Including eight Top 40 UK albums and sales in excess of 15 million worldwide, Saxon are true pioneers of British Heavy Metal, a seminal NWOBHM act, hailing from West Yorkshire and representing the region with outstanding credentials.
Biff Byford answers the phone as if you’re addressing an old friend, his calm and pleasant demeanour is rare in his profession, especially for one with a name as instantly recognizable as the frontman of Metal music legends Saxon.
Saxon are taking to the road once again this month, for an extensive UK tour, which opens in Newcastle’s 02 Academy on October 28th. “I always love the audience up in Newcastle” Biff says, “lots of energy and it’s really a good stomping ground for Saxon”. And while he could be talking about the Anglo Saxon history surrounding the development and erection of Newcastle upon Tyne, he’s not, indeed the city has hosted Saxon on a countless number of occasions since the band’s earliest days, once named ‘Son of a Bitch’ and opening for acts like Motorhead.
It is with a twinge of sadness this tour takes place though, “the passing of Lemmy in December…” Biff explains, “….it meant that we naturally had to cancel all of the remaining dates”. I ask if Biff feels this is a spiritual continuation of that tour, but he’s quick to dismiss me, saying “no, I don’t think so, I think – I mean, we were very honoured to play with Motorhead for many years, we played those last shows with them in Germany and…yeah, that was the way I remember it ending”. It shows both a determination and a steadfast commitment to honour Lemmy and Motorhead’s legacy.
Another reason I ask the question is because one of two opening acts on this tour, affectionately entitled the ‘Battering Ram Tour’ is Fastaway, the brainchild of ex-Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke. “We’ve got a good repose with Eddie for obvious reasons…” Biff ads, “maybe we’ll even play a few Motorhead covers with him on stage, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens”. With Toby Jepson on vocals, one thing is clear, you don’t want to get to the venue late and miss any of the opening acts.
And if you needed even more convincing, the second opening act is emerging British band Girlschool, who Biff can’t speak more highly of “they’ve gotten new management recently, had some really good success, we’ve done a few shows with them in the past” he tells me “and I just think they’re in a really good place right now, going in a really good direction and there’s a lot of great things coming up in their future”
Turning to the band’s new album, Biff has been quoted as describing it as “a natural progression from ‘Sacrifice’, a bit less rock and roll and bit more ‘heavy’ on it” and tells me he’s excited because “[Saxon] should be back in the studio by February, maybe late January, and finish recording the new record. Hoping you’ll hear it by the middle of next year” but their plans are still firmly rooted on touring, as “once the UK tour is done, and the recording break, we’ll be heading over to the States’ for shows over there”
Biff doesn’t shy away from talking about legacy altogether though, as Saxon are soon releasing an eight Vinyl boxset entitled ‘The Vinyl Hoard’. “I’m excited about this” Biff says, “most of what you’ll find in there is out of print now, and deals with the latter half of our career, so things like Germany live in 95 and shows that would otherwise be difficult to hear, lets younger fans get their hands on it”
As the years go on the audience gets younger and younger, Biff commenting that “this started about three, four, years ago. We noticed a lot of the younger fans coming to shows, probably a lot to do with the nods from Metallica and Pantera and what not…but it’s great to see and we hope to see more first timers out in force in the UK”. And in truth, you’d be mad not to.
Saxon perform at 02 Academy, Newcastle, on October 28th 2016 with support from Fastaway and Girlschool. Tickets on sale now.
Although my musical tastes are considerably heavier than most, I have an appreciation for everyone, from Elton John to Megadeth. When I'm not reading through my old Kerrang Magazines and playing the latest Municipal Waste cassettes, I'll attempt to give you my perspective on the music to impact Newcastle and the North East. I hope you enjoy my opinions, but even if you don't, I'd still encourage you to read them!