Blaze Bayley, ex-Iron Maiden frontman and metal legend is planning to release a new EP early next year, only it might not be quite what you would expect from Birmingham’s very own King of Metal. Blaze is continuing his collaboration with classically trained Dutch musician Thomas Zwijsen to write and record a classical EP. The pair recorded at Montmartre Studios in Paris earlier this month.
I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at the new material before sitting down with the man himself to find out more about this exciting new project. For starters, I was curious to know what had prompted Blaze Bayley to take the acoustic leap. He was more than happy to explain this new musical direction.
”It was down to a couple of things really. I did some work with Doro Pesch, we did an arrangement of Fear of the Dark with a 25-piece orchestra and it worked really well, I enjoyed it. The feeling of the orchestra with the vocals meant that you could hear a bit more of the expression in the vocal.” Perhaps without realising it, the Warlock frontwoman had set something in motion for Blaze.
After that particular collaboration, Blaze was approached by Tony Martin, ex-Black Sabbath frontman, to do a couple of unplugged shows.
”Tom and I had never done an unplugged set before but we got together, rehearsed a few songs and the concert was great. It was really cool, we enjoyed it so much”. After that, things seemed to fall into place for the pair. ”Some of the arrangements for classical guitar had a real edge to them and we thought, it’s worth taking this further.”
”Doro created the initial spark and it was a happy accident that Tom happens to have a classical background.” Thomas Zwijsen has already spent a lot of time playing live with Blaze, having completed the extensive King of Metal tour earlier this year.
This EP is unlike anything Blaze has ever done before; giving his fans the opportunity to see another side of him.
”I think it could work but then it could just be a romantic notion… we could just fall flat on our face” later adding ”We hope the fans I have will enjoy it, that people will be curious about it, that’s what we hope.”
There’s going to be a surprise or two for Blaze’s enormous and enormously loyal fanbase on the new EP. One such gem is a new arangement of the Iron Maiden epic Sign of the Cross. The song was one of the first Blaze recorded with Maiden after joining the band in 1995. Blaze has performed a number of Iron Maiden songs during his own live performances for years but now it feels like Sign of the Cross has evolved and grown into something even more powerful.
”I do Iron Maiden songs now, like Clansman and Sign of the Cross [with] the experience of a man, I do them better now” Blaze explained.”My voice is worn in places and stronger in others, there’s something more interesting about it now. I’m a more confident singer than I was when I was with Iron Maiden and I think that comes through. It was nice to come back and do a natural version. I really wanted the chance to do it again and Tom had a great arrangement, together with Anna Bakker on violin.”
Blaze has already performed an acoustic version of Sign of the Cross, receiving a fantastic reaction from fans. ”I really enjoy the live version and it seems like everyone that sees it really loves it.” A definite understatement judging by the almost ethereal-sounding middle section of the track I could hear coming from the mixing desk at that very moment.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is the song Blaze is most excited about on the EP however you would also be wrong, in a really exciting way. He told me that his favourite track on the EP at the moment is the “top secret, brand new” track which he wrote with Tom.
”We wanted to do a new song and we just thought, ok, we’ll see what we come up with. We had a jam, we were together for a couple of days and we came up with something very special. The lyrics are unusual, they’re very expressive and it captures what we’re doing so that’s my favourite. The title is staying a secret!”
If the fans enjoy this new track, and the whole EP for that matter, then there may well be a full-length acoustic album on the horizon.
”If people like our sound, it will give us the opportunity to make a album. We have some ideas, it would be a bit grander. We’d like to be able to do that and the support of the fans is the most important thing.”
There isn’t much that could get between Blaze and his fans. Back in June Blaze Bayley was booked to play a set at a new metal festival in Jaromer in the Czech Republic, only to arrive and discover that the promoters hadn’t paid the people in charge of the electricity generator, or anyone else for that matter. Consequently the festival was left without a power supply and a lot of bands found themselves without hotel rooms.
So Blaze did the only thing he could do; he got up on a table and did an acapella performance instead.
”The only people that had power were running the bar. I felt terrible, I thought, can’t we do something here? So I sang a few of the songs I could remember because I couldn’t not do something. It wasn’t the fault of the fans, they had paid for the tickets. It was a lot more fun afterwards than when I actually did it! I was really nervous, no band, no guitar, nothing.”
”I just thought the show must go on. My heart is metal and I’m a fan myself. Maybe that’s not the most business-like way of doing things but I have a certain degree of respect and admiration for the fans of metal. There are things I wouldn’t have got through if I hadn’t had the support of my fans.”
Talking with Blaze, it’s easy to see his appeal. It goes far beyond the fact that he ‘used to be in Iron Maiden’, it means more than that. This man is in music for all the right reasons and all he wants is for his work to be appreciated. Throughout the interview, Blaze made sure that I understood that what he was doing was as much about his fans as it was about him.
”I love to sing and I’m saying that this is what I would like to do, I’d like to do some more of it, see what you think. We’d love to do something with a big orchestra!”
Blaze will be releasing his classical EP with guitarist Thomas Zwijsen at the beginning of 2013 via Yellowdog, based in Paris. Whilst you wait for February to come around, you should have a listen to Thomas Zwijsen’s latest solo project, Nylon Maiden. It’s an album of intelligently adapted, acoustic Iron Maiden covers that move far beyond the remit of tribute acts, also released on Yellowdog. It’s easy to see why Blaze has enjoyed working with Tom so much.
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