» Paul Quinn - Saxon
« back

Interview conducted August 5 2017
Interview published October 9 2017

"Plenty of wine is what keeps us going."

Metal Covenant was able to lock in an appointment with Saxon's original guitarist Paul Quinn at Skogsröjet festival in August. Quinn is quite a funny bloke, yet often a man of few words and it's surely not an easy task to get him into some kind of real talking mode. Touring life sometimes also takes its toll and honestly he told me, and I quote, "I'm not exactly full of brainpower today.".

"Let's just call it memorable instead of commercial."

Tobbe: Your new album, Thunderbolt, will be out early next year and what has been your biggest contribution personally so far for that album?

Paul: Playing well. [Laughs] Nibbs [Carter, bass] has written a lot of it and there's not much to say about it, really, except it's, you know, the usual mixture of rock styles. Just about every style that we normally do, which is a lot.

Tobbe: Reportedly, before he left the band, Graham Oliver didn't play so much on the albums, so you had to do most of the guitar playing, but Saxon today, what's it like?

Paul: Well, not for every album, but it didn't take long before Doug [Scarratt] was doing equal amount, if not more. With that kind of band it doesn't matter who wrote the song; everybody gives it their best, and, you know, it could be Nigel [Glockler, drums], it could be Nibbs, could be Doug, could be me, but I think our best songs are co-writes. You know, in a lesser way, the same kind of ideas, Lennon/McCarthy's best songs were co-written.

Tobbe: And on the new album? Who puts down most of the guitars?

Paul: It's roughly equal, 50 percent each, because we're a stereo band, and if you listen closely enough you'll hear a little subtle difference between the right and left.

Tobbe: After having so many records out, as Saxon has nowadays, what's the hardest part about not coming out too similar to something you have released in the past?

Paul: We don't particularly dwell on that, you know. We have a kind of format that works for most songs, but we vary it a little bit. There are songs where we'll do the solo after one verse, which is quite rare, usually it's after two, but sometimes it's two verses/solo, or two verses, or two/solo/one. Happy accidents happen, where a backing vocal actually fits in the wrong place.

Tobbe: Saxon is frequently releasing album after album and what keeps up the energy for you guys to keep making records?

Paul: Plenty of wine is what keeps us going. What were we called? - "The teototal band that discovered wine.". But we're in it for the fans. There are plenty of bands that think they are for the fans, but we are actually for the fans. [Laughs] We talk to them, you know. We don't walk past them or anything.

Tobbe: You have so many classic and timeless riffs from 30 or almost even 40 years ago and if you're gonna write a riff or something, isn't it kind of hard to live up to the expectation of being the guitar player you are nowadays?

Paul: Sometimes, especially as my influences are way older than a lot of the younger guys', like the blues. The white blues, rather than the black blues, where I discovered the black blues after I discovered the white guys that are playing it. So what I'm playing is kind of updated blues playing. You know, I can shred when I want to, but I actually choose not to much of the time.

Tobbe: So your background is obviously important and will always be so.

Paul: I hope so. It's an ongoing journey because you're discovering new music and rebuying the stuff that influenced you in the early years.

Tobbe: As you of course remember, Saxon changed musical direction in the mid '80s and could you ever go in a slightly different direction once again without, like, getting ridiculed, or do you have to stay in the heavy metal vein forever and ever now?

Paul: I can't see us ever going AOR again. [Laughs] But I think with a singer like Biff [Byford] it always sounds like Saxon, so. Things like Forever Free [1992] are quite punky, but because of his voice it still fits.

Tobbe: You know, a lot people actually like your albums from '85-'92, like Rock The Nations and Destiny, so how come you don't play a little bit more songs off those records live?

Paul: It just depends on the audience, 'cause Biff will do a request spot. Occasionally there are people that shout for Ride Like The Wind, so we'll do that, even though it's not our song [By Christopher Cross, 1979]. And I've always liked S.O.S. from that period. Let's just call it memorable instead of commercial. [Laughs]

Tobbe: In the mid '90s you were playing for just a couple of hundred people at each show here in Sweden and how did you keep the attitude during rough times to keep the band going?

Paul: We just thought we were being forgotten, so if we stuck at it we would get back to where we were before. We've only had one year off from this band. You know, we almost threw it in in 1988. I think we've learned a lot on of what not to do.

Tobbe: I talked to Nigel earlier this summer and I asked him a couple of questions that I now will kind of ask you. So, what do you do besides Saxon nowadays?

Paul: Walk around, talk to people, read a little, occasionally practice [Laughs] There are some songs that are really quite difficult, so. We've kind of turned into a bit of a prog band in some ways.

Tobbe: And as you're getting older, is music still as important to you as it was back in the day?

Paul: Yeah. I never expected to last this length of time, because we were, and still are, competitive with each other, as well as with other bands, so from day one we knew that we could get somewhere. You know, if you ever see the film of us on a Motörhead tour [Heavy Metal Thunder - The Movie, 2011] you'll notice what attitude we had, and still do.

Tobbe: Is it hard sometimes to have that attitude? Do you have to pull yourselves together to keep that attitude going?

Paul: No, the audience can carry us. Well, it's a supportive thing between them and us. They cheer us on so we don't feel like we're tired. [Laughs] It's the travel that tires you; you know, the playing is great.

Tobbe: When, or if, Saxon ever seizes to exist, what will be your retirement plans?

Paul: Hmm... A different style of music probably. I didn't come up the traditional route into heavy metal; I came through covers band, you know. And I've played so many different styles. I don't dislike… Well, I did dislike playing some really terrible commercial stuff, but a lot of the stuff was enjoyable. Not that I want to go back to covers; I try and write on my own.

Related links: