Festivalphoto: Call to arms is your 19th studio album. How do you feel it compares to other albums you've released?
Nigel: I think musically it's a natural progression but we did make the decision to make it less euro-metal than the last couple of albums - there are no fast double kick drum tracks on there for a start and less keyboard parts. Also we wanted to go back to how we used to record - for instance everyone in the room playing and to be less reliant on the computer side of things - that is, people all doing their parts separately.
Another thing is that, for example, I didn't want any drum samples used, only the natural sound of the kit. As regards the album as a whole, we're all extremely happy with the result!!
Festivalphoto: What is your favourite track on the new album, and why?
Nigel: The title track 'Call To Arms' is probably my favourite song - it basically came together musically in about 30 minutes and we jammed a rough idea down - obviously as time went on it got more refined both musically and lyrically but sometimes that's how the best songs pop out - almost immediately.
Festivalphoto: What's the writing process like with Saxon? for instance do you all sit down together and write, or do you all come up with your own ideas then discuss them?
Nigel: We either get ideas at home and bring them to the writing sessions or send them to each other or ideas may come about with us all in the rehearsal room - someone has to have some basic idea, say a riff or melody or song title - we cant just go 1 2 3 play! - there has to be a starting point - we jam a lot too. And, just now, I was playing a drum pattern which Paul put a great riff to - that was in our soundcheck here in Osnabruck and we recorded it for future reference - there are no hard and fast rules about composing - something can happen at any time.
Festivalphoto: In 2008 you played the Download festival, sub-headlining the third stage. Were you surprised by the size of the crowd you got (which was considerably larger than Testament - the headliners on that stage got)?
Nigel: That was just an amazing gig - we were totally overwhelmed by that response - didn't expect that at all - i was close to tears that day but left the stage with the biggest grin on my face and such a warm feeling inside - we later heard that they could hear our crowd on the main stage! - absolutely fantastic! - and we appreciated that so much - thanks to everyone that was there - you were brilliant - i felt very humbled!
Festivalphoto: Since your Download festival appearance in 2008 you seem to have played pretty much every major festival - are there any festivals you haven't played yet but would like to play?
Nigel: I keep seeing all these festivals in the press and new ones keep popping up every year - we'll play wherever we're wanted and asked to. We're doing some different ones in Europe this year - Finland, a couple in Poland, and others - we're looking forward to them.
Festivalphoto: Your current European tour is quite intensive - 26 dates with only 6 scattered days in between where you aren't performing. Does a packed schedule like that cause problems for the band with injuries, exhaustion, voice strain etc or are you experienced enough to know you can handle it ?
Nigel: For myself, i try to limit the late nights and partying - sometimes I'll get on the bus and go straight to bed, other times I'll stay up late - I think you just have to be sensible - for instance I'll stay up if there's a day off the next day but only then. I take a lot of vitamins, energy drinks etc and avoid any alcohol for days at a time. Being on a tour bus it's easy to catch a cold off someone - it travels round the whole entourage if you're not careful but you stand a better chance of fighting it off if you're well rested etc - as for voice and muscle strain, again, you have to rest and not burn the candle at both ends - also we sometimes get a masseuse in to gigs for a deep tissue massage and that really helps loosening up the muscles and sinews etc.
Festivalphoto: Are there any countries you haven't played yet but would like to play? If so, where?
Nigel:We haven't played in new zealand - i'd love to go to South Island where they filmed Lord Of The Rings - looks amazing! India appeals to me too - would love to try some genuine curries!! Also Thailand maybe and thereabouts.
Festivalphoto: With the success of the charity meet and greets you did during the UK tour (and are doing in Europe too), is this something you're likely to consider doing again in the future?
Nigel: Sure, why not - as the advert on tv says - 'Every Little Helps" - if we can do something for different charities that can only be a good thing and the fans love it and personally it's great to actually meet them after soundcheck and talk to them - sometimes after a show it's too difficult to have a conversation as there are usually a lot of them wanting autographs etc.
Festivalphoto: With so many albums, and so many classic tracks, does it make it easy or hard to pick a setlist for a tour?
Nigel:It's actually a nightmare! - when you tour a new album you have to play new songs - that's why you go on the road in the first place, to promote it - then people want to hear the classics - other people want to hear certain songs and others want different ones - it's impossible to please everyone - then there are songs each member of the band loves so that has to be considered too - as i say it's a nightmare but a good one, what with having so many to choose from!
Festivalphoto: When touring, how much influence do the band have over the choice of support bands?
Nigel: It's generally a joint decision between the band, the management, our booking agent, and the promoters - there's no general rule - the bands we've had on the UK and European legs this tour have been great!
Festivalphoto: What are the biggest changes you've seen in the music industry over your long career?
Nigel: Obviously there have been shifts in popularity of the different genres of music - and a lot of one-off fads - for me the big change has been in the way record companies operate - when we started, a band was signed to a company for say a four album deal, then they would nurture you, advise you in your career, do their best for you so you, as a band, would grow both musically and hopefully popularity-wise - it was everyone pulling together -the record company, band, management etc - nowadays it seems as if the big record companies are only interested in instant hits - if you fail it's bye-bye! - and the smaller ones have to operate on much tighter budgets.
Festivalphoto: What bands/artists influenced you to start playing music?
Nigel: That's a hard one - there were so many! - once i decided to play the drums seriously i would listen to bands like Genesis, PFM, Barclay James Harvest, Procul Harum, Kansas, Rush, Jethro Tull, Cream, Cactus, Vanilla Fudge, Grand Funk - shall i stop now? -) - sorry but the list is endless!!
Festivalphoto: What bands do you listen to these days?
Nigel: Pretty much of all of the bands above but also Porcupine Tree, Evergrey, Sigur Ros, Goldfrapp etc etc - i have quite a diverse taste and also love a lot of classical stuff and Russian Orthodox choral music - actually one of my favourite bands is Riverside from Poland - and they came to our gig in Antwerp so i got to meet them and now Piotr, Michal, and Mariusz and i are going to keep in touch and hopefully meet up when we play Poland next.
Festivalphoto: For you, what is the best part about being in Saxon?
Nigel: It's been great to visit countries i might never have gone to, i've made a lot of friends, both musicians and otherwise, and i'm doing something i love - playing drums, composing music etc - and playing in a band with a great bunch of guys who are truly special friends.
Festivalphoto: Thank you for your time.
Nigel: You're very welcome - thank you too!