BIFF & SEB BYFORD’s HEAVY WATER – “We’ve Got A Studio Around Back In One Of The Barns, And We Just Thought, ‘Why Not Make Some Music?’”
July 22, 2021, a month ago
It would be understandable to assume a side band featuring Saxon’s Biff Byford would contain unmistakable/vintage elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. After all, Saxon are responsible for some of the movement’s all-time classic albums (Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law, Denim And Leather, etc.) and tunes (namely the title tracks from all three aforementioned albums).
But the debut full-length from Heavy Water, entitled Red Brick City, turns out to be a pleasant surprise stylistically, as there is more of a Sab/Soundgarden vibe detected – rather than Saxon-esque headbanger anthems.
And this can be attributed to the fact that Biff has collaborated with his 23-year-old son, Seb, on the project – with both switching off lead vocal duties (Seb also handles guitar, Biff on bass, while Dave Kemp supplies keys and sax, and Tom Witts the drums).
Both father and son chatted with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato shortly before the July 23, 2021 release of the debut.
BraveWords: How did the idea come up to do a band together?
Seb Byford: “Over lockdown, I spent a lot of time at home. I had a flat in Manchester at the time, and it was pretty heavy there – being stuck there during lockdown in a big city. So, I headed home, and obviously me and dad had a lot of free time – because he wasn’t touring, and I had no shows or anything. We’ve got a studio around back in one of the barns, and we just thought, ‘Why not make some music?’ We started to write some songs together and put together some riffs we had. We thought it sounded pretty cool, so we thought we could release an album and do something with it.”
BraveWords: Please discuss the tracks “Red Brick City” and “Revolution,” both of which videos have been filmed for.
Biff Byford: “I think ‘Red Brick City’ comes from that Seb was stuck in the city through lockdown, and no music, no work…no pub work – when he’s not doing music, he works in the music bars. There was none of that, and you couldn’t really travel. The family lives in the countryside, so Seb escaped the city for the countryside. So, I think that’s where ‘Red Brick City’ came from. ‘Revolution,’ if you turn the TV on now, you’ll see a lot of things about plastic in the sea and throwing stuff away and not recycling. When I was young, we didn’t really care. And I think Seb’s generation seem to care a lot more than our generation used to. That’s where the song comes from.”
Seb Byford: “It’s an important topic, I think. And an attempt to try and make people a little more aware. We didn’t want it to be too preachy. But just to get people more aware and making little changes in the grand scheme of things can make a big difference.”
BraveWords: Musically, bands like Sabbath and Soundgarden come to mind, as well as blues-based rock - is that a fair assessment of the band’s sound?
Seb Byford: “Yeah. I’m a big fan of the ‘90s grunge stuff – like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and stuff a bit later on. So I think definitely riff-wise and maybe some vocal melodies. It’s a mix – it’s more ‘70s classic rock stuff, grunge, and a bit more of the psychedelic stuff.”
BraveWords: How is it determined who sings lead on specific songs?
Seb Byford: “I think some tracks are more suited for dad, and some tracks are more suited to me, and we try to sort it out evenly. Say we have a riff and I give it a go singing, and I’m like, ‘Nah, I think dad will sound better on that,’ or vice versa, then we will switch it around.”
Biff Byford: “I think the bluesy elements of it that you’re probably picking up on – the ‘Red Brick City’ riff and ‘Medicine Man’ – they’re more ‘groove heavy’ than say, Saxon are or any of the ancient metal bands. It’s really enjoyable to do, and I think it’s a great rock album.”
BraveWords: Biff, you also play bass on the album, right?
Biff Byford: “Yeah. I was playing bass when I was in my twenties. So, I’ve played bass for a long time. I was in a band with Paul Quinn and I played bass – it was a three-piece jamming band. So yeah, I’ve played bass half of my life, really. I’m used to bass. I had a Rickenbacker back in the ‘70s, and I’ve still got a Rickenbacker now – from 1974. It’s not as hard work…unless you’re going to be Billy Sheehan or someone like that, then obviously, it’s very hard work. But I just lay back and play the groove.”
BraveWords: Biff, at what point when Seb was growing up did you realize he had musical talent?
Biff Byford: “Very early on, actually. When we lived in France – because we lived in France for about eight years – the school that he was at in France, they had an English music teacher. He said he wanted to play drums, so he played drums from a very early age. I think he probably started playing drums from six/seven years old, and then that went from there. He actually got quite high in the grades – grade 8 snare. So, he did a lot of exam work. He played drums in a band in France with his sister on bass, which is pretty cool. Then he switched to guitar.”
BraveWords: Seb, you’re in another band, Naked Six, right?
Seb Byford: “Naked Six is a project that’s been going three or four years…but I’m no longer doing that project anymore. We haven’t announced anything online, but we’re going to be doing that soon. You can still buy the album on the site, and t-shirts and stuff. But yeah, we’d been doing it for years, and I think we’ve just outgrown it, because we started when we were a bit younger. We just wanted to move on to something new. So yeah, Naked Six is done for now. But I’m working on other projects now, and hoping to get that started up in the next few months – and hopefully get gigging again when this lockdown stuff sorts itself out.”
BraveWords: Future plans beyond this album?
Biff Byford: “If people are interested, then we’ll probably do some shows. We can definitely do some shows – I’ll have to practice bass a little bit for that. But we’re thinking about doing another album. People that I’ve talked to seem to like this one and the press seem to like it – a lot of magazines in Europe are doing quite a lot of great reviews. We’ll just see how it goes. And there is a band called ‘Heavy Water,’ so that will keep going.”
BraveWords: And Biff, what is Saxon currently up to?
Biff Byford: “Well, the new album is finished, so we’re just waiting for the album cover to be done, and OK that. And then we’re ready to go. I think you’ll be able to order the album in October, and I think it’s coming out in February.”