After leaving IRON MAIDEN, Blaze embarked on a solo career, and has enjoyed an enviable reputation as one of the hardest working artists touring worldwide.
Speaking from his home in the UK, Blaze caught up with Overdrive to discuss his trilogy concept albums, the 25th anniversary of his time in Iron Maiden and the special live shows he has planned starting with Rock the Coast in Malaga, Spain.
OD – You have been going non-stop since January with ‘Tour of the Eagle Spirit’ and now with the latest run of dates coming to close in the US will you have some down-time before you kick off again?
BLAZE – We have been going since January in South American that was the first time I could bring my actual band with me to that part of the world. When I’ve been there in the past I’ve had to work with some excellent session musicians in South America but this time, I was able to bring over my band, which was fantastic. This guys have been my band on the last three albums and the last five tours with me.
The whole tour down there was absolutely fantastic! The reaction from the fans down there was just mind-blowing to say the least. After that tour we rehearsed the new set for the ‘Eagle Spirit‘ tour and did that in the UK, the reaction so far has been great.
Fans that have seen me 10/15 times in the past have told me that it’s their favourite setlist to date, so that’s a positive sign going into the Summer Festival season.
OD – Let’s talk about the ‘Live in France’ release that came out back in March. There not many bands that are releasing live albums these days and it’s a testament to those who do. Exactly how much decision making went into the release of ‘Live in France’ and was it a different kind of show, knowing that everything was being recorded with the intention of a live album?
BLAZE – I really wanted to have a studio album, do the tour and then release the live album from that tour. So, for the fans, they get the studio LP, see the live show and then get a proper mixed and mastered live album of that tour. I’ve wanted to do this for such a long time and to finally get the opportunity to make this happen was a dream come true for me.
I made two live albums before and I’ve never used backing tapes. What I like to do is treat the album version of the songs translated in a different way, because it’s live. I’m not fussed with trying to capture every identical moment from a studio recording to live as it’s kind of impossible. There will always be a few subtle changes and differences here and there but with the core and the true heart of the song. The fans seem to enjoy that very much.
OD – Tell me about the ‘Infinite Entanglement’ trilogy as it’s been somewhat of an epic creative journey from 2016’s ‘Infinite Entanglement’ to 2018’s ‘The Redemption of William Black’. I can only imagine the complexities of trying to record one concept let alone three?
BLAZE – I was very lucky to be honest. It was a complete accident how it happened. I wrote a song especially for the ‘Soundtracks of my Life‘ (2013) album, and that song was called ‘Eating Children‘.
So, I started thinking about the concept of that song and who the rich will be able to afford to leave planet earth and leaving us all to rot on what’s left of earth. I wanted to go deeper into this concept and then it just began to take a life of its own.
So, the concept was about trying to find a new planet Earth. I was supposed to be doing the sleeve notes for my own album at the time but I was completely consumed by the idea of this story.
Then it came around to the time when I had to start thinking about the next album and I had nothing. I had no lyrics or ideas and then it hit me! So, I started looking at all my ideas about this concept and I thought to myself; “I’m gonna try this, I’m really gonna give this a go and see what happens” and before I knew it, the whole story came together really fast.
OD – How long did you have the desire to make a concept album?
BLAZE – Well, I had 16 songs and that’s when I realised that this was only the beginning of the story and it would be more than just one album. You have to understand, some of these songs came in a random order and it was a very complicated process in arranging them and deciding what song should be for what stage of the story and what album that should feature on.
I knew at this point that there was going to be three albums and I remember saying to my guitarist; “It” not one album, it’s three!” and he just looked at me and said “Ohhhh”.
No record company would ever be okay with an artist doing 3 concept albums in this day and age. Owning the label gave me the power to make this happen and I’m eternally grateful that I’m managed to do that in my career.
OD – I remember seeing you for the fist time in Brixton Academy when Wolfsbane stepped in for Prong on the Anthrax/Public Enemy tour back in ’92. Looking back that must have been a ground-breaking show/tour. Do you have any memories you would like to share?
BLAZE – Yeah, that was a very exciting time. At the time, it was obvious that it was a very different vibe to anything I’d seen or been involved with before. What I remember was all the Public Enemy guys hanging around and you have to understand these guys are very different to the heavy metal guys that would be hanging around at gigs.
But, once we broke the ice, everybody got on really well and we had a great time. What was really different was within the culture of Public Enemy, they kept inviting their friends and you wouldn’t know half the time if they were part of the crew or they were just part of the bands entourage. They would be phoning their friends and inviting them over from America and we were like; “Are they part of the crew?” and they would be saying: “Naw, there’re just hanging out with us“.
I thought that was just fantastic. I loved the fact that they (Public Enemy) treated the whole thing so informally. This really important, very unusual and let’s face it, historical tour was something that they cherished and shared with their closest friends, which is just amazing. It was really refreshing to see and was a really positive attitude amongst everybody and it was just a great experience to be part of.
OD – This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of your time with Iron Maiden and I believe you are performing a special setlist at select festivals. Will the material be based on and ‘The X Factor’ (1995) and ‘Virtual XL’ (1998), or will there be a peppered selection of Maiden tracks?
BLAZE – As you so rightly stated, this is indeed the 25th anniversary of my time in Iron Maiden and I noticed that there are people out there that either didn’t know that I was in Iron Maiden or perhaps they don’t know what I’ve been doing since I was in Iron Maiden.
This got me thinking that we should do something special this year and we’ve included a bunch of songs in tour live set from my time in in the band. Since rehearsing the tracks, I’ve discovered that I’ve found another part of my voice and it’s stronger than ever.
I can do more with the Maiden songs now than I was every able to do when I was in the band. It’s been really great working on these songs again. To go back and revisit them again has been so interesting for me, especially since my voice has matured so much.
I’m going to be performing my favourites from both of the albums that I sang on. I’m doing it more in the style that we did back then. I’ve got an extra guitarist, Luke Appleton (Iced Earth) and it’s just one voice. We’ll be playing the best that we can, and hopefully the fans will enjoy the set, even if they never heard me during my time in Iron Maiden.
The songs are still very strong and stand up as a very important part of my legacy as well, so it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing live again.
OD – Do you look back on your time with Maiden with fond memories or was it all just a million miles an hour?
BLAZE – Well, it was a fantastic time in my life. When I was in Wolfsbane we were so restricted. We were never able to tour like we wanted to. The record label wouldn’t support us and all we really wanted to do was get in a van and tour relentlessly and we never got to do that.
When I joined Iron Maiden and had a tour of nine months ahead of me, that was just a dream come true. The thing that I cherished the most from from my time in Iron Maiden was the experience of writing with them.
Here I was, sitting down with artists who have been rewarded multi-platinum awards for their sales and who have written songs that are part of Rock and Metal culture that the world knows! It was very important to me and I learned so much over the course of the two albums.
Did you know that there wasn’t anything written for ‘The X Factor‘ when I joined the band and I contributed a great deal of ideas to that album. One of my ideas was selected to be the first single from the album ‘Man on the Edge’ and it was as top-ten hit!
Overall it was an incredible accomplishment in my career and learned so much especially from turning ideas in my head into an actual piece of music. Overall is was a fantastic experience for me and I was very sad to leave. It was the only way Maiden could move on and to be honest, the world needs Iron Maiden.
Those guys do what they want and that’s the way it should be. I remember Steve (Harris, Iron Maiden Bass) telling me: “The record label are not allowed to come into the studio when we’re recording, no one is allowed to listen to the album until it’s finished. No one has anything to do with the album apart from the band!”
If you want to hear real music created by real musicians, then leave them alone and try to influence the creative process with a corporate ‘sales’ angle.
OD – Have you ever considered doing your own book about your life, the times in Wolfsbane, Maiden and your solo career?
BLAZE – I don’t really want to do that. Lawrence Paterson wrote a book (“At The End of the Day, The Story of the Blaze Bayley Band)” that came out in 2011 and as far as I’m concerned that’s enough. Any celebrity or musical personality today that mentions anything about writing a book, people just assume that it’s about themselves. I’m writing a science fiction book and that’s enough for me.
I’ve no interest in writing about myself, reading about myself or anything to that effect. I am a singer, a songwriter and a storyteller and my songs are my life’s stories and that’s the life interpretation for me. If you listen carefully you can translate what I’m talking about.
OD – Finally, of all the experiences you’ve had in this business, what advice would you give a younger Blaze Bayley given the chance?
BLAZE – Well, there are two sides to that question is don’t just get your apprenticeship in what ever vocation you are hoping to do and let that be the be all and end all of your career choice in life. Keep that in your back pocket because it’s going to give you the security that you need in life and that’s very important.
If you follow your dreams in the entertainment business, it’s going to cause you so much heartache, financial problems, stress and heartache. Everybody you ever loved will be sacrificed in the face of your ambition for music an you’ll never know if it’s gonna be a good decision for you in the long run.
The other side to this, is that if you DO follow your dreams then you are going to have the most incredible experiences, meet incredible people and really make a difference to some peoples lives. Just by being honest and doing the best work that you can. You will get into peoples minds and hearts and when that happens, it’s worth it all.
But to refer back to your question, the young Blaze Bayley wouldn’t listen to an old fart like me [Laughing]. He’d say; “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?”
I did get a lot of advice along the way and some of it was good advice and some was bad. Part of the key to success in this business takes a mixture of being part stubborn and part single-minded, putting everything else in second place behind your ambition. And that’s horrible! But, it’s reality.
Almost any professional entertainer will have a list of sacrifices and will have had to make horrible, emotional decisions along the way. The other way of looking at it is you have to pursue your dreams to the exclusion of so many things but it can come at a very high personal costs.
Catch Blaze Bayley at Rock The Coast in Malaga, Spain on June 14th/15th. For more information please click here.