I never thought in a million years I would be seeing Blaze Bayley in Weston-Super-Mare. The main reason for this is because Blaze is a guy who I have admired for many years now, and Weston-Super-Mare is a bit of a shithole. I should know, because I’ve lived around here for most of my life. Maybe back in the Wolfsbane fays he might have played a club here, but once he joined Iron Maiden I certainly wouldn’t have bet money on it.

All this aside, Blaze is here anyway, touring his arse off to promote his excellent album “The Man Who Would Not Die”. It’s pre gig and everyone looks a bit knackered, although Blaze is happy to chat about just about anything I care to throw at him. Although he’s not dressed for anything but relaxing, there’s still a fire in his eyes, especially when he speaks about record companies, and like a true metal god he has a habit of posing for photographs with his hands cupped like he’s fondling some invisible breasts.

Normally with my interviews I like to weave a narrative, spouting my own bollocks to keep you entertained and paint a picture of the chat. With Blaze, it’s not so much a chat as a monologue with me trying to get a word in occasionally. The man makes Dee Snider seem like a Trappist Monk, speaking with passion and honesty about the rollercoaster that is the life he has chosen. So, instead of my usual ramblings, I’m gonna hand you over to the thoughts of Blaze Bayley, from Wolfsbane to Iron Maiden, to Blaze and finally The Blaze Bayley Band. Take it away Blaze…

Blaze Bayley on:

Wolfsbane’s lack of big success:

“ What happened... we were signed at a funny time to a funny label. So it was a time when a lot of British bands were getting signed – it was a really healthy scene. The way that the business was, it was all on the back end of a trend that was signing a band, making one good video and getting it onto MTV to get an audience for the band. We were on the tail end of that, so our video (“I Like It Hot”) never made it onto MTV rotation. We got on Radio 1, but we never got in the proper charts or anything. So it was a different way of doing things and it didn't really fit with the nature of what Wolfsbane was. We were all about playing tiny little gigs like this, in our transit van, taking care of ourselves. It was all about the music and the performance. We went all around the UK, never left out Scotland or Ireland, but we never had the opportunity to do that in Europe – the management or record company wouldn't support us. So we never managed to establish that really solid fanbase that we always thought we could do if we were in Europe. We a had a few little support slots that we did okay out of, but we never really toured properly there. We always had a certain way of writing, it was always difficult to write a song because of the musical differences within the band were so varied and I think that gave us an original, energetic and angry sound in many ways, but the way that the business was structured and the way things worked meant that we were broke all of the time even though we were on a major label, and it's very difficult to survive like that.”

His love of touring:

“ The longest tours I've done were when I was with Iron Maiden. In Wolfsbane we never wanted to go home, and because I was the new boy in Maiden I never wanted to go home then either. I love touring, I love being out – this is my life, and now, with this band, it's a very very different way it's set up, so we decide where and when we go on tour. We play small shows so people can afford to book us and the fans can afford to see us, it's a different way of doing things. Instead of people going to see a tribute band, the can come and see a professional band with original music, albums and all of that. For us, it seems to be working.”

How joining Iron Maiden changed his life:

“ I was permanently broke up until then, so it was the first time I could actually afford to run a proper car. I had a Reliant Robin when I joined Iron Maiden. A few weeks after I got my advance through I got a beat up old Jag to run around in. I'm a biker as well, so then I ordered a load of custom parts for my motorcycle. It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of pressure to do, but writing with Steve Harris and the rest of the guys was a great experience. Steve's such a generous guy when it comes to the writing, he really taught me so much, so I had all the benefit of his experience in the studio and live and it really gave me an insight into writing and where to come from, to get the ideas from your head and onto record in the way you think it should be. I really learnt that from Steve Harris, and that's something that's stayed with me. Although it was a tough and very demanding gig it was still hugely enjoyable. A lot of the values that I had before, that I believed, like it's the fans that really make the band not the record companies and agents and magazines, really in Maiden that proved to be right. They'd fought all of their battles with the record company and all of that early on, and they'd really gone to the wall to get things the way that they'd wanted. They brought out the music they wanted, and the albums they wanted with the artwork they wanted with no interference from the label at all. The agreement was 'We give you the record, you put it out.' and of course it worked, because the talent is there and the fans get what essentially is the real spirit of the band. That gave me some confidence, and having a top 10 hit with 'Man On The Edge', that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Why the band Blaze changed into Blaze Bayley:

“ The simple answer is Google. If you Gookle 'Blaze' and you Google 'Blaze Bayley' the results are entirely different. Google wasn't a big thing when I started the Blaze band, and I had bad advice in those days from the guy that was taking care of the management for me at Sanctuary... he wasn't metal, didn't have a rocker's heart. I ended up calling it Blaze, but there's so many things called Blaze. I had it a couple of times with the guys in the Blaze band – I said I don't think it's working, because I meet people all of the time who say What're you doing, and I say I'm in the band, I've done five albums... What's it called? Blaze... Oh, I've never heard of it. Nobody was associating Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden with the name Blaze. Originally, when I very first started, I wanted to start the same way Ozzy did after Sabbath – that seems to be the proper way to do it. He made a success of it, he kept his band together and you could see, with Randy Rhodes, that it was a band, so that's what I wanted to do.”

Why he has worked (in his post Maiden career) with so many different musicians:

“ It's difficult, because it's not for everybody. We haven't had that many full time members, but it's a different way of life. You live like a gypsy – you if you're gonna be broke, if you're gonna get paid or ripped off. You don't know where you're gonna sleep most of the time, every relationship you're ever gonna have with a partner is gonna dissolve or be destroyed by thing that you have chosen to do for your life. So... those are all difficult things for people to take, and when you're faced with the situation of earning regular money, living in a house with a woman who loves you and having a holiday at the same time every year or making an album and not knowing what's going to happen to you for the rest of your life, if you're even gonna have enough money to put petrol in your car, enough money to even run a car, then not many people are gonna make that choice. The people who do make that choice are a very special kind of person because you live for something beyond the basic material needs of a human being, you are living for something much higher – you are living for a passion, and for something that has chosen you as much as you have chosen it. The feeling that everybody in this band has is I have no choice, there is no real choice – I can only take this path, 'cos that other path, when I was on it I was dying. We live for this way of life. We live for the music, for the integrity of what we do, and for our fans.”

Being The Man Who Would Not Die:

“ My metaphorical death is after not having a record deal, no management, no gigs and nothing to look forward to. Then my wife found me and started getting me back together. It was why give up? Who says that nobody wants to see you? Who says no one's interested in your music, your ideas? Who says that? Well tell them to fuck off – they don't know the minds and the hearts of the fans, the people who have followed me for years and send me emails saying please keep going. So no, I won't believe those cunts, what I will do is put my faith and my belief in the fans, in the people who actually, with their own money, buy an album, buy a ticket, buy a t-shirt. Those are the people whose opinions I respect because they're the only people I do it for. That is the difference, that is the man who would not die, that refusal to let anybody else say you're dead, and take what little bit of money they can off of you. Everybody (in this band) has lived and died for this music, and we've all ended up together.”

How the new album has sold:

“ Really good, but you have to put in the perspective of we are a tiny underground metal band that a few thousand people know about across the world. In that perspective, for our first album, on our own label with our own management – it's gone great. We're playing to twice as many people in the UK as we played to last time, so that is a huge improvement. If you were going to choose a label that said 'This is heavy metal' we would fit smack into that. You could give some people the album... and that would define what heavy metal is. If we can just have the fans with an open mind to judge for themselves that album... then that's all we ask.”

Why he’s playing small places:

“The theme of the tour is back to the roots. What I did when I was in Wolfsbane is get in a van and go to every gig, anywhere in the country was like this – however small, if they could book us, and we could afford to do it, we went there, and so that's what we're doing all over Europe. Small places, trying to keep the ticket prices as low as possible, so that fans from anywhere can afford to come and see us. In the UK our ticket price varies from £6 to £10, so most people can afford to come and see us in their own town. Hopefully, if we can keep it up and we can continue to have the support and the loyalty of the fans, then we'll be able to keep doing this. Next year we aim to come around to the same venues with the new album and do the same tour. It's very humbling to play this show and see people buy our album and ask for it to be signed. When I started in the business you weren't alowed to sell the albums at your shows because of chart positions. The whole of the recording industry structure for bonuses was based on chart positions. If you're record goes top ten all the salesmen get a bonus, but that doesn't do me any good – I'm not in a chart band, I'm a musician, I'm a songwriter, a passionate performer who believes in what I do. I'm nothing to do with the fucking charts. If someone buys that CD now, we get the money, it goes back into the band, we manage to make our next CD, we come back, it's nothing to do with the charts. We're completely outside the mainstream music business – the only people responsible for our success at all is the fans, the promoters, and venues like this that have the confidence to put us on. So fuck you, big corporate music business – we don't fucking need you, and we don't wanna be involved with you.”

Why he’s called Blaze:

“It was the Wolfsbane days. We all gave ourselves stupid names to make ourselves sound more impressive. So the drummer was Slutwrecker, the bass player named himself after a cup of coffee, so all ludicrous names. We were only kids from Tamworth for crying out loud! My real name is Bayley Cook, and at that time there weren't so many unusual first names, and people would say what's your name, 'Bayley', no your first name. You have that a few hundred times and it really wears thin. Anyway, we gave ourselves these stupid names, and Blaze was mine, and it just stuck. The first time someone asked my name and I said 'Blaze', they just went 'Oh', not 'Is that your first name?' so I though I'll keep this then. All my close friends and people who know me from back in the day, they call me Bayley.”

Animosity from Wolfsbane when he joined Maiden :

“Yeah, it wasn't good at all. Part of the reason it wasn't so good was the paranoia at Sanctuary management. We wanted to do a farewell gig, and they wouldn't allow me to do that, which seems pretty harsh, you know. In fact, Sanctuary management didn't place any importance at all on Wolfsbane, regarded them as virtually nothing. We had a lot of bills that I wanted to take care of because I was the one that was moving on and getting some money and they said you you shouldn't do this and you can't do that, and it was shit, absolutely shit. So it was a long time before we started talking. It was mainly down to my wife, who got us talking and basically got us to play on the same stage together. For all the shit, what's really important is we were a cracking rock & roll band and we had a lot of fun doing what we did and so did the people who went to see us. We got offered the Wildhearts tour, and we went out for a few shows and it was so much fun! Every night we went on thinking we really don't give a shit as long as we get the parts right, so just went on and abused everybody and it was fantastic, just incredible. This year The Quireboys have offered us, so we start that on the 8 th December for a week, which should be a right laugh.”

The best title ever: “All Hell’s Breaking loose At Little Kathy Wilson’s Place”:

“Do you now how hard we had to fight for that! The record company, cunts – tasteless, unimaginative shits! They came down to the studio and said we don't like the title, we don't think it's Wolfsbane. It couldn't be more, could it! We had all the artwork done – the alien artefact, the mirror writing, all that, fantastic, done by a friend of ours for hardly anything, and they hated that. Eventually we got it, and it was the best album we'd ever done and if we'd had another two days it would have been a full album.”

Being his own man, free from record companies:

“My identity has changed, I have a sense of who I am, and I'm not willing to change that for anything. I know what my values are and I live my life by them, and I don't really give a fuck what anybody else thinks – that's the way I am and as long as I'm honest with myself and loyal to my friends and my family then I'm comfortable living my own life. As long as I'm not shitting on anybody else like they've shit on me then I don't mind. I will take my revenge on some people.. not so much Sanctuary as they were misguided. In a way I have had my revenge because they're no more. Their demise says everything about them – they never made one band successful, not one. Iron Maiden were successful and made Sanctuary Management, Sanctuary Management never made one fucking band successful. That says it all for me. SPV – they're going down the tubes now as well and that proves I was right there as well. Do you know what SPV said to me? We don't think you should go on tour, we don't think it sells CDs. It's mind blowing! The perfect thing would be if everybody at SPV Steamhammer got swine flu! That'd be great!”

The fact that a foreign website described him as having a “ Thick cockney accent”:

” It's bizarre isn't it? When we were kids and we were doing our first album in Los Angeles, our first day there we were invited to a party by the bass player from Dokken. Everybody said 'Are you Australian?' We said no, we're from England. They said 'You don't sound like you're from England,' we said you mean we don't sound like we're from london! We're as English as it gets!”

And that, ladies and gents, is all we had time for, although I get the feeling that he would happily go on for another hour or so. It was an odd interview, mainly because I’m used to at least having to prompt people for a bit more information. What you do get from Blaze is a real sense of honesty, and a pure love for what he is doing that is only matched by the pure hate he has for the scumbags at Record and Management companies who rip off artistes left right and centre. God knows what’s going to happen to him in the future, but you get the feeling that he’ll meet it with eyes blazing and a raised middle finger, and I for one wish him the best of luck, because he deserves it.

Interview by Alan Holloway, alan "at" rockunited.com
Photos by Alan Holloway
30 May 2009
(c) 2009 RockUnited.Com