It’s been more than three decades since the wheels of steel known as Saxon began to roll. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers have been among rock’s most consistent and prolific merchants of classic hard rocking, headbanging riffage. In March, the band will release its 20th studio album, Sacrifice, a record which recalls the early style of the band colliding with Saxon‘s modern signature. This week, Metal Nation caught up with legendary frontman Biff Byford to discuss the new album, the legacy of the band, producing, history, and more.
Sacrifice was originally slated for release in February but the band delayed it a month due to manufacturing issues with the printer, but hiccups and hold ups are nothing new to a band that has forged a legacy more than 35 years in the making. I asked Byford if he ever thinks about the longevity of Saxon and what keeps the fire burning in his belly.
“No, we don’t really think about it. When somebody told us it was our 20th album we were like ‘really?’ We don’t really bother too much about years and birthdays and how many albums, we just get on with it basically. We just have a passion for the music. That’s one of the secrets. We love to make new albums and sort of move on. We try and get new fans and get old fans back, and entertain ourselves as well as the fans. There’s a passion for our style of music. That’s the secret I think.”
Saxon‘s style of music remains a signature that other bands have emulated but have never captured. Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn have been with the band since its outset. Drummer Nigel Glockler has been with the band over 30 years, and bassist Nibbs Carter joined in 1988. The band’s newest member, guitarist Doug Scarratt has been with the band since 1996. Byford, who produced Sacrifice told the guys he wanted to tap into Saxon’s early sound on this record, while also remaining fresh and modern. I asked Biff if he felt the band hit that mark.
“Yeah, I think because I produced it myself, I sort of had an idea of how it should sound. The whole Saxon thing. I wanted it to have a flavor of some of our earlier stuff from the 80’s, the stuff that Metallica liked so much–the thrash metal, fast stuff. I just thought we could go back there and maybe write a couple songs like that. Which we did. So it’s good to keep one foot in the past and one in the present. I wanted to bring some of the power of our live performances on to CD.”
After 35 years, Byford admits that he has a lot of wonderful memories connected to Saxon, but he was kind enough to share a couple of them.
“One was Castle Donington in 1980 which was sort of our first time we ever walked on stage in front of a lot of people actually. Over 3000, if you know what I mean. The other thing was our first show in America which was with Rush. I think we played in Jacksonville, Florida–20-25,000 people. That was the first time we ever saw people with their cigarette lighters in the air. So that was a pretty moving thing for us as well.”
Saxon not only performed at the first ever Castle Donington Monsters of Rock in 1980, but their song, “And the Bands Played On” is about the iconic event, which is these days called the Download Festival.
Listen to the full interview below to hear more details about the making of Sacrifice. Byford even shares the two albums which changed his life.