Blaze Bayley from Britain and beyond
By Naughty Mickie
Photos courtesy of www.blazefans.com
English vocalist Blaze Bayley has been spending time on the other side of the big pond, playing concert dates and spreading his sounds to the States. American fans had to be content with his recordings with Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin, unless they were fortunate enough to score something from his band Blaze in the import bin. But now they can get their fix and more with the recent SPV reissues of "Silicon Messiah" and "Tenth Dimension," plus the new "As Live As It Gets." You can learn just about anything you want about Blaze on the Internet, not only from his Web site, but from a myriad of sources, yet you might not get the whole story. That was my goal when I had the opportunity to speak with him from his home in England.
I decided it was best that we started with how he came to form Blaze.
"I've been with Wolfsbane; with Iron Maiden," Bayley begins. "In Iron Maiden, I really felt I'd learnt a lot, I'd recorded two albums, been with the band for five years, and it gave me the confidence really to try and get my band together and I felt like there was something I wanted to do musically. That's how come I decided to get my band together. I wanted to have a British metal sound, but try to get a little bit of contemporary edge and do something a little bit different with the vocals."
"Did you sing as a child?" I ask.
"Only to myself to relieve boredom," laughs Bayley. "I think the first thing that really worked me up to wanting to be a singer was when I was a kid, punk rock was in the charts. When I was really young, the Sex Pistols and the Damned and the Clash and all bands like this making a lot of noise and all of that. That's what turned me on to music and then I believe a little Led Zeppelin, but it was when I listened to the first Black Sabbath album, that was the day that changed my life. It was like, 'Well, here's the music for me now.' From then on really I've just gone deeper and deeper into heavy music like people do.
"Pretty soon I thought about being a singer," Bayley continues. "I was working night shifts at the time and when the boss wasn't around, there was a room with a piano in it that I had to clean. I bent on trying to teach myself the piano and practice my singing and all of that. Eventually, I managed to get into a band.
"My first serious band really was Wolfsbane," he goes on. "We were four guys from a small town in England who were just really pissed off with where we lived and nothing happening. We just decided to get a band together and be the most outrageous band in Tamworth, where we came from. We weren't good enough to get into anybody else's band, we were dreadful musicians, we weren't good enough to play covers and we couldn't work together on stage. So we just wrote original compositions because that's all we could play and nobody would know we were getting it wrong because it was our own. We just started off like that and gradually it was less about jumping about and more about music, we got bigger and eventually we got a record deal."
"Did you do any other jobs while you were starting the band?" I wonder.
"I worked in a hotel, night shift, as a cleaner," Bayley repeats. "That was it really. I was in the band and we used to do rehearsals in the garage on a Sunday. When I was doing my night shift, I'd practice my singing and practice my piano and I used to write my lyrics, then we used to get together and play with our tiny little amps and our guitars from the catalog. That's how we started. We went to borrow our friends' equipment to play our first shows. We just started from there really. I think it was the start of a lifelong love affair with music."
I assume that Blaze didn't have time for college, but ask him about school anyway.
"I was dyslexic, I didn't really get much of an education," admits Bayley. "I just had to get a job straight away to support myself, so I just got the first job that came along. That's how I ended up working nights, being really bored and not having a girlfriend for years. It just seemed like music was the perfect outlet for all that frustration."
I mention that I remember reading about Blaze's first band playing in the Persian Gulf.
"That was really weird, leaving my full-time job," Bayley tells me. "We didn't get signed right away. We managed to get a gig in the Persian Gulf in Dubay, as a house band there playing covers. We managed to raise enough money off of that to do our first demo tape and that's what got us an agent and then that's what got us some shows. We gradually became more popular and eventually we managed to get a deal."
"Wow, that's cool," I comment. "So what do you like to do when you're not working?"
"I like to have sex when I can get it," Bayley states, pausing to check for my reaction. I giggle and he gets serious, "And I like to ride my mountain bike. I like to try to keep fit when I'm not on tour because I find that if I keep aerobically fit it's a really big help to my singing. Me and a couple of friends I go riding with have a team that we call PlanetBlaze.com Endurance, it's named after my Web site, we do 24 hour mountain bike events."
"Twenty-four hour events, how do you do that?" I ask.
"It's a lot of mucking around and you have to argue about who's going to ride at night and who's going to ride in the daytime," explains Bayley. "It was hilarious last time, tragic, but thinking back, it was hilarious. That's what we do really, we plan it like it's this big professional thing and then we get there and we'll ride out the back and we're absolutely, completely unprotected. We just enjoy it. It's something to do."
I decide to steer him back to music, prodding him to share with me how he writes.
"I don't have any set way because I have so many different ideas," says Bayley. "I think one of the things I like to do is, I generally really take a notepad with me or a Dictaphone or both and try and keep that with me all the time when I'm away and when I'm going to be away from home any length of time. What I do is, when I get back home, after a couple of weeks, then I start looking through the notes in my notepad and any ideas or any lines or interesting lines or phrases I think that might fit into something and then I go through my Dictaphone and see if there are any melody ideas and then I gradually just sit down and see what goes with what.
"For me, it's like making a jigsaw. You've got a jigsaw and you've got some of the pieces, but you don't know what the picture is and it's like you're painting the picture and you've got to make the rest of the pieces to fit. That's it," continues Bayley. "Sometimes it's just the lyrics, sometimes I get in these lyrics that I feel really work and could go well with something and sometimes it's the melody. Sometimes I go and sit down with the guitarist and we'll say, 'Well here's a melody,' or the guitarist will come to me and say, 'We've got this riff,' and like that. But generally speaking I like to start with a lot of lyrics.
"I like to have a lot of lyrics, I don't find that every song starts with the lyrics, but I like to have a lot of lyrics available because every time that I haven't got that then I really feel that things didn't work out as well as they should have. So now, I always try to have a lot of lyrics. Now, what I'm most proud of, I've always had enough lyrics that I really felt confident in, that I didn't use them all." Bayley explains that he writes a little with keyboard and his guitarist,"Obviously I'm a singer, a lot of my melody ideas and things I just vocalize."
Bayley tells me about how he has evolved as a musician, "When I was younger, I was quite an aggressive person, I drunk too much and chased the women and all of that. And gradually, I suppose as I got more experience, I've just become more and more into the music and got my pleasure out of performing and being a good musician. I don't drink that much now at all and I've given up chasing women. Now I'm chasing the perfect song idea and trying to make a killer album. Now my ambitions revolve around writing a song that will last, something that will live on away from the band. Pursuing that kind of thing there, that's what really inspires me."
With Bayley's lengthy career, he has seen many trends come and go, so I want to know what he thinks of the music scene today.
"I think that there's a lot of good stuff and it's a lot healthier than it was 10 years ago when I started with Iron Maiden on the 'X-Factor' tour," states Bayley. "Everybody said metal was dead, especially in the industry. They were all saying how it's Pearl Jam and Nirvana, it's all going to be indie and it's all going to be alternative and all of that. And at that time, I was playing in front of 10,000 people a night and they were saying metal was dead. Oh well, obviously nobody told these people.
"What's happened is those bands have died out and become less popular because I don't know, maybe that's just the way things are. Then these bands, like Sum 41 and Slipknot, who are a lot more honest about their influences that have come through. And now it's ok to like a band like Slipknot and Iron Maiden or Blaze, now it's OK to like Sum 41 and Marilyn Manson. A few years ago, you were only allowed to like what was fashionable." Bayley goes on, "We find at our shows, we get a lot of people to go, we get everybody from old KISS fans and Maiden fans and Motorhead fans, right through to Marilyn Manson; Slipknot fans, a massive wide range of people who just seem to be there because they like heavy music, not because they're worried about it being fashionable or not."
Bayley is very proud of his Web site-- and he should be, it's one of the best and easiest to navigate I've seen.
"The main reason we got the Web site together and the concept behind it was that we wanted to keep people informed and we wanted our Web site to be up to date because a lot of the Web sites that I've been checking don't get updated on a regular basis. On all my favorite ones, there's always something to read the next day or the next week." Bayley explains further, "We just wanted it to, so even if you were on any old crappy computer, you'd be able to get news about when the band's on tour, what the next gig was, if the gig's still on, where it was and how much the ticket cost and where you could buy it. It just started like that. We weren't interested in flashy graphics or anything.
"It's just grown and grown really, now we've got an online store and you can order the stuff, you can order our T-shirts and CDs, anywhere in the world. We're constantly updating it and anything that happens to us, any gigs that are concerned, we try to put it on there within an hour. It's great really, from where we started, and the guys that do it do an incredible job. Every time I look at it, I just go, 'That's got to be somebody else's Web site, it looks too good for mine,'" states Bayley.
He spends his own computer time answering e-mail and checking out music and mountain bike sites.
"My life is music, it's my whole life, it's heavy metal music. So to get away from that, to be doing something totally different, instead of getting drunk or taking loads of drugs, then I just go and look at mountain bikes or ride my own mountain bike just to get out of it, just as a way to just completely get away. I either do that or go in my garage and try and put my motorcycle back together," says Bayley.
"I've got a vintage Kawasaki, it's a 1300cc, six cylinder, and the starter motor blew up. I'd been on tour and I hadn't even looked at the bike for over a year and I thought, well, I'm back home now for a few months in the summertime and we're playing a big biker festival and I thought, oh, I could ride my bike up to the festival. And I tried to get it started, it was like two days taking it to pieces and then putting it back together and then the starter motor blew up and I thought there's no way I'm going to ride this to that gig. So it's been in pieces ever since. It's waiting for me to go back into the garage when I'm bored enough," Bayley chuckles.
We talk motorcycles and I mention that I have a Triumph, he used to have one as well. We also discuss electric versus kick starting motorcycles. I contend that electric starts are for wussies and a real bike needs to be kick started.
"You must have strong legs. Do you walk with kind of a limp and one leg is really huge?" Bayley teases and adds that it should come in handy to kick my boyfriend.
Bayley's lucky he's across the ocean, as I would have challenged him to a leg wrestling duel! But for now, I can only inquire as to his future.
"Everything's going great." Bayley tells me about playing at Metal Meltdown in New Jersey, "Fans drove from hundreds of miles to see us. It was just incredible for our first show (in the United States), it just couldn't have gone better. Thanks to all the fans that showed up in New Jersey and made such a great concert for us," he adds.
Blaze is hoping to do more touring in America, in addition to their usual routes.
I remark that it must be pretty late for Bayley, noting the time change and the length of our conversation.
"It's just getting time when I'm ready to go out now, yeah, about one in the morning," he says.
"What are you going to do?" I take the bait.
"Pick up drunk chicks," Bayley deadpans. "I saw a program on alcoholism and how alcohol affects women twice as much as men. So hopefully, somebody else bought all the drinks and drunk, I look a lot better than I normally do, and that's it. I might just stay in and do some more interviews."
Uh-huh, just as I thought, Bayley is probably a bit of a homebody when he's taking a break from the road. I decide to call him on it.
"I do go out at that time sometimes and prowl," Bayley tries to assure me.
Sure ya do. But it's OK, your wicked wit and charming ways already won me over-- in other words, Blaze, I hope to catch you on the flipside.
Hey, take Bayley's advice and "just check out Web site" www.planetblaze.com
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