Given that he wrote Saxon’s latest album in a hospital bed following his heart attack of 2019, Biff Byford would surely agree with Keith Richards’s old chestnut that ‘it’s good to be anywhere’. But to find Carpe Diem sitting pretty at No.22 in Classic Rock’s best albums of 2022, the 71-year-old singer considers, is further evidence of a band flourishing in their fifth decade.
Carpe Diem is Saxon’s twenty-fourth album. It seems that you, and as a band, hold yourselves to high standards?
Yeah, we do. I don’t want to put anything out that means people can say: “Oh, they’ve lost it.” I like to keep everybody on their toes. I’m pushing all the time. I read a few reviews and they were all brilliant, actually. For an older band it’s easy to get a ‘but’ at the end. You know what I’m talking about: “Yeah, they’re great, but...’ This album, there were no ‘but’s.
As an older lyricist, do you look around you for inspiration more these days?
Yeah, I definitely write about more worldly things now. But the odd song about a motorcycle always works good too [laughs].
Are you fully restored now after your fairly recent heart problems?
Yeah, I’m bopping around on stage. I’m on medication, and it’s hard to keep my weight under control. It’s all over the place. Sometimes I’m quite thin, then sometimes I get a bit fatter. But I’m pretty fit. You’ll have to come and see us and find out.
Saxon hit the road hard this year. Do you think people need the release valve of live music more than ever now?
Yeah, I think they do. In the eighties, when we broke onto the scene, things weren’t good then, either; a lot of rioting and strikes going on with Margaret Thatcher. But when people are feeling it, they go out and see a band. The beauty of our show is that we don’t charge an exorbitant price.
Glastonbury went up seventy quid the other day, didn’t it? Our prices are the same this year as they were last time. I think giving value for money is important at this particular point in time.
With more than the usual shenanigans going on, did the state of British politics make you laugh or cry this year?
Both. We’re all pinning our hopes on new prime minister Rishi Sunak now, so let’s see if he can get the job done. I hope the economy and the Brexit thing get sorted out, because that made a massive impact on the music industry.
Politicians need to start being sensible and working for the people, rather than working for themselves. They’re not rock stars, are they? They’re politicians. They should do their fucking job. So let’s hope this guy does.
Have you learnt to do anything new this year? To cook, let’s say, or play golf?
[Disgusted] Golf?! You’re kidding.
Which was your favourite song, album or gig of the year?
I like the Amon Amarth stuff, but then again I co-wrote a song with them [Saxons And Vikings], so I’m probably biased. I like the Ghost album. I wanted to go and see Deep Purple and Blue Öyster Cult, but I came home from tour and the gig was the next night, so I was just too knackered.
Where does that work ethic of yours come from?
I’m working-class, mate. I’ve always had to work for money. I can’t not write music. It’s in my blood.
Of those we lost in 2022, whose death hit you hardest?
The Queen was sad. I like the history of the royal family. I’m not really enamoured with them all, but the Queen was cool. We lost a few people, didn’t we? Some great actors, too. It’s a circle of life thing. There’s really no point worrying about it until it comes, is there?
Finally, do you have any New Year’s resolutions you'll be making?
Nah. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s my mentality. We’re already writing songs for the next album and planning the Seize The Day world tour, starting in America maybe. We’re on a roll. Keep motivated and keep the juices flowing, that’s the secret.