Interview conducted November 08 2014
Interview published November 29 2014
Usually lead vocalist Biff Byford
answer most questions about Saxon, because he undisputedly is the band's
main man. To get a different perspective of things surrounding the veteran
band, Metal Covenant therefore took the opportunity to instead have a
chat with bass player Nibbs Carter, a couple
of hours before Saxon's gig in Stockholm, Sweden.
Tobbe: You're considerably younger than
the rest of the guys. In all honesty, when you first joined the band,
what were your thoughts back then, joining a band with guys like 20 years
older than you?
Nibbs: I was always, well, from about the age
of 14 I was a Saxon fan. I'm born in 1966, so from around the age of
14. In my secondary school, we used to have a school disco quite often
and a few of my friends used to bring AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne and Motörhead
to the disco and it got me into the sound of like the loud guitars and
then on the radio I began to hear 747 by Saxon. So the first two real
songs that got me interested in, for me, heavy metal was 747 by Saxon
and Whole Lotta Rosie by AC/DC, live from If You Want Blood. So I went
and bought those two vinyl singles and that was the beginning of me
to buy music by Saxon and I was also beginning to play bass guitar at
I got better with bass guitar, I got an offer to play with a band that
was based in the studio. I was beginning to do a little job, working
for kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, gas, water and I was just put mainly
in the warehouse and I would help a little bit with installation. But
after a year, I got this offer to be with the band and I would just
basically not go to work and I would stay at the studio and then they
called me and said "You better stay at the studio. You don't need
us anymore.". So I did. I used to just live at the studio. No money,
no food. Very minimum food.
Tobbe: Tough times.
Nibbs: Yeah, it was tough, but we were in a studio,
so for someone who's listening to music all the time and thinking about
sound all the time, to be based in a music studio is the ideal place
to be, so you don't think about anything else but playing and recording
and just checking out different sounds. And Saxon used to use that studio.
They used to use it for demo and rehearsal, so they came through the
studio a few times and I met them, so that was a big deal for me 'cause
I was a fan. I hadn't even been listening to Saxon for about 3 years
and they were coming to the studio where I was hanging out.
Then I got an opportunity to work with them in
the studio and Biff [Byford, vocals] said to me, you know "You
did a great job and we're gonna make a new record soon. Would you like
to record with us on the record?" and of course I said "Yes,
please.". But it was funny, because they were being really friendly
and not making me feel nervous. They made me feel comfortable and because
it was also like a professional introduction, it made it feel not so
much like a fanboy joins big rock band, you know. But it does feel like
that and you can't turn that off. I'm not a robot, completely. So every
now and then I would think "Wow, this is Saxon. This is crazy.".
Oh yeah, that's right. I can remember my first
shows with Saxon. You know, you're suddenly in a big band. You go on
stage, you play and I can remember, to me, it just felt like being back
at school, with school disco, playing air guitar, but with a real guitar
and that just felt the most natural thing in the world and still feels
the same now and I enjoyed it from the first second and it didn't feel
like I had to really try very hard to fit in. They made me feel very
welcome and we got a good relationship. There is an age difference,
but even though we've grown up listening to different kinds of music,
we meet very well in the middle and we write really well together. It's
like professional respect, in both ways, but I also have big respect
for a band that's been successful and still try to keep that spirit
alive and it's great to be part of it.
Tobbe: You know, you remember that Saxon
struggled a little, like every other metal band, through the mid 90's,
so did you ever regret your decision, just a little bit, to join the band?
Nibbs: No, I can't say that I regretted it, but
it was difficult times. If you decide that you're gonna stay with your
original intention, classic metal, and not try to change, just to go
with the trend, then it's gonna be difficult. And it was difficult,
but it depended where we went. If we went to South America to do a few
shows at that time, nothing had changed. You know, the crowds were still
as happy to come and see Saxon. But in North America and in Europe there
was a big, big change and you just had to say "Okay, it's like
a hurricane. We wanna survive, so we're just gonna stay where we are
and we're just gonna stay how the people know us and we're just gonna
Then you were back with a vengeance like 5-7 years later.
Nibbs: Yeah, with the mid 90's to the end of
the 90's, we were already changing our approach. We began to play a
lot more festivals and that showed us that crowds appreciate traditional
Saxon and also some of the heavier riffs. You know, more like darker,
heavier riffs like [Black] Sabbath style riffs or something like that.
They liked this direction that we tried with a few times on records
like Dogs Of War and Unleash The Beast, so then we tried making it a
little bit more in that direction. Keep it melodic, but just add a little
bit more bigger boots.
We found ourselves playing festivals and we could
see that this thrashier, heavier and darker element of the crowd were
enjoying the show more than they used to. So we stayed in that stratum
or vein and ever since, we've pretty much stayed there and every year
it's grown and grown and grown and it gives you confidence with your
writing. You feel like you've found yourself again and the people like
it, so continue, and that's how it's been for like the last 10-12 years,
I would say.
Tobbe: Well, you're still in the top of
festival billings, if you look at the posters.
Nibbs: Yeah, we're in there somewhere. We get
invited to play festivals and we tend to be more towards the top of
the billing in the last 10 years. It's really good.
Tobbe: Are you still considered to be the
new guy or has Doug [Scarratt, guitar] inherited that title?
Nibbs: We don't really think of it like that
anymore. It's logical, but if you think about it, I've been around since
1988 and Doug's been around since 1995, so you're talking 19 years with
Doug and 26 with me.
Tobbe: I mean from the fans' point of view.
Nibbs: From the fans? I don't know. I don't ask
that question myself. "Do you think I'm the new boy?", so
I don't really know. In the band, I think we really disregarded that
angle already quite a few years ago. It has something to do with what
you achieve while you're in the band and Dougie and I have been writing
with the band now for a long time and we've contributed a lot, so nobody
refers to us like "Hey, young boy. Go make me a tea!" or anything
Tobbe: You guys have just released a new
DVD again, Warriors Of The Road - The Saxon Chronicles Part II [Released
November 7th]. Why was it time to release a sequel?
Nibbs: We were thinking of coinciding with 35
years of the band's career. Some kind of product. It would have been
great to release a new studio record at that time. But we didn't plan
Sacrifice to be at the time it was, so it just happens that the time
between Sacrifice and another record is naturally gonna fall a little
bit later. So we thought, after we had to cancel the tour with Motörhead
in autumn last year and spring this year, we decided to call the tour
Warriors Of The Road and the DVD has the same name, so let's make that
our celebration for 2014, 35 years. In that respect it works with the
anniversary. There was plenty of material already there, collected over
the last few years, to automatically have a DVD, that just needed to
be compiled, edited and put together and there's plenty of material
in there, for people to see what's been going on in the last 10-15 years.
Tobbe: In that video, you mention something
about drinking less. Has your plan worked out?
Nibbs: It's really good. We did a show last year.
We were playing on a ship that goes from Stockholm to Finland and we
had a great show. It's strange, because even when you get drunk and
you fall asleep or something, you can remember a lot of details. Some
people can, some people can't, but I remember that night quite well.
I'd been having quite a few problems with my family at home. Without
being too specific, there's been ill health in my family and basically
I guess I was quite tired. I got drunk and fell asleep and was more
tired than I thought and they couldn't find me on the ship, so that
was pretty scary for them.
we got together in Germany and played a show that night and I said to
the guys "It was a stupid mistake, to make you feel scared, and
when we're on the road together as Saxon, I'll show you that I don't
need to be drunk all the time.". That was a year ago and it's been
really good, you know. I don't think it's affected the way that I write
music or anything. I've always been heavily involved with composing
with the band and this year's been just a particularly good year for
me with composing. Biff invited me to his place in January and said
that we need to get writing for the next record. I had already been
writing. As soon as we canceled the Motörhead shows, I thought
"What am I gonna do?", so I started writing immediately for
an expected new Saxon record.
You know, people enjoyed the last one and if
you've got your shit together, then you usually use that success, like
riding on the wave. I was making sure that I got my ideas already into
shape. And Biff invited me over and he was already "Wow, this is
good. You've got a good start.". So I was at his place in January,
February and April. As far as the writing goes, nothing's really changed
that way, but I think it affects the way that you respect each other
as people as well when one bandmember says "Okay, I've been drinking
too much, but I'll cut it out. I drink maybe when I'm at home, with
family, with friends. Just so you don't have to feel nervous about one
bandmember being sick or disappearing or something crazy.".
Tobbe: It's takes some guts to say that
Nibbs: Yeah, but we're family people, you know.
In the end you gotta show people around yourself, you gotta show family
and your friends that "Okay. I made a mistake. I was tired and
I've got problems here and there in my life.". It doesn't mean
that you got to continue drinking and hurt yourself even more. Alcohol
is always gonna be a difficult subject, always has been, and probably
always will be, so it's just about respect really. You know, I still
love to have a beer, but it's more of a family thing nowadays.
Tobbe: So when you have written new songs
now, is there gonna be any experimental shit or is it like straight in
the Saxon vein?
Nibbs: Personally when I write for Saxon, I
take the first thing that comes in my mind when I wake up, and then
I begin playing with guitar, and then I add some drums, and then I fool
around with that for an hour or two, and I let it take its own natural
way, and if it starts to sound traditional style, then I just go completely
with the traditional style. If I listen to it and it sounds a little
bit more progressive, then I think "Okay. Now I should allow myself
to be more experimental with this idea.". I got, say x amount of
traditional style Saxon ideas and then I have like a library of something
that's not so traditional. I keep that for myself or that's also for
Saxon when they want to write something that's a little bit different.
you think of a record like Unleash The Beast, it's got experimental
stuff on there. I mean, experimental, it's just a different way of arranging
like a heavy metal song and I think we should allow ourselves to freedom.
You know, don't restrict ourselves, feel free, don't go too far away
from what people expect. This is the secret. Give them what they want,
but show them that you've also got something else in your armory. Biff
likes that. You know, when I get together and write with him, he'll
say "That's crazy what you did there. I didn't expect the song
to go in that direction, but I like it.". Then we'll break it down
and then build it back up again and see if we can keep it in Saxon or
if it needs to be used for something else. He was talking about doing
some kind of side project on his own and I wanna do something on my
own. I've got so much stuff that one day I'll just compile something
of my own. It makes sense, there's so much material there. He would
like to do that kind of thing as well.
I guess the next record is gonna be pretty much
like the last ones. I would say "Expect the same kind of stuff
that you've been hearing on the last couple of records.". It has
something to do with confidence, you know. We're feeling confident about
ourselves and the press and the public have shown us that they're happy
with our progression, and that kind of allows you to be a little bit
experimental, so maybe we could be a little bit less predictable with
the next record. Who knows? But we're doing really well and we've got
plenty of material already, but it has something to do with timing as
well. We've got a tour right now and I would think that we're probably
be going to America in spring. Maybe Japan. So if you wanna please your
fans as well, then you wanna concentrate on some touring and then get
back to concentrate on recording.
Tobbe: So when can we expect to see the
Nibbs: I would say it will probably be in autumn
of next year.
Tobbe: That's almost a year.
Nibbs: Yeah, but we didn't begin recording yet.
I would say that we'll probably begin recording in January and then
realistically you're talking about this time next year.
Tobbe: Are the other guys hard to work with
sometimes or do you just get along all the time?
Nibbs: Well, it would be boring if we got along
with each other... In the respect of music, do you mean?
Tobbe: In the studio, I guess. Like if you
have an idea or something.
Nibbs: In the studio you have to be a little
bit like a parent. You have to say "Nibbs. I think you're playing
great there, but that's a little bit lazy. Go to bed earlier! Wake up
a little bit earlier! Practice a little bit, Nibbs!". But that's
what it's all about. That's the team. You just gotta tell each other
how it is. You know, we've been around with each other for a long time
and we know we're not joking when we say these things. We're funny with
each other and we're straight with each other. It's not just in the
studio. It's in all directions of the band and that's family basically.
You have a huge amount of experience too.
Nibbs: Yeah, we're lucky to be still in the
game. To still be able to play on the level of, you know, current, like
action, and not just seen to be like a celebration or a heritage. You
know, some people like to categorize what kind of band you are. We are
a heritage, you know. We have been around that long that basically you
are and people see you for that kind of thing, but also, we got new
fans with every record, so, you know, we're kind of current.
Tobbe: Saxon is well known in the metal
community for its explosive gigs and you're actually named a great live
act. So where do the energy and the chemistry come from on stage?
Nibbs: I think the band has always enjoyed trying
to be exciting, not just with lights or sound, but it's an attitude.
It's like almost a little bit hyperactive, but it doesn't always translate
into a fast song. We just wanna show the people that it should feel
exciting and it shouldn't just be played because we know it. Each time
you play something, it should feel like it's possibly the last time
you're gonna play it. If you play for a crowd, it needs to be performed
in such a way that the crowd really see that you mean what you play.
I believe that we have the confidence to do that without fear and that
also comes from the experience, being around so long, and looking down
into the crowd seeing new faces, young people, as well as our fans that
have been around for 35 years. We're seeing people in the crowd that
have never been there before and they dress like they believe in like
this heavy new wave of British heavy metal movement from 35 years ago.
It is great to see and it shows you that you get something right and
it can stay. It doesn't have to change.
Tobbe: Why does Saxon have its career longevity,
do you think?
Nibbs: Well first, you know, Biff is such a
strong character that he's just got in himself to continue as long as
he's able to. It comes again with this confidence, when you make one
record after the other and it seems to have a tendency to improve and
impress each time. It just boosts your confidence. Like you said, in
the mid 90's, it was difficult to show this character or confidence,
but we continued through that and in the beginning of the new millennium
we began to get recognition and it builds you a faith in what you're
doing. And so like the last 14, 15 years, that's basically the medicine.
You know, we made our own medicine and it's confidence and faith. We've
really pushed ourselves into this like, I don't know, it's like rock
Tobbe: Do you guys ever think about slowing
down a little? You're still intense with touring and recording.
Nibbs: Yeah, we think about slowing down a lot,
but I don't know why, because we never do. We do think about it and
it's good to think about slowing down, because then you realize that
it's not worth it.
of the gig the same night