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Interview: BIFF BYFORD (Saxon)

Rock Stars...  

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 year.

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 France.

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 special.

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 much?

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 too.

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 the band?

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?

Biff: 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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