Biff, frontman for Saxon, spoke with me for a few minutes about their 22nd album release, and their upcoming tour with Judas Priest. We talked about some of the inspiration for their new tracks and the nostalgia from the golden age of Rock and Rolls, the 80’s.
With this new album, they were able to connect with fans on a deeper level by doing a pledge campaign and giving pledged fans special updates and incentives throughout the production of their album.
Check out saxon747.com for updates on their tour, their album release, and new singles and music videos releasing soon! There’s even still time to pledge if you want to be a part of their album and tour inner circle.
SideStageMagazine: Hi, how are you?
Biff Byford: Fine thank you.
I saw that you just had a birthday, so I wanted to start out and say “Happy Birthday.”
Thank you very much. Very nice of you.
So I listened to your new album, and I really love it, so I’d love to talk about that and your upcoming tour.
Yeah, with [Judas] Priest.
Yeah! That’s exciting! I know you guys toured with them, was it almost 30 years ago that you toured for Wheels of Steel and British Steel?
Well, we did a tour—we did a few shows with them last year in America, no, in 2016, but we haven’t done a tour with them in quite a long time. Must be 1980 maybe?
Actually it was the first European tour we ever did with Judas Priest. I think we had Wheels of Steel in the charts and they had British Steel, so it was two Steels together.
And now this is going to be one of your bigger tours?
With Priest, yeah.
Yeah. We’re looking forward to it, we love Priest, they’re good friends of ours. It should be good. It should be good for the fans because you’ve got the new Saxon album and the new Judas Priest album coming out within 5 weeks of each other. So it’s a little bit like the 80’s really.
Yeah, it’s really good timing. I noticed in your album, there’s a lot of Greek mythology in your tracks.
Well, there’s one track with Greek Mythology, not the other ones.
[Correction to previous question, there is Norse mythology and other mythologies sprinkled into the tracks]
Oh just one, OK.
Just one, our title track, “Thunderbolt.” We always have a lot of songs about history or mythical things.
That one was one of my favorites. That one, and “Nosferatu.”
Oh, you like “Nosferatu?”
A lot of people are picking up on “Nosferatu. We actually wrote it for a film, but I don’t know if they’re going to use it or not. But it’s a good subject, Nosferatu, or Dracula for a song about that. It’s quite a gothic song, the way we’ve done it.
Yeah. The instrumentals just worked so well with the music. It created a dark mood for this dark creature.
Yeah, it flows really well. It’s in waltz time too, so you can dance to it.
Absolutely. I like all of the tracks, actually, but those two are my favorite.
It’s good to have a favorite. Different people have different flavors, we’re finding. We have to wait and see what people think of the album. People seem to like it, so it’s good.
So, you guys have been crowdfunding this one, correct?
Yeah. We’re doing a pledge campaign. People can buy all sorts of different things on pledge if they want to get involved with that. We like pledge, it’s the first time we’ve done it, we’ve never done anything like it before, so it’s a little bit of an experiment for us, but I think people like the extra stuff they can get.
I’m seeing people do that more and more for their projects, and it at a minimum connects them to their fans really well, which I think is really cool.
Being a part of the pledge is fantastic, and they get something for their money, and it’s not too expensive. I don’t like the $1,000 pledges —the highest one we have is $250 I think, or $500 [British pounds equivalent]— some of them are like $4,000, and I don’t really like that, I’m not into that. I like the special stuff, definitely.
It’s a great way to give back to your supporters.
Yeah! They’ve been very involved with the production of the album basically. We’ve already done it, so they can’t really get involved with the recording of the album, but they can get involved with the touring side of things. They can come and meet us, and the rest of it.
I saw on your website, you were talking about “They Played Rock and Roll,” and you said something about you wanted to take your older listeners back to that time, but you also wanted to take your newer listeners to a time, kind of the “golden Age of Rock and Roll.”
It was a pretty crazy time in England in ’79, we wanted to give the flavor of that time when we toured. Our first tour was with Motörhead in 1979. I just wanted to take people back to that time a little bit. It was a really chaotic crazy time. But the video is going to drop on the 22nd of January.
I’ll look out for it! I feel like I’m one of those people that I should have been born in that era, so it did take me back to a time I wasn’t even here for.
A lot of people are like that. A lot of people connect with the ‘80s scene. I think it was such an important part of music, for heavy rock really.
Yeah. It was one of the last good generations of music.
Yeah. The next sort of big explosion was Grunge with Pearl Jam and Nirvana that the next wave of music that came along. But the ‘80s a great time for British heavy metal bands, definitely.
I noticed that your sound today is still pretty true to the sound back then, which I personally love that.
Yeah, we try to use essentially the same kind of guitar sounds that we did back then. We try to have a bit more modern edge to it, but the guitar sounds are definitely a bit more retro on this album. And obviously my voice is my voice. I just sing, no special effects on those. But yeah, we stay pretty connected to the ‘80s, but we look forward.
I don’t want to linger on it, but I did want to give you my condolences for Fast Eddie. I know you guys were good friends, and that song was dedicated to Motörhead.
Yeah, it is dedicated to Motörhead. We wrote the song quite a long time ago and we wanted it to be the second single. So I asked the fans on Facebook what they thought about releasing it now that Eddie’s died. They seemed pretty cool with it, so we’re going to put it out on the 22nd.
I’m looking forward to the music video and all that you’re releasing, so I’ll be on the lookout for it.
It’s from ’79/’80 so I think people will enjoy it. It’s quite surprising how things were back then.
Another one that I really loved was your “Roadie Song.” Nobody ever writes a song to the people who do all the dirty work!
Yeah, I wasn’t going to put it on the album, because the status was a bit different, but friends and family said we should put it on there, so we put it on there. I think it works after “Speed Merchants.” I don’t think it would fit after “Nosferatu,” but it works quite well after “Speed Merchants.”
It works at the end, because they’re the guys who are going to clean up after the show, you know?
I think so. I don’t think it could have gone in the middle, but I think it works well at the end.
What are you guys looking forward the most for your tour? Are you ready?
We’re getting prepared. We’re all on diets and exercise. So yeah, we’re getting prepared for the tour. It’s going to be great. We start in U.K./Europe first, and then we’ve got a week off then go to America. It’s going to be really good, I’m looking forward to it!
Are you guys coming to the East Coast in the States?
We are yeah. I think we’re doing coast-to-coast. A lot of cities. It’ll be a lot of good fun. I think we’re doing some of our own shows on our days off maybe. If it doesn’t clash too much, but it’s going to be great.
Are you doing any rock festivals?
No, we’ve not been asked to do any festivals in America. We aren’t really in the festival scene. We’ve done a couple, two or three festivals, but we don’t really get invited to many festivals. Maybe after the Priest tour, things will change.
Hopefully! Is there anything else you want to tell people about your album, maybe they’re not pledgers so maybe they’re not getting the updates?
Check it out! It’s our 22nd album. A lot of people in America already know Saxon, and a lot of people used to know Saxon but maybe are not quite aware that we’re still making albums, but young fans are getting into the band, especially in America. We’re coming, and keep the faith and fill your heads with heavy metal!
Well, thank you for your time today! You guys have a lot of exciting stuff coming out, so we’ll definitely be on the lookout for it!
OK then, good to talk to you, and we’ll see you later on in the year probably!