You are one of the original members of Saxon who formed in 1976. How do you think the group developed during that journey musically?
– We definitely got heavier and progressively darker, some of our music now means we don't have a chance to scratch our noses until the song is over.
Has your guitar playing changed much over the years? How would you describe yourself as a guitarist?
– I have done things l wouldn't previously have believed possible in the last decade. I have always been bluesily melodic and fast, so I try to keep to my own style. I think musicians should have broad tastes in the interests of crossover styling.
Saxon belongs to the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Can you say that you had a special sound and style that stood out from, for example, American heavy metal?
– The UK production styles were the world's starkest and 'in your face' with the compression done at the mastering stage, which tends to tie things tightly together. I have a slicing pick action that gets a lot of attack without sharpening the note(s).
Saxon has done a lot of live albums over the years. How is that?
– The sound of a band at its peak works best to an audience without use of overdubs. Organic and exciting.
You now have a pair of guitars equipped with True Temperament Fretting System. What are your experiences of the system so far?
– I'd like my entire collection to be TT'd as those guitars can handle any chord. I also think every guitar should also have a zero fret, because before TT came to be, only the zero fretted instruments had good intonation.
Have you used your TT guitars in the studio? How did it work?
– My VGS Eruption has my favourite pickups by Bare Knuckles and l could add an open string to any chord and not experience the out-of-tune warble.
What other guitars do you use?
– Caparison: Dellinger & Horus (various), Gibson: Les Paul Axcess & Studio, ShredXplorer, Explorer, 12&6 Double SG, Ibanez S Series, Fender MIJ Stratocaster, MusicMan and Peavey Wolfgangs, Fret King Country Squire and Vintage SG.
Other equipment? Amplifiers, effects, etc?
– Mostly a Kemper sampler with mixed Marshall and Peavey sounds, WahWah and Fulltone Plimsoul into the return circuits of 2 JV Marshall amplifiers with 4 cabinets.
Musical role models?
_ I learned from listening, self taught, after l heard Elvis and Beatles, but my style is closer to Clapton, Green, Hendrix, Beck, Blackmore, Kath, Halsall, Howe and the keyboards of Lord, Duke and Hammer.
Do you have any projects in addition to Saxon?
– At the age of 66, l teamed up with another outstanding rhythm section of two 33 year-olds called Harrison Young and Koen Herfst to become a retro but up-to-date bluesy rock band which, being humorists, we call The Cards.
Your singer Biff Byford has had some health problems lately. How is he doing? When do you expect Saxon to be back in full swing?
– He is gaining his strength back and we are starting a new album currently which may be ready by the time we will restart touring our 40th Anniversary Castles & Eagles shows in Europe on March 7th in Düsseldorf. See you there! Ulf Zackrisson