There are bands that are always on the doorstep of greatness - Saxon is one of those bands. Their last album, Sacrifice, shows why their name has been muttered in heavy metal circles for over 30 years. These road warriors have been at this for a long time and have seen many bands come and go in their time. We were given the opportunity to check in with drummer Nigel Glockler via phone recently and discuss the latest disc, the upcoming tour, his iPod, and more...
ToddStar: Well first off let me thank you properly for taking time out for us, we really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for us.
Nigel: Hey it’s a pleasure, man.
ToddStar: So tell us, you guys are out promoting a new album. Having listened to it a couple of times myself at least, what are some nuances or caveats about the album that you can tell us that the typical fan may not get first or second listen through the disc? Is there anything about the origin of the album, or certain things that were done during writing or production, that a typical fan might not know?
Nigel: No I mean, I think the album… the vibe on the album is very up. We spent quite a while writing it, but at the same time, once it was written we almost started recording it, so it was really fresh. We recorded the drums and some of the guitars in the place where we composed the album, so there wasn’t any of this breaking gear down and going to a studio which sometimes can be a little bit… intimidating is the wrong word, but a bit uncomfortable sometimes because you’re out of your comfort zone because you’ve spent so long in a rehearsal place writing it, and then basically our engineer came in, set the mics up, the drum kit was exactly where it was when we were writing the stuff, bang and we started recording, that was it.
ToddStar: I read somewhere, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but you have a very intricate part of writing with the band.
Nigel: Everyone in the band writes. Everyone’s got little studio things at home, and so basically what happens is when we’ve got time off, when we’ve got a break period, I'm not talking about the odd day or whatever, but when we’ve got a break period, everyone’s got families and stuff so we’re at home, we just start writing. Doug lives around the corner from me so he’ll come round to my place and we’ll start getting some guitar riffs and rhythms together, and sometimes Paul comes down and stays for a couple of days, Nibbs has got his own set up in Germany where he lives, and Biff’s got his set up at home, so everyone just gets ideas together and once we all get together in the rehearsal place everyone plays their bits and then we just sift through them all and take bits out that we like, one person’s riff might go with some other person’s idea, and we just jam the stuff out. That’s how it works really.
ToddStar: I know a lot of times you’ll get a lead guitarist and a vocalist and they’ll do most of the writing, and unless you get a three piece like Rush or something, you don’t usually find where the drummer is that intricate a piece of the writing I believe.
Nigel: Well, Neil writes all the lyrics, I think, but no, everyone does their thing, and then what usually happens is once the drums are down and everything, then I’ll come, well on this time I’ll come back home and I wrote the intro. You know, the procession thing I did that at home on my keyboard stuff here, but you know, we all write, and we all swap instruments as well, which is quite fun. Biff will be singing, and the next thing he’s playing guitar, and the next thing he’s playing bass. Nibbs plays a bit of drums, and I play a bit of bass and keyboard, so we’re all swapping all over the place.
ToddStar: I bet it makes for a good mixture in the studio, though.
Nigel: Yeah, it’s great. Once we get in the studio it’s a different matter, but while we’re writing things… for instance I might be mucking around with Biff or something, I’m playing something on the keyboard, he’s playing bass, and then that’s out, and then Nibbs will go and play drums to it, and then that’s what happens.
ToddStar: Excellent. Well with this album I thought this was a little heavier, a little more metal than Call to Arms, which is in no means picking at it, because I love both albums, but I thought this went back to the roots and the origins a bit, put a little more oomph behind it.
Nigel: I’ll agree with that actually, you know Call to Arms was a back to basics for us, because we’d used the same engineer/ producer on Inner Sanctum and Labyrinth and we felt it was getting a bit… not that there’s anything wrong with it, but personally I felt we were sounding a little bit Euro metal, if you know what I mean. We were sound a bit like a German band, which we’re not, so we made a conscientious thing to go back to basics with Call to Arms, and I think this is just an extension of it, but as you say, a heavier version of it, 'cause we still went back to basics, so to speak, but we were a little bit more experienced with going back to basics, if you understand what I mean.
ToddStar: I do. But the step that you made in this one makes me all that much more hopeful for the next album, if you made this kind of move in your last one…
Nigel: You’ll just have to wait and see [laughs].
ToddStar: Exactly. Speaking of waiting and seeing, you are getting ready to bring this machine to Michigan, I'm personally looking forward to the date here in Flint, at The Machine Shop (http://www.themachineshop.info/).
ToddStar: Is The Machine Shop a venue you’re at all familiar with?
Nigel: No, I don’t know it actually, I’ve never played there before, but I'm looking forward to it. Actually, I’ve got to interject here, I’ve got to say one of my all time favourite bands comes from Flint, and who’s that going to be?
ToddStar: My guess would be Grand Funk Railroad.
Nigel: You're right. You're right. That was the first gig I ever saw.
Nigel: Yeah, it was Grand Funk Railroad in Hyde Park in London.
ToddStar: Now that would be a show to see.
Nigel: It was, it was fantastic. I was absolutely nuts on them. We still are; me and Biff love them. We still love them. If we’ve got an iPod thing in the dressing room or something we’ll suddenly sling on the live album or something, the first live album.
ToddStar: There you go.
Nigel: Oh it’s great, absolutely great. That was my first ever gig.
ToddStar: Oh wow! I think you’ll like The Machine Shop, it seems legendary in circles, so I think you’ll like the energy of the crowd. They’re definitely a metal crowd.
Nigel: Excellent, yeah looking forward to it.
ToddStar: Speaking of tours, I actually got to see you guys on one of your big US festivals a few years ago, when you guys played Rocklahoma.
Nigel: Oh right, okay.
ToddStar: I think that was ’09. How are US festivals different to the Euro festivals, 'cause you guys have played them all; you’ve played Sonisphere, Download, Donnington. How is a US festival different than a Euro festival in your opinion?
Nigel: The Rocklahoma one, I'm trying to think how big an audience there was there. In Europe… something like Rocklahoma is quite a newish thing, isn’t it?
Nigel: So they’ve really got to… for instance they’ve all got to get established then a lot of people will start coming to see them, where as Wacken, for instance, has been going since the early 90’s. So now whenever we play Wacken in Germany it’s like 70-75,000 people there, which is quite a buzz. But I mean all these festivals take time to get a foothold in the festival thing. The one thing I will say about playing festivals in America, the weather is better [laughs]. We always do the open air down in San Antonio at the sunken gardens, that’s always great. It’s a sweatbox but it’s great, you know?
ToddStar: Okay. Now talking about you for a second, Nigel, who made you want to pick up a pair of sticks and beat on something?
Nigel: [Laughs] oh jeez, I don’t know. I suppose it was Sandy Nelson actually, Let There Be Drums.
Nigel: Yeah. I started playing drums when I was like… I mean I got my first proper drum when I was seven. We had the English version of The Ventures over here were called The Shadows, and their drummer, Tony Meehan and later Brian Bennett, I mean Brian Bennett was an absolutely phenomenal drummer. I sort of went off it then and then I sort of went onto bass guitar for a while and then I came back to the drums. There was Bill Ward, I love Bill Ward. Actually Black Sabbath was my second ever gig I went to, and I’d never seen anyone hit a drum kit as hard as that guy, jeez. God! There was him, a lot of people. I used to go and see bands like Uriah Heap, and stuff, so they were all an influence on me, all of them really in some shape or form, but I mean Don Brewer was a big thing on me, I even had the red glitter kit like he did.
ToddStar: It sounds like overall he’s just had a big influence on you.
Nigel: [Laughs] He was great, all these people. I was an avid record buyer, I sort of listened to stuff and if there was something I’d heard that I really liked that I couldn’t do, then I taught myself to do it. It took time, I think a lot of people sort of take up drums and they expect to be able to play like really fast double bass drum straight away, but you can't, you’ve got to practice it really slow and build up, and get your body used to it and then it comes. It was the same thing. I used to practice three hours a day every day and drive my parents mad [laughs], as you can imagine.
ToddStar: I'm sure. This tour that you're on starts in about six days in New York.
ToddStar: When you're getting ready for this, and you're getting ready to hit the road, what are the one or two things that you thought as you were packing, ‘I can't go on the road without these items’?
Nigel: Oh jeez. Phone…[laughs], iPod, I just listen to music a lot. I always like to take that on the road, and I take a load of books to read. Just boring stuff like that really, I guess.
ToddStar: I don’t know that its boring, but thank you for the segue way because you did mention an iPod. What was the last album, or CD, or download that you purchased for yourself, Nigel?
Nigel: Oh, now we’re coming to it. Jeez, I’ve just loaded it on, what the bloody hell was it? Hold on a minute, I'm just going to leave the phone a minute, hold on.
ToddStar: That’s fine.
Nigel: It was an album by Muse.
ToddStar: Oh really?
Nigel: Yeah, Resistance.
ToddStar: I love that album. I own the CD of that.
Nigel: I’ve got the CD and I loaded it on the iPod, so I’ve got that to listen to while I'm away. That was the last one.
ToddStar: Great choice.
Nigel: I listen to all sorts of stuff, you know.
ToddStar: If somebody were to go through your iPod, what would be the oddest thing that they would find on there? Is there any Spice Girls on there?
Nigel: [Laughs] Spice Girls? No, definitely not! I’ve got stuff like… ooh I’ve got a couple of albums by The Birds. Spirit.
ToddStar: That’s all good stuff, but it’s definitely not something that somebody would compare with Saxon.
Nigel: Jefferson Airplane. Grand Funk, of course.
ToddStar: Got to represent the Grand Funk.
Nigel: Actually I listen to a lot of ambient stuff, a real mish mash, but no Spice Girls, no.
ToddStar: I know you're a busy man, so I’ve got one more for you if you don’t mind.
Nigel: That’s fine, you can go on as long as you want, I don’t mind.
ToddStar: Its 2013, you guys are ready to embark on a US jaunt here for a little while, you’ve got arguably one of your better albums in quite a few years out. At this point, what is the meaning of life for you?
Nigel: The meaning of life for me is to be happy and healthy. That’s it really, purely and simply. Playing fulfils me, doing music fulfils me, and of course everyone wants their health. I guess that’s about it really, and you know I’ve got to say I love being in America. My wife’s American, so I love it over there. America almost to me is like a second home now, so that’s it, you know. So I’m really looking forward to the whole thing.
ToddStar: Excellent, and we’re looking forward to seeing you out here. And again, I can’t wait to watch you guys when you take the stage at The Machine Shop, when you guys experience just one more venue here in the US that you’re not familiar with.
Nigel: Yeah it will be great. Does Mark Farner still live in Flint, or is he out of there now?
ToddStar: He often plays around in the Flint, Detroit area, so I’m betting he probably lives up there. I saw actually Don Brewer earlier this year, he played drums for Bob Seger on a local show, so I think those guys are still around locally.
Nigel: Oh cool. I'm just trying to think if there’s a way to get him down to the gig, it would be great to meet him; that would be excellent.
ToddStar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule today for us, Nigel, we really appreciate it.
Nigel: Hey no problem at all.
ToddStar: We’re going to make sure everyone we know gets out there and gets their hands on Sacrifice, if they don’t have it already, and they pick up their tickets to the show and they come out and see you guys do what you do best.
Nigel: Okay, and we’ll catch up and have a beer after, maybe?
ToddStar: Sounds perfect.
Nigel: Great, okay then.
ToddStar: Thanks Nigel.
Nigel: See you soon, take care.