Interviews

Lawrence Paterson – Blaze Bayley: At the End of the Day

February 26th, 2010 by Anthony CW Morgan

Born in Matamata, New Zealand, Lawrence Paterson became a keen scuba diver at a young age, developing a great interest in the Kriegsmarine. In 1998, Paterson moved to France to live close to the Brest U-Boat bunkers, where he also became the President of the Brittany Marine Research Society dedicated to the discovery and survey of German Second World War wrecks. Relocating to Portsmouth, England, Paterson became a member of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum’s Archive Group, specializing in U-Boat and Kriegsmarine research. To date, the man has penned ten books on U-boats, and has had books translated into Italian, German, and Finnish. And as well, he has contributed to specialist journals and undertaken consultancy work for, amongst others, the BBC and St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford’s Emden naval library collection. A musician since the age of fifteen, Paterson joined the Blaze Bayley band on drums in November 2007, having previously been a part of outfits like Arbitrater, Shadowkeep and Chokehold.

Written by Lawrence Paterson, Blaze Bayley: At the End of the Day was issued in September 2009. Chronicling the history of the Blaze Bayley band, it particularly focuses on vocalist “Blaze” Bayley Cook, and detailing his career as a frontman. Bayley initially came to attention as a part of Wolfsbane, going on to join Iron Maiden in 1994 following the departure of Bruce Dickinson. With Dickinson’s 1999 return to Iron Maiden, Bayley would form BLAZE, and then the Blaze Bayley band. To date, the Blaze Bayley band has issued two full length studio albums; July 2008’s The Man Who Would Not Die, and February 2010’s Promise and Terror. While telling Bayley’s story, the biography also shares the tales of each and every other member of the Blaze Bayley band.

All members of the Blaze Bayley band fully contributed to At the End of the Day, the book also featuring new interviews with BLAZE and exclusive interviews with Steve Harris and Janick Gers of Iron Maiden. Also, tour dates, discographies, and extensive black and white and full colour photographs are included. To discuss At the End of the Day, Lawrence Paterson was interviewed via email.

How did you come to write At the End of the Day? Why did you feel “Blaze” Bayley Cook’s story would be a compelling one?

It was strange really. I’d toyed with the idea of writing my own book about the stupid things that have happened to this particular struggling drummer over the years, but wasn’t sure if anybody would find it interesting or funny. Spinal Tap would look like a serious work of art compared to the reality. But after joining Blaze Bayley, the idea just kind of fell into place on its own. I’d followed Blaze’s career since he left Maiden and was both surprised and dismayed by the apparent lack of recognition of what I felt were top grade metal albums. Ironically, this mirrored the feeling that I would get when I looked at Bruce Dickinson’s solo metal albums. After joining the band I saw that the history was such a tangle that some things actually started to make sense. And the things that have happened to this band – and all of its members – are so ridiculous that you couldn’t make it up. So it seemed like a good idea to write the story. I also feel that there are many misconceptions about Blaze’s time in Maiden and now, ten years on, that it’s time to start putting the record straight… or at least straighter than it has been.

Blaze Bayley’s career began with Wolfsbane. At that stage in his career, where do you feel his vocals were at? What early promise do you feel they showed?

In my opinion they were pretty raw, and very “hard-rock” as opposed to “metal”… but that is just my opinion. To be honest I was never a huge Wolfsbane fan. I saw them several times and could see what people saw in them, but I was generally into much heavier metal at the time. But their musicianship was great and Blaze was a world-class frontman. I hasten to add – or maybe repeat – this is just my opinion as a metal fan, nothing else. I’m not a professional critic or anything. They gave it their all and deserve respect for that.

Despite Wolfsbane being critically acclaimed, the group never achieved commercial success. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind that?

Well, like I say, it wasn’t really my kind of metal to be honest. But I do know that there were many bands that withered and died on the pub or club circuit – and even above that – particularly after signing label deals. For example Xentrix were a world class thrash band that simply died after getting signed to a major label. The problem is that talent doesn’t necessarily have much to do with success. Wolfsbane were in the strange position of having so much media support in the UK that some kind of success would almost seem inevitable. That, coupled with some amazing opportunities from various support slots etc… but it still wasn’t to be. The music business is a bloody strange one and totally merciless too. I believe that the first Wolfsbane album was also badly handled as far as the production goes and did nothing to represent the band as they were. They were very much a “live” band, which is the feeling you needed to capture to make it work. How can you do that with a drum machine? And thin sounding guitars and bass? It’s not the performance, but the sound that doesn’t work which is something that Blaze experienced again on The X Factor (1995) in my opinion.

As a part of Iron Maiden, how do you feel Bayley’s vocal ability possibly matured?

Well, how could you join a band of Maiden’s stature and not improve as a musician? Blaze was totally immersed in the professional world of a top touring metal band doing more time on the road than he had ever had to deal with before. He was also following in the footsteps of one of metal’s finest vocalists who sang in a different range to that to which Blaze was accustomed. I’m sure that he learned fresh nuances of what his voice was – and wasn’t – capable of, and how to care for it after months on tour. He also worked alongside renowned composers and so would have been exposed to fresh ideas about song structure, as related to the vocals and to the song as a whole. It would have been a steep learning curve, but I don’t see Blaze as the kind of person to shy away from a heavy work load.

Personally, how would you critique Iron Maiden’s Blaze Bayley era (1994-1999)? His time with the band is somewhat overlooked in favour of Bruce Dickinson’s and Paul Di’Anno’s tenures with Iron Maiden, though do you feel the material Bayley cut with Maiden is underrated?

I think that Blaze has taken a great deal of unfair criticism for his period in Maiden. I feel that there are several factors for this. First of all, Di’Anno features on the two albums that began it all. Iron Maiden (1980) and Killers (1981) are iconic and really ignited the flames that would follow and see Maiden justifiably head on a meteoric trajectory upwards. Then, of course, you have what is to me an unbroken run of excellence that culminated in Live After Death (1985). The first three albums with Dickinson were to me at the time – and still are – genre-defining slabs of metal. They’ll always be among my favourites and I believe that there are thousands of other people that feel the same. They were the glory days of metal and every band were releasing blockbusters: Maiden, Priest, AC/DC, Motörhead etc. etc… every album was brilliant to me at the time and they still are. However, by the time that Blaze joined Maiden they had lost a certain something in my eyes. I never really liked the two preceding albums and felt that the “crunch” and “bite” that Maiden had had, had largely disappeared. Ironically, The X Factor actually was a return to a darker feel than either of the two albums before it. But, I believe that one of the fundamental flaws with it is the production. The guitars are very weak and the drums lack the depth and solidity that fans of Nicko (like myself) loved. It wasn’t the first album to lack that “heaviness” but it was possibly the most obvious. When you consider that the band was releasing an album with a new vocalist you would think that there would be more appreciation of the need to blow people’s heads off with the sound. But it just isn’t there.

However, there are better songs on that album than the preceding two in my opinion. There are also some very “lukewarm” ones too, but if you listen to “Blood On The World’s Hands” for example and picture it with the guitar and drum sound from Piece Of Mind (1983) you can see that the ingredients are there for some class-A metal. Plus, I believe that Adrian Smith is the secret weapon in Maiden’s arsenal and he was missing from the two albums that Blaze is on. Virtual XI (1998) sounds hurried. There are actually some performances on there that surprise people for their apparent lack of precision, especially from a band like Maiden. Epics like “The Clansman” would have benefited from good production, as is apparent on the Rio DVD (2002). But Blaze’s vocals are excellent. Then the infamous “Angel And The Gambler” would have benefited from rehearsal when the band would have discovered (like they did on tour) that even they get bored and lost trying to play the whole thing. How would the people listening to the CD feel? And those keyboards should have been lost in a mysterious accident in the studio.

So I think Blaze has carried the can for a lot of bad decisions made by an excellent band that was going through a hard time when metal was out of vogue. Blaze has been blamed for the cancellation of American dates, which may or may not have been the case, but it certainly didn’t help his acceptance by the more dubious fans.

All just my opinion as a hardcore Maiden fan and metalhead.

The BLAZE band issued three albums between 2000 and 2004. What lessons do you feel Blaze Bayley took from his Iron Maiden tenure, and how does that reflect in the music on those records?

I think it fully illustrates the progress Blaze had made with his voice. If you compare the voice on “Ghost In the Machine” (from 2000’s Silicon Messiah) to virtually anything he had done before, then you can hear a more mature musician. Maiden also have a strong “live work” ethic. But then so did Wolfsbane. They were a hard working band too. Blaze’s ideas to capitalize on his work with Maiden were sound, but for many reasons they were wasted. The first BLAZE line-up were also bloody good musicians, so that had an enormous impact on what became three solid albums and a great live one.

Your journey with the Blaze Bayley band began in November 2007. How did that come to fruition?

The usual route of answering an advertisement and auditioning. I, like most musicians, hate auditions, but it’s just a part of the game. They are nerve wracking experiences and this was one of the worst as you had to play tracks from memory with no band or tapes to play along to, and with noise from other rehearsing bands leaking into the less-than-soundproof room. It was bloody horrible. But after that were two gigs and then the offer to join full time.

For those unfamiliar with your musical career, could you provide an overview? Previous bands you’ve been a part of include Arbitrater, Shadowkeep and Chokehold.

I’ve been playing since I was fifteen or so. Not always drums, but I ended up on them playing in a few bands in New Zealand and then I moved to the UK to try further afield – and to see Iron Maiden. I joined a whole bunch of bands before I joined Arbitrater, which was a bloody good thrash band from Warwick. It was a similar story to many others though… ignored by the press and no longer in vogue (that funk-type drivel was the “in” thing) and so it just disappeared. It was a good band though. I can remember that whole period being dominated by big fish in little ponds in many ways. We played a show in Birmingham once that was to be reviewed for some magazine or other and the reviewer turned out to be from Napalm Death. The review he gave us was shit and yet he hadn’t even arrived until after we had played. But then since when did reviews matter that much anyway? Well, unfortunately, some of the magazines do have more power in the UK than they warrant… but that’s another story for me to shout my opinions over. :)

How would you say the Blaze Bayley band differs to BLAZE? Would you say that the songwriting process is more collaborative in the band, as opposed to BLAZE? Different chemistry maybe?

I don’t really know because I wasn’t in BLAZE. From what I gather, that was a very collaborative band with some truly exceptional musicians. All I can say is that this one differs perhaps because we come from such diverse musical backgrounds and tastes. I love the metal bands that I love, while other guys love theirs… and never the twain shall meet. But it really doesn’t matter. I don’t care if people like the bands I do, all that matters is we agree on what we produce. Everybody will have different parts of the music that they do or don’t enjoy, but that is what makes band chemistry… when it works.

You’ve worked with Blaze Bayley for almost two years now. How would you summarize Blaze Bayley the man in terms of personality, and work ethic?

Hard working… lots of gigs… full on… no compromise… take it or leave it… I’ll do what the fuck I want. But then that’s pretty much like all of us – including our manager Anna.

You were a member of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum’s Archive Group, specialising in U-Boat and Kriegsmarine research, and you’ve written several books related to U-boats. How and why did you initially become attracted to the topic, and what prompted you to write about the topic?

I’ve always been interested in warfare, particularly the Second World War and particularly the German forces. Specializing in the Kriegsmarine came about when I worked as a Scuba instructor in France and was diving on the German wrecks off the coast. Both my grandfathers served in the wars; one in the Australian infantry in WW1 at Gallipoli, The Somme and Paschendale, the other in the Royal Navy during WW2. They always impressed on me that there was no “black hat, white hat” bullshit in the reality of warfare so when I was a kid I always fought against the vilification of the Germans, Italians and Japanese troops… and still do. There are many levels involved in warfare. Two of the main ones are the political level and the level of the man on the ground fighting. And the two are seldom closely related. The same is as true now as it was in 1939. I am interested first and foremost in the human side, the stories of the people involved, and then how that relates to the big strategic story of the war.

The RNSM had nobody looking after their U-boat records which were in disarray because the Director was very anti-German. So I helped sort them out. It was very interesting and the lady that ran the Archive was great. I don’t actually do that anymore though.

What do you feel the future holds for your writing career, and the Blaze Bayley band? Would you say Promise and Terror is a darker album in light of Blaze’s recent struggles?

Yes Promise and Terror a darker album, not only because of the terrible nature or recent events for Blaze. There are a number of reasons for us to make slightly darker music, and I hope that that vibe comes across. I like that kind of thing… nice to write a song that makes people check under the bed before going to sleep. The other thing is that, for me, darkness equates to “heavy”. Heavy metal – proper heavy metal – to me is very dark. Doesn’t have to be fast, slow, long, short… just heavy. Not all the tracks are like that, but the album texture builds to that kind of climax.

Writing? Well, I have a book to write about the Kriegsmarine’s Schnellboot service. I have written ten books on U-boats, so it’s time for one on S-boats. Also would like to write a biography, maybe of Motörhead, Cozy Powell, Saxon… not sure yet. We’ll see…

The main obstacle to the writing career is the fact that we should be on the road from now until eternity… with luck. We’re already on the UK tour and after that is Europe, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Russia, Scandinavia… maybe the USA, Australia and New Zealand… who knows? We’ve just put the album out and it’s going well, so the more we play the better as far as I’m concerned.

For more information about the Blaze Bayley band, visit their official website.


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