Saxon: "Denim And Leather" Never Goes Out Of Style

Saxon band oct5.jpg
While they did not achieve the level of success in America as Iron Maiden, Motörhead, or Judas Priest, Yorkshire-based Saxon was an early battalion on the front lines for the invasion of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (that's NWOBHM to music nerds) in the late '70s and early '80s.

Often themed around sword-and-sorcery scenarios (and motorcycles), Saxon's music hit its peak on albums like Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law, Power & the Glory, and Denim and Leather. The last one's title track also became something of a rallying cry for metal fans. And despite changes in taste in popular music (and musical styles and group lineup), Saxon has never stopped pillaging on stage or in the studio.

Recently released in the U.S., Call to Arms is the band's 19th studio album. Highlight songs like "Hammer of the Gods," "Afterburner," "No Rest for the Wicked," and the title track showcase the band at its bludgeoning best. The deluxe edition also includes a bonus disc with seven numbers from a 1980 show at Donnington, including fan favorites "Motorcycle Man," "Backs to the Wall" and "747 (Strangers in the Night)."

Saxon's current lineup includes original vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn, along with Doug Scarratt (guitar), Nibbs Carter (bass), and Nigel Glockler (drums). Rocks Off spoke with Byford about the record, younger faces in the audience, and why his family likes Florida.

Rocks Off: How does this record stand out to you from the others?

Bill Byford: Well, I think it's the best one we've done in 20 years, seriously. It's much more like the classic Saxon sound, that '80s metal sound. But it's not dated. It's already out in a lot of the world, and we're looking forward to its release in America.

RO: Was there something you wanted to do differently, or it the beauty of a Saxon - like an AC/DC record or Iron Maiden - is that the listener pretty much knows what they're getting.

BB: Well, those bands have lasted because they [deliver] what they know their fans want. And look how big they still are today. We tried to do something a little bit different for a time, and it didn't always work out. This one is more like those earlier records that people really have responded to.

Call to Arms cover oct5.jpg
RO: Whose idea was it to put the famous World War I British military recruiting poster "Your Country Needs You" on the cover?

BB: Mine! I've always loved the image, and it's been used on a lot of things. It's in the [public domain] now. But the thing is, it looks great on a T-shirt! It also fits in with what the record is about.

RO: Since you and Paul are the only remaining original members, is there extra pressure on the two of you to uphold the band's history today?

BB: I wouldn't call it pressure but yes, we're very aware of that. We're [fortunate] enough as a band to have been around for a long time. Other bands from [our era] only lasted a few years.

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