National Rock Review talks with Biff Byford, front man of NWOBHM legends Saxon about their upcoming, “Warriors of the Road” 35th anniversary UK tour.
NRR: Back in December, the tail end of your UK tour had to be delayed because of Nigel Glocker’s sudden health problems. That must of been a worrying time for you all. How’s Nigel doing now?
Byford: Nigel’s doing OK actually. He’s on the mend basically, but he won’t be fit next week or anything, but yeah he’s doing okay. He’s up and about, walking about and going out for walks and things and trying to get fit.
NRR: Great, it’s good to hear he’s on the mend. You are about to resume your tour next month. You’ve got shows in Newcastle, Nottingham, Wolves, Oxford and London.
Byford: That’s right yeah.
NRR: This time you’ve got Sven Dirkschneider, who is the son of Udo from Accept taking over from Nigel for the remaining dates. How did you come about meeting with Sven?
Byford: Sven was Nigel’s drum tech for last year actually, and he didn’t do all the gigs, but he did most of the tour, so we thought it would be a good idea because he knows the songs since he’s been on tour with us, so it was the best choice really.
“I was listening to Zeppelin you know so that sort of thing, Sabbath. All the bands that had albums out in the late 60’s, 70’s had influences on us.”
NRR: How are your preparations for the tour going?
Byford: We haven’t really started preparing yet. We’re still basically relaxing, writing. I’m writing stuff with Andy Sneap for the next album. So yeah, we are pretty much relaxed, waiting for it to start. We will just rehearse for a couple of days before the first show. We won’t go too stupid.
NRR: So you are saying you’re writing. Have you got plans to put the album out this year. When are you going to go into the studio?
Byford: We are hoping it will come out this year, but you never know, we just take things as they come really. I’ve started working with Andy doing vocals and things, generally putting all the ideas together. So yeah, it’s going okay but quite slow.
NRR: On this tour what can we expect from the show?
Byford: It’s pretty much the same as the gigs before that were postponed really. It’s still the same tour, you know, 35th anniversary. A mixture of songs old and new, and the featured big three albums of the 80’s, but you know we are doing new songs as well, so it should be good.
NRR: So will Nigel be coming out on the road with you at all?
I think he’s going to come out and meet the VIP’s with us, if he’s well enough. You know that’s what we are planning. So we do these VIP’s for charity and things, so people who bought the tickets hopefully will see Nigel as well, but it all depends how well he is.
NRR: This tour is titled the “Warriors of the Road” and marks the 35th anniversary of Saxon, which is quite some achievement. Did you ever think back then when the band first started out that you would still be going strong 35 years later?
Byford: No, I don’t think anybody knows that do they. You just take it a day at a time really, because we’ve been going 35 years we haven’t really learned to do anything else have we. So (laughing) it’s our only sort of skill is writing and performing music, but it’s not a bad skill.
NRR: Yeah, it’s a pretty good one I think a lot of people would like to be in your shoes.
NRR: Speaking of the 35th anniversary of the band, you are also about to put out a repackaged Heavy Metal Thunder greatest hits album, which is coming out in February and the Saxon Chronicles DVD. Could you tell us a little bit about those?
Byford: Well there’s extra bonus tracks on the DVD, I think compared to the original release. I think there’s the Graspop Festival on there, but generally we re-release these things when new record companies get them. That’s what this is really, it’s a re-release from a new record company that’s got the rights to the old album. Yeah it should be good actually. I mean it’s a different front cover, different artwork, and a few extra bonus things on there.
NRR: I believe on Heavy Metal Thunder you’ve got live at Bloodstock on there.
Byford: Yeah, live at Bloodstock and we’ve got Graspop and we’ve got some Wacken on there as well, so there’s a few bonus things around.
NRR: What’s it like playing at Bloodstock?
Byford: Yeah, it was good actually, the weather was horrendous as usual (laughing), but yeah it was good fun.
NRR: I think that’s always the case with British festivals, we always seem to inherit the bad weather. I don’t think I’ve been to Download yet when it hasn’t rained.
Byford: Yeah I mean it was really, really, raining bad though, but it was alright when we were on stage. Actually it even cleared up. It cleared up, the sun came out and then went back in again when we came off. So it was pretty good really.
NRR: Have you got any plans to play any Summer festivals this year?
Byford: Yeah we will be playing festivals, definitely. We will be playing maybe one or two in the UK, and quite a few across Europe. We will be playing festivals definitely.
“…but I just think that perhaps younger fans can get into the venues in the Europe and the UK.”
NRR: So out of all of those 35 years, is there anywhere or any venue that you would still like to play that you haven’t played yet, like maybe your dream gig?
Byford: No not really. We would like to play the rock stage at Glastonbury, that would be cool. They’ve got some good metal bands on there, some retro bands like us and some new bands, that would be great.
NRR: Over the years many bands have cited Saxon as one of their influences, but who would you say have influenced you guys?
Byford: Oh many bands, all the bands from the sixties, rock bands from the sixties I think influenced us. You know, when I was like 16 or 17, I was listening to Zeppelin you know so that sort of thing, Sabbath. All the bands that had albums out in the late 60’s, 70’s had influences on us.
NRR: What else have you guys got in store for 2015?
Byford: Well the new album, and obviously we are touring America, maybe Japan. We will be busy through 2015. You know making an album, playing festivals and then touring, so yeah.
NRR: How does it differ playing in the US to the UK, what are the crowds like?
Byford: They are probably younger in UK and Europe than they are in America, but I think that has more to do the venues, you know, some of them are over 21 aren’t they? It’s the same sort of volumes, but I just think that perhaps younger fans can get into the venues in the Europe and the UK.
NRR: When you are out on the road yourself do you listen to a lot of music?
Byford: We don’t listen to a great deal of music actually. We are mostly drinking and sleeping really (laughing) on tour, but no we don’t listen to a great deal of music, I must say. I mean if you ask me if I listen to music, mostly on my iPod and it’s a mixture of new and old really.
NRR: Are there any new rock and metal bands that you listen to yourself?
Byford: I quite like the Royal Blood stuff that they are doing. I quite like things like Clutch and that. Yeah some of the new bands are great, they should of mixed a little bit more of Indie Rock into their music, which is pretty cool.
National Rock Review will be bringing you all of the action from Saxon’s show at the O2 Academy in Newcastle on February 3.
Saxon Tour Dates
February 3 – Newcastle Academy
February 4 – Nottingham Rock City
February 5 – Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
February 6 – Oxford Academy
February 7 – London Shepherds Bush Empire