NWOBHM monsters Saxon team up with Lemmy’s Motorhead this week for what promises to be one of the loudest rock shows Tyneside has witnessed all year. With new single Live To Rock catching the attention and that Download festival appearance still fresh in the memory, rushonrock caught up with Saxon frontman Biff Byford. Catch the band live at Newcastle’s Carling Academy on Friday…
Biff Byford: No way. Live is where it’s at and where’s it’s always been for a band like Saxon. Like the new single says, we Live To Rock. It’s where it all started for us as kids and it’s where the kids of today really get into the bands they love.
rushonrock: What has happened to make Saxon cool again?
BB: The last 12 months has just been a brilliant time for Saxon. We couldn’t have imagined the success we’ve enjoyed in the last year. But people appreciate good live bands and we’ve always been that. A real live show can’t be bootlegged. It’s just you and your mates, four walls and your favourite band. There’s nothing like that feeling.
rushonrock: And even before that reality TV thing with Harvey Goldsmith your popularity was soaring…
BB: We have a huge profile again now and people are interested in Saxon again. We’re massive in Europe and suddenly people are interested in that 1980s NWOBHM period all over again. You look at the success of Maiden, Priest and Whitesnake this year and you realise the quality of the bands back then – and the fact that it’s still there today.
rushonrock: But unlike Whitesnake you’ve never been away.
BB: We’ve been releasing albums every couple of years anyway so we’ve always had something out there and something for people to measure us by. But it’s a great feeling to be back in the big time after working so hard for the past 10 years.
BB: The festival scene is great these days and we spend all summer bouncing from one big show to the next. Download was a huge highlight for us this year. We were asked to play the small tent at the last minute and thought we’d give it a go. It was brilliant. That gig and its impact made headlines all over the world. We played to 15,000 people in a tent designed for 5,000 and the atmosphere was incredible. We went back to Japan this year and played Australia for the first time in our careers. Imagine that? We’re still breaking new ground after 30 years in the business.
rushonrock: So what comes next after your UK jaunt with old buddies Motorhead?
BB: After the Motorhead dates we’re going to push the new album and then we’re out on our own headline tour in February. I think that will bring us back to the UK around spring time. We’ve been going for it all through the summer and we’re ready to go again. As a live band it’s a blessing to be able to do what we love all year round.
rushonrock: And do you have any time to enjoy the finer things in life?
BB: Away from Saxon I don’t do much! I live in a sprawling old house in France and it takes a lot of upkeep. I spend as much time as I can with the family when I’m not on the road. The years are just going by really quickly now and I’m trying to make the most of every day.
BB: I can’t wait to hit the stage. I always loved the Mayfair and the City Hall. Those were the venues us and AC/DC always used to play when we made it to the Toon. I remember Brian Johnson and Malcolm Young turned up to one of our gigs at the City Hall after they’d just toured America and we partied long and hard into the night. Those were the days when we could still do that! I’ve always been an AC/DC fan and I love their new single. We’ve toured with them and I love that blues rock and roll sound.