by Deb Rao
– Senior Columnist –
British heavy metal band Saxon is gearing up for an extensive U.S. Tour slated to kick off on Sept. 12. Saxon will make a special stop in Las Vegas on October 2nd at Vamp’d. In this exclusive interview for Hardrock Haven, drummer Nigel Glockler discusses the upcoming tour, Sacrifice, the music industry today, gives special advice to aspiring musicians and discusses what it is was like working with legendary Elton John.
HRH: Nigel, thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven to discuss the upcoming tour. Are you excited about the tour?
Nigel: I am actually. It should be cool. We are really looking forward to it. This is probably the longest U.S. Tour that we have done for a long time. We are sort of getting to a lot of places that we haven’t been to in years.
HRH: Saxon is coming to Vegas on Oct. 2 at Vamp’d. Are you looking forward to this?
Nigel: Definitely. I love Vegas.
HRH: Do you have any favorite Vegas stories that you would like to share with us?
Nigel: I just love it in general. Usually, when I come out to The States because my wife is American we have a little stop in Vegas anyhow. I love it there. It is great.
HRH: Tell us about the set list. Are you going to be playing a lot of songs off of Sacrifice?
Nigel: We usually play five or six from Sacrifice. I’m not going to tell you which ones. You just have to wait and see. (Laughter)
HRH: You want it to be a surprise OK!
Nigel: Yes, it is a shame with this thing called the Internet people can just go online and see what we played. We like to mix it a little. So it probably won’t be exactly the same. I think it is better to keep it as a surprise.
HRH: Awesome. Now you joined the band in 1981 on the Denim And Leather Tour. What was it like having only two days to learn all the songs?
Nigel: It was a nightmare. (Laughter)
HRH: But you did such a wonderful job.
Nigel: I mean the stupid thing was the first gig was in my hometown. And I bought tickets for it. It was good fun. A lot of work but good fun.
HRH: I know the band has worked with Elton John. What was it like working with Elton? I know he has a residency here in Vegas. Was it amazing?
Nigel: Yes. We were doing the Rock The Nations album. He was in another studio doing another album. What happened was we came in and started setting up. Him and his band instead of doing their work, they were in our studio in the control room listening to our stuff. Which was hilarious. So he go his roadie to wheel in a Yamaha electric grand and he said I want to play on this too. So which was fine, and great. So that was it. We had a great time.
HRH: The new album Sacrifice is out. Tell us about the writing process. Was it all written collectively?
Nigel: Generally what happens is we all got recording studios at home where we can do demos. Doug lives near me. What will happen generally Doug will come round to me with riffs worked out and rhythms. Just rough ideas. Sometimes Paul comes down here and it is the three of us. Biff got a little thing at home. So he is working on stuff. We all just get together in the rehearsal place. Everyone just plays what they got. We just jam it out and see what happens.
HRH: What did you want to resonate on the drum parts? You are such a thunderous drummer. Also, the album seems a little bit heavier than previous releases.
Nigel: When I came back to the band with The Inner Sanctum and Into The Labyrinth, we had a German engineer producer. He was sort of making things a little bit smooth. With Call To Arms we started to go back to basics. I think this album is sort of a continuation on that. We sort of settled down and grown into it even more. We got a lot heavier. The main thing I am familiar with that sort of comfort zone we recorded the drums where we did all the writing. So basically the kit was set up anyway. We just put some mics on it and boom, boom. We were in almost like a home from home environment. Because we spent so many weeks there writing. Sometimes in the past we found we got this nice little area where we write and then we cart everything off and go to a recording studio. It is like oh I don’t feel comfortable here or this is a different environment. This was just like another day at the office so to speak.
HRH: Did you write a lot of the songs on the road?
Nigel: We tend to write really when we are off the road. You sometimes get a little idea. Most of the writing is done when we are on a break. Then everyone starts to get little ideas at home separately. Once we all get together everyone brings their ideas and we listen to everything. We will work things out and jam things out. Things come purely from jams. Then we live with it a little bit. We might have a two-week break. Then we come back to the studio where we are writing the stuff and change things around. That is how it goes.
HRH: The recording process has changed so much since the ‘80s. Do you miss vinyl? How has pro-tools helped the process?
Nigel: The recording process has changed. In a way, it is a lot easier to set up in the studio. For instance, normally we would have to go into a recording studio where they had all the gear and tape machines. Now Jackie who engineered the album and does our live sound in Europe, he brings his gear to where ever we are and we can record. We haven’t got to go to a specific place. Obviously, it has got to be soundproof. But we don’t have to go to a studio if we don’t want to. So that way it is a lot easier.
HRH: Do you feel that musicians today rely more on profits from touring than record sales?
Nigel: Yes, there is no denying it. Records sales are down. Even though you got the downloads. And bands do earn from the downloads. Generally, I think record sales are down because people at home got so much other stuff to do. They can go on their game boards. They can play on their PC. There is not just music to entertain people at home now. There is everything. But you will never get rid of the excitement of a band playing live. That is a sort of a big night out for people.
HRH: What is the secret to Saxon’s longevity? There seems to be resurgence in ‘80s metal. Do you agree?
Nigel: I think there is resurgence. People are starting to get back into the traditional heavy metal. We had all the fads. It is still going on in Europe. We see it at gigs and festivals. We still get a really young audience. The front rows are all like kids. They are singing a long to the old songs as well as the new songs.
HRH: Saxon was one of the first bands to play Monsters Of Rock Festival twice. What was it like playing on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise last year? What was it like Saxon taking it to the High Seas and playing live?
Nigel: (Laughter) That was good fun. The first show because we did two shows. The second show was quite interesting because the sea was a little bit rough. So the boat was rocking a little bit. Biff went to run to side of the stage to the other and he couldn’t stop.
HRH: Oh No. I can imagine that scene.
Nigel: I went to hit a cymbal and the boat rocked at the wrong time and completely missed it. It was good fun. We did the other one too the 70,000 Tons of Metal.
HRH: Do you have any favorite highlights from your shows that you would like to share with us?
Nigel: I always loved playing Wacken. When you get 70,000 people there it is just fantastic. It is such a buzz. I can’t describe it. It is incredible. I just love playing. To me it is what it is all about.
HRH: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Nigel: For any musician starting, I always say to young kids that want to learn an instrument learn the instrument and don’t just be a bedroom player. You can be the most amazing drummer in your bedroom at home but as soon as you play with people it just falls to bits. The best thing I can say to people is get into a band. It doesn’t matter how bad you are. Just get into a band and you learn to interact with each other. Also in a slightly later stage when you are still learning try and get into a band with people that are better than you. Then it will push you to improve.
HRH: That is great advice. Is there anything else that you want to say about the tour? We look forward to seeing you in Vegas on Oct. 2.
Nigel: We are really looking forward to it. It should be great. We are looking forward to walking up and down the Strip. (Laughter)
HRH: It should be awesome. Thank you so much Nigel it has been an honor talking with you.
Saxon Online: www.facebook.com/saxon