Blaze Bayley, proud owner of the only Elvis sideburns in metal, is back with a new album, to be released very soon, and our very own Jon Burkan gave him a call to see how things are going.
As you probably remember, Blaze was Bruce Dickinson’s replacement in Iron Maiden, releasing two albums with them, “The X Factor” and “Virtual XI”, both of which are considered, by some critics, as some of Iron Maiden‘s weakest releases.
After his departure, however, Blaze didn’t simply retire. He has been producing a lot of material, starting with “Silicon Messiah” in 2000, and then with “The Tenth Dimension” (2002), “Blood and Belief” (2004 ), “The Man Who Would Not Die” (2008) and “Promise and terror” (2010), as well as two live albums, “As Live as it Gets” (2003) and “The Night that will Not Die” in 2009. Although his solo work has been very well received by critics, Blaze Bayley has failed to achieve the popularity that (in my opinion) he deserves.
So; what can he tell us about his upcoming album? What about his departure from Iron Maiden? Well, just read on and find out! (audio at the bottom)
Metal Blast: Hey Blaze, how are you today?
Blaze: Pretty good; right now I’m in the studio, we’re recording the drums for my new album, “The King of Metal”.
MB: How are things going in the studio so far?
B: Good, it’s quite quick this lad; I’ve been working with him for a couple of years live, but we hadn’t had the chance to record anything, so this first time in the studio with me he’s doing a really good job. The best thing is that he has a a great groove when he plays, which we really want to capture.
MB: That sounds really great. Now, how do you think “The King of Metal” is going to be any different from your last album?
B: Well, this album is a bit more back towards my classic metal style; it’s closer to the Silicon Messiah and Tenth Dimension albums. Although I didn’t plan it that way, this is how it has worked out. So far it sounds really good, the songs have really come together and even though it’ll still be a couple of weeks until we get to the vocals, I’m really excited about it. All the demos that we’ve done, as well as the rehearsals, have been very positive.
MB: What has been your favorite moment while creating this album?
B: I had an idea to do a tribute song for Ronnie James Dio, and when that actually came together, when I heard the drums play for the first time that was really a very special moment. Dio was my inspiration to start singing, so I’m hoping that the song turns out well and that the fans enjoy it.
MB: It was a very sad time when Dio passed away, and he’s still fondly remembered. People are always making tributes and keeping his memory alive. Now, regarding this album, who’s mainly in charge of writing the lyrics and music for “King of Metal”?
B: Well, it’s my album so I’ve written all the lyrics and quite a bit of the music. I’ve been working very closely with a young guitar player called Thomas Zwijsen, who has co-written most of the songs, and it has worked very well.
Now, the title track, “The King of Metal”, is dedicated to the fans, because they are the real Kings of Metal. Without the fans there’s no heavy metal, and I think that people trivialize that and even disrespect heavy metal fans, compared to fans of pop or jazz. I’ve called the album “The King of Metal” as a tribute to heavy metal fans, thanks to whom it has been possible for me to have such a wonderful career and spend my life as a professional singer.
MB: That’s a very interesting take, since you’d think that the name refers to you, Blaze Bayley, as “The King of Metal”. Do you think that, at least in part, that assumption might be correct, due to how long you’ve been in the game and the work that you’ve done?
B: Well, I couldn’t possibly say that. Ozzy is the godfather of metal, Dio is a metal God… so it’s up to other people to decide who is the King of Metal. For me, the King of Metal is the fan who comes to my concert, buys my CD, buys my t-shirt and shouts and screams along with me while I’m playing my songs. That’s the King of Metal for me.
MB: That definitely makes sense, since a live setting and a wild audience can make a lot of difference. On your website you list musicians for your European tour, like live or session musicians. Do you plan to continue with this method, or do you think that you’ll settle with a stable line-up anytime soon?
B: The strain of trying to keep a full-time band together when there are no gigs is just too much. You’ve got no money coming in, but you still have to pay everybody’s wages, it made me ill. What I’m doing now is finding the people that I’d like to write and work with, and I get them together to record the album and then take them on tour. I’m very lucky with this album, since I have a great bunch of guys, and we’re very excited about this tour. I think that this is the way I’m going to carry on. When I go to the USA I can’t afford to bring a whole band, so I work with some guys over there who are really good, and the same in Australia.
MB: Speaking of the touring, the strains and being a solo act, after you released your statement regarding the break-up of the band, your former band-mates issued a very damaging statement regarding why you dissolved the band. Is there anything you’d like to say about that?
B: Well, they’ve got every right to be upset and disappointed. I was absolutely heart-broken by not being able to keep the band together, but that was it. I had to make a difficult decision, it really hurt me, and I just try to carry on. I can’t say anything bad about them, they all worked very hard and gave their best to the project and tried to make the band a success; but in the end it’s just too difficult to keep a band together if you play this kind of music.
I only sell a few thousand CDs each time. If I sold a few hundred thousand I would still have the band together, but I don’t, and I not many people do. This is heavy metal, it’s not popular music, it’s an underground cult kind of music. There are a few heavy metal festivals around the world, but there aren’t many more heavy metal bands that can be full time musicians who can make a living out of this; hardly anybody that I know of. This is just the reality of it; if you’re not on tour, you’re not making any money, you’re not selling CDs, you can’t keep a band together. That’s how it is, really hard and tough, and it’s not easy for anybody.
I’ve been able to, you know, start to live my life in a different way and be more positive, and a lot of the lyrics in the new album, “King of Metal”, are about that, about trying to be positive and overcoming the difficulties in your own life.
MB: Yes, it’s always best to be able to speak from your heart and to have the music revolve around the things that go on in your life. How do you think that the fans might react to a record as personal as this?
B: Well, my fans are used to personal music and lyrics from me. I do songs from different stories and characters that inspire me, but I also write a lot of personal lyrics. On this album there’s a song about Dimebag Darrel, about his horrific murder, and the rest of the lyrics are about trying to make your way through life trying to make the best you can with what you’ve got, and not letting the rest telling you that you can’t do something. I come from a poor family, living in a mobile home with no proper water or sanitation. I come from nothing, and I got to the top of the world in my professions, writing and performing with the most important heavy metal band in the world. And also, I’ve fallen down, I’ve made bad choices and I’ve failed many times. Now, with the King of Metal album, I’m trying to come back. I’m trying to make the best work I’ve ever done and do the best live shows I’ve ever done.
MB: Well, you’ve clearly had a lot of obstacles to overcome. Do you think that it was a big obstacle to show yourself as more than “the guy who used to sing for Iron Maiden”.
B: Well, there’s only three people who’s been the “ex singer” of Iron Maiden, and one of them went back. I’m really proud that we made with Iron Maiden, of the albums and the music that we made. It obviously was a huge part of my life and I learned a lot. But now, when I’m touring Europe, I have a lot of fans that say that “I don’t care if I don’t hear you play Iron Maiden songs, there are so many of your songs that I like that it really doesn’t bother me”. So, nowadays, if I go to a country that I haven’t toured properly before, and they’re not so familiar with my own material, I do more Iron maiden songs. But mostly, in the rest of Europe, I do less Iron Maiden songs and more of my own.
MB: It’s very good to be able to show your own work and show that Blaze Bayley is still out there, putting out albums and go on the stage. Now, I’m sorry to ask about Iron Maiden one more time, but there was never any clarity as to what exactly lead to your departure from the band.
B: Everybody was reforming back then, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple… everybody was having a reunion and Iron Maiden did the same. They said “Bruce is coming back and you’re going”. It absolutely killed me. I loved being in Iron maiden, and I loved singing the music and being on tour, writing with Steve Harris was absolutely fantastic. I already had songs that I wanted to work on for another album, but that was it they just kicked me out and I had to do my own thing.
MB: So you think that it was mostly a commercial decision, rather than having anything to do with your talent or style?
B: I think it was more business than music.
MB: Since this was so hard to take, do you still use that as source for your drive to go on and create heavy metal that you’re proud of?
B: Well, I do it because I don’t have a choice. I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anybody. I’ve done incredible things in my career and I do it because I want to, because there’s something inside of me that drives me forward, I don’t know what that is. I love to sing and I love this music, and whenever I can write my own songs and sing them to fans that appreciate them is a great day for me.
MB: You definitely have the heavy metal community to lean on, because we’re a very loyal bunch and we don’t take things like this very lightly!
Now, you’ve been in this game for a long time; how long do you think you want to continue doing it?
B: As long as there’s heavy metal and I can sing, then I’ll be writing and recording and touring. Heavy Metal is pretty old now, it goes in and out of fashion but it never really dies, so I’m hoping it’ll be the same for me. Dio was my great inspiration. He died, he didn’t give up, he didn’t stop touring. He got sick and died, which is a great tragedy, but he didn’t stop and he never showed any signs that he was going to stop. People like him, like David Coverdale, are still singing so I don’t think there’s any reason to stop, as long as you have your health.
MB: With “The King Of Metal” coming out soon, are you planning to do a lot of touring in support of the album?
B: If you go to my website there’s a list of the tour dates that I’m doing. I’ll be doing 50 shows to promote the album, up until June, and then I’m hoping to do some festivals in the summer; then, I’m going to Australia in November.
JB: When exactly is the album coming out?
B: It’ll be available from my website from the 8th of March. I’ll bring copies of the album with me when I’m on tour, everywhere I go. Then, the official release, so you can get it in stores or online, will be on the 20th of May, but if you come to one of my concerts you’ll be able to get the album.
Now, on the official release date, the 20th of May, I’ll be playing a free gig near my home, a big bash, to celebrate the release of the album.
MB: That sounds really good. A free Blaze Bayley concert! People are definitely not going to let that one pass. Now, “The Tenth Dimension” is one of my favorite albums, I thought that it had a wonderfully aggressive feel to it, with a quite a bit of old school roots. Because of this, I’d love to see you here In the US soon.
B: Well, I’m planning to go there and play in the US in September of next year. I’m just waiting for some things to be confirmed.
MB: Well, my birthday is in September, so if you can swing by Columbus, Ohio, around the 23rd of September, that would be great!
B: We’ll do our best.
MB: I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule, now in the studio, to do this interview with us, here at Metal Blast.
B: You’re welcome. Please, check out my website and my facebook page.
I’d like to give a big “thank you” to all the fans that I’ve met in my last tour. Thank you very much for your support and your encouragement and for making it possible for me to be a professional singer.