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The Unicorn Catcher:Chronicle by Blaze Bayley

In my set list I have a song called Virus. It dates back to my time with Iron Maiden. The Best of the Beast album was a compilation, charting the long and magnificent history of the band from their beginning up to 1997.

Virus was a new song we wrote to be included on that album. It was a single and a video, but while I was lead singer of Maiden, we never played the song live. 25 years later Maiden have still never performed that song live, but I have. It has been in and out of my setlist on the tours I’ve done in my solo career. I’ve re-arranged it slightly and made my own version, and now it is always in my live show.

At the time we wrote the song, the British heavy metal and rock magazines were saying Iron Maiden was over. They said the band was not relevant and could not survive the split with Bruce Dickinson. They had a cyclical negative attitude toward Maiden and were hoping they could destroy the rare and majestic metal beauty of the beast. One journalist came on a trip to Slovenia and did not seem to notice the 15,000 fans enjoying our performance and singing along with the new songs from X-Factor and Virtual XI as much as the wonderful old songs. Instead, he got drunk and focused on the way fans chanted the name of the band in their own unique way. Condescending, cynical, negative, self-important and narcissistic, he completely missed the magical and surreal vibe that we as a band shared with these wonderful fans that were so happy to see and share an evening of metal music and energy with Iron Maiden. Virus the song, was about that situation, and aimed at him and all his British colleagues. They really thought their opinion was so important that fans would have to agree with them and stop supporting and enjoying maiden.

Wrong.

Fans in countries all over the world did not care at all about what those cynics thought or what they wrote. And those cynical journalists hated the fact that they could not influence the opinion of the maiden fans. For me It was a dream come true to be a part of Iron Maiden and share the rare and precious energy of those incredible fans.

The song Virus is very unusual in its arrangement. Something that does not make sense in any conventional song writing way but feels so right when I perform it at my shows. Capturing emotions of aggression, resentment and pride with the lyric, melody and the music. For me something magical happens when I perform this song. There is a glimpse of something that only metalheads can see and feel. Our favourite songs from the bands we love lift us up.

Just like the mythical unicorn can never be seen or acknowledged by cyclical non-believers.

We metalheads seem to understand and expect magic to happen when we see our favourite bands perform our favourite songs. A magical powerful beast appears in my heart and leaves behind a memory of a feeling that I believe was real and true but I cannot show to anyone else. Only fellow metalheads can understand.

Now, I celebrate the release of my new live album, Live in Czech, and I hear the song Virus with my amazing fans singing along. I’m at home working on new songs for my next studio album to be released in spring 2021. I’m hoping that I can write a song that will give my fans that same emotional and powerful feeling that my favourite bands and their songs give me.  As elusive and rare as those songs and moments are, and as impossible as it seems to capture the ideas that make them, I will not give in to the virus of negativity and cynicism. I will continue to pursue those ideas as I would a mythical beast.

I will believe and I will try to catch a unicorn.

Johan Hagberg

Johan Hagberg

Editor & writer

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