Former IRON MAIDEN vocalist Blaze Bayley feels the two albums he sang on, 1995's "The X Factor" and 1998's "Virtual XI", were the start of the band's progressive era, which was marked by lengthier intros, longer song arrangements and a less of a reliance on the direct songwriting style that marked their previous output. While Bayley originally received a lukewarm reception as the replacement for Bruce Dickinson in 1994, his tenure with the band still has its share of supporters, including the members of MAIDEN themselves, who have been playing the Bayley-era songs "Sign Of The Cross" and "The Clansman" during their current "Legacy Of The Beast" world tour.
Bayley is now making the festival rounds and playing a set that celebrates the 25th anniversary of him joining IRON MAIDEN. In an interview with TNT Radio Rock at this year's Rock The Coast festival in Fuengirola, Spain, Bayley spoke of the importance of his time with MAIDEN and how it shaped his solo career, which began in 2000 and continues to this day.
"This is 25 years since I joined IRON MAIDEN," he said (see video below). "It's a big anniversary for me. I wanted to choose something that was positive, not 20 years since I left IRON MAIDEN, because the most important thing about being in IRON MAIDEN and a part of that, is what I learned. Learning to write songs, learning a lot more about my voice. After IRON MAIDEN, there's a bit of an improvement because working with the guys from the band, it meant I learned how to take the idea from my head into the rehearsal room, onto the CD. Before maybe, I felt like some of my songwriting, it was a bit of luck sometimes, but after IRON MAIDEN, I knew I had a very good idea, as well as that it's a lot of confidence. You're working with people who have platinum albums; they've sold millions of records and you're writing with those guys. The song that you have written and contributed towards is chosen as the first single, and it's worldwide, number one and top ten in different charts around the world. So, that is a huge thing for me and my dream, so I wanted to celebrate that."
He continued: "If you come forward, my trilogy is called 'Infinite Entanglement'. It's three CDs with one story, and when you listen to those three CDs and listen to the 'Infinite Entanglement' trilogy, you can hear directly the influence and what I learned from my time in IRON MAIDEN. I would have never been able to make these three albums without that experience. So, that is my greatest musical accomplishment, is the thing I'm proudest of since I've started in music is doing this trilogy, this concept, one story over three albums. It's in a science fiction setting about a man who does not know if he is human, about a man that seeks redemption for darkness, and terrible deeds that he is committed in his past. It's because of what I learned and working with the guys in MAIDEN, we did hundreds of shows, and I played to thousands and thousands of people. There were many great experiences, but the thing that really lives in my heart, the thing that has changed me from before until now, is working closely with the guys on the songwriting, and the music. So, that has put me where I am."
Bayley then shared his reasoning for doing the anniversary shows and how his two albums with MAIDEN have gradually become accepted as worthy albums in the band's legendary catalog.
"I wanted to have a very positive anniversary because I feel for me, that my involvement when I was in IRON MAIDEN, it was the start of the progressive era," he said. "Different to what went before in 'Fear Of The Dark' and 'No Prayer For The Dying', so with 'The X Factor' and 'Virtual XI', they were a slightly different style. 'The X Factor', very dark emotions are expressed there. For me, it's been a very positive thing to go from there and then get to where I am now. I wanted to celebrate that at the festivals where I'm playing this set of songs, my favorite songs, from 'X Factor' and 'Virtual XI', the two albums that I did with IRON MAIDEN. At my headline shows, I play all my own material, all my solo stuff or maybe just one or two songs from my MAIDEN era because my solo career, I have 11 studio albums. Still people come to me and say 'The last time I saw you, you were in IRON MAIDEN!' It's, like, 'Oh, no!' Every album, I went on tour, I did all over the world. Oh man, so I thought, 'You know what? I want to celebrate it and say to everybody 'Hey, if you remember me from IRON MAIDEN, yes, these are my favorite songs and I'm also doing something else.' It's kind of two things that we've done, and the songs are not the same as they are on the album. What we've done is we've re-arranged the songs slightly to fit my style, so even though it's songs from 'The X Factor' and 'Virtual XI' albums, the way that I play them and the arrangements, are slightly different. They're in my style, and so far, fans have enjoyed that difference.
"I think because 'Virtual XI' and 'X Factor' were released again on vinyl, and remastered, and the remasters sound really good, there are some fans that never knew IRON MAIDEN when those albums came out," he added. "Some fans who maybe got those albums and didn't enjoy them because they didn't enjoy a change of singer, and now, it's so far in the past, that maybe people go 'Well, actually, I didn't listen to that album so much when it came out.' What happens, people listen again, they're more open, and they hear this amazing music that's on there, and listen to things in a different way, with an open heart, and it seems that people understand it and enjoy it more now, a lot of people, then when it originally came out."
Backing Blaze at these shows will be his regular touring and recording outfit taken from the British band ABSOLVA, plus ICED EARTH bassist and ABSOLVA guitarist Luke Appleton.
An additional celebration of the anniversary is a re-interpretation of "The X Factor" album cover art done by the very talented Akirant Illustration to help promote these shows and on a special run of T-shirts.
Image courtesy of Duke TV