Blaze Bayley - Interview
Blaze Bayley is a very likable and absolutely down-to-earth musician who lives completely for his fans and the music. Anyone who has ever attended a Blaze Bayley concert is most likely thrilled by the charisma and the atmosphere that emanates from it. At least I felt that way at my last (and first Blaze Bayley concert) and when the opportunity arose for me to conduct an interview with him via Zoom, I naturally didn't refuse. Have fun reading!
Hi Blaze, how are you doing?
All fine here!
So how is it happening that you don't watch the soccer world championship right now and do the interview with me instead?
Well, we didn't know the schedule when this was booked. So simple is that. My manager is a Manchester United fan and I am Aston Villa cause my family is Aston Villa. You can't be a fan of any of the English football teams in my family. Since your birth you have been a designated Aston Villa fan, that's how it works. And I don't follow football a lot, I'm just interested in the local teams and used to watch a lot of the international competitions. I feel uncomfortable about this world cup for a couple of reasons but the main reason is that it's a different time of year. All the world cups historically have been at the same time and they haven't messed about with the main season for the teams. It's always been in the summer time historically and that's the thing that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Anybody that has hosted the world cup in the past has done it in the times that the sport normally functions. That makes me feel uncomfortable as well as the FBI investigation into FIFA few years ago revealing huge corruption in FIFA. So there we have a mega rich country and an investigation which proves that some FIFA officials have been completely been corrupt and you've got a world cup happening at a time that messes with the normal business of football in the world. So I feel a bit uncomfortable but I want my team do well – I want all the British teams to do well and the European teams, really. You know, putting the hideous, terrible nightmare of Brexit aside, I feel European. So after my team, I'm going to support the next European team and after that we all support Brazil (laughs). There are a couple of very interesting games coming up. We don't want politics in sport, we don't want politics in music so this could be a way people come together. My fans are very diverse, I hope. The ones that I've met feel that they can be themselves, no matter what. Whether it is color, sexuality – nobody really cares, everybody just cares about the music. Anything else doesn't matter. That's what great about music and in a lot of sporty situations that is also a very good thing that people brought together by the love of the game and even though things are naturally imbued with a great deal of politics just because of the history of your country and government which you may not even have been alive to vote for or be a part of, I'm thinking here most of colonialism and the evil connected with that. I personally don't feel any colonial guilt because I wasn't there, I didn't vote for them. I probably wouldn't have had a vote at the time when those people took those decisions. All what I can is do is feel how wrong colonialism was. I love my Queen Elizabeth – she was a shining light in her life and a tremendous example to people. She was not responsible for what her ancestors did. She had to make the best of it in the situations she was. It maybe sounds pretentious, it probably is but in a smallish way, that with music we can try to heal. And at my concerts the main thing I'm trying to do is make people forget themselves. You come to see me and there's nothing about politics, nothing really about religion or anything like that. It is a deeply personal experience . This is how I felt, this is a story I'm telling you saying we're both human and we both have these fears, anxieties and difficulties in our life. We have to overcome or we fall and die. That's the message that I try to put over: I'm not perfect, I'm very very lucky. The main thing about me is that I'm very lucky to have the people around me that have kept me going in my darkest times. So at my concerts I say: when you go through your darkest time, think of that concert! As dumb as that sounds – when things are going crap, think of this! You had a good time once, we were together, we were connected to something bigger than ourselves. Mike, a Blaze Bayley concert isn't coming to watch me, it's about coming to be with a lot of people who have the same feelings about music and not just about me. And it's about me being a part of that crowd. Not being someone who dictates to that crowd but here we are together with this music so let's forget ourselves and involve ourselves deeply in this and give ourselves these moments to just say "it's okay , in this moment nothing can get me!".
These days you are touring with your 2021 album "War Within Me". And I saw you at the gig in Dortmund which was a fantastic evening. How was it so far for you?
Well, we had a very slow comeback, Michael. The Covid situation and the lock-downs… we came back from Brazil and then we had a big concert in London, doing my Iron Maiden anniversary set. That was in February, I think and that was one of the last live concerts in Europe. I am a tiny artist in the great thing of music but I live in a small house, I have an old car and an old motorcycle, my cost of living is low because I live to sing and I live for my music and I'm incredibly lucky to be able to make a living and be a full time professional singer and also produce my own albums. I make my own albums in my own home studio, the rehearsal room and all of this. So we're there and normal thing is we have some shows, we do some writing, we have some shows, we do some writing, we have a couple of shows as a festival, we're recording…like this. So in the Covid times it was like this little two week tour that we've been doing has been postponed…oh, okay! We spend the time on the album. That festival is gone now, it's postponed, it's been canceled! The domino started to fall, Michael. I asked my fans to buy from my webstore what they would have bought on the tour. And they helped me keep going. That enabled me to do the album as in this early state, Chris Appleton and myself looked at the project and most times I don't want to say "I want this and this and we have to do this and this on the album". What we did is that we asked ourselves a question – at the end of this process, however we've done it, wherever the ideas came from, what kind of album would we like to have? That's a sense of guiding our thought process rather than setting out that we want to have five fast songs about robots. At the end of the album we wanna feel about this record when it's done. And then let's start to think that this is a good conversation to have because it's got the dreams, feelings, emotions and ideas to start a character and we want an album that is going to lift up Blaze Bayley fans. They've waited two years for the album and when they put the album on, I want them to go "aaahhh! I've got my Blaze Bayley record! And it's good!". That's what I wanted. I wanted something to get lifted and that's what we did and everything that we went through, we looked at it and we had this incredible cooking time within the Covid restrictions. We spent 15 days together, we spent 15 days apart, maybe not even listening too much to things and afterwards we got together and said "that's good or that's shit and we thought that it was a good idea just 15 days ago!". Coming back to touring, I've been on stage and singing some of the new songs, it's been incredible because 'Pull Yourself Up' and 'Warrior' were two massive songs and the title track as well. To see the reaction of fans, people singing along to 'Pull Yourself Up' – it's all true lyrics – and to 'Warrior' which is another true lyric about trying to change things to make myself be more positive because I suffer with depression and with my mental health and I battled through it and do the best I can. Most of the time I'm lucky because in my job no one gives a fuck. If they're working with a mental nutcase that is so, at least he is a t work. Whereas a lot of people if they go to work with a doctor's diagnosis of depression, the situation is very uncomfortable for them because of all the prejudices that go with mental health. And though we haven't had many good things from Covid, most of it's been tragic, what we have had is a recognition that everybody has mental problems and basically it's been emotional and connected to being cut off from each other and not having the sense of community that we should have – so that's one of the good things. I've never healed my mental health problems and all of that but I am lucky as an effect in my work. My fans don't go: "I won't listen to him because he has depression" but instead "I listen to it and see what I think". A lot of people say to me: "thank you for sharing, I've been so open about your mental health". Some of my songs are about the agony that I felt which is no worse than anybody else. Everybody goes through that and some people don't make it to the other side. We've got a song about that on the album called Witches Night. We didn't have that in the set at the start and as the first part of the tour was, we couldn't do a meet and greet. We traveled separately and that was a challenge on its own because we were so used to do meet and greet. After that part of the tour we put Witches Night in and it's a thinly disguised story of suicidal thoughts. The conversation with yourself about what your suicide means, and I didn't know this at that time – I've never shied away from talking about suicidal thoughts – suicide is the number one cause of death in the UK for people under 30. Not Covid, not the flu, not gang violence, not drugs, not alcoholism – suicide! I didn't even know that until after we'd written this song and we were performing it regularly. That's a selfish thing – of course you fall in on yourself and it's a black hole of emotions for anybody in that situation and people who haven't been in it find it very difficult to understand. Well, you're in a black hole and nothing can you get out. Everything is just swallowed and every positive thing is gone. People that manage to get through to the other side, sometimes it's just blind luck they manage to do that so I wanted to put my own experience of battling suicidal thoughts into a song and it came out really well. I am really pleased with the way that Witches Night came out and it's something that when we do it, I see my fans connecting with it and enjoy it as well. So the tour slowly bringing these things to life and changing the set a little bit, putting another song in this and now the headline set is 50% of the songs from the new album. "The Unstoppable Tour" which starts in spring will be the songs that we haven't played from the album. I don't like to come out and play a full album of new songs because I've got so many songs I enjoy doing and so many songs I'm connected to. I have a huge repertoire of eleven albums and every song is someone's favorite. So I like to try to bring back some things I haven't done for a while or never done in my set and do something new. "The Unstoppable tour" will be the songs that we didn't do from The War Within Me album and the main one being 'Stephen Hawking' because that one is the song with the chorus "Unstoppable".
You deal with a lot of scientific and technical topics in your lyrics and also on the covers. Would you say that you are a nerd somehow when it comes to stuff like this?
A little bit. I like to know how things work. From a young age I took my toys apart, especially the ones with batteries to see how they work. I wasn't completely successful putting them back together. As I've grown it's been the same with motorcycles. If I had an old one I've always had a go to fix it myself often with tragic consequences. I think it's something I've always been interested in, how things work, where things come from, who had the idea. A quote by Einstein, which is one of the best quotes in my opinion, is: "imagination is more important than knowledge". I have a vast imagination and it's my greatest curse and asset. There is a genius which is Stephen Hawking. But for me the most important part about Stephen Hawking isn't that his theories and his amazing discoveries make sense, the most important thing is this is the man who had to learn to communicate all over again. The thoughts in his head, he couldn't speak! He couldn't speak, he couldn't write, he couldn't type. You can't even use your thumb to send a text message! Nothing! And there he is, his doctors told him he's got three more years to live. That's a death sentence for a lot of people. They see the man in white cape: "six months to live!" And they are gone in six months. And then there's the people who go: "okay then I've got a lot to get done!" which one of them was Stephen Hawking. He is absolutely brilliant. He learns to speak in a new way, he has written a book by looking at a computer screen. It's incredible! He's done a lecture 49 years after they said he had three years to live. He's been on The Simpsons and it's been good! He's probably benefited more young people by him being on The Simpsons than elsewhere! Coming back to the music – the song is very traditional heavy metal. We don't play anything fancy, it's a simple start, no samples in it, no big backing, nothing – it's music, it's electric guitar, drums, vocal and bass of course. At a Blaze Bayley concert there's no backing tapes. Nothing's recorded. If things go wrong for us at a concert we ask ourselves how to get back there. We don't say "sorry, the concert is finished, the computer is broken!". Our concert doesn't stop unless we're broken. And we're not gonna get broken because we have the will of our fans! Here everything is 100% live.
You always played classic heavy metal. Could you imagine switching your style for any reason?
Yes, absolutely. My style is more like Queen. There isn't a specific thing that I always do. It is more like "how does this song feel, what goes with it?" But there's no escape in the fact that I am heavy metal and if you cut me I bleed metal. Things tend to come out metal. Classic metal, NWOBHM and some other elements flown in; I really like movie soundtracks as well, so all of that kind of blends in and it comes out as a Blaze Bayley album.
But hopefully no Flash Gordon soundtrack!
Well, you can't say no. If something happens and you get it, that's great. I have two things as an artist. I have an obligation to my fans to do absolutely my best because that's why they support me in my musical vision. I also have to follow whatever the magic of that idea is. So when these ideas come – does it sound good? Does it feel good? Is it boring? Ask yourself these questions and it comes out that this feels it´s good. It doesn't have to be metal but it nearly always turns out into metal.
With "The Man On The Edge" you also played an Iron Maiden song…what do you feel nowadays when you think back to these 5 years when you were their vocalist?
It was a great time for me. I learned so much about my voice working with Steve Harris in the studio, I learned about songwriting. Before Iron Maiden I felt like it was a big hit and miss. Perhaps I was lucky to get a good song, after Iron Maiden I knew which elements were needed and what to do to be good and to get a successful recording. It was an incredible time, I met incredible people and the biggest thing for me was that I learned so much about production, writing. These are the things I put into my own albums and I don't care if people say I sound a bit like Iron Maiden. Well, of course I am massively influenced as a big Iron Maiden fan and also I loved the music of Iron Maiden I was doing. When I had the chance to work with two guitars and all the different variations that you can do, then you work with two guitars.
War Within Me
- Yskelgroth - Bleeding Of The Hideous - Apr 04
- Dystersol - Anaemic - Apr 06
- Avern - Hell On Earth - Apr 06
- The Grifted - Doomsday & Salvation - Apr 07
- Thysia - Islands In Cosmic Darkness - Apr 07
- Ossaert - Offerdier - Apr 07
- Tribulation - Hamartia - Apr 07
- Lurk - Aegis - Apr 07
- Devangelic - Xul - Apr 07
- Sunrot - The Unfailing Rope - Apr 07
- Nachtmuse - Darker Skies - Apr 07
- Medevil - Mirror In The Darkness - Apr 07
- Omnicidal - The Omnicidalist - Apr 07
- Stillbirth - Homo Deus - Apr 07
- Imperial Demonic - Beneath The Crimson Eclipse - Apr 07
- Larvae - Entitled To Death - Apr 07
- Lucifer's Fall - Children Of The Night - Apr 07
- Cursebinder - Drifting - Apr 07
- Vesuvian - Emergence - Apr 09
- Out Of The Mouth Of Graves - Shrines To Dagon - Apr 10