BIFF BYFORD SAXON INTERVIEW


Saxon were at the forefront of the NWOBHM movement influencing countless other musicians. During the 80s they were one of the biggest heavy metal bands. Today their fanbase is still strong and their music just

as fierce. As they release their latest album, Battering Ram, Photogroupie caught up with singer Biff Byford to find out about album 21.

PHOTOGROUPIE (PG): TELL ME A BIT ABOUT IT YOUR NEW ALBUM, BATTERING RAM

BIFF BYFORD (BB) : I'd like people to listen to the album in its own merit. It's a bit of a masterpiece for us far as our genre goes. I think people should listen to it. I don't want them to agree with me, but I think they should definitely listen and see what's happening in there. The video for Battering Ram is on you tube and the new single Queen Of Hearts is ready. It's all systems go. I like the song, it sounds great. Lyrically it makes you think a bit.

PG: THERE'S ANOTHER GREAT SONG ON THE ALBUM ENTITLED KINGDOM OF THE CROSS. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

BB: That's picking up a lot of interest. I didn't know if people would like that or not because it's a bit of an out there thing to do. But I had my own way on that and put it on there. It's coming up to the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, so it's a current song. I wrote the poem about two years ago for the Centenary of World War One. The poem has been online for a while but Nigel has an idea for a keyboard part and we put the two together. I've seen the graveyards of the Somme and I had this idea to call it the Kingdom Of The Cross.

PG: I TAKE IT YOU'RE INTERESTED IN ALL THE HISTORY OF THE WAR?

BB: Yeah, it's always interesting. The First World War is bizarre how it started, two cousins falling out. The Second World War is understandable with the Nazis, but the First World War is a bit of a mystery to me. If you look at the documentaries and read the books it's a bit weird; It started a chain of events which led to millions of young lads getting killed.

PG: YOU HAD YOUR OWN PERSONAL TRAGEDY WHEN YOUR HOUSE BURNT DOWN IN 2005. LUCKILY EVERYBODY WAS SAFE.

BB: Yeah. I lost a lot of personal possession, you can never replace them. It takes a long time to get over that. You have to re collect things.

PG: SO WHAT DO YOU COLLECT NOW?

BB: You have to collect something, Especially in this business, you get given discs and stuff. People give you things so I keep them, I get given jewelry all the time. I try to wear as many bits that people give me on stage as I can. I get given rings and things like that. When I'm in America, people give me Native American Cherokee bracelets, I'm wearing quite a lot of them right now because I've just come back from tour there.

PG: HOW DID THE BAND APPROACH THE WRITING AND RECORDING OF THE ALBUM?

BB: Well it's our 21st album, (jokes) so we're old enough now to know what we're doing. Me and the bass player started it all off and we had a few ideas and decided to make it more focused. There are some quite interesting guitar riffs going and we push the boundaries a bit. We wanted to keep it more focused on hard rock/ heavy metal rather than have intermittent rock and roll songs on there. The album has a heavier edge to it although it's still very melodic.

PG: DID YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY?

BB: It was a bit different this way, the boys were available in bits and pieces. We all went in and had a thrash around with the songs live in the studio. Then when we recorded the boys came up as and when they were needed really. The original takes were live, but then whatever needed replacing was replaced later. We spent a long time on the vocals for this album. I wasn't producing so I had more time on my hands. I was able to stretch my voice and maybe have a bit more fun with it. People have said it's the best vocal I've done.

PG: YOU'VE STILL GOT A POWERFUL ROCK VOICE AND IV'E HEARD YOU SAY THAT YOU DON'T WARM UP. HOW DO YOU KEEP IT IN GOOD SHAPE?

BB: When you're a professional singer you are always aware of your vocal chords and larynx. You get used to doing things that aren't stupid to it, like drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels or something. I tend to drink wine because it's a much smoother drink, it's not so hard on you voice. It's a strain on the lungs as-well, the lung muscles take quite a lot of hammering when you are on tour. Sleep is a good thing especially for your throat. Camomile tea is good and aspirin every day, that works and one or two ibuprofen before you go on-stage that stops the swelling when you've finished. They're all opera singer dodges these, I picked them up from an opera singer travelling on a train through Italy.

PG: DO YOU EVER WORRY ABOUT STRAINING IT FROM ALL THAT HARD ROCK BELTING?

BB: I strain it all the time, you just have to be careful and let it heal after. Talking is a really bad. If you are talking all day and doing interviews and stuff and then have to go on stage later you can feel the difference. I do experiment, I have fun with it really. I've done a couple of Gillan notes on this album, Child In Time type of thing; but whether I'll do them live, I've no idea. Ian (Gillan) did a whole song full of them. It's a bit hard to do that every night.

PG: THIS IS ALBUM 21 FOR THE BAND, IT'S QUITE RARE FOR A BAND TO HAVE SUCH A HIGH OUTPUT – HOW DO YOU KEEP IT FRESH?

BB: I'm a workaholic. I'm a taskmaster, I'm always pushing things to the limit. I'm not really a perfectionist. If something works I'll go with it, I don't want to polish shit. I'm a bit of a punk really, I like it fresh and aggressive. If it's going to be a full on metal song, I like it to be as if we are playing in your living room, that type of sound. I'm not into the big choirs or the big production thing anymore, I've gone off that. I think that's yesterday's sound.

PG: SAXON ARE ONE OF THE BANDS CREDITED WITH THE NEW WAVE OF BRITISH HEAVY METAL, THAT MUST BE A PROUD ACHIEVEMENT?

BB: Yeah. I think more people in America go on that rather than Europe, because there are more American bands that say we influenced them like Megadeth, Pantera and Metallica. All those bands were just starting or writing in the 80s when we were quite big along with Iron Maiden. If you listen to our early albums and songs like Heavy Metal Thunder, Motorcycle and 20,000 ft they are all really fast aggressive songs. Motö rhead and early Maiden were doing the same thing.

PG: WHAT DO YOU THINK GIVES THE GENRE SUCH LONGEVITY?

BB: I think it's the songs that create the longevity. When you've had some big hits early in your career I think they're in your DNA. You have to want to continue, some bands don't want to carry on.

PG: SAXON ARE ONE OF THE BANDS CREDITED WITH THE NEW WAVE OF BRITISH HEAVY METAL, THAT MUST BE A PROUD ACHIEVEMENT?

BB: Yeah. I think more people in America go on that rather than Europe, because there are more American bands that say we influenced them like Megadeth, Pantera and Metallica. All those bands were just starting or writing in the 80s when we were quite big along with Iron Maiden. If you listen to our early albums and songs like Heavy Metal Thunder, Motorcycle and 20,000 ft they are all really fast aggressive songs. Motö rhead and early Maiden were doing the same thing.

PG: WHAT DO YOU THINK GIVES THE GENRE SUCH LONGEVITY?

BB: I think it's the songs that create the longevity. When you've had some big hits early in your career I think they're in your DNA. You have to want to continue, some bands don't want to carry on.

#ROCK #METAL

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