Quick chat with Biff Byford from Saxon with the release of their brand new record “Thunderbolt” !
Your new album is about to be released in two weeks or so. Looking back at it, what are the first words that come in mind about this 22nd journey?
Biff Byford (vocals): Brilliant! (laughs)
We read that “Thunderbolt” was referring to the Greek mythology. Why this choice? The album isn’t really about Greece isn’t it? Why did you name the record after this track?
Biff: No the song is indeed. We don’t write concept albums. “Thunderbolt” is a great word so it’s a great title! (laughs) I wrote the song a year ago and I don’t think it’s the best song on the album but I think it’s the best one fort starting it.
That’s why you released it first?
Biff: We can say so, like a single yes. Even if I consider a single as a physical object.
In which state of mind were you before working on this new album?
Biff: We started writing the album over a year ago. We don’t do the inital writing with the band. Me and Nibbs do the writing to start with. When we go in the studio with the band to write, most of the songs are already arranged and ready to go. The band isn’t involved with the songs for the initial writing. Two or three of the songs were writing with the band but 85% were from Nibbs and I writing. And that was basically the same for “Battering Ram” and “Sacrifice”.
What about the lyrics? How do you work on it?
Biff: I write on my own, in my studio at home. I can spend three to four hours a day working on writing. The ideas for the song came out of my head, I’m fucked up (laughs) what can I say? (laughs) Obviously History is a great source, it’s been written every day. If you can write lyrics and capture the spirit of that history so that’s the key to write those type of songs and I like the guitar riffs to sync the title. So “Nosferatu” I asked Nibbs to write a gothic style of song. I wrote the lyrics first and then arranged it musically. Each song is different, there’s no set rules.
“They Played Rock N’Roll” is a tribute to Lemmy. What’s the click for it? Did you waited a longtime before considering a song like this?
Biff: It’s a tribute to early Motörhead and of course to Lemmy. But the song is also about England in 1979/1980. I want to people to understand what it was like in England at the time, it was absolute chaos. I had the idea before Lemmy died, definitely. I wanted to music to be like half Motörhead and half Saxon. So the style of the beginning and the chorus is very Motorhead and the verse is very Saxon. I think it’s a cool mixture.
Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth is a guest on “Predator”. Can you tell us more about the song and Johan being there?
Biff: When I wrote the song, again it’s a quite modern riff with a very classic rock vocal. I wanted to try a low octave style of singing, I sometime do, and I thought that I’ll be great if Johan did it. We sent him the song and he loved it. I like his band, I like the man, he’s a friend of mine. The beauty of Johan is that you can hear what he is singing and not just screaming things that you can’t understand.
A word about “Speed Merchants”? What’s that about? I really liked the groove.
Biff: It’s about cars. (laughs) It’s based on “Top Gear”. The three guys that are completely crazy, I like them. The song is about them, they are speed merchants.
Comparing to “Battering Ram” how would you define this new album? Musically and lyrically.
Biff: I think the album is more melodic but I’m the worst person to ask because I love them all. (laughs) We’re not predictable so these songs are defining a new set of Saxon songs. It has to be interesting, unpredictable and melodic.
What could be your reaction if we say “Saxon just made another Saxon album”?
Biff: No I disagree. It’s a great album and we don’t care if it’s a Saxon album or whatever album. If this album came out from a new young band, they’d be very big! (laughs) You don’t really need to look back and see what the band did before.
Is it still worth to make records nowdays for well established bands like you? You could just play classics. Or is it the envy to still create new music that is intact?
Biff: We have a great following with the fans and they deserve to hear new Saxon songs. They deserve more than a few hits, they want new product. If they buy it or download it, it doesn’t matter, they want more Saxon songs.
What would be your top 3 songs? Did you already start rehearsal with the new tunes?
Biff: I’ll tell you the ones that we’re going to try: “Nosferatu”, “Sniper”, “Thunderbolt”, “The Secret Of Flight”, “Predator” and “Roadie’s Song”. “Nosferatu”, “Thunderbolt” and “Predator” are kind of my favorites.
You still have an amazing voice comparing to other singers. What’s the secret? Any advices?
Biff: Don’t abuse yourself too much. I’m telling that to my son. “Fine have a good time but don’t get crazy”. And if you don’t get crazy then you’ll last a long time.
You already announced a few European shows, when are you coming back to France?
Biff: October. By the way we’re waiting for the new package to announce them. We’re playing three or four shows in France later this year.
Last question: we are “RockUrLife” so what rock Biff Byford from Saxon?
Biff: My son’s band rocks my life at the moment, they’re great. It’s like an alternative grungy type of rock. It’s not metal like Saxon but it is rock. It’s a new British breed, teenagers writing their own style.
And what’s your thought about the new generation?
Biff: Like Tyler Bryant and all that? They’re great. For me, the thing with the young bands, it’s hard for them. If you sound like another great band, so what? They have to give new bands the freedom to do what they want. There are some good new bands coming like in America. But in England, I think it’s a new wave of bands. They aren’t really into shredding guitars but more into the songs and the punky attitude. It’s hard today and it’s not just about the music though. It’s not all about writing songs isn’t it? It’s a matter of “everything else”. And you have to last in the business and at one point of your career you’ll have to be very very big in order to come down from that, that we’ll help you through the “not so big”. That’s the secret.