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Saxon Singer Biff Byford: ‘Metal Never Really Seems to Go Out of Fashion’

Kai Swillus

English heavy metal legends Saxon first formed all the way back in 1976. They were an integral part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and had eight UK top 40 albums in the 1980s. Many established metal bands from Metallica to Megadeth have cited Saxon as a key influence and almost 40 years on, the band is returning with a fury in 2013.

First, there is a new album called Sacrifice being released next month. Noisecreep has had the pleasure of listening to it and if you like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and all the other iconic British metal legends, we think you’re going to love this album. Featuring air guitar-ready riffs and fist-in-the-the-air anthems, Sacrifice is a true triumph for Saxon.

The Band also recently released Heavy Metal Thunder – The Movie. Previously this film had only been available for their fan club but now it has been unleashed around the world. The package is a monster. You get the legendary film which features all of the classic stories including Saxon’s connection to the film This is Spinal Tap and there is a second disc featuring two full concerts videos and more. The running time is a whopping five hours and the documentary is one of the most interesting we’ve seen in a while. Candid, frank and brutally honest, this is a metal movie that delivers all the goods.

Recently Noisecreep had the great privilege of speaking with Biff Byford, Saxon lead vocalist since the beginning in 1976.

Thank you for taking some time with us, Biff. First let’s talk about the new album. It feels like a real return to form for you guys.

Well thank you, it feels like that for us too. I think it’s a great achievement for our 20th album and I am very proud of it.

You produced the record yourself. At this point, does it just come down to you know how this band should sound?

Pretty much. We’ve been through so many things over the years with various producers and have been around so long now that I really do think I have the best sense of what the Saxon sound is. Of course I’ve learned over the years from a lot of different people, but at this point in our career I was confident I could get the sound we all wanted.

Kai Swillus

We know all of your older fans will appreciate the record, but do you think it will play well with younger metal fans?

I think it will pull in new metal fans because there a lot of young fans out there today that want to learn about the past and bands that they are too young to appreciate because they weren’t around yet. Thankfully, metal never really seems to go out of fashion and I think that to the younger listener this record will feel classic and also very contemporary because that was our goal. We didn’t want this to sound like an old Saxon record, we just wanted to maintain a classic sound that is still very up to date. We are also anxious to play a lot of it on stage as it was written with a live audience in mind and the concert experience is really what Saxon has always been about.

Heavy Metal Thunder – The Movie was also just released around the world. How was the experience of making that film for you?

It was very therapeutic actually. We wanted the film to be quite honest, it was very important to us. Obviously you always have to keep a few things back, but we were very open about the history of this band through all the good and the bad.

Watch Heavy Metal Thunder – The Movie Teaser

There’s talk in the film about how the actor Harry Shearer went on tour with you guys in preparation for his role as Derek Smalls in the film This is Spinal Tap and about how some of the things that happened to you guys were eventually represented in the film. That must have been a bit strange for you.

All of the Spinal Tap stuff really came from our former bass player who made those connections and talked about it and all of that. We definitely told some stories to Harry that perhaps made it in some form into the film but there is not that big a connection between that sort of band and us. I love the film This is Spinal Tap, but that’s not really the music that we make and so I don’t feel as close as a connection as some people make it out to be. But we don’t take ourselves that seriously and of course many funny things happen on the road to all kinds of bands.

Also in the film we see Metallica’s Lars Ulrich talking a great deal about Saxon.

Yes, Lars has always been a good fan of Saxon. A lot of those early American metal guys were actually influenced by us I think along with Judas Priest, Maiden and some other bands of the era. I appreciate how honest Lars is in the film and while I know he hasn’t been crazy about all we’ve done, I think he would like the new album.

Biff take us back to your own beginning. Was their first concert that you saw that made you realize you wanted to be up on stage?

There certainly was. I saw Led Zeppelin at a festival in England in the early ’70s and it just blew my mind. That was the eye-opener for me, seeing the Gods in person [laughs].

Sacrifice will hit stores in North America on March 26 and can be pre-ordered here.

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