Former Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley has opened up on the emotional struggles he faced after being let go from the band in 1999. He was replaced by returning singer Bruce Dickinson, who had left the band six years prior. Bayley had joined Maiden following Dickinson's initial departure, and recorded two albums with the metal icons, 1995's The X Factor and 1998's Virtual XI.
"Let’s face it, Bruce Dickinson is the absolute benchmark of what it is to be a heavy metal frontman," Bayley tells Metal Hammer. "He’s one of the greatest singers and performers in any genre of music, and he’s just left your favourite band and they’ve got this idiot from Tamworth in? A lot of fans hated me on principle. There is a percentage of fans that still hate me. There are some people who have never even heard me, but still hate me because I’m not Bruce.”
When asked how he felt following his dismissal from Maiden, Bayley isn't afraid to admit that, despite his departure seeing him leave on good terms with the rest of the band, he was devastated.
“It was horrific," he replies. I’d be making all these plans for my solo career: ‘I’m going to come back with a new project, I’m going to use everything I learned from Maiden and from songwriting with those guys, it’ll be incredible.’ And then a couple of hours later, I’d be sobbing. I couldn’t say so at the time, but I was destroyed.”
Bayley is also asked whether he listened to Bruce Dickinson's comeback album with Maiden, 2000's Brave New World, which also featured returning guitarist Adrian Smith. Bayley reveals that not only did he hear the album, but it left him once again reeling emotionally.
“Yes, [I listened to it], and I’ll admit that I cried my fucking eyes out," says the singer. "It’s a really good album, but I knew that if things had worked out differently, I would have been working in the studio with those guys, I would have been singing some of those songs. There was this sense of great loss that hit me really hard.”
Bayley did, of course, rally in style and has gone on to have a respected career in heavy metal ever since, with his most recent release, live album Damaged Strange Different And Live, out now. You can read more from Blaze Bayley in the latest issue of Metal Hammer.