A Conversation with Blaze Bayley

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Blaze Bayley is a Metal lifer. He’s the longtime frontman of Wolfsbane, was the frontman of Iron Maiden during their highly underrated 90s period, and has had a long, successful solo career. After over 35 years of nonstop touring, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Blaze finally had a moment to collect his thoughts and begin work on what was to become War Within Me, which is another fine addition to the stellar Blaze Bayley catalog.

Today, I’ve got Blaze with me for a chat. We discuss his long career in music, becoming a better songwriter during his time in Iron Maiden, what it means to have a “Metal-heart,” the recording of War Within Me, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Blaze Bayley and his new record War Within Me, you can head over to Blaze Bayley’s website and grab your copy on vinyl or CD today. Enjoy this chat with Blaze. I know I did. Dig it.

Andrew:
I Blaze. Nice to have you here. Thanks for taking the time.

Blaze:
Thank you, Andrew. Thank you very much.

Andrew:
All right, let’s jump right in. How are you making out during this difficult time?

Blaze;
Well, it’s not too bad. I’ve had a lot worse. The first one [lockdown] was more difficult. It was a lot more challenging because that’s when things were getting postponed and canceled, and plans were changing. The second part hasn’t been too bad because we’ve been able to work on the new album, War Within Me.

This third part, which we hope is the last thing really, hasn’t been too bad for me. I’m very, very lucky because I’m realizing this is the longest I’ve been in one place for about 35 years. And, you know, I haven’t had to sleep on the floor of an airport or dressing room or van for this whole time for a year. I don’t miss running across airports to try and make an impossible flight. I suppose the main thing is that most people that have heard War Within Me seem to like it. So, that is a huge relief after spending such a challenging year making the album in a different way to how we made things in the past and adapting to the circumstances.

Andrew:
Nice. Well, it could be worse. I have heard War Within Me, and it’s really very good. It’s some excellent classic Metal. How did it come together? What was the inspiration for this record?

Blaze:
Well, we made the trilogy, Infinite Entanglement. That was impossible, three albums in three years, keeping the quality of the songwriting up, one big concept over three albums, and keeping people interested. It was impossible, but we did it anyway. And that’s my greatest achievement in music so far. Thirty-some odd songs on the three albums of Infinite Entanglement and each one had to be connected to the story somehow or connected to another song or a character. That’s part of the concept.

So when we sat down with this album, it was “We’ve got to come up with 10 songs, and they don’t have to be related to each other.” So that was just like being let out of jail in a way. I mean, I love what we did, and I’m so proud of it, but it’s a lot more concentration. We had a few little ideas that we’d come up with that we thought might be for the trilogy, but they just weren’t. So we had those in the vault, and then we had a couple of subjects that I knew I wanted to write about. So that was another thing. I suppose the thing that really took us in the direction that War Within Me has gone in is coming back from South America and arriving in Paris for the connecting flight to the U.K., and suddenly there were COVID-19 signs up everywhere. In South America, there was no sign of COVID at the time, so that was a complete shock.

When we did our last performance in London, in March [2020], it was sold out. That was one of the last gigs by anybody in Europe, period. So what happened was two things…first, every time one of the festivals or gigs we had scheduled got canceled, that gave us extra days, which would be available for writing and recording. We were able to have more time to actually spend on the writing and recording and more time for everything else because of those cancelations. It was horrible, absolutely horrible, but we had that time, and that was great in a way.

So we just kept going and going and going. And I think [producer] Chris Appleton just did an amazing job of putting up with me. I can be such an asshole. I’m not just a challenge to work with. It’s basically you work with me, and it’s like suicide. It’s so difficult because I get my vision, and that’s it. It just has to go that way. Now, I may not have the words to describe that, so I’ll just pushing things in that direction, and if you don’t get it, you’re just going to feel like you’re being pushed, and then when it comes together, we go, “Oh, now it makes sense.” Some of it was a challenge. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We had some great laughs, and we had some very late nights. We had some arguments and disagreements, and I felt at the end of the album, “Well, probably that’s the last time Chris Appleton will ever want to speak to me because this has been such a challenge.” Thankfully, we are talking again; I think maybe because he knows we don’t have to make another album any time soon, you know? [Laughs]. I know so many fans have waited a long time for this album. At this point, I hope they’re all saying, “Oh. Thank goodness I’ve got my Blaze Bayley album. It’s what I thought it would be.”

Blaze Bayley – War Within Me (2021)

Andrew:
It’s a great album. I’m excited about the full-length release for sure. I am also excited that this one is on vinyl. Also, it’s endearing how much you really care about your fans and that you really want to deliver after so many years. You see so many artists who become a legacy act, and you’ve got more than enough great music under your belt where you could easily just coast. Still, you’re committed to not only putting out new music but putting out quality music. I wonder, you seem to always to deliver. You’ve been a member of Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden. You never seem to fall short on what you do. Does your base of great music ever factor into what you’re doing now as a confidence builder?

Blaze:
Well, I think for me and some of the people like me, there is a huge amount of stress that goes with expectation. People have no clue about the amount of effort and agony that went into the last album. You start with demos and move through the process, and at some point, you throw your hands up and say, “Will this ever turn into a proper album?” It’s challenging because wanting it to be good does not make it good. The only thing that makes it good is hard work, a bit of luck, and some inspiration. It’s a lot of pressure in a way.

For War Within Me, Chris and I said, “Why don’t we try this album, all the writing on this old acoustic guitar?” Sometimes we would pick it up [the acoustic] and do bits and pieces, and we ended up having success turning them into Heavy Metal arrangements. So, gradually, slowly, we polished everything up on the acoustic, and that was where the War Within Me idea came from. He’d [Chris Appleton] done a demo of his own with guitars and solos and everything, and it was all Heavy Metal. After that, Chris said to me, “Well, I’ve got no lyrics or melody for this,” and I said, “Well, I’ve got a feeling about it, so just leave it with me,” and that became the song “War Within Me.” That was actually one of the last things that we did.

So we got our songs together. We gradually found the rhythms and the different parts and got them into their Metal arrangements. Even then, as Metal arrangements, they were still not finished. So, we had these beautiful instrumentals; now we’ve got to figure out what should be happening here. Should that be the melody? Should that be a harmony guitar? Should that be the solo? Some are easier than others. Now I’ve got to find lyrics that make sense with what I already have that still grow in the journey. We were fortunate to be in a situation where we had extra time, where we had that kind of relationship, that even though we do want to kill each other, none of us actually gets a firearm.

I’m really proud of what we’ve done, but I had my fans in mind all of the time. I was imagining that they’ve been waiting two years for this album. Now there’s a lockdown. All the gigs are canceled. When you get your Blaze Bayley album, and I’m actually in your head, what am I going to say when I’m in your car driving with you to and from work? Or when I’m in your bedroom on your Hi-Fi? What am I going to say? What’s going to make it better? What’s going to make you forget about the crap that you’re wading through, and what’s going to make you immerse yourself in this new music? And that’s what was going through my mind.

Andrew:
One of the things I really enjoy about your music is that it retains that classic Heavy Metal quality. It makes sense; you’ve been a part of the scene for a long time. The question is when you’re writing songs nowadays, how has your songwriting process changed? How has your process progressed since your early days in Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden?

Blaze:
Well, I think there are certain themes that I always visit, and I always look at themes like identity, not giving in, and trying to pick yourself up. These are things that I often go back to as I am a melancholy sort of person. The biggest change for me is in my early years; songwriting was a bit hit and miss. Some things would work and some things that I really liked but just wouldn’t work. That was frustrating because I’d end up with lyrics I really liked on songs that never came out. Working with the guys in Maiden and particularly with Steve Harris, I started to learn that you can guide things much more positively, and you don’t have to rely on these “accidents.” It was something that I’d started doing in Wolfsbane, but then in Maiden, I had some success, and I gained a lot of confidence and had a lot of guidance. Steve Harris was a mentor to me in many ways regarding songwriting, which gave me a huge amount of confidence. That confidence has carried on into my songwriting later on in my solo work. So there are much fewer “accidents.” If something’s not working now, I can make a judgment earlier on. So we’ll leave that today. Maybe we’ll leave that this year. Maybe we will leave it for five years and come back to it, but let’s move on to something that works and use our energy there. I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many talented musicians over the years. I’ve learned from that.

Andrew:
You were talking before about how you can be a little melancholy, and you have certain themes that run through your songs. I think many of your lyrics and your themes are very relatable, which IS probably why your fans feel so close to your music. That said, who are some of your earliest songwriting influences? How have they continued to influence you now? Do you still draw off those older influences to this day?

Blaze:
One of the wonderful things about Rock and Metal is we don’t have to follow a formula. What is common in Pop music – chorus – verse – chorus – we don’t have to go there. We can use it if we want to, but we can actually give the idea life and then see where it goes. That said, those early influences, Rainbow, early AC/DC with Bon Scott, where it doesn’t even feel like he [Bon Scott] is singing, it’s as if he’s talking to you. It’s classic. Then, more powerful things like Journey and his [Steve Perry] style of singing. Of course, Bruce Dickinson and his style, and some of the work by The Beatles and Deep Purple. With songs, the biggest thing is that it just has to make sense with itself, and on this album [War Within Me], I think that happened. So definitely from the point of attitude, I listened back to those early songs from when I first got into Black Sabbath. They’ve got such unusual formats and arrangements of where they put things, so I do listen to those still.

Nowadays, I’m always looking for the chorus, but before, I wasn’t really that focused on it. Working with Brendan O’Brien, one of the things he said is, “When you’ve got it is when the song has a chorus. The chorus is the song. If you’re going to get there, you better have that; you better have a great chorus.” That changed my thinking about writing from then on. I started then thinking about what would the chorus be? And I was thinking that way by the time I joined Iron Maiden. Of course, I had a lot of help from Steve Harris and the rest of the guys, and I had some really nice songs there. Having the experience and also because I have loyal support from wonderful fans. We have a kind of trust where it’s, “I will trust you to do your best, and I’ll buy your album before you’ve even made it because I trust that you’re going to do your best. And if it’s your best, then I’m okay with that.” It’s something that’s a kind of pressure, but it’s also a huge privilege that I have people that support me and allow me to live as an independent, professional, Heavy Metal singer. I’m really privileged. And that’s because I have this incredible support from my fans worldwide.

Andrew:
That’s a perfect segue for me
regarding the support of Metal fans. It’s an interesting thing, as there was a time where Metal was heavily commercialized here in North America. I mean, you’ve still got the big bands that will still pack an arena, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc. That said, North America, I don’t want to say abandoned Metal, but it’s not the same as it was. But when you look toward Europe and the U.K., the fans are ravenous for Metal. Why do you feel Metal waned here in North America, but not in Europe and the U.K.?

Blaze:
Well, it was fashionable in the 80s for a while. For those who love Metal, this was a great thing because it meant more concerts and big things happening. I think the US market is a bit more fashion-led in trends and things in regards to what’s commercial. Whereas as real-deal Metal fans, it doesn’t matter where we’re from, whether we are from the US, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Germany, U.K., it doesn’t matter where we’re from, our hearts are Metal, and that doesn’t change. So really, we have this core of Metal-hearted fans that are about the same. And then we have these other kinds of casual listeners, they know one song from a band, and that’s it. They’ll never buy an album. With Metal fans, we will buy the album if we like one song from the band. And if we like the album, we’ll buy every other album they ever made. So that’s the difference. We’re not fashionable as Heavy Metal fans. We don’t particularly care too much about the trend. And it’s that side of being commercial that I think is just a bit different in the US.

The fans in the US with Metal-hearts are the same as fans everywhere. You know, I have people from the US who have traveled thousands of miles to see me, and it was absolutely incredible. So, I think really that’s the difference. It’s slightly less fashionable in Europe. Also, though some Grunge was popular in Europe and those bands enjoyed success, it was nowhere near the success that they had in the USA. So I think that’s all a part of it, and what we’re left with is people that love music. The most important thing is the music. When I was with Iron Maiden, we were up against the entire world. Grunge came and then Napster; they said we were cliched, cheesy dinosaur music that should have died. They said, “Why don’t you die?” Then we rose up, and along with a bunch of fans, we yelled, “Well, this is Metal. It doesn’t die, OK?” We just keep going. We are a machine. As long as we have the feel of electricity and the fans, we will continue. We don’t need to be famous. We don’t need to have lots of money. We don’t need to drink loads or take drugs. All we need is a great sound and a lot of other fans of Heavy Metal, and we’ve got a great day. And I think that’s the difference.

Heavy Metal isn’t as popular as the 80s. I was around in the 80s. I could tell you it was a great time for music and for me personally. Now there’s not as much Heavy Metal around, but quality does get through. If you’re passionate and your heart’s in it, and you don’t take fans for granted, then I think there’s a chance. I just feel very lucky and very privileged that I’m in this situation. I am a tiny, underground, microscopic Heavy Metal artist that some people know about. I can make a living being a professional Heavy Metal singer; I’m incredibly lucky.

Andrew:
I don’t know that I would call you microscopic. I mean, you’ve got a pretty nice body of work, Wolfsbane; the two albums you made with Iron Maiden are two of the most underrated Metal albums of the last 30 years, period. And then your solo work is incredible. I have no doubt that this album is going to do great. It’s interesting what you said about metal. It just does continue to live. In the 80s, it lived through satanic panic. In the 90s, it lived through Grunge. There’s a lot of really great Metal out there, yourself included, and it just takes a lot of resilience these days to make it, I guess.

Blaze:
Well, the best way to put it is I keep doing it. My fans ask me to do it, and they support me, and as long as they want me to do it, I’ll keep going, and that’s it. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve started from nothing three times over. I’ve lost everything, but here I am. I own my own tiny record company. I’m living my life as a full-time Heavy Metal singer. I have incredible support from fans around the world. So, I’m very lucky and very grateful that I have that. It hasn’t been an easy ride, but people have supported me through thick and thin. I know I’ve done some absolutely rubbish gigs where I wasn’t good at all, and fans have still come to see me the next time. I’m under no illusions; Heavy Metal is not the most popular music in the world. It’s the most popular music in my world.

Andrew:
Looking back, what are some of your favorite albums that you’ve done? It could be with Wolfsbane, solo, Maiden- any of them.

Blaze:
The White Album with Wolfsbane, which was our last studio album before I joined Iron Maiden. That’s such a great album. Loads of great music and a lot of passion on that album. The White Album and Wolfsbane’s Save the World. That’s another one I’m really proud of. Of course, the trilogy, Infinite Entanglement. That has to be my greatest musical achievement in my life. It’s unusual, but it’s got just some amazing music on it. So that means a lot. I think now when I’m able to get a bit of distance from War Within Me, I’ll look back on that fondly as well.

Andrew:
I wanted to touch on how you listen to your music. Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or do you stick with digital these days?


Blaze:
Well, a few years ago, I had to sell everything I owned and start again from nothing. So these days, most things I’ve got my music on MP3 or maybe some old CDs. So I’ve got my music on my phone and my iPod now. Just amazing, it’s something I never dreamed of back in the day. Funny story, I remember my tour manager saying to me back in the 90s, and this was before Napster. Anyway, my old tour manager said to me, “I think in the future you’ll be able to buy music through the phone.” I said, “Now I know you’re crazy. That’s never going to happen.” [Laughs]. These phones are incredible. They’re as powerful as a computer. It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible and pretty crazy when you think about it. It’s like we’re living in Star Trek. It’s amazing the world we live in. It’s just a very different time than it was back in the day.

Andrew:
So, the new album, War Within Me, comes out on April the 9th. Where can we get it?

Blaze:
You can order War Within Me now on www.blazebayley.net. You can order the vinyl or the CD, and some special packages with different limited edition items. You can listen to the singles via Spotify.

Andrew:
Last one. Once this all dies down, what’s next for you? Are you going to hit the road, or can you not even think about that right now?

Blaze:
Well, I take it a day at a time. At the moment, what I’m doing is trying to come up with Wolfsbane lyrics, some bits of melodies and things, because we would love to make another Wolfsbane album. I’m writing the Infinite Entanglement book. It’s a novel. The concept started out as a short story, and then it was turned into some songs, and then the songs completed the story. So, I really want to write this novel, which gives you a lot more of each character’s back story, tells you their motivations, explains one or two odd bits and pieces that happen on the album and puts things into a bit more context. It’s a Horror/Science-Fiction story. So, that’s what I’m working on in between everything else and I am unsure when that’s going to be finished. I had a lot done, and then when I read it back through it and looked at it, I thought, “Well, it’s just not very good,” I started again. [Laughs].

Andrew:
I guess it’s like anything else, you get a little bit under your belt, and it gets easier.

Blaze:
Yeah. I don’t know. I’m learning to write a book. I had no clue, but that’s the sort of person I am. You know, if I want to do something, I just go, “Oh, I’m going to do that. I’m going to be a Heavy Metal singer.” Then, you know, a few years later, there I am. People said I couldn’t sing, that I wasn’t naturally talented, that I’d never make it as a Heavy Metal singer, but here I am. So, I want to write a book. I’m going to write the book of Infinite Entanglements.

Andrew:
I’m sure when it’s all said and done, it’ll come out great, just like everything else!

Blaze:
Oh, I hope so. You know, the important thing is. If you like the War Within Me album, please tell everybody about it, and if you hate the War Within Me album, please lie to everybody about it. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Blaze, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time. I look forward to the release of War Within Me. I can definitely say I will be spreading the good word.

Blaze:
OK, then, Andrew! Thank you very much for having me. Cheers.

Interested in learning more about the work of Blaze Bayley? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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