Interviews

Interview: Paul Quinn of SAXON

Life hath no fury like a legend in full roar … and on February 4th, 2022, Saxon showed just that to the world when they released their 23rd studio album, Carpe Diem, through Silver Lining Music, serving notice to anyone who ever felt otherwise that they remain both vanguards and masters of British Metal. Comprised of 10 titanic tracks bristling with steel-clad riffery and proud intent, the Barnsley (UK) born band draws on a variety of ingredients from the career to forget what is their most dynamic release in many a year.

It all starts with the riff,” says frontman and co-founder Biff Byford, “if the riff speaks to me, then we’re on our way. It’s a very intense album, and that’s all down to the fact that the essence of a great metal song is the riff that starts it, and this album has loads of them.

Unleashing today the title track’s roll-back attack, this is Saxon at their purest and most definitive; aggressively parading the pure metal flag and imploring fans old and new to gather and celebrate the very best of both Saxon and the genre itself.

“In Latin, it means ‘seize the day’ and I think it’s a great thing to say,” continues Biff “it’s what the Romans used to say to each other on a regular basis, apparently, never having met one, I wouldn’t know! But we’re gonna do the Seize the Day world tour, the album’s Carpe Diem, this song’s called “Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)” and it’s such a powerful thing to say.”

Carpe Diem will be available in a variety of formats and pre-orders can be placed at this location.

Produced by Andy Sneap (Judas Priest, Exodus, Accept and Priest guitarist) at Backstage Recording Studios in Derbyshire with Byford and Sneap mixing and mastering, Carpe Diem strikes the ear as one of the most essential British metal statements of the last few years and not lacking in pace or bite, an album which will ignite the joy in stalwart supporters and attract a whole new legion to the Saxon fold.

We want every album we make to go platinum,” says Biff defiantly. “We never make an album that we don’t expect to be fantastic because there are no laurels around here, and as a band, we’re always trying to do something a little bit new, a little bit daring. I love fast metal like “Princess of the Night” and “20,000 Feet”, and I try and bring that style of Saxon into the music now, but in a more modern style. We don’t sound like an old band on records because we’re not sitting back on our past success, we’re always trying to make a great album.”

Saxon - Carpe DiemThe genesis of Carpe Diem’s fierce intensity lies in two extremely significant life events – “It’s been a difficult two years,” offers Biff with considerable understatement, “because I had the heart attack back in September 2019, so things went a bit pear-shaped for the band. And then Covid hit two or three months later, but luckily, we started writing and recording this album before Covid.  We did the drums in Germany, and we did the guitars in various places. I was doing a lot of writing while I was in the hospital bed, and we spent quite a long time writing and arranging the ideas that we all had. I do think it’s a very intense album, and maybe some of that intensity comes from the frustration of not being able to do anything in the Covid period.”

In addition to legendary frontman Biff – and stage right since the band’s inception – has been guitarist Paul Quinn. Saxon was the second concert that I, as a young teen rock fan, attended back in 1983 on their Power and The Glory tour. I was lucky enough to catch up with Paul Quinn via Zoom. 


ANTIHERO: How were the recent live shows in Manchester and London?

Paul Quinn: Yeah, we’ve done Manchester and London already, and every band played great, and every band went down the ultimate storm. They were sell-outs. You can’t improve on that.

ANTIHERO: It must have been a relief again after the gigs were canceled so many times.

Paul Quinn: The first one was Biff’s bypass or heart attack. After that, it became almost impossible to meet, apart from the few, what do you call them? I don’t know whether to call them un-lockdowns, but we managed to do some recording with other people, not necessarily the whole band all the time.

ANTIHERO: It must have been strange for you, because playing live has been such a part of your life for so long, to not have anything for a couple of years.

Paul Quinn: Yeah, it was hard. I’m quite a bouncy character, but I got quite depressed. You could call it the tears of a clown, but it was a hard time.

ANTIHERO: I think it was a very difficult period again, from a fan perspective, because you do miss that going out, and being able to unwind and going out, having a few drinks, meeting friends, and going out to watch bands like yourself play live. It’s as much a part of my life as it has been, I assume, for yourself.

Paul Quinn: I know how much fans look forward to everything, and we do the same, but we go away for much longer to do it. It’s a little different because we’re all in our little bus bubble. Yeah. I’m sure the enjoyment is the same because we’re not just trying to impress the audience. We’re trying to impress each other.

ANTIHERO: Even now?

Paul Quinn: Those last two shows were fierce.

ANTIHERO: Of course, you’ve got a new album out, and obviously its creation was in completely a different, surreal condition for the world. Obviously, Biff had his heart attack, there was social isolation. Was it the first time that the band has created an album pretty much separately, where you’ve not been in the studio performing live?

Paul Quinn: Yeah, it didn’t use to be possible. Before very large file emails, which are courtesy of, what’s it called? Dropbox. And others, of course. It’s a testament to how much we know each other, and how we can give the feeling that we are playing together.

ANTIHERO: Has the album process as a band changed much over the years? When you do an album, do you still stick to how it used to be, in terms of song creation, putting your guitar riffs to Biff’s vocals? Has that process stayed the same, pretty much, over the years?

Paul Quinn: It’s dependent on…because he writes lyrics after the music, usually. He can ask for changes if it needs it, but in a normal situation, he’d follow what the guitar riff was unless he’d already gotten most of the ideas for a song. Sometimes he thinks the backing suits a different set of lyrics, and I’ll switch them around.

ANTIHERO: How would you describe your relationship with Biff? Obviously, the two of you are the last men standing, so to speak, from that first Saxon album, way back. How would you describe your chemistry, the bond that you have together?

Paul Quinn: Well, mostly respect, to get this far. Brotherly, up to a point. You know how brothers can fight.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, sure.

Paul Quinn: We respect each other’s abilities.

ANTIHERO: Obviously, looking over the band’s history, has it been difficult to keep going at certain points? Obviously, that court case with the ex-members, the TV programme, was it difficult to get through? Was it, at a point, very difficult to get that Yorkshire grit and determination out there, and keep going as a band?

Paul Quinn: At times. You have to be bombastic enough to think that you are worth it. Sorry Loreal, but we are.

ANTIHERO: In recent years, you mentioned Biff’s heart attack, and Nigel obviously had health problems as well. Has it caused you to modify or review your own personal lifestyle, and maybe make adaptations and changes? Biff and Nigel have both had very serious health issues. I wondered if that has caused you to maybe modify or change your own personal lifestyle.

Paul Quinn: Actually, no. Apart from less alcohol I’m not particularly any more energetic or eating any less. Or whatever. I’ve not changed my lifestyle, I very much doubt if they’ve changed their own very much.

ANTIHERO: You have created so many classic and iconic songs. Has it created a huge weight of pressure to match that subsequently, with each album that you bring out?

Paul Quinn: Kind of, yeah. We’ve got the secret weapon, which is Nibbs Carter.

ANTIHERO: How do you view the band’s legacy? It must fill you with extreme pride that you’re still around here, still playing sold-out shows, still releasing high-quality albums after this time.

Paul Quinn: It’s addictive, as you can imagine. Being a musician is addictive, because of the adulation and the adrenaline, which is why it’s hard when you must stop. For the last two years, I felt like I’d retired. Dealing with it, it makes you smile a lot. When you can look at yourself on YouTube and go, “Yeah, I did that right.”

ANTIHERO: What about those many song classics? How do you still retain freshness and vigor? I’m sure you played those songs many, many, many times. How do you still retain that vibrancy when performing them yet again, live?

DreamHost

Paul Quinn: That’s a difficult question. I don’t know. I think it’s the reaction of the audience. When I start “Princess of the Night,” I can feel the vibe.

ANTIHERO: You must be so proud of yourself, being a part of songs that have played a large part in so many people’s lives.

Paul Quinn: That’s a great feeling. To be a part of musical history, as well as people’s personal history.

ANTIHERO: Looking back to the creation of some of those classic songs, is there a different feel that comes over you? Do you get hairs on the back of the neck when you think, “I like that. I’m very proud of that.” Or does a song only retain its classic status when it’s picked up and globally received by an audience? When you create something like “Denim and Leather,” or “Wheels of Steel,” do you get a special buzz when you do a song like that? Or is it a case of, “That’s another song, we’ll go out and play it live, and see how it goes down?”

Paul Quinn: I don’t really know. I can’t really answer that one.

ANTIHERO: You must have seen so many changes in the music industry since you first started out. What are the best and worst things about being a professional musician in 2022?

Paul Quinn: They’re both Spotify. The best thing is being able to listen to other music for next to nothing, and the worst thing is selling your own music for next to nothing.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, that must be so frustrating as an artist, to not be fully recompensed for what you’ve done. It’s like somebody working and being paid significantly less than what they deserve.

Paul Quinn: Yeah. Bless Metallica for having to go at, what was it? Napster.

ANTIHERO: That’s correct.

Paul Quinn: That was a dumb name.

ANTIHERO: Indeed. Outside of Saxon, I didn’t realise that you had another band. Tell me about The Cards, and what was the reason behind creating music outside of Saxon?

Paul Quinn: I wanted a more bluesy outlet that could give my slightly more commercial side and outlet. As are all of Saxon, I’m a well-rounded musician.

ANTIHERO: I can understand that.

Paul Quinn: Because I don’t diet very much. There are elements of The Cards that veer towards the sixties.

ANTIHERO: Your musical roots?

Paul Quinn: Which I really liked. The other two, I found Harrison, who sings and plays bass and keys, in Doro’s band at the time.

ANTIHERO: I see.

Paul Quinn: We got together because Harry was living in The Hague, in Holland, at the time. He’d just moved there closer to Germany, where Doro Pesch is based. He had already used Koen Herfst as a session drummer on his own material. He said, “We should have this guy,” who recently joined Vandenberg as well, so he’s got a lot of jobs, Koen. In between, we’re trying to make a second album.

ANTIHERO: Do you still have goals, dreams, and ambitions?

Paul Quinn: Wow. I’d like to see Both bands doing well. Saxon have always been there, and deserve a lot better than they got, really.

ANTIHERO: Definitely agree with that.

Paul Quinn: From mostly crap management.

ANTIHERO: Just a couple to finish. A few years ago, Biff released a book. I wondered if you had any thoughts on maybe bringing out a book yourself, or is that something that’s never interested you?

Paul Quinn: No, I don’t think my, let’s put it in inverted comments like everybody else, I don’t think my journey’s been as interesting as his.

ANTIHERO: No plans in that direction at all then?

Paul Quinn: No, it’s not something that is of importance to me.

ANTIHERO: The final one then. I’m sure you’ve done many interviews, many conversations, and many chats with people over the years, but is there a personal hero who you would like to interview if given the opportunity if the roles were reversed? A personal hero perhaps?

Paul Quinn: Oh, okay. Probably Jeff Beck. 

ANTIHERO: What about outside music? Have you any sort of heroes, or somebody that’s been a personal inspiration to you, maybe in your life?

Paul Quinn: I’m influenced by many guitarists, that’s why I’m hard to pin down. I can name some. There’s Beck, there’s Clapton, there’s Hendrix. There’s Peter Greenbaum, there’s Steve Howe, Blackmore. Jimmy Page, Angus. We were starting roughly the same time we heard ACDC, so there’s a bit of a crossover fight. Yeah. I can’t think of anybody else, apart from legends of soul music, because I do like my soul.

ANTIHERO: Okay. That’s a surprise.

Paul Quinn: Stevie Wonder would be a great one to interview. If you can keep him off his keys for half an hour.

ANTIHERO: I’ll let you get on. Thank you very much. I appreciate you still doing this when you’re not feeling 100% healthy. Thank you very much. Take care and good luck with the new album.

Paul Quinn: Great stuff.

DreamHost

AntiHero Magazine

AntiHero Magazine is made up of a staff of enthusiastic music journalists and photographers that offer the latest metal/rock related music news, exclusive interviews, album reviews, show reviews, Film and DVD reviews, concert photography, as well as information on music gear, festivals, tours, culture, booze and more! - Author: AntiHero Magazine

Related Articles

Check Also
Close
Back to top button