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Interviews : “This album looks to be one of those special albums” – An Interview With Biff Byford (Saxon)

By on March 16, 2018

Saxon – Biff Byford

With a history, every bit as relevant and important to heavy metal as Iron Maiden and Motörhead, Biff Byford, the vocalist and man at the centre of NWoBHM survivors Saxon reckons the new album, Thunderbolt, is just a bit special. 22 albums into a career that has seen headline slots at Wacken, a guest appearance at Metallica’s 30th-anniversary show in San Francisco and a flourishing career through the 90’s when metal was as popular as a turd in a punchbowl… his opinion is more than just offhand remarks.

“The album (Thunderbolt) is getting fantastic reviews. So, everything is a go. I don’t think I’ve read a bad review yet so obviously, this album looks to be one of those special albums that people really like. It’s selling really well, we’ve had ridiculous chart performance in France and a number five in Germany. That is the best chart position ever. Top 30 in the UK…. I think we had to pull one out the bag for this one because Battering Ram (’15) was great. I just focused a little bit more on this album because I wasn’t producing it with Andy, I let Andy do it himself. It just gave me a bit more time to work on melodies and arrangements and different things.”

The ‘Andy’ mentioned is the famed producer Andy Sneap. A member of reactivated (and critically overlooked) NWoBHM outfit Hell, Sneap also has dozens of producing credits to his name as he has worked with the biggest names in the metal biz. Throw in the recent appointment as Glenn Tipton’s nominated replacement as Judas Priest flog the new album Firepower, across the globe, Sneap’s already robust reputation is set to be enhanced further.

I’ve been talking to Andy about it (standing in for Tipton). We have been working with Andy for six or seven years now. (He) is really excited because like I said to a guy before you, Andy is a modern producer, but his heart is really in the 80s and he loves bands like Saxon, Priest and Whitesnake. I think he’ll do a good job actually. He’s rehearsing at the moment with them so fingers crossed that he can pull it off.”

Saxon won selection to support Judas Priest across the Americas. I put to Byford the plausibility of Sneap joining Saxon on stage for a song or two prior to going onstage with Priest.

Ha… I don’t think so. I think he’s going to have his work cut out remembering all the songs and stuff, but hopefully, Glenn will play a couple of songs on the encore here and there, that would be good.”

With the mentioned chart performance of Thunderbolt and the success of the band’s tours, Byford compliments my sentiments that fans are flocking to the band in the same manner that Iron Maiden is enjoying enduring popularity.

People seem to be getting it and I don’t know really why. I can only put it down to the songwriting… we still have passion and fire, we are not — I don’t like it when older bands relax and start to take things easy. I think you should be on the edge and I’m pushing the guitar boys all the time to write full on guitar riffs on the edge of ability and I suggested that we shouldn’t do as many guitar solos on this album and maybe we should do some Twin League stuff like the 80s and they went for that. So, when you actually do play a solo then it means more. Just generally things like that really and just little details that make the big picture better really.”

I conducted an in-depth interview for my podcast series (www.scarsandguitars.net) so if you want to dive deeper into the conversation with Biff check it out.

Grab a copy of Saxon’s brand new album Thunderbolt, out now via Silver Lining Music. Click here to purchase your digital copy and start streaming.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith