Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blaze Bayley interview

Blaze Bayley is celebrating 30 years in metal music. From fronting Wolfsbane, to being the voice of heavy metal pioneers Iron Maiden to releasing multiple albums with his own namesake band Blaze has been around the world and back multiple times. "Soundtracks of my Life" is his newest release which culls together 28 tracks that span his solo releases since leaving Iron Maiden and also giving us 2 brand new tracks which he worked on with Rick Plester. 30 tracks on 2 disks to celebrate 30 years Blaze Bayley has given the metal community a shot in the arm with his hard work, dedication and above all, quality heavy metal music for us to enjoy. I chatted with Blaze via skype about the new album, his Maiden days, his influences and alot more. Please read on and enjoy the interview!

Jaymz : How easy/hard was it to pick the tracks on "Soundtracks of my Life"?
Blaze : Some of it was difficult. My main guide was thinking "I really want to play these songs live, so which of these songs that I've done in my career are my favorite to play live?". That was my first choice, then I wanted two new songs. Because I knew that my existing fans would get it anyway, and I wanted there to be something new for them to listen to. I worked on two new songs with Rick Plester from Austin, Texas and then I used a couple of songs that were bonus tracks that not everyone had been able to get ahold of and that more or less brought it up to the 30 songs. And I wanted it to be 30 songs to kind of coincide and celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Jaymz : You mentioned the 2 new tracks "Hatred" and "Eating Children". What are the lyrical inspirations behind these 2 songs?
Blaze : With "Hatred" I had the idea a while ago and I managed to work it out with Rick Plester, the actual rythm of the song is based on a vocal phrase which is "cock sucking motherfucker", it runs all the way through the song, it's very low in the mix, you cant hear it until you listen closely but it is there. The rythm in the song reflects that "cock sucking motherfucker" phrase and it's just a repetition of that. And then the lyric on the verses and the choruses is a true story about someone who was in a support band that I was touring with, and he was such a complete asshole and it ended up coming to blows. Thats why it says "leave me alone" cause thats what I said to the guy, and he just kept getting in my face and that's why you've got the chorus line "leave me alone". "Eating Children" that really came from Rick Plester, he wanted to do some kind of really, far out idea, he's completely crazy that guy, but you know he is a musical genius. We started with some crazy guitar ideas, and I was digging through my lyrics and I had this thing called "Eating Children" which basically is the story of the solar system. The solar system coming from a cloud of gas, and in the center of the solar system the planets being the children of the sun because they are the gas that was left over after the birthing of the sun. And then in 5 billion years or something like this, the sun will turn into a red giant and start expanding and eventually it will consume all the planets in the solar system before it goes supernova. I really liked this idea of eating children, then when I googled it just to make sure, there were so many instances of people eating their own children! It was unbelievable! So even though it's a science thing, because I find alot of inspiration in cosmology and all the things that have happened with the Kepler telescope, discovering new planets, it's so exciting, but then I found all these horrible references to people eating their own children. But that was after I wrote the song, and I had fun writing it and there's a clip for it up on youtube.

Jaymz : Science and scifi and robots and technology seems to be a recurring theme in alot of your songs, thats very cool.
Blaze : Well for me it's the reality of what we're living through. You know, from my era I've come from a world that some young people can't even imagine, a world without internet. When I was starting my first band there was no internet, there were no mobile phones, there were no personal computers, this was the dark ages of information technology. It's changed so much in my lifetime, it's gone from having to rent a studio that costs $1,000 a day, to getting the same result in your own home with equipment that costs only $1,000. It's a completely different world and I find that quite inspirational, but for me I'm still a spiritual person and I think that we are all connected and that there is ESP, and there is something more than what we can see and I just think that we dont have the tools to measure it yet. But what they say and what scientists believe about quantum theory and things like this, really it makes anything possible. At the bottom of it, science says everything is possible, because this quantum theory is so outlandish and yet, they use it and that's it, you've got a mobile phone network. So I find that inspirational and also the nature of intelligence, and consciousness, and what makes you who you are and will we be in a situation in a few years time where an artificial person has the same rights as a human person? I like these ideas of how we're going to deal with this because what is the nature of consciousness? Is it some magical thing? or is it something that can be instilled into a set of algorithms and stored on some kind of new hard drive that hasnt been invented yet? I find thats a theme I always go back to, always questioning the nature of who you are and how do you define yourself as a person in the world around you?

Jaymz : Now with these two new tracks, are these going to be the musicians that play on your next album?
Blaze : No these are 2 totally different things that I decided to do with Rick Plester, he was in Dark Symphony before and we started a side project called The Foundry. We did a tour once and we just got on since then, he's an incredible talent on guitar and a great songwriter as well. I just went on an extended break to Austin, Texas and stayed at his house and we just kept jamming around on things until we came up with what we thought would be something of good quality and thats how we did it. I'm using a different band for each tour, I like to give new musicians a chance, so I work with different bands in different countries.

Jaymz : Thats awesome! Paul Dianno does the same thing pretty much where he picks a backing band and he brings them on tour with him
Blaze : Yeah, thats it, I've been on tour with Paul and I've used some of the same musicians that he uses and in some places it's different guys. Yeah, we've been on tour with Paul and we sing our old Maiden songs and we have alot of fun when we do that, it's a bit like a holiday for me.

Jaymz : Thats very cool that you guys do that for upcoming musicians and give them a shot, I'm a musician myself and to be able to say you've played with Blaze Bayley and Paul Dianno is a huge deal and a big notch in your resume and it's just awesome that you guys do that.
Blaze : Well a few guys have done quite well, one of my old drummers went on to Paradise Lost, another drummer I had went to Helloween along with a guitarist I had at one point, and another guitarist I had has gone on to Doro and recorded albums with her and become her main guitarist. I always wish people well, I say "Come along, do your best, get noticed, put yourself out to alot of people who wouldn't have seen you before, it's a very credible gig, and it's up to you to make the most of it." and quite a few people have gotten somewhere from it.

Jaymz : Other than this compilation, which of your solo releases are you most satisfied with musically?
Blaze : Oh that's so difficult because I've put my heart and soul into every one. So musically I think I just cant choose between them, each one has a difference about it. I'm so proud of my "Blood And Belief" album because it was a step in a slightly different direction for me and the lyrics became alot more personal on that, so I love that one and I'm hugely proud of "Silicon Messiah" being my first album after Maiden and "Tenth Dimension" being so full of great music and it's a big concept album. "The Man Who Would Not Die" was an album recorded under extreme circumstances, it was impossible to do, but we did it anyway, it was impossible to finish, but we finished it anyway, we couldnt afford to put it out, but it came out anyway so that one has alot of great memories for me as well. I always "live" the album before we record it, so it's very difficult for me to choose.

Jaymz : "The man who would not die" seems to be a great reflective piece and is about label troubles you had, please elaborate on the lyrical inspiration for this song?
Blaze : Well, I was signed on to SPV/Steamhammer and I was still naive enough to think you could make it in the mainstream doing this kind of music. Basically we had a contract and it was verified by lawyers and very expensive to get done, and they just didnt stick to it. All I wanted to do really was just get in a van and stay on tour. I didnt care where I went, I just wanted to stay on the road and play my music for people and have a bit of promotion and they just wouldn't help me with that. When it came time to pay for the 2nd part of the contract and the advance for the next album so I could make the next album, they blackmailed me. Really for them and so many other people it would have been convenient if I had just given up and disappeared and there you have "The Man Who Would Not Die", I couldn't give up and I wouldn't disappear so that's why I wouldn't go anywhere until I finished that album and put the point across that "Yeah, I can do this" I'm proud of it. On that same record "Blackmailer" is a true story they did steal the rest of the world from me because the original contracts that we had together, it only covered Europe, and all the other territories in the world, I could go and negotiate a license for. Then they said "No, we want the license for the whole world now, but we're not going to pay you any extra, we're only going to pay you what's in the contract for Europe". So they blackmailed me and said "We aren't paying you until you agree" which is blackmail isn't it? So there's alot of bitterness on that album, but also alot of stubbornness "Right, if you think you can beat me, good luck with that because I may be bent, I may be down, but I'm not broken".

Jaymz : That really sucks to hear that label is like that because they've had so many good acts on there
Blaze : Yeah, but sadly it's very political isn't it? If there's someone there that likes you, or the balance sheet looks right, then that's it, but they wont see further than "Oh, well this guy if he goes on tour he might get alot of fans" and so on but, that's history now so I do everything myself, I just put my own label together, it's called Blaze Bayley Recording, and got I some distribution and my wife is my manager and the fans visit my webshop or come to my concerts and buy my CD's and I play concerts all over the world, more so than I have ever since I was in Iron Maiden. I'm very lucky and very privileged to do what I love and what I feel I'm good at as my full time job. To be able to make my living and pay my rent by singing original material, and have the support of so many fans around the world is a real privilege and I just thank my lucky stars every day that I'm able to do this and I thank my fans around the world for the support that they give me that enables me to continue.

Jaymz : "Rainbow Fades to black" is a great Dio tribute, please elaborate on his influence on you as a musician and as a person
Blaze : It's a tribute to Dio, but not in such a direct way. He's been such a big influence on my style and my composing. He was at my hometown in Birmingham, at the Birmingham Odeon on the Holy Diver tour and when I heard him sing "Children Of The Sea" that was a life changing moment. That was when I thought "I've never heard anything like this before, I want to do THAT! This is incredible" and I just fell in love with his voice. At that moment I hadn't had a record by him or anything, over time I bought everything Ronnie James Dio did on vinyl. I was making my first album with Wolfsbane at Sound City in Van Nuys in Los Angeles and we were in rehearsals across from the studio and Ronnie was producing a demo for a band in the studio and he had gotten Vinny Appice there on drums and I met him there in the studio and we had quite a long chat and I was asking about his days in Elf, I was such a fanboy, it was incredible. Over the years I had met him a few times and he was always a complete gentleman, a wonderful guy and I've never met anybody who has ever said a bad thing about him. He's someone that really shaped my singing style in the early days and when he passed I wanted to do some kind of tribute. The way I decided to do my own personal tribute was to let myself use all of those influences that's why it's a rainbow, Ronnie always had rainbows in his lyrics and I wanted to let myself feel like I was letting all of his influence on me show through and that's why it worked out that way and I'm really happy with the way it worked out.

Jaymz : "The day I fell to earth" is described as the day you left Maiden, how hard/easy was it for you to decide to move forward and keep playing metal?
Blaze : Well, it just wasnt a decision really, the biggest shock was that I wasn't in a band, I was always in a band and always tried to be the singer in a band. I felt that the only thing I could do was to get a band together and make some music and get back out there. All the incredible things I learned from Steve Harris and the rest of the guys in Maiden about writing and performing, I though "I've really got to use that and get my ideas out" because I was already getting my ideas ready to share and work on the 3rd Iron Maiden album which I thought I'd be involved in and turned out to be "Brave New World". That was it, I just had to keep going, it wasn't really a decision, I never thought about stopping. I wonder now if I did the right thing, if I should have taken some time to really think about it and let the emotions cool and everything but I said "No, I've got to get a band together and get my album out before Iron Maiden and if there's any Maiden fans that were interested in what I did with the band maybe I'll have some success" and well, that just never worked out. I had my album ready, done and finished so it could come out in February that year and for some reason it kept getting delayed, and it was put out the same week as Iron Maiden so effectively I was completely overshadowed by the "Brave New World" album and the next time they changed the release date on me and the same exact thing happened again. Basically my band and all the hard work I did and all the great music we worked on just didn't get over to the people I was trying to get it over to. The weird thing is that now, 15 years later now people come to my gigs and say "You are the first singer I saw with Iron Maiden and your album is the first Iron Maiden album I got" and I say "And this is the first time you've seen me?! And I've done all these albums and toured with every one of them?!" so, I dont know what's happening but for some reason now it seems that I'm getting the fruits of my labor from all of that work and really being strong on the songwriting and doing the absolute best I could, now people are really starting to appreciate it and it's a really, really nice feeling.

Jaymz : Have you listened to, and do you continue to listen to any of the Iron Maiden stuff since you left the band?
Blaze : Yeah when Steve has sent me a new album sometimes. I like Brave New World, there's only 1 or 2 songs I didn't get on with, I dont really listen to the stuff now though it's just too emotional for me really. I listen to it sometimes if someone says "Ooh, I hate it! I hate the new album!" then I'm more inclined to listen because I know it really just can't be that bad and they must be missing something about it because when I worked with Steve Harris the quality of the songwriting was just absolutely great. But I dont make it a point to listen to it though.

Jaymz : Do you have any Iron Maiden moments or funny stories you'd like to share?
Blaze : We were on tour in France, and it was the last day of the "X Factor" tour, and Eddie had been ill, I think he had some kind of ear infection and he was a bit wobbly on the stage. We start "Iron Maiden" and I'm down in front jumping around and all the fans start laughing and I'm thinking "What's happening? Is my fly open?". I looked around and Eddie had taken 3 steps and had just fallen flat on his face and he was being dragged off the stage which took the whole crew because that was a HUGE Eddie on that "X Factor" tour, he was big man with his loincloth and everything. There was alot of funny things that happened but that moment really, really sticks out with Eddie flat on his face hahahaha!

Jaymz : Songs like "Blood and belief", "Watching the night sky" and the metaphors in "Samurai" are very inspirational, as someone who has openly admitted in other interviews to dealing with depression do you write these lyrics to help you out of your darker times or are they written once the cloud of depression has moved on?
Blaze : Well, it varies, but I always write what I feel so I've always got my notepad and I'm always writing what I feel, certain phrases and things like that. I think about my life and the way I relate to things and I talk about it. I didn't know I suffered from depression until after Iron Maiden. I went to the doctor, actually someone MADE me go to the doctor, it wasn't my choice, and he asked me "Do you feel this or that?" and when I answered yes he told me that I suffer from depression. In one way that was a really good moment because at least I knew why I felt that way, at least I could tag those feelings with something, at least there was something I could look at or research or do something about. Before I knew I had depression I was just really moody and I was miserable, I had alot of great things happen to me that I never enjoyed. It seemed like such a tragedy to me and I could never explain why I felt that way or why I never enjoyed these things and once I found out that I suffered from depression then I could look for something, then I could do something about it. But that didnt mean it was the end of it, I've been through HUGE up's and down's since then, but it helps to have a handle on it. I've never hidden it either, I've never tried to come off as something more than a human who has these feelings, everyone will go through it at one point in their life and some people will just be more prone to that chemical imbalance in their brain. You've got to watch out for the triggers, watch out for what sends you over the edge, watch out for what's at the beginning of that slope, that you dont go too far down. Touch wood that I haven't had a real bad episode in about 2 years now.

Jaymz : You have toured recently with Paul Dianno, how was that experience?
Blaze : Ah, it's just hilarious! In some ways we are absolutely alike, and other ways we are totally different. It's amazing going on tour with Paul, there's hardly any hassle or aggravation, very low stress, I'm just singing my old songs. What's great for me is, when I was actually recording those songs I wasn't the singer that I am now. It's nice to go back now with the maturity and emotions that I have now and the voice control that I have now and sing those songs now and give them a fresh feel. I really enjoy doing that, it's like meeting old friends when I go on tour with Paul, I really enjoy singing those old songs. Paul is alot of fun to hang around with he's always joking around, it's always a good time and the funny thing is whenever anything goes really bad on the tour we stick together, we're like evil brothers sticking together if some is trying to mess us about haha! It's great because so many people who wouldn't normally see me will get to see me as part of the Paul and Blaze tour, it's really helped me and it's gotten me over to alot of fans who would have liked me had they known about me, so I'm getting known now by those people and it's really cool.

Jaymz : Do you have any plans to tour in america?
Blaze : You know, it's so tough for me to get over there. I have alot of fans in the United States, but it's so big and they are dotted around all over the place. You guys need to make your country a bit smaller, a sensible size like the U.K., England is a proper sized country, your country is just too big haha! I do try and get there every year and sometimes I fail so if I dont get there this year I will try and make it there next year. But for the first time I'm going up to Canada and touring Canada for the first time since I left Iron Maiden so I would hope that I can come and play a few cities in the U.S. if not on part one of the tour, than on part two. I love playing there, I love the culture there, it's just expensive to get there and really the truth is I'm a cult artist, I'm a very small independent artist, I'm not part of the mainstream of music, I'm something outside of that so everything I do has to pay for itself, there's no bank behind me, there's no rich parents or big record company, the only thing that makes it possible for me to tour and do those things are the fans who support me. It's quite tough to get there, but I do keep trying. My last time there was full of up's and down's, some places were quite full and some just did no promotion at all and people didn't know I was coming there, so hopefully I can get back and do a better job next time.

Jaymz : Who is your biggest musical influence?
Blaze : Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Bon Scott and the early Van Halen recordings of David Lee Roth, they've all been influences on me vocally. Musically while working on my own compositions, my biggest influence has to be Steve Harris, I don't want to sound like Iron Maiden, but the way that Steve Harris takes and idea from just something very quiet and a few notes on a page and turns it into a song like "The Clansman" is incredible. Musically, that's been a huge influence on how I write.

Jaymz : Non musical influences? Movies/books?
Blaze : Well, I like alot of science fiction movies, I like Phillip K. Dick who wrote "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sleep?" which turned into the movie Bladerunner. I like his style and his questioning of "is this actually happening to you NOW?". A big movie in my life has been Gattaca because it came along about the time I was working on "Silicon Messiah" and I found that the motif for the movie is that there's no gene for the human spirit, in other words, sheer force of will can get you further than talent. I think that's true and it's a big inspiration to me. I like alot of movies, normal flicks that everyone else like, I like alot of intense art films as well, I'm always trying to catch new films because I'm afraid of missing a good idea. I like independent films because the producers aren't afraid to take risks and they are always very interesting. Whenever I'm on itunes I'm always looking at the indie films as much as the blockbusters.

Jaymz : Are there any newer bands you like to listen to?
Blaze : I just did a promotional tour with a Belgian band called Mental Circus who are very good. Another band called Hell City that are very good as well. There's a couple of bands from the local area that I really like alot. I don't keep up with many new bands because I work so much that I just don't have time. The last thing I do when I come home is go out and see a band because I'm in a band and I see bands most nights. It's always interesting when I discover bands, I like playing festivals because I always get to see people I've heard of, but never seen. You'll find me at the back of the tent with the unsigned bands or the new bands when I'm on a festival if I'm not on stage.

Jaymz : What is your favorite gig you have played so far in your career?
Blaze : That's difficult, all the really great ones are really beautiful for different reasons. It's usually the unexpected ones that are the best. There's this gig in Brazil called Stonehenge Pub, I went there acoustic in January last year and they invited me back with my full metal band and it was so full, like 800 people and you think "Do they know it's me that's performing?" because it just seems like too many people and the reaction is enormous and so loud! It was great and on this tour so far that has been just a stand out show. Fans climbing on top of each other and there's no barrier so they all just mixed in to the front, it was so cool. I'm very, very lucky that I get to play alot of shows, and I get to play alot of full shows and I just have the best fans in the world.

Jaymz : What is the current status of Wolfsbane?
Blaze : Well we're still together, we had a new album called "Wolfsbane saves the world" and really we just haven't had the time to get together to write anything else. So I'm hoping that next year we'll be able to do an anniversary album, which would be great. But you can get the last album at www.wolfsbanehms.com it's a great album, I'm really proud of it and after 17 years break it just felt like Bang! the year after the last album you know? I'd love to be able to get back to it, but all of us are so busy with different projects, it's just really hard to find the time to get together and write an album.

Jaymz : Any advice for young up and coming musicians?
Blaze : Well I've got 2 pieces of advice. 1- Give up, don't bother, spend your time doing something more productive because it's a vicious industry and being good doesn't make any difference whatsoever to the level of success that you can expect. Just because you are the best drummer, bass player or singer in the world doesn't mean you are going to be successful. 2-If you are too stubborn to listen to that advice, you've probably got some of what it takes to get somewhere and that's it. In the beginning so many people told me to stop, so many people told me not to bother, so many people told me "Oh, you're not a very good singer" well I'm not the best singer but I never gave up. My best advice is to really get your head around contracts and math and try to be able to work out a spread-sheet and just practical book keeping and taking care of the numbers. It's music business and without the business there is no music and you are stuck in your bedroom. So from making your first demo's and your first CD's you've got to cost everything out carefully, it's all numbers at the end of the day. If you are one of the very rare bands that can sign a big deal you should really try and understand those numbers because they are going to mean something to you in the future.

Jaymz : What are your top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Blaze : I'd say Reign In Blood by Slayer, High Voltage by AC/DC, umm...nothing by Justin Bieber hahaha! Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son by Maiden, Holy Diver by Dio and Mob Rules by Black Sabbath, today that's what I say anyway, you know it changes just like the weather doesn't it? Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime is great, it sounds as fresh today as when it came out. Before I had a family, instead of buying a new bathroom I bought a brand new stereo just so I could hear Operation Mindcrime the best that I could, that's a fantastic album. I like alot of the old AC/DC, the pre Rick Rubin AC/DC I much prefer. I also like Airbourne who sound alot like AC/DC, someone said to me "Well it just sounds like AC/DC" and I said "well yeah, that's why I like it!" hahaha! That's not a bad thing, if they're not copying, it's their own stuff, it's exciting you know, if you need something to keep you going until the next AC/DC record you can buy an Airbourne album! I always put on an Airbourne album when I have to do alot of laundry or washing up. If I'm at home and need some motivation I put on Airbourne and that's my motivation to do the washing up! Cheers!

You can visit Blaze Bayley on Facebook at www.facebook.com/officialblazebayley
And you can visit his official website at www.blazebayley.net

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