For 37 years, banshee-throated Englishman Biff Byford has fronted Saxon, which – along with Iron Maiden and Def Leppard – led the fabled new wave of British heavy metal in the late 1970s. Lately, he’s been branching out. In 2007, he published his tell-all autobiography “Never Surrender,” and in 2010, he campaigned to have heavy metal officially declared a religion in the United Kingdom. Two years ago, he issued “The Hybrid,” his first album with spinoff group The Scintilla Project, inspired by a low-budget horror film called “Scintilla.” “Its not a Spielberg movie, but it’s dark, mysterious and the monster in it is pretty cool,” says the singer, who visited the set during shooting. “So that’s a prog-rock album I made with some friends.”
After all these years with Saxon, are you a collector of anything?
Yeah – kids! I’ve got too many children! I have four, and some from a previous marriage, so I’ve got a lot of children. But it keeps me pretty busy when I’m not on the road. I’ve got a daughter who’s 20, a son who’s 17, and twin boys who are 15.
What music are they into?
Well, my son plays guitar in an indie rock band. But my twin boys are into gaming, really, so they’re pretty much into gaming music, all the hardcore stuff. And my daughter’s really into more indie stuff. But obviously, they’re all massive Saxon fans. I think it’s in their DNA.
You can’t understate the importance of metal’s new wave. You guys all took your cues from punk.
Yeah. We liked the punk energy. We liked things like The Sex Pistols and The Clash – they were like a breath of fresh air to us, instead of all those long guitar solos. But we were writing stuff like “Motorcycle Man” and “Heavy Metal Thunder,” and it was full-on thrash metal. And I think that’s where a lot of the bands like Metallica and Megadeth took their cue from, really. I’ve talked to Lars from Metallica about this, and he was at one of our shows in 1982, in Brighton, I think.
When you wrote your autobiography, what did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I was quite driven. I came from a little village, a little sort of mining town, and my dad was a miner. So I was driven, with a great sort of aching to do something in music – to do anything, really. And I don’t think that ever leaves you. If you’re a really positive, driven person, that stays with you all your life.
What business advice have you given your musician son?
Don’t sign any contracts unless I’ve seen them first!
IF YOU GO
Where: Rockbar Theater, 360 Saratoga Ave., San Jose
When: 8 p.m. May 29
Tickets: $25 to $75
Contact: (408) 241-3150, www.rockbartheater.com