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Blaze Bayley

Blaze Bayley behoeft uiteraard geen introductie. Al decennia lang is hij actief in de metal en heeft een reeks goede albums op zijn naam staan met o.a. Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden en Blaze. Een paar jaar geleden werd zijn solo band omgedoopt tot Blaze Bayley en maakte de Britse zanger een nieuwe start. Met de DVD 'Alive In Poland', gevolgd door de fantastische studioalbum 'The Man Who Would Not Die' bewees hij een solide band achter zich te hebben en ging uitgebreid op tour. Eerder dit jaar verscheen de tweede studioplaat onder de naam Blaze Bayley, 'Promise And Terror', die de band's status alleen maar omhoog kan tillen en met één klap duidelijk maakt dat Blaze en zijn mannen niet weg te denken zijn. Ondergetekende ging een zeer openhartig gesprek aan met de beste man over het album, de huidige gang van zaken en wat er in de toekomst ons te wachten staat.

Door: Nima | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

band imageHow are you doing Blaze?
I'm doing ok; we've just finished the tour now. I just can't believe how well that went. It's was brilliant, the support ad the reactions of the fans on the new material was absolutely fantastic. So I went much better than I thought. The new album is also selling really well. It's going really well for us, I can't believe it.

Well, with a killer album like this I think you absolutely deserve it… Of course the reactions of the press have also been great so far. But have you had the chance to take a bit distance from it and have a more or less objective opinion about it?
First of all, thank you very much! You know, it's always difficult to be objective, because you are so close the producing and mixing process and you're listening to details and not the overall thing. So now I've got a bit further away from it and now I can listen to the songs a bit better. I really think that it's the best album I've done so far. It's a very different album and very varied and we never set out to do that. But the way that it's turned out, I really think it's the best one.

The album is actually divided in two parts; the second part of the album – the last four songs – are linked together, both musically and lyrically. This was something we felt we had to do, because the ides were there and the direction it took us in, so we just had to follow it. And everybody I've spoken to so far has said that they've really enjoyed how those four songs stick together. At we first we thought it would be a bit risky, but we really wanted to do it, because that's what we felt. We are always guided by our emotions as far as our music go. So, yeah, I think it's the best we've done so far and as I already said; the new songs are doing really well on stage as well.

To get back to the link between the four songs; I remember after you released the 'Tenth Dimension' album, you said you would never do a conceptual album again, haha..
Well, yeah that's right. But you know, this isn't really a concept. For 'Tenth Dimension' I really sat down with a strong idea for a story. But with this we didn't have a concept or anything; I was going through my lyrics and I couldn't find anything that would go with the ideas and the flavor of the music that we were coming up with and I just went through some of my personal notes and diary and I used my own personal experience of what happened to me over the last year (losing his beloved wife – Nima) to put into those songs. I never set out to do that, but that's just what happened. It just clicked and it fit so well together that we said that we'd have to follow that. So it's not really a concept, but a story, my own personal journey. Everything within those for songs is absolutely real and refers to what happened to the way I had to live my life over the last year.

You indeed didn't have it very easy during the last year – if you don't mind me asking about it. I mean, when you released 'The Man Who Would Not Die' you were back on your feet, off the alcohol and the last time we spoke (summer 2008) you were in a fantastic mood. But later that winter you went through a rough time again and to be honest I was worried about you because of your past experiences, but I was happy when you came up with the best-of album, the DVD and eventually the new album. So, what was it that kept you going strong from the inside?
Well, a lot of it is because of the fans. I've had so much support and encouragement through these difficult times. The fans were asking me to keep going and to make another album. And of course my wife Debbie; she really saved me and set me on this path basically. She wanted me to keep going on with my music, so that's also a reason why I keep doing this. She's give me a chance and I don't want to let go of that chance. I don't want to let her down and want to honor her memory by keeping working and doing my absolute best. She's looking down at us and she can be proud that we're doing something and getting somewhere. I know for sure that we would be much further on if she survived; she was the manager of the band, but that wasn't to be. But I've got a great band and we do everything together. We have our own record label (Blaze Bayley Recordings – Nima) and share all the big decisions together and work everything out. So I've been lucky with that as well. We know that we're a very small cult metal band; a lot of people don't know about Blaze Bayle and don't know the music, we don't sell hundreds of thousands of albums. But the few people that do know about us, really love us and are very dedicated. What we hope to do this year is playing a lot of small gigs and try to keep the ticket price as low as we can. For all of the fans around the world and we really hope we can make a difference. So we hope that people who don't know the band, or maybe only know me from Iron Maiden, would give 'Promise And Terror' an honest chance, listen with an open mind and decide for themselves what the band is really about. The best way we can promote ourselves is by playing live; we're a live band and love doing it.

You definitely are a live band. The first time saw the 'Alive In Poland' DVD for example, I though to myself that this was absolutely the band that you had been missing through your career, so to speak. I mean, you had musicians come and go in Blaze, but when you put the new band together you could see and hear the unity. What I like about the new album is the live vibe that it has, you know what I mean?
We recorded the album is a different way. We also had more time to rehearsal for this album. So, we all moved into my house for the writing process and we did all the writing together. When we thought we had finished everything just enough, we brought it into the rehearsal room. We organized all the songs into a live set and thought “well, how would the album run, how would the album go, what order will the songs have?” and that's what we did. That gave us a feeling of how the songs felt alongside each other and also if the songs themselves were doing what they were supposed to do and tell the story. When we were in the rehearsal room we did a lot of chances within the arrangements until we could feel – and not only think – that the songs were good enough for the album. After that we tried to spend a minimum time on the recording process, so we really worked hard in the rehearsal room so that when it came to recording were trying to get a good performance; something that felt good. We weren't looking for perfection; the main thing we wanted was to have something that felt good. I think that's why 'Promise And Terror' sounds a bit different than the last album. We're we come from, our own point of view is that if you like early old-school Metallica, old school Iron Maiden or Megadeth, then there's chance that you might also like what we do on the new album.

Exactly, and the thing is that the album has something to offer for almost every metal fan and I just can't really put my finger on what direction the album would go… it's definitely not easy to label the music, so to speak and that's a good thing in my opinion.
It's more heavy metal than anything else, because we have harmony guitars, strong melodic guitar passages as well as melodic vocals, it's very aggressive at some places and emotional as well. For us it's an emotional album anyway and we're not trying to be like anybody else. We don't give a fuck about what's in the charts and don't give a fuck about other bands and what they're doing; all we want to do our own thing! And we've done exactly that on this album. We do everything on our own terms and live or die by that. That's how it works for us and some of the fans can understand that. It also seems that more people are being prepared to listen to what we're doing.

Let's get back to what you said about the emotional parts of the album; I think it's also a real personal album. 'The Man Who Would Not Die' was also a very personal album, but in a different way, because there was a lot of anger on that album, while 'Prome And Terror' shows a more sensitive side of Blaze Bayley I guess…
Yeah, that's right! The alst album was definitely aggressive and bitter, because it was about the people that had done me wrong and fucked me up and I was showing that they would not stop me and 'Promise And Terror' comes from a different place. I mean, they didn't manage to get rid of me; SPV didn't kill me and Century Management didn't get rid of me and couldn't stop me. Century Management died and SPV was bought by somebody else, while I'm still Blaze Bayley and I've managed to keep my band together, so fuck them. That was what 'The Man Who Would Not Die' was all about. 'Promise And Terror' is indeeda more personal album and it's about the belief in what we do! We really believe in what we do we believe in the fans; so we wanted to give the fans a chance to hear this and see if it would be successful. There is more confidence in this album.

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Were the rest of the guys also involved in the lyrical part?
Most of the lyrics are mine, but the rest of the band added some ideas as well. But especially on the second part of the album the lyrics are all mine; this is my own personal journey.

Can you also explain the album's title? I mean, you already said that the album is divided in two parts, so is there a promise-side and the terror-side?
The “Promise And Terror” comes from the real of dreams and it's that time in your life that you might see a glimpse of another future for yourself. In my scene another path that you could take that might be satisfying and make you a complete human being. It might even be a different lady or another partner in your life or a different job. Many years ago I had a dream of becoming a professional singer, write my own songs, go on tour and be in a heavy metal band and to do that, that was the “Promise”. But the “terror” side of it was that I had to give up my job, a regular paycheck, the place I lived, my friends and be somewhere else in order to do that. So the “Terror” is leaving the life that you have; the certainty, the security and the comfort hat you have right now. So, certainly that's what it's summed up in the title. And it directly reference to the song 'Time To Dare'. The central character on the album cover is on a rock and he's beaten and barely surviving on that rock; that is his certainty. And in the song 'Time To Dare' the artwork shows him standing up, because he's found the courage to find a new path somewhere out of the store. He doesn't know what's there, but he has found the courage to dare and to find out and leave that certainty behind. That's the promise and the terror: to have that dream and to give everything up to find that new path, no matter where it might lead! That's what we've all had to deal with in this band. Every one of us has made difficult choices and a lot of sacrifices.

So the character on the album cover also symbolizes the band in a way…
Well, he's the character of the band! We have all gone through a rough time. I mean, losing my wife alone; she was the manager of the band as well and was a great support for all of us. So we all lost something with that and we've all been face with lots of choices that we've had to make and consequences that we'd had to deal with. We could have given up, but we dared to continue. We have a trust in our fans and if we play from the heart and show that this music is what we love and that it's our whole lives, we hope that more people would believe in us as well.

About believing in the fans and giving them something back; for example you keep the merchandise prices very modest I must say…
That's because we do everything on our own so there is no one in between the band and the fans. Our albums are of the same high quality as any other band, but we don't need to charge as much, because there is no other party in the middle. So we pass on the saving to the fans. One of the reasons that we play in small venues, which we will continue to do in the next two years – is because of the fact that they don't charge you for your merchandise stand. When you play in a big venue, they put 25% on top of the prices, just so you can sell your merchandise there. That's money that comes off the fans and which does not come to us. It doesn't make sense to us. So in this way we are able to keep both the ticket and the merchandise prices reasonable, because we're not greedy. So we're trying to play as many gigs as we can in the next two years all across Europe. I mean, the younger fan who don't have a rock venue in their area, are not able to travel far and spend money on hotels and everything, so in the next two years we want to give them the chance to see the band in their area as well. We'd rather travel to the fans. We don't have any stage sets and don't have any roadies. All we do is to come with our equipment, set it up and play our music to the people. It's a totally different way of doing things for the mainstream music business. In the mainstream they say: “well, you shouldn't play in small venues, because it would look bad!” Well we say: “FUCK OFF!” Because how would it look like if you don't play any gigs at all? So we say “fuck you”, because the fans don't care about seeing us on a big stage with a setting; they care about seeing the band and hearing the music. That's what we do and I hope it works out.

It also is a bit old school if you ask me… Maybe a bit like the eighties?
Yeah! That was the origin of heavy metal. Heavy metal was born from people who didn't get on the radio and didn't get on TV, but just went out and played lots and lots of gigs and becoming popular thanks to the fans. The fans made the early bands; nobody marketed it, but the fans and the music. And now I hope that we can turn the music business upside down and the big companies like the EMI's or the Warners can't do anything to us. So when we play in a small venue and the fans buy our merchandise, all the money comes to the band and we spend it on the band to make more CD's, t-shirts and the next tour.

I also think it's great that after every show you get close to the fans, do signing sessions, have a couple of beer with them, etcetera.
What we try to do is, whenever is practical, to try and sign either before or after the show. The only time we don't do that is when we have a long overnight drive and have to leave straight away. But it's great to hang out with the fans and meet new people. I love my time in Iron Maiden, but the really sad part was that whole thing was so huge that you couldn't just stop and sign for the fans and there were also too many people! That's another advantage of small venues. In general there aren't that many people that want an autograph and you have a chance to pretty much sign everybody and as much items as they want. It's just more real and for the fans it's the real deal. They can get close to you and see that you're not some sort of god, but just somebody who's trying to do what they're good at and people see that an appreciate that. No fan during the last tours have come up to me and said: “well, you know? I like the show, but I missed the huge stage set!” Everybody was just thanking us for coming to such small places and play live in their town.

Of course you have a long history with your music and as you said a lot of people know you from your years with Maiden, but I think you're at the highlight of your career right now, no?
Well, we're certainly on the way up! We'll se what happens this year. We've had a long tour and played almost at a daily base. But even at this moment the new album has sold more than twice as much as 'The Man Who Would Not Die' and during every gig we sold twice as many albums as we did during the tour last year. So, I don't know what's happening, but there is definitely something going on. So hopefully the next time we speak I can say that there is new album coming up and the tour is sold out!

Hehe! I certainly hope so! Well Blaze, I guess we can call it a night, unless of course there is anything you'd like to add…
Well, we love playing in Holland and we're trying to get as many gigs as we can and play everywhere. So if anybody has some ideas, please feel free to contact us via the addresses on our website. That would be a huge support for us. And a big thank you to you and to all the Dutch fans for the great support during the years.

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