We have to pleasure and honor to speak with Nibbs Carter, bass player from the British band Saxon. The hype for the release of their upcoming album Sacrifice is really high and Nibbs is very enthusiastic about telling us something about this wonderful new release that we had the privilege to hear before its official release.

R&MimB: Hello Nibbs, thank you very much for this interview! How are you?
Nibbs: I'm fine! And I'm definitely looking forward to the release of new Saxon album, Sacrifice.

R&MimB: Yes, I already had the chance to listen to it, and in my opinion it's really good: the production is really valuable and there are excellent songs, it really kicks ass.
Nibbs: Thank you, it's a pleasure to hear that! Many people already said the same thing...

R&MimB: Why did you title the album "Sacrifice"?
Nibbs: Well, the song was already there and Biff [Byford, Saxon's frontman] had an idea for the text a couple of years ago. We were on a tour named "70.000 Tons Of Metal" on a big cruise ship in Florida. We went from Florida to Mexico, where we had the chance to have a look to some ancient pyramid ruins. The idea came from there: the old tribes of Mexico used to tribute their gods with human sacrifices; that's quite a brutal thing that gave us a big impression and Biff thought that could have been a good idea for a song. The music ended up being really strong. When we began writing the songs for the album, I had to stay at home [Nibbs currently lives in Germany] due to personal problems that made me decide so, and I was sending my band mates some riffs that were coming up to my mind. Fortunately, the other guys said it was ok: you know, there are also people who say "No, we cannot write and work on the album if we are not altogether", but that wasn't the case. I dropped them a few riffs and one of them ended up being "Sacrifice" main riff. Biff liked it very much and thought it fitted pretty well with the concept of the song, which grew stronger and stronger until he decided it was a good working title for the whole album. Eventually this working title became the definitive one.

R&MimB: The whole band really did a great job on the album and the sound production is excellent. Would you like to tell us something about the way Sacrifice was recorded and engineered? Nowadays digital technology production makes the average standard very high, but this album still has a superior quality in my opinion.
Nibbs: The recording was actually pretty basic. We took the most unconventional recording environment: a studio that was basically "built for us" just before we went in there. We had some friends in Yorkshire and they had this huge building where they put up studio rehearsals for stadium tours and things like that. They had offices there, and room for the musicians to sleep over in and stuff. It's a place called LS Life in Whitfield, Yorkshire. They said: "Look, we've got some rooms over there and we can turn them into a really basic studio". It was big enough, probably 8 meters by 20 meters, the split it with walls and built up a control room with a window, some carpet on the walls and that was it! We brought there our amps and gear, and we used that place for composing and rehearsing, and then we brought there our recording engineer, Jacky Lehmann, who is a German guy from Berlin. He records all over with a mobile facility, he took his equipment there and was able to record whatever we did. We recorded until we were happy with the tracks and then gave everything to Andy Sneap, so he listened to what we'd done. He took the clean pure signals of our instruments and applied them the different effects he thought were appropriate, then he combined the pure signal on one channel with the modified signal on another channel to get a different kind of sound. That's what Andy does really well: he has an incredible sound for aural and sound picture, he perfectly knows what he wants to hear from a certain sound; sometimes he likes the sound to be a bit more "exact", so he asked us to re-record some solos, vocals or rhythm guitars now and then.

R&MimB: Andy Sneap worked with Kreator, Testament, Exodus, Megadeth and many other metal bands. Do you think his work with thrash metal bands has somehow influenced the classic heavy sound of Saxon on this album?
Nibbs: I think it's very good to work with somebody who has a lot of experience like Andy, it definitely helps. It also has to do with the kind of music you're writing at the time, you know? When we finished the Call To Arms tour we had still a great energy in the band, and we had "that" good feeling when we came back into the studio and began recording the new album.

R&MimB: How did you feel to work with Andy ? Did you know him already?
Nibbs: Yeah, first of all Andy is an English guy who's been on heavy metal scene in Britain for a long time. When we were on tour in the late Eighties he was touring with Black Sabbath and so we met him. We bumped again into him a couple of years ago: at the time he was touring and collaborating with a band called Hell, he said he would like to mix us and we agreed he would come to see us in the early stage of the recording. The recording of the album is basically what we normally do, sometimes even with a lesser quality control, but it's when the album is mixed and re-recorded that the "magic" happens! Sometimes Andy sent me an e-mail here in Germany and wrote me: "Hey Nibbs, I'm mixing the album, can you re-record the bass track in this-and-that songs?", so I recorded again what he was asking me and sent him the stuff back, with clean signal. Then, he could send the clean signal through whatever amp or effect he needed. We actually recorded very quickly: "Wheels Of Terror", for example, came in the very end of the writing process and we recorded that in one day, and it has a really heavy sound! Other songs like "Stand Up And Fight" and "Warriors Of The Road" have a pretty rock'n'roll sound. When the process is so quick and straightforward, there's not much that you have to edit, maybe make the sound a bit softer or more "metallic"...

R&MimB: The tracks you mentioned give me a powerful feeling coming from a mixture of the old NWOBHM attitude and modern sounds. Do you think the New Wave heritage of the band is still influential in your new album or did you develop in another direction?
Nibbs: I think we definitely developed in another direction, but when we go on tour we still very much enjoy playing "Motorcycle Man", "20000 Feet", "Heavy Metal Thunder", "Strong Arm Of The Law", "To Hell And Back Again", "And The Band Plays On"... they are always in our fingertips. It comes out naturally. With this record we decided to play a few riffs with an early Eigthies influence, but the mix that comes out sounds really cool.

R&MimB: You were speaking about lyrics earlier. Can you tell me something about the meaning "Made in Belfast" ? What is it about?
Nibbs: Yes, in 2012 it was the Centenary of the sinking of Titanic. That ship was built in Belfast and Biff was actually staying in Belfast, not far away from the shipyard where the Titanic was built and came up with the idea. The song wants to give the feeling of the industrial rhythm, of the power of the metallic factory, and all matches very well together: the factory, the team-work, the die-hard spirit that was required to build those amazing vessels which were made so many years ago.

R&MimB: Again on NWOBHM: it seems that in recent times, 30 years after its birth, this style has been rediscovered by a lot of fans and also by new bands who want to sound like the old ones, like Wolfmother for example. What do you think about it?
Nibbs: Well, as you cited Wolfmother, I can say I love them. When the first namesake record came out five or six years ago I bought it immediately, and it is still one of my favorite albums! There are a lot of excellent song there: "Colossus", "Dimension", "Carnival"; I think it's great that young bands do that. Other guys from Saxon actually asked me what I was listening at that time, because it sounds like a lot of bands from 40 years ago and they were a bit confused! You know, I've not been there for the "first round", when the other guys started to play, so I let's say "checked it out on my own".

R&MimB: Although many years have passed since the band rose its iron fist in the air, a song named "Stand Up And Fight" still finds place in the album tracklist. What is it still necessary to fight against?
Nibbs: What it means is basically that we survived to a lot of changes through the years in the heavy metal panorama. It refers to a constant fight for what you believe in. We've been around for a long time, from '79, and you have to "stand up and fight" if you want to survive in this field, you have to be true and keep yourself consistent without yielding to the fashion and trends of whatever everybody else thinks is better for you to do and play. This is the meaning within the song!

R&MimB: The new album has many epic and powerful riffs and solos, but also some moments where the tension loosens and gives breath to the structure of the songs (for example with semi-acoustic guitars in "Night Of The Wolf"). I think this mixture of moods really works well! What was the idea behind this choice?
Nibbs: Dougie and Paul are fantastic and versatile guitar players and they play acoustic very often. It already happened - in songs like "Dogs Of War" or "Song Of Evil" - that an acoustic middle section comes into an otherwise heavy piece. And it turns it into a completely different direction. It just seemed us so good to use the acoustic guitars this time: in "Night Of The Wolf" you can almost feel in a wood in the winter, around a campfire at nighttime with a guitar and a bottle of wine, sensing the haunting and cool atmosphere. In this case this atmosphere easily matched with the theme of the werewolf in the song. It requires good guitarist to get an effective work on acoustic instruments, and Dougie and Paul are really great at doing that!

R&MimB: Nibbs, this is your 25th year with Saxon and since the beginning you have shown an amazing energy on stage. It seems you enjoy playing live now as much as the very first gigs, don't you? Does it have a particular meaning for you? How do you feel touring and releasing albums with this incredible band?
Nibbs: It's over half of my life, ahahah! Firstly, when I joined the band I was a fan of Saxon. It's always a special feeling starting a tour and take an album out after you've recorded it; it's basically a great celebration of the fact that we stick together, and it's going to be a huge privilege to be able to visit again so many different places, especially at this time: nowadays - unfortunately - not everybody can afford just buying a ticket and leave for a journey. So, it's not that much about me or the band but rather about carrying on, doing what we love doing and see that people love it. I like very much going out and give the music to the people who've bought the ticket to see us, and hopefully we'll keep on writing music!

R&MimB: I think the record business has changed a lot since the band's first great successes like Wheels Of Steel or Denim and Leather. What's your opinion about the current situation of the heavy music market?
Nibbs: Like you said, with technology you can make great productions without renting expensive studios, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. We proved it with this album: the recording was really basic but it sounds like a major production record. Of course this also comes from the great skills of a person like Andy Sneap. What I'm saying is that practically any band can make an excellent production nowadays, and the days of going to these big recording studios are gone. Then you can distribute your music through the internet instead of selling physical records in the store. I think the real market at this point is going out and playing live, and not every band can afford to do that. It's pretty fragile at this time, that's how I would describe it: there's a lot of music out there, but not everybody has the resources to take it on tour. That's also why it's so good to be still here after 25 years and to be able to go out and do it, it's a privilege! We're really lucky, if we keep on producing the music it's also thanks to the fans who save money and come to the gigs. And it's not cheap to do it today.

R&MimB: How long do Saxon plan to keep on playing? Do you see a long career ahead?
Nibbs: It's a difficult question, and people often ask me about that. It depends a lot on Biff, he still enjoys much singing and his voice is still very good, he's inspired to write new tracks also. I think that until there's the possibility to record a new album and take it on tour - and you feel like doing that - you keep on going. But this was a question that people used to ask already 15 years ago!

R&MimB: What are the Saxon songs that you most like to play live?
Nibbs: Wow, that's a very difficult one! Well, I think that "747" is my favorite, it was the very first single I bought back in 1980, on the same day as "Whole Lotta Rosie" by AC/DC. I heard it on the radio and thought it was fantastic, it has a really nice melody and cool guitar riffs. It also doesn't need to be extremely hard-sounding to maintain its greatness and beauty.

R&MimB: During the recording of "Into the Labyrinth" I heard Biff talk about an album in the future with acoustic or an orchestral version of Saxon's classic song. Is it true?
Nibbs: We've already been doing that since the Labirynth album: we've been re-recording or editing some of our classics as acoustic or orchestral version. We decided to make a second cd for some versions of the Sacrifice album, which has songs like "Requiem" and "Frozen Rainbow" in acoustic version and "Crusader" in an orchestral version. It's anyway an ongoing process, we'll keep on doing it. I particularly like "Frozen Rainbow", because it sounds great with Biff's voice and the acoustic environment, it's definitely not "metal" but it's a very inspired different interpretation. Sometimes you don't need to fall on metal to show your musical strength. The idea is to stay "melodic" even though you stay "hard"!

R&MimB: Thank you very much for this amazing interview! Would you like to say something to all the Rock and Metal in my Blood and Saxon fans?
Nibbs: I'm Nibbs from Saxon, and I'm full of rock and metal and? beer in my blood! Enjoy the Sacrifice album and thanks a lot!

I'd like to send my huge gratitude to Nibbs for being so kind, nice and patient in this interview. Not only he is a skilled musician, but also a humble and generous person: he's been playing all over the world for 25 years, and still behaves with great respect and kindness. I think that musicians should learn a lot from people like him...

Paolo Ribaldini

Interview by Paolo Valhalla Ribaldini
Interview planning by Diego Piazza and Paolo Ribaldini

A huge "thank you" to Lucia Rossi for keeping in touch with the press agency