Blaze Bayley – Sabaton Open Air 2018
Blaze Bayley comes to Sweden once again to play on Sabaton Open Air on the 18th of august. Of course, Stargazed Magazine called him up to have a little chat about the upcoming show, his newly finished album trilogy and Bruce Dickinson singing Blazed old Maiden-tunes.
This is the first time you play on Sabaton Open Air. What have you heard about this festival in advance?
I spoke to one of the guys from Sabaton, Pär I think it was, the bass player, we were talking many years ago in… Belgium, I think. We were out there on an after show party and he mentioned they were just starting to do their own festival. I think it was about the third year that it was, and I said I’d love to play! That was about 10 years ago or something like that, and now it has worked out with the timing. They invited me to come and play at Sabaton Open Air Festival! I’m very excited about it, and really, really looking forward to it. I really enjoy Sabaton, a great band, I see them every chance I get and I have all of the albums up to Heroes. It’s something I’m very, very excited about. As well as I love coming to Sweden as well, so it’s really nice!
What can the fans expect to see on this show that they haven’t seen on your earlier tours in Sweden?
It’s a new band! My backing band is called “Absolva”, I’ve been working with them for a few years. So fans who haven’t seen me since Iron Maiden, they’ll see my backing band Absolva. They are a new british heavy metal band in their own right, they’ve done their own albums, and then they go on tour and play for me. There’ll be some of my old Maiden songs but a lot of songs from my solo career and from my trilogy, that I’ve just completed. It’s called The Infinite Entanglement. It’s a trilogy, and it’s three albums with one story, it’s about a man who travels across the galaxy. And he does not know if he’s human. And it’s his story, it’s a science fiction story based on a book that I’m writing. And we’ll have some songs from that, a couple of Maiden songs there’ll be my own versions of. And some other things from my solo career, so I’m very excited about it and I hope that there will be many fans that if they only seen me with Iron Maiden are not familiar with my solo work, that they’ll enjoy it, and the fans that see me everytime I come to Sweden, that it will be a good show for them. So we’re very, very excited about it!
What is the very best thing about playing in Sweden?
I suppose, it has such a great history in music of not really giving a fuck about what anybody thinks! So for me, in Sweden, if they like a particular kind of music they don’t care what the rest of the world thinks or if somebody doesn’t think it’s fashionable. It’s: “We’re swedish if we like it it’s good!”. So that’s what I really like about it. And the fans are very dedicated, and people listen to metal music just the same way as they listen to pop music or any other kind of music. You say “I’m in a band” get “What kind of music do you play?” and you say “heavy metal”… In a lot of countries they’ll go “oh, heavy metal…”, but in Sweden they go “Oh, really, what band is it?!” and they treat you just the same, and I really, really enjoy that! Sweden has produced so much music and artists! From pop all the way through to heavy metal and all the variants of heavy metal. To have a following and having fans and being succesful in Sweden feels very, very cool. And in Sweden Rock Magazine I was voted I think number 67 out of the 100 greatest singers ever in the world. And I think I’m a little bit above Jon Bon Jovi on that! That is something I’m proud of as well. So yeah, I really like coming to Sweden, I enjoy it every time I’m there.
Iron Maiden was here a little while ago playing at the Sweden Rock Festival, and they played two songs from your era in the band. Does it feel great that they are still believing in your material?
Oh, absoutely! I mean, Bruce does his own interpretations of those songs and he absolutely does it fantastic! Bruces versions of The Clansman and Sign of the Cross are absolutely brilliant and so much fun! And Bruce is looking better and performing better… I don’t know when I saw him that good, the things that I’ve seen him doing on this tour. It feels absolutely great! I’m so proud of that short time I spent in Iron Maiden and those two albums that I made with Iron Maiden, it is such a huge part of my life! And the lessons that I learned about singing and songwriting with Steve Harris… You can hear the influences of Iron Maiden on my Infinite Entanglement-trilogy! It’s just there, if you care to listen. And for me, it’s such an honour and a privilage to have those two albums released on vinyl, which feels very important. And then two of the songs, the biggest songs from those two albums that I was involved in, it’s absolutely fantastic! So it feels really cool that they’re doing songs from those years, from that era. And I’m very, very proud.
Talking about your new album, or rather new albums because there’s three of them; You have done them pretty fast.
Yes, it’s three albums, three years and three tours over Europe. I said at the start, when we discovered that this was a trilogy and we had a beginning, a journey and an arrival, then one of the songs was definately about arriving at a new planet, in a new world. So I decided then that I didn’t want something that went on and on, and had no deadline like “We’ll finish when it’s ready”. I don’t like that kind of thing! I’m a working class man, from a working class family and you go to work for a certain amount of hours, you do your work and then you go home. And for me, a lot of what is great about music, the spontanious things and the song writing, that’s always the smallest part of it. The real work is the actual polishing and recording of the album. So if you’re diciplined and you’re prepared, it’s possible to do it in a shorter amount of time! So I said to my manager “Right, it’s three years, and three tours and the albums comes out on the first day of march each year” I’ll be around at the first of march and that’s when we tour and he said okay. He looked at me kind of funny! And of course, months later I go “Oh, I think I’m gonna need more time to finish the album” and he said “There’s no more time, you’re on the deadline so just get it done!” So I had to do it! But it was good.
There was a lot of pressure in the end for the third one. And the three years have been always thinking about what will be on the next album. Thinking about the story, really living with the story, and on the days of, writing, talking about the album, and coming off the tour, straight into the rehearsal, straight into a writing situation and keeping up the pace. So from that side of it it’s been quite tough. But we got the results. And as a fan you have three albums in three years, you have this complete story, and for me it feels good. It’s something that you could take three years to make one album if you were focused, really, but for me it feels really good.
At the start it felt like I was pushing the story, and in the end, the characters in the story was dragging me along and making me tell their story. Getting to the redemption of Willam Black on album three, and feeling the characters and their story is an amazing, amazing feeling! On the first two albums, I made sure the fans who preordered were the first people to listen to the album. No journalists could listen to the album before the fans! And on the third one, okay, we let some of the journalists listen, and we got that okay, we spoke to some fans and everybody agreed that it would be a good idea, and it’s gotten great reviews! I think it’s an interesting story, about identity in the modern world. It is something that is very difficult. We have all these kind of gender identities and the situations in many countries at much of the time, that we decide who we are and what we are, and for me, for this central character has to decide if he is human. He thinks like a human, and he feels like a human, but he has a machine body. So what is it to be a human? Is it to think of yourself as human, or is it to be flesh and blood? And he has to decide.
So are you pleased with the albums as they are or could they have been done better with some more time?
No, no, we did everything the best that we could. We worked hard! That may be impopular to some people, work, but that’s what we did, that’s how we accomplished it. So we kept writing, kept working and devoted ourselves to it and I feel great about all the three albums, each one has its own identity and its own part in the story. You can play one album and not know anything about the story, and enjoy it as a collection of heavy metal songs. And if you listen to the lyrics and you want to know more, you realize there’s a story. So that’s the way we did it from the start. Each of the album stands on its own as a good album and you can listen to one on its own or any song, almost any song, and it will be good on its own. But when you put them all together and listen to them all as the story, then it takes on another meaning.
You have a reputation for being one of the most fan-friendly people in rock, always taking the time to hang out and chat with your fans. What has given you this incredibly humble attitude as an artist?
I’m independent, so I do what I want. And I am not in need of any record company at all. The people that support me are my fans, they support me directly. When my fans buy a Blaze Bayley CD, I get the money, not a record company! When they buy the t-shirt, I get the money, not a record company, not any merchandising people. I don’t have advances or anything like that, everything is independent, and my fans support me one hundred percent! When they preorder the album, that makes it possible for me to make my album, and so for me it’s just really nice to be able to say: “Thank you, people who support me!” And it’s always a free meet and greet at every headline Blaze Bayley show. There is a free meet and greet where I sign any of my albums from the past or anything that I’ve been involved in and have photos and that’s what I do! At festivals it’s a lot more difficult because it’s not a headline show and I’m not a part of the organisation, if they organize a signing, then we go and do it, but that’s it really. It’s a thank you! I don’t do a meet and greet really, it’s just a thank you. It’s absolutely free of charge at every Blaze Bayley concert everywhere in the world where I’m in control.
Why do you think more rock stars doesn’t have this attitude?
They can’t afford it! They just can’t afford to do that. I’m very small, I’m an underground artist so I do what the fuck I want. I’m underground! I have a motorcycle, and that’s it. I have enough. I don’t have a great big lifestyle, I spend most my time on tour or writing or recording or waiting to go on tour and waiting to writing or record. And on my days off I ride my motorcycle. For me, my music is my life and I get enough money from my concerts and my sales to keep me going. For bigger bands, that’s more difficult, because there’s no money in CD sales like its was in the 80’s or early 90’s, because of iTunes and everything else. There’s no way you can make enough money on Spotify to keep the lifestyle you had before. So now, you have to have more expensive concert tickets, and have to charge for a meet and greet, and they have to get an income from somewhere! For me, I have enough. So when my fans buys the CD, and the t-shirts, and the concert tickets, that’s it, they’ve spent enough. I’m LIVING MY DREAM of being a professional musician, however humble it may seem to some people. I don’t like playing at great big theaters, I enjoy occationally going out on big stages, I enjoy occasionally doing a big festival, it’s a lot of fun, but most of my touring is in intimite venues, places where I can meet everyone of my fans and sign all of their photos, so it’s a different game, really. I’m independent, I don’t have to do what they do. They have to do their part of the great big music machine, and it’s a slave system. And I’m not part of that big slave system.
You’ve been in the business for 30 years, and almost 20 years as a solo artist. Looking back at your career, what have you done that you are most proud of?
I think the thing I’m most proud of is my trilogy, my Infinite Entanglement-trilogy. To come up with the story and the lyrics and the melodies and the music and work closely with different writers and different musicians, and work closely with Chris Appleton from Absolva, and to get it all on time at a really high standard. It’s something else to do three albums in three years, and one big story. And something that, when I talk to my fans, they really enjoy. The biggest thing is Infinite entaglement, to think of what I’m proud of in my whole career. And I’ve had many, many highlights. In Wolfsbane, we supported Ozzy, we are live in the national radio in the UK, we supported Iron Maiden and saw their shows in the UK. In Iron Maiden, I played huge arenas, 70.000 people, 10.000 people at night across Europe… So a huge thing to belong to, on TV all over the world, number one on the charts on a lot of the countries in the world. Man on the Edge, a song that I wrote with Janick Gers, was chosen as a single… There are many, many wonderful highlights in my musical career. There’s a great sense of pride in being in Iron Maiden and working for them. But the highlight so far is my trilogy, Inifinte entaglement. The story, the conncetions that it makes, and the music, the deeper meaning it all has when you put the three albums together, that’s the thing I’m most proud of.
The gig is less than a month away. Do you have anything you’d like to add that you’d like to tell your fans in Sweden?
Yes, please sing along as much as possible in case I forget any of the lyrics! I’d just like to say thank you to all my fans in Sweden, I’m really looking forward to meeting a lot of you people. And I really hope that if you have never heard Blaze Bayley before, that you will just come and see the first few songs, and make your own mind up about Blaze Bayley and if you like me and if you like my solo music and if you don’t, of course that’s okay. But I hope that people will give me a chance if you give me that change and enjoy what I do!
With those positive words to his swedish fans, Blaze ended the interview. So if you’re a fan, don’t miss Blazes 16.30-show at Sabaton Open Air on the 18th of august! And if you’re not a fan, I suggest you visit the show anyway and give him a chance to impress you. I think he deserves it!