Rolling Stone‘s interview series King for a Day features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and singers who had the difficult job of fronting major rock bands after the departure of an iconic vocalist. Some of them stayed in their bands for years, while others lasted just a few months. In the end, however, they all found out that replacement singers can themselves be replaced. This edition features former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley.
It would be easy to forgive Blaze Bayley for being at least slightly bitter at this point in his life. The heavy metal singer was the frontman of Iron Maiden for a five-year period in Nineties, traveling the world by jet and headlining massive venues; now he traverses Europe by van to play out-of-the-way places like the 300-seat Bastard Club in Osnabrück, Germany, and the Blast From the Past Festival in Kuurne, Belgium.
But when we caught up with Bayley via Zoom at his home in England between tour stops, he was radiating with positivity and joy. “I’m not a wealthy man,” he says. “I have an ordinary motorcycle and an ordinary car and I live in an ordinary house, but I spend my time on tour and I perform in wonderful places. In so many ways, I’m living the dream.”
“I’m not trying to be huge,” he continues. “I’ve been huge. I’ve been in the biggest band in the word. I don’t need to go back there.”
Bayley (born Bayley Alexander Cooke) grew up in a mobile home in Birmingham, England. His parents divorced when he was three and he lived with his mother. “We had next to nothing,” he says. “We had an outside toilet. We had no running water. You had to go and get your water in a bucket and bring it back in. But we never felt deprived. That was just the way we lived.”
The earliest music he can remember hearing is “Be My Love” by Fifties crooner Mario Lanza, a favorite of his grandmother, but his life changed forever in the late Seventies once he heard the Sex Pistols, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest.
Birmingham was the center of the metal universe at the time, and Bayley immersed himself in the music during his teenage years. “It’s an industrial town,” he says. “It’s a lot of working-class people doing minimum-wage jobs in dirty, horrible circumstances.”
Bayley got a job working the night shift in a hotel after high school and started to envision a career as a hotel manager. That all changed when he saw an ad in a newspaper by a group called Wolfsbane: “Heavy metal singer wanted. No experience necessary.”
“I thought I could sing like Ronnie James Dio,” Bayley says. “Actually, I was just screaming in a nonsensical way. But they couldn’t get anybody else, so I got the job.”
What were Wolfsbane trying to accomplish when you guys started?
Our ambition was to be the biggest band in Tamworth. And we did that by sheer determination and being the most outrageous band in Tamworth. Then we want to be the biggest heavy metal band in Birmingham. And we managed to do it with the same attitude. We were so competitive. If we had been in a football team, we’d have done well.
You guys signed to Def American with Rick Rubin. That must have been incredibly exciting. He was a kingmaker and he’d just worked with Slayer and Danzig.
Yeah, that’s how it seemed. It was very odd to receive that phone call. “Hello, It’s Rick Rubin.” “Who?” “Rick Rubin, from America. From Slayer.” We went, “What? Why are you phoning us?”
How did he even hear of you?
We opened up for King Diamond at the Hammersmith Odeon. There weren’t many people there, but we got a little insert review in Kerrang! magazine. It was next to a review of Slayer with a big photo.
Rick Rubin opened up the magazine since he was interested in Slayer. He sees the little insert review of Wolfsbane. He asked his friend George Drakoulias, “Have you heard of Wolfsbane? No? Can you see if you can find a demo?”
They tracked our demo down in New York, and on every demo we did, we had our phone number. He called the number on the demo and got us at home. That’s how we started.
What was it like going to Los Angeles to make the album?
It was total culture shock. Their expectations and the way they lived was totally alien to us as four working-class guys from England. In New York, we would have been fine. In Los Angeles, it was a bit of an adjustment to make.
Why do you think the band didn’t break in the States?
Timing is everything. When we were coming through, just around the time of our video for “I Like It Hot,” grunge exploded. And remember, the U.K. was much more fashion-conscious than the U.S. In the U.S., people were revered for being around a long time. In the U.K., it was like, “That must be boring. What’s new?”
In the U.K. they were like, “Grunge is the new thing. Iron Maiden is a dinosaur.” And we were one of these bands. Everybody wanted to be depressed, look at their shoes, and think about suicide. In Wolfsbane, we were the antithesis of being self-obsessed and wanting to commit suicide. [Screaming] We were the antithesis!
We were like, “Here is life, enjoy it! We’re on tour. We don’t know if we will be again. Enjoy it! Let’s grab it! Let’s sing and be in love with performing. Let’s go onstage and be like, ‘Yes! We’re here!'”
There was no chance for Wolfsbane, really. We had the joyous abandonment of living and loving playing, but the people wanted to be miserable. That wasn’t our fault.
Were you a big Iron Maiden fan back in the Eighties?
Yeah. I loved it. And this is difficult to believe, because I’m so old, but this was before arenas. This is why I’m so lucky to have experienced it. It’s a thing that so many fans now won’t be able to experience for some bands. Bands played theaters back then.
The theater in Birmingham was the Birmingham Odeon. It was 1,500 seats. It seemed huge to me. It was the world to me. I saw Iron Maiden twice there. They played there four nights. I saw Ozzy there. I saw Metallica with Anthrax on the Master of Puppets tour. I saw Jon Bon Jovi there, twice. I saw Ronnie James Dio on the Holy Diver tour. You cannot imagine. This was incredible. There were no arenas for heavy metal. It was here in the theaters. It’s close. You can hear it. You can feel it. It was an amazing time.
At that time, what separated Iron Maiden from other bands?
I think it’s the energy. And it’s Bruce [Dickinson]. There were some magical things. It was like two suns joining together in the galaxy to become this huge new thing. To hear Bruce singing after the [Paul] Di’Anno years…I wasn’t a big fan of Paul. He’s a wonderful performer, wonderful voice, but not completely my cup of tea.
To hear Bruce bring that kind of vocal to that music, it’s another level. There was something spiritual about it, for me, as a young man. On the night shift at the hotel, listening to those big songs… They were completely unapologetic it was like, “Here’s the riff. And we’re going to play it.” That was it for me.
How did you hear that they were looking for a new singer?
I’m so lucky in my life. My life is like some kind of crazy roulette wheel where it actually comes up with your number as you’re walking away from the table and you think everything is gone.
We’d done pretty well with Def American. We’d gotten a name for ourselves in Wolfsbane. “I Like It Hot” was out. It was us and the Almighty. We were the two bands that were selected to support Iron Maiden on their last theater tour. It was going to be goodbye to theaters after that. “We’ll only be doing arenas and big festival headlines. This is our last. It’s a thank you to the fans for coming to see us.”
We got selected to be the support band for that tour. And, of course, we’re so arrogant, and so full of ourselves, that every night we tried to outdo them. I mean, these are giants that have nothing to prove, but they still go for every night. And we’re like, “All right, let’s have a go and see how many fans we can steal. Let’s make it really tough for them.”
That’s what we did every night. I’d start climbing all over the PA like Bruce used to. They never said a word. I thought they were gonna say something. I pushed it more every night.
And then [Iron Maiden guitarist] Steve Harris came to me one night and said, “Well, it’s nice to have a band that pushes us.” I thought, “What a fantastic attitude.” And then I made friends with Steve and I was invited to be part of the Iron Maiden football team and everything.
It was fantastic. That’s one of my best tours in my life. It stands out to me as one of the shining moments, when Wolfsbane supported Iron Maiden. There was something magical about it.
A few years later, Bruce had left, and I was very, very lucky. I asked for an audition and they already knew me. I was able to get an audition, but I was still one of 1,500 people that applied for it. And then it came down to 12 people, the golden 12 that were lucky enough to have an audition and be in the room with them.
You had go do 10 songs that were the backbone of the setlist and go and rehearse them with the band. I did that and they asked me back.
What was happening with Wolfsbane at this time?
Tragically, things had gone very bad for Wolfsbane. Grunge was at its height. We couldn’t get a record deal. We couldn’t get anything. And the manager at the time said, “If there’s a chance for you to audition for Iron Maiden, you’ve got to take it. Nothing is going to happen with Wolfsbane.”
It was bittersweet — there I was leaving the guys in Wolfsbane, but there I was with guys that had been heroes to me. They had some of the most legendary songs, legendary albums. And I would be able to work with those people? I was very, very lucky.
How did they tell you that you had the job?
I got a phone call on Christmas Eve of 1994. I had two auditions. One was with the band, and the other was in the the studio and I had to sing with backing tracks. They wanted to know if I could record. I had that experience by then. I then had a meeting with management. I was still drinking at the time, so I bought myself a case of Guinness and a wireless phone. [Laughs]
How did it feel to put the phone down and realize you were now the frontman of one of the biggest metal bands on the planet?
It was unreal. It did not compute. It didn’t go in at all. I think it only really made sense when I started writing with the band.
The first thing you did with the was record The X Factor. Tell me about that.
Steve Harris said to me, “Nothing is written for the next album. I don’t care who writes the songs as long as they are great songs.”
I went down to [Iron Maiden guitarist] Janick Gers’s house with a couple of ideas. I think we came up with “Man on the Edge” on the first day. That felt pretty good, and we came up with a couple of other things. Then we’d go over and have a writing sessions at Steve’s house. “Got this, got that, what do you got?”
Some of my ideas weren’t very good, but other were good enough to be considered as an album track. That’s when it started to feel very, very real. Forget about big shows. Forget about all of that. But writing and knowing that your ideas are good enough to be on an Iron Maiden album, that was when it really started.
That was a fantastic time. And I think that is what made it possible for me to continue and do all of the albums I have done after Maiden. It’s that confidence that I got from Steve Harris and the guys when he’s trying ideas and he goes, “Try it like this. This is how it should go. Don’t put that there. Put that here! Have that here. You can’t have that at all. It’s your favorite bit? No. It doesn’t fit. You can’t have it!”
I found other parts of my voice. [Sings a bit of “Fortunes of War.”] These were things I’d never done before. I found these extra parts of my voice. I also found that songwriting is not luck. No. This is experience, skill, and work. That’s how you get it from your mind to the CD. That was a revelation! Those years for me, a short time, just five years, were golden. I was able to put those lessons into my music afterwards.
They credit you on “Blood on the World’s Hands.” That’s a great song.
It is. There’s a lot of great music there, a lot of stuff I’m proud of. I do a set now when people ask me to these festivals, and I sing songs from those two albums. It’s like getting together with old friends. I don’t do them the same as they are recorded. I do the Blaze Bayley versions of those old songs. It’s like seeing old friends, but giving them new clothes.
The tour started in Jerusalem on September 28. 1995. What was it like to walk onstage that first time and sing that first song?
Scary as hell. And not because I’m scared of the size of the crowd. I’d played gigs that big in Wolfsbane. But the fear was just making a mistake or doing something really bad and letting the fans down. The most important thing to me was doing well for the fans of Iron Maiden. I wanted to take a lot of the older songs and take them a little bit closer to the recorded version.
So with the greatest respect to Bruce, I love him to bits, he’s been a huge supporter over the years, but I think for any musician, you’re in a band for a long time, unless you really check in with yourself, sometimes things wander off a little bit. And what I thought I could bring to Maiden was, “I can tighten these things up a little bit.” So that’s what I did.
The biggest fear for me was just letting fans down if I did not do well or if I made a big fluff of something. But I was so lucky. People really welcomed me. Nobody said, “We don’t want you.” People said, “OK, let’s see what you can do.”
That was a long tour. Was it hard on your body and your voice to play that many consecutive nights, especially in a high-pressure situation?
When we were in Wolfsbane, we just wanted to live on a tour bus. That was it. That was the dream life for us, living on a tour bus and doing gigs. So when they said, “Oh, it’s big long tour,” I was like, “Yeah. OK! That’s what I’ve always wanted.”
The downside of it is the same for any professional touring singer. The lifestyle of touring and having the best voice every day, they just don’t go together. They’re opposites. When you’ve got a Vegas residency, or you’re working on a cruise liner, you can keep your voice at the top, right near 100 percent of the time.
When you’re sleeping on a bus, traveling for upwards of 19 hours between gigs, just getting up and eating cold food because the catering closed by the time we got there, it’s really hard. And in the end, however tough that was, the thing that made it wonderful for me was these songs.
I’d go onstage and sing “Number of the Beast,” “The Trooper,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” And to see the reaction from the fans…as shit and negative as that 20-hour journey was, to be there and sing these incredible songs that are legendary in the heavy-metal business, that was the thing that sustained me.
As you said, this was a weird time for heavy metal. You guys were largely playing clubs in the States. How did the band feel about that after all those years in arenas and stadiums?
I think it was very tough for the guys. It was a joy for me, because, of course, I’ve been doing all those kinds of venues with Wolfsbane, so I was in my element. I never said this to the guys at the time, but I was thinking, “I’m in this unique situation — it’s like I’m in the rebirth of Iron Maiden. We’ll get through this. Things will start changing because people will see that this music, this tough, hard, melodic music, is so much deeper, and has so much more to give you than other things around at this time.”
The toughest part was when Ronnie James Dio was supporting Iron Maiden. I’m the lead singer of Iron Maiden, and Ronnie James Dio is literally God of heavy-metal singing. I’ve loved him. He’s my inspiration to be a heavy-metal singer. I’ve got everything he’s done on vinyl. I’ve seen him in concert four or five times, and he’s supporting me? God is supporting me? Ahh!!
I watched him every night on the tour. I would be in the back with fans watching Ronnie with the fans, and then I’d run back and get ready for our set. It was fantastic.
I remember one gig in Phoenix [at the Celebrity theater on July 14, 1998]. It was tiny for Iron Maiden, absolutely tiny. It was the hottest day. You could not walk for more than 20 yards without needing oxygen and a paramedic. Very, very tough day. I was feeling quite low.
I get to the gig and it was in the round. So many of the promoters lost faith in us. Grunge was at its height. Everything seemed against us. There was no room for the backdrops or anything. The stand-up Eddie [Iron Maiden’s mascot] was there, but it was just tied up over the drum kit. The fans were around everywhere. It was incredible. And I think that was my greatest Iron Maiden gig.
I’ve played to 75,000 people. I’ve played all over in Brazil. I’m very popular there now. But for me, one of my smallest Iron Maiden concerts was my greatest moment because I could actually jump into the crowd from the stage. I could grab someone by the head and force them to sing “The Trooper.” I even wrote a song about it on [my solo album] Silicon Messiah. That was the joy of it, to be able to sing these incredible songs.
A lot of singers join established bands and they don’t really feel like part of the team. They feel like hired hands. You didn’t feel that way, it seems. You felt like an equal part of it.
I think for Steve Harris, it very much is a band. And he wanted it to stay a band and have the energy of a band and the camaraderie of a band. He was a mentor to me, but also we became very good friends as well. That was it. It was about doing your best, your absolute best. Everybody doing the best they can every single night.
It’s a very high expectation. But for me, I’d always been ambitious. That’s what champions do. That’s what the real heroes do. They’re not on the booze and not taking drugs. The real heroes, my heroes, it’s the music that’s the most important thing. I think that’s why Steve and I got along so well. We had that same mentality of, “It’s the music first. It’s the fans first.”
Steve was very supportive. Everybody was very supportive. And we did our best, but the pressure was this: You are playing soccer for England. It is the World Cup final. And you must win. That’s the pressure of being the singer of Iron Maiden. And so when Bruce and I see each other, we don’t really have to speak. We look at each other and go, “I know, I know.” We know what it takes, but it’s the best job. It’s the best job in the world that somebody like me could have. It’s tough, but it has joy.
Tell me about making Virtual XI.
That was different. We’re still in Barnyard Studios. I’ve written a couple of things. I’ve got something called “Como Estais Amigos,” which was from a visit to Argentina. There was a war over the Falkland Islands, and it’s a song of reconciliation, and to remember the fallen.
That was one where I’d started with Janick, and then we took it to rehearsals. They were like, “It’s good, but it doesn’t go like that. It goes like this.” Of course, I was resistant to that at the start. But afterwards, it is my biggest song with Iron Maiden. Of all the ones I’m famous for, like “Man on the Edge,” Top 10 around the world on the rock charts, and in some countries, Number One on the regular charts. I’d written it. Incredible.
But the biggest song is “Como Estais Amigos.” When we did that in rehearsal, Steve Harris goes, “It goes like this.” Then I start hearing Dave Murray on that guitar and that snap of the snare of Nick McBrain…wow! The song just came to life. It’s been in and out of my set over the years. It’s an incredibly special thing for me.
What do you remember about making “The Clansman?”
That was another magical moment. It came when Steve was using an acoustic bass to write and he’d be messing about with it. He came and went, “I’ve got this idea.” He’s got a piece of paper with a pencil. And he’s whistling the melody and everything. He goes, “What do you think, Blaze?” I go, “Steve, it’s fantastic.”
That song is in their live set right now. It’s in my anniversary setlist as well. People would think that’s my biggest song, and it is a huge song for me, but that was an incredible moment to be there at the embryonic stage of, “What do you think of this?” That’s a moment. Those are the moments that make me feel so privileged to have had my time in Iron Maiden.
How was the Virtual XI tour? I know you had some vocal problems at times.
That’s just unavoidable when you’re touring. It’s a gradual series of events that take place where eventually you’ve got nothing. A week earlier, you were singing with full voice. And that’s it. So it’s very tough. And I went to Dr. [Joseph] Sugerman in Los Angeles. He put me on vocal rest and all sorts of different things.
We managed to get it back and we didn’t have to cancel so many shows. We did Los Angeles with a full voice. That was a really lovely gig. But it’s just difficult. So many people refuse to understand that you can’t go and buy a new set of vocal cords. No. It’s the equivalent of saying to the guitarist, “Here’s your strings. They have to last the whole tour.” At every show, you’ve got to try and give everything you can with just enough left to get you until tomorrow, when you give everything you have again.
It’s a big learning thing. You’ve got to be some kind of Shaolin priest monk to have vocal dexterity to be able to not speak for hours and hours on end, to just drink water and tea, and no alcohol. But that’s the only time in three years that I lost my voice.
Your last gig in Iron Maiden was in Argentina. Do you have fond memories of that night?
No. It was raining and it was dark. We had Slayer supporting. Okay, God [Dio] had supported Maiden in the U.S. All right, I managed to get through that. And I loved him. I love Ronnie James.
But Slayer, who I also love…. I used to listen to Reign in Blood end-to-end when I was in Wolfsbane. Slayer, at that time, were the most intense band in the world, of any genre! In the world! [Mock anger] I don’t care what you say, don’t argue! Slayer, at that time, were the most intense band in! The! World! And they were supporting Iron Maiden! What chance did I have?
I met Tom Araya in Los Angeles at the Def American offices. He’s a wonderful guy. I said, “Tom, how do you keep your voice on tour?” I always collect these tips from different singers. He said, “Normally I’m drinking a few beers at the start of a tour.” I said, “Do you ever lose your voice?” He goes, “If I ever do, I just keep drinking.” He’s invincible! He’s a machine!
It was a tough gig, but the fans were wonderful. But it was some kind of hideous, raining-blood movie moment. It was a rainy night with a dark sky in a stadium that wasn’t very well lit. We were onstage and something felt very weird. I don’t know what it was. But I had felt very uncomfortable that night, not just because of trying to follow an exploding sun, but just something felt weird at that last gig. And I didn’t know that was my last show.
During your time in Maiden, were you always thinking in the back of your head that at some point they’d bring back Bruce and that would be the end for you?
Never. I never had that fear because I thought there were eras of that band. Clive [Barr] and Paul [Di’Anno] were one era. Then there’s Bruce and Nicko. That was another era. And I really thought that the third record with Maiden with me would be the charm. I thought, “We’ve done these two records. And now with the ideas I’ve got, the writing experience and everything. I have things on my dictaphone and lyric ideas…”
I thought, “When this third album comes out, that is going to change the hardcore fans and put them back with us. We’re going to get going, and this is going to be rolling, and we’re going to be getting somewhere.” I absolutely believed in my heart that would happen.
Here’s what was happening on the outside. When I joined Iron Maiden, EMI, one of the biggest record companies in the world, they sold every factory that they owned. So what’s happening? And then, at the end, it was the commercial pressure from EMI.
That’s because Judas Priest had a full reunion with their original singer. Black Sabbath had a full reunion with their original singer. Deep Purple had a full reunion with their original singer. These were all big successes that bumped their numbers up. The slave masters of music were saying, “We need to get something. Maiden, what can we do?”
That was it for me. It was a commercial thing. And there I was. But I was very well treated by the guys, absolutely. And I can’t blame them for anything that happened to me afterwards.
How did they tell you that you were out? Who broke the news?
They did the proper thing. We had a meeting with everyone around the table. “With the greatest respect, everyone is doing this. It’s a huge deal. We’re sorry. We can’t carry on.” I said, “Is Bruce coming back?” There was this silence for a moment. That decision had been made quite a while ago. I was totally unaware of it. They said, “Yes, he is.” I said, “OK. We don’t have anything else to talk about. I thank you for everything. And I will never say a bad word about this band because I’ve been treated very well.”
I was disappointed, obviously, gutted, because I loved it. As difficult as it was to to keep your voice at that level, and all of that, I still loved it.
What’s interesting is that bands like Judas Priest pretend that their replacement singer never existed. They often don’t have their albums on Spotify, and they never, ever play the songs in concert. That’s not the case with Maiden.
It’s been a real band. Your real credibility is your legacy. You have those albums. If you see The X Factor in the whole scene of things, you see the direction going to where things are now. You can directly see the connection between the new Iron Maiden album and The X Factor. They are connected.
I’m part of this journey of Iron Maiden. And did people not try as hard when I was there? Did they not mean it when I was in the band? I can tell you the opposite is true. Steve Harris and the rest of those guys are warriors. They tried harder.
It was like, “Bruce isn’t here. We’ve got a guy who loves this band and is full of enthusiasm. Let’s have a go. Come on!” And that’s how we did it. Those albums are important.
It’s great that Bruce is willing to sing the songs from your era. You almost never see that.
He’s a hero. And he’s a complete professional. I met Bruce many, many years before Maiden. We were doing an event in New York. And at that time, in the magazines, they were saying we looked very alike. It was a lot of fun. And he is a lovely, lovely guy.
When I joined Iron Maiden, he was very kind to me, very, very supportive. After Iron Maiden, when I had my own solo albums, he invited me to be a special guest on his radio show. When I wanted to make a video with an airplane, he let me use his own plane to do it. He’s an incredible, wonderful, supportive person. And I know how difficult it is to be the lead singer of Iron Maiden. He knows I know, and I know he knows!
Do you ever go see their shows?
I’d been a couple of times. Often now, I’m doing my own thing. I’ve got my own tours going. I’m tiny. I’m microscopic compared to Iron Maiden, but what I am is free. And I’m independent. I am the record company. I own the label! It’s called Blaze Bayley Recordings. I’m a priority artist since I’m the only one. You must have spoken to so many people that said, “We weren’t a priority on the label. The A&R didn’t do this…” I am the A&R! I tell me what to do! I set the deadline.
I’m a working-class man from Birmingham. The deadline is set, the job starts, and it is finished on time. That’s it. You don’t rest when you’re tired. You rest when you’re done! That’s what you do. That’s anyone that comes onto my team. They are a victim of that mentality. I’m very lucky to work with guys who are competitive, who are hardworking, who have this work ethic. And we get the job done.
We’re not too arty-farty about it. It’s heavy-metal. It is not rocket science. It is not a Disney movie. It’s a heavy-metal album, and it does this and it does that. And within that, we have to make the machine work. That’s it.
You did a few tours with Paul Di’Anno. How were those?
Fantastic. It was joyful to do that. I know it’s a dirty word now, the R word, but we did a lot of dates in Russia together when it was still OK to do that. It was fantastic. And we played Ukraine. We played in Kiev and had just a fantastic time with the fans there. This music just lives in people’s hearts and they’re so happy to hear it.
It must have been a dream for Maiden fans to see a show with two of the actual singers where you hear songs you usually don’t get to hear at the band’s regular shows.
It’s fantastic. This would never happen, but the dream, the ultimate dream is to have Paul Di’Anno, Blaze Bailey, and Bruce Dickinson together on one night. It would be insane! There would be fights. “Blaze is the best!” “Paul is the best!” “Bruce is the best!” It would be fantastic. It would be so good for the fans. I don’t think it would happen, but it would be so much fun.
The band is obviously way, way overdue to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you hoping you get inducted along with the rest of them?
I’m already in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame with Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy. That’s really all I’m interested in. I’m there with Lemmy and Ronnie James Dio. I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with those guys. I’m afraid I don’t really worry too much about anything else.
At the very least, it would so great for the fans to see you come onstage with the band and sing something like “Sign of the Cross” with them one more time.
It’d be a lot of fun. I don’t think that will happen yet. And with my own stuff, I’ve been so lucky. I’ve done so many albums post-Maiden and now I have a wonderful management, wonderful team. I get to do all these exciting things. I’m living my dream. I started off, I wanted to be a professional heavy-metal singer touring the world, and that’s what I do. I’m so lucky.
Tell me about your new solo record, War Within Me.
I wanted to make something positive. I wanted every texture, every vowel sound, every lyric, every melody, to reach into your heart and make you feel better about yourself, and being a Blaze Bayley fan. In the end, my fans said, “This is as good as Silicon Messiah,” my first album after Maiden. And that’s a long time ago.
You played some shows a few years ago with Tim “Ripper” Owens…
What a crazy guy. Crazy guy!
You guys have had very similar life experiences that not many other people on Earth can relate to.
It’s very interesting when Tim and I are together. The first couple of times we met, we swapped stories about what happened and things like that. Certain parts of the experience, what happened to him was better. In other parts, what happened to me was better.
The overall thing in the end is that I’m still in contact with Maiden. I can phone Steve. We message each other and all that. I’m always very respectful. I get in touch with the manager. “I’d like to do this artwork based on this. Can I do this?”
Tim wanted to do something and the guys from Priest didn’t even respond to him, so it’s a very different experience. Judas Priest is a very different thing than Iron Maiden. It’s hard. Maiden feels in its heart that it is a band, living and breathing and fighting to be a band.
He told me recently he only hears from Priest if their lawyer are upset about a concert poster in Australia or somewhere that uses some of the album artwork from his time in the band.
That happened to me. The Iron Maiden management got in touch with me and said, “You’ve got to stop using the artwork.” I said, “I haven’t used it.” I never have. I’ve always had my own artwork. I’m a very proud man.
My past is my past. I’m respectful of my past and the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had, but I don’t want to use Iron Maiden artwork. I don’t need to.
I said, “I’ve done 10 albums on my own. I don’t need to play Iron Maiden songs at my shows. And I don’t need to use any Iron Maiden art. Tell me where you see the Iron Maiden artwork.” I then got a message back, “Sorry, it was a promoter in Canada that stole the artwork and used it on a poster.” Well, I’m not responsible for that! Everything I send out says, “Do not use the Iron Maiden logo.”
But that was great that that happened. Because it actually broke a little bit of ice that had built up, and management and I get along really well now. Everybody knows that I’m making my own music my own way. I love the fact that I’ve been in Iron Maiden. But it’s five years and two albums out of 20-something. It’s not the biggest… It’s the loudest, probably. It’s a big, important part of my career, but it’s not my whole career.
What’s really fun to me is that new Maiden fans will get The X Factor or they’ll get Virtual XI. They’ll say, “Bruce sounds different on this.” Then they’ll go down the rabbit hole and explore the great Blaze Bayley underneath.
I speak to a lot of people in your position that are at least somewhat bitter. They sort of feel on some level that they got screwed. That’s really not your attitude at all.
The only thing I think, and I’m not bitter about it, but I do think about the monitor system. I should have experimented with the [monitor] wedges. That’s all I can say about it. I tried in-ears. It worked out great for me when I used it. But that’s the only thing really. It’s just the equipment.
Maybe the wedges didn’t suit my voice as much as they suited Bruce, but that’s the only thing I could say. And it’s my own fault for not moaning about it. I was just so happy to be in Iron Maiden singing these great songs.
You’re playing to between 10,000 and 70,000 people a night. We were playing in Europe to 10,000 people a gig when the English magazines were saying that Iron Maiden was dead. Well, we were playing to 10,000 people a night! That’s not dead at all. And Maiden is still going. I’m still going. Those people were completely wrong, those idiots.
You truly seem happy.
I am. I’m very lucky, man. I’m very grateful to all my fans that make it possible. I’m independent. I travel in a van like I used to do in Wolfsbane. We have the t-shirts that we make and take with us, just like then. But unlike the Wolfsbane days, we have this wonderful streaming thing. We have the Internet and an online shop. And I still play to between 300 and 1,000 people a night. Sometimes less, sometimes more.
Nothing is pre-taped at our shows. We are 100 percent live. Anything can happen. And at the end of the gig, you can bring your phone for a photo and you can bring your Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane CDs and get them signed. That’s how I like to live. I’m not interested in being huge. I’ve already been huge. This is big enough for me.