SAXON (Live at O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., October 28, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess and Rebecca Burgess

Saxon, Fast Eddie Clarke and Girlschool go back decades together. In October they join forces for an extensive UK tour. Mick Burgess caught up with Saxon lead singer, Biff Byford, to talk about the tour and their latest live release, Let Me Feel Your Power as well as revealing details of their forthcoming album.

You’re back out on the road in the UK for a 10 date UK tour in October. Are you raring to go?

I’m currently in the studio writing new songs at the moment but I’m all ready to wind the spring and get back out on tour. We can’t wait to get started. We’re back to playing multiple shows across the country which is good and really shows there’s been an upsurge in popularity not just for Saxon but for Rock music as a whole.

A couple of years ago when you came to play in Newcastle your drummer Nigel Glockler took ill and ended up in the RVI Hospital and the show was postponed. How long was in in hospital for?

Nigel was in for about three weeks until he got the all clear. He’s back to full fitness and hammering away right now. It was something of a scare for him but luckily it wasn’t as serious as he feared. It was still pretty bad but it didn’t affect him long term so he’s OK now and looking forward to getting out on the road.

Sven Dirkschneider stepped in for a few dates to help out. He did pretty well coming in at short notice?

He was our roadie so it made sense for him to step in. He’s a great player and knows our songs inside out. He did really well, he’s a great drummer.

You were due to tour with Motörhead and Girlschool at the start of this year until the sad passing of Lemmy in January. How did the loss of Lemmy effect you?

We were all devastated as we are such good friends and we go back years and years together. It’s hard to imagine music without him. We all thought he’d be the last man standing and still can’t believe he’s gone. I miss him very much.

On this tour you’re joined by Girlschool, and Fastway which features Fast Eddie Clark from the classic Motörhead lineup. Who’s idea was it to bring this package out on the road?

We cancelled a lot of shows when Lemmy passed away so we thought we’d put some more shows in with Girlschool who were going to be on the tour with us and Motörhead. We’ve also added Fastway that features Fast Eddie Clarke from Motörhead. We didn’t plan on adding Fastway, it just happened that way.

Are you planning on doing anything on stage together on the tour?

I don’t know at the moment but with these things they happen if they happen. The first night could be a bit hectic but I’m up for doing that. That could be a lot of fun for us and the fans.

The tour starts on 28th October here in Newcastle. You’ve played up here many times over the years including some fantastic nights at the City Hall. How does it feel for you playing for your Newcastle fans?

Newcastle is a great place to start the tour. We always get a great reaction from there and always have, going back to our very early days. We’ve played at the City Hall many times and also the O2 Academy too where we are playing on this tour. We always look forward to our Newcastle show.

Back in the ’80s you had the legendary Eagle lighting rig. Are you planning on a big production stage set or are you going to let the music do the talking?

The trouble is, it won’t fit through the doors. When you get into the Academy it’s quite a big venue but it would be physically getting it in that’d be the problem. So we won’t be bringing the Eagle but we will be bringing quite a big production with plenty of lights and stuff.

Your last tour highlighted songs from three of your early classic albums, Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law. There must have been a fair few songs that you did that you hadn’t performed in years?

There were a few and a couple of those took a while to relearn but generally we don’t really do the whole album thing. We did it in Japan a couple of times, once in Sweden and also at Download. We prefer to tour and play songs from across our career and also we like to focus on new material. On this tour we’ll be playing songs from our latest album Battering Ram as well as the hits so there’s a good mix of old and new. We’ll be playing as many songs as possible.

You’ve primarily been a live band and have just released Let Me Feel Your Power. Why have you decided to put out another live record at this point?

This is a DVD set with footage from Munich, Chicago and Brighton. The DVD and Blu-Ray come with a double CD of the soundtrack. We just felt that the band is really tight at the moment and we’ve released some strong albums recently and just wanted to capture the band at this stage in our career as we feel that we are better than ever. We actually recorded the Munich show at the festival where Motörhead recorded their show which is just as well as that was one of Lemmy’s last shows. Motörhead have already released theirs so we are putting ours out now. We were going to put one out together but after Lemmy died they put there’s out first. It would have been nice to have one package for both bands. We’re also releasing a special vinyl box set called The Vinyl Hoard featuring four double LP’s live shows from 1995 to 2006. It’s a great collector’s item for the fans and is strictly limited edition.

Many bands from the 70’s and 80’s seem to have lost the creative spark and seem content to roll out a greatest hits set each time. As a band Saxon have remained creative releasing new albums every 2 or 3 years since 1980. What keeps your creative spark alive?

You have to remember that we love to write songs and we love Rock music. I can’t really sit back and play the hits that would just be cheating people. We want to write new songs and be relevant to today’s audience to both older fans and younger fans. Writing new music is the key. I think some bands are scared about not selling a million records any more but times have changed and most artists don’t sell huge quantities of albums like they did in the ’70’s and 80’s. It doesn’t take anything away from the old songs when you write new songs.

Your latest album Battering Ram came out last year and saw you heading in a pretty heavy direction. What were you setting out to achieve when you started making that record?

We just wanted to create a great collection of songs. That’s all we ever try to achieve so there was no preconceived plan other than to write great songs. We’re not trying to rewrite history, we just want to write stuff that we love to play. When the band comes up with great music, it’s up to me to put great lyrics and melodies on it. That’s how we work. I work closely with Nibbs, the bass player on a lot of stuff and we all work together really well. We tend to write in focused periods together and we’re in one of those periods at the moment and have written quite a few lyrics already.

Over the years you’ve written some great epics like The Eagle Has Landed. This album features Queen of Hearts as the album’s centre piece. It’s full of the moody, dramatic atmosphere that you do so well. What inspired you to write that song?

The Alice in Wonderland books really were the inspiration behind that. I’m actually writing about a chess game but with an Alice In Wonderland theme. The idea just popped into my head and I quite liked it so I wrote the lyrics based on that.

Kingdom of the Cross tells the tale of World War I and The Somme in particular which is particularly relevant with 2016 being the centenary of The Somme. Is that a subject you have a particular interest in?

Me and Lemmy were both historians and particularly interested in World War 1 and World War 2. I wrote the poem before I wrote the song so really that song is a poem put to music. It’s not one that we can’t really play live but we may use it when we leave the stage.

When you’ve been on the road have you had the opportunity to visit any of the battlefield sites?

I’ve been to The Somme and walked around the battlefield and visited the cemeteries. It was a really moving experience.

On a much lighter note, you close the album with Three Sheets To The Wind. Is that based on one of your experiences in the past after a pint too many?

It’s about having a hangover basically. It’s one of those mundane things that most people have been through so I thought I’d write a song about it. That’s a bonus track that’s on the special edition so it’s not on all of the albums.

How is your new record progressing?

We have 14 backing tracks recorded and I’m writing lyrics and melodies at the moment. I’m writing one called The Secret of Flight about Leonardo da Vinci. I don’t make it easy for myself. That’s coming together fairly slowly as I have to get my facts straight. The record will be finished and out probably around August next year.

Your tour ends in Nottingham on 9th November. Where do you head after that?

We’re out over to Europe until the 22nd December so we’ll be home for Christmas. It’s a long tour but we’re looking forward to it and next year we will be in America in March so we’ll finish the album in January and February. We won’t have much time to put our feet up next year either.

Saxon tour the UK with support from Girlschool and Fastway starting at the O2 Academy in Newcastle on 28th October. Visit

The Vinyl Hoard Live eight LP boxed set featuring live shows from 1995-2006 is released as a strictly limited edition collector’s set on Friday 27th October.

Interview by MICK BURGESS


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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