Intervju med Biff Byford i Saxon.
Saxon tillhör den där skaran band som ihärdigt släpper nya album och turnerar jorden runt, utan en tanke på att slå sig till ro. Snart ligger deras 20:e giv, "Sacrifice", på en skivdisk nära dig och därför kändes det självklart att ringa upp Biff för en liten pratstund.
Efter strul med vilken tid som egentligen gällde, når jag honom i bilen, i en skog, på sin mobil. Jag hör knappt vad han säger och Biff är ganska fåordig denna dag, så det är kanske inte den bästa intervjun, men ändock en intervju.
Det blev bland annat snack om nya plattan, att stå i kö och hur han kom att kallas Biff.
How are you?
Biff: I´m good.
How does it feel to be done with your 20th album?
Biff: It´s alright. Everybody seems to like it, which is always a good relief.
Did you produce it and Andy Sneap mixed it?
Biff: Yeah, I produced it myself and Andy mixed it. It´s a vindication of my production.
Right. It was never the plan for Andy to produce it?
Biff: No, no never. It was me producing. Andy´s a great mix engineer anyway and I know he works a bit more with Accept, but not with Saxon. He might produce the next album, who knows? Nothing´s carved in stone. I just wanted to do it myself this time. I´ve co-produced a lot of albums and I just wanted to do it myself.
Was there any song on the album that was harder to get right than others?
Biff: I think “Guardians of the tomb” was quite hard. “Made in Belfast” sounds very hard but was quite easy and different in style. It was fairly easy really. I think the difficult part was writing the songs, as it always is and finding a bunch of songs that people will really like.
That first instrumental track “Procession”, was that something you just ended up with or was it the plan from the beginning to start off with something like that?
Biff: No, we wanted to start it off with some sort of intro. I think the title sort of deserves a bit of an intro to the whole thing. “Sacrifice” was one of the early songs we wrote right after the idea for the title. We wrote the track and then Nigel wrote the beginning on his keyboards and we specifically wrote that part for “Sacrifice” and it was always intended to be like that.
Cool. I read that you were kind of thinking of perhaps doing a solo album. Is that a serious idea?
Biff: Well, it´s just me thinking of what to do next really. It depends on the rest of the guys. We´re gonna be touring pretty hard this year and we worked really hard on the album last year. I don´t want to sort of drag the band into another album really quickly so… You know, I´m always working so it´s no big deal for me to write ten songs and if they will end up on the next Saxon album or on some other project, I don´t know.
You also said that you kinda wanted to get that “747” and “Wheels of steel” kinda sound?
Biff: Well, I just suggested that that´s maybe the type of songs I would go to write on. Not really a sound but a song style, because we´ve become quite heavy in the last ten or twelve years, so it might be nice to go back and be more melodic rock.
I was thinking that bands like KISS and Van Halen have both gone for more of that vintage sound. Is that something you´d consider?
Biff: Probably not. (laughs) I like writing music, not rehashing old stuff. We do re-record stuff, but that´s mostly for fun really and for fans. For our fans to listen to our songs in different formats really. With this album I wanted to bring the power of our sound. I didn´t want the album to be over produced in terms of slick harmonies and choirs and keyboards. I wanted it to be an intense Saxon experience. A couple of songs are more thrashy rock, you know what I mean, like “Motorcycle man” and “To hell and back again”. More sort of thrashy music, really.
My first thought after listening to it was that it´s really heavy.
Biff: Yeah and I brought back a live element to the album and live we´re very heavy. There´s no ballad on this album either. We don´t really have a relaxing track, if you know what I mean? On the last album we had a couple of slow songs on there, but this one there´s no real let up. It´s just full on.
The last song on the album, “Standing in a queue”, what´s that all about?
Biff: It´s a bit of a tongue in cheek song really, about people who travel for a living and just fucking waiting in a queue. It´s a bit of a wild horse song and a throwback to the 80´s I suppose and bit like “Strong arm of the law”. It´s a story about us being stuck in bloody queue all our lives, like traffic and airports. The world is a queue so I thought I´d write a song about it. I tend to write lyrics about things other people don´t write about, so I suppose in that respect, it´s a bit unique.
Well, Swedes are known for standing in line waiting for the bus and such things.
Biff: (laughs) same as the fucking Indians. It´s a song that resonates with people who do as their told and stand in queue. It´s not a rebel song, you know what I mean? “I´m not standing in that fucking queue any longer!” (laughs) and if anybody pushes we kill them, right? If anybody pushes towards the front we fucking rip them to pieces. (laughs)
After all these years and all the albums, you´re voice is still pretty amazing live. Other singers who´s been doing it for just as long are struggling with their voices. How do you keep your voice in shape?
Biff: I don´t really. To tell you the truth, I don´t really keep it in shape. For a start I don´t drink spirits because that can really burn your throat. If I get shitfaced and I tend to go shitfaced on wine or something like that… and I stopped smoking some 20 odd years ago and I don´t really do anything. I´m just aware of that I have a voice and I suppose that helps.
I´ve always wondered, the name Biff, when was the first time that came about?
Biff: My brother was called Biff in school so I suppose they always talked about Biff Jr or Biff Smallbiff, for the brother of Biff. Then my brother left school at the time I started so I sort of acquired his nickname and it stuck really.
Alright. Have you ever thought about writing anymore books?
Biff: Well, somebody asked me the other day about it. I suppose I could write a second edition like a part two, which people sometimes do. I have tried actually, to get the band to sort of write some pages for a book. I´ve interviewed them but usually I end up answering all the questions for them. (laughs)
You´re playing Sweden Rock Festival again. You must be one of the bands who have played there the most? You and Motörhead.
Biff: Yeah, but I think Motörhead probably more. I think it´s their local gig. It´s a great festival and it´s important for them for the audience to enjoy themselves and I suppose we´re one of those bands. We´re bringing a bigger production this time and doing a little bit of a different setlist so it´ll be a bit different than the last time. It´s nice of them to ask us really. I think Sweden Rock Festival and Saxon have a little bit of a special atmosphere together.
It kinda goes hand in hand these days.
Biff: Well, so it should. Not a lot of people know this, but in the 80´s the UK and Sweden were our biggest selling countries around “Wheels of steel”. A lot of people think it was Germany, but actually it was Sweden. Germany came along around “Strong arm of the law”.
Final thing. What was it like growing up in Honley, Yorkshire?
Biff: It was a very small town. I didn´t stay there that long but my family live there still. It´s a nice town and sort of an old textile town. It´s next to a river, so it´s a nice place.
Did you get into bands there or was that later on?
Biff: It was later on when I was living in Barnsley in my early teens, I suppose.
Ok. I was checking out your tour schedule for last year and you did something like 115-120 gigs. Is this year´s tour gonna be as massive?
Biff: Probably. (laughs) We start in March and maybe finish around Christmas some time. All the dates are being added together now. We´re pretty good till April, June and I think Sweden Rock is the first show on the continent. It should be good. We´re definitely coming back after the summer.
Any countries you know of now that you´ve never played before?
Biff: No, not right now. China we´ve never played so…
Saxon in China would be cool.
Biff: Yeah! I think in the early days when rock and roll first went there, they didn´t understand the scales. The music´s strange because they don´t have the same scales as us. I think it sounded out of tune for them, but it´s changed a lot in the last ten years obviously. Maybe we should go there and Saxonize it?
Absolutely. Just one more thing I thought of. “Luck of the draw”, which is a bonus track for the iTunes release, having bonus tracks is that something that comes from the record company?
Biff: It´s in our contract that we have to have one track for iTunes or vinyl. For us it makes no difference. It was a bit of a tossup really. We had two songs that were basically the same tempo, “Luck of the draw” and “Standing in a queue”. I think the band wanted to put “Luck of the draw” on the album but I wanted the more tongue in cheek song and I got my way because I was the producer. (laughs)
Ok. Thanks a lot Biff!
Biff: Ok, see you later!