So how did your gig go yesterday?
It was absolutely incredible. Just fantastic. We couldn’t believe the reaction we got. The support, all the people that had flown in from different parts of the country, drove hours to get there, made it an absolutely great time. I can’t believe how well it went.
That was actually your first U.S. gig ever, right?
Yeah, the first one with the band. Everybody was singing along with the songs. We couldn’t believe it. Those haven’t been released here yet. They’ve had to get them on imports. It was absolutely great.
That’s one thing I noticed about the new live CD. The crowd’s reaction is unreal…they know the words, they’re singing along with the guitars, they’re really into it.
We’re really lucky that we’ve got such loyal fans. They are really, really, into it. The live record is really a record by the fans, more than a record for the fans. We did most of it at our U.K. Christmas show at our hometown venue. We told everybody we were going to record the gig and the warm welcome we got that night really inspired us. That made the record.
So what’s coming up after the live CD? Are you working on a new studio album?
Yeah. At the moment we are doing some festival dates here and there. In between shows we are writing and getting ideas together, rehearsing for another studio album. I think we’ve learned so much live from this album – we had two weeks off after the recording. When we got back in the studio we forgot our little mistakes and absolutely loved the sound. It’s the best sounding album for energy and power. Emotionally, I think it’s the best sounding album we’ve done. We really want to try and capture a little bit of that energy on our next studio record. We’re going to try to spend less time fiddling about in the studio and focus on performance.
Will you do a full North American tour after it’s released?
I’m hoping so, yeah. It seemed to go down pretty well last night, hopefully we’ll get asked back. We’d love to come play more shows. Especially since we’ve got a new record deal over here. Our first two albums are coming out here, along with our new live album. It would be great to come over here and play some more shows. It was an absolutely incredible night last night.
When was the last time you played in the States?
It was on the Virtual XI tour. I think the last show was in Los Angeles. That was quite a long time ago. I was really, really nervous about the show. Would anybody even care about the band? The reaction we got was incredible.
Speaking of Maiden, how is your relationship with them? Do you still keep in touch?
Yeah. We’re still in touch, we’re on the phone. There’s no hard feelings between us. They did what they thought was best for their band and that’s it. I felt really, really lucky that I had the opportunity to play to so many people. That’s given me the opportunity to get my own band together and write, record, and perform music that I really love. It’s not about being fashionable or being a big star. For us, it’s just about the music. I feel really lucky that I’m able to do what I love as my job.
You’re new record deal is with SPV. They seem to support their artists really well and let them do what they feel like.
Yeah, they never comment on the music or the artwork. We do what we do and they support it. They know we’re not trying to get in the pop charts. We’re pretty much a British metal band. We have that British sound and they let us get on with it. That’s really great because in my early career there were a lot of battles and compromises that we made. We have the confidence now that what we play and what we record is going to be on the album we put out.
Obviously, your first band was Wolfsbane. How many of those songs are you fitting in your setlist?
Generally speaking, we do two or three. Three or four Maiden songs. I really love the stuff I did with Wolfsbane. We had some absolutely great times. We were more of a hell-raising rock ‘n roll band, really. I’ve kind of grown up since then. I look back on those days fondly. We did some songs I’m still very proud of. I think I’ve grown and developed as a singer and a writer. That’s what has led me to do what I’m doing now. My lessons then, both good and bad, I’ve applied toward my own band. I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to hold down and play the music that you really want to play. We had a lot of tough times where the record label wanted us to do this or that or play that style, make that kind of video. We felt uncomfortable with it. Every time something felt uncomfortable, it was wrong. We’re very, very careful about that in this band We want to do things that feel good for us.
How would you describe your writing style with Blaze?
I’m very interested in science fiction and spirituality. We tend to combine those two things. On the first album I did a lot of research into the industrial revolution and the similarities of the industrial revolution and the technological age and the dependence on machines and computers. We’ve only had machines for 200 years, really…internal combustion and steam. The comments from way back then in the 1700s and the comments from now could be identical. One’s talking about big machines and one’s talking about computers and silicon chips. They say almost exactly the same thing…taking over people’s jobs and working silently like another person. I like to explore the relationship between machines and what they mean to us. I also like to write about movies that affect me and things like that.
What are some movies that you’ve used as reference?
We wrote about the movie Gattica. That was about cloning and improving yourself through gene therapy. Choosing the color of your children’s eyes… Whether the genetically enhanced brother or the naturally born brother, which one is the stronger? It’s a great film and it proves the natural brother is stronger because his will is stronger. Even though he’s physically weaker, his mental resolve is tougher. At the end of the day he gets what he wants.
Now, more than ever, it seems some of those things may happen. They may be happening, we just don’t know the truth yet!
Yeah, that’s right! It’s tough though, isn’t it? One of my friends has a severe kidney problem. So if it can heal him and get him back to full health – that would be wonderful. If cloning meant Christopher Reeve was gonna walk again and play Superman again, then you’ve got to think it would be a good thing. It’s the first footsteps down a very dangerous path. It’s not the first time that science has been down this path. It makes me nervous. I think some things they explored in Gattica was very interesting.
Who were some people you admired growing up?
My main influence is Ronnie James Dio. Rainbow, Elf, Black Sabbath, and his solo career. He’s somebody that really inspired me as a vocalist to take singing seriously. The late Bon Scott as well. He was such a rocker and his voice was so full of emotion. You felt like he was telling his life story when he was singing his songs.
What three CDs could you not live without?
“Heaven or Hell” by Black Sabbath, “Highway To Hell” and maybe Slayer “Reign In Blood.”
Is there someone you’d like to write or record with?
I’d like to do something with Doro or maybe even Sum 41…add my more traditional metal voice. I think it would be really fun to see how that turned out.
Now that you’re on the same label as Doro, that may be a possibility.
That could happen, couldn’t it? I think I’ll start working on some ideas.
Undoubtedly, some people will only know about the work you’ve done with Iron Maiden. What do you want those people to know about Blaze?
Really, I want them to see what the vibe of the band is. We’re not an Iron Maiden clone. I think most of the people that saw me on the “X Factor” and “Virtual XI” tour that have checked out my stuff have enjoyed it. The live album is really about showing people what the band is all about. It’s our set that we normally do. We do play a couple of Maiden songs, but it’s our version – our style of doing those.
Not only do you put your stamp on the Maiden songs, you do a killer version of “Dazed and Confused,” too.
Yeah, that was a lot of fun…a lot of fun. We were asked to do that to be part of a compilation album in Europe called “The Music Remains The Same” and we really enjoyed doing it in the studio. We wanted to do something special for our Christmas show so we decided to do that as a bit of a surprise. It went down so well and felt so good that we decided to include it on the album.
Any closing messages for the fans?
Visit our website! We try to keep that up-to-date as much as we can. As soon as things happen we try to get it on there the same day, the same hour sometimes.
Thank you sir and I hope the weather is good in Knoxville!