British heavy metal legends Saxon are soon to embark on their latest UK tour, with 2018 looking to be a busy year for the heavy metal veterans. With a new album Thunderbolt also due out this month, frontman Biff Byford had just enough time for a brief chat.
The first order of the day is to ask what can fans expect of Thunderbolt? “It’s pretty much the same direction as our last album Battering Ram – a heavy album with lots of melody on there. It’s uniquely Saxon.”
Whilst Saxon never achieved the commercial peaks of contemporaries like Motörhead or Iron Maiden, they have managed a similarly admirable longevity. The main ingredients are simple, according to Biff: “Great songs and the fact that we’re considered to be a good live band. We are constantly touring, keeping the name alive and releasing great albums.”
It’s not all that common that Saxon come down to Wales, with fans often having to travel to Bristol for a taste, aside from the recent exception of the Steelhouse Festival near Ebbw Vale, notably a recent highlight for Biff.
With a song dedicated to Lemmy on Thunderbolt, and us talking just a few days after guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke’s passing, we refer to the ‘tutoring’ Saxon received from Motörhead – Saxon’s first major tour was as their support. “We had some great times on the bus with them. They taught us how to drink Jack Daniels and live life to the full. It was a bit crazy…” although he wisely decides against divulging specifics.
The kind of heavy metal that Biff and his generation practiced originated not from London-centric, culturally-gentrified areas but from more peripheral, working-class towns. Why did metal resonate here more than elsewhere? “Early metal bands came from industrial areas like Birmingham and it just swept around the world. Some of it came from London, the working-class areas at least, but not from the university areas. Most of us were self-taught, it just seemed to be that way really.” That kind of working-class can-do attitude still runs through Saxon’s music, ready to visit its thunder on Welsh audiences once more.
Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Fri 23 Feb. Tickets: £28.50. Info: 029 2078 1400 / www.cardiffstudents.com
words CHRIS ANDREWS