How Did Iron Maiden Find Blaze Bayley to Replace Bruce Dickinson in the 1990s?
Dickinson officially departed the group in 1993, setting up founding bassist Steve Harris with the task of filling yet another vacancy in the lineup, having tabbed Janick Gers as Adrian Smith's replacement on guitar in 1990.
It was a trying time for the band, whose pair of '90s records with Dickinson (No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark) were not quite as successful coming off their overwhelming '80s success.
Through it all, Harris sorted through more than 1,000 tapes to narrow down the audition process, ultimately selecting Blaze Bayley for the job.
Here's how it happened.
What Band Was Blaze Bayley in Before Iron Maiden?
Bayley Alexander Cooke, best known by his stage name Blaze Bayley, is one of the founding members of British heavy metal act Wolfsbane.
The group formed in 1984 and released three EPs before their 1989 debut album Live Fast, Die Fast was released. Another two albums — 1991's Down Fall the Good Guys and 1994's Wolfsbane — were released before the band split up in 1994 once Bayley joined Iron Maiden.
The group reformed briefly in 2007 and 2009, returning for good in 2010. Since getting back together, Wolfsbane have released two albums — 2012's Wolfsbane Saves the World and 2022's Genius.
Wolfsbane's musical style is a cross between rock and metal with typical lyrical themes of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and street savvy attitude.
Wolfsbane, "I Like It Hot"
When Did Iron Maiden + Wolfsbane Tour Together?
As Iron Maiden hit the road in support of 1990's No Prayer for the Dying (their first album with guitarist Janick Gers), they were joined by Wolfsbane on the U.K. run that stretched from Sept. 20 through Oct. 18.
Many had joked at the time that Dickinson and Bayley looked quite similar, but few would have ever believed that Bayley would actually replace Dickinson in just a couple of years.
Bruce Dickinson Welcomes Blaze Bayley to the Stage, Iron Maiden Play "Bring Your Daughter... To the Slaughter"
Blaze Bayley on His Iron Maiden Audition
“My voice was so different, I thought, ‘I’ll never get this spot, what am I going to do?’ It’s an audition of 10 songs that were all in the set like ‘Fear of the Dark,’ ‘The Trooper,’ ‘Hallowed be thy Name,’ ‘Wrathchild,’ Bayley told 80's Glam Metalcast in 2021, "And I thought, ‘You know what? For an hour, I’m in Iron Maiden. I’m the lead singer of Iron Maiden.’ And that’s how I approached the audition."
"I knew all the drum parts because I was a huge fan – and the guitar solos, and the arrangements – really really well, because I loved Iron Maiden," Bayley also boasted, noting, "I felt I did okay at the audition, and then there was a second audition where they record your voice to see how you’re going to be in the studio, which is very, very sensible."
Iron Maiden, "The Trooper" (Live in 1995)
Who Else Is Said to Have Auditioned to Replace Bruce Dickinson?
Andre Matos + Bruce Dickinson, "Run to the Hills"
Although it had been heavily rumored that Helloween's Michael Kiske was a favorite to fill the vacancy, Kiske himself has denied even being invited to audition, much less getting in the room to sing with the band.
Why Did Iron Maiden Select Blaze Bayley?
Blaze, in the eyes of Steve Harris and Iron Maiden, was an ideal fit for a number of reasons, viewing him as the full package.
“After Bruce left, we didn’t want someone who sounded like either Bruce or Paul; we wanted someone that had his own voice,' Harris said, now archived in feature on an Iron Maiden fan site, "There were other people that came along who were technically great singers, but they sounded like other people and you need someone that has their own sound. So I think Blaze really suited most of the stuff. Maybe there’s a couple of songs he didn’t suit, but that would have been the same case with anybody.”
"Blaze was the most logical choice, and I knew that right away," Harris said in a 1996 interview, "But, at the same time, we weren't in any kind of rush and we could take our time to explore different possibilities... I hate changes, that's no secret. They are a bad thing, like in football when some transfers can tear a team apart. But these things happen and we have to cope with them. It isn't just about finding a good singer, 'cause there are many really good singers out there, but we needed somebody who could really be a part of the team."
Detailing what he means by that, the bassist continued, "Because, it may be perfect as far as the voice is concerned, but, on a more personal level, that's something entirely different. Blaze was perfect on all these levels. Even now, I'd go as far as saying that he understood better what Iron Maiden is really about than Bruce ever did."
What Iron Maiden Albums Did Blaze Bayley Sing On?
In 1995, after delaying the album due to a knee injury Bayley sustained in a motorcycle accident, The X Factor was released, giving the world their first taste of Iron Maiden's new singer.
The album was largely a departure from the style Maiden had purveyed for nearly 15 years, embracing moody, progressive elements and a rather tinny production. While heavily criticized at the time, the record enjoys a bit of a cult status with a faction of the fanbase sticking up for its unique qualities amid the catalog.
Three years later, in 1998, the second Bayley-fronted Iron Maiden record arrived by way of Virtual XI, a mixed affair boasting another substandard production and mish-mash of styles. Even so, it yielded the more enduring hit of the Blaze era — the epic "The Clansman."
Iron Maiden, "The Clansman"
Every Iron Maiden Song Ranked
Gallery Credit: Loudwire Staff