Biff Byford says that the rise of the early grunge movement, which symbolized the working-class spirit and focused on music over image, was ultimately a positive thing for bands like SAXON because it challenged them to not get complacent.
During a recent interview with the “Scars And Guitars” pocast, Biff was asked how the British heavy metal legends made it through the grunge-obsessed ’90s intact when so many of their contemporaries fell by the wayside.
“The fans, really — the loyal fans kept us going through that period,” the vocalist said. “And, obviously, the record company had faith in us and kept releasing albums, so we never really stopped doing what we did.
“I think the NIRVANA, PEARL JAM, I think the grunge thing, in some respects, was a good thing,” he continued. “It kicked everybody up the ass and said, ‘It’s not about makeup and hair. It’s about the guitar riffs and the attitude and what we’re singing about.’ So I don’t think it was a bad thing, really, for that period.
“Every 10 years, a new style comes along, and that was the new wave of music that swept America and went around the world. So I don’t think you can really complain when that happens, because that’s what happens — music regenerates and new fans come along and new music and a new generation of fans.
“But I think our fans kept us going through that period, and the record company as well,” he added. “And that’s where countries like Germany and England kept us going, and we toured around the world — we did Japan and places; South America was still strong. I think we did what every other band did. [IRON] MAIDEN did the same, and so did MOTÖRHEAD, and so did [JUDAS] PRIEST. We just played to our fans, and we learned to adapt.”
Acknowledging that “everybody” took a left musical turn in one form or another during the ’90s, Byford remains pragmatic in the way he sees grunge’s ultimate impact on SAXON‘s career. “You have to look forwards and not backwards,” he said. “I thought it was all right. We survived it. We were playing festivals, and we just took a pay cut, hunkered down — a working-class attitude, really. It’s a never-surrender attitude — that’s where it comes from. You have to find your way through, if you can. If you’re surrounded by people who are similarly minded, it’s good. It’s like a family, isn’t it? It was good for us. It taught us a really good lesson: don’t get complacent; don’t relax; keep the fire; and keep it on the edge. It taught SAXON a good lesson. Whether it taught all the bands a good lesson, I have no idea. Some of them fell along the wayside and then decided to come back again when things got better. But I think bands like us, MAIDEN, PRIEST and MOTÖRHEAD all went through that period and survived — and came out the other side a better band, actually.”
SAXON‘s 22nd studio album, “Thunderbolt”, was released on February 2 via Militia Guard (Silver Lining Music). The follow-up to 2015’s “Battering Ram” was once again helmed by producer Andy Sneap, who has previously worked with JUDAS PRIEST, MEGADETH, ACCEPT and TESTAMENT, among others. The disc features original artwork by longtime SAXON collaborator Paul Raymond Gregory.