Interview with Biff Byford
"I really should not need to introduce this well known metal act dating back to the beginning of the 80's, but for the younger generation I will. Saxon are one of the forefathers of the 'NWOBHM' long side Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Black Sabbath among others.. With over 10 albums under their belts, Saxon are without doubt one of the strongest and most influenced metal acts around. I managed to catch the band at this years 'Bloodstock' festival and had a chat with frontman Biff Byford about the new release 'Heavy Metal Thunder' and also the bands first DVD, 'The Chronicles' which is without doubt one of the best DVD's I have seen so far, well worth checking out. Anyway hear is what Biff had to say to the following question. In the meantime check out the DVD and current new album, there cracking material!!"
"Well Biff, first of all I'd like to ask you about your previous albums, out of all the albums you have recorded which one is your favourite and least favourite and why?"
"Well I would have to say my favourite albums are pretty much the same are everybody elses like 'Wheels Of Steel' and 'Crusader', I also liked 'Solid Ball Of Rock', but I really don't think I have any main favourites to be honest. I would have to say that the ones I dislike purely from a production point of view would be 'Forever Free', which had a strange production and also 'Rock The Nation' but generally I am happy with the albums. If you listen to bands that have been around as long as we have although there are not many they tend to release albums that are also strange sometimes."
"What have been the highlights of your career so far, do you have any regrets?"
"To be honest I don't think I have any, our whole career has been a highlight so far as we have always been able to play live and have always had a record company. I really don't have any regrets I am not that type of person."
"The album 'Killing Ground' saw you touring for a long period of time, how successful was that album for you?"
"It was a fantastic success for the band. The tour also was a success and the first gig of that album was 'Wacken' in 200."
"That album also saw you playing in London supporting 'Judas Priest', that was an awesome show to see two killer metal acts playing together, how was that show for you? Also what did Nibbs and Doug and Fritz think about playing with such a massive band?
"It was a great gig, and we really did not have much time to say hello to Judas Priest as they had just flown in from Japan, there were tired and we spoke to KK & Ripper. I don't think they really gave a shit anyway (Laughing) because they never toured with them in the 80's."
"Do you think you may do a tour with them now that Rob is back in the band, that would be a killer tour!!"
"To be honest I am not sure, it would be nice though!! Maybe some festivals together."
"How advanced do you think the recording equipment has changed over the years with Saxon's music?"
"Well in the 80's it was all analog with 8 track which was top quality of it's day, and now we tend to use digital stuff and pro tools and for Saxon we still tend to use a lot of analog material and we use a 24 track. I am not sure if I like digital recording that much I think I prefer analog."
"OK so you released 'Heavy Metal Thunder' which is awesome, just to hear the classic songs re-vamped with today's technology is great, what did it mean for the band to re-record those classic songs? Also was it difficult to pick the right songs for this album?"
"It was pretty good actually, we started to record it on the 'Metalhead' album and it took a long time and I did the vocals at the same time we recorded 'Killing Ground'. It was a great buzz to re-record them. I would not say it was difficult to choose the right songs for the album but I think we had a few discussions about which tracks we wanted to use. I think I wanted 'Stallion's Of The Highway' & Paul wanted 'Backs To The Wall', so we went for Paul's choice. We hear it a lot played in clubs and they tend to play them because they sound a lot better. I think that 'Crusader' & 'Princess Of The Night' are killer trax!!"
"Why did you decide to put on the 'Live in Dallas' recording as a bonus CD for 'Heavy Metal Thunder'?"
"Well it was just a bonus disc, nothing special really."
"As the band has just released the DVD I would like to know why it has taken the band so long to release it?"
"Well we recorded Wacken 2001 because it was the first show with the eagle back in the band and it was our first major headlining festival and the record company spent a lot of money on it. It was suppose to of been a singe DVD and not a double DVD but I started to find material in the attic from the 80's and it just grew from there. It took so long because we were trying to find the right material to put on the 2nd DVD and the tapes went to Crystalis TV and they lost them so that is why it took such a long time to release. The actual cover took such a long time because it is made from Italian leather as a book and the only firm that could do it was a company in Italy."
"I guess it has been receiving a great response from the press, what sort of reactions has it been getting?"
"It has been receiving fantastic reviews worldwide and most of the reviews from Europe have said it is one of the best of it's kind."
"So when will we see the band entering the studio again for the next album?"
"Well we are in the studio as we speak in a matter of words. It will be recorded in the UK. (ED: Do you have any new songs titles you can give me for a fiver?) (Laughing) No not really!!"
"Will it be along the same lines as 'Killing Ground' or 'Metalhead'?"
"Yeah pretty much the same, we do have some new ideas but it will be along the lines of 'Killing Ground', it will be along the lines of classic and modern sounding metal."
"How many festivals has the band played this year? Also which were your favourite and least favourite ones?"
"To be honest they have all been great, we did 'Gods Of Metal' and also 'Rock Hard', 'Metal Mania' with Iron Maiden."
"Ok let's talk about the other 'Saxon', the 'Oliver/ Dawson' band, what is your opinion on this band as they used to be called 'Son Of A Bitch' and now there called 'Saxon', it seems stupid to me."
"I guess they'll change their name to 'Deep Purple' next (laughing). The courts are deciding who has the rights to the name and there will be a press release soon. I though 'Son Of A Bitch' album was pretty cool actually and I thought Ted Bullet has a good voice really. Ted left because they insisted that they called themselves 'Saxon'. So they will not get anybody as professional as he is with the name there calling themselves now, it's just bullshit!!"
"Have you seen the live DVD they have put out?"
"Oh yeah we have, we saw some of it and it is so funny, you must get it as it's a good laugh if anything."
"I guess your not friends with them then? So will you ever get back together as the original line-up for a one off tour?"
"No not at all, what's the point as there's only the guitarist and bass player left."
how excited are you to be headlining 'Bloodstock' once again? Is it important to
"Well I don't think it is that important to be playing here on a massive scale, but the people who run this festival are friends of ours. It is good to play the festival because we can bring the eagle with us. It's a good festival and it is also growing."
"What did you think of my home town venue (Hull City Hall)?"
"I thought it was a nice venue actually, and if we were to play there now I am not sure how many would turn up?"
"Does any member of the band have any side projects?"
"Well Doug plays a lot a Jazz guitar so he has a few projects going. Fritz is also a member of Victory, another German band, and that's about all really."
"What is your opinion on today's current metal scene?"
"I think it is rising!! I think that 'Classic Metal' is probably the biggest style of metal at the moment. I think bands like Cradle Of Filth etc are good enough bands and they still do good business, but I don't see them headlining festivals."
"Well Biff thanx for taking your time out and for doing the interview. Do you have anything to add before we finish?"
"Yeah thanx to our fans for their support, check out the DVD and we hope to see you on tour soon."
Live Pictures by Jason Brown © 1997 & 1998
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