Follow the Metal Crusaders - Paul Quinn speaks out
Saxon are without doubt one of the finest Metal act's of all time, one of the godfathers along side Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and of course Black Sabbath. If it wasn't for these acts then let's face it there would be no metal today, and that includes the Nu-Wave of Heavy Metal. Saxon as may of you will be aware of started out in the later 70's under the name of 'Son Of A Bitch', but soon changed their name to a more suitable name, a name that would include the British heritage and Saxon's name certainly suits the music. Over the years Saxon have influcned the likes of Metallica, and even gave Metallica their big break, for whom they must owe their debit's too. Saxon have come a long way since the early 80's with various classics making the UK charts back in the day with such tracks as '747 Strangers In The Night', 'And the Bands Played On' toping the charts. Various guitar, drum and bass players have come and gone, but Paul Quinn, Biff Byford remain the 2 original members flying the flag for one of the most hard working and underrated acts in Metal. Join Biff & Paul for the last decade or so is Nigel Glockler on drums, Nibbs Carter on bass and Doug Scarratt on guitar. Together these guys makes some of the finest metal music you could imagine. With the 2nd leg of the tour the band return to the UK in November were I had a chat with Paul about the current album 'Into The Labyrinth' and to ask how well the tour went with Anvil. So sit back read on and enjoy. Just remember are you a metal crusader?
Well Paul it's a pleasure meeting you again, as always. I better start off by asking you when you look back at all the previous albums you have recorded with Saxon, which one or which one's are you favourite and why? I bet you also have a least favourite album don't you?
"Well Jason that's a tough question to answer to be honest. I really can't say I have a favourite album to be honest. I would have to say that I had the most fun making the 'Killing Ground' CD, because it didn't seem like hard work to record. As far as a least favourite album goes, I really don't have one with the song writing, but with the production I would have to say 'Forever Free', because our then record boss wanted to cut out Kelly Trapp from the process dings as he got too big for his boots to be honest. So he wanted to take us with this Austrian guy who was totally rubbish. Kelly has now retired but he kept the building he owns and rented it out to other people."
Since the 'Dogs Of War' album that really was the turning point for the band with the way the band went for a more European Power Metal sound, but at the same time keeping the classic Saxon sound. What was the reason to pursue a more heavier sound for that album?
"Well the 'Dog of War' song itself was the more experimental from the whole album really, and it is a coincidence this really Jase, we didn't mean it to turn out like it did, but it certainly has the positive effect. We were certainly moving towards a European sound (Ed: I totally think it has done the band justice, do you agree with me on that?) Well yes I do in a way, it has certainly kept us in the public eye."
The next album to follow 'Dogs Of War' was the awesome album 'Metal Head', please tell me more about how that album made a more impact on your sound. It kind of reminded me what Judas Priest did with 'Painkiller', I couldn't believe it was the same band and you have done the same thing, a more heavier album which I totally love! What did you think of that album?
"Well I guess we had different inputs from Doug our guitarist, which was Doug's debut album even though he toured with us on the 'Dogs Of War' he didn't actually play on the CD. Nibb's had already opened us up with such songs as 'Alter Of The Gods', and he is actually really fun to watch at a metal disco after a gig, because of him on the dance floor thrashing around as if he had his bass guitar with him, head banging to the likes of Slayer. Well I came up with the idea that we should have a heavier sound on the guitars, the de-tuned sound but at the same time is not actually de-tuned. There was quiet a few overdubs that would draw the ear and make it make it less grungy so it was yet another crossover for us."
Charlie Bauerfeind & Biff produced the album, how did you hook up with Charlie in the first place?
"Well what Charlie does really is Blind Guardian, and he is a awesome producer. He knows how to get a great sound and he brings out the best in Saxon's music. He certainly has that German perfectionist touch as a producer, he is now starting to get a bit of the British looseness and he is good to work with."
Are there any songs from the album that stand out for you and why?
"Well I quite like the song 'Prisoner' & 'Metal Head', which have that de-tuned guitar sound which is played with a similar chord to that of 'Smoke On The Water' by Deep Purple. It is a rootless kind of bottom, which is a 5th above the root but a 4th below on the guitar."
The next album that you recorded was 'Killing Ground' back in 2001 which also saw you supporting Judas Priest in London. Did you ever do any other shows with Judas Priest?
"Well they were on the same label as us, and SPV have a massive back catalogue of CD's, and I would of loved to of played more shows with them. I would of liked to of had us with Priest and Deep Purple on the same bill. (Ed: I think Priest, Maiden and yourselves would of made the most perfect N.W.O.B.H.M. tour, do you agree?) Yeah I think that would be incredible tour to be honest!! I think that a lot of people should come and see bands like Saxon and Priest before it's too late. We are not getting any younger and we could disappear one day. Some of them are dying so it is important for the youth of day to check out bands like us before we are no more!!."
What do you think of the modern bands out there?
"Well I quite like 'Muse', they make a nice racked!! I really don't buy a lot of the modern stuff. (Ed: I know Killswitch Engage have done a Dio cover, how would you feel if they did a Saxon song?) I think it would be pretty good actually, it depends on what song they covered."
Moving on you re-recorded the classic Saxon songs onto the 'Heavy Metal Thunder' CD, which is awesome, totally sounds amazing. Tell me more about that CD, was it difficult to choose the right songs for that album?
"I think it was Biff's idea to re-record the classic songs, I think it is something that we have always been worried about our old productions wouldn't be on par for the year they were released. People allowed 'Wheels Of Steel' to sound the way they wanted it too and because it was a good album. I think if we would of worked with somebody who did the Pink Floyd CD's we could of sounded better. Our old producer is a good friend of mine and he did a good job at that time. As for the songs for this CD, most of them were played live so it wasn't that hard to pick the songs from that album. They seemed like the songs that most people wanted for that album."
Would you ever consider doing a part 2 of that album in the near future? Some of the less popular songs which are equally as good?
"Yeah maybe, do you have any suggestions? I will certainly put it to the band."
Next up for the studio albums was 'Lionheart' in 2004, yet another awesome album, still managing to keep the classic Saxon feel with yet another heavier approach, this album saw drummer Jorg Michael joining the band after Fritz leaving the band. Are you still friends with Fritz and why did leave the band?
"Well we don't see Fritz, he was actually fired from the band because of too much drinking. I really can't say we are friends but it was not a malicious sacking, but he wasn't showing up for gigs, we had no choice but to sack him. Jorg we are still friends with and we see him from time to time."
What's it like to have Nigel back in the band, even though he has been working with the band in the background with song writing.
"Well Nigel has not changed a great deal and it's good for the band because he is the accepted face of Saxon drum kit because Pete Gill was only in the band for 4 albums and nobody has been in the band as long as Nigel has. Yes Nigel does co-write some of the songs with the band, he has been involved in the background for some time now. If Nigel had ideas then we would certainly check them out. Nigel left the band because he had bad pain which put him out of action for some time now. It's great to have him back in the band."
Next album to follow was the 'Inner Sanctum' CD, which featured a versions of 'If I was you', a single version which was an experiment and the album version, why do the 2? Did the single version benefit the band?
"I think that each album is a snap shot in time and we were in film whilst making that album, and I think we were a bit insulted by Harvey Goldsmith thing. (Ed: I remember watching that on Channel 4 in the UK and Biff was really getting pissed off with him calling the band very pedestrian Metal which really annoyed Biff, did anything happen off camera?). Well one of the scenes got filmed but he didn't attack Harvey but we kind of walked off and left him just before the gig as he was giving us a pet talk and to make Biff angry and to kill but we really don't need that pet talk. So we just walked off and left him there. Well the 2 producers who worked on the single were experimental and I can't say that I disagreed with their approach because they were trying weird things and getting us to play to a youth of today, a big sound beat and then loosing it in the mix. We told them that we were not having a total re-write of the song, and they really didn't have enough time to get it together and sound the way we wanted it to sound. We didn't feel that the song had a sound that would please both them and us, a mixed bag sort of speak and they wanted us to play looser than we usually do and that is not the way that rock has gone really. I think the song fell off the radar is the expression for that, I never saw any positive or negative things about that single version of the song."
Did that single get much air play after all the hard work went into it?
"No not really, in fact none that I can remember."
The whole album is very dark with the art work, do the songs reflect within the art work of the CD?
"Well I think it all boils down to us been in a bad mood (laughing), as we were been pushed and pulled about and reinvented and we just could not stay the way we were. Sometimes there are some unhappy event that influenced the way you write but I really can't go into them as they are rather personal. That's the way it is with an album, you either go with what you have or scrap it all together like Judas Priest did once and re-write."
I remember see in you on that tour with Masterplan as support, so who's idea was it to take them on tour with you as support act? Also the show at Sheffield City Hall must of been a great success for you after doing the T.V. show.
"Well we had the band 'Wolf' one year and I remember the wrestling with Nibb's at the London Astoria club which was really funny (laughing) so this time around we decided to have Masterplan with us which was a really good tour, great band too!! The Sheffield show was a great turn out for the band, we had a lot of fun and it was good to play there again. Harvey promoted that show himself and I don't think he would like to work with us again after that T.V. show because I don't think he was shown a in any great light by any of the fact's he had worked with on those T.V. shows."
At the end of the day Paul, doing that show in some ways has certainly uplifted the bands profile, do you agree?
"Yes I do, I do think it has helped us out a lot, but I think Harvey was playing the devil advocate but in the end people started talking more about the band."
Moving on, so was the 'Inner Sanctum' a good selling album for the band?
"Well it was the beginning of the accelerator drives with the help of the T.V. show, so we can't say that we shouldn't of done the T.V. show. So that album did sell very well for the band."
Looking back at the T.V. show how good or bad was it for you to be playing at a football stadium at half time, miming to the song 'If I Was You', did it do the band any justice or not? Did it damage the band career?
"Well I hope it didn't do any damage to the bands career and I hope people will think how brave the band were to play at the football stadium. The crowd were pretty screamish watching it and we were miming but we couldn't hear the backing track as the opposite crowd had scored a goal and all they were doing was giving the 2 fingers and shouting at us as our back tracking was frustrating them (laughing)."
So this year the band released their new album 'Into The Labyrinth', so who's idea was it to call the album that title?
"Well it was Biff's idea, Biff usually comes up with the titles of the album and sometimes we all gave a go at the title of the songs and I really don't know where he gets his influences from."
As musicians do you all collaborate as a team in writing the songs, lyrics and music? Also how do you write songs together when some of the band members are in Germany, and some are on the south of the UK and also the north. Is it difficult to get the ideas together?
"Well it all works around our riffs, we instigate what we think is good riffs and Biff will say that is a good riff or not. After which, Biff will come up with a song title and try to match it to what ideas we have. Well we all do our bits for the albums with drum machines at the start, and of course home studios. It can get difficult sometimes, we usually fly Nibb's in early from Germany so he can get a feel of the songs with us before we demo the songs."
I would of thought that you would of rehearsed in Lincolnshire as most of the albums where recorded in Boston, but you seem to rehearse in the south of the UK. Why is that?
"Well it's a lot easier for us to rehearse down south as Nigel and Doug live there, so for Nigel to bring his drums up north would be a lot of hassle. We recorded the last few albums in Boston (UK) but we don't rehearse there."
I guess you flow Charlie your producer over from Germany to make it a lot easier to record the albums, how easier was it for him to record over here in the UK?
"Well Charlie has his own mobile recording studio, his van has bits of recording equipment which he can transport and move into another building. He didn't fly over, he came over in his truck. The last album we recorded was in Blind Guardian's rehearsal studio."
The album 'Into The Labyrinth' is a superb album, moving the band even more forward, so is there any songs off the new album that stand out for you and why?
"Well I really like the song 'Battalions Of Steel', because I had a lot to do with the writing of that song. Biff and myself were throwing ideas about for that song in his home studio in France at that point. So the intro riff was my idea, which was influenced by a French call sign for the announcements on the train stations. I just liked the sounds that the trains made as they went pass with their wheels (laughing), so i wanted to try and get that feel into a riff somehow, and so this call sign just inspired me. I can't remember who came up with the verse figure, I did the chorus. (Ed: the ballad song 'Voice' is a superb songs, I really feel that you should play that song live, why don't you?). We were talking about the 2 ballads on the album the other day and we enjoyed recording them, and I in particular would love to play live. I really would love to play 'Voice' live, it's a great ballad, so I think I should ask the band to play it on the next tour. I think a lot of classic band are in the same situation, were the fans tell us that they don't too many new songs in the set, they much prefer the classic songs. We have been playing the older songs now for so long that we could play them in our sleep and for the band which songs do you choose?."
I love Judas Priest's music, but I'm so sick of see in them live and playing the song 'Breaking The Law', even though it is there anthem, do you ever feel that you wish you could play something different instead of the same songs?
"I really can't think off the top of my head right now. I'm pretty sure there must be some, but I am not sure what they are? There is one song from a older album that we all like which is 'Shadows on the Wall' , but you can't please every fan. I guess we should do a pole and see what songs the fans would like us to play for a change. We did a pole for the current tour over here to see what the fans wanted us to play, I think it work pretty good actually."
I was going to txt Nibb's and ask him if the band were going to play the song 'Broken Heroes' on the UK tour as it was remembrance week and Sunday, was it played at all to remember the soldiers of the past and future who have fought for this country?
"Yes we did play the song in London on Remembrance Sunday, and it went down really well. It was a good choice of song to play to remember the fallen comrades of this country who gave their lives for us all. We didn't play it anywhere else on the tour because people come to travel around the UK to see us more than once usually and we wanted to keep their interests as well."
Do the band have any new ideas or songs wrote for the next album? Do you think Saxon will go any heavier on the next album but also keep the classic Saxon sound?
"Well we do have the odd riffs here and there, nothing actually wrote as such. As for us going heavier, it depends on what mood we are all in, and we just write what we write."
Did the current album receive excellent reviews by the press? Also what do you think of the smaller websites like mine who really do support the bands and give them as much press as they can?
"Yeah most of the press gave it excellent reviews, but some didn't. I think that website's like your Jason are more heart felt and support the bands like Saxon more, they get behind the bands and support them in anyway they can. I think you have more passion & are not cenacle. We have to support people like you Jason, you keep the scene alive, I love websites!! The bigger magazines are paid to either like or not like your music."
I have noticed that you are about to release a movie about the band in 2010 called 'Heavy Metal Thunder - The Movie', please tell me more!!
"Well it is a Welsh T.V. company that have got in touch with us and wanted to tell the whole story about the band, our career with the old members been involved too and having their say. I think it is about time that it was public knowledge and Biff intermitted a lot of it in his book. But they didn't have a voice in that did the old members of the band & they properly have their own books to write. So did play a success in the band and so they should be part of the film and have their own say. (Ed: are you still friends with the old members like Graham and Steve?). Well we don't either see or hear from any of them really. I was talking to a fan earlier and they kind of depleted our income pretty badly to be honest and it is hard to like them again. I think there will be parts on the DVD which will features some live performances which have been on some TV shows."
It must be hard on you all not been able to be friends anymore when you all grow up together.
"Yeah it is really, it is just one of those things."
Didn't they use the same name 'Saxon' or try to have the name at some point?
"They didn't particularly use the name, it was the fact that it was completely confusing the fans with 2 bands using the same logo and one of them didn't have the authentic sound of the singer."
Out of all the tours you have done, which support act have you most enjoyed working with?
"That's a tough question to be honest. Doro is one of them she is great to work and tour with. We have played with some great bands in the past, I really can't say to be honest. We always seem to have a brilliant support act."
I'd like to thank you and Saxon for having Anvil on support on the tour, so thank Paul!! Without your help the band would still be finding it hard in some areas to uplift their profile. Also what did you think of the Anvil movie?
"Thanks Jason, we would of done it anyway because we know how much we get along with them since the 80's, and we met them in Leeds in 82. Well I only actually bought it yesterday so I haven't watched it yet, but I have heard it is really heart touching, so I better get my cleanex issues out (laughing). They are so happy to be back to this stage again were people want to see and hear their music."
So who's idea was it to have Anvil on this UK tour?
"Well I can remember saying that it would be great to have them on tour with us. I can't remember if I started the ball rolling sort of speak. We all had a say in the end. We told them at the end of the tour that we would love to take them on the road again in the very near future, and they are willing to accept our offer."
So where was the best place you played on the UK tour?
"Well I would have to say that the Scott's were the best, I would love to see anybody beat them. They kept on shouting 'Freedom' from the Brave Heart film. Edinburgh was amazing!!"
Ok Paul, thanks for the interview, but before we go do you have anything to say to the fans reading this interview? I'd like to thank you for taking your time out and best wishes for 2010 with Saxon, my regards to the band from me.
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support as always. Thanks for coming to the shows, we hope to see you all in 2010, watch out for the DVD. Thanks for the interview Jason, stay in touch and see you also I hope in 2010."
My thanks to Paul for the interview, your a star!!