Metal Crusaders -  Interview With Doug, Paul & Nigel

What can one say about the mighty Saxon? been one of the most inspired bands from the early 80's and marking themselves as part of the 'NWOBHM' along side Priest, Maiden, Motorhead etc.... Saxon are still hailing the flag for England with the bands already mentioned. With such classic album's as 'Saxon', 'Wheels Of Steel', 'Denim & Leather' and of course today's albums 'Metal Head', 'Killing Ground, 'Heavy Metal Thunder' and the most recent release 'Lion Heart' the future for the band is now becoming stronger. I managed to catch the band on their recent UK tour in Bradford were I managed to chat with Doug, Paul and Nigel, Nigel has finally returned to the band, so I'm sure most of you will be pleased and surprised!!! Saxon are also planning on releasing a new DVD very shortly, so keep an eye open for that OK!! Here is what the guys had to say to the following questions. Just remember kids, Saxon are the true 'Metal Crusaders' and there here to stay!! Interview key: (D - Doug), (N - Nigel), (P - Paul).

First of all guys, could you please tell me what's been happening over the last few months.

(D) "Well after the release of 'Lion Heart' Jorg Michael spent a few months on tour with the band and then decided to go back to 'Stratovarius' as they reformed. At this point we decided to get Nigel back into the band."

Looking back at the bands last few releases, which ones are you're favourites and why?

(D) "I would have to say 'Lion Heart', because I think it is a classic mixture of traditional Saxon sounding albums the modern Saxon sound as it has most elements in it for me.

(P) "I would have to say 'Lion Heart' and also 'Killing Ground', which pushes the band to new boundaries for me personally. That album also had songs structures that we had never tried before."

(N) "Well 'Unleash The Beast' was the last record I recorded with the band, but as for the newer material, I had a lot to do with the song writing on 'Killing Ground' "

I like the cover version of King Crimson''s cover on 'Killing Ground', just how tricky was it for you to re-do that song and make it your own version?

(D) "Well it was pretty giving it a try really, we pretty much stuck to the original version, expect for the flute part in the original version of the song, we decided to writer our own version half way through the song. So we all liked the original version of the song anyway. After playing it together in rehearsals we knew it would be a great challenge to record it and so we went along to did it. 

Do you feel it is more of a challenge to record a song like that which has a lot of things happening in it as appose to record a simple song?

(P) "Yes I do think it is more of a challenge, because people said that 'Metal head' was much more of a darker album for Saxon than our previous releases before that album. So, I feel that 'Metalhead' was going down a darker roots. The same thing seemed to of happened with 'Killing Ground',  

As the band seemed to of gone in a more 'Power Metal' direction with the release of Metal head', etc... what bands of today have inspired you to create such powerful and yet melodic music?

(D) "Actually we all like 'Rammestien', but we have not gone in that direction!! I'm not sure what bands have inspired to be honest, sorry!! I still listen to the older bands like Zepplin, Purple etc... and I would not say there are any Power Metal bands who have influenced us. I use to like the early Dream Theater material, but that is more fusion stuff, whereas I much prefer the more riffs influenced stuff.

(P) "To be put on the spot, I really can't think of any sorry!!"

(N) "I prefer the slower bands like Candlemass.

As the band are more popular now, what are your strongest territories world-wide?

(P) "Well we have a big fan base in most countries, such as Germany, Sweden, Holland, Belguim and so on...but I feel that the British audience has always been small over the last couple of years. The London shows are always a good turn out. I don't think we could ever do a full UK tour as I don't think we would make enough money from it. People in the UK tend to think of Saxon as a band that has now gone, which is a shame as we are still here!! We don't sell too many albums over here!!

(D) "I think the only thing that keeps a band valued, is to make and write new albums and so many bands seems to tour on their back catalogue of releases. Whatever stick we get from the majority of press over here, we still sell a lot of albums (ED: Nice one guys!! I have the most upright respect for you!!). The thing is, we are still together and the only thing that keeps a band valid is the fact that you make and write new material. Most bands just carry on touring on their back catalogue of albums, which there is nothing wrong with that, it's just that we feel it is a bit boring, so that is why we are always writing new material. It doesn't matter what sort of stick we get from the press in the UK, we still sell a lot of albums!! I don't think we are getting the bad press we use to get over any more, we would get articles about us that said good things, but always had a twist/ sting to them some where along the line."

Moving on, let's talk about the album 'Heavy Metal Thunder', which to me is a fucking awesome album, featuring Saxon's classic material re worked on today's technology, please tell me more about that!! Nigel I bet you would of loved to of played on that release right?

(N) "Yes I guess I would of done. Back in the day I play on most of the original trax anyway. I think it would of been fun to re-do them no doubt about that!! 

(D) "We made those songs when we were making the 'Metal Head' album I think and they were recorded in such a sort space of time.

(P) "It was a matter of mixing the old arrangements with the stage arrangements that would become. We tried to be true to the original and also new at the same time."

(D) "It sold really well from what I can gather, I know we gave a lot a way, because on the original 'Killing Ground' album there was a bonus CD which featured most of those songs anyway. We have 7 or 8 songs away with that album and then re-released it with the full version of songs as 'Heavy Metal Thunder'."

Doing the Chronics.. DVD must of been a great buzz for the band, tell me a little bit about that please

(D) "That was great fun to do, we loved every minute of it."

(N) "I have to laugh at some of the old material of me on some TV shows, that was so funny!! Some from the Danish festival."

(P) "it meant a lot to us to record that DVD, the crowd was awesome and it certainly shows on the DVD, so thanx to WOA and our royal fans for their support."

How did you hook up with Jorg Michael to join the band? Was he just a session drummer?

(D) "He was basically a band member and not a session musician. We got hold of Jorg because one of his previous band 'Head Hunter' supported us and he also played with 'Glennmore' who also supported us later on. So when Fritz left we asked Nigel if he knew anybody who would be interested in joining the band. He suggested Jorg to the band, so we asked Jorg if he would like to join the band and he was certainly up for it!!"

So why did Fritz leave the band, was it due to the fact he had commitments with Victory?

(D) "Well he had a lot of commitments and he was working on a drum DVD for a drum distribution company and he was very busy when we were trying to write the 'Lion Heart' album. We all finished on good terms and he is a great drummer and we wish him well for the future. 

Was it the same reason for Jog leaving the band too? Other commitments with his old band Stratovarius reforming?

(P) "He loved the gigs, but he felt like he had a life time commitment to his band as he had been with them for so long and when they reformed he just wanted to get back with them. I don't think we would of joined the band if his band had not of broken up."

Nigel you have now returned to Saxon, how long have you been back with the band and how exciting is it for you to be finally back with your metal brothers?

(N) "We'll I have only been in the band for a week (October) since we started touring. We have played Germany, and Belguim so far which went really well for us. The tour so far has been fantastic for us!!

Lets now talk about the current album 'Lion Heart', how long did it take to record this album?

(D) "Its the first album we have recorded in the UK since I have been in the band. We always take about the same amount of time to record an album which takes about 6 weeks to record and mix. They usually end up been pretty much like our demo songs, so the songs have almost been recorded. it was a relaxing studio because we spend so much time there at our UK studio and it turned out really well."

Who writes the songs within the band, is it a team effort of Biff etc...?

(D) "Well Nigel and I live very close to each other so we get to write a lot of stuff together, and Nigel actually did do some writing for 'Lion heart'. So some of the ideas come from us to really. The rest is done by Biff and the rest of the band."

What songs on the 'Lion Heart' CD do you like and why?

(D) "I like 'Witchfinder General' and 'Lion Heart' a lot, because 'Witchfinder..' is pretty radical and has a lot going for it. When we started writing it it didn't sound like an old band it sounds more like it would pin you to the wall. I also like 'Live By The Sword', which is a good song because like 'Witchfinder..' it has a lot going for it!!"

(N) "Even though I didn't play on it, I do like the same as Doug to be honest, there really good songs and I'm impressed."

(P) "I would have to say 'Beyond The Grave' because it's just one of those songs that sticks in your mind."

Is the album selling well so far for the band?

(D) "Yes it is actually!! The album 'Metal Head' is doing really well too, when that 1st came out it did ok, but now it's selling more than we expected. You have the classic Saxon sound with a lot more double bass drum sound which makes it have that Power Metal edge. Our songs are also very melodic, so you can still sing the choruses which makes the albums even better."

Who's Idea was it to come up the the title for the album?

(P) "It was Biff's idea, he is a historian and he wasn't living too far away from the conquers castle to be honest. Biff likes his historic heroes like 'Richard The Lion Heart' is a good one for example. I don't think we had any other names for the album either. We did not want to to become too much of a concept album on a darker side so we thought we'd do something in a more historical theme, like the debut album which as a warrior on it and so it is true to our name."

Are you happy with SPV as you have been with them for for a number of years?

(P) "Yes we are happy with SPV, it's also good to see our album in all the shops for once."

What do you think of all these compilation albums that are going back of Saxon? Are they official??

(D) "I think it is EMI who are mainly putting them out and It's just business and they have to make a living just like anybody else."

So how is the tour going so far for you?

(D) "Well Nigel had to learn the songs in such a short period of time he could not learn them all, and to be honest I had not played or learnt some of the songs before as the set list is mainly old stuff which I had not even played. The only person who could play them was Paul and Biff. We did do a lot more rehearsing this time around because of the set list and because Nigel had just come back to the band. The tour has been great so far and even the UK fans have been given us some great response."

Well guys, thank you for your time, I know your about to hit the stage shortly, but before we finish, do you have anything to say to the readers?

(D) "Yes thanx for your support, we hope you enjoy the album."

N) "Yeah thanx for the support, I'm glad to be back with the boys, we're having a blast!!"

(P) "Thanx to our fans for their support over the last 2 decades, we hope to see you all on the next album tour. Thanx for the interview too!!"

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