Being a fan and meeting the bands / musicians you love gives you a great opportunity to take a look under the hood. I am talking about witnessing firsthand the passion or the lack of thereof just by seeing the way a musician responds to your questions. Honestly, Blaze Bayley proved to be in a great place sharing the same passion when he is onstage. To my mind, this passion for music-making and this respect for his fans sum up the definition of Metal, so if you have missed his doings lately, then you better start doing your homework harder. And while on this process, check below what METAL KAOZ discussed with Blaze some hours before his show in Bolingbrook, IL.
Hi Blaze, it is really nice seeing you again in the Chicago area! First of all, how did you come up with the idea of putting together a trilogy of albums?
It started quite a while ago when I did my ‘best of’ album, “The Soundtracks Of My Life”. There were no new songs there but I knew that my hardcore fans would get this, since most of them are also collectors. I did that album because many people were coming to the merch asking what album they should get as their first album. But it is difficult to say because they all have different mood and feelings, so I wanted an album so I could say ‘get this one’. Like a start, since it has a bit of everything and you get a very good impression of what I do. With the guy with whom I was working in Austin, Texas when we were compiling this album, we did one new song called “Eating Children” and then we were messing around one day and we jumped into this idea; I had this idea for a lyric about escaping the solar system because our sun is a yellow dwarf and the remnants of this yellow dwarf, when it was formed, made all of the planets. But when our sun dies, it will become a red giant that’s what will happen to it. A red giant is so massive that is bigger than the entire solar system, so it will consume the planets; it will eat each own children in a way.
And if you know that this will happen and if you have the money like the likes of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, then you are going to be able to put together your own space mission. You will get the date for the nearest Earth-like planet and you will able to do it. Journalists and Heavy Metal singers will not be able to make it - it will be the people who can make this mission happen with their money. This is the reality and this is the idea that came to me about escaping the solar system. This was the seed for the concept and the lyrics came very quickly and this goes back to the “Eating Children” song we did. When I was supposed to write the sleeve notes, I started writing a story and when we came to do the first studio album, which was the first one for a while, that’s all I had, and I said to Chris [Appleton]: “I think this is a concept album and it will be based on this idea”. I just had quite few words and a stream of consciousness, there were not even proper lyrics but once we started writing along with Michelle [Sciarrotta], it started really to come together. In the end, we had sixteen songs that we really liked and the manager we had at the time asked us “how many songs have you got?” and told him “16” and he said that we only had the time to record just ten, if we wanted to make it until the release date. So then, I went back and I looked over all of the titles and took a step back and then it was like: “Huh, it is not one big album. It is three albums, three parts of the story; the beginning, the journey and the conclusion”. And that’s how we started; Chris and I had to make a really tough decision because in the music business you never know if you are going to make it until the next album. Because you are not in control; you know, with WOLFSBANE we wanted to make another album and the record label was saying “you are not ready!” and we were like “we think we are, we have the songs” but they would not agree. So, it was a lot of courage to make this decision, and even though I am the record company and I am setting the release date, we were not in the position to know that we would have the money. Still, we went on and worked our asses off to make it happen. I mean, we thought that if people like the first part, then they will pre-order the second one and we will have the money to go on; and that’s what happened.
The only thing I can say if I am to compare the first part with the second one is about the production; I am not a musician or even a professional, but to my ears, part one sounds a bit uneven on the mix. The second part is awesome!
Yeah, we were limited on a couple of things and we were also learning through the process of part one. The main thing was the songs and also we had some circumstances going on, so we did the best we could do. We had the entire timetable upon the wall of my small studio and we could choose the steps where we could save some time and money by doing this or that and that was it. For part two, it was a huge amount of hours, like 14 hours a day, but in the end this was finished two days earlier than the first one. And we were constantly panicking and talking to our manager about needing more time but he was like “no, you set the release date so there will be no change”. And then, one day we were sitting in the studio trying to see if there is something else to do, but we realized that we were done. We listened to the album in different stereos and speakers, we listened to it in every way. That was it! We were done two days earlier.
I guess it is better being your own boss, right?
Yeah it is, although you assume more responsibility but I am very lucky to have such talented people around me. Being independent and being able to set my own deadline, say it that three albums will be released on March 01st of every year, the tour will start in Europe in Spring and having everybody agreeing saying “I will do this” and “I will do that” is fantastic. I mean, when we were finishing the last tour, Chris was already talking to the local promoters and venue owners saying that we wanted to come back with a new album and we ended up with booking 30 shows by the end of the tour we had just finished. And this is the same for the next.
So, you have set the release dates for all the parts?
Yes, the moment we had decided it will be a trilogy, it was set that all the parts would be released on March 01st of every year.
Oh my, that’s a huge commitment…
You know, it is all about this special word that has no magic whatsoever; it is call “work” (laughs). That’s what it takes. It is the uncomfortable and unpopular companion of every successful project.
That's what people tend to forget…
It is not forgotten but ignored... But we are working on a schedule; I mean, if we have a day off from touring then it is immediately “can we write or go through some things we have done?” and if it is a “yes” then it goes on to the schedule. “Oh, we have a week here then we’re going to go from the airport to the studio and we’re going to put the new ideas in” and that’s how we do this.
To me, this sounds impressive and honestly, I don’t think many bands work like this. Of course, I am not talking about the superstar bands that have a team of people telling them what and when to do this. I am talking about the medium to small bands that think once a new album is released then it means money in their pocket…
There is an illusion that I think many musicians suffer from; they believe that if you are good, then people will notice. And this, in my experience, is absolutely wrong. It is not about being good; I mean, there are far better singers than me who I have seen over the years who have gone nowhere and who were broken by this big ugly machine of the music business. There is music and then there is the music-business; these are parallel but they are not the same. And that music-business is huge, ugly bulldozer of a machine collecting cash and it is not very interested in the artist. They have been a few people who have been producers and who have run independent labels along the way but even them they got swallowed up by the big machine. So, it is difficult but if you think because you are good you are better than anyone else, you are absolutely wrong. You are just a musician and you are not a doctor or a scientist who will find the next antibiotic, you are not curing malaria, you are not finding the solution to world hunger you are just a fuckin’ musician. So, get that in your mind you are not that important. You are only important to the people who have decided to make you part of their lives.
Although, and as a fan, I have to tell you that some songs and some of your songs have been special to me and have made me feel better during a bad time.
Yes, but this is you allowing me into your life, allowing my ideas, my art and my spirit to become part of your life. But you have to get to know me first; you have to find me first. I mean, all of these songs may still exist and you may not know anything about it. For me, having been in and out of this business for thirty years, there is only one person who is really important and that is you; and I am just trying to get you to listen to it. A long time ago, I decided that I didn’t want to be part of this big machine. I want to change the world one fan at a time and even if this means dragging you into a gig and tell “please listen to my music” and that’s what I started doing ten years ago in Finland and I just kept going. I have being in EMI, Phonogram and everything I have been always believing that the fans are the ones who really know about music. Because, they buy the albums and listen to them while the record company only cares about sales.
Although, I will open a small parentheses and say that some of the fans and this big ugly machine have been unfair to you.
I don’t care about that. I mean, life is not fair. I will tell you this; whatever happened along the way here I am living my dream as an independent artist running my own small record label and the people supporting me are my fans directly. And I contact them on social media, they find me on Facebook, they find me at BlazeBayley.net and know what I am doing. That’s it. So the only people I want to relate to and talk to, are my fans - nobody else.
So, this means if we are going to buy the vinyls you are about to release, all the money will go directly to the band, right?
The money goes into Blaze Bayley Recording so I can pay my rent, I save, I make the next album, I press the next vinyl and that’s it.
But you have no vinyls with you at the merch table.
We could not afford this. We have to find someone here in the US to press the vinyl and then it goes down to the economics; how many pieces we can sell and if this will make sense.
Let’s talk about the album and specifically about the lyrics; even though they follow a storyline, I think that songs like “Lies” go beyond the story since they sound so relevant to what is happening nowadays. So, I’m guessing there is more into the lyrics than just telling the story.
What we had to do and, in fact, what we decided in the beginning is that each album has to stand on its own. The albums have to have great songs and if they make you more interested in the story then you can take a look at the story behind it. And of course, this is a human story based on a Science Fiction background. I mean, it is about a man who is struggling with his identity in every way; struggling with his past, struggling to escape his past and also trying to find shreds of his past to make his life meaningful. And that’s exactly what we all do; in the end, whether we have or not flying cars, we still are going to be in a room standing next to each other watching our favorite band singing as loud as we can. That’s being human and that’s what is right in the middle of this story; the love, the loss and the victory and failure of a very flawed individual who is struggling with his identity and to find meaning to continue with his life.
Does this mean that there is a happy end to the story?
Well, there is an ending alright... (laughs)
(laughs) Nice, you are letting no spoilers… So, after this tour, you’ll head to Europe for some acoustic shows…
Yeah, Thomas [Zwijsen] and I have managed to find a small window and do these acoustic shows which I really love along with violinist Anne Bakker and will finish this at the ‘Huskvarna Rock And Art Weekend’ festival; it is really exciting. And after this, we have one more show in the UK and then we go back to recording.
From what you have seen in this US tour, do you see BLAZE BAYLEY returning to the US any time soon?
Obviously, this is a very tough schedule but I think everything we have done in Europe, we will be able to do here in the US. So, we are scheduled to return in September (2018) with part three and with all of our CDs and I hope with all of the vinyls.
Awesome, although we will get the vinyls through your webzine…
Yeah, it is a long wait until September next year.
What about WOLFSBANE, is there any activity there?
We are doing some dates in the UK starting on December 04th and I will post those dates on the BLAZE BAYLEY site once we are done with these shows. We have a few ideas from the last thing we did and some new ones, so I hope we will get into rehearsing in between the shows and use these three weeks to come up with some new material that we can record next year.
Although I know it will be humanly impossible, I will ask the question; can we see WOLFSBANE and BLAZE BAYLEY touring the US together?
No, I don’t think so, man. There is so much passion in the performance and it would have to be three hours of performing. I can sing for three hours but doing this for four or five nights in a row (which is what you have to do it) is too much. I think only Biff from SAXON can do that, and UDO.
Do you have anything else going on aside from the two bands?
I have cut everything because I am so busy with the trilogy. I have this band, the acoustic shows and whenever I can find the time WOLFSBANE. I am hoping to do another acoustic album in the future and that’s it really. I am still doing guest vocals and bands get in touch with me to perform a song for their album. The next big thing after finishing the recording of part three is getting to grips with my book. There are massive chucks that are missing from the book. “Infinite Entanglement” is based on this book and it a Science Fiction story. All the lyrics come from this story, so in March of 2019 the book will come out. It will tell the entire story of his mission, of why he is there, who is Professor Brewer and who is Pembridge and what happens to all of this people. But half of that book is still in my head, so I got to get that out and I have to work on this this January and have that for the following year.
I read somewhere that you are a fan of Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clark…
I think that the way Philip K Dick plays with reality means really something to me because of my mental health problems and my imagination is so vivid; waking up from a dream that you have just woken up from is something that really strikes a chord with me. I mean "is this reality?" and then waking up from it.
You are talking about living inside the matrix which is inside a matrix, right?
Exactly! And this is something that really appeals to me and reading a book you think "how should I believe it?" But then, you just have to follow the story, even if what I am reading is impossible, I have to trust the writer and read through the end. Anyway, Philip K Dick has been an inspiration to me along with Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert, of course. So, I am inspired to write the book although I have not done this before. I have written songs, poems but not a book. And it is funny when I tell people about this they immediately think I will write my autobiography, but no, it will be a Science Fiction story and it has to be good. It is the same when I am making an album; it has to be the best one.
So, if your book becomes successful, you will stop singing and writing music… (laughs)
Well, what I will do is that I won’t be doing as many shows as I am doing right now. I will be able to take some nights off during the tour; like 5 shows in a row and not 11 ones in a row like I did the last time I was in Greece. It was very tough; we did it but it was tough.
I am sure the shows were awesome…
The thing about the Greeks is that they are the best singers in the world. You think it might be the Welsh because, you know, there are so many Welsh choirs, France has fantastic singers too, but the Greek fans will sing more parts to more songs that you have never even heard off or even thought they could be sung along to. I mean, Chris will start some melody on his guitar and all of the fans are singing it and I am like “what? I’ve never thought one could be singing that” (laughs). It is fantastic! We did eleven shows and it was very tough. I was doing meet-and-greets for free after every show for everyone who wanted to take photo or have something to sign. In Athens, the meet-and-greet was longer than the gig. Just before the last song of the night, I said “After the show, I will do a meet-and-greet” and after the show nobody left; they just turned around and got in a cue (laughs). So, the show was 90 minutes long and the meet-and-greet was over two hours. The Greek promoter came to me and asked if I wanted to stop and go back to the hotel and I told him: “how the fuck would you feel if you were that guy who waited patiently back at the end of the line for two hours and then see me walking out of the room? What a cunt are you even thinking that I would do that to somebody who has supported me”.
Thank you for saying this and being like that.
Yeah, I am doing free meet-and-greets every night and I have done bigger than that to be honest but this took a long time I hadn’t been in Greece for so many years that people had piles of stuff for me to sign. I have no limit to the number of things to sign because next time I will be to Greece, it will be much easier. Some guys after getting their things signed, they went back to the line with the rest of their stuff!
Oh man… However and I am sure you are aware of this, especially here in the US almost all the bands are getting paid to do meet-and-greets.
The thing that you have to understand is that the music business has changed. Back in the old days, the record labels were selling a lot of stuff and everybody was getting a bit from that money. This is gone nowadays and there is no income from that. During the '80s, the bands could use the money from the album sales to support a show which they could never afford; you could lose money after doing a sold-out tour in the '80s just because they were putting these awesome shows that people wanted to see. But that's how it used to be to get more fans. That’s all gone now; the tour has to make money and you have to sell your t-shirts and you have to find another income that used to come from the CD sales. But where are the record shops? Where do you find CDs? So, when all these things have disappeared bands have to find other ways. I don’t. I have never done this. I am completely independent and I am supported directly by my fans who come to my shows and order from my website. I have a small overhead and we are a very small team of people. I am very like to have these people to my team. If a fan comes to my show and buys a CD, then that’s it for me. For me, that’s enough and thank you for making the effort and got away from the TV. I don’t need to ask for more money, since they’ve already supported me and this is amazing! I’ve seen fans calling their friends to see if they want another t-shirt, so I have this incredible support that perhaps other bands don’t. And also, I come from a different place; I am a fan, I am a working class man, I come from a working class background and I have failed over and over again. After IRON MAIDEN I failed; “Silicon Messiah” was not a success and there was no tour for it; “Tenth Dimension” was not a success; it’s heartbreaking and the same goes for “Blood And Belief”; this album was not a commercial success in any shape or form. None of my albums have been until now. With “Infinite Entanglement”, “Soundtracks Of My Life” and the anniversary of “Silicon Messiah” for which we did an entire Euro tour and played in its entirety, has started being good for me.
That’s sad because these albums are amazing!
Of course it is not sad! This is reality! Yeah, I was heartbroken at the time because I did all this work that I was so proud of and some of the lyrics on “Blood And Belief” are so deep with the last four songs dealing with the concept of grief is incredible, and for it to be hardly known outside a very close community of fans is... [sighs] but that's just real...
Are you going to re-release those albums on vinyl?
Yes, and the next catalogue release will be “Tenth Dimension” and then “Blood And Belief” and this is how we will do this. The next vinyl release obviously will be “Endure And Survive” and then part three and then “Tenth Dimension”.
And on this vinyl-happy note, we will wrap this interview up. Thank you very much, Blaze for your time.
Thank you guys, it was my pleasure. Enjoy the show.