Saxon - 26/12/2007

Saxon was one of the early leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, along with Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. The band was formed in Barnsley in 1977 by vocalist Biff Byford, guitarists Graham Oliver and Paul Quinn, bassist Steve Dawson, and drummer Pete Gill. Originally calling themselves Son of a Bitch, they soon decided to find a more subtle name, settling on Saxon. Like many young metal bands of the day, Saxon found it difficult to land a record deal in post-punk England, but eventually signed with French-based Carrere Records. Though Saxon's 1979 self-titled debut album was marred by a lightweight production job, the band built a strong following touring Britain as support group to MotŲrhead and Nazareth. The band capitalized on this exposure with their sophomore effort the following year. Wheels of Steel featured a much heavier, metallic sound which finally did their songs justice. The album was immediately heralded as a NWOBHM classic by fans and critics alike and the band was apparently on their way.

 

Many albums, line-up changes and years later the band is still around and recently Saxon released their latest effort, a double DVD entitled "To Hell And Back Again". This DVD comes in a top-quality digipak featuring over five hours of playing time and is a perfect example of an excellent price / performance ratio. The double DVD will be released in a 16:9 image format and 2.0 Dolby Digital & 5.1 Audio sound formats.

DVD 1 consists of 15 chapters with lots of interesting glimpses of the band's life between two albums, starting with the "Lionheart" studio recordings and continuing with heaps of clips from the subsequent tour (the tour start in Kiel, sequences from the Graspop Metal Meeting and Wacken Open Air 2004 festivals, shows in London, Glasgow, Paris, and Pratteln, among others, plus the grand finale in Prague), and scenes from the video shoots for "Witchfinder General" and "Beyond The Grave". Most of the 15 chapters include at least one live track, the end of DVD 1 featuring full versions of each number. Makes over two hours playing time all in all.

DVD 2 includes the official "Beyond The Grave", "Witchfinder General", "If I Was You" and "Let Me Feel Your Power" video clips, plus the brand-new, previously unreleased "I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)" with guest appearances by Lemmy Kilmister (MOT÷RHEAD), Angry Anderson (ROSE TATTOO) and Andi Deris (HELLOWEEN). The song will be available as an
Internet single download from October 19. DVD 2 is rounded off with live cuts from Switzerland's Rocksound festival, the Rock For Asia event, and a live duet by Biff Byford and Doro Pesch (performing the JUDAS PRIEST classic "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"). Another three hours of SAXON pulling out all the stops!

 

 

So to get everything to know about Saxon's latest release we got in touch with singer Biff Byford some weeks ago and this is what he had to tell us!!

 

Your new release is not exactly a standard DVD, who came up with the idea to do it this way?

Well, we already had our sort of ďbig DVDĒ which was īThe Saxon Chroniclesī and we wanted this DVD to be more about being on the road. We collected five hours of footage of one song in six different shows! We just wanted to give the fans a flavour of us moving about, a bit like a documentary, thatís how we wanted it to be

 

Did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do on the DVD? Any elements you definitely wanted to add?

We wanted to feature the crew a little bit more than most bands do. And, generally, the different places, travelling around and the different kinds of venues, like from the Graspop festival to a small club.

 

Why did you pick the ĎLionheartí album for this DVD?

Just because weíve been filmed a lot from the moment Lion Heart came out up 'till 'Inner Sanctum'. Thereís some 'Inner Sanctum' footage there, too but the next project or DVD we do will include 'Inner Sanctum'.


We enjoyed watching the DVD and we recognised some Wacken and Graspop footage there, was this filmed especially for the DVD?

No we just film everything now!

 

Do you like travelling or do you prefer being in the studio?

Itís a good sort of mixture really, we like being on the road and we like being in the studio. At the end of the studio time we want to tour, and at the end of the tour we want to be in the studio. Itís fifty-fifty really.

 

Have you received any feedback on the DVD yet?

Yeah we got some great reviews and the fans seem to like it. I think itís good value for money as it is a double DVD with five hours on it. Itís got the new single video on it, too.

 

Are you satisfied with the outcome on the DVD or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

Yeah I really like it! It has this sort of documentary off-the wall kind of feel to it, which is what we really wanted. We didnít want another big glossy DVD of another Wacken or a big gig in London, although we do have that footage available. We might do a special Wacken DVD; ďSaxon over WackenĒ. The last show we did there was quite special with all the big production and everything.

 

 

Can we go back to your latest album 'The Inner Sanctum' for a moment? What do you think are the main differences between 'The Inner Sanctum' and 'Lionheart'?

All the obvious things, really. Itís obviously a different album! Itís very difficult to pin down. The thing is, weíre not predictable, we donít do the same thing over and over again if you know what I mean, musically anyway. Lyrically I do cover the same ground a bit. You canít really tell where weíre going with the different styles sometimes. I just think that 'Lion Heart' was a very British album and 'Inner Sanctum' is not. The 'Inner Sanctum' album is half-Rock Ďn Roll and half-full-on Heavy Metal and I think we explored that more on this album than we did on 'Lion Heart'. I think we found a unique goal for ourselves there. It has a fresh sound but some of the songs are quite traditional.

 

How do you work when youíre writing a new album?

Well, weíre usually just banging things around. I have a studio and me and Paul are actually in there at the moment, weíre writing songs right now for the next album.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a Saxon song?

The first thing we like to get, although we donít always get it, is the guitar riff, the main riff that starts the song. Itís always good to have that. It might only last thirty seconds but we like a nice riff to start with! And then basically weíll work it from there, arranging and picking a format. Along the way weíll decide whether itís going to stay in the same feel or the same tempo or whether weíre going to branch off and go on to other things. And then Iíll be putting melodies on there and the last thing that really goes on are the lyrics.

 

How important is it to you that people listen to the lyrics?

Well, itís quite important. If youíre doing a song about something that means something, you know, not just a song about driving cars fast, but something like ďRed Star FallingĒ I think itís important that people listen but whether they do or not, I donít know. I know I donít! (laughs) Iím a vocalist and I usually just listen to the choruses and the first verse, thatís it! So Iím just as bad as everybody else.. Itís just how people are, really. Some people really get off on the lyrics, and some people donít. I get off on writing the lyrics. If Iím doing something thatís historic or if Iím writing about something thatís important to me, then it matters. I spend a lot of time writing lyrics but I donít know if people actually listen to them. It think maybe people read them in the booklet. Look at some of our older songs, ďCrusaderĒ, for instance, everybody knows the first verse and the chorus, but does anybody know all the verses? The chorus is usually the thing people remember best, especially with Saxon.

 

Both 'Lion Heart' and 'The Inner Sanctum' were produced by yourself and Charlie Bauerfeind, what made him the perfect man for Saxon?

Well, heís a good guy and heís a great engineer, he looks after the sound for us really well and we just bounce off each other really good. And if I leave the studio to go somewhere then I know that heís in charge and itís going to be good.

 

 

Is there a song in which you can clearly hear his vision or ideas?

Yeah, I think that would be "Atila The Hun" ,thereís quite a lot of his input in there. Most of the songs are written before Charlie comes along but heís putting ideas in all the time, heís really the sixth member of the band when weíre making albums. Everyone will just be bouncing ideas around and obviously some people are more sort of bouncy than others, if you know what I mean.

 

Youíve played many major festivals like Wacken and Graspop over the past years. If you compare them to the smaller venues like Paradiso in Amsterdam last March, what do you prefer?

Itís difficult really because obviously when you play the Paradiso or a gig in Hamburg for instance, itís all our fans that are there and itís fantastic. On a festival itís a mixed fan base really. So youíre playing to people that are into us, people whoíve never heard of us, people who might be into us, etc. so I think a festival is quite challenging for a band. I think everybody knows songs like "Princess Of The Night" but I think we also pick up new fans at festivals. There will be young kids going "who the fuck are these guys?" And weíll surprise them so itīs good to play festivals in that way. But itís also good to play the smaller venues because there youíre playing for your hardcore fans. It depends how you want to play into it. If we go on late or last at a festival, I try to just make people enjoy themselves because theyíve been there a long time. Not everybody likes that approach but to me thatís important. If people have been standing in a field for fourteen hours, I think at some point they need to smile a bit and have some fun. So thatís the way we tend to play it.

 

Whatís your opinion on the heavy metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

I think itís great at the moment, actually. Our album sales our going up, weíve just been to Japan which was fantastic and we did a sold out festival in England. Magazines are selling more, websites are doing well. Our website is up to date now and we do a podcast now and then, you have to not be scared to show how it really is. Weíre really into that, into the instant thing you can do with your website. You just have to be not too bothered about looking fantastic all the time! In the real world nobody ever does, do they.

 

Which album has been your greatest musical influence, one that made you think "this is what I want to do"?

Thereís many albums actually. I donít think I really ever heard an album that made me think that. My best friendís brother played in a band and I used to go watch them rehearse, I think thatís what made me want to be a musician, watching older guys play.

 

What was the name of that band?

I donít really know, it was a wacky band, they used to do rock īn roll things like Chuck Berry.

 

Is there anything youíd like to share with us before weíre done?

No not really, you pretty much know everything about us, especially with the internet and podcasts these days! We get an overview of whatís happening around the world as we travel everywhere and I can say truthfully that the metal scene is really good at the moment, I know it is.

 

Thank you for your time!

Youíre welcome, see you at the festivals!

 

(Martina Schouten)

 

 

Current Members

Biff Byford - Vocals (1976-present)
Doug Scarratt - Guitar (1995-present)
Paul Quinn - Guitar (1976-present)
Nibbs Carter - Bass, keyboards (1988-present)
Nigel Glockler - Drums (1981-1987, 1988-1999, 2005-present)
 

 

Former members

Graham Oliver - Guitar (1977-1995)
Steve Dawson - Bass (1977-1986)
Paul Johnson - Bass (1986-1988)
Pete Gill - Drums (1977-1981)
Nigel Durham - Drums (1987-1988)
Fritz Randow - Drums (1998-2004)
JŲrg Michael - Drums (2004-2005)
 

 

Albums

Saxon (1979)
Wheels of Steel (1980)
Strong Arm of the Law (1980)
Denim and Leather (1981)
Power and the Glory (1983)
Crusader (1984)
Innocence Is No Excuse (1985)
Rock the Nations (1986)
Destiny (1988)
Solid Ball of Rock (1990)
Forever Free (1992)
Dogs of War (1995)
Unleash the Beast (1997)
Metalhead (1999)
Killing Ground (2001)
Heavy Metal Thunder (2002)
Lionheart (2004)
The Inner Sanctum (2007)

 

Live

The Eagle Has Landed (1982)
Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies (1989)
Greatest Hits Live (1990)
The Eagle Has Landed - part 2 (1998)
BBC Sessions / Live at Reading Festival '86 (1999)
The Eagle Has Landed - part 3 (2006)