Don’t forget, never surrender!”
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Mr. Biff Byford, thank you so much for your time, this is Nando from Wikimetal. How are you today?
Biff Byford: Hi, I’m good.
W (NM): So, first of all, Biff, I’d like to apologize in the name of all the Brazilian Headbangers about what happened in April. We’re very embarrassed, you know, you’ve been to Brazil many times, and you know that there are very serious people here, right?
BB: Oh, well… Shit happens, you know. It’s how it goes sometimes with festivals and things like that… It’s just how it goes sometimes, you know.
W (NM): Yeah, thank you for understanding and we really hope you guys come back soon, and we’ll be there for sure, supporting, as always.
BB: We’re talking at the moment about maybe coming in February or something like that.
W (NM): Excellent, excellent news. Talking about the early days, Biff, how was your first contact with music?
BB: Oh… First contact? Well, just as a boy, really, you know, listening to, you know, pop music and things… You know, just things like that really, The Rolling Stones, all those sort of, you know, late 60s rock music. That’s what I was really into.
W (NM): Do you remember the first time you heard the term “New Wave of British Heavy Metal”? And what do you think of it?
BB: The first time we heard of it?
W (NM): Yeah.
BB: We created it, didn’t we?
W (NM): I know, but the term…
BB: I think the term was in sort of… Must’ve been 1979, and maybe somebody like Geoff Barton or somebody threw in the phrase, I think, about the bands that were around, like Maiden, you know, Praying Mantis, Venom, few bands were around. And I think it was Geoff Barton that came up with the term, or maybe not.
I think Download Festival this year was a fantastic moment for the band.”
W (NM): So, Saxon was one of the first Heavy Metal bands to reach such a great commercial success in America. How important was that for the history of the band, and for the history of the genre?
BB: Well, I think for the history of the genre it was very good. You know, I think when we first went to America and Japan, there was a massive youth following pop music and the new rock music, so I think it was Maiden, Def Leppard, probably forged the American connection in the early days.
W (NM): Excellent. So Biff, you are one of the most influential singers in Hard Rock, and you also helped to mold the genre. Who were your main influences when you decided to become a singer?
BB: It was difficult really, because, as you know, I was a bass player first, but I liked… I liked sort of… I liked some of the blues singers, you know, the early stuff like Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker, I liked that style of singing. Although I don’t do very much of it, I do like it. A lot of the Janis Joplin… She was a fantastic influence on most singers, and you know, a young Robert Plant and obviously Ronnie James Dio, a lot of his early stuff, I liked Butterfly Ball and things… You know, Ian Gillan, most of the guys that were big when I was still trying to become, you know, successful.
W (NM): Great, great. Great taste, obviously, for music. How do you compare the Heavy Metal scene today and in the early 80s? What are the good things and the bad things that changed with time after the mp3 and the digital era?
BB: Well, I think Heavy Metal, at the moment, is pretty big again. You know, the genre, the different styles of rock music are coming together again. You know, so in a lot of festivals you can see Saxon, you can see Machine Head, you can see, you know, some of the newer bands, you can see some of the hard core stuff, you can see Nightwish and all that symphonic stuff, so I think audiences are, you know, more open to different styles of Rock and Metal music again, which is great, really. And I think that the digital thing, some things have changed for the better and some things have changed for the worse, I mean, I don’t think rock bands, Metal bands these days sell millions of records like they used to do, so that’s changed. But you have to try and do things in different ways, you know.
W (NM): So, changing the subject, Biff, we have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview: imagine yourself listening to music randomly, and then a song comes up that you just lose your mind completely and you start head banging wherever you are. Which song would that be, so we can listen to it on our show now?
BB: Oh, it’s difficult… It has to be “Highway Star”, Deep Purple, I think.
W (NM): Saxon is just releasing, at least in Brazil, it’s just releasing a must-have item: to any Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fan. How was the idea of putting together such a generous content, in just one product, with practically the best of four concerts in one DVD and two CDs, right?
BB: Yeah, it’s a great piece of… It’s a great product, it’s a great thing to have, and you know, I don’t think we’ll ever do it again, so yeah, I think it’s good for fans to see the band headlining with a big production and, you know, I think there’s a lot of songs that people haven’t heard before for quite a long time, so I think it’s a great package, really.
W (NM): Was this planned before or did you just feel like doing it after the results after you saw the results of the recording? Did you know that this would become…
BB: We’ve had the films around for a long time, and some of the things have been on the internet and some haven’t. We had the idea maybe a couple of years ago, to put together a DVD, and then it just went from there, really, you know.
W (NM): Yeah, changing the subject again, Biff, how was it for you to win the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Award for the Best UK Metal Band? And what was the importance of this kind of award?
BB: It’s a great award, you know, for a band that has been together for so long, to finally get Best British Band, it’s great. I think it’s good for music, really, that bands like ourselves, you know, we’re not a new band, we’re not a groovy band, so… I mean, a lot of young guys will go for the younger bands that they like, so I think it’s good that a band like Saxon gets voted for by old fans and young fans, so, I think it’s a good… I think it’s a good thing. And, you know, it’s voted for by the readers, which is pretty cool.
We created ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, didn’t we?”
W (NM): So, we have a lot of Heavy Metal fans that think that the best of metal came from the early 80s, and there are no new bands that could reach this status artistically. So what do you think of the new bands that appeared in the last 10 or 15 years?
BB: Well, there’s some great bands, you know, I mean… From the 90s, I suppose Machine Head came along later, and bands like this and then new bands like, you know… Just new bands that are playing in the older style are great, Mastodon – they’re pretty cool, they’ve got some great riffs. I think it’s good, really. I think bands like Machine Head tipped their hats to the older style of music as well, and obviously, you still have Metallica really hammering away there. So yeah, I think it’s… You know, the bands of the 90s and the bands of 2000, I think they have some good ideas, and I think they… You know, some of the bands are really cool.
W (NM): Excellent, we totally agree with you. So changing the subject, can you choose another song? Now can you choose a Saxon song that you feel really proud of having written?
BB: Yeah, I think I’d like you to play “Battalions of Steel”, because I think that’s really got all our styles there, it’s got Heavy Metal, it’s got the melodic vocal, you know, it’s got a hint of classical, you know, classical orchestra in there, so I think it has it all, really.
W (NM): With such a glorious career, Biff, what would be the top three highlights of your career? At least the first three that come into your mind.
BB: Oh, I think “Wheels of Steel” entering the charts was a great thing. You know, that went into the charts all over the world, really, so that was a great, great moment for the band. A fantastic start to our career. I think maybe getting over our problems with the band members, and sort of, you know, the late 80s were great, it was a great thing to finally get the guys together that really wanted the same thing. And I think Download, this year, we played, was a fantastic moment for the band, and I’ve just been watching the film of it and it is fantastic.
W (NM): Fantastic in deed. How was the census campaign that you tried to create that would consider heavy metal as a religion in the UK?
BB: I don’t know what happened to it, I don’t think that they’re counting yet. I don’t think that we’ll know it until next year.
W (NM): But that was a great idea, when did you have that idea? Do you remember?
BB: Actually, not my idea.
W (NM): No?
BB: It was Metal Hammer Magazine, yeah.
W (NM): OK, but you were the main person, like, talking about it, right?
BB: I think I was the only guy, actually.
W (NM): Well, we support you, Biff.
W (NM): Can you talk a little bit about your work with Amadeus Orchestra? And how important is classical music for the Heavy Metal world?
BB: Oh, I don’t really work with them that much, but, yeah, I think, you know, symphonic rock, you know, like the Nightwish guys, and some of the prog rock bands like Opeth, I think the classical side of… I think the classical thing is quite important for those bands, you know, because they work in those fields. I mean, Saxon, I think it’s just… We just dabble in there now and again, nothing serious. So I think it’s pretty good, yeah.
W (NM): It keeps the musical standards pretty high for Heavy Metal as well, right?
BB: It does, yeah. Although in the last album, and probably this next album we’ve gone back to a more, a more raw, live way of recording.
W (NM): Yeah. So since you mentioned, about the new album, what can you share with our listeners? Any news on the new album? Are you in studio right now?
BB: Yeah, we’re in studio, and it’s sounding good. There’s quite a few tracks, actually, so I think it’ll be a bit, a bit more sort of, you know, very melodic again, but some of the guitar stuff is very, sort of… Well, I think quite 80s, I think, some of the guitars.
W (NM): Great. We’re almost reaching the end of our interview. What would you tell a 13, 14 year old kid that wants to become a rock’ N roll singer?
BB: A rock’ N roll singer?
W (NM): Or a heavy metal singer…
BB: Just sing as much as you can. Don’t try and sing too loud. Leave that until later, later on as your voice gives develops. And bring it on stage, really, and try and create your own, sort of, timbre, as they call it. You know, try and get our own tone together. And that’s it really. Just sing a lot, but don’t overdo… You know, not overdo it if you’re young.
W (NM): And out of curiosity, how do you maintain the quality of your voice, how do you maintain the same quality in your singing after such a long time?
BB: Well, I think relaxing is the key. Don’t get too tense. If you get tense then everything tightens up, and… You know, it’s not good.
W (NM): Before we finish, Biff, I’d like to thank you so much, in the name of all Brazilian heavy metal fans, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done in the past, I don’t know…
BB: Yeah, we really love Brazil.
W (NM): Great, it was an honor to talk to one of the most important characters in heavy metal history, it makes us, Wikimetal, really proud. Thank you for your time.
BB: See you soon, yeah?
W (NM): Yeah, count on us for everything that Saxon does. Thank you, Mr. Biff Byfford!
BB: Don’t forget, never surrender! OK, bye!
W (NM): All the best!
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