Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjälä
Interview pictures by Taru Saarinen
Transcription by Cindy Zhang
The legendary Saxon doesn’t need too much introduction here, but I will do it briefly anyway. Saxon, which originally called themselves the Son of a Bitch, was formed in1977 by vocalist Biff Byford, guitarists Graham Olivier and Paul Quinn, bassist Steve Dawson, and drummer Pete Gill. Their early albums “Denim and Leather,” “Wheels of Steel,” and “Strong Arm Of The Law” are heralded as some of the essential NWOBHM classics. A groundbreaking live album, “The Eagle Has Landed,” was released in 1983 and still today. Along with such classics as Motorhead’s “No Sleep At All,” it’s often mentioned as one of the most important live releases from that period. Since those days, the band has gone through many ups and downs. There have been many line-up changes, problems with record companies, problems with former band members, and low record sales. Still, on the other hand, over the last few years, they have succeeded in reaching a new, strong, and loyal fanbase who have helped them re-create their glory days. Their recent albums “Lionheart,” Killing Ground,” and “Metalhead” are modern heavy metal classics and are also living proof that Saxon is alive and well. The band released a brand new live album, “The Eagle Has Landed III,” which continues the saga which originally started in 1983. I managed to catch Paul Quinn and Nibbs Carter after their fantastic show in Ruisrock, and here is the transcription of our lengthy causerie, hope you like it?
First of all, I have to say that it’s great to have you back in Finland after four years! PAUL: It’s our pleasure “laughs.”
You recently released a brand new live album, “The Eagle Has Landed Part III,” and are now in the midst of your European tour. Last November I saw you playing in Stockholm…..
NIBBS: Yeah, that was the “Night Out with the Boys Tour.” We did songs from just the first five albums or something like that?
PAUL: We’ve settled in at the moment into a set of old and new with bits that we had to relearn for that tour. Therefore the set is a big mixture of old and fresh now. As you can tell only at times… there’s more new and elder…
You said on the last tour, and you played many very old, rarely played stuff. Nibbs, was it challenging to learn that stuff?
NIBBS: Yeah, on the 2005 gigs, “Night Out with the Boys Tour,” there are lots of songs that I’ve never played before – “Hell and Back Again,” “Play It Loud,” “Stand Up and Be Counted.” It was really good fun playing it. I mean, you could see that there were a lot of young kids in the crowd that was also really into it as well, so that was a surprise actually. I expected a lot of the older fans to come out of the hospital or something and check out the show, but there were quite a lot of kids into the gigs, and in the end, I don’t know about Paul, but it was terrific fun. But I started to miss playing these, like, the kind of shows that we did today.
Did you missed songs like “Dogs of War” and “Solid Ball of Rock”?
NIBBS: Actually, I missed more playing stuff from the “Lionheart” album, ‘cause we put a lot of work into that album. When we did the “Lionheart” tour, we played about seven songs from that album, and then we didn’t play any of those songs – only the title track – on the “Night Out with the Boys Tour,” so it was like “Huh? We did all that work, and now we’re not fucking playing the songs. What’s going on?” But yeah, today is like a mixture of one or two songs that we realized people really want to hear from the older stuff that we haven’t played before, like “Hell and Back Again,” which I know Paul loves playing. He’s been asking to play that for years.
Recently you had to cancel one gig in one Arabian country. What’s the story behind that episode?
NIBBS: No, no, they canceled it. We didn’t have to cancel anything. In fact, the only thing that we had to cancel was visiting Nigel’s house to help him with his garden. He’d finished at this point with his kitchen. Anyway, what was it, Dubai? Yeah, they thought “Crusader” was horrible, and we’re all racist, and we hate the world, so…
PAUL: It’s possible that the same journalist who translated “Crusader’s” lyrics for Turkey also did the Dubai one because they’re just not right, you know, the translation. Not even close.
NIBBS: Yeah, and Chris De Burgh, he made a record called “Crusader,” which uses the same theme.
Did he ever get any trouble because of that?
NIBBS: He was allowed to play in Dubai, but that’s because of his eyebrows. If you go anywhere near him with an offensive attitude, he just does this thing where his eyebrows just attack you.
PAUL: It’s pretty much eyebrow music.
NIBBS: It is pretty ‘eye-brow, yeah. It’s a shame, though, you know, because there must have been at least four fans there… wait, four thousand fans there waiting to see us play.
Has Saxon ever played in any Arabian counties?
NIBBS: No! We never went even anywhere near there, “laughs.”
Yeah, I can see why…
NIBBS: I don’t understand why, it’s like… politics, what’s the score you know?
Wouldn’t you have been scared to go there?
NIBBS: Only if we didn’t have proper underwear or something like that. Well, you know, you never know what’s going on with the toilet situation over there – it’s the same in France. England, it’s more of a kitchen thing.
NEW RECORD AND LIVE ALBUMS…
Okay, I have to ask about the new live album. Why put out another live album while there are a bunch of them already released?
NIBBS: Official live albums?
Yeah, there are at least five or even more released…
NIBBS: Wait… “Greatest Hits Live,” “Eagle Has Landed Part 2”, oh yeah, “The Eagle Has Landed Parts 1”, “3,” and “Rock ‘n ‘Roll Gypsies.”
Actually, I’m asking that because mainly you are playing the same songs once again and …
NIBBS: Don’t you like that?
I’m a fan of the band, you know. It’s not a problem for me but…
PAUL: It doesn’t seem very long between live albums, but that’s not really an excuse. Find a way we try and prove that we’re still cutting it. For people that don’t see us live, it still kicks ass.
NIBBS: There are three real-live albums, that’s the “1”, “2” and “3 Eagle Has Landed”, that’s it.
PAUL: The other ones are a little bit like, “Oops.”
NIBBS: But you never made a mistake so that you wouldn’t know about that. Shit, I’m human! I’m the musician, oh my god!
How about the next Saxon studio album. Do you anything to tell about that?
NIBBS: We’ve been writing a lot, and we’ve got loads and loads and loads of it. Actually, we’re writing all the time. I mean, we’re using ideas that we wrote a long time ago. It’s always the same, but this time…
You should say it’s going to be the best Saxon album ever or whatever…” laughs.”
NIBBS: No, I don’t think so. It’ll be the best Saxon album next year, that’s for sure “laughs”!
PAUL: I’d like to make sure that nobody misses out on “Lionheart” if you’ve not got it already, buy it! What’s stopping you?
Are there any details of the album you would like to tell us? Name of the album, song titles, or ANYTHING!
NIBBS: It’s going to be metal, screaming metal. That’s all I can say at this point.
Do you know when the album will be released?
NIBBS: Hmmm… I would say the end of January, February 2007?
DRUMMERS OF SAXON
How did you get an idea of getting Nigel Glockler back in the first place?
NIBBS: Biff had been playing, like angling with Nigel and throwing offers to him, like “You should join the band again,” but he’s so busy with his kitchen and we thought either we have to do a tour of his kitchen or he’s got to come out on the road with us and luckily, this is his kitchen, it’s fantastic. I think that’s enough with the kitchen thing.
PAUL: Maybe, could be wearing a little thin.
Nigel decided to leave the band in the late nineties because he had some severe health issues with his back. How is he doing now?
NIBBS: He’s really sick… because he’s got a bad taste in clothes. I don’t know what the hell he’s doing with his trousers nowadays. Yeah, come and have a look, “laughs.”
Excluding the clothing thing, how he’s been doing with you guys again?
NIBBS: We don’t let him decide anything! Yeah, we’re very strict with Nigel. He likes being pushed around, and he’s from down south in England. You’ve got to treat them really rough, and you know, just like sit on him a lot, kick him about. He plays well when you rough him about “laughs.”
PAUL: We have more verbal kicking around than real ones; we have some funny bits of repartee now. We got around to where we insulted each other, and it’s funny.
NIBBS: He couldn’t insult anyone to save his life! “laughs” But really, Nigel’s really great, he’s been in the band since ’82, I think, isn’t it ’82? So whenever he leaves the band to do whatever he does, like clean his kitchen or something, it’s weird, you know. You should see his kitchen… when he comes back, you can tell it’s like, we’re all like “Enjoy,” you know “laughs.”
When he first came back, was it hard for him to re-learn the songs?
NIBBS: Well, when he came back, he seemed really enthusiastic about the gig, but then he’d say, “I’ve got to go home, clean the kitchen, do some cooking,” or something, right? You can never tie him down, and he’s very domesticated.
Tell me something about your time with Jorg Michael?
NIBBS: He likes cleaning as well, but his body mainly “laughs.”
PAUL: He’s a sandwich maker mostly. He’s a killer toasty maker.
NIBBS: Yeah, if it weren’t for Jörg, we’d have probably died on the “Lionheart” tour. He came up with the idea of making sandwiches. Even if we had really good catering, he would just make sandwiches all the time, toasted sandwiches. He’s a big fan of Finland, by the way.
Jorg on stage in Swedenrock 2005
I know that. I have to ask some more about him. Was Jorg ever an official member of Saxon, or was more or less “a hired gun”?
NIBBS: He was an official gun. He did the “Lionheart” record, did a really good job, and then we did the “Lionheart” tour. I mean, he was on stage with us all the time. It wasn’t a ‘hired’ situation, he was fully into the band, and it was a situation where Stratovarius was unsure what they were going to do. Whatever the situation was, he was 100% with us.
So do you mean that after some months of the release of “Lionheart” he said, “I’m going to finish this tour with you, and then I’m going back to Stratovarius”?
NIBBS: Yeah, that’s right, and that’s pretty straight, you know, and we appreciate that he let us know in plenty of time to do the whole “Lionheart” tour and any festivals that we needed to do during the summer.
PAUL: We got the recipe off him for the sandwiches, so that was good “laughs.”
Saxon with Jorg during “Lionheart”
Those two guys, Nigel and Jorg, have very, really different styles of drumming? Jorg was much more into modern double bass style, while Nigel is more like a traditional drummer?
PAUL: That’s true, but you just saw what he did today on stage “laughs”… You know, as a matter of fact, he was helping us to write “Witchfinder General.” Nigel, it was his idea to have a triple bass drum “laughs.”
NIBBS: He basically wrote that one. Jörg, he’s got a different style, but things he played on the record, they’re not actually so difficult to play. Yeah, physically demanding, but if you listen to what he’s doing, it’s not actually that difficult. His approach to the live show, that’s different. He has…
He’s a showman, kind of…
NIBBS: Yeah, yeah, but he’s also really focused on making sure that the point is very strict whereas Nigel, likes to swing between the key points, rhythm points, within the groove of a chart. Jörg, he’s very strict, and it really fucked up Paul and Dougie when he first started playing with us. I did a lot of rehearsing with just Jörg and myself, and it was pretty easy to get into it, but once you’ve been playing with a drummer like Fritz and Nigel… they’ve actually got a similar style, you know they really swing and groove within a chart. Jörg keeps it straight, straight, straight, straight, straight, and it was a bit of a shock. It was the same for me, but I liked this idea, to keep it strict and straightforward, and you follow me, and we riff between my beats kind of thing. If you listen to “The Eagle Has Landed Part 3” disc two, most of that is Jörg, and it works. But then again, most of disc two is the “Lionheart” record, so that’s the parts that he played on the record. A lot of people ask that question.
NIBBS: Yeah, maybe it’s just so obvious that I can’t see it.
Because we have talked a lot about Saxon drummers, let’s continue a little bit more. Tell me something about Pete Gill and Nigel Durham? Pete was the original drummer of Saxon, and Durham did album “Destiny” with you in 1988?
PAUL: Yeah, in a way, they were both kinds of an up-tempo in pace, which a lot of drummers are actually, but Gill was very much John Bonham actually as well.
NIBBS: I used to like Gilly’s drumming, a really relaxed sound.
PAUL: Bit of a backbeat to it… which some drummers think is lazy, but I quite like it.
NIBBS: Yeah, I like it a lot.
PAUL: To just let everything be ‘baggy,’ as we call it.
NIBBS: I’ve never played with Nigel Durham or Pete Gill so, I don’t know.
PAUL: Durham never got much chance to play his own style because he was playing what other people had written before him, so I can’t really say what he’d play like if he was left to his own devices, I have to cop out on that one.
NIBBS: Yeah, he never really got the opportunity to be creative. He just did a tour, I think?
Yeah, he just did one album, “Destiny,” which was quite straight and “simply” stuff to play, right?
PAUL: Yeah, it was written simply, but it was also decided that the drummer should be simple. Pete Gill was quite a funny guy. Most of us are really when you get right down to it.
Do you ever miss those old guys?
PAUL: Kind of, it can be like a divorce sometimes. I think “Son of a Bitch” guys, and I hope it’s true they’re going to be called “Son of a Bitch” again because I think that’s a great name. It always was.
I heard that Durham had joined Graham Olivier’s band, and they’re touring and making records together?
PAUL: Actually, Durham has always been with Graham’s band, but Pete Gill also played with them at some point.
I didn’t know that?
NIBBS: Yeah, they were trying to say “We are Saxon” and go on tour
PAUL: That’s right. Pete joined and then left soon afterward. The whole scene was we were trying to make sure they didn’t go out as Saxon because there is no Saxon without Biff in it.
NIBBS: You know it’s like having Dr. Martin’s, but with a K, you know?
I know what you mean. You can go and buy a cheap Rolex from the street, but it’s actually ‘Roleck” or something like that? “laughs.”
NIBBS: Yeah, you’ve got the message.
The “classic” Saxon!
NWOBHM AND BEING ON TOUR WITH VENOM…
Would you still call Saxon a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band?
NIBBS: Yeah, definitely; I mean, I think when I listened to Saxon… I only heard them on the radio. I never actually got to see a gig. Still, I listened to what they were doing in like ’81, 1980 to ’81, you know, those Donington shows, you listen to that onstage, and it’s like high-energy, quite aggressive but not like shouting, just the energy is aggressive. And I think that’s coming back, you know, I think we’ve found the whole spirit of Saxon, and if that was New Wave of British Heavy Metal then, that’s the same spirit now.
There are many bands under the moniker: Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Venom, Raven, Tank, Tigers of Pan Tang, and Saxon. Do you think that all those bands are NWOBHM?
NIBBS: I think Def Leppard was like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal like with “Pyromania,” but then after that, they became like the new wave of Hollywood metal style, which is okay, but that’s not heavy metal anymore.
How about bands like Venom?
NIBBS: Venom? They’re full-on heavy metal, you know, they influenced a lot of bands. Do you know much about Venom, Paul?
PAUL: Not very much, we’ve played with them in America.
NIBBS: I know they get a lot of credit for starting the death, satanic metal.
Yeah, they created the whole black metal thing and stuff. I didn’t know that you’ve been on tour with Venom?
PAUL: I think we did one or two shows with them in America.
Cronos, actually I met him in Finland one week ago.
NIBBS: One week ago? Is he okay? Is he healthy?
Yes, he was doing fine.
NIBBS: So he’s taking care of himself, yes? That’s a good thing.
PAUL: Death warning on cigarettes.
Okay, Paul. Tell us, what are your memories of Venom on tour? When did you play with them?
PAUL: ’82, I think… there’s a lot of water under the bridge since this band started so I have to ask him for his memory to help me.
NIBBS: Want my memory of what?
PAUL: You weren’t there, so I can’t ask you anything.
NIBBS: Yeah, my memory of not being there was great; actually, I was bobbing for fries.
PAUL: Bobbing for fries… I cannot remember how well they played or anything, but they were there at the beginning of the thrash and death metal thing. Nah, I answered the question already. That’s as much as I can remember – nothing.
NIBBS: That was the Venom tour, yeah?
PAUL: It wasn’t a tour. It was a couple of gigs, maybe only one?
Did you have a lot of partying with the Venom guys? Tons of booze and beer…?
PAUL: They didn’t give us any, I don’t think?
NIBBS: He’s not going to tell you about that “laughs.”
PAUL: We had our coterie. Nibbs, have I told you about that tour?
NIBBS: I don’t know anything! I’m from Cleethorpes, and I don’t know anything.
NIBBS, FASTWAY, AND “BodyRock”…
Okay, Nibbs, tell us something about your Fastway years?
NIBBS: My Fastway years were just studio work. I did two records with Eddie Clark and Lea Hart and bottles of vodka and other things. Great fun, really great fun, Eddie Clark’s a comedian.
Now afterward, how do you like songs like “Bad Bad Girls”?
NIBBS: “Bad Bad Girls” is just like, get drunk and soft dude pop-rock.
What was that one song? Body-something… “Body Rock”?
NIBBS: “Body Rock”? Let your body rock? That’s a Lea Hart, Christopher O’Shaughnessy song. Great fun, if you get in a nightclub with the right kind of wife, it’s great fun. That kind of music, you get a few gin and tonics down, and you get on the dance floor, the song’s ‘let your body rock’ you know it’s like just go for it, whatever, it’s pop-rock. I don’t think it was what Fastway fans were expecting, but you don’t care when you’re out of your face in the studio and having a good time. If you ask Eddie, I’m sure he’ll tell you it was fun, but it wasn’t real.
You never played any shows with them?
NIBBS: No, I don’t think we would have been able to “laughs.”
I can imagine you playing “Body Rock” live…
NIBBS: Ha, yeah, right, “Let your body rock! Rock!”
Paul, what do you think about that song?
PAUL: That was sillier than anything Saxon used to do “laughs.”
NIBBS: So let’s skip that section!
After Fastway, you joined Saxon. Paul, were you impressed when you heard the Fastway albums, and you said, we have to pick this guy up?
PAUL: Yeah, I think I played with Nibbs before, I think before he joined Fastway?
NIBBS: Definitely, yeah.
PAUL: Bram Tchaikovsky’s blues band, or what were they called?
NIBBS: The Knee-Tremblers.
NIBBS: Scumbles, before he joined, Paul played with us, and he also played with us in the Green Man. Scumbles would be Roger Marshall, and he used to be a British biker, motorcycle racer. Paul used to play like he’s just really eager to play any blues-rock gigs whenever he’s got a chance, and you can catch his new album out next summer.
PAUL: He’s putting me on the spot!
Saxon live at Wacken 2004
WACKEN AND FRITZ RAINBOW
Then I have to ask about the Wacken show you did back in 2004, and I saw that show by myself. That show was the last for Fritz, the first show for Jorg, and the first for Nigel. I have to ask what really happened to Fritz because he was great on drums!
NIBBS: Fritz? Fritz is out because he is an alcoholic, which is okay if you can keep it under control. I mean, I’m pretty close to being an alcoholic myself.
Like almost every musician?
NIBBS: Pretty close, yeah. But I think it was just a little bit too stressful for him, you know, he got pretty tired. The guy is definitely one of the best drummers that we ever had. He just got a bit… yeah, to answer your question, Fritz, he’s a freaking great guy, but if you’re sick, you’re sick, and he knows the score. He was just too tired to do a real tour and a record. I’m not sure what Fritz is doing now, but I’m sure that if he’s fit again, he’ll make some outstanding records. He’s going to be around for a long time, I’m sure.
Fritz Rainbow at 1999 on “Metalhead” photsessions…
Actually in Sweden Rock Festival this year, I met Herman from Victory…
NIBBS: Herman Frank?
Yeah, I asked about Fritz, and he said he’s just sitting at home and…
NIBBS: Well, there you go. If he gets his act together, he will make great music. If he doesn’t, then he will just be sitting at home. But I love Fritz, he’s a friend, and I’m sure people who read this interview know people who’ve got a sickness or an illness, and if you’re fit, you’re fit. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best drummers that I know. He wouldn’t have played on “Metalhead” and
“Killing Ground” if he wasn’t such a great drummer, you know?
How do you like the DVD you made with him, “the Saxon Chronicles”?
NIBBS: Yeah, he played like a ten-minute drum solo on there or something like that; my children watched that and tried to play that drum solo. It’s a big inspiration for any drummer. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think, in my opinion, he has a similar style to Nigel, maybe it doesn’t sound like that to you, but it was easy to play with Fritz – when he wasn’t drunk.
Was he ever drunk on stage?
NIBBS: A few times.
How was that? I’m a bass player myself, and I know when it’s a problem if there’s something wrong with the drummer…
NIBBS: You should try playing with me when I’m drunk. It’s a fucking nightmare, “laughs.”
How about you, Paul, you have seen it all. How are your comments about Fritz?
PAUL: I’d like him to get fit again.
NIBBS: He’s a nice guy.
PAUL: He’s got a very self-defacing sense of humor, which is quite rare for German people.
Overall he was the first-ever non-English guy in your band.
PAUL: Think so… first non-English? Yes, I think so. What’s your point?
I just thought because…
PAUL: He was still a genuine Saxon, you know?
IS THERE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF SAXON?
Paul, when you are not on tour with Saxon or doing anything with Saxon, what other things do you do in your life? Do you have any other life?
PAUL: Nah, apart from seeing my girlfriend in France, no. I’m productive. Most of us write all year round because the home studio’s cheap these days, so you can have a porta-studio that’s almost master quality for under 1000 Euros, it’s amazing.
I was asking Paul if he has any life besides Saxon. How about you, Nibbs?
NIBBS: I’m feeding other people… I like to make sure that people have got plenty to eat in my house. And it’s a shame that not everybody thinks the same about everybody else. But writing music, really. Nipples… nipples… for everybody!
You have never been credited for any Saxon music. Do you write music at all?
NIBBS: For myself or for other people to hear? Not yet, but someday I would like to.
Is Saxon the only kind of music you want to play, or would you like to try different styles?
NIBBS: Definitely, I like to fool around with other stuff, we all do, we’re all broad in our spectrum of what we want to play to other people, to share, but I must say I enjoy what Saxon’s doing right now. I can remember when I really first started trying to write with the band. I was a bit confused, and I used to try and put different elements into the band that didn’t really fit. But then Paul started using the kind of angle that I was trying to bring into the band, and that’s developed since “Dogs of War,” really. I mean, it’s been there for many years. If you listen to “Hell and Back Again” and “Machine Gun” and things like that, it’s always been there, and the attitude’s always been there. But the place that we’re at now, the record Lionheart, that’s a really good example. It’s got quite a good variety of styles on Lionheart. I’m sure it’s confused a few Saxon fans, but most of that record, I think, appeals to every Saxon fan. They have to be quite faithful to us to like it, but I don’t think it hurts anybody. The record has got plenty of what you expect from us and quite a lot of other flavors as well. I’d like to do, actually, a record myself like the last Saxon record, and I’ve been playing with the band.
Would you ever think about singing lead vocals by yourself?
NIBBS: Yeah, it’s not that good, but you don’t need to be that good to be on records. To do a show, I don’t know, and I don’t think you’ll catch me doing a gig.
PAUL: He sings better without a microphone than with one, so I know what he means by “laughs.”
NIBBS: Yeah, I’m not a singer, but I would probably sing on a record. But I’d like to make a record, experimental, maybe 50-50. I’ve been with this band so long it’s difficult not to play Saxon style. I’m a fan of Saxon, the first record I bought was “747” along with “Whole Lotta Rosie” from “If You Want Blood,” I bought “Heavy Metal Thunder,” I bought “Never Surrender,” “20 000 Feet”. These songs, they’re in my kitchen, so definitely, you can’t get rid of stuff like that, so it’s in there, you know. But I like fooling around with all kinds of different styles. I have to do it, but it’s not that easy to do a solid project when you’ve got four children and another four children. I’ve got eight children, fucking hell!
How about Paul, Have you ever had plans to release a solo album or something like that?
NIBBS: Every year, one every year! He’s thought about 30 solo albums!
PAUL: In a way, it’s better that I’m with Saxon because it focuses me in a direction that I enjoy more than most of them. I do like Blues, and I do like soul music with hip-hop threw in on the side. My favorite musician is Jimi Hendrix, but my second favorite musician is Stevie Wonder. But yes, I keep on writing stuff for myself and throwing them in the bin, and maybe someday, there will be something released?
NIBBS: You should hear him when he gets ‘soul, man, it’s brilliant.
PAUL: I think the safest bet for me will be a Blues album like he said. The genre is set in Blues, and you can’t play around with the template too much. It’s a bit like Metal that way.
Saxon has recorded several cover songs like “Solid Ball of Rock,” “Set Me Free,” and “Court Of The Crimson King.” Who picks the songs? Many songs you’ve done song have been successful and different from the originals?
NIBBS: Biff knows… the cover songs we do are usually quite successful and different from the originals, how do we choose them?
BIFF: By arguing, usually. “I’m not going to play THAT!”
PAUL: Yeah, I’ll tell you the story of…
Tell me your story about “Set Me Free,” for example?
PAUL: That just came about because Sweet guys were big Deep Purple fans as well, and a whole lot of their… as I said, we were Deep Purple fans, and Sweet was, so they were doing a lot of single B-sides where like past teachers of Deep Purple, that was one of them. We used to kind of go to the bars in our hometown and tried and find their rocky B-sides like… I seem to remember the B-side of “Black Night” was “Speed King,” we’re going “We must get this album,” you know that was a way to find out how good albums were. And Sweet had a fair number of singles on jukeboxes, so we split their B-sides and that one we particularly liked because it was so close to “Flight of the Rat.”
Yeah, the riffing is pretty close, yeah.
PAUL: In the case of “Crimson King,” I came one day to rehearsal and said, “Okay, it’s the year 2000. How about we do “21st Century Man?” They said, “No, it’s been done, “Crimson King” is a much better song, let’s do that,” so that was kind of an idea that went sideways, in a way.
How about “Solid Ball of Rock”? I have never heard the original version..?
NIBBS: Nobody knows that song. Keith Line wrote it? And Mickey Broadbent, you know Mickey… ugly fucker… and Peter Bramhall, his nickname’s Bram Tchaikovsky. He used to be in a band called The Motors, the ‘70s, late ‘70s, and the studio that Saxon used to use in the early ‘80s, mid-’80s, that’s where he used to live, and they got that song, and we heard it, and we said: “Give it to us, we can make it work.” That’s why you’ve never heard it before.
So it’s not actually a cover song?
NIBBS: It is, it’s a cover of…
PAUL: It wasn’t written primarily for us. We just heard it and said we could make a different version of it.
NIBBS: You’d never heard it before, but it’s a cover of Bram and Mickey and Keith’s song.
What if I would like to buy the original version. Is it available somewhere?
NIBBS: Not in original format, as far as I know, but if you want to go buy “Solid Ball of Rock,” it’s available on SPV, I can’t remember what the catalog number is, but it’s available now.
I LIVE FOR METAL, HOW ABOUT YOU?
What does the term “Metal” mean to you these days, after so many years?
PAUL: Being eaten by flies, usually. I think it’s a lifestyle rather than music really, sounds pompous but I think you have to dare to be different and although I like things as diverse as Beatles and at the other end, the extreme, Django Reinhardt, Stefan Grappelli. It’s an alternative lifestyle, is Metal, it’s kind of, what’s the word for it? A friendly, anarchy.
I have been asking this question by many people, and now I’m asking this from you. How long do you think you can keep staying “Metal”? For the rest of your life?
PAUL: I can only answer that if I didn’t have so many favorite styles that I can be influenced by and put into “Metal,” I would be a boring musician if I was wearing the blinkers of a horse.
In the way, you’re living, I mean, like keep staying in style and…
PAUL: Oh, okay, I think it gets easier as you get older because… there are TV programs about angry older men in Britain, and there’s just so much stupid about the world, and the generation that I’m from, the one that was teenagers in the ‘60s, we’ve been trying to change the world and we almost succeeded but I don’t think we’ve quite managed it yet. We’ve certainly made lots of babies.
How many do you have?
PAUL: I’ve only got one, but I meant the whole permissive thing of the ‘60s.
NIBBS: I’ll have to try and work out what the question was?
PAUL: He said, “Does it get more difficult to stay with the Metal lifestyle as you get older?” Not for you, I don’t think so?
Am I metal?
The whole Metal thing started in the late ‘60s or something, and from my point of view, the people who created it, like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and those guys, are still doing their thing…
NIBBS: Zeppelin was fantastic.
Yeah, but still, they are living the Metal and Rock thing, you know? They are 60, 70 years old, and I will ask you if you think you will be “Metal” or “Rock” when you reach their age?
NIBBS: Nah, there’s definitely a point where you can’t be “Metal”…I don’t think so. If I were like I was 15 years ago, I would be dead, yeah? Or very nearly. My opinion 15 years ago was you have to be an animal to be Metal, and that’s not so. You have to be a regular guy, and you have to put your energy in the right place at the right time. So when it comes to the point where we can’t do onstage what we do now, then you just have to make music and let the music do the talking without having to pretend that you’re like 40 or 50 years old. I’m sure you hear a lot of great music from bands around for 30, 40 years, and I’m sure it will be better than some of the stuff they’re doing, or we’re doing trying to do it onstage. Music’s not all about the gig, and it’s for your ears.
How do you think about those really old bands, like Deep Purple, these days overall?
NIBBS: We played with Deep Purple last July. I think it was or August. I think we played with Deep Purple three shows in Spain last August, and I know I was very impressed. Then I saw them this year, and I wasn’t impressed. But being on stage and sitting next to the guys and watching them play was like opening your Christmas present. It was fantastic.
I believe that.
NIBBS: It’s something to do with being on the same stage, you know, we played in front of them, and then they played after us, it’s like “Whoa,” it’s very exciting. But they played really well. Then I watched them in Westfalen Halle, Germany, this year, and it wasn’t really exciting…
NIBBS: Yeah, it was more like ‘Deep Purple karaoke,’ but then again, it’s not the best place to watch Deep Purple. I think you need to be on the stage, and you need to be sitting on the stage watching them. They’re great guys, I must say, they came and said hello to us and “You wanna come and watch us on stage, you sit next to our drum kit, sit by the side,” all this kind of thing, “Drink some Irish wine with me, or Scottish wine.”
PAUL: They are probably the single biggest influence on this band.
Deep Purple. Really?
NIBBS: Yeah, what was the album?
PAUL: “In Rock,” “Fireball”…
NIBBS: I can’t remember that one album that influenced you, Biff, Graham, and Dawson. What was it? Stuff that probably influenced “Backs to the Wall” and tracks like that?
You mentioned “In Rock,” and that album has been a big influence for many. What are some other bands that…
PAUL: Sorry, I must interrupt. I think that we ought to play with Deep Purple more often because we make them work. They play really well.
NIBBS: Yeah, Roger Glover, he gave us a lot of compliments, saying, “We’re gonna have to fucking work when we go on stage now.” It’s good when you have that situation, where bands try to…
Yeah, yeah, of course, the competition.
PAUL: And compliment each other, it’s pretty rare.
Yeah, it is, sad but true. Okay, I’ve been with you guys for one hour. One final question is…
NIBBS: It’s not sad, but it is true.
PAUL: His long-life battery is gone.
Biff, jacket, and Nibbs in Ruisrock 2006
STRICT RULES AND MORE…
Ok, my last question is about Biff. Since the first time I have seen you, he’s always wearing the same jacket on stage, year after year?
NIBBS: Hmmmm… He’s actually using that jacket a lot.
This question is a kind of silly question, but one of my friends, a diehard Saxon fan, is curious to know how the jacket smells after all these years?
NIBBS: It smelt bad before he wore it! Cows, they’re quite clean, but they smell. It was about 15 cows for that jacket. He just likes it, you know, you like your KISS t-shirt, your wife likes her strapless bra, whatever, you know. Is that a strapless bra? Anyway, you just enjoy what you do, and I mean, we’re talking about clothes. You should speak to Lordi about clothes really, and we’re not a clothes band anymore, you know.
As you said, you are not “a clothes band” anymore but still do you have any rules about how to wear on stage?
NIBBS: The rules are very, very strict. I got up this morning and can remember opening my rucksack, there were some white socks in there, and there was a call. I don’t know how they know, and maybe they got like the rucksack-cam or something “laughs.”
Do you think that you would be fired if you go on stage with white socks?
NIBBS: Definitely! I would be fired if I go on stage, you know, I want to cover my body in scales, you know, like a fish? Or like a gecko or something like that. I think we should experiment with a different skin.
NIBBS: I don’t know what all this silicone shit is all about… get your scales out!
Well, okay, I still some batteries left, so I’m going to ask the very last question from Paul. Do you have any memories from your previous Finland show, which you did in Nosturi in 2003? Do you remember when you introduced your brand new hand-painted guitar to me before the show?
NIBBS and PAUL: Gregory’s?
Yes, you showed it. I have some pictures of that.
PAUL: Yeah. That was the one by the lake? Or on the sea or something? River? What was it?
It was a sea…
PAUL: A sea, okay. We enjoyed it, and it was kind of weird having tables at the stage in front of my side of the PA, very, very, very odd. It’s as if there was this mosh pit and then some diners next to it, you know.
NIBBS: What was that?
PAUL: In Finland in the bay, in the harbor… what was the place called, Nosturi?
PAUL: You were interviewing there, in the afternoon?
Yes, I was doing the interview. How about the very old days? In the early eighties, Saxon was one of the most popular bands in Finland. It must have been at 82 or 83 when you had three or four gigs in Finland, and you were playing in Ice Halls in front of 2000-4000 people every night. Do you have any funny stories from that tour?
PAUL: I do remember Oulu. I remember the one 500-watt bulb above the stage. I didn’t need it anymore. It was hilarious. I had a funny thing happen in Finland. I think it was in the town hall in Helsinki. I’ve never done this before, but I handed my hotel key to a girl in the front row. Five minutes later, she gave it back to me… okay, fair enough, “laughs.”
Ok. Now I’m finished with my batteries.
PAUL & NIBBS: That’s good “laughs.”
Saxon at Ruisrock 2006
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