Interview by: Marianne Jacobsen
Saxon is one of those bands that on any day, anywhere, anytime I can listen to and my entire mood goes from meh to awesome within a few chords.
I have always been a fan of swashbucklers, damsels in distress and dragons that breathe fire to protect the castles of powerful wizards. In other words I’m delusional however optimistic at the same time.
On this blessed day, I have been given the task of contacting Lead Singer and all around super cool dude Biff Byford to talk about Saxon’s upcoming limited edition 9 album box set due out March 18, 2016 (also available for pre-order here http://www.myplaydirect.com/demon-music/details/117658672). There are only 500 of them being made, so don’t snooze or you will lose!
Onward to the interview:
Once again the telephone connection fucked up. I am beginning to believe that this is a sign of good luck. I mean…this is like the fourth time (and counting)!
However keeping the faith – finally a connection is made and phone rings –
(ring ring! – except the ringing has a British accent)
BB: Hello there?
MGM: Sir Byford!
MGM: Tis I Maid Marianne – the Baroness of Beer and Bacon!!!
BB: The what? (laughter)
MGM: Congratulations on this new collection Eagles and Dragons!
BB: Yes the 9 album box set.
MGM: I love it!
BB: You like it!
MGM: Well I have to say that I have been a huge fan of Saxon since my teens and the first time I got to see Saxon perform live was in 1986.
BB: Oh yeah where was that?
MGM: As a place called The Concert Hall in Toronto (now the MTV Canada building)
BB: All right man cool!
MGM: Yeah I used to wear a white fringy leather jacket just like yours. (This is my friend Jackie’s jacket – however she was kind enough to share so I could look as cool as I felt).
BB: All right!
MGM: Yeah so this is an epic huge amazing moment for me being able to talk to you and thank you for being such a great leader of the metal movement for so long.
BB: Right then!
MGM: Ok – back to business! How long has Paul Gregory been doing the art for Saxon’s albums?
BB: 1984 or 1983 – the Crusader album was his first album cover for us.
MGM: One of the things I have noticed with Saxon’s music and overall vibe is that it is uplifting and motivating – as opposed to other metal that is more dark and gloomy.
Do you think that this focus has been a key to Saxon’s longevity?
BB: I think it could be. I never really thought about it to tell you the truth. A lot of our songs are quite uplifting and quite positive. They are not really from the dark and negative side. Saxon has gone there but not very often.
MGM: For me I find that Saxon songs remind me of football chants that everyone can sign along to.
BB: You might be right about that. They are Anthemic aren’t they? A lot of people like to sing them all at the same time.
MGM: Even if you sing it wrong it’s the effort that counts right?
MGM: How has the music/metal scene changed for Saxon over the years? You guys are coming up on 40 years of performing yes?
BB: Our first album came out in 1979 so about 36/37 years ago. And you know this box collection covers the 90s through to 2009 – so fairly recently. It’s a great collection of the band showing the morphing over the years into the Saxon that we are today. It’s a good package and something that gives you an idea of what we have been doing and really an important piece for the collectors.
MGM: I also look at it as a way to kind of open the doors to newer or young fans that weren’t around when these albums were originally released.
BB: Yes, there are a lot of young people getting into the “old stuff”. Once you get past that the musicians are older you realize the music is ageless.
MGM: I think I would put that down to quality writing on behalf of Saxon.
I kind of look at Saxon as that “special occasion china” that you keep forever and never throw away.
BB: (laughter) Yeah well we try hard to write good songs. Writing a good rock song is always the first issue. We always have to have a great guitarist and then I like to have a great melody – I think it takes some time to get to that point. Sometimes it happens all at once – that’s where the spontaneity comes from.
MGM: Are you still inspired?
BB: Yeah I’d say for sure we are still inspired. You just need to find something that makes you feel that you are on a good run and go with it.
MGM: So I guess you are on a good run then eh?
BB: Yeah it’s a good run and we aren’t tired yet!
MGM: Over the years when I have always thought of you as the Sir Lancelot of Metal – is that ok?.
BB: Yeah – Sir Lancelot or Lionheart – yeah that’s pretty cool.
MGM: Ok and always the burning question with me is: When are you coming back to Canada? I know you played the Phoenix the last time you were here and it was a great show!
BB: We are putting tours together now for winter. We are looking at coming back to North America at some point. It’s difficult right now because there are not many months left this year. We might have to come over in early 2017. We are trying to get something together, that’s for sure.
MGM: With this 9 record collection it’s a great stepping stone for new fans. How would you describe Saxon to a new or curious fan?
BB: We are a unique British band that write a unique style that makes it Heavy Metal with a touch of Class. We cross the line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and we always have tripped that line. I think that Saxon’s music is entertaining.
MGM: To say the very least!!!
MGM: So you have been in this band with Paul Quinn since the very beginning. What’s that like since most people don’t go to jail that long for killing someone?
BB: It’s amazing. I’ve had 3 wives over that time! (laughter) . Paul is a great and crazy man. He’s adorable and a lovely guy!
MGM: Obviously a good travel partner?
BB: Yeah, yeah he actually just goes to sleep! (laughter) He’s the kind of guy who can fall asleep anywhere. It’s a bit annoying on long flights when he’s asleep and I’m awake for 20 hours!
MGM: With so many years and life experiences under Saxon’s belt – are there any highlights that are outstanding?
BB: I actually think the whole trip has been great. We’ve had more highs than lows and I think – there was a time in the 90s when our music wasn’t very popular in the press or in the media. However we stuck to it and then you have bands like Metallica who say that Saxon influenced them, so then you have a lot of their fans checking us out. So I think that sticking together and keeping it going and staying inspired even during the down periods.
MGM: Do you sometimes feel like you might have been born in the wrong century?
BB: I could have been although if I had been I wouldn’t be where I am today. I doubt that I would have been a Court Minister – I probably would have been beheaded or something.
MGM: Yeah well I probably would have been burned alive so you are in good company.
BB: Yeah because you’d been a witch.
MGM: Well actually I would have been that girl that didn’t fit in so everyone called her a witch (the history nerd has arrived).
BB: Yeah! (laughter)
MGM: I know that you are running late. I just want to ask one more thing of you Sir Byford. I just watched Wacken Louder Than Hell (great music documentary if anyone is interested) and in it you sang Denim and Leather with another one of my rock heroes Doro!
BB: Yes that’s right!
MGM: So I was hoping that you might sing the chorus of Crusader with me!
BB: With you? Right now?
MGM: (FANGURL SQUEAL) – Ok I just want you to know that I’m not the best singer however I believe that it’s the thought that counts.
BB: Well Ok I think we can do that!
Once again thanks to MGM another Fangurl dream has come true.
If you wish to listen to me butcher my favourite Saxon song. Listen below. You might want to grab a tissue in case your ears start to bleed.
Yes that’s right…if you listened Sir Byford told me, “Don’t quit your day job.” Keeping that in mind – with the keyboard as my sword and the words as my shield I will return to the world of Fangurl knowing this is where I belong.
Thank you Sir Byford and Saxon for being with me all these years giving me hope that knights in shining armor still exist.
So go out, Buy Eagles and Dragons, go to a show and buy a shirt!!!!!
SAXON FOR LIFE!!!!