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Global Domination | Interviews | Saxon - Doug Scarrat

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Interviews

Saxon - Doug Scarrat

11/03/11  ||  The Duff

Saxon
Turns out Saxon guitarist Doug lives two streets away from me, and with the aid of a mutual friend, for some very bizarre reason being in the business for 30 odd years, he agreed to an interview by a Swedish webzine called Global Domination. When I turned up, he had forgotten the name of my employment, and so all the more understood the situation became; the bar where we were was quite packed, and so segments of the recording were lost to inaudibility. Also, Doug got final say in the published edition, so all that bitching about Iron Maiden unfortunately had to be taken out. There wasn’t any bitching. There was a little bit of bitching.

Apologies to Doug and the people concerned but I got a couple of names wrong (Chick’s Gonorrhea? Who the fuck are they?), schedule-restrictions and procrastination has made me leave them as is. Here we go:

GD: How long’s the band been going on?

Doug Scarrat: 30 years something like that. Twenty seven albums.

I did visit your website. I have researched this somewhat, you know.

Oh right okay (chuckles). I don’t look at it that often. The only time I look at it is when I want to see where I’m playing. What have you heard of us then?

The 2009 effort, that’s it, in that Audio Autopsy thing I was telling you about.

Oh okay, “Into The Labyrinth”. Did you listen to most of it or just one track?

(SPOILER ALERT!) The first four or five tracks is the usual way of doing it.

Yeah. One thing I always find with our stuff is that it does diversify quite a lot. I used to think that we suffered from a lack of musical identity. We would swing between speed metal, classic rock…

Blues… (raises eyebrows, astute and savvy)

Yeah (a touch of admiration at my savviness). You know. When I buy albums I don’t usually like that, I like to buy into those styles.

Right, right (finding our feet…). I actually quite enjoyed how diverse it was (bullshit alert)… erm… I can’t remember the band (inaudible)… I can’t remember. I read the review this morning just to refresh my memory. You are thought of as instigators of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, no?

Yeah, I know that’s what people say. I suppose it’s because at that time bands like Saxon and Maiden, Motörhead were already doing their thing, so…

Have you met Lemmy?

Yeah, we’ve toured with Motörhead quite a lot, we’ve just released a DVD actually that Lemmy’s on quite a bit. Yeah we’re quite good friends with Motörhead, really. Then there was the early tour before I was in the band actually called The Bombers and Eagles Tour. With Saxon, Motörhead and…

Oh right so Bombers to do with Motörhead…

Well, yeah (dumbass), Bombers to do with the fact that… Saxon had this great metal eagle and Motörhead had this WWII Bomber that…

So when did you join the band?

January ’95. So this is my sixteenth year with the band?

What was the audition like?

Erm… Well I was in a local band with the drummer, Nigel. Nigel Glockler. And er, he… I played in a few local bands, and I was doing quite a bit of session work, and I didn’t know really that, he liked my guitar playing basically and he used to come and watch gigs of different bands I was in and then at one point we were playing in a Brighton/Worthing-based Blues band called the Desperate Dan band and erm… although it was a Blues band we managed to sneak in quite a few kind of pretty rocky, fusion-y songs and Bob the singer was always quite up for that, and so me and Nigel always hit it off ‘cos we liked the same stuff. And erm, when they sacked Graham…

Who? (first signs of tears as I realize I know sweet fuck all about Saxon)

Graham Oliver.

The person you replaced.

Yeah. Er, Nigel just phoned me January ’95 to tell me he’d sacked Graham and whether I was interested in the gig. So I had an audition but I had some friends. I used to teach this guy who was very, very rich, and he owned a Vicarage just outside of Brighton.

Right, so you’ve always lived around these areas.

Yeah. Well, he wasn’t rich, his parents, his mother was rich. Biff said could I find somewhere to rehearse and audition. And I mentioned it to these guys who were massive Saxon fans and said you can use our music room. It’s out near Ardingly. Yeah, they don’t live there anymore. They were great people, actually, I still know the sons really well, one of them I taught guitar to. They owned an amazing house. The car in the film “Christine”, they owned that car. I suppose they were in their twenties then, I ended up being really good friends with them and they let me use their house or music room for the audition; Paul Quinn, the other guitarist came down, I had learned about eight or nine tracks, and that was that, the end of the day I was on the tour which was a week later.

The Saxon Did you start covering the old solos?

No, I just did my own. There were a couple of licks that they wanted kept but it was pretty much left to me. It’s a nerve-racking experience, I mean apart from the fact that there were a lot of songs to learn, but then I was quite used to fitting in, I’d been a session musician for a while where I’d had to learn a set fairly fast. The rest of it was hard, being on tour with people I didn’t know. I didn’t really feel part of it until I’d written an album with them, which was nearly two years later.

And what kind of crowds were you playing to at that point? Before you’d written your first album with them?

Most of it was Europe, there were a few shows here.

How many people are we talking about?

I would say venues varying from seven to eight hundred to a couple of thousand.

Nerve-racking then or…?

Oh yeah, it was seriously high pressure. I mean, once I’d learned the songs I wasn’t too bothered about that. I had always been a hired gun guitar player, I didn’t have to be anything in the band. I didn’t have to be a band member or a performer. So that was the hardest bit really. That was a personal struggle I wasn’t really into that stuff really.

Showmanship?

Yeah, I was just into being a guitar player really.

So were you a big fan of Motörhead before you met them?

I was a fan of Lemmy. When I grew up my favourite bands were Hawkwind, you know. Purple, Zeppelin all the obvious ones. And then I grew… I’ve always had quite a diverse taste in music. Bands like Yes, Genesis, Hawkwind, Zeppelin, they all seemed to come under a similar umbrella, they were like all seen (inaudible)… metal hadn’t been invented then, like Sabbath, you wouldn’t have called them metal, it was nearly all progressive music at that stage.

But then Sabbath have been said to have created the genre, no?

Yeah, yeah. But it’s weird how now it seems more separated. But I loved Sabbath, but I also loved Genesis. I didn’t know why, I wasn’t particularly aware at that stage I was only thirteen at the time. But I wasn’t that aware that Genesis were really technically that proficient, muso/rock and Sabbath were fairly basic. I didn’t really know that distinction, I just liked the music and that’s all I knew. But I did start liking Blow By Blow, Jeff Beck… I saw Chick Korea, an American I suppose you’d call jazz rock band. They were then the pinnacle of musicianship, being a guitar player I couldn’t believe how brilliant they could be. You know, like bizarre time signatures. Basically real complex jazz.

King Crimson? (trying to latch on as best I can)

Yeah, I loved King Crimson.

Can you rate Peter Fripp alongside this other band? (swerving madly all over the road)

No, because Fripp is…

It is Peter…

No, it’s Robert. Fripp was what I would consider an art guitar player, in comparison to these… guitar players like Al DiMiola, this Chick Korea guitar band. Very technically proficient, very complicated time signatures, very accurate playing; you know playing things in unison with the keyboard, kind of like what Dream Theater are doing now, very similar to that. And Fripp was more bizarre, you know, and still is. I do love Fripp’s playing, but then as an aspiring guitar player, I was more drawn to people who could play incredibly fast and accurate. To be honest, I missed the new wave of heavy metal, I wasn’t into metal that much then. I was listening to other stuff.

What about Robert Blackmoore then? (oh how we lol’ed). He inspired all the Steve Vais and Yngwie Malmsteens.

To think of a comparison now, Steve Vai is… well, you can’t say anybody’s the best guitar player on the planet, but Vai is… technically and imaginatively and musically… probably pushed it, well… a long way… so to compare them would be like comparing Steve Vai to Joe Perry. I mean, Perry is a great showman, bluesy guitar player, but it’s another world. Steve Vai and Satriani have pushed it to a new world class level of playing. In the end, none of this makes great music. I like music in so many shapes and forms, the only way I can think of it is that I also like art; you can look at a Salvatore Dali painting and see how brilliant that is, now obviously he knows everything about shades and colors and how to paint something nearly photographically perfect. I like that, but I can also walk into a gallery and see some red slash across a canvas and think I like that even though I don’t particularly know why. Music is the same, some basic three chord song or the most complex thing as well.

There’s a bassist in a technical death metal band called Atheist who has just left the band, he’s said you are as good a musician as you can be so long as you play with the passion (or something along those lines. Christ I’m drunk half the time).

There’s a lot of truth in there. Music is about communication, so if what you do moves somebody then it’s successful in my mind. And it does blur when it becomes a job and you’re feeling under pressure to make an album.

How do you feel about that?

Erm, I actually feel fairly proud about the albums I’ve made with Saxon. I so rarely listen to metal, and yet I do. I’m almost like split in two. I listen to metal when looking for inspiration, but there’s very little that I actually like because it’s so… I mean, I’ve seen Slayer a few times and I appreciate what they do. I wouldn’t want to criticize anybody but unless you read the lyrics you don’t know what he’s saying. They’re brilliant, and there’s some fantastic playing going on there, but three tracks in and I’ve just had enough. That’s only my personal opinion. I know some kids love that, what they get I obviously don’t.

I think they went on to influence a lot of sub-genres that are very extreme, so if you’re not into metal I can see why it would get… I think the metal scene owes a great, great deal to… probably more than any other of The Big Four, I think.

Yeah, it’s bizarre… the audience is bizarre. I’m not even sure they know what they want until they hear it. I mean, I used to be a Judas Priest fan, and there are many Judas Priest songs that I really like, but don’t you think it’s weird that all these macho guys hail this really camp singer as a metal icon? I find that, there’s nothing wrong with it, just it’s strange. Metal audiences are strange. And so much of…

I don’t think that’s giving metal fans their due, really…

I don’t mean that in a negative way. So much of it revolves around…

What, like the moshpits?

I get tired of the people who just want to get completely arseholed and…

Beat the shit out of everybody?

Yeah. I can’t help it, I’m a musician and I like music, and I miss melody, and catchy riffs, and I’ve seen some kind of, like, dark Swedish bands, some I like…

Opeth?

Yeah, I really like Opeth.

But they’re a mixed bag, which you said you don’t appreciate so much.

Yeah, but I like the light and shade, for me that works. I mean, some things I get off for the sheer aggression of it, but not for that long.

Meshuggah?

Yeah, that guitarist is fantastic. Yeah, I mean, we toured Sweden quite a bit. I like Swedish players, they take it pretty seriously.

Michael Ammott, for example? Played with Carcass? Arch Enemy?

Oh yeah, I know Arch Enemy. I mean, I meet people a lot of the time and I don’t even know their names. I know the band Arch Enemy.

You know who they’re endorsed by?

No. Who?

I don’t know, I’m asking. Are their any endorsement feuds that start up on tour? Another band playing a brand of guitar you’re very fond of?

Yeah, I mean, I’m endorsed by (inaudible).

The Saxon

So the crowds. You ever had them being aggressive towards you?

No. I think sometimes, we do quite well at festivals and big gigs generally because we still seem to inject some fun into it. It all gets a bit too serious with some of the darker bands, I guess sometimes it’s tongue in cheek – it depends who you’re talking about.

Devin Townsend, do you know him?

Yeah, I like Devin Townsend; he’s a genuine nutcase.

(We both laugh within the merriment of frivolity)

I think he resents that quite a bit.

Really?

Yeah. Although he said in this story he tried acid with Jason Newsted, and they were both in a side-project, and since then Jason hasn’t been in touch with him.

I’ve seen him a couple of times with Steve Vai. I’ve seen him at a really bad Vai gig, you couldn’t hear him because Townsend was very, very loud. You could tell that he was not happy. He just kept signaling for more monitor, more monitor and ended up smashing the guitar over it. And I’m thinking I’ve driven all the way over to London to see Vai, y’know, and the only time I heard him was when he played a solo piece. And the next time I saw him was at the Astoria and it was absolutely fantastic. I like the Devin Townsend stuff, on record.

His solo stuff is beyond parallel, you’re talking about the aggressive tongue-in-cheek side there’s the Strapping Young Lad band; they’re very aggressive but they take the piss all the time.

Yeah, it’s very, very hard; I don’t like criticizing bands at all. But I’ve seen some bands that are all aggression and I actually get off on it. It all depends. But again I am a fan of melody. I actually, a couple of times I’ve seen Rammstein… long pause

Right. I don’t think anybody should really like Rammstein.

Probably not, but it’s infectious, there’s something great about the most basic guitar riffs; it’s pop metal, but there’s something about it that works. You have to be open-minded. You could label it contrived, but they definitely have hit a nerve. The first time I heard them was on “Lost Highway” by David Lynch, and I thought there was something great about it. Not technical, just something really good about it. No justification as to why you like it.

I just think they’re a band of little substance, over-produced and “open-E” all the time.

Yes, it’s very repetitive and you can only go so far with it.

Talking about catchy riffs earlier. What would you say your favourite riffs of all time are, that you’ve written?

Really difficult.

Your proudest moments in the band?

There’s a riff on the first album I made with the band in a song called “Cut-out with the Z’s” that at the time I really liked, but also on the “Inner Sanctum” record there’s a sort of speed metal riff on the track “State of Grace” that I like quite a bit. But to be honest I get off more on the mid-tempo riffs. Funnily enough I write most of the faster stuff, for example the drop D riff on “To Live By the Sword”, very fast – well, fast for me, anyway.

How long you been playing for? 30 years? You’ve been rated haven’t you? Several times…

Probably.

You just don’t care?

Well, my career in music has been so mixed that when I’ve found myself in the metal scene I’ve basically tried to become a faster guitar player which I wasn’t originally – that’s kind of come with Saxon. Some of my biggest influences were people like Larry Carlton (Steely Dan). More jazz-based. It’s basically my life story; the first bands I liked were Slade, Garry Glitter and The Sweet (Suede?), you know – 70’s pop bands until I heard Sabbath and Purple when the flood gates opened and I discovered this entirely new form of music I never knew existed, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Music that took you somewhere.

Were you with Sabbath from the first album?

No, I think the first album that I heard would have been… erm… must have been their second or third. Actually, I really liked the B-side of the “Paranoid” single, “The Wizard”, I think. I was an absolute music junkie. Bands, side-bands, everything. In Brighton, Virgin Records would have an area filled with all kinds of music and you could spend an entire afternoon checking it out. The list goes on and on. It was like the Mecca, they didn’t mind. Now you could be seen as a nuisance turning up day after day and not buying anything.

You get that in guitar stores as well. Can we talk about gear? What kind of stuff?

I’ve had most stuff. I like, at the moment, Marshall JVM’s. I used to be into racks, had a lot of different pre-amps.

Is that T-Rex?

No, RACK. I used to basically be into racks and effects units, pre-amp power amp things, being able to send to different effects. So I used to have a Marshall JMP-1 about 8 years ago, which is a programmable pre-amp. Very simple to use; you got two different gain stages, a clean channel, 128 store positions; set-up any way you like, save the pre-sets. It worked really well, and the JVM is the next step up; all valve and MIDI, so you can switch everything from one button, set up different amounts of gain on different channels, and then access everything from one button. But then I also use Mesa Boogie and Engl.

Which one can you drive more?

For me, I like the rhythm of the Marshall and the lead tone of the Boogie.

Can you use both on tour?

I could do. I mean, I still have… I have a MIDI patch bay which means I can switch from one amp to the other with one button, but I can’t be bothered to carry it all. I mean, I don’t have to carry it all, but it makes the rack ridiculous and I honestly don’t think many people would notice the difference.

But just for yourself?

Yeah, in the studio maybe, but live, no. You’d have to be an astute listener to know one was a slightly more middle-tone with a bit more edge.

The Saxon A true Saxon fan would. Do you have such people who follow you from gig to gig?

Yeah, quite a lot actually.

What kind of guitars?

Over the years… at the moment I’m playing my favourite, Les Paul Access with a Floyd Rose, single cut. They haven’t been making them for long, because you need the tremolo. I also have a signature series Dean, Flying-V which I also really like, but there’s no tremolo. I decided to give it a miss for a couple of years only to go back to it. It’s almost like to prove you can play without one. I have a lot of Dean guitars, Strats, two Les Pauls, Gibson Flying-V; I also have my Valley Arts, Californian custom made super Strats, not dissimilar to Schecter guitars actually. I’ve had that one, limited to about 1000 models; I think Gibson make them now, Floyd Rose tremolos, EMG pickups – I’ve had it since before I joined Saxon, and if I could only keep one guitar, it would be that one.

So you could afford such gear before joining the band?

I had a reasonably successful session career. A lot of gigs, and I used to teach, so I had a good regular income. About twenty students at one stage. I was very busy, quite recommended back then, some fifteen odd years ago. I quite enjoyed teaching most of the time.

So heavy metal… when you discovered Black Sabbath…

It was something that I instantly liked, I’d never heard anything like it before because I’d only heard pop music and radio music. I liked Slade because it was guitar-based, but I didn’t play guitar then. I liked Slade because it was nearly rock music. When I first heard Sabbath and Purple, it was life changing. I mean I didn’t even know what distortion was – how does he do that? But I was twelve, it was a voyage of discovery. And I never ever wanted to do anything else, even then I knew my chances were slim, but I got lucky.

So with your writing in Saxon, would you say you wrote darker or lighter music?

I think at that time more of the darker riffs came from me, I always felt heavy metal should be hard and heavy, and Saxon were kind of a rock and roll band actually although the early stuff – there’s some quite punky, almost trashy songs on there.

Trashy as in bad?

Not bad, but just three-chords, not technical, nothing more than attitude. They reminded me of punk songs which is something I fought with originally because I didn’t get punk when it first came out because I was trying to be a good guitar player. Now you’re having to see it as something else – a powerful artform that communicated to people about something that was happening at the time, and they related to it and turned it into this massive movement. Like The Ramones, early Iggy Pop…

Can’t stand The Ramones. See that’s where I think Motörhead did well. They mixed metal and punk exceptionally well. I’m guessing you don’t know much grindcore?

Who?

Grindcore. It’s a subgenre.

No, no. I don’t know, I’ve stopped asking why I like things or not – if I don’t, I don’t label it as “crap” or “bad”. Even if you go into genres of music that you hate, there’s still… I don’t think it’s easy to be great at anything. There are some exceptions. Generally, though, the people who get up there put a lot into it – I don’t like rap music, but when you hear somebody who does it very well, you think there’s something there, that “I couldn’t do that”. I don’t think it’s easy to be great at anything, so there’s something admirable about the tenacity and staying power of those artists who become outstanding. Just these last couple of weeks I’ve been watching something like a talent contest with Dizee Rascal. There’s actually some really good bands on there, really talented singers, good songwriters and er… he’s great.

I can’t stand him.

Yeah, but he’s merciless, he really speaks out. He’s got an ear that guy. He picks out the things that are happening, he’s not deaf to it that’s for sure, and in every genre. I don’t particularly like what he does, but… my taste in music is inaudible I really like things like Massive Attack.

Yeah, I bought “Mezzanine” and was let down. I like Ulver, Norwegian black metal band playing electronic music. You should check them out. Do you download music?

No, I don’t actually. I don’t particularly like computers. I’m so old-school still. If someone mentions a band, I might check it out on the Internet, but I usually just go and buy their records. Mostly. I actually quite like that style of music though. I think the metal audience might hang me, but one album I could not stop playing was the first Goldfrap album.

What are they like?

The first album was quite dark; a real mixture of 60’s and 70’s samples, sounds a bit like John Barry who wrote the James Bond themes. It’s in the Portishead, Morsheeba style of things.

You must know Anathema.

Yes. We’ve met them. We don’t know them by name, but we’ve shared the same bill as them quite a few times.

I think about four of them share the same family name, so it can’t be that tough.

Thing is you don’t, though. When you go from festival to festival, you meet these guys and you think “oh yeah they were there last time” and you think “Hi”. Everyone knows who we are because we’ve been around for such a long time, and they always know who Biff is, so people will always come up and say “hi” and your response is “Well, who was that?”.

The Saxon Have you heard Anathema’s music?

I’ve watched them a couple of times, and heard one of their albums because one of my guitar techs was really into them. They’re on that more certain melancholic type of thing, which I really like.

They used to be doom metal.

See I’m a huge fan of inaudible. Do you know Brian Eno?

I’ve heard of him. I rave about Ulver, and people tell me I should listen to Eno.

The stuff he’s done, a lot of his side-projects, dominate my listening, I would say. When I’m home and not playing metal and trying not to be musical, I want music that creates a mood and an atmosphere that is non-intrusive; something that helps me switch my head off. I find full-on metal interviews impossible because when they ask me what I like I think I’ll be termed some boring twat.

You feel you can’t give the answers they’re expecting?

Yeah, yeah.

I mean, you started it with Maiden…

Yeah, I do, there is pressure.

You said earlier that you can’t impress the kids because they don’t know what they want.

I include myself in that to a degree, but they don’t know what they want until they hear it, and then it’s instant. I’ve given up on, as with, I think, every musician I think, trying to please any one but myself. If you try to write to order you’re fucked. The thing with Saxon is, the one thing that keeps it quite fun, there is pressure to write within a certain genre but in the end we do what we like. If we write something we all think is great it will probably get on the album.

Do you need 100 percent consensus?

Not always. You can never write for people. They’ll come up and ask… I mean, there are fillers on albums, always. Maybe something you liked at the time only to find it doesn’t really fit. You can guarantee that’ll be someone’s favourite song. You can’t second guess it. In all honesty, there are some songs I’m so bored to death of playing, but then you look at the audience response and think well, you can’t say anything.

Have to ask you, have you heard the new Maiden?

I haven’t actually. I’ve been meaning to buy it, but we’ve been so busy. I usually save that stuff until I get home, get a handful of albums when I get the time to listen to them. I sometimes buy stuff when on tour, but I don’t carry anything other than my iPod.

How much off-time you have?

I don’t think we’re touring until January, which is the longest gap we’ve had for about three or four years. We’re starting in the studio on the 13th, 14th September (evidently I’ve taken my time getting this intie up – bumped into Doug a week ago, he says recording’s finished… yup. Release date May-ish).

And how are your ideas shaping up?

I have got some ideas on a digital eight-track at home, some basic ideas. We’re starting to write in September. We’re fairly consistent with albums, it’s usually one every one and a half years. In one way I’m quite proud of our output; it’s surprising what you can do under pressure. Whatever people say, whether they like new Saxon or old, the only thing that keeps a band relevant is writing new material, otherwise you’re continually touring back-catalogue. I’m not mentioning any names, but there are bands that have just leapt out of the woodwork because of a metal revival, they haven’t written anything in fucking years, they’re going through the motions and getting a way with it because teenagers haven’t heard of it. It’s fair enough, they’re making a living out of it, I’m not at all saying it’s bad…

A bit annoying you’ve stuck to your guns all this time…

Well, not only us, I mean, Motörhead still write new songs, do you know what I mean? And it keeps you alive, it keeps you valid. To pack it in for ten-fifteen years and then realize there’s a revival, go out on tour, fair enough, why not? But at the same time, even if the new stuff isn’t as good, it still means you have some integrity as an artist. One thing that’s true is you can call anyone a has-been, but has-beens have been, and most people criticizing them have done fuck all. I mean, you’re lucky if you can make more than three great albums in your career.

How many do you think Saxon have had?

I don’t know, I really don’t.

How many with you on it, haha?

I don’t know. The only thing I can say is obviously I wasn’t there in the 80’s, for the albums that made Saxon. But I am proud of the albums we’ve made. We’ve generally got pretty good with these albums. They’ve sold well, been received well – read the fan feedback, you’re always going to get negative, but it seems about 85% positive. We tour and sell albums in a climate where bands are going down and down and down. We’re still there, people come and see us and like the new stuff. When we did that documentary a few years ago, I think you can’t really criticize a band that has had a thirty year career, is still signed and still has a fairly good output of records. I don’t think we’re releasing stuff bought only because it’s Saxon – you either like it or you hate it. We have an audience, and actually, all the gigs we’ve done in England, the fans are split between the old fans and the new fans, the young kids getting into Saxon. We’ve always had people who’ve criticized us. So what’s your Internet webzine called?

Global Domination.

Okay.

Yeah, we don’t mess around. It’s run by a Swedish guy from several bands – The Project Hate, Torture Division. Very extreme. He’s into the classic Swedish guitar sound.

Yeah. When I was first in Saxon, we had a lot of Swedish support bands, and all the guitar players were like Yngwie. Technically fantastic guitar players. Bands like Schizophrenic Circus? A band called Hellfuelled. We had such a laugh with them. Guitarist was fantastic. And a band called Lion’s Share. But it seems some kind of guitar heritage in Sweden, they all followed in Yngwie’s footsteps. Me and Paul would always be blown away by how good they were. We were told it was because during the long winters there’s nothing to do but practice.

You must have had bouts of eight hour practice sessions, no?

Yeah when I was a teenager definitely. The thing is I never, I didn’t really work on the speed picking thing back then, I was more into fusion and alternative scales. When I first joined Saxon I was quite into jazz, within a week it was obvious it wasn’t going to fit. It’s another challenge, even that isn’t easy – you just have to play a pentatonic scale all the time, but how do you keep that interesting? I found that more challenging in the end, because I would get off on chord changes, somewhere to go; if you have a knowledge of music, jazz scales don’t fit over rock and roll. I’ve done a few whacky things on albums, but it’s not easy to play a great solo over a basic chord backing because you need to be more inventive to keep it interesting. To keep it memorable… sometimes, when pissed and playing to backing tracks, I’m just flailing.

You get pissed before gigs?

Not outrageously, no. I mean, I’ve listened to loads of live recordings of the band and just though… “Oh”…

In what way?

Well, like, musically not happy with this playing, as fast as I can…

Do you think people pick up on it?

Not generally. There are bound to be some musos out there. But then you have great nights. I’ve always admired these great guitarists who can’t hear themselves, the sound is shit, they’re basically miming and can still pull it off great. For me, if I’m not getting any vibe back, it’s hard not to just go through the motions.

Tape ended here, so we quickly turned to closing the evening with an arm-wrestle until the bar’s closing, whereby we laughed, he cried and we parted ways.

The Duff and The Doug