Blaze Bayley: A Journey Through Promise & Terror
Beyond the Dark Horizon recently spoke with vocalist Blaze Bayley about his new album, Promise And Terror. An excerpt from the story is available below:
There’s something about traditional heavy metal that has always left me heartfelt. Something about guitars roaring emphatic rhythms, while vigorous vocals transcend unity over a crowd-captivates me. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to speak with many inspiring artists who have shared their intriguing stories of dreams and strife-all in the name of heavy metal.
One man who has shown no sign of resentfulness or letting up is vocalist Blaze Bayley, who for five years was a member of the greatest heavy metal band in the world, Iron Maiden. Although media and fans found it difficult to accept Bayley as Bruce Dickinson’s replacement at the time, he still stood his ground until his dismissal in 1998-which left him no choice but to restart his career from dead scratch. Throughout the years Blaze Bayley bear the brunt of having various lineup changes with his band, Blaze. He was then ripped off by his record label which inspired him to take the route of becoming an independent artist. Most tragic was Bayley having to face the sudden death of his wife/band manager in 2008. During this difficult time he did not allow himself to drown in grief and as a tribute, released his debut Blaze Bayley album, The Man Who Would Not Die, in her honor. After various tours and soul-searching, Blaze Bayley has now released Promise and Terror, a vibrant progressive slab of heavy metal that hits the heart.
As an artist, Blaze Bayley has released five studio albums but it wasn’t until his 2008 release (The Man Who Would Not Die) that he actually began to feel comfortable in his skin as an independent artist. The result of becoming an independent artist has been nothing but pure confidence in creativity with his latest release, Promise And Terror. “It’s more work of course but creatively it’s better because you set your own agenda,” says Bayley. “Nobody questions the music that you come up with. Nobody tells you when you can go into the studio. It got very insulting for record labels who have never written a song in their life to criticize my song writing and say that my music isn’t good enough to record. What do they know about it?” he adds. “We choose the artwork, no one outside the band has anything to do with the music and that’s a really good feeling. We don’t need to sell as many records as big bands because we just don’t have the overhead. We’re not paying for someone to sit in an office; we’re not paying other bands. We have the money ourselves and spend it on making the record, going on tour and the people who support us are the fans. What people might experience most times with these bigger labels is that the fans have been treated with contempt. They’re just a pocket and I don’t agree with it. For me the fans are what heavy metal is. We do this because we love this music. It’s different. Perhaps what I’m doing is completely unfashionable and underground but I do it because I have no choice but to do it. This is my life, that’s what I love and its worked for me. I feel that we’re much better off without a big label. It’s a difficult start but I’m hoping that it’ll be worth it. If the fans listen to the album, when they get Promise And Terror, they’ll hopefully see that the quality of the recording is exactly the same as any other big band.”
Promise And Terror screams artistic freedom, a battle of beating the odds of not only life’s unpredictable twist and turns but the strife of the struggling artist. “The songs are individual; it’s an album full of raw emotion,” explains Bayley. “Promise and Terror is in two parts. We didn’t really plan it that way; it just came together when we were working on ideas that we had. These four songs started to fit together. The lyrics and music fit together, so we just felt they belonged together. It’s not really a concept; it’s a story-a more personal journey through love, lost grief, passion and acceptance. That’s the second half of the album. The first part of the album is about subjects that inspire us, people battling against all the odds. From everything to details, we tried to make the idea come to life for the listener. One of the ideas was about Galileo facing the Spanish inquisition and having to recount everything that he said about the earth being round to save his life because otherwise he would get burned alive. To me it proves that one person can be right and everyone else in the world is wrong.” “We also have a song about ‘The siege of Leningrad,’ in second World War. They were surrounded for 900 days by the Nazis and they refused absolutely to surrender. The Nazis never managed to take that city because of the sheer defiance of the inhabitants. They were in the worst of circumstances imaginable. That kind of fighting spirit in humanity, I love and I wanted to do something about that for quite a while.”
“We have a certain way of working and writing. Nobody cares about what’s in the charts or what other bands are doing. We’re just trying to do what we think and follow our own musical ideas; however pigheaded that might be. I think that’s what has given this album the feel that it has. I’m hoping that the people will give it a chance and they will feel that connection. Passion and Terror was made by people that are passionate about this music. We’re trying to say something and make every idea tell a story. I’m hoping that people will see that energy.”
Perhaps what has given Blaze Bayley confidence and edge was his experience working with Heavy Metal legends, Iron Maiden. “I’ve learned so much when I was in Iron Maiden. That’s a long time ago now and this is my fifth studio album. With each album I try to improve. If there was something that I feel didn’t work on the last album, I tried to get it to work on this album. My song writing has definitely improved; my values have changed as a songwriter. What’s important to me is what I want to achieve. I really want something to be great-in its own way and stand on its own. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m always trying to find the next great idea, the next great song and the next great thing that will connect with another person.”
Bayley admits, “I loved being in Iron Maiden at the time; singing those classics and writing material with them. The main thing I learned was confidence. My ideas were accepted and recorded on their albums. I’ve always thought and still think that Iron Maiden is the most important heavy metal band in the world. No one’s done what they’ve done. Years later to now see Iron Maiden and fans cheering along to “Man on the Edge,” singing my lyrics at their concerts-that’s a real big boost to my confidence. To have worked with Steve Harris who is a generous writer, he helped and taught me so much. It was when I wasn’t in Iron Maiden anymore that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my music and I was very-very single minded about it. That was the main thing. Iron Maiden fought their battles early on. No one interferes with their music. No one tells them what to do; they have their own agenda and that’s what they stick to. After being in Iron Maiden, I’ve realized that is the right way to do things. If you have those choices and you can make it possible to do things on your own, then eventually things get better for you creatively.”
Things have gotten brighter for Blaze Bayley. His determination throughout the years to make his dream a reality is finally starting to pay off. “It was a struggle to carry on. I faced many difficulties, tribulations, each being a real struggle at times to continue but I haven’t been on my own. I have a fantastic band and I’ve had a lot of help from different people. When I was in need, fans supported me and kept me going. I think I’ve been very-very lucky with the things that have happened to me. I’ve met the right people, have the right musicians. So I think I have single mindedly tried to pursue the vision of creating what a truly great metal band should be. What I think is-the sound that I love, I think other people would love (whether this sounds arrogant to other people, I don’t know). My music will always continue to tell people that however bleak things may seem in our life, we need to remember that we have choices that we can make. We don’t have to be victims of the dark things that happen in our lives but we do have to survive. And there is a way to survive, even if you don’t see it at the time.”
It took years but Maiden fans are finally starting to come around and appreciate Bayley’s past and current contributions to the metal world. “It’s been more than 10 years since I been in Iron Maiden and it seems now more Iron Maiden fans come to Blaze Bayley shows. A lot of old Maiden fans, when they listen to what I’m doing now they really enjoy it. Just last night one guy came to the show and said, ‘I’ve known you’ve been doing stuff but I haven’t checked it out. This is the first time I’ve seen you and I really wish I would have come to see you earlier because I enjoyed it.’ The fans believe in me and they see that we’re doing something different,” he explains.
The fresh uplifting progressive elements present in Promise And Terror invoke a sense of rebirth. Bayley agrees, “I’m really treating this as a new start for me. I’ve come back from the dead really. A few years ago I didn’t have a proper band; I couldn’t make a record. But now I’ve managed to get a great band together and make an album that I’m so proud of! And I’m just going to keep going and going and play as many gigs as possible. I don’t really care where they are, as long as long as we can afford to get there.”
The future remains optimistic for Blaze Bayley, who is currently touring the world and hopes to return to US soil in the near future. His ultra will of determination makes me certain he will. “I’m really looking forward to hurry back there and see the US fans that supported me for so long. I would like to say a big thank you to all the fans in the USA, who have believed in me and supported me. We are really trying hard to get there and can’t wait. Thank you for all your encouragement, it has been great.”