The unstoppable march of the great Blaze continues, a singer and at the same time involuntary testimonial of a certain way of making music. Since a new album has been released (reviewed here), I didn’t miss the opportunity to talk about a bit of everything with Mr Bayley … (versione in Italiano qui)
MH: Hello Blaze! Welcome to METALHEAD.IT. You just came back with a new album (review here). It certainly cannot be said that you aren’t a prolific musician… Would you like to tell me about your latest work?
BB: My fans make all of this possible because of their loyal support over so many years. Through good times and difficult times, my fans have stayed with me. They believed in me when I lost belief in myself. They encouraged me to keep going when I felt hopeless. As long as my fans want me to write and record and perform, I will continue. I know I’m very lucky to have such wonderful fans. I’m so grateful to them. They have made it possible for me to make my “War Within Me” album. We were scheduled to write and record a new studio album in 2020. We planned to fit that in with some very cool festivals and some nice headline shows, to celebrate the vinyl release of my “Tenth Dimension” album. But soon, everything changed for us, just like it did for everyone else. Our last show was a sold out gig in London in March 2020. Everything after that was postponed or cancelled. It was very sad and unpleasant, but it did mean we had more time to spend writing the album. We decided to make simple demos with just acoustic guitar and voice. Focus on the shape and vibe and emotion of each idea. We were able to take time away from these new ideas, not listening to them for a couple of weeks, then come back to them, and listen to them with a fresh mind. We were able to be more objective and pay attention to details very closely. I knew my fans were waiting patiently for my next studio album, and I felt deep down, that we had to try to do something that would help them through these difficult times, the same way that they had helped me get through dark and uncomfortable times in my own life.
MH: Looking at your entire solo career, there have never been any steady member for a very long time in your band. Is this because you see your project as a solo one, rather than as a band?
BB: Yes. It’s difficult to keep a band together for a long time. There are just a few bands who have managed to keep the same line up that made their first album. It was too much for me. I got myself deep in debt trying to keep my band together. I became severely depressed and then suicidal. I had counselling and went to therapy to try and sort things out. I had to fire my band and stop music for a while. I got a regular job in a local factory making car parts. Then I started again with nothing but my name and the support of my family and my friends and my fans. They kept believing and encouraging me, even when I had no band and was only able to do acoustic shows and guest appearances. I had been going through a deep depression and problems with alcohol and suicidal thoughts.
Chris Appleton promoted one of the acoustic gigs I did, and after the gig he said to me: “If you ever want to try again with a full metal band, I would love to come on that journey with you.”
His faith in me was the start of my comeback. I began to believe in myself again. I am very lucky to have found Absolva (Chris Appleton’s band, editor’s note), they are a wonderful British heavy metal band. When they are not doing their own tours and gigs they are my exclusive live backing band and studio band. Chris Appleton and his band had supported me on a full metal UK tour many years ago. We got along well. Years later I did some shows with his band backing me and things really worked. We tried some writing and that went well too. Chris is a hugely talented guitarist and an expert in the sound of British heavy metal. We have been working closely together ever since those first shows. I’m really lucky to have found such a great team to work with. We feel the same about the passion and power that metal can have. The War Within Me album has been challenging and fun and frustrating and magical to work on.
I am still part of Wolfsbane. We are making a new Wolfsbane album.
MH: Once again the cover of the latest album is very evocative. Do you take care of the concept? Or do you rely directly on the artist’s sensations?
BB: Iwork very closely with Akirant, my artist. We discuss the new songs and music. He is an incredible artist and tremendously creative: he takes all our ideas for illustration and transforms them into stunning visuals. He is a highly valued member of my team.
MH: For several months now, the health situation has blocked everything, even the live shows machine. How are you experiencing this period? Do you miss playing live or maybe you are taking advantage of the forced break for other interests or passions?
BB: I have used the extra time available to make my new album the best it could possibly be. I am now using this time to make a new Wolfsbane Album. I have been writing a book called “Infinite Entanglement” between everything else I’m enjoying doing. Signed 3000 items for my fans that ordered their CDs and Vinyl from blazebayleyshop.com. Whenever I have the chance to ride my motorcycle on a dry day, it is like a tiny little holiday. I am hoping to ride to all my future concerts if and when the weather is ok. I have a small Triumph Speedster 900 motorcycle. It’s quite slow but very comfortable on long journeys. Many years ago I had a Ducati monster 600 for a few months. It was a wonderful machine.
MH: Without making unnecessary comparisons with certain periods of your life, I have always been attracted by the fact you seem to always talk about yourself in your songs. In a direct way, when during a gig you recall your past working hard with absurd shifts, also in a indirect way… and in this case do your current songs want to be autobiographical somehow? I think that even if a musician does mean it, often his life experience always ends up influencing the content of his music… What do you think?
BB: There are many personal lyrics on my “War Within Me” album. There are a couple of reasons this new album sounds different. It was a different studio, Chris Appleton decided to engineer this album himself. He did a magnificent job, and there are fewer parts in each arrangement so we were able to fill that extra space with my vocal or lead guitar or leave those spaces for my listeners to feel raw emotions rise up through them.
So this album is sounding and feeling like my “Man Who Would Not Die”, “Blood and Belief”, and “Silicon Messiah” albums. Confident in themselves. Unashamed to be totally dark and joyous and melancholy and magnificent and metal. I’m very happy with what we have done. I wanted an album my fans could be proud of. There is a small piece of my metal heart that is still 14. I still get excited about heavy metal guitar and harmonies and interesting lyrics. I wanted to have an album of songs that reminded me and my fans why we got into metal, and reminded us why we love this music. Big power chords, angry riffs. Beautiful melodies. Lyrics that come from my heart. A fight, a battle, a war within your own mind to defeat the self-destructive negative self. To find strength and courage to get through each day, each hour, each minute. To believe that we can survive this. To know that we will be together again one day.
Each one of us can make a choice. Do we give in to self-destruction, laziness, and negative feelings, or take responsibility for ourselves and our future, and fight and battle, and make war on the demons of self-pity and false pride.
I could choose the words to describe myself. I can say, ‘I am a loser, I will give up because I feel weak and it’s just too difficult.’ Or I can say to myself ‘I am a warrior. ‘I will not always win, but I will always fight.’ I Try not to let other people’s opinion of me define who I am. I’m trying to take responsibility for my own happiness. Call myself a warrior, then become a warrior.
MH: I had the pleasure to see you live few times in Italy, where you heated up the venue with performances of the highest level, with fellow mates such as Thomas Zwijsen. What I saw, and I guess the rest of the audience as well, is an independent artist, a musician taking care of his own products and career personally. Is it just a feeling or mine, or can we say that you are now an established musician, happy with your own career?
BB: My fans make all of this possible because of their loyal support over so many years. Through good times and difficult times, my fans have stayed with me. They believed in me when I lost belief in myself. They encouraged me to keep going when I felt hopeless. As long as my fans want me to write and record and perform, I will continue. I know I’m very lucky to have such wonderful fans. I’m so grateful to them. They have made it possible for me to make my “War Within Me” album. At every Blaze Bayley show before covid there was a free meet and greet. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful fans. I like to say thank you to my fans after each show. I am a completely independent artist supported only by my fans. They have made it possible for me to make my new album. So far there have been some really great comments from my fans that have listened my new album. It’s a huge relief.
MH: Talking about that, which album are you most satisfied with? On the other side, what do you consider the least successful?
BB: It’s an impossible question to answer because albums and songs change their meaning and importance as time passes and the view becomes more objective. The “War Within Me” album feels really good. As I said before, Chris Appleton and me decided to make simple demos with just acoustic guitar and voice. We wanted to focus on the shape and vibe and emotion of each idea. It was 2 years since my last studio album, “The Redemption Of William Black”. I knew my fans were waiting patiently for my next studio album and I felt deep down, that we had to try to do something that would help them through these difficult times, the same way that they had helped me get through dark and uncomfortable times in my own life. Looking back over the past 35 years since I started out on the path to my dream of being a professional heavy metal singer, I did my best on every album and every song. Some turned out better than others. My fans have different favourite songs and albums because things become personal to them depending what is happening in their life. Most of my fans seem to agree that “Silicon Messiah” is a very important solo album for me.
MH: Back to music… how do you see the nowadays worldwide scene? By now the vinyl has reached the CD in terms of sales, but in my opinion it is only an apparent victory. The data in fact confirm that this result was achieved only because the market for music on physical format has now fallen. What’s your opinion?
BB: My team and me love making my albums available on vinyl because it makes us remember the times when, and how, we first got into music. “War Within Me” is the first time we have been able to plan to release vinyl and CD at the same time as the digital release. It’s a very exciting time!
MH: In this respect, I remember the battle Metallica fought against Napster back then, but now they are pushing the importance of digital music. I think there is a lot of hypocrisy in all of this. Do you consider yourself an artist with firm principles? Do you usually practice what you preach, doing what you say? Or does the music business forces us all to some kind of flexibility, when it goes down to the personal opinions and beliefs? I am asking this because, as a music listener, I find easy thinking that music shall be an expression of freedom of thought. But, in front of your many years of experience, I’d like asking you: I am right on that?
BB: I think my fans, long time, hard core, that have followed me from Wolfsbane, could answer this question better than me. I sacrificed a lot to gain my independence as an artist, and I had a lot of help to get to this point. I think anyone that chooses to pursue this way of life pays a high price, emotionally and mentally. I know I’m very lucky, and very grateful, to be an independent artist and to own my own independent record company. I have a small team of magnificent talented supportive people around me and with me. We all love music and we are all huge music fans. In our hearts we are fans. We speak as fans. We live as fans. It is often tough and we face challenges, just like anyone else that chooses their own path in life. No matter what happens we try to keep moving forward and remind ourselves that we already achieved impossible things together. When the next impossible problem comes we will face it together and battle our way through it, and beat it just like we beat all those other impossible problems. We don’t know how we will do it, we just know that we will do it.
MH: I have always been impressed by the fact that you did always stick with your ideas, you never exposed yourself in any political campaigns like many other artists like, to mention one, Bruce Springsteen. So who is Blaze Bayley in 2021?
BB: I’m a very lucky man. I love to sing and write songs and that is my full time job.
MH: Blaze, it’s has been a true honor to interview you, to have this pleasant chat with you. Hoping to see you again, as soon as possible here in Italy, I’d want you to close this interview, as you prefer…
BB: Thank you to all my fans in Italy for supporting me and believing in me. I have great memories of your wonderful country and I can’t wait to see you again. Please stay safe. Big hugs to all!