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Biff Byford - Saxon

Interview with Biff Byford from Saxon
by Craig Rider at 24 February 2018, 8:45 AM

Our very own Craig Rider did his first ever interview, having the opportunity to talk with Biff Byford of the legendary SAXON about their new album titled: “Thunderbolt.” Here’s what the seasoned musician had to share:

Hello there good sir, how are you doing today?

I’m doing good.

I have to say that it is an absolute honor to be speak to a living legend such as yourself.

How great, thank you. So did I miss you then Craig, or did you miss me?

I’m not sure to be honest (laughs).

Whatever, don’t matter. We are joking now so, it’s cool - so come on.

Yeah, nevermind! I’ve got time so ha. I have to thank you for delivering a fantastic library of Heavy Metal classics, "Thunderbolt” is your 22nd album and that is quite an astonishing feat. What are your personal favourites/hits on the record?

Oh great, thank you. You should talk a little bit louder Craig, you’re a little bit quiet - or your phone’s quiet, one of the two.

Can you hear me now?

Yeah, that’s better. What are my favourites, did you say? I like them all really, I mean yeah we finished it a couple months ago and then I listened to it and then I didn’t, and I just listened to it again so yeah I like the — too, it’s quite gothic and dark you know so, I like them all really I don’t really have any firm favourites - if you know what I mean, they are all quite an interesting song in their own right.

What are the most memorable memories, while creating Thunderbolt?

Well I work very close with our bass player, Nibbs early on in the album’s early stages…me and Nibbs came up with 85% of the song ideas so, me and Nibbs worked quite close together, formulating the ideas and myself…formulating the melodies, lyrics and arrangements of him supplying the guitar riffs and different things so yeah, memories are really working close with Nibbs and focusing on quite a lot of the songs, and taking the ideas into a room with the band playing them live - that was good fun, some things got changed a little bit at that stage but yeah, just generally every time we had a break we were working on the album really so yeah - good memories.

Nice that sounds good; it’s a really good album, I have to say. How long did it take to complete the writing process?

It’s hard to tell really, because we did it between touring we did 2 tours on America and 1 massive tour on Europe - I would say it took us around, all in all it probably took us around a month to write the album in time, and it took us another month to record it.

Oh wow, that’s quite impressive actually. Were there any difficulties, if any at all?

No, no difficulties no…we don’t really do difficulties now, we’ve gone passed that stage. (laughs) we know what we are doing and we know where we want to go so, it’s just a matter of getting there - that’s the hard part.

Yeah, I can imagine! What were the influences, of the record?

There was no influence really, not musically anyway it was all pretty… you know; I didn’t want to be predictable, so we tried to make every guitar riff different to the last album basically and we don’t really want to go over old ground like the lyric content; I like to have different stories to sing about and go over the melodies really I’ve always said the melodies fire off the guitar parts and vice versa, we don’t listen to a lot of music while making albums, we tend to just array a musical blend of melodies in our private area if you know what I mean, between ourselves…we aren’t really listening to a lot of other bands to tell you the truth.

Yeah, it’s like you don’t want to copy other bands, you know. The songs stand up individually, and they all have a special sort name to it. I did quite enjoy Battering Ram, that was quite a good one.

That’s a great album.

Yeah, very good album.

I don’t know if this one is better than that one or not, I’ll leave that up to the people who listen to it, buy it or wait til the weekend and see what they think.

Every album I have listened to are amazing, I’m quite happy with them.

Yeah, it’s a great album. Yeah, people always say…better than your last album or…it really doesn’t make any difference to it because “Battering Ram” was a couple of years ago and we’ve moved on to our new album so you know, we don’t try to put them together really - “Battering Ram”’s a great album and so is this one; I don’t know, it’s just that we are very lucky I suppose…or maybe not, I don’t know. (Laughs)

I think you are very lucky, personally!


The title track was the first single, and music video and our first taste of the highly anticipated record, which one decided to add the live recordings into the video?

Well we wanted the first track to be, obviously the title track as it makes more sense. And we didn’t do a performance video, it’s mostly footage from the last MOTORHEAD tour we did in 2015 and a couple of Wacken Festivals that we did so we just wanted to put together something that shows the power of SAXON, and the power of that song really so I think that it was very well received. And our second single, we wanted to go with “They Played Rock And Roll” because Lemmy died, while we were touring really, and Fast Eddie died just a week and a half ago, and I asked the fans if they thought it was good to put it out and they said yes so we put it out…it’s a bit of a lyric video but it’s a lyric video with a difference, it’s very sort of focused on 1979 - 1981, we did our first ever tours with MOTORHEAD, it gives a flavour of what it was like in the UK at that time really.

It’s a fantastic tribute, I must say.

Yeah, I like it…and all the MOTORHEAD people like it, which is pretty cool, you know we don’t want to get things out and cash in on somebody elses misfortune if you know what I mean.

It’s still a great tribute to the band, it’s admirable to me.

Great, I’m glad you like it.

I really do, it’s one of my favourite songs on the record.

It’s really strange with albums, especially when you have a selection of songs that are all fairly great, it’s hard to choose your favourite, you have people love this and people love the next thing you know it’s just crazy.

I mean; "Predator”, that was a really unique song.

"Predator”, yeah I mean with “Predator” you either love it or you hate it - that’s one of those songs you know that’s part of the reason we put it on, it’s a bit of a risk…got my mate Johan to do the vocals there, the sub bass vocals so yeah - some people love it, and some did think that it’s a waste of space so it’s quite controversial which is quite a good thing I think. (Laughs) that’s the stage in our career where we can throw in a curveball now and again, I like it.

I honestly thought it was Johan Hegg from AMON AMARTH.

It is, yeah.

Oh it is? Oh wow. Oh brilliant, I didn’t know that.

Yeah, he’s a friend of mine. We like the band and they like us so yeah, he was my first choice actually. And we did it straight away

Yeah, I mean it was quite obvious that it was Johan Hegg as he has a distinct vocal pattern going on. So every time I hear his voice, it’s like that’s Johan Hegg - I was very surprised it was him.

You’re very surprised it sounds like him? Well, you know it’s Rock N Roll - it is surprising. (Laughs)

Yeah, of course! I mean; again because I’m a personal fan of AMON AMARTH, so hearing that was very surprising.

Oh I am as well, I like AMON AMARTH I think they are great.

Very good band.

You know it’s a different, younger generation and he’s a mate of mine and we drank a few ales together so yeah he was my first choice to put Johan together, I did the low opted myself when we did the demo of it, and I just figured it would be nice to have somebody else sing it - like I said it’s not predictable so it appealed to me.

Yeah that’s it; I mean, it freshens up the SAXON machine - sort of thing.

Yeah, I mean it’s just two mates singing together really. It just sounded great to have a different voice with me, I sang it quite crystal clear and his voice is very prominent as well you know, I could have sang it a little but more aggressively but I didn’t want to; I wanted to sing it a bit sweeter and more my image really if you know what I mean. I like the song, it’s great.

Yeah, it’s very good for me.

It’s a very modern riff, very old and rich. (Laughs) that’s why I like it.

“Sons Of Odin”, was a very intricately designed song.

Yeah, well it’s about time I did a song about Saxon with Vikings reallly - a sort of less ambiguous and more in your face lyrically so yeah it’s good; I like it, you know…I’ve got lots of Viking blood and Saxon blood in me so it’s good to do a song about them.

Yeah, I mean I’m personally a fan of bands like MANOWAR, so that was a good song to use for me.

Yeah, they did a song called “Sons of Odin”, did they?

Yeah, they did!

Yeah, I didn’t know - somebody told me yesterday.

Yeah, on the “Gods of War” album – a heavy-hitting song, just as good as your song, one of my favourites on the record…easily.

Yeah well, I only titled it that because I sing the lyric in the first verse…I could have called it Valhalla or anything like that but erm, I thought “Sons of Odin” was good.

Yeah, very unique song. You re-recorded a couple classic songs from the Limited Edition of “Sacrifice”, would you consider re-recording any classic albums?

Release something with “Thunderbolt”, like we did with “Sacrifice”? No we didn’t even think if doing that on this album,

I mean like in the future.

In the future? Well I think next year we might put out The Eagle Has Landed Part 4 and we might call it The Eagle Has Landed 40, because it’s our 40th Anniversary next year. We might put that out next year, that might be good.

I did see it’s the 38th year.

Yeah, we are doing like a VIP package on tour, and the people that you know, buy into that package will get a recording of one of the shows from Europe - we are going to do one in a few weeks. So what we tend to do with live recordings, we tend to give a live recording on my laptop and we’ll just give it away and sign it - I can’t think of anybody who has done that before so we’d quite like doing that.

That sounds really good actually.

Yeah, if people want to sell it on eBay they can do - you know, they have a value to them I suppose. I haven’t seen anybody who has done yet but you can do I suppose, yeah. If the taxman wants some money you can sell it to them… (laughs) for a few dollars or a few pounds.

I’d rather keep all they kinda things you know, for collector’s sake. I mean if you’re a big collector, it’s nice to have that on your side so you can admire it.

Yeah, we like to do special things for fans that’s what we’re into yeah - somebody like to spend money on a VIP we don’t just pop eyes around the corner and sign a few autographs, we tend to just to a nice sort of VIP package where people get to meet, chat and you know

Oh of course, yeah - you need to make it worthwhile.

I’m going to have to go soon, I’m sorry… Craig, that’s it. You wanna keep it to the last couple of questions, then?

Okay, that’s no problem. Yeah, that’s fine. I’ve got a couple more I can ask…

Go on then! (Laughs) shoot!

How busy have you been with gigs and festivals, in general?

How busy have we been this year, or week? This year? So far? We’re not really busy at all really, just doing interviews I suppose - you know, not doing too much. Like, 5-6 interviews a day…I’m doing Europe and America at the same time so it’s a bit of a mindfuck if you know what I mean. (Laughs)

Yeah, I can imagine. Is there any intentions to return to the Bloodstock Festival?

The Bloodstock Festival? Well they asked us this year, but we wanted to go on before JUDAS PRIEST, and they didn’t give us that slot and then they wanted us to go in front of GOJIRA and we said no. We either go on with JUDAS PRIEST or headline, we said no though so we didn’t bother. (Laughs)

Yeah, I can understand. There’s always next year. I’d like to share a beer with you, next year!

Yeah, definitely. Alright then, mate - good talking to you and sorry it messed up early on, I don’t know what happened there.

Thank you. Yeah, sorry about my voice as well… it’s a bit…low?

It’s just very deep.

Yeah, sorry. *laughs* Alright, cool.

Alright then mate, I’ll see you on tour yeah?

Yeah, I’ll definitely see you on tour!

Okay, brilliant. I’ll see ya later, bye.

Thank you for your time, thank you very much. Bye.

No problem.


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