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Blaze Bayley Interview
Format Power: Why do you feel that we have not seen more games linked to bands and other celebrities? Are Iron Maiden excited about reaching a new and broader audience?
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Blaze: Most definitely grabbing a new audience is very appealing to the band. If you are playing a game like Wipeout or Loaded and there is a top techno sound track on the game, it does have added appeal: the music grabs the players' attention; they think about who the bands are. With the music of Iron Maiden being the soundtrack to the game we hope not only to grab people that like us, but, because gameplay is the focus, with a very strong theme, and that is essential, avid gamers will buy it and maybe hear us for the first time. If you are playing Wipeout and hate techno, you will just get on with the game. That's the premise for Ed Hunter: game first, music a bonus. We hope that, subconsciously, people get turned on by our sound. A section of game players would not go out and buy an Iron Maiden CD for many reasons so now they will hear us and we hope a good percentage will say, hey, they are not what we assumed. It's a good point about bands not linking up with game developers. Because gameplay is essential, a great game is a great game and the music is an add-on. Iron Maiden are totally involved in the making of this game and spend a lot of time with the developers and visit them weekly to talk about ideas. We are not there merely as a license: it was our idea! We like to discuss the weapons on offer, why the characters do certain things, what are their motivations, discussing the possibility of adding more animation, even requesting a higher polygon count. We are really into it! There have been some band link-ups with games. Aerosmith had a basic shoot-'em-up, Motorhead had one but that wasn't very good. Queen have had an incredible CD-ROM game out. Because we have the imagery from all the album sleeves, plus we are using one of the best developers around, we believe we've produced a top quality game. We did start the game with another developer, but we got to a stage where there was not enough of Eddie in it (we were on tour and weren't involved enough), so we decided to leave them and start again with Synthetic Dimensions, who are great at rendering graphics and creating amazing 3D worlds. The first two covers are based around the streets and have been turned into 3D environments where you have to battle. With, say, the Powerslave cover, this is turned into a real Pyramid-type architectural setting. Even moving into the future with the Somewhere in Time cover, the torture chamber comes from The X-Factor cover imagery. There is a really amazing level, which is full 3D, where you put on your 3D glasses and wander around a graveyard: the objects really look like they are coming out of the screen at you. We want a solid story that brings all the album covers to life and that is what we got! Strong theme, solid gameplay for avid gamers!
Format Power: Are there any new tracks or remixes for the game?
Blaze: There are a couple of different versions of songs but no new ones, we didn't have time when we were in the studio. We want the game to do well so we can look at this as the first of a series. This is a great new area for us - we have the creativity and ideas to move more into the gaming scene. We have so many ideas that we just can't implement them, so we have a lot of latitude for the next game. The multi-player option is essential for us to make it quite unique!
Format Power: So where did Eddie come from and why do you use him?
Blaze: It's a good excuse not to have your face on the front cover of the albums. We're not pop stars, so this is how we like it. It came from an idea in the very early days from one of the lighting technicians. He had a giant kabuki mask that he put behind the drums and he had a little motor on it that made it spurt any red liquid he could find, to simulate blood spitting out from it. It really just grew from there and now Eddie the Head has turned into a 10--foot tall monster in cyber space with this very own video game!
Format Power: OK, Blaze...I can call you that?
Blaze: Yep, that's what everyone calls me - as well as some other names.
Format Power: Iron Maiden are regarded as a Heavy Metal band, so do you see bands like Bon Jovi watering down and diluting the scene, and where do you or they go from here?
Blaze: When we released our last album everyone said that grunge had killed Metal. Bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, all of those guys said that metal was dead, but instead, all those bands have died out. We have come out with a new album Virtual XI which has nearly sold more than our last release, and we have a huge European and US tour booked. People are getting interested in Metal bands again. Iron Maiden have always had the same kind of roots and identity to the sound, but were always trying to experiment with writing, creating new ideas and different formats for songs. I believe that Metal is back. The public believe that if you've been around a long time you must be stuck in a rut, but we're not. We have an identity and we like to stick to that, but our music changes.
Format Power: Do lyrics matter or is metal all about energy?
Blaze: Yes, they do matter. This is a question that a lot of music journos and fans ask. They want to know more about the meaning of the lyrics behind a song. With a band like Iron Maiden we are not an in your face band. We like to have light and shade, be dramatic in places and dynamic in others. Listen to our albums and you will hear soft passages, melodic ones, a sense of desolation on quieter tracks and, of course, the really heavy, aggressive pieces. Melody is very important, whether it's in the guitar or the vocals. Words must be interesting and to come up with a good melody is essential with a good verse. We don't just stick guitars in, it is mix and match. When we write songs we do consider the live performances, we even see imagery when we are writing that could make nice scenes in a game, so things have become broader.
Format Power: Do fans take your music and lyrics too seriously?
Blaze: An interesting question. I really do not know. Yes, there are some people that wake up to Iron Maiden. It is surprising, the people who like us.
Format Power: Who are your influences?
Blaze: Bon Scott, late of AC/DC. Not because I want to sound like him, but I like to listen to him, for he had so much character in his voice and his personality came through.
Format Power: How about my fave, Paul Rodgers?
Blaze: Yep, love him, Bad Company, Free. I also like early stuff like Traffic. All the band like the '70s groups. They were the people that we were listening to when we got started.
Format Power: What's your favourite and at the moment?
Blaze: A Brazilian band called Angra. Their CD Promised Land is great.
Format Power: You tour a lot, so which country do you like to visit?
Blaze: Spain comes top but I like them all, Germany is cool because the fans are great and you can get great beer, and pubs are open all the time. After a gig you can go out and have a drink, which is great. And the food is great. We have great fans in most European countries!
Format Power: Does being a celebrity live up to expectations?
Blaze: There is an up and down side. I'm only a minor celebrity because people like Iron Maiden for their music. It is not like being Jon Bon Jovi, where you have thousands of screaming chicks after your cute face or other bits. It's no different for bands like BoyZone. For me it is a good way to get free mag subscriptions from people like you. You give up a bit of privacy but that's okay. If you are playing rock music in the UK you don't give up much. Maybe it's worse in other countries.
Format Power: There have been many changes in the bands line up lately. Have thing suffered?
Blaze: No, it's been a benefit. New people, new energy, a lift for the band, with differing perspectives.
Format Power: What's the weirdest question you have been asked?
Blaze: You get so many bizarre ones. We did an interview in East Germany and the guy asked us about shoes: "What shoes are you wearing?" We asked him the relevance and he said he was doing a survey of what shoes people in rock wear. I asked him why, and he replied, "Think about it: Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis, Red Shoes - Kate Bush, Die With Your Boots On - Iron Maiden." Weird. Now we're starting to think about all the songs with shoes in!
Format Power: Technology?
Blaze: We need it to catch up with us. Even though we are putting Iron Maiden music in games, you can only fit a certain amount on. DVD drives is the next step. Compression techniques have to be improved! It would be great to have music CDs with full video on them. We have a few CDs with some video, but only on a couple of tracks. On our US album we put lots of screensavers and video on the music CD, but not for European release. The US version is like a multimedia pack with discography. It would be great to have a music CD as the soundtrack to a game, so you could buy both on one CD. On our next release we may place a demo game on it.
Format Power: Computer games are still, largely, a male domain. Can that be changed?
Blaze: Not in my house. My girlfriend thrashes me on most games. I believe this is a perception problem that just isn't true. This male thing about computer games is a misconception.
Format Power: Favourite game?
Blaze: Resident Evil 2. Played the first game and loved it. Also GoldenEye on the N64.
Format Power: Soccer Team?
Blaze: Aston Villa.
Format Power: That's it - thanks for your time.
Blaze: No problem. Get me as many computer mags as you can please, that would be cool.