Saxon are back in action and better than ever on their latest album ‘Thunderbolt’ (Read Our Review Here). The music is fast, furious, and definitely Saxon. Metal Wani’s Chuck Marshall got a chance to talk to vocalist Biff Byford about the new album, memories of Motorhead, vampires, band retirements and the upcoming tour with Judas Priest.
Andy Sneap once again handled production on ‘Thunderbolt’. We asked Biff if Andy had any influence on the heavier material that the band was creating. Biff said decisively, no. While Andy’s talents in the studio may enhance the overall sound, the music is all written and performed by Saxon.
The song “Predator” features the vocals of Biff joined by Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. The two sing together and alternating verses. The high contrast in vocal styles along with the pure metal riffs makes for an impressive song. However, we were a bit surprised that Johan didn’t sing on the song “Sons of Odin”. Biff explained that the song “Sons of Odin” wasn’t complete at the time he invited Johan to contribute to the album. “Sons of Odin” was originally going to be called “Shogun” with a completely different theme, but Biff changed this up just before recording.
Saxon have created an outstanding tribute to Motorhead on the track “They Played Rock and Roll”. It seems a fitting tribute to the band and unfortunately timely due to the recent passing of Fast Eddie Clark. We asked Biff about an interview where Lemmy mentioned that he thought Motorhead shocked the guys in Saxon given their penchant for partying on the road. Biff laughed and said that Saxon learned a lot from Motorhead on that first tour and really enjoyed the experience. We also delved into the political scene during that 1979 tour and the influence of punk rock.
The song “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)” puts a spin on the Dracula story with the shipwreck of the vampire’s boat leading to him being entombed in an abby and then all hell breaking loose. Biff mentioned that the song is influenced by the Bram Stoker novel. The abbey in question is in Whitby which is near where Biff grew up in Yorkshire.
Slayer recently announced that they will retire after one last tour. Meanwhile, Saxon is still going strong. They are getting ready to hit the road with the might Judas Priest. We asked Biff what he thought about Slayer’s retirement and what would be the cue for him and the band to hang up their gloves. Biff said that it was hard to say what the reasons were for Slayers retirement. It could be health or just that they have done all they had set out to do. He said he has no plans to retire anytime soon, but you never know what tomorrow may bring.
Saxon ran a successful Pledge Music campaign for the ‘Thunderbolt’ album with lots of great perks for fans. Fans can still go to the Pledge Music page and pick up the album or other special items. The pledge method of funding has become the name of the game in the music industry. We wanted to know how Biff feels about this approach as opposed to the labels doing most of the work. He felt that their label did a great job and that they are selling more physical albums in the United States right now. The pledge campaigns are new, so the jury is still out. So far, they are happy with the results.
We chatted a bit about the upcoming tour with Judas Priest. Biff was excited about the tour as they have been mates with the guys in Judas Priest for a long time. He felt the tour reminding him of their first time on the road with Priest in 1980. The level of fan excitement for the tour also is strong. He thinks fans will have a great time with the entire package.
Finally, we touched on VIP packages. Biff enjoys them and Saxon is offering an incredible experience which includes an exclusive t-shirt and live CD recording signed by the band. Biff mentioned that they limit the size of the groups to 10 to make it worthwhile, but said they can flex that number to accommodate special requests.