Former IRON MAIDEN singer Blaze Bayley says that a lot of the band's fans resented him for replacing Bruce Dickinson as MAIDEN's frontman because they unfairly blamed him for Bruce leaving the group in the first place.
The 51-year-old Bayley, who was born in Birmingham, was the original frontman in WOLFSBANE, but left in 1994 to join MAIDEN, with whom he recorded two studio albums — 1995's "The X Factor" 1998's and "Virtual XI" — before Dickinson returned to the group.
Speaking to Canadian rock journalist Mitch Lafon of the "One On One With Mitch Lafon" podcast (Facebook page), Bayley said about how he came to join IRON MAIDEN: "What happened was they held auditions, and I auditioned, alongside everybody else, and I learned the same songs everybody else learned. And I was very, very lucky that they chose me. I don't know why; my voice is so different to Bruce. But I think maybe that's why. I was somebody that was different, but perhaps could bring something to the old songs."
He continued: "When we started [writing material for 'The X Factor'], [IRON MAIDEN bassist and leader] Steve Harris said to me, 'Nothing is written for the album. We all write together. The most important thing is that it's good.' Steve Harris said, 'I don't care who writes the songs, who writes the music, but it has to be great.' And that's how we started. So I was free to put forward as many ideas as I wanted, and everybody did. And, I think, six of my ideas, actually, made it to the album, and another couple of ideas were B-sides. So it went really, really well. And I'm so proud of the music that we did together."
Regarding how fans reacted to hearing Bayley's voice over IRON MAIDEN's music, Blaze said: "When I joined [the band], there were a lot of people who just resented me and actually hated me for being in MAIDEN, because they blamed me for Bruce leaving, which is a classic girlfriend problem, where you blame your friend for your girlfriend leaving or whatever. But a lot of people didn't wanna listen to me."
He continued: "It was a very different time for MAIDEN. The music business was changing, MP3s were coming, the hardware was starting to disappear, CD sales were down for everybody worldwide, because bits of plastic weren't selling anymore. And it was a time when a lot of old-school MAIDEN fans did not want Blaze Bayley to be the lead singer. And now twenty years on, there are a few people that saw IRON MAIDEN with me the first time. And then are some other people who never saw IRON MAIDEN with me, but are interested to see what it was about. And now people are much more open to listening to Blaze Bayley and the songs that I've done. And now my 'Silicon Messiah' album, which is the first album that I did after MAIDEN, is doing really well for me."
Blaze added: "It's a real different part of IRON MAIDEN's career, because it's a time when things were going more progressive. And the kind of darkness in my voice was something very different. And some of the songs, like 'Lord Of The Flies' and 'Judgement Of Heaven' and 'Sign Of The Cross' and 'Look For The Truth', those songs really are me in a way — I really feel them — and my voice is just a part of it. And I still enjoy doing those songs now."
Asked if there was panic in the IRON MAIDEN camp when the first barrage of negative reviews started pouring in, Blaze said: "There was no panic at all. It was just, 'We'll just do what we do.' That's the attitude of MAIDEN, and that's why they've, at some points in their career, been unpopular with their own fans, but their own fans have stuck by them. Because that's exactly why you do stick with IRON MAIDEN, because they do exactly what they wanna do, because they follow their instincts. It may not be what you would have chosen, but it's what they choose to do, and it made sense for them at the time. So there was no panic like that; we just kept going. And, to be honest, the worst reviews were in English. So in the UK and USA, that's where the reviews were the worst, and that's where the attendaces were the worst. But everywhere else, things went great. In Scandinavia, with me in the band, and with 'The X Factor' as the album, IRON MAIDEN played bigger shows than they ever did with Bruce. So that was a real turnaround. They were slagging us off in the UK — the UK press were saying, 'Oh, it's all over for IRON MAIDEN' — and we were on our second tour of Spain in six months playing all the… there's the big cities, then they call it the 'B' cities… we played to ten thousand people every night, and people were saying, 'It's over.' Well, we just ignored it, really. France, we had incredible reactions, the support of the French fans. The reviews weren't great — I think it was so different — but in some places, the reviews were absolutely fantastic, and in some places it's people's favorite album, which is 'The X Factor'. So we followed what we wanted to do, we kept going and we didn't bow to any pressure."
Bayley also spoke about his departure from IRON MAIDEN in 1999, calling it "a complete shock." He added: "It was a total shock to me. I had ideas for a third album. I had some melody ideas and lyrics and things like this, and I thought, 'Oh, this is something I'd like to work with Steve on,' and 'There is another idea to work with Dave [Murray] and Janick [Gers] and…' But no, we finished in Brazil in December , and in January  I was fired. There I was working on lyrics and songs for a third album, which I thought… in my own foolish heart, I thought, 'This is really gonna turn things around. Fans are gonna see when they hear the third album. And it's so positive. We have all of these great ideas, and great live songs. The fans are gonna go, 'Now we understand why Blaze is there. This is really good.'' But I didn't get that chance. So all of those ideas that I worked on I kept for myself and I put them on my 'Silicon Messiah' album. And that was it, really."
He continued: "At the time, I was very upset — just at the time. I mean, for me, IRON MAIDEN has to continue, the world is a better place for having IRON MAIDEN in it, the music business is a better place for having somebody like IRON MAIDEN in it, but I thought I would be a part of it. So I wasn't resentful, because those guys have worked their whole adult lives to make this thing happen, and they've sacrificed so much to get there that, well, if that's what they feel they have to do to continue, sometimes difficult choices have to be made. So that was it. I didn't resent them for it, but it was a shock, because I thought I'd be making a third album. So it took a long time to recover from that."
Bayley released a career-spanning double-disc collection, "Soundtracks Of My Life", on October 31, 2013.
The singer's latest studio album, "The King Of Metal", was released in March 2012. The CD was recorded at Fear Studio in Ravenna, Italy.
"I'm completely independent," Bayley told Lafon. "I'm not in many shops. I have some distribution, but I do everything myself, with my wife. My wife is my manager, she does all my bookings. I have a couple of agents that I work with, but I don't have a big record deal. I'm not signed up to a record label, and I won't be signing up to a record label."
He continued: "Every album that I've made since IRON MAIDEN I licensed, and now I own them again; it's that long. So when somebody buys my CD, the money doesn't go to a record company or some anonymous corporation, it goes directly to me. And I use that money to pay my rent, feed myself and my family, and put money away for the next CD or DVD or whatever I'm doing. So people who get on board with me, people who support me, directly support me. And it's not that many people, but they are so loyal."