SAXON Frontman: ‘The Back Catalogue Is What Really Keeps The Band Alive’

Mark Kadzielawa of 69 Faces Of Rock recently conducted an interview with vocalist Biff Byford of British heavy metal legends SAXON. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

69 Faces Of Rock: When it comes to writing songs, you’ve been at it for over 30 years. How do you do it now? Do you still rehearse as much as you did back in the beginning, or have you developed a new formula for writing?

Biff: Sometimes we jam it, and the songs come out, and sometimes people bring things in, and we develop it. Usually what happens is I’m usually in charge of all the arrangements, and what riffs we actually use. So, I go to my hard drive and work on things. For example, the riff for “When Doomsday Comes”, which is a little bit ZEPPELIN-ish, is a Nigel‘s riff. And he played it one day messing around on keyboards, and I recorded it secretly. When we were asked to do a film soundtrack, I played that riff back to him, and asked Nigel if he remembered doing this. So we wrote a song from that actually. The guitarists came up with their parts, and it all came together. So, it’s a little bit of a melting pot process, I suppose. Sometimes I have lyrics, and different things. The guitar pats in “Mists Of Avalon” and “Ballad Of The Working Man” are mine. I wrote those. On the other hand, the guys might write some lyrics too. It depends really. Usually, we have one guy in control of all these pieces that are flying around, and that’s generally what I do. I put them all together, and make songs really.

69 Faces Of Rock: So it appears that songwriting ideas could come from every member of the band.

Biff: Everyone contributes in one way or the other. It takes a long time to make a song from a guitar riff, or a vocal melody. It’s not a song, and a lot of work gets done after that fact. But yeah, everybody puts in their share of the songwriting.

69 Faces Of Rock: Your old catalog is seeing the light of day again. The albums are very nicely remastered, with plenty of bonus tracks, and great packaging. Were you involved in bringing it back to life?

Biff: Yeah, I did a couple of the forwards for the EMI catalog. The back catalogue is what really keeps the band alive, I have to say. It sells continuously. Someone told me it sells one copy every minute around the world. The back catalog sells really well. And now it’s coming out on vinyl again, so you got all the CDs and you got the vinyl. When you write so many great albums, and the first five or six were really big for us, song-wise, I suppose. That’s why I think this album comes close to it because the songs are great.

69 Faces Of Rock: I know you’ve had a lot of dealings with former members who formed OLIVER DAWSON SAXON. The trademark case went to court, and there was a lot of bad blood there for a while. Did anything change?

Biff: We allowed them to use that name, OLIVER DAWSON SAXON, so they can earn some money, basically. They still do little clubs here and there. They do a lot of those tribute festivals where you bands impersonating other bands. So they do a lot of that, and so what, they don’t really bother us too much, really.

69 Faces Of Rock: And there are no court case pending at this point?

Biff: No, it was all finalized years ago. They tried to make things spin out a bit by putting things on Wikipedia. They have a judgment against them, and they can’t use the logo, or use the album covers, or anything really. They still continue to pretend to be in SAXON, which is a little bit sad. The SON OF A BITCH album (“Victim You”, 1996) they did couple of years ago was actually quite decent. I quite like that album, when they came out with the guy named Ted Bullet singing. I like that album, and if they carried on with that, it could’ve been a bit of a threat, I suppose, but they didn’t, so see you.

Read the entire interview from 69 Faces Of Rock.