Saxon – Seizing the Day

Tuesday, 1st March 2022

Steady veterans of classic heavy metal, Saxon show no signs of slowing down on the recording or touring fronts. Carpe Diem is the 23rd studio album, chock full of powerful anthems that make listeners scream, shout, and swing along to the rhythms, melodies, and grooves present. We reached out to drummer Nigel Glocker during the middle of a fierce windstorm (relaying to us that the roof of London’s O2 Arena had been blown open because of it) and he was happy to tell us more about the relaxed process pulling together this album, special cover choices on the Inspirations effort, work with renowned artist Paul Raymond Gregory, thoughts on a few underrated Saxon albums, plus sessions for Alcatrazz, GTR, and Asia among others.

Dead Rhetoric: Carpe Diem is the latest Saxon record. Beyond the challenges of the pandemic and the health issues with vocalist Biff Byford, how would you assess the performances, songwriting, and final product this go around?

Nigel Glockler: Obviously, we were a bit worried when Biff had his health thing. I started doing the drum tracks and was done by the end of 2019. Because that was the schedule we were going on, the record company wanted to release it in February 2021. The pandemic hit, and they didn’t want to release it until we could tour. They held it back – in the meantime we had been thinking about doing something else. We had done cover songs all along in the past, but they asked us to do a covers album and they could put that in the slot where the album was due to be released. It gave us more time to work on fine tuning Carpe Diem.

My sort of thing is, if you like Thunderbolt, you’ll love this one. There is a lot of fast stuff on this, but it’s got a couple of more mid-tempo tracks, like “The Pilgrimage”, which goes back a few years ago. We like to have a couple of mid-tempo songs on there.

Dead Rhetoric: Does it amaze you how strong and potent Biff’s vocal presence continues to be – especially shining on tracks like “Remember the Fallen” and the speedier “Living on the Limit”?

Glocker: He’s done a great job on this. His voice is improving I think with age. He’s gaining a little more rasp in it, which I like. He’s singing great, and he just keeps getting better and better. As I think we all do, actually, to be quite honest with you. The band as a whole is performing brilliantly.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe his value as a person beyond his capabilities for Saxon?

Glockler: It’s hard to describe really. He’s a good friend away from the band. He and I are really good friends. Generally, you have to have someone that’s sort of takes charge. I use that term loosely. You have to have someone that says, let’s try this, let’s try that. The vibe within the band is great. He likes to take care of a lot of things with management, he loves getting involved with all the business side of things as well.

Dead Rhetoric: Paul Raymond Gregory once again created the artwork for the new record. Discuss his importance in developing consistent, vibrant, and iconic cover work for Saxon for so long – what have been some of the favorite pieces he’s done for the band in your eyes?

Glockler: One of my favorite covers is Sacrifice, actually. I love that cover. Paul is great – we sort of say to him, this is what the album is going to be called, this is the theme we have for it, and he delivers every time. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – he always comes up with the goods, so we have no reason to turn elsewhere. He didn’t do the Inspirations album, that was a one-off for another artist, that was a drawing thing we had. The artwork he does along with the t-shirts and stuff, it’s always great. He’s a great guy too.

Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of the Inspirations album, which were some of your favorite songs to touch on?

Glockler: One of the tracks I choose is not actually on the album, it’s on the B-side of a single. We felt we couldn’t better the original. It was a track by Mountain, “One Last Cold Kiss”. I think you can get it on Spotify. “Paperback Writer” – I think we are all Beatles fans, Paul is a mega-Beatles fan. I brought “Evil Woman” from Black Sabbath – but even that wasn’t a Black Sabbath original, that was a track I used to play all the time when I bought their first album. That was another suggestion of mine – the original was done by a band called Crow.

Dead Rhetoric: Whereas many veteran bands struggle to remain relevant in their current studio records, Saxon has always strived to maintain that balance between your established roots and style while also incorporating the advances in production, tones, and technology. How have you been able to remain relevant this deep into your career – now appealing to a second and third generation of metal fans?

Glockler: Yeah, I don’t know. We have been lucky I guess that people still want to come and see us. Band-wise, we are all good writers. Everyone in the band is performing great. In regards to the audience, we are finding all the time that we are getting young kids down the front, and they know the words to everything – new tracks, old tracks, they are singing along. I don’t know how we’ve done it. We enjoy writing, we enjoy being a band with each other. We just do it, and it’s the five people in the band that makes Saxon what it is now, sound-wise.

Dead Rhetoric: You mention the craft of songwriting and the importance of, having multiple members working on the material. Is it something you’ve had to work on over the decades, carving out time to do this consistently?

Glockler: It varies. We are in a cycle like most bands: write, record, tour. As I said to you before, sometimes we get a lot of time to do it, sometimes we can write things in jams during soundchecks. We are constantly coming up with ideas. It’s just a case of how much time you have before you’ve got to record an album. Luckily with Carpe Diem, we got the basic tracks down, but we could sort of move them around a little bit, take them apart and put them back together because of the pandemic and not being able to tour.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to play a couple of shows recently. How have things been coming out of the pandemic, do you see audiences hungry for live gigs again?

Glockler: Definitely. We did two shows last year, Bloodstock Open Air and in November we did the Paradise Festival for Metal Hammer magazine in Germany. They were both great gigs. We weren’t sure how it was going to be, with the pandemic still going on. These last two shows we played a couple of weeks ago in Manchester and London were like man, you could see everyone was itching to go out and see a live band. As soon as we hit the stage, boom – that was it.

Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the greatest memories you’ve had in your time with Saxon? Either specific album/recording sessions, tours, festival appearances, travel opportunities where you knew you were making an impact and doing something special?

Glockler: One thing as you say, the traveling thing. I have been to a lot of countries that I would never have thought of going to. That’s been great, fantastic seeing all these countries and making friends in a lot of them that I see when we go back, which is really cool. Playing Wacken festival to 75,000 people, that’s great. General recordings are a big thing for me. Recording The Power and the Glory was a big thing for me, that’s my first studio album with the band and I had a lot of people who loved Pete Gill, the previous drummer. That album I had to push myself, impress people, and I hope I did! (laughs). There is everything that happens on tour that’s great fun.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess your approach at drumming for Saxon since your early days with the band on The Power and the Glory record to now? Where do you think you’ve seen the biggest growth as a player and a performer over the decades?

Glockler: For myself, I keep striving to improve my playing. I’m not the sort of guy who says, that’s it – now I can do what I want. I try to push myself in the studio, in writing, and live. Always striving to be better all the time – but not to the detriment of the music. I’m not one of these guys that can say I can do this rudiment so I’m going to play this drum solo in this song. To me the most important thing with any song is the groove. If it doesn’t groove, forget it. When we are writing, and we probably spend more time on this now than we used to, in the early days, we play around with the tempos. I always use a click track in the studio because that’s how I like to work. When we are writing, we try things a bit slower or faster, until it’s just sitting nicely in the groove. That’s something I have become a lot more aware of in the last few years.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the discography of Saxon, do you think there’s an underrated album or two that people need to spend more time checking out?

Glockler: I love Rock the Nations. It’s a very raw album, but I think the thing people don’t realize is management gave us ten days to write that album. We did damn well on it. The general vibe of the band, we had a lot of fun recording it in Holland. The studio complex, Elton John was in the same complex recording, and he actually played on a couple of tracks on the album. “Battle Cry” I think is a very underrated song. We were given that limited time to write it.

Another favorite album of mine is Sacrifice. I love that album – and Unleash the Beast as well.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the hard rock/ heavy metal movement now fifty years plus into its existence? What excites you most about the global scene – and what changes (if any) would you like to make for the overall health and well-being of things?

Glockler: I think the heavy metal scene, particularly for a classic sort of sounding band like ours, I think it’s very healthy. We are constantly seeing younger fans getting into it. They don’t just want the fast, generic metal – a lot of kids want to get into the more classic, groove stuff. You can see how popular a band like AC/DC is. To me that about sums it out. They play in these constant grooves, and the people just lap it up.

When you see us up on stage, we are having fun. If someone makes a slight mistake that the audience doesn’t know but we do, we have a laugh about it. From our point of view, the situation with us is very healthy. There are a lot of more classic type bands coming up, I read about them in the magazines.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you enjoy spending your free time away from music when you need that recharge? And where do you think you’ve seen the most growth personally over the last five to ten years about life?

Glockler: The most growth? Sometimes when I come off the road the last thing I want to do is listen to heavy rock or metal. I might have been on the road for three or four months, and I am a bit of prog head. I might come home to listen to some Genesis, or more acoustic material to give my brain a rest from the bludgeoning.

I just relax. I like good movies, a few beers, going to the pub. The things that anyone else does.

Dead Rhetoric: How has your health been since suffering the brain aneurysm in 2014? What measures have you taken to keep things in tip-top shape?

Glockler: My health has been fine, knock on wood. It’s been okay. It’s quite funny actually. The following tour, in the city where it had happened, Newcastle, I invited the surgeon who had operated on me to the gig. That was good, we had a few beers and a good chat afterwards. He said I was a bit of a freak, he wasn’t expecting me to be able to play the drums for at least eighteen months, if I survived. I was back on tour within four months. I told him it was all down to him.

When you are tour, don’t burn the candle at both ends. From a drummer’s point of view, get plenty of rest. Ours is a pretty energetic gig. You look after yourself, lots of vitamins, and take care of yourself.

Dead Rhetoric: Would you say pulling together a setlist, even in a longer headlining set, is the biggest challenge for the band given twenty-three albums to choose from?

Glockler: Precisely. You’ve hit things right on the nail. It’s obvious when you go on tour, you’ve got to promote the latest album, and do five or six tracks off that. So other tracks have to go. Otherwise, you would have to play for eight or nine hours (laughs). And after that, I would be stretchered off. It is a nightmare. There are certain songs people want to hear. You can’t please everyone. Sometimes I’ll get thanks for playing a song we haven’t played in ages. Sometimes you get why didn’t you play this, why didn’t you play that. You just have to try to do the best you can. There are certain songs you have to play in certain countries that can change out from other ones. We can play around with the setlist from gig to gig, if we want.

Dead Rhetoric: How was it doing that North American tour run opening for Judas Priest, who I know you grew up on as well?

Glockler: That was great fun. We are good friends with them as well. It was also great; Andy Sneap our producer was playing guitar for them. Black Star Riders were opening, all three bands got on great. It was quite a relaxed tour, really enjoyable. It was a shame we couldn’t go on for a lot longer. The reception we got was fantastic, we were well pleased with that.

Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us about the guest drum work you did on the V album for Alcatrazz?

Glockler: What happened, I know Giles the manager. He dropped me a line, would I like to play a couple of tracks on the new album. I said why not – we weren’t doing a lot, so it would blow the cobwebs out and keep me hammering again in the studio. Plus, I have known Gary the bass player for quite a few years. He’s a good friend, and Jimmy the keyboard player. They sent me the tracks over from the states, I went to a studio run by a friend of mine, ran through them and there you go.

Dead Rhetoric: How was it working with Steve Howe in GTR in the 80’s/90’s as well as Asia with the Aqua album?

Glockler: When I got the offer to work with GTR, I was quite nervous being a big Yes fan. Working with one of my sort of heroes. It settled down, and that was great. Steve Hackett had left by that time, so there was another guy Robert Berry was the second guitarist. He was a great songwriter – we kept in touch once the GTR gig fell to pieces, and he worked with Keith Emerson until he died. Robert got in touch with me last year and I did some work on an album with him. It was great, a different form of music, I love all sorts of music apart from rap.

Geoff Downes was producing that Asia album, so that’s how that opportunity came about as he was producing the GTR album we were working on. After that fell apart, I did some solo stuff with Steve Howe, and then Geoff rang me up. He asked if I wanted to do some tracks on the Aqua album, and so I did those. A couple of extra tracks came out on the Asia – Archiva records as well. Geoff and I keep in touch all the time.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Saxon over the next twelve months to promote and support this release?

Glockler: We’ve got the summer getting quite full with UK and European festivals. Nearly every weekend, as far as I understand. Then after that, we have a European tour, a UK tour for the new album. Hopefully we are looking at some gigs in America after that. Any promoters reading this – come on, we want to come over!

(Saxon on Facebook)

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