Still riding on the success of last year's Inner Sanctum album
(and the more recent To Hell And Back Again DVD), 2008 has already
been busy with numerous gigs and festival appearances.
Formed in the late 70s, they released their debut in 1979 and
were at the forefront of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Classic tracks
like "Wheels Of Steel" and "Princess Of The Night" are staples in have metal
record collection, and is matched by more recent material too.
Led by charismatic frontman Biff Byford, 2008 will continue to be a successful
Despite a problematic phone line and a delay in getting to
a phone, Biff was able to spare me a few minutes from his home in
You're just back from Download, how was it?
Biff: Great actually, really good. A legendary gig. It was meant
to be 5000, but we had 15000 in there, so yeah it was really
I've heard good reports, does this vindicate that classic rock
is still as relevant as ever?
Biff: For sure,
it's making a comeback; there's a whole new generation discovering
us and metal in general, so yes it's great.
Congratulations on the Best Event award at Metal Hammer's
Golden God Award
Biff: Thanks. It was for best
festival, Hard Rock Hell. We were voted best band, so I went up to
collect the award on behalf of the promoter. An excuse to get
pissed too (laughs).
I thought the performance at Shepherd's Bush was good, shame
about the sound.
Biff: It was great, OK to do
the themed thing, really liked the set list. We thought the sound
was awful, lot of feedback, a few gremlins that night. The band
were playing great that night though, really into it.
The set list was chosen through a competition, a bit of fresh air,
but it wouldn't have been fair on the winners to deviate from it
which is why played some numbers and not tracks like "Wheels Of
Steel". Good crowd, a good evening really.
What is on this EP you're releasing in October?
Biff: It's the first single off the new album, a track called
"Live To Rock", with a couple of other numbers, some acoustic
tracks. The new album's due out in January 2009, I can't tell you
what it's called but I can tell you about the single (laughs).
You're touring with Motorhead again, how did that come about?
Biff: Yeah, we all got together and thought we might as well,
we're all good mates. Last time it was just the one show
(Hammersmith Apollo), they invited us down for their 30th
anniversary, but this is a full on tour. Should be fun.
You usually play a two hour set, will you have to crop that
Biff: I doubt we'll get more than 1
hour, but it'll be a good party.
You tour a lot, you play long sets, you're active on stage and
your voice is still good, what do you do to keep in shape?
Biff: I don't know, I'm just lucky I guess. I didn't abuse myself
when I was younger, you know, with the drink and drugs, so I'm
getting the benefits now.
There's a trend to play a whole album live, would Saxon ever do
that and if so, which album?
Biff: We could
do, but we'd have to play for about 3 hours to get other stuff in
too. Maybe we could play Wheels Of Steel on tour, but we're too
busy with the new album and other stuff.
You have played quite a lot from Inner Sanctum, so you're
obviously proud of it. And the lengthy "Attila The Hun" is brave
Biff: The album sold really well so
there's a lot of fans out there who know it. The songs are good
live and on CD, and I really like "Attila The Hun", I think it
works. When we tour we play 6-7 tracks from it, but we play a
different set at festivals, to keep people's attention, but we
still drop a few in.
How did you feel about Harvey Goldsmith's attempts to rebrand
Biff: Well, we just used the
programme to raise the profile of the band; we had to do some soul
searching but we stuck to our guns. We didn't end up in blazers
and ties (laughs).
What are the band's plans for the Summer?
Biff: About another 20 festivals. We've done 9 this year already.
We'll take a break in August, holidays and stuff, and we're pretty
busy with the new album too.
Will Saxon be celebrating a 30th anniversary in any way?
Biff: I don't even know when it is. I guess it's next year, but
bands to this kind of thing 3-4 years later. If someone discovered
us from Wheels Of Steel you take it from 1980. All depends on the
start day. Maybe something next year, maybe something the year
after. There'll be something special on the tour next year.
Any message for your fans?
Definitely. We're really happy, and thank you. It's all down to
the fans, the long time fans and the new generation too.
Interview © June
2008 Joe Geesin
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