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SAXON


Saxon "Still Powerful, Still Glorious"


Biff Byford Interview by Dr. Mality

If there's royalty in heavy metal, Saxon would be peers of the realm. The tea-sipping rockers from Barnsley have had their ups and downs throughout their 30 year plus career, but they have toughed out the bad times and are enjoying a renaissance in the 21st century.

Their latest album "Into the Labyrinth" sees them at their most diverse, ranging from epic symphonic power metal like "Battalions of Steel" to down and dirty blues rock like "Coming Home". I was able to hook up with the legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byford briefly to discuss the band's storied career and here's the result:


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Biff, Saxon has now endured for more than 30 years. Did you ever imagine in the late 70's that you would still be going in the 21st century?

BIFF BYFORD: No, I dont think you can pre plan these things, You just pray that something good will happen.

WC: All the recent Saxon albums have shown how versatile the band is, but on "Into the Labyrinth", the swing from the band's most symphonic song "Battalions of Steel" to the stripped down "Coming Home" is the most extreme ever. Was this intentional or did it just turn out that way?

BB: Well, a bit of both, really. Our early years of learning how to play blues was a big part of it all. Led Zep and Cream and Hendrix were all blues based in their early years.

WC: It seems that "Into The Labyrinth" has some of the bluesiest Saxon tunes ever, such as "Slow Lane Blues", "Protect Yourself" and "Coming Home". Have you been rediscovering the blues roots of metal for the album?

BB: We have always had an interest in the early blues artists like Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker. These artists were always improvising and writing songs... we took inspiration from this

WC: Was "Coming Home" the only track you considered giving the "bottleneck" treatment to or were there other songs you were considering?

BB: Well, we have recorded more songs in different styles... folk, blues, orchestral.

WC: "Battalions of Steel" is very orchestrated and ornate. What were some of the challenges in doing this track and could you see Saxon doing a whole album like this?

BB: We wanted the song to be powerful and majestic and the choirs achieve this. We dont have any plans to do a full album in this style but we have opened the door to further experimentation.

WC: In the past, walking a labyrinth was considered a kind of spiritual journey. Does that meaning apply to the new album and if not, does the title have any special meaning at all?

BB: I think walking the path between light and dark is always a journey. There are many labyrinths in life... we must choose which one to enter.

WC: I think "Voice" is probably as personal as any Saxon song ever written. Can you explain what exactly the meaning of this one is?

BB: "The Voice" is a personal song about a house fire we had 4 years ago. I was awakened at 4 in the morning by a voice shouting "Wake up!" This is the voice of the title

WC: You've had some shifting line-ups in the band over the years. Would you say the version on "Into the Labyrinth" is the most seasoned you've worked with?

BB: The line up at moment is the strongest one ever.

WC: You've always had a passion for historical subjects and on this album we get "Valley of the Kings" in that vein. Did you ever fancy yourself an Indiana Jones type archaeologist or maybe imagine yourself in another time?


BB: Yes, I would have have liked to have been an archaeologist or an historian!

WC: Speaking of that, what era of the past most intrigues you?

BB: I think all of history is fantastic and we ignore it at our peril!

WC: The music business has changed a lot during your career. Are you nostalgic for the old days of the 80's or are you happy with the way things are now?

BB: No, I am not really living in the past. I think one foot in the past and one in the present is cool.

WC: How hard is it to draw up a live set-list when you've got so many great songs to choose from? It's got to be agonizing sometimes!

BB: it can be hard but I do it all myself so its a bit easier without a committee.

WC: Saxon has had some trouble coming over to the States in recent years. Do you see yourself doing a tour over here?

BB: Yes, things are getting better and we should be in the States more from now on.

WC: I remember seeing you guys at a place called the Attic in a little town in Wisconsin when you toured with Udo. I head-banged so much that I thought I had a broken neck the next morning. Any memories of that gig or tour?

BB: Yes, the tour with Udo was good fun. No pressure at all and both bands got on.

WC: When all is said and done, what do you think the legacy of Saxon will be?

BB: Good songs... good band... good times!

WC: What was the last CD/record you picked up just because you wanted to hear the band?

BB: The last two cds i got were Sword and a Swedish band, Bullet.

WC: What was the last gig you checked out just because you wanted to?


BB: Metallica and AC/DC.

WC: In the long history of Saxon, is there any "Spinal Tap" moment of craziness that you'd care to share with us?

BB: There are many but i'ts late and I'm of to bed!

WC: Any last words for the diehards out there?

BB: Keep the faith and put some metal in your lives!


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