Saxon's frontman, the one and only Biff Byford is going to release his first solo album on February 21, 2020! It's entitled "School Of Hard Knocks", it was produced by Biff Byford, recorded by Jacky Lehmann at Brighton Electric Studios in Brighton (U.K.) and mixed at Queen Street Studios in Stockholm (Sweden) by Mats Valentin. The album features guest appearances by Phil Campbell (Motörhead, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons), Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire), Nick Barker (Voices), Dave Kemp (Wayward Sons) and Nibbs Carter (Saxon). The band that is behind Byford in this much-anticipated album consists of Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) on guitars, Christian Lundqvist on drums and Gus Macricostas on bass.
In the press release we read: "The English North is everything you saw in "Game Of Thrones" and more. It is the true heart of England, the region where its soul resides, and Biff Byford has earned the right to be considered its true heavy metal bard. Biff takes on not just tales and stories from his heart and soul, but also investigates the Middle Ages and Medieval history amongst other subjects. "I'm singing about my past of course and about things I like, but mostly I wanted it to reflect me, my personality and my life," says Biff. "Song-wise, it's more diverse and not just focused on heavy metal. I wanted it to be a slice of the music I like, from metal, to rock 'n' roll. I'm a guy who's just as happy listening to Metallica or Judy Garland, because as long as it's great and entertains me, then what more do I need?" An aural Byford storybook highlighting his life and passionate interests, "School Of Hard Knocks" is in all senses a classic, masterfully constructed old-school British hard rock album. From the spoken-word introduction of "Inquisitor" with its stoic, poetic take on the Spanish Inquisition to the autobiographical, old-school "Wheels Of Steel"-era thrust of "Welcome To The Show" (hear audio below) and "School Of Hard Knocks", you'll get to know Byford supremely well over the 11 tracks which comprise the album. "One of my favorites is 'The Pit And The Pendulum', which is quite 'prog metal' and I love that," says Biff. "I'm a big prog rock fan and was a huge fan of YES back in the day and being a musician-bass-player myself, the musicianship in bands like that really caught me. There's a version of 'Throw Down The Sword' by Wishbone Ash, and the reason I did that was because it was the first song I ever heard that was anything to do with history in the sense of battles and war, and was really the thing which started me on the road to writing historically driven songs." There is also a wonderful version of the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Scarborough Fair", with Byford and Fredrik Åkesson (from OPETH) creating a new arrangement which gives the legend new life. "It's a traditional medieval song, and the story goes that Paul Simon happened to hear somebody playing it in Whitby, which is just down the road from Scarborough," laughs Biff. "But I wanted something which represented Yorkshire and it is a Yorkshire folk song, so we tried a new arrangement which made it a little heavier, and it works really well."
There has been a lot of commenting and talking about the beautiful album cover, so Byford posted the following on Saxon's official page: "The artwork is a painting I bought last year in auction. I liked it - later I had the idea to use it as the art work. Steph Byford did the logos - here’s a bio I found: John Hanley (born 1947) His passion is Lowry type paintings, he was fortunate enough to meet the man himself, although only briefly in 1961 when he was at school in Blackburn. Lowry made a short speech and showed some of his work to the art class and John will always remember him saying “l am just a man that that likes to paint” that’s when he became fond of his works. John used to paint pet portraits for family and friends as a paying hobby alongside his career as a draughtsman in the engineering trade. John started to paint and sell what he likes to call his "like a Lowry style" commercially after retiring in 2009. John describes his works as follows - "l like to think that my colourful and sometimes humorous style reflects my personality." Biffx