BIFF BYFORD On SAXON's Early Days: 'I Was Proud Of Heavy Metal; I Wasn't Shying Away From The Fact Unlike Some Bands'

January 27, 2018

Steve Goldby of Metal Talk recently conducted an interview with frontman Biff Byford of British metal legends SAXON about their new "Decade Of The Eagle - The Anthology 1979-1988" compilation. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On whether the 1980s can be considered a "magical time" for heavy metal:

Biff: "It was the beginnings of a different sort of a genre, I suppose, a different style of playing different notes. Yeah, we were a lot less musical [when starting out] and a bit more sort of aggressive, really."

On SAXON maintaining the same logo throughout their storied career:

Biff: "I think some friends of [original guitarist] Graham's [Oliver], actually, were at art college in the modern area where Graham's from. They did the logo for us. They did a fantastic job because actually, apart from sort of some art-y people trying to change it back in the day, it's basically stayed the same forever. It's red. It's got an axe in the 'S', that's all you need to know."

On how their friendship with MOTÖRHEAD started:

Biff: "They liked our look. They liked 'Stallions Of The Highway' [from SAXON's 1979 self-titled debut], that's what they liked. They gave us the tour on the strength of that, plus we paid money to get on the tour. But, they sort of let us travel on the bus and pay for the hotels, so it was money well spent. So yeah, that's where the friendship…we spent three months on the road with them because the tour kept getting longer because MOTÖRHEAD then were absolutely huge. They didn't need the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal or anybody."

On performing MOTÖRHEAD songs at the 2016 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards:

Biff: "It's weird. Nobody can stand in for Lemmy [Kilmister], obviously. But it's nice to sing songs that Lemmy sang on, it's quite nice. He wasn't a singer like I'm a singer. He has his own thing going there, but he was a great lyricist. Lemmy, he really wrote great lyrics. He sang them really well. It's quite simple most of them, but they're quite hard to get the power, the emotion, what Lemmy meant them to be. It was put together last minute because we were supposed to soundcheck and rehearse a bit, but it got so long and drawn-out that we played it as well, didn't we? We had the 'Eagle' [stage prop] there. It was crazy. Yeah, it was crazy."

On their 1980 breakout album "Wheels Of Steel" and playing the popular British music chart television show "Top Of The Pops":

Biff: "I think at the time, it was PRIEST, WHITESNAKE, MOTÖRHEAD, MAIDEN playing 'Running Free', we were all on 'Top Of The Pops'. It was either us or all the new romantics, then you get some modern records in between. I think between us, I don't mean us as SAXON, but us as a genre I'd say, I think it was either us or SPANDAU BALLET, DURAN DURAN, or THE JAM, those two styles of music ruled [the time]. If you were into the music, you could be good-looking, you were into DURAN DURAN or SPANDAU BALLET, if you were still a punk, you were into THE CLASH and THE JAM or if you were a metal fan, you were into us or PRIEST, MOTÖRHEAD and WHITESNAKE."

On the early 1980s when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal started to gain steam:

Biff: "Everybody was really exciting. More importantly, the industry was excited. That movement really launched Kerrang! from Sounds, because Sounds, they couldn't put enough in there about us. Kerrang! came from those days. [British journalists] Geoff Barton and Malcolm Dome, everybody."

On wanting to call their "Strong Arm Of The Law" album "Heavy Metal Thunder":

Biff: "Yeah, I did. I was proud of heavy metal. I wasn't shying away from the fact unlike some bands were. Alright then, 'What are you then?' 'Oh, we are hard rock.' It's the same fucking thing mate; it's all attitude. Heavy metal is an attitude. It's not a chord in my book, anyway. SABBATH were the first band to use [triad chords] or maybe not SABBATH, maybe an American band, I don't know. That entered into our style of writing, but it didn't dominate us."

On whether SAXON will ever record another ballad:

Biff: "We've been coming close. They're just more than...they're not ballads, are they? We had on 'Battering Ram', the last track on the album ['Kingdom Of The Cross'], it's not really a ballad, it's more poetry. I suppose that's as near as we've come, really."

SAXON's 22nd studio album, "Thunderbolt" will be released on February 2 via Militia Guard (Silver Lining Music). The follow-up to 2015's "Battering Ram" was once again helmed by producer Andy Sneap, who has previously worked with JUDAS PRIEST, MEGADETH, ACCEPT and TESTAMENT, among others. The disc will feature original artwork by longtime SAXON collaborator Paul Raymond Gregory.

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