SAXON vocalist Biff Byford recently spoke with rock journalist Mark Taylor. The full conversation can be viewed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the group's forthcoming "The Eagle Has Landed 40 (Live)", which features 40 songs covering four decades:
Biff: "It was a nightmare picking them. We listened to all the shows — we record a lot – and I just picked out great performances, really. Obviously, we've had a live album before — everybody's heard 'Wheels Of Steel' live and '747 [Strangers In The Night]' live — so I wanted it to be a cross-section from the whole 40 years. When we've done the big hits, there's always something slightly different — there might be somebody playing on it with us, or there might be some violins on it or something. I'm not going to please everybody."
On the group's long-running ties to MOTÖRHEAD:
Biff: "The original MOTÖRHEAD, we became big friends with those three guys. We were friends with all the MOTÖRHEAD guys over the years... We have big connections with them. I thought it was cool to write a [tribute] song [2018's 'They Played Rock'N'Roll']. I was going to write a song anyway before Lemmy [Kilmister] died, so it was perfect to bring it out of the closet and finish it, basically."
On Germany's Wacken Open Air festival, where the group has performed numerous times:
Biff: "It is the premier metal festival in Europe — in the world, actually. We played the first one, I think. [Editor's note: The group actually first played Wacken in 1992, the festival's third year of existence.] We've had a connection with Wacken since their very first [years] — 900 people in a field. We have good, fond memories of Wacken."
On where SAXON has yet to perform live that he hopes the group will someday visit:
Biff: "India. We got invited there to do some shows with METALLICA, but they got canceled [due to] a security problem, so we didn't go back. But we'd like to go to India. That'd be good. We've not done New Zealand, Southeast Asia. We get asked to go there, but it just never drops into the plans. You can't go there for one gig."
On his favorite non-SAXON concert memories:
Biff: "I've seen some great bands back in the day when I was a punter. I saw URIAH HEEP. [Late vocalist David] Byron was a great singer. I think he was a bit like a Freddie Mercury of metal. I loved his style. I saw [LED] ZEPPELIN... I saw Jimmy Page with his violin bow. I saw DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP together on the same tour. I saw GENESIS a lot back then, and YES. All great live bands."
On his passion for progressive rock:
Biff: "I love the melody, and I just love the different places that prog takes you. It's good to play a fifth or a different time signature in one song. You're just able to go different places with prog music. I think with metal music, it's straight down the road. It smashes you in the face. I think prog, you have more time to experiment."
On the modern music industry:
Biff: "I think the songwriting's better because it's more accessible, but in other ways, it's not as much of an event to go and get the album. I think we try to keep that alive, though, with SAXON. I think the packaging for us, the artwork, is very important. Between me and the record company and management, we talk about it and what we can do, and what's good value, what looks good."
On the 1990s:
Biff: "The '90s, for us, were great, because were charging then. We were really producing music that was a little bit different, a bit before its time... We'd already changed a little bit in the late '80s, and we weren't going to do that again. I think most of the bands just hunkered down and played to the fans, kept releasing albums, making sure the music was great and the packaging was fantastic, and just went through it, really... It's a 10-year cycle with a lot of things. Not exactly 10 years, but I think from 1980 to 1990, a new style came along, and a new audience arrived. A new generation comes along; the older generation gets into the new stuff. But we're always there, and when the time was right, we came back."
"The Eagle Has Landed 40 (Live)" will be released via Militia Guard/Silver Lining Music on August 2. According to a press release, the album "celebrates all the classics from the group's early years with the modern classics which have continued to define SAXON as legends."