With Saxon very much back on the comeback trail we thought it time we caught up with Saxon vocalist Biff Byford before Saxon’s packed out show at Download Festival to find out about the new album and their recent resurgence.

R13: So you haven’t played yet, are you looking forward to it?
B: Yeah it’s been good. Biggest question on everyone’s lips is “are we playing ‘Bands Played On’ or not?” We wrote the song about this festival.
R13: And are you?
B: No! haha

R13: You’ve played here before back in the 80s, how do you think it compares to back then?
B: Well the grass is the same! I haven’t really seen that much but it looks pretty good. When we played there was only one stage so everyone was a bit more focused but it seems good.

R13: The last few years have seen a resurgence in the bands popularity, is that gratifying or frustrating that it’s taken so long given that you never stopped recording?
B: We find it quite gratifying, we’ve had a fantastic year this year, we’re on a bit of a roll, we’ve had some good albums - the last 3 or 4 have been great and we’re just slowly building. The whole metal thing is happening now and we feel that we’re one of the bands that’s helped to get it back there.

R13: How much do you think that was down to Harvey Goldsmiths intervention?
B: I think for the media profile it was really good, a lot of people in the UK thought we’d stopped so it was really good. That’s really why I wanted to do it, they originally said it was going to be a documentary, which was a little bit false but we decided to do it and we played it straight down the line, we didn’t change our image for them, we didn’t make any compromises. We just kept true to our music and I think the fans liked it. It got a bit wobbly in the middle but the end product was great.

R13: How hard is it to keep the band going? I don’t know if you still live near each other?
B: No we all live in different parts of the world, we’re an international band as far as that goes.
R13: So how does that work when you come to write albums? Do you find that puts time limits on creativity?
B: Well it does but we always write our music in England, I have a studio at home in France where I can work on vocals and things but we’re having to make this album in Germany so that we can get in & out for the festivals that we’re doing. So it has to be fairly convenient but the new album’s sounding good.

R13: I’ve seen you a few times in the last couple of years and you still seem to have the same enthusiasm that you had 20+ years ago - what keeps you motivated after so long?
B: We just love the music and that’s really what drives us. We’ve always been a mixture of take your head of heavy metal and rock & roll you know? We’ve sort of gone back to those days and I think people like it, I think people like us to be playing fast & hard one minute and then more rock & roll the next.

R13: With Lionheart & Inner Sanctum (2 most recent albums) many fans stated that the band had really returned to form - is that a statement you agree with & if so why do you think that was?
B: Definitely and I don’t know what the reason was, we just found some inspiration because we’ve made some really heavy dark albums, we understand our music now I think. For a long time I think we were experimenting and we really understand what we’re actually good at so the last 2 or 3 albums have been really focused on our audience basically.

R13: You were widely credited with being the inspiration for much of Spinal Tap - did you take that as a compliment at the time?
B: Well the bass player had travelled with us, I didn’t know he was at the time, I had no idea but I don’t think any of the stage things were from us, well it’s from every band isn’t it? Our ex-bass player likes the connection though and he does look a bit like him with the moustache! Whether our bass player used to wear a cucumber down his pants I have no idea, I don’t know where that came from! I never saw the cucumber but he might have had, you never know!

R13: Do you meet many bands around today that credit you as an influence?
B: Well there’s thousands of bands that cite us as an influence, the biggest one is probably Metallica, we played with them last week and they did ‘Princess of the Night’ on stage so you can’t really have a better tribute than that.
R13: Is that something that when you see bands coming through playing a similar style to you restores your faith in the state of rock and metal?
B: I think it’s great when younger bands quote Maiden, Saxon, Priest and Motorhead as their influences. I think in the 90s a lot of bands wouldn’t quote anybody but it’s quite cool now.

R13: Are you able to fill us in on what happened at Hard Rock Hell (for which we understand you were blameless)? I understand there was a bit of a fracas with a member of 3 Inches of Blood?
B: Yeah I think that was Nigel, I wasn’t there I was up in Manchester having dinner with Heaven & Hell. I think they were drinking and this guy followed them to try & get into the room to try & drink some more and I think he just lost it, these things happen. Nigel opened the door and he came through the door like some wild dervisher and I think Nigel did alright actually!
R13: Well yeah from what I heard the other guy certainly came off worse.
B: Well these things happen when people get drunk or have some other stuff you know?

R13: So what’s next for the band? You’re already working on the new album as you mentioned?
B: Yeah, our next show is with Kiss in Bilbao and we’re going on after Kiss! So anyway whatever, maybe we’ll put some water on their pyros so they don’t go off! We’re off to do some big festivals in Europe, we’re doing festivals all through July so in and out really, do the album festival, album, festival.
R13: Is there a release date for the album yet?
B: Yeah, January 9th and there’ll be a single release for download in October before the Motorhead tour. That single will be called ‘Live to Rock’.
R13: Are you able to tell us what the album will be called yet?
B: No
R13: Right.

R13: One fan asked me to ask you what your opinion on bootlegs and taping of live shows is?
B: Well the thing is we’re a bit lucky because we’re quite a good live band so when people bootleg us or record us live it usually sounds fantastic or looks good. I think it’s a bit poor when somebody’s rubbish and it goes on Youtube because bands do have bad days sometimes but generally the bootleg thing is going on all around us all the time and you can’t really do anything about it so you may as well just live with it.
R13: So you don’t officially sanction it or otherwise?
B: I don’t officially sanction it, I know it goes on and it’s good, good for the fans. I don’t like it when people sell things, I think that’s different but some guy recording us in the audience - we’ve had people in hats like Mickey Mouse and inside the ears there’s two microphones as if we don’t know so it all goes on. I think we’re going to start uploading some of our concert footage onto Youtube.
R13:Ok that’s interesting.

R13: Are you going to have chance to check out any other bands here today?
B: No I don’t think so, we’ll probably watch Testament I think but we’re pretty busy doing interviews and generally running around like a nutcase!

R13: Well thanks very much for your time.
B: Pleasure.