Interview with Biff Byford, Saxon – May 2012

I recently spoke to Saxon frontman Biff Byford to talk about Saxon’s new DVD release – Heavy metal thunder, Eagles over wacken, live dates, and their next album…

Planetmosh: You’ve just released your new live DVD – Heavy metal thunder, Eagles over wacken.  What made you choose Wacken as the setting  for the DVD ?

Biff: We’ve recorded every performance we’ve done at Wacken.  We and the people at Wacken thought it would be a good time to release a commemorative DVD of our performances there.  It was their 20th anniversary a couple of years ago and our 30th anniversary so it seemed to go well together.

Planetmosh: Looking at the DVD there are quite a few versions – the DVD by itself, the DVD and CD package, a double CD, and vinyl plus a box set.

Biff: Yes there are a lot of packages.  I didnt have much to do with that, only putting things together, it’s the record company that’s organised all that but it’s quite a good thing for fans.  If you want the full package it’s not cheap, but I think it’s a good package.

Planetmosh: Saxon is a band with a strong English identity.  Why do you think you’re so popular in Germany?

Biff:  The Germans love English classic rock.  They love the English way of playing heavy metal, Judas Priest, Saxon and all those type of bands really I think.  It’s an international festival and people come from all over the world but I think initially it was just a German festival, but yeah the German audiences love the way we play.

Planetmosh:  You also get a lot of pyrotechnics at Wacken that you don’t get over here.

Biff:  Well it’s a headline show in front of 70,80,90 thousand people so you have to put on a different show than playing Hammersmith – it’s a much bigger event.  It’s a bit like the 80’s in a way, when we headlined big shows in the 80s, it’s similar.  We do a similar thing at Sweden Rock as well when we headline there, so there are some festivals where the promoters have a lot of faith in us.

Planetmosh: You’re due to play Wacken again this year.  What are your plans for the set?

Biff: Nothing really, not too much planning going on.  There’ll be lots of pyros and things obviously, lots of flames, but I think really it’s the setlist we’ll work on and try and do a special setlist.  2009 was a setlist that was picked by the fans so it was a little bit of a strange setlist, a few surprises in there, but this time I think it will be a full-on high entertainment set.

Planetmosh: You’re playing Hammersmith at the end of May with Judas Priest.  That’s a great lineup for fans of British heavy metal.

Biff: Yeah they’re good friends of ours are Priest and we played a few shows in Spain with them last year, and I think they wanted us to play Hammersmith as it might be their last show apparently.  Yeah we like Priest and it’s a good package for the fans.  You’ve got a new band on first (Kobra and the Lotus), then you’ve got us and then Judas Priest, so it’s a good package with lots of great songs.

Planetmosh:  How difficult is it being the support?  You’ve got a shorter set than usual so choosing what to include in the setlist must be quite hard.

Biff: Yeah, Saxon are kind of like Judas Priest, we have so many big songs, and thats the problem.  We’ll try and choose them wisely if we can.  Leaving songs out is the hardest thing.

Planetmosh: You’ve been nominated for best UK band in the metal hammer Golden Gods awards.  How does it feel to be nominated? How important are awards like this to you?

Biff:  I think it’s good that we’ve been nominated.  We’ve waited a long time for acclaim and people to respect our music, and we are a great live band, there’s no denying that, so I think it’s great that people are finally giving us our credit.

Planetmosh: What’s the progress with work on the new album?

Biff:  Good. We actually start physically recording tomorrow.  At the moment we’re just routining in a few tracks.  I’ve written a song about the first emperor of China, the Terracotta army, so we’re routing in that at the moment and writing lyrics and trying to get the melodies together.  That one’s called “Guardians of the tomb”.

Planetmosh: When do you expect to release the album?

Biff:  Well we’ll take our time on the album but it’ll be ready for January/February 2013, and then we’ll do a world tour.  Obviously this year we’re not doing too many shows in England so next year we’ll do a full-on tour.  We did 18 shows on the last UK tour, so I think we’d like to play maybe 20 shows – that would be better.

Planetmosh: You said that one song on the new album is about the Chinese emperor, but what generally are your inspirations for writing the lyrics?

Biff: Life generally and attitude.  We do quite a lot of attitude songs don’t we, like “Never Surrender”, so I get quite a lot of ideas from attitude and quite a lot from history – history and geography.  I’m writing lyrics for a song about always having to wait, wait, wait for everything, so I’m writing a song called “Standing in a queue” *laughing*, so hopefully that will be on the next album.

Planetmosh:  Well you can’t get more British than that.

Biff: Exactly.  I seem to spend half my life standing in a queue.

Planetmosh:  Thank you for your time.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.