Interview: Biff Byford, singer, Saxon

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BIFF Byford’s not having it, not for a minute. All those folks trying to say that Saxon inspired much of the original Spinal Tap movie, they can take a run and jump.

Of course, it doesn’t help that ex-members Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson are releasing a book called Saxon Drugs And Rock And Roll - The Real Spinal Tap, which is due to hit bookstores early next year.

“I think it’s a bit sad,” says the frontman and mainstay of the British heavy metal institution. “I don’t see Saxon as Spinal Tap-type band - and I don’t think anybody else does either.

“I think they’re trying to ruin the name of Saxon for some reason,” adds the singer.

Try as they might, the band’s popularity has only increased in recent months - and that’s thanks to the release of an album many are calling Saxon’s best release in decades.

“It’s been doing really well,” says Byford of the band’s 19th studio album, entitled Call To Arms. “We’ve had some great reviews and it seems that people really like it.

“Obviously we’re thrilled that people think it’s one of our best,” he adds. “It’s very good to hear that on our 19th album.”

For Saxon, who visit the HMV Picture House tomorrow, the hardest thing always was trying to match the success of much-loved Eighties albums like Denim And Leather.

“It’s very hard to compete with that era,” agrees Byford. “People really do love those Eighties albums, so it’s definitely nice to have one album that people think is as good as they are.”

To achieve this, the 60-year-old reveals that Saxon took a back-to-basics approach over the new album.

“We wanted to go back to a more basic way of writing and recording. Obviously we still used all the modern techniques, but I think it really worked and people like it.”

Initially called Son Of A Bitch, Saxon formed in Barnsley in the mid-Seventies and went on to become part of the new wave of British heavy metal alongside Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

While Maiden and Leppard went on to achieve huge commercial success, Saxon never quite became the major force they might have been.

The reason, according to Byford, is simple, “Too many different managers, different record companies - it’s best to keep the same people.

“I guess we’ve been quite lucky because we’ve written several classic rock anthems which has stood us in good stead,” he adds.

Music fashions ensured that the popularity of heavy metal dipped in the Nineties, but a combination of factors has resulted in a resurgence of interest in all things Saxon related in recent years.

“The resurgence of the genre has certainly helped,” says Byford. “The last few years have been great, and this has been one of our best years ever.

“We’ve put out a great album, we’ve had a great tour and we’ve done some great shows around the world.

“But it’s not over yet,” he adds. “We’ve still got the Edinburgh gig to come - it’s going to be a great night.”

Saxon, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, tomorrow, 6.30pm, £18.50, 0844-847 1740