Saxon, one of England's premier hard rock bands, has just started a U.S. tour that should keep them in America until the end of '83. They'll be supporting "Iron Maiden" through most of the summer.
Earlier this year, Saxon completed a ten-week sold-out headlining European tour. They broke the attendance records in both Scandinavia and Spain for the largest grossing performances for a group playing in those countries for the first time.
Saxon has just released their third album for Carrere/Epic Records titled "Power and the Glory."
Prior to their concerts here and barely in the U.S. 12 hours, Saxon's lead singer Biff Byford consented to talk with us.
We are extremely proud to be the first paper in the U.S. to talk to Saxon's Biff Byford about rock today and the group's historical tour with Iron Maiden.
Q. Tell me about this Iron Maiden tour that you're going out on.
A. It's the package they've put together. There's Iron Maiden, Saxon and Fastway. I think they're billing it as the "Crusade Tour." It'll be really good actually. Tickets are going really good and our album's getting quite a lot of airplay, so this could be a big year for us.
Q. Saxon is headlining the Reading Festival in England this year. How did
that come about?
A. There are only a few bands in England that are successful enough to headline it. And we've done the other festival which is Castle Donnington. That's the other big festival in England. We've never played Reading as a supporting or headlining group. You know, it was a natural assumption that Saxon should play Reading this year. I think maybe it’s gonna be the last festival this year, so it'll be a really big one.
Q. The last festival of all time?
A. It's gonna be the last Reading Festival.
A. I don't know. Festivals go in cycles. Sometimes they're really popular and sometimes they're not.
Q. I've read that you guys are all millionaires, in Italy anyway, but you
can't take the money out of the country.
A. When we play Italy, we play 15,000 seaters, and you try to smuggle it (the money) out of the country in your boots or in your suitcase. We've been caught a couple of times with fifty million lira.
Q. What is that equivalent to in American dollars? :
A. That would be about $15,000.
Q. I don't understand why you can't take the money out of the country.
A. The thing of it is, the economy is really bad and they just don't like people taking lira away from the country. When they catch you, they just tell you to put it in a bank, and not to be naughty and take it out of the country.
Q. Writer John Fuller has come out and said, "There is an unconscious
death wish at the center of the world of hard rock." Do you agree?
A. It's not at the center of hard rock anyway. It's really weird people saying that. You've been to one of our shows and you know it's to have a really good time. That's basically what's behind it all, isn't it? We're tryin to put a lot of fun back into rock 'n roll that's been missing for a few years. I think the "death wish" is ridiculous. For the last seven or eight years a lot of the fun has gone out of the bands that play rock 'n roll.
Q. Why has the fun gone out of it?
A. It just seems to be a business. Bands like Zeppelin and people like that. They're great bands, but they tend to get a little too business, and take a lot of the fun out of rock 'n roll. And what we're trying to do is put it back!
Q. Biff, what were you doing before you joined Saxon?
A. When I left school I was just working like everybody else does really. I used to be a carpenter. I've done all sorts of things. But I only did that as a means to an end, to be a "rock star." That's what I always wanted to be, and I had to work to earn the money to do that. We'd rehearse from 6 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
Q. That's a pretty grueling schedule.
A. It's a pretty grueling business.
Q. Was Saxon your first group?
A. Well, actually, we used to be called son of a bitch, back in the early days, but we changed the name to Saxon. It was the same group; we just had a different drummer that's all. We were really dedicated. It took us five years starting from nowhere to get our first hit in England, so we were out for a long time. I think ya'll find that most bands who seem new, have probably been out for a long time.
Q. What's the difference between the heavy rock groups of the sixties and
the heavy rock groups of the eighties?
A. Some of the bands there isn't any difference. It's the same old thing again. The songs are a lot better. I mean we'll try to put as many songs on an album as we possibly can, and we'll try to write really good short songs that don't go on and on. I just think the whole approach is a lot different as far as we're concerned. We like to meet the kids after the concerts. We like to do radio and TV interviews. We like to do paper interviews. The whole outlook is different I think. As far as the music goes, it's the same chords. As far as "live" goes, then "live" we just go onstage to make sure everybody enjoys themselves. A lot of the bands from the sixties just stood onstage looking good, and that was it. Very few of the bands shook the audience enough, into having a good time.
Q. Ozzy Osbourne remarked that "Heavy metal will never die." Why
A. There are two reasons. I mean, the first reason is there isn't a lot of "fashion" involved in heavy metal music, It's really "in" to like that sort of "fashion" band. With heavy metal it goes a lot deeper. The music is a lot more honest. For one thing, a guy can go see the band play "live" and really have a good time. And usually heavy rock bands are a lot better "live" than they are on album. Most heavy metal bands live to play "live." I know we do. We're happiest when we're touring.