And the Band played On... Graham & Steve Speak Out.
Back in the day 'Saxon' were a massive band standing tall along side Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden just t mention a few and having played the 1st 'Monsters of Rock' festival back in 1980 along side The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Rainbow and more this was the turning point for the band. Having appeared on 'Top of the Pops' in UK and charting successfully in the UK and in Europe there was no stopping the band.
Both Graham & Steve record what some may say are Saxon's finest albums such their debut as well as 'Denim & Leather', 'Power & the Glory','Strong arm of the Law', 'Crusader'. This version of 'Saxon', known as 'ODS' were formed back in 95 and have established themselves to be a known act. Having released 'Motorbiker' album in 2012, as well as 'Victim You' under the name of 'Son of a Bitch' in 95, and some live albums as well as a DVD 'Rock has landed It's Alive'. I caught up with the band recently in Hull (UK) when they played at a local club. here is what the boys had to say. In the meantime don't forget to check out the re-issues of Saxon's early albums out from 25th May 2017, classics!!!
OK Graham & Steve I would like to ask you who were you're guitar influences when you were growing up and when did you start to play the guitar?
(G) "Well for me it was Steve Winwood and I went to see him play in Doncaster (UK) when he was 17 and I was about 14 and he played Steely Blues when he got off the organ and he played a white strat guitar. That was the 1st experience of hearing a lead guitar. I later on saw Hendrix and The Rolling Stones when I was 12yrs old and that was in 65, which I think it pretty amazing.
The 1st thing that got me into music was Bob Dylan with his song 'Like a rolling Stone' and I thought it was the best thing I had ever heard. Me and Steve got together and went to see Deep Purple, Eric Clapton and tons of bands that were going around at that time. My 1st guitar I got was a 'Rosette airstream 3' in ice blue which I still own in the loft. I own 19 guitars now."
(S) As for me, Paul Macartney got me into playing the bass, listening to The Beatles when I was at school. Later on I got into Jack Bruce, and later on Andy Frasher were the 3 people that made me evolve into wanting to Rock Music. All those 3 players are melodic players that have melodic bass lines, not just plodding along, any music really that had a good bass line. Nobody in my family really played music, and the 1st bass I ever bought was a Often President which I don't own any more. It was similar to that which Paul Macartney played.
When you start out you buy what you can afford at that time."
Where did you guys 1st meet? Where you at school together?
(G) "No we went to different schools which were in joining towns and we met in 1969 in which Steve had a band and there guitarist wasn't into the same stuff as Steve was into, so I was in a band in the same situation so we just met at the rehearsal room and that was it really.
(S) Well we couldn't really play if you know what I mean, we could play to our own standards if you know what I mean, and we basically jammed and we couldn't play any particular song . We would do something like 'Cross Roads' by Cream and we would play for a hr or a bit which would not really be a song, just some kind of Blues riffs. We were learning as we went along, we were not really a covers band, we found hard to play other peoples songs. There are 2 ways of looking at it, you can either be a good copier or a creative musician trying to make you're own music.
I didn't like school because I couldn't learn but if I learnt at my own pace and when we started playing music I would really get into it, and if you are doing it with like minded people it became more creative."
Moving on to the pre Saxon name, you were called 'S.O.B.' at the start or was there any other names? Who came up with that name?
(G) "Our 1st band name was 'Blue Condition' and then we changed it to 'S.O.B.' and we did tons of Free songs, we were into 'Free', in which Steve and myself followed Free around even before 'Alright Now' was a hit. We kept the name 'S.O.B.' up until Biff joined the band and he was actually playing the bass but it didn't last long. We where played the 'National Rooms' and a guy called Alan Bown was watching us and it was in the Punk times and he said you are angry young men, he said 'S.O.B.' wasn't the name we should use.
He said 'Son of a Bitch', so we changed it in which it lasted 2-3yrs until we got signed and then the label wanted us to change the band name. In the U.S. the label said we can't be called 'Son of a Bitch', so it became 'Saxon' for the American deal."
When you look back at all the previous albums you did with Saxon, which are you're favourites and why?
(G) "I don't really have a favourtie album, I think the favourites were the fun ones to make when we were all a team. We all pulled together back then as a 5 piece, so the 1st 3 albums to some extent and it slowly got to were somebody wanted to do more than the rest of the band, so it didn't become a 5 piece band anymore.
(S) I think the 1st album really, because of how it sounded and because it was our 1st album. Everybody in a band wants to make one, and you can't go behind 'Wheels of Steel', because that is the album that set it all off really. We wrote some decent songs for that album and our 1st album didn't sell really well so the 2nd album had to pull out some better tunes and the timing was right and the mental attitude of the band was right and it came out great."
What was our thoughts of the debut album cover when you 1st saw it?
(S) "Well it was our 1st album and I can remember taking it to my mothers and she said this is a nice album isn't it. I guess it was visually and when you look at it now I think we were a little naive and we had 2 friends, 1 was a steel worker, the other was a artist who painted pictures of dogs and stuff and we told him we had a record deal and would be able to come up with an album cover?
We also told him that we were now called 'Saxon', so could you come up with a logo for us as well. A week had pasted and one of the guys was called 'Scofa' who lived near me. So we went up to his house and he just brought that album cover out with the cover and logo and we just looked at it and said 'That will do'. Everybody who saw it and came up to us thought it was Biff, and we said no."
When you look at the 80's cover they were pretty bad and tongue and cheek but also they sold for the band's didn't they?
(G) "Oh yes, the cover's weren't great but the music spoke for itself, some of them were to shock and make people buy them."
(S) "I think a lot of modern bands do tend to sound the same, and there is a certain amount of creativeness that has gone into their music. But if you go back to bands like The Beatles or The Kinks or any band from that era have inspired the younger generation."
Moving on, the 1st 3 'Classic' Saxon albums have been re-released, do they feature any bonus material?
(G) "There have been 3 so far, and Princess of the Night' on clear 7" vinyl. Yes there are bonus songs on them. They have stuff like 'Monsters of Rock' 80, there are also loads of out takes from recording sessions."
So how did they all come together all this bonus material?
(G) "Steve and myself went to 'Abby Road' studio's in 2009 as they got commissioned by EMI to go through everything and surrender any tapes we had in which we did and they digitalized everything. They then sent us CD's of everything even songs that started with false starts and so that is a combination of the bonus martial on these CD's. It was BMG that have re-released them and they bought the back catalogue off EMI and I heard it was £10000 for it, and they are releasing everything, even splatter LP's."
Did you meet up with Biff, Paul or Nigel to go through the song collection for this albums?
(G) "No it was just me and Steve who went down to Abby studio's, they had no input in that whatsoever. Steve and myself had some achieves material that had been left in the studios and I had some digital stuff of Saxon which were written and photographed and also interviews and advertised. Hugh Gillmore had a big impact on the re-releases who worked for EMI."
How do they sound different from the original releases?
(S) "Well I have only heard them on CD, they are what they are, and something you really listen too and I was listening too 'Helter Skelter' which is an original Saxon song, not The Beatles song and I forgot how good it was. There are songs that were done in demo form and which were done in Rotherham and we did a lot of demos there for 'The Crusader' album. There's song that are really good quality and some that are not, it is what it is. There are different version and you can hear how the songs were built up."
Are the label releasing all the back catalogue albums?
(G) "Yes, in the order that they were released in. The 1st 3 albums went into the British Rock and Metal charts which is really good."
Moving how long long has you're band 'Oliver Dawson' Saxon been together now?
(G) "Since the late 90's, we have done a couple of albums, and we don't have a label, you could say it's a 'D.I.Y.' and there are plenty of people who would put it out for us and we need the financial support and I think it has been a miracle. I think if other musicians would of been in the same position as us out of the original line up I don't think they would of done what we did. We have done 3 live albums and 2 studio albums and a DVD.
Nobody buys CD's now, it's all digital downloads and you can spend a £1000 recording an album you will never get it back. Things like Spotify & Itunes gives bands have no royalties at all. If you were selling at hundred million on CD's it's good, but downloads is nothing."
Moving on is the tour a ongoing thing at the moment?
(S) "Well yes at the moment, we where in Rome last weekend and after Hull we are in Belgium with Tygers of Pan Tang at a festival. We have a few festivals in Germany coming up shortly, Sweden, Denmark. The thing now is that the 'N.W.O.B.H.M.' has become a cult, and festivals around Europe love it and there all still in the 80's, which is great!! We love it."
Do you plan on recording a new album this year?
(S) "We have ideas for songs at present, but no plans to record this year."
Where did you meet the rest of the guys to form the band?
(G) "Well Gav is the latest addition, our other guitarist Adrian he left and he was with us for 18yrs, he got married which is fine. Brian has been in the band 9yrs and he is a great and he is from Barnsley and we all live in the same area and my son Paul is our drummer. We all live close by even the crew which is great and that is how Saxon started back in the day."
How did you feel about you're former manager JJ & Lemmywhen you heard about their death?
(G) "We were shocked, he was a lovely guy. I think he died in 96. Lemmy was also a shock, great guy and great musician. I don't know how he did those last shows feeling ill I will never know god bless him."
Is this the 1st time that 'ODS' have played in Hull since the Saxon days?
(S) "Yes, we were going to play the 'Spring Head' pub in Anlaby but it shut down. We do play at the 'Yardbirds' club in Grimsby a lot."
Well thanks for the interview guys, best of luck with the tours and new album. DO you have anything to say before we finish the interview?
(S) "Yes can you please send me you're bank details and sort code as I am skint (laughing).
(G) "Yes give 'Motorbiker' album & 'Blood & Thunder' albums a listen and you will be pleasantly surprised if you are a fan of Rock Music and Saxon, as their bloody good albums."
Thanx to Steve and Graham for the interview.