|Graham Oliver & Steve Dawson - Oliver/Dawson Saxon - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Matt Phelps|
|Saturday, 15 September 2012 04:00|
One of the great things about writing for Uber Rock is that from time to time you get blessed with the chance to talk with some of your all time heroes. Jeff Waters, Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske have all had the chance to hear the battery powered whir of my old school cassette recorder but if it wasn't for my playground tape trading and NWOBHM schooling at the hands of Iron Maiden and Saxon the likes of Annihilator and Helloween may well have passed me by. Maiden and Saxon cemented my love of metal so heroes don't come much bigger to me. Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson are as synonymous with classic British metal as Steve Harris and Dave Murray and as founding members of Saxon they helped shape the metal world we love with classic albums like 'Wheels Of Steel', 'Strong Arm Of The Law' and 'Crusader'. Although they've been out of the Saxon spotlight for more years than I care to remember they left a lasting legacy of big riffs, thunderous bass lines and moustached prowess embedded in the history books of rock. After spending quite some time locked in a legal battle with Biff Byford over rights to using the Saxon name Graham and Dobby are finally getting their feet back up on the monitors, ready to take 'Motorbiker', their first full album of all new material together since 1985's 'Innocence Is No Excuse', to an old school audience that are still hell bent for denim and leather.
Steve, Graham, it's great to be speaking with you guys, thanks for taking the time to do this. First of all congratulations on the new album 'Motorbiker'.
Steve Dawson (SD): Thank you, have you heard it?
Yeah I've got a copy and have been giving it regular blasts.
SD: So what do you think?
I've got to say that I'm very impressed.
SD: Ah good, excellent.
So hopefully we can talk a bit about that now. You've been together with Graham as Oliver/Dawson Saxon since about 94/95, but this is the first album of original material isn't it? How come it's taken so long?
SD: It is yeah. Well it didn't actually take a long time to record it but it was just the series of events made it hard to finish it. We started recording it in a studio in Wales but then the studio went bust and our songs on the hard drive were impounded because they were at the studio. Basically it's taken quite a long time just to get our stuff back. We were considering re-recording it again but at the last minute something thankfully got sorted out. Obviously we weren't recording all that time it was just down to various hassles. In a lot of ways though that situation worked in our favour because by the time we got it back we re-listened to it and we had a more objective view of it if you know what I mean. So we got to tweak some of the guitars and vocals and stuff like that.
And Graham, I believe this year you've had your own signature guitar model come out as well?
Graham Oliver (GO): Yeah that's right. Um, back in 1982 we played a gig at the Whisky in Los Angeles and our support band was Metallica, it was their second ever gig and they always remembered that so when they came to Sheffield on their 'Death Magnetic' tour we were all invited to their show. I was talking to Kirk Hammett and he asked if I still had the guitar I used for that show. He was in the audience actually because he wasn't in Metallica then, it was still Dave Mustaine. So I said yes I still use it and it's become an iconic guitar since so many people have seen it over all the years on videos and albums, photographs. I had done an article in a magazine all about players with their iconic guitars and the Vintage guitar company (www.jhs.co.uk) had got hold of a copy of the magazine and asked me if I'd be interested in issuing a signature model and they were really enthusiastic about it. So I took the guitar to their workshop, they photographed it, measured everything and it all went from there. It was unveiled at NAMM in Los Angeles this year.
Like you say it truly is an iconic piece of metal history, those early riffs like 'Wheels Of Steel' and 'Strong Arm Of The Law'
GO: Yes, it's easy to tell my riffs because they're all very simple. Paul Quinn's were all very busy. It would usually start off with Pete Gill then either Steve or me would just start playing along to Pete Gill's beat. We wrote some great songs like that, 'Dallas 1pm'. Then whatever we had would be taken to the band later on and then everyone would chip in with different ideas. It was a joint effort and we all brought the best out of each other. So that's where all the gold albums and all the big sellers came from. You needed a team effort to get all that great music out and that's what we've done on this new album. We've gone right back to basics.
Even when you were knocking around those original ideas and riffs together 30 years ago it must have been impossible to predict the sort of influence they would have.
GO: Oh it was. It was just everybody throwing in their ideas, different influences. We never thought one day Metallica would be playing our songs (laughs). All the simple riffs are the best, just ask AC/DC or even Def Leppard, that's what gives things longevity, not all the widdly widdly stuff, you listen to it but you forget it ten minutes after. The riffs stay with you.
Well it's great to be getting some new riffs finally. I suppose a lot of your time away was taken up with you being wrapped up in the court case with Biff, which I don't really want to get into because I'm sure everything that needs to be said about it has been said but did you feel that during that time though that you were unfairly portrayed in the printed press?
SD: Well there was a lot of propaganda against us but our policy was that we just wanted to make great music and a great album so people can make their own minds up about the rest of it. It was just one of those unfortunate things that happens sometimes but it really did take up a lot of money.
That's what I was about to say, I think that because it's been so long since we last heard some new stuff from you guys that maybe people haven't expected too much, but when I got your album it totally blew me away to be honest. Songs like 'Whipping Boy', 'No Way Out' and 'Nevada Beach' are just simply, well, damn good.
SD: Thank you, that's what we hoped would happen.
You've also got the new book coming out too, 'Saxon, Drugs & Rock N' Roll'.
SD: Yeah that's something we've been working on for quite a long time. It's not like the Motley Crue or Dave Lee Roth books it is more like the real Spinal Tap. We've been a bit lazy in getting it finished I suppose but up till now everything's just been focussed on getting the album done.
Harry Shearer spent a week on the road with you before making Spinal Tap and a lot of the stuff that's in the film supposedly happened with you guys in Saxon didn't it? Like the bit where Nigel is flat on the stage trying to be picked up by the roadie.
SD: Yeah, that's correct yeah.
So what else is in the film that came from reality with Saxon?
SD: Well when Harry came with us a lot of the time, mainly after the shows, we spent long times just in conversation in the hotel bars. One thing that musicians like doing is talking about what goes off. So basically we were just recounting funny stories that we'd seen from being on the road from when we first started to what we were doing at the time so to be honest most of everything you see in Spinal Tap is reality. We told him hundreds of stories so it's hard to remember what we said and what we didn't if you know what I mean but most of it does stem for our conversations with Harry.
You've been back on tour this year too throughout Europe, first time since the album's been out so how did that go.
SD: It was amazing. Really good because that was in some of the countries that we haven't been able to play in for a while. When people do get to see us it has an effect because they don't expect what they're seeing and the way that we play. I mean OK we're getting on a bit but we still play full force and flat out with no compromise. A lot of bands that are from our era they've got lazy, they don't play with fire in their bellies. That's where we're different, we have something to prove.
So what's on the immediate horizon for you guys then?
GO: Well we've got a fantastic live album that's already in the can that will come out at some point and we're already talking about the next studio album. Every time we do a gig or play in rehearsal we end up doing new songs. Backs to the wall that's what we are. You'll never keep a good band down and they've been trying for years, but we love what we're doing. There's been a lot of propaganda said about us, we can't do this, or play there. We've been up against it but we finally have the album out. We've been biting our nails waiting for the reviews to come in for this album, like what are the Dave Lings of this world going to think? But the reviews we've had so far have been fantastic actually.
Yeah, like I said I may have been guilty of succumbing to that myself, having only really heard one side in the press from Biff's Saxon I'll be honest and say I wasn't expecting much but the first time I actually played your new CD it blew me away. Just hearing that bass back and some of your new riffs.
GO: That's been a problem for us having people only getting the one side because we've had gigs booked in Germany before, been on our way to the airport and had to turn around and go home because the gig's been cancelled because.....um, I can't really talk about it but it's unfortunate that some people who run a big festival there have that power and can wield that power. That's what the song 'No Way Out' is all about. But airing dirty laundry in the press is pretty pointless. We've not responded to it we just try to get on with what we're doing. If it wasn't for some of the issues over the last years we could have had 5 albums out by now. It's not like we've just been lazing about thinking we'll just play the old songs, we've had new songs all the time. It's just taken its time to get here but you can't keep a good band down and we're still here. Onwards and upwards.
So where can people see Oliver/Dawson Saxon live?
SD: Well we're getting new dates all the time. The thing is when people hear this album they want to book us. We're getting offers from all over the place. So we're just continually adding new dates wherever we can at the moment. It's just like a continuous tour if you know what I mean. We don't start at one point and then finish at another it just keeps going on.
Well I'll just say congratulations again on 'Motorbiker' and thanks to you both for taking the time to talk to me.
GO: No problem, anytime. Cheers.
To keep up with all things Oliver/Dawson Saxon including all their upcoming tour dates click on the links below
To pick up your copy of 'Motorbiker' - CLICK HERE