British heavy metal vocalist Blaze Bayley, who fronted IRON MAIDEN more than 20 years ago, spoke to the Crowcast about how the rise of grunge in the early 1990s forced most hard rock bands off the radio and MTV, with album and tour sales plummeting.
"When I was in MAIDEN, we were at war with grunge, man," he said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "Grunge was trying to kill us. The U.K. press, they thought the sun shone out of various bands' bottoms, and they wanted MAIDEN to die. We went into the heartland of death — we played Seattle at the height of grunge, man, and it was one of the most awful gigs I've ever done. There were these people looking at us like we were some kind of dinosaur, and they were going, 'Why aren't they dead yet?' And then you've got a few rows at the front going, 'MAIDEN! Yes!' It's just unbelievable. And that's the war that we had with [1995's] 'The X Factor' and [1998's] 'Virtual XI'. We were fighting for the very existence of real heavy metal. And where are they now? Metal is forever, 'cause it's in the heart of fans.
"I'm sorry, but grunge, it was fashionable," Blaze continued. "And the best thing about what I do is it's not fashionable. I'm always unpopular, and that's why I've lasted so long. I'm tiny, but if I was gonna be really popular, I would be up, then gone. 'Have you heard of Blaze Bayley?' 'Yeah, isn't he that artist that's really small, a cult figure?' 'Yeah.' And they've been saying that for 25 years, the same thing. So because of that, I haven't disappeared. If everybody liked me, it would be kiss of death for my career."
In a 2014 inteview with The Metal Voice, Blaze said that he didn't leave MAIDEN of his own accord. "I was fired," he said. "They said I wasn't good enough. And I said, 'Well, is Bruce [Dickinson] coming back?' And they said, 'Yes.' And I think what was happening at the time was that worldwide, CD sales had gone down and EMI had closed all their manufacturing facilities around the world. The record business was shrinking, so, really, I think it was more of a business decision that Bruce came back at the time. And, yeah, I was just gutted by that. I think it took me about four years, really, before I kind of accepted what had happened. And I think, really, if things had been slightly different, then it would have been very difficult for Bruce to come back, because the songs that I was working on at the time, the ideas for what I thought would be [my] third IRON MAIDEN album, I really thought that that would be it, that third album would really show fans that we were serious and that this lineup would work. But I didn't get the chance to make that third album."
Bayley fronted IRON MAIDEN from 1994 until 1999. The two MAIDEN albums he appeared on, "The X Factor" and "Virtual XI", sold considerably less than the band's prior releases and were their lowest-charting titles in the group's home country since 1981's "Killers".
Since leaving IRON MAIDEN in 1999, Bayley has released a number of albums, including several under the moniker BLAZE and more than a handful under his own name. He also appeared on 2012's "Wolfsbane Saves The World", the first album of new material by WOLFSBANE since the group's self-titled 1994 effort.
Blaze will release a new studio album, "War Within Me", on April 9. All songs were written and produced by Blaze and guitarist Christopher Appleton.
"War Within Me" finds Blaze moving forward from the success of his "Infinite Entanglement" trilogy released in consecutive years 2016-2018. The 10 brand new songs draw influences from Blaze's experience with IRON MAIDEN, plus his extensive solo career which started with his "Silicon Messiah" album in year 2000.
"War Within Me" is not a concept album but does include a positive thread throughout. The LP was recorded during 2020 with work split between Blaze's studio at home in the West Midlands and Christopher Appleton's studio in Greater Manchester. The now-very-consistent lineup, chosen from British metal band ABSOLVA, played on the album — Christopher Appleton (guitar, backing vocals), Martin McNee (drums), Karl Schramm (bass). Blaze and Appleton shared the work mixing and producing, while Ade Emsley (IRON MAIDEN, TANK, BRITISH LION, VOODOO SIX) handled the mastering. The striking and detailed artwork is provided by Akirant Illustration (IRON MAIDEN, "Star Wars").