Saxon release their new single "Live To Rock" as a download on
17 October, gearing up for the Autumn tour with Motorhead. The
band's new album, 'Into The Labyrinth', is released In January
This interview was done before the album's title was announced.
The new single "Live To Rock" is about getting an education and
career options, but choosing a life of rock'n'roll. Is this a
It's a story from my youth, basically, I thought people would
relate to it. It's the same today as it was then, really. I wanted
the song to be like "Won't Get Fooled Again", you know, "Brown
Sugar", that kind of song. I think it's pretty cool, actually.
Yeah, although, well, the album's not like that. It is like that,
but not all like that, if you know what I mean. Because we're not
the sort of band that writes 12 songs that are all the same. We
like to entertain ourselves more than that. It's half rock'n'roll,
half heavy metal, in a sense.
Any long epics, like on the last album?
Yes there's some epics, there's a few. I can't really say too much
about the album. It's out on the 12 January so I don't want to
steel anybody's thunder.
So you can't give me a title?
No, not yet. I can give you a few song ideas though. One of the
rock'n'roll songs that's on there, people like it, that have heard
it, is called "Slow Lane Blues" [that's what it's sounds like he
Part of the album's quite bluesy, we've
gone back to a more bluesier feel. It's about when the French
police took my car off me, when I was caught speeding.
There's some historic songs, a song called "Valley Of The Kings",
which is about the Egyptians and Tutan Khamun, the curse of the
tomb, how the guy found it, from his point of view, so it's quite
Is there anything as progressive as Atilla The Hun?
Yes, it's quite long, there's some big ones. The first one on the
album is called "Battalions Of Steel", which is as it sounds, but
there's nothing quite as long as "Atilla The Hun". That was the
Saxon progressive metal thing, but nothing that long. There's some
historic songs and there's some rock'n'roll songs on there.
I thought the intro to the single is very reminiscent of "Solid
Ball Of Rock"
Well, I wanted it to be, and "Solid Ball Of Rock" is slightly
reminiscent of "Faith Healer" (Alex Harvey song), that's where the
inspiration came from, and I wanted it to be a cross between
"Solid Ball Of Rock", "Won't Get Fooled Again", that kind of
We didn't want to rip anyone off but
that's why the beginning sounds like that beginning. It's the
guitar chords that go on, it's just a nice beginning. A lot of
people say it should open the album. Whether it should or not I
"Solid Ball Of Rock" was one of the very few times you've used
an outside writer or a cover version.
It was written by three guys; Bram Tchaikovsky (ex Motors
guitarist) and 2 members of his band. It's actually about Jerry
Lee Lewis, it's very rock'n'roll, well, more country rock'n'roll.
He wrote two songs, one we didn't get on with, it was more lovey
dovey, ballady, but "Solid Ball Of Rock" I loved it straight away.
We changed a couple of things on it, I completely changed the
arrangement, and used the "Faith Healer" beginning, and it totally
worked, brilliant. It's a great song.
How did the Motorhead tour come about?
I think the tour came about with me and Lemmy saying we should
tour again. We met at all the festivals. They do turn it on,
really perform, when we're with them. I don't mean that in a
derogatory way, it's just how it is.
I saw you both at their 30th anniversary show and that was
It was a good night, and they do rise to the occasion. It was
pretty cool. And we've got new agents, so it's working out. We're
not doing the whole tour, just Britain and I think Germany.
What session have you done that fans might not know about?
Errrrm. I would imagine most of them they would know about. The
last thing I did was, I think I'm singing on Doro's new album,
that's the last session I did. She sent me a demo of a new song
and I sang the chorus on it. So that's the session I've done that
no-one knows about - yet. The one before was Helloween, I did the
Is there anything unreleased in the archives?
I don't think so, Graham Oliver's released it all, hasn't he?
(Laughs) I have a load of old cassette tapes, I found a couple
just recently. Brilliant ones actually, one from our first
headline tour of America, in Oklahoma, from a Mobile that was
Bet that would be great to hear?
It is. I've just had it transferred to digital, and there's one
from Jersey, 1980, Wheels Of Steel tour. Fantastic. So yeah, there
are a lot of live things around, but it's such a legal battle,
with copyrights and things.
I own the tape, I
have the rights to the tape, but it's always complicated with
royalties. You either put it out and take all the money yourself,
or you put it out and share it with all the members that were on
it, and sometimes that's not possible to do.
I don't know. If you issue it as a bootleg, nobody gets anything,
there's no publishing, there's nothing. I think what we should
probably do is put it with something else. But that's a nightmare
with royalties too because you have to split the royalties up.
It's an absolute fucking nightmare.
Is there anyone you'd really like to play with?
Biff We'd love to tour with Metallica. We recently just made
friends with them, again, after 25 years in the wilderness. We'd
like to get them over, do a couple of songs, that would be cool. I
get asked to do a lot of albums these days. Just been asked by
this band from Scandinavia, they sent me a song.
What was the first record you bought?
Kinks - "You Really Got Me"
What was the last record you bought?
New Metallica album, got that today. Very recent! I didn't buy the
t-shirt though, for £8.
What is your all time favourite record?
Oh that's really difficult. So many favourites. I'll what changed
things, when I first got into AC/DC, it was "Dirty Deeds". That
really had a big effect on me. The simplicity of the songs, the
power of the riff.
I think that album, and
"Highway To Hell". They probably influenced "747" and "Wheels Of
Steel". Before that, me and Paul were into progressive, you know,
Yes, stuff like that.
And the other two were more
into Free, bands like that, more bluesy, one guitarist with a bit
of wailing on top. It wasn't until I turned them onto AC/DC, we
went to see them at Sheffield University, I think it was 1977. I
think also the first Van Halen album. That was a massive album for
guitarists. Not really for singers.
What's the most valuable or interesting record in your
Probably the pressings of Wheels Of Steel and Strong Arm Of
The Law, the wax / acetate pressings.
What fact about you would most surprise fans?
(this is the third or fourth time I've interviewed Biff and it
does surprise me)
What music gets you dancing?
Anything with a good drum beat really. For me music is guitar
riff, drum beat, melody. AC/DC, Motorhead, anything like that, if
it's got two of those things it's alright.
What would you change about your past?
Probably being more courageous, in the business sense, in the
early days. We got pushed around a lot.
Do you still play the bass?
Yes, Yes I do. And my daughter plays the bass. If I'm writing a
song, with (guitarists) Doug and Paul, I'll play bass.
Sometimes we write songs as a four piece and I'll play bass, if
one of the guys can't make it. Nibbs (Carter, bassist) will play
drums if Nigel can't make it. There's a couple of songs on the new
album that were written that way. Nibbs will still do it on the
album, it's just the songwriting.
When did you last play bass with Saxon?
I've played live, a few times. If you go on Youtube you'll see me
playing. There's a song where I play bass and a Nibbs played
guitar. And our manager plays bass too. He played on stage at
Wacken with us. He used to be in a band.
Do you still see any of your old Coast band mates?
Occasionally I'll see - there's only one other guy because we were
a three piece, with me and Paul (Quinn, Saxon guitarist), but
sometimes I'll see guys from the bands we were in at the time.
What's the stupidest thing you've ever read about yourself?
That I've read about myself? I can't really remember, actually.
Some of the April Fool ones, where I had a restaurant, that was
quite funny. I think, I don't know really. We all did stupid
things in the 80s.
How much of Spinal Tap was based on Saxon?
I'd say the bass player is based on Saxon, Steve Dawson. I was
asked that question earlier, the bass player, the actor, travelled
with us, but it was such an insignificant thing, we were on tour,
we didn't notice. I don't think anything that was in the film,
because we would have been too young.
were too young, we weren't up to that level of having Stonehenge,
I don't think we even had the Eagle. I don't remember any stories
of us getting lost anywhere, we weren't of that type. That was
more the big American bands of the 70s, or like Sabbath and
Purple. But the bass player, the actor, got a vibe off Dawson.
Could you have been a teacher or a preacher?
Or a soldier? One never knows, that's what the song is all about.
It was difficult to find things that worked. Obviously I could
have been a soldier, because I write a lot of songs about war, a
preacher, I was brought up as a Methodist, so I could have been. A
teacher, I don't know, but never a lawyer. But we all could have
been some odd professions.
Is there a physical release of the single?
We'd like the single to do well, obviously. I think it's going to
be available for download, and all on the same day, on all
platforms, there'll be a radio promo, with a b-side, and I think
they're thinking about doing something like Metallica did, where
you buy the single and get a shirt. I don't know yet, they're
trying to get that together. It's difficult these days to get them
to put a single in the shops.
It'll keep the collectors happy...
Yes it will, and the radio promos usually end up on the market. On
the internet, you can buy them. We've done a version of a track
off the new album, with some bottleneck, just me and Doug, one
take, we did it in France, and that's the b-side. It's from our
NEXT album, the re-recorded classics Unplugged. That's what's
coming out, not next year, but after.
Did you get everything sorted after the house fire in France?
Yes, we get everything sorted now, but we might be moving back to
England. It was very sad. We all got out OK, they're recovered
now. It takes a long time actually, it's quite traumatic. It's not
the house, it's everything that's in it. It's sad. I lost a couple
of guitars I've had since the 70s. They've been on every album.
I hope you like the new album, I hope you won't be disappointed.
It's a bit heavier,
The chorus on "Live To Rock" sounds a bit like "Innocence", which
was probably the best album from a production point of view. Just
not so good on the packaging and artwork.
Interview © September 2008 Joe Geesin
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