An Interview with
The Frontman of Saxon
that took place on Tuesday 7th November, 2017.
Interviewed By Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi Biff, how are you doing?
Glenn: It's such a great selection of songs on the box set 'Decade Of The Eagle'. What songs surprise you now from it that have become so popular over the years?
Biff: The first one that comes to mind is 'Ride Like The Wind' (Laughs). It's become quite a popular song. Its had a couple of million views on one of the YouTube channels. It is quite a surprise when a cover gets the attention. I suppose when we first did it, it was one of the better sounding tracks on the album – 'Destiny'. It got played a lot that version around the world. So it's always a surprise. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah! Definitely. You look at the box set and some of the Saxon albums out there over the years and there are so many classics. You forget how many great songs you guys wrote. It must be such a surprise for you sometimes when you replay them and think, 'Wow – that's a great song'. Do you think, 'Why don't we put these certain songs in the set?'
Biff: Yeah. When you look at the whole body of work of the nine albums I think, there's some great tracks and there's a couple of hundred more tracks not on there. This is what is fantastic about music isn't it? Everybody has their own opinions of certain albums and certain songs. I stopped trying to predict what people like because it's impossible. What people like in say, Japan are not necessarily what people like in some of Scotland for instance. It's just of them things. It's when you have a large catalogue – a legacy of music. People tend to choose their favourite songs and sometimes they are not what you'd expect.
Glenn: What would you say have been the most surprising that people have requested?
Biff: We get some wacky ones. I mean, obviously they're all our songs. Technically we can play them all. We get quite aggressively 'Sixth Form Girls' asked for. It's one that people like.
Glenn: That's awesome that!
Biff: Basically, we just did it as a bit of a tongue in cheek thing wrote quite quickly. Yeah! It's well liked that song. We do get that request occasionally from the audience: “Play 'Sixth Form Girls”. We have played it a couple of times just to show off that we can do it.
Glenn: Brilliant! Did it take long to put this boxed set together? Was there much in the planning for it and thinking this was the right time to do it?
Biff: Well there's never a right time or a wrong time because we are really busy still. It does look like there's a lot of Saxon stuff coming out but it's planned months in advance. It's difficult sometimes for record companies to get together to not clash. I think its a pretty good point – November. There's not a lot happening that much around November.
Glenn: Yep! Christmas coming up.
Biff: It's definitely a nice package. It's going to be out there. People should get it. It won't be out for long will it? They are all limited editions these things usually.
Glenn: Exactly. And you're going to be out there with Judas Priest and Black Star Riders in the USA. How does that feel because that's going to be a good package?
Biff: Yeah! It should be a good package that. We've just released the UK dates this morning. We're doing some in February. Not too many. We're doing three shows in Europe and then we're off to America of ten weeks. South America as well. We'll be back for the festivals. Then we going to tour again in the Autumn, I think? You never know what is going to happen these days.
Glenn: Your vocals – they've never faulted, you've never lost anything or anything like that. You've had no throat problems or anything else. What is your key and how do you keep it going?
Biff: I don't know really. There isn't a secret. I'm very lucky to still have quite a strong, powerful voice. I just leave it well alone.
Glenn: Keep it oiled!
Biff: Yeah! Whatever is happening down there it's happening still. I just keep my fingers crossed really.
Glenn: (I laugh) The best thing to do. When you're up there on stage it's as hot as hell. You've got that big long leather jacket on...
Biff: Well it's a long time since I wore that actually. But I like to be warm on stage. It's a bit like a work-out for me. That's how I like to look at it. I like being hot on stage and I like being slightly uncomfortable. I like it. It's not supposed to be comfortable. It's Rock 'N' Roll Mate!
Glenn: Exactly Mate.
Biff: It's hot and sweaty! I like it. Both me and Nigel use all the lung power. We like it to be hot. When we're in the hot temperatures it's great.
Glenn: Awesome. Going back to the box set, do certain songs bring certain things to mind?
Biff: Well you remember recording them actually. For instance, 'Innocence Is No Excuse' with 'Rock 'N' Roll Gypsy' – we recorded that in Germany in a studio in Munich. Saga were recording an album downstairs. I remember things like going out and partying with them.
'Destiny' - we made that in a big studio in Reading. The guy from Ten Years After owned it first. Then Dave Gilmour owned it. When we were there, Dave Gilmour was there coming down. Gary Moore was nipping in because he lived up the road. It was a bit of a who's who and were with Rock Stars coming in and out of the studios while we were there. I remember things like that really!
Glenn: You've played Sheffield quite a few times. Do you have plans to bring the Eagle back again? That was a great show! I remember seeing you at the City Hall. It was when you were featured on that TV show with Harvey Goldsmith. That was such a good night in there.
Biff: Yeah it was a good night. We were thinking of doing that. We're trying to do that on the next tour. Maybe not in February but perhaps later in the year. We might bring in a bigger production for the UK. It's all down to the sizes of the venues.
Glenn: Of course it is.
Biff: We're going to try and do that and put a good package together. We'll see if we can bring the Eagle into bigger venues.
Glenn: Brilliant. Your working on a new album as well.
Biff: We've released a few details on Facebook already. We've done song lyrics. There's a song called 'Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz)' – I put it out on Halloween – the lyrics. We've also got 'The Secret Of Flight' that's out there. There is little snippets of information out there if people want to try and look for it. It's always a big secret. I think they released the artwork this morning so people will know what it looks like by now.
Glenn: That's cool. You've toured with so many different bands. Are there still bands and artists out there that you'd still love to go out there if you had a chance?
Biff: No not really. We've been out with most of them. We've toured with Sabbath. We've toured with pretty much everybody that I like. Generally, we only tour with people we like. I know it sounds a bit arrogant. The thing is these days, we don't really go out with people. Judas Priest asked us to got to America. We said, “Yeah, Sure!”. I thought, 'I love Judas Priest, let's go with them'.
The thing is, it's not your tour. You are special guests in the middle. You do lose a little bit of your set list. It's not as long, the production's not as big but we like touring with them. It's the reason why we went out with UFO this year. We like UFO so we thought we'd go out with them.
Glenn: Great band. Plus when you go out with UFO or Judas Priest they are going to love Saxon aren't they?
Biff: Well in America, the thing is with UFO, they are a bit older than we are musically as a band. A lot of their stuff happened in the early 70's. The audience are a little bit of a different audience. They are not so much into Metal as our audience are. I think together it really works well as a package because you can see in UFO influences we took from them.
We absolutely loved UFO back in the day, in the 70's with the 'Force It' album and all those albums – we just love them! Then we toured with them in '80. It's a Rock audience definitely. We do pull a quite a few fans that would be in to 'Priest and Motorhead as well. Do you know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah exactly. I guess for you it doesn't matter where the show is. Whether it be in a hall, stadium or a festival. As long as you've got a great audience in front of you it's good. The energy is coming back and forth – that's what works for you?
Biff: You have to have a good knowledge of what to do live. Live concerts are different to listening to albums for obvious reasons. We don't try to reproduce the album sound live. We don't have hard drives running and we don't have click tracks. Our live sound is different to our studio sound. I think people like that. It's more raw and cut down when we play the songs live. We're not really interested in running backing tracks of vocals, keyboards and stuff. We like to play our music live so that's where we're at.
Glenn: Exactly. You keep it real. It's always a damn good show. It seems strange me phoning you today because this is nearly the anniversary of the last time you played Sheffield. You played Sheffield on 8th November, 2016 and I'm phoning you the day before the anniversary. That's pretty cool.
Biff: Yeah! I remember playing it. We've done a couple of shows. We've done the University. I like Sheffield – it's great. The thing is as well, it's in a great part of Yorkshire, Sheffield isn't it? It's near Barnsley, it's near Rotherham and it's near Doncaster. Sometimes they don't like you playing Nottingham and Sheffield. That's one of the things. It gets a bit political. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah! Being too close to the various venues and drawing of fans from various close areas.
Biff: And it's not down to us. It's down to Promoters. I mean, we'll play everywhere. We will play Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham. We'd just play them all. We're not bothered but the Promoters pick and choose where they want us to play.
Glenn: I'm looking forward to seeing you on tour. Have a great tour in the United States with Judas Priest and Black Star Riders.
Biff: Yeah it should be great. We'll be quite rested by then so we'll be raring to go.
Glenn: Exactly. Thank you so much for having a chat with me.
Biff: It's no problem. Anytime!
A big thank you to Sharon Chevin of The Publicity Connection for setting it all up and supplying various images used & of course Biff Byford himself for a great Interview!
Be sure to go and see Saxon on Tour in 2018 and of course in the meantime be sure to go and buy 'Decade Of The Eagle'