it was about destruction and death, and the reasons that people choose to do those things and become involved in those things. The first two songs are about the dream of destruction of the world, civilization and mankind in which we live. And the secret rulers of the world. Itís people making choices that are beyond ordinary peopleís control. They make us think we have a choice, but in reality, there is no choice at all, because itís already been made. A path has been decided that we will go down, whether like it or not, without discussion or vote. In that way, yeah, I think it is relevant.
Since the Gulf war and things have been uncovered about the invasion of Cuba, and the Bay of Pigs and things about the UN Contra affair, and the way that people have been supported, the whole lot of things that went on behind the scenes that put Saddam Hussein in the situation heís in.
KNAC.COM: Will this war have any impact on your travels?
BAYLEY: Actually, what Iím hoping to do is to go over to Iraq and play for the troops.

KNAC.COM: Well, you know that on the front line, they do play music very loud for the enemy.
"Iíd love to play in Baghdad once weíve occupied it, and then maybe theyíd stop building weapons of mass destruction and start building guitars and amps!"
BAYLEY: Yeah, I know they do. I would love it if they would play ďTough as Steel.Ē Iíd love to play in Baghdad once weíve occupied it, and then maybe theyíd stop building weapons of mass destruction and start building guitars and amps!
As far as traveling, in Europe, we drive most places. But you are thinking twice about it. I was a bit nervous, we came over a while back and did the New Jersey Metal Meltdown, and that was my first time flying since 9/11. I hadnít thought about it before I got on the plane, but I really felt nervous.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of the March Metal Meltdown, how did that go?
BAYLEY: Absolutely incredible. I just couldnít believe it. The reaction we had from the fans was incredible.

KNAC.COM: That is really nice to hear. Especially, because it seems like here in the US, the people are pretty apathetic to this style of music. Itís a tough market out here. I spoke to Pete Friesen who was in the band, the Almighty, and he told me how in Europe, they would play these huge, sold-out arenas, and when they toured here, they were lucky to get a corner bar, with barely anyone in the venue. It just seems like in the UK, this style of music is still very much a thriving entity, and unfortunately in the US, it seems to be a dying commodity.
BAYLEY: There were loads of fans that drove in for miles to see the show. It was brilliant. We couldnít believe it. It was the first time we ever played in the states, and the reaction was incredible.

KNAC.COM: Will you be coming back again soon?
BAYLEY: Yeah, actually, I think weíre going to be invited to a big festival in Milwaukee this summer.

KNAC.COM: That would be great. I think there is a huge fan base to be had here, unfortunately, it seems like itís the pop sensation that sells.
BAYLEY: Yeah, weíve had no album over there as of yet, either. But I just managed to get a deal over there. Weíre really, really excited.

KNAC.COM: Youíre talking about As Live As It Gets?

KNAC.COM: This album pretty much showcases your entire career, including material from Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden and even a cool interpretation of Zeppelinís ďDazed and Confused.Ē Was it a difficult procedure to pick which songs & from what show would be used?
BAYLEY: On the Tenth Dimension tour, I felt the set was working really, really well. It was a good balance. So we incorporated that into the album.

KNAC.COM: I love the rendition you guys did of ďDazed and Confused.Ē
BAYLEY: I managed to persuade the rest of the band to do it, because itís my favorite ever Led Zeppelin song -- from the time I was a kid. I knew that we could do a really different metal version of it.

KNAC.COM: Itís a good album. Are you guys currently in the studio working on number 4?
BAYLEY: Well what weíre doing, is weíre doing a couple of smaller shows around the UK, and a couple of festivals in Europe, and hopefully the Milwaukee show in the summer, and in the meantime weíre getting some ideas together, writing some songs and thinking about what weíre going to be doing in the studio. I know weíre going to approach our writing style a bit differently. Weíre going to try to capture some of the energy from As Live As It Gets, and get it into the studio.

KNAC.COM: Will you be using Andy Sneap?
BAYLEY: Hopefully, yeah, if heís available. Heís British, and he understands that we really want to sound like where we come from. And I think heís managed to get that. He does a great job with vocals. I spend less time in front of a mic, repeating myselfówhere with him, I can easily get into the vibe of the song.

KNAC.COM: So what is the difference between British metal and American metal?
BAYLEY: Well, itís just where we come from really.

KNAC.COM: Oh come on, donít be diplomatic. Just give it to us.
BAYLEY: A British metal band goes right back to the early days of Judas Priest, really. With two strong lead guitars and a strong leading melodic vocals. I mean, letís be honest, there is no British Van Halen.

KNAC.COM: Weíre all show-bizzy.
BAYLEY: Not that any one is better than the other. I love Van Halen, itís just different, and thatís all.

KNAC.COM: Hey Blaze, Thanks for your time.
BAYLEY: Hope to see you in Milwaukee.

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