Rock'N'Roll: Biff Byford

What was your induction into rock’n’roll?

When I was really young a friend took up electric guitar, and I remember that really catching my attention. Other than that it would be the rock’n’roll records from the late-fifties that my brother used to play. Little Richard and things like that.

Is heavy metal the bastard son of rock’n’roll?

It definitely is. Rock’n’roll is the seducer; it’s the one that catches people’s souls, turning them to a life of debauchery. And then you move on to other things, whether they’re harder or softer.

You sound like you’re very proud of heavy metal.

To me, it’s all rock’n’roll, but I’m not ashamed of the label of heavy metal. It’s more exclusive; the rock’n’roll club is really big but the heavy metal one is smaller. I like the focus of knowing who and what you are, without the pressure of conformity. But we [Saxon] still have one foot in rock’n’roll – we haven’t chopped it off altogether.

What would we find lurking in your record collection outside of the non‑rock’n’roll safety net?

Oh, all sorts of things. I’ve got some ABBA. There are some albums by Journey, Yes and Genesis. It all depends on the mood I’m in. At the heavier end there’s AC/DC and Machine Head.

The debate is raging: is rock’n’roll dying?

I don’t think that’ll ever happen. Like I said, it’s all rock’n’roll to me. The Arctic Monkeys are one of those bands that are considered relevant by the mainstream but still have a foot in rock’n’roll. It will always be there, whether in plain daylight or lurking in the swamp.

Can you define rock’n’roll in terms of attitude?

It’s the rebellious feeling that comes from following music outside of the norm. There were times when bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon went mainstream but it wasn’t done purposely. People picked up on us because everything else was fucking boring. It’s music that makes you want to party and feel good. The audience feels exactly the same; it’s what binds us together.

Who’s the most rock’n’roll person you know?

I know a lot of rock’n’roll people. Lemmy and Ozzy are pretty hard to beat. Ronnie James Dio was very rock’n’roll, especially with a few pints inside him. And don’t forget Ted Nugent. But there’s a fine line between being a rock’n’roll animal and an absolute nutcase. There’s less tolerance to that kind of behaviour now. We leave it all to One Direction and McBusted.

_What’s the most rock’n’roll thing you’ve done? _

Getting off the tour bus in Texas with no wallet, wearing hardly any clothes. The bastards drove away and left me.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.