On February 21st 2020, legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byfordwill step into the spotlight with his first ever solo album,School of Hard Knocks.
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 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.
School of Hard Knocks features guest appearances by Phil Campbell (Motörhead/Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons), Alex Holzwart (Rhapsody of Fire), Nick Barker (Voices), Dave Kemp (Wayward Sons) and Nibbs Carter (Saxon). On School of Hard Knocks, Byford worked with a new band comprising Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) on guitars, Christian Lundqvist on drums and Gus Macricostas on bass (Biff himself played a spot of four string thunder too!).
Biff is also planning some live shows next year, events which will continue the theme of breaking new ground: “I’m going to do a ‘words-and-music’ tour in small venues,” he states proudly, “the first part will be me in conversation with the audience about anything really, from heart attacks to sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, old times, new times, friends, enemies and whatever anyone wants to chat about… Then bringing out a band and playing some new songs, covers and maybe end with a Saxon song or two. I’m still working out the details, but it’s a show I’ve wanted to do for a long time and one which I don’t think has been done in hard rock before. It’ll be something different and a lot of fun.”
School of Hard Knocks not only achieves the goal of providing full bore entertainment, it fulfils a long-standing Biff Byford’s wish to explore rock ‘n’ roll a little more.
“It’s been great to break new ground, explore new territories and work with some old friends,” concludes Biff, “and having waited so long to make this album, I have to say, I am delighted with it! It has a whole range of styles, from the ridiculously heavy to ballads, and it is certainly my album.”
Available to pre-order from October 25th on CD, Vinyl, Digital formats and special D2C bundles at this location.
Listen to the first single, Welcome to the Show, below.
KXM, the band featuring bassist/vocalist Doug “dUg” Pinnick (King’s X), guitarist George Lynch (Lynch Mob, Dokken) and drummer Ray Luzier (Korn) have released a video for the song, Lightning, which is on their forthcoming new album, Circle Of Dolls, which will be released on September 13th. Watch the video, below.
To view a video for the song, War Of Words, please go here. Also, to read more about this release, and to see the album’s track listing, please click here.
Celebrating thirty years of music, Thunder will release a 28 track album entitled simply The Greatest Hits on September 27th, through BMG. Featuring tracks from each of their 12 studio albums, it is the first ever collection to actually be sanctioned by the band, but also compiled by Thunder themselves. The tracks chosen for The Greatest Hits shows perfectly the arc of evolution that the band has travelled over three decades, developing, challenging themselves and always moving on: without ever losing the core elements that make them special. The Greatest Hits will be released in four formats: 2CD, expanded 3CD [featuring a live session recorded and streamed at the Planet Rock studio on 18 Jan 2019], 3LP and Digital. CD1 & CD2 are both closed by Thunder covers of classic songs.
Thirty years into their career, the time feels right to look back on what’s been done, taking stock of some fantastic work, but keeping one eye on the horizon and what is yet to come. The Greatest Hits is a comprehensive, cohesive and career-spanning collection, taking in material from every single album since the debut that propelled them onto the world stage, 1990’s Backstreet Symphony which hit number 21 in the Charts. That first salvo was followed by Laughing On Judgement Day which hit No. 2 in 1992, and then Behind Closed Doors which was another Top 5 hit in 1995. Greatest Hits includes material taken from releases right up till 2017’s Rip It Up which hit No.3 in the Charts, and 2019’s Please Remain Seated. In fact, the last three Thunder albums – Wonder Days, Rip It Up and Please Remain Seated have all enjoyed UK Top Ten status in the Album Chart.
Frontman Danny Bowes said, “Having been at it for 30 years, we now feel we have enough of a body of work behind us to do this properly. We explored and re-imagined our back catalogue with the Please Remain Seated album, and now with The Greatest Hits we’ve gathered all our key tunes together. It’s all killer, no filler, and we hope fans like having it all in one place.” Guitarist and songwriter Luke Morley added, “It was great fun picking the tunes for this compilation, and brilliant to put all of them into one big collection.”
The Greatest Hits track listing:
CD1 [of both 2 and 3CD formats]:
Dirty Love Love Walked In She’s So Fine A Better Man Backstreet Symphony Low Life In High Places River Of Pain Like A Satellite Stand Up Living For Today Love Worth Dying For Just Another Suicide All I Ever Wanted Gimme Shelter [recorded for charity in 1993]
CD2 [of both 2 and 3CD formats]:
I Love You More Than Rock N Roll Loser I’m Dreaming Again The Devil Made Me Do It On The Radio The Rain Wonder Days Rip It Up In Another Life Right From The Start The Thing I Want Future Train [2019 Version] Low Life In High Places [2019 Version] Your Time Is Gonna Come [Led Zeppelin cover, recorded in summer 2018 during the Please Remain Seated album session. Previously unreleased.]
Bigger Than Both Of Us Serpentine She’s So Fine Blown Away River Of Pain Stand Up
Listen To Thunder’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s Your Time Is Gonna Come, below.
Greg Prato for BraveWords spoke with Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box. Portions of the interview appear below.
BraveWords: Let’s discuss the upcoming tour with Judas Priest.
Mick Box: Back in the ‘80s, we toured with Judas Priest through America. So, it’s going to be something we’ve done before, but something we’re very excited about doing again, because I think both bands are on fire – in terms of they’ve got a new album out, Firepower, that people are saying is one of the best of their career, and we’ve got an album out, Living The Dream, that people are saying is one of the best of our career. So, I think it’s two bands at the top of their game.
BraveWords:…Who were some of Uriah Heep’s favorite touring partners in the ‘70s and ‘80s?
Mick Box: In our heyday, we had many people supporting us – from Rush to KISS to ZZ Top to Earth, Wind & Fire. Quite diverse. But I think the best band we’ve ever toured with I’d say were Def Leppard. When we had the Abominog album out in the ‘80s, we toured with them, and they were just hitting the big time [with Pyromania], and were the biggest thing since sliced bread in America and Canada. We hopped on their tour, and it was an amazing tour.
BraveWords: I’ve noticed a wide age range at recent shows I’ve attended by veteran rock and metal acts. Do you anticipate this at the upcoming shows with Priest?
Mick Box: We are hoping so, because it will be predominately Priest’s audience, and of course, the metal fans will be out there. So, we will design our set to please them, too – we’ve got one hour to play. But in Europe, we get a really young audience, which is really cool. But in America, I’m not sure yet – we hope to have that range of ages, from dads bringing their kids, if you’d like, and those who have grown up with us. It’s quite diverse.
BraveWords: Why do you think this is? Because of music streaming services being easier for younger fans to check out artists?
Mick Box: That and also because of the YouTube thing – where you see the band live. There’s more access to what we do in the media.
BraveWords: Are you still in contact with [drummer] Lee Kerslake? How is he doing?
Mick Box: Me and Lee, we’re like brothers – we’re brothers from different mothers, if you’d like. Obviously, his ill health [cancer and other ailments] is something to worry about, but he’s a bold fighter. And I think – if I’m very truthful – the music is keeping him alive, because he’s trying to finish off a new album of his own. But we go out to dinner whenever we can, we talk a lot. Sometimes, he’s having treatment in the hospital, and when I know he’s there, I text him jokes to keep his spirits up, and he says, “I’m in a room full of gloom, and I’m the only one laughing!” So, we keep in touch a lot. It’s very important, because I love the man, and we spent a large part of our lives together.
The Recording Academy will honor its 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients with Grammy Salute To Music Legends, an awards ceremony and live tribute concert on Saturday, May 11th at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Black Sabbath, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic, Billy Eckstine, Donny Hathaway, Julio Iglesias, Sam & Dave, and Dionne Warwick. Lou Adler, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, and Johnny Mandel are Trustees Award honorees; and Saul Walker is the Technical Grammy Award recipient. Also being honored is Jeffery Redding, this year’s recipient of the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and Grammy Museum. Led by Grammy-nominated industry icon Greg Phillinganes as musical director, the tribute concert will feature rare performances by honorees and never-seen renditions by those they’ve inspired. Currently scheduled to appear are Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Clinton; Grammy winner Bootsy Collins, who will salute Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic; five-time Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway and Kenya Hathaway, who will pay tribute to their father Donny; past Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Johnny Mathis, who will honor Warwick; Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Sam Moore; two-time Grammy winner Gregory Porter, who will pay tribute to Eckstine; Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Simpson; past Grammy nominee Snoop Dogg, who will salute Clinton and PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC; and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Warwick. Presenters for the evening will include Grammy winners Cheech & Chong. Additional performers and presenters will be announced shortly. Tickets for the event will be on sale via a Ticketmaster pre-sale, beginning today at 10 a.m. PT. The password to access the pre-sale is LEGENDS.
The Recording Academy will produce Grammy Salute To Music Legends in partnership with Thirteen as part of the Great Performances series on PBS, set to air later this year. Previously held during Grammy Week, this is the fourth year The Recording Academy has celebrated the Special Merit Awards with a stand-alone TV event and musical tribute. In addition to the tribute concert, special celebrity guests will present recipients their award statues and guests will enjoy never-before-seen video packages celebrating each of the honorees’ contributions to the music industry and our cultural heritage.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award recognizes such contributions in areas other than performance. Both awards are determined by a vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees. Technical Grammy Award recipients are determined by vote of the Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratified by the Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field. The Music Educator Award is selected by a Blue Ribbon Committee and is approved by the National Board of Trustees.
Altitudes & Attitude, a collaboration between Anthrax’s Frank Bello and Megadeth’s David Ellefson—two virtuosic bass players who’ve anchored some of the fiercest thrash records of all time – are sharing their new video for Part of Me, filmed on their recent European tour with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. A&A will tour the Midwest this spring, in support of their debut album, Get It Out (Megaforce). Watch the clip below.
Produced by Jay Ruston, Get It Outis a kind of rock ‘n’ roll primal-scream therapy. It’s the result of nearly four years of writing and recording sessions—and decades of touring, searching, striving and living. The album features drummer Jeff Friedl (A Perfect Circle) with guests Ace Frehley and Nita Strauss, who handles lead guitar on Part of Me.
“I’ve learned that writing songs is very cathartic,” says Bello, who performs at open mics around New York City when Anthrax is off the road. “A lot of these lyrics are about the inner struggles of my life, and about the rage that has built up from my life experiences—my brother’s murder; my father abandoning my family when we were young, leaving us with no funds to pay the bills. … The ups and downs of life in general. I’ve always had an anger inside, and music really helps me deal.”
“Get It Out is very much an important musical statement from Frank and me,” adds Ellefson. “There’s a big musical part of each of us that doesn’t get heard anywhere else.”
Altitudes & Attitude Midwest Tour Dates:
April 3 Chicago, IL Reggie’s April 3 Chicago, IL Shuga Records, 6pm April 4 Ft. Wayne, IN Sweetwater April 5 Dayton, OH Oddbody’s Music Room April 5 Dayton, OH Omega Music, 6pm April 6 Fremont, OH Midwest Rhythm Summit April 7 Flint, MI Machine Shop