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
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
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,
Are you satisfied with the outcome
on the DVD or would you have liked to have changed anything in
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
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
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
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
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)
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)
Wheels of Steel (1980)
Strong Arm of the Law (1980)
Denim and Leather (1981)
Power and the Glory (1983)
Innocence Is No Excuse (1985)
Rock the Nations (1986)
Solid Ball of Rock (1990)
Forever Free (1992)
Dogs of War (1995)
Unleash the Beast (1997)
Killing Ground (2001)
Heavy Metal Thunder (2002)
The Inner Sanctum (2007)
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)