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SAXON - Interview with Nigel Glockler
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Saxon heavy metal band
Saxon are not a band, they're a heavy metal institution. One of the most important names of the NWoBHM scene, they've watched most of their peers call it quits, being one of the very few who never gave up. Saxon have had their ups and downs, but these days, 40+ years into their career they're going strong again, still putting out top quality albums, playing amazing shows and gaining new fans. "Thunderbolt", that was out earlier this year, is another fine addition to their discography, and the supporting tour took Saxon to Glasgow, where I had a quick chat with the band's drummer Nigel Glockler.
I've noticed you've got like six or seven new songs from the new album in the set list. Looks like you're really pushing the promotion of "Thunderbolt". Are you happy with the feedback?
Yeah, definitely, I mean that's the whole point of going on tour, to promote the new album. You've got to play it live and push it to the audience. And the feedback has been great, all the gigs we can see people singing all the words and everything. So, it's been great.
You trusted Andy Sneap completely with the production, you weren't involved at all this time around...
Yeah, Andy knows what he's doing, he knows what we're about. You know, we've worked with him on several albums now so, he knows what the band's supposed to sound like. In the past we've maybe had a producer that doesn't really understand us, but Andy gets it and he's really into heavy rock, he knows us and we use his studio and it's the perfect marriage, it's great.
How did the Pledge Music campaign work for you? Are you happy with the results?
Yeah, yeah, you know, these sort of things like Pledge are a good idea, it lets people get involved in it and everything. And generally there's a lot of other artists that can't maybe afford things, to put their music out there. So, it's a good idea.
I know that in the in the past it's worked like this - everyone in the band brought some ideas for songs and then Biff put his stamp of approval on them. So, was that the case this time around again?
It's always the case. I mean, you can't just go into a studio and go, "One, two, three, play!", you know? So, everyone works on ideas at home, it just varies sometimes, one person might bring you more ideas than the others that he likes and on the next album it could be someone else that brings in more stuff. But we will work on everything and it's down to how a song grooves and everything like that really, you know? Sometimes we may play around with the tempos, we might have some idea come in and go, "No, let's try it really slow." But it's the way we always work, so it's good.
And how does it work with the lyrics? Does Biff wait until a song is complete to choose a subject for a lyric?
It's 50/50. Sometimes he'll have an idea for the subject before the song is written. And then again maybe other times, the song's done and maybe the feel of the song or how it feels sparks him to, "Oh, yeah, that could be about this..."
You've got a lot more lead guitar parts on "Thunderbolt", as compared to previous albums, and I don't mean solos, but like melody parts. Was it a deliberate decision to do that?
Yeah, because we all like bands, you know, from when we were sort of listening in the '70s, there were bands like Wishbone Ash and stuff, we all like that, harmony guitars and stuff and I think sometimes for me personally it's like, here comes a guitar solo, and I'm like, "Why?", you know? Sometimes I think you don't even need a solo in the song. This isn't jazz where everyone has to have a solo in every piece of music, you know? If it suits the song then great, otherwise, no, just leave a harmony melody line and that's enough.
OK, about the song "They Played Rock and Roll". What do you miss the most about Lemmy and Motörhead?
Oh, they were just great guys. I mean, we've toured a lot with Lemmy and we were great friends with them, you know? When I came back to the band in 2005 he was the first person I rang, I rang him at his home in L.A, ha-ha! They were great friends and we do miss them.
"Nosferatu" is quite dark and has this cinematic atmosphere to it. Did you work on the arrangements yourselves, especially with the orchestration?
We had a guy put some keyboards on it, we gave him sort of free reign to do what he thought but we had ideas for it anyway so, it was a case of things coming backwards and forwards to see which one would work. And that's just how it happened. Basically, we don't have any set rules how we do things. You know, with writing or rehearsing, there is no set things how we work...
But it still always sounds like Saxon...
Well, it's going to because that's the same five people. That's the thing.
You've got Johan from Amon Amarth doing guest vocals in "Predator" and I'm sure I'm not the only one to ask this question. Why "Predator" and not "Sons of Odin" which would be much better suited for him, ha-ha!
I don't know really, but I know what you're saying... Well, Biff just thought that would be a great thing because he's got that growl singing and then I think in "Sons of Odin" it might just sound a little bit silly, but you know, it works in "Predator".
OK, "Roadies' Song" is a tribute to, well, roadies. So, is this song about some particular people who have worked with Saxon in the past?
No, it's just roadies in general. I mean, they do an amazing job. You know, I always say, without the crew we couldn't do what we do. And sometimes they have to go through a lot of sleep deprivation because when we're finished they're still taking the gear down and then they've got to get up early the next morning to get the stuff in again. And so it's a hard life, you know, so we really do appreciate them.
Biff's vocal style is more aggressive these days than it was in the '90s, let alone the '80s. Most singers go in the opposite direction...
Yeah, his voice has got a real rasp on it. I don't know how to explain it, but I think his voice is actually getting better and better. But again, at some point in the '80s we lost our way a little, because of our management and we went a little bit soft in places. But now we're sort of more aggressive and everything.
In 2006 you played the Cathouse here in Glasgow, for probably two hundred people and now 12 years later you're playing the Barrowlands for two thousand people. How's that possible?
It's just happened, ha-ha! Who knows? We just concentrate on bringing out great albums and doing great shows. And we're finding as well that on each tour we're getting a lot of young kids in so, it's not like people our age that are just coming to see us, that have been with the band forever. We're getting a great turnaround and we get a lot of young people coming in and they know all the words and it's amazing, you know? So, we're definitely on and up again. Definitely.
It's the 40th Anniversary or your debut album next year. So, are you planning anything special?
We're planning some stuff, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. You'll have to wait and see what happens, but there are definitely plans and that's all I can say.
Are there any songs you're totally fed up with that you know you must play live?
All of them, ha-ha! No, I mean, every night, every concert is different, every audience is different. You know, you play a certain song and an audience can be great, but the next night you play in another country and they're going mad for that song, madder than they did for another song. So, it's always different. Maybe some people, sort of old fans don't like hearing some of the old songs. But then you get all the youngsters coming in and they want to hear everything, you know?
OK, the last question. Saxon is still going strong these days, but at some point you won't be able to do music anymore. What aspect of being in the band will you miss the most?
Oh, at least I'll be at home and get a good sleep, ha-ha! No, you know, when you're in a band and everything and with the crew as well, you know, the regular crew, there's a lot of camaraderie and I think that would be one thing I would personally miss. I mean, to be quite frank with you, after you've been on the road for like six weeks you want to kill each other sometimes, you know, "Get out of my face!", because you're with each other 24/7. But then again, I think I would miss the whole thing, the audience, the playing, everything. I think it's the whole caboodle, I'd miss the whole thing...
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

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Tags: Saxon, heavy metal, NWoBHM, Nigel Glockler
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© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.