Fireworks Magazine Online 51 - Interview with Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson

Sidelined for a long period by an ill advised court case with their previous band Saxon, GRAHAM OLIVER and STEVE DAWSON have in recent times set about writing and recording the first full Oliver Dawson Saxon album 'Motorbiker'. Pulling on his denims and leathers Firework's STEVEN REID joined the two motorcycle men to find out more...

'Motorbiker' really is an impressive statement from ODS. You must be really pleased by how it has turned out?

Graham Oliver - More than pleased by the finished album 'Motorbiker', as it has been a lot of work - team-work, but also great fun.

Steve Dawson - Yes as Graham says, it was a lot of fun to make. We just turned everything up to twelve and off we went, with no pressure from bully-boy producers who don't know what they're talking about!

In terms of the band's sound, there are some unavoidable Saxon-isms in there, but on the whole the album has a heavier, slightly more in your face attack than I was expecting. How would you guys describe the ODS sound?

Graham - When I write and record it is bound to have Saxon-isms as that is what we do. Steve and I, our sound - like Iommi and Butler when they work together - will be very authentic as we cannot be anything else. We are what we are, I was playing the same guitar and Marshall amp that I did on all the Saxon albums from '79 onwards, so I've always been as heavy with my approach, but modern recording means it's easier to get that sound recorded.

Steve - Yeah, the sound of 'Motorbiker' is simply "us". That's how we play live, or in the studio. Just Marshall and Ampeg amps up to the max, no big racks of effects, just what's coming from our fingers. For once we actually really enjoyed making this album!

The title of the album feels like an obvious nod to the past. However the title track itself takes that a step further with the motorbike engine noises introducing the song. Why did you decide to go with something that has such a clear link to the Saxon classic 'Motorcycle Man'?

Steve - Well we didn't! When we were writing the songs we just chose the subjects we wanted to talk about - motorbikes, drugs, war, suicide, women bullying men, the internet and so on. Writing a song is just a job to us, we know how to do it and it comes easy...

Graham - However it does seem appropriate to stay true to our roots and the track 'Motorbiker' just evolved in a writing session. It was not a conscious effort to write a song like that but I do agree, it could have been on 'Wheels Of Steel' in 1980.

There are also a few surprises on the album as well, with 'Just Another Suicide' having a far mellower approach, even having a saxophone solo as it comes to an end. Where did the inspiration for the music for that song come from?

Graham - The inspiration for 'Just Another Suicide' came when the fashion designer Alexander McQueen died and Lady GaGa dedicated a piano piece to him. She likes the song 'Denim And Leather' - a riff I wrote - so we did the song and it evolved as we recorded it. The sax just seemed to fit with my guitar and with what Haydn was interplaying, which was a kind of lament after the screaming guitars that I had bouncing off "Wardi's" singing.

I was also captivated by the lyrics for that song, which are extremely moving. If you don't mind me asking, what caused the inspiration for those words?

Steve - Really the fact that no one has written a song like that about suicide, giving it the respect it deserves. We hope it makes people stop and think about what is a tragic waste of life. Sometimes people just can't stand the situation they find themselves in. To quote from the song, "I'd rather die than go on livin' here in hell...."

Well, I have to say that it works wonderfully well. The guitar sound on the album is absolutely huge. You've already mentioned ex-Saracen guitarist Haydn Conway. How much does he bring to ODS?

Steve - Haydn is a great tool to have in your box. Plug him in, stand back, and let him go!!

Graham - He's from where we live and was always a fan of Saxon. The guitar style he has fits so well with the music we do. He plays great melodic solos and with Paul on drums, who is more in the style of original Saxon drummer Pete Gill, the band is awesome live now. We have great new songs in the works already which have fantastic groove from the guitars, drums and bass.

Steve - The only thing Haydn wants to do is play guitar. Oh and fuck!!

Now Graham, you've mentioned your son Paul there. ODS have flitted between him and your onetime Saxon cohort Nigel Durham behind the drum kit. It is Nigel who plays on 'Motorbiker', so is he no longer the permanent drummer in the band?

Graham - Nigel had an injury to his arm through playing, that wouldn't heal without a long lay-off and he really wouldn't have been able to continue without it getting better. He's has actually moved away from where the band is based and got married, so Paul will be staying as our full-time drummer, but we still talk to Nige all the time.

The band is completed by onetime Shy, London and Madam X frontman John "Wardi" Ward. He's a really charismatic and energetic singer and performer. How important is he to what Oliver Dawson Saxon are all about?

Steve - Well, you have to be a nutter to do that job and I think he really should be locked up! But we let him out to do the shows and like all the members of the band, he brings his style, attitude, and beer drinking experience to the mix - and that's important! We are not the best in the world, but the mixture of all of us all together just works, and we have a lot of fun doing what we love.

But I believe that "Wardi" wasn't with you guys on your recent tour?

Steve - "Wardi" has some personal issues and is currently in Spain trying to sort them out. We've not fallen out with him, or officially replaced him. He remains a good friend and we wish him well. When the time is right he will return. Brian Shaughnessy has been helping us out on vocals in recent times.

Oliver Dawson Saxon have been together for well over ten years now, however 'Motorbiker' is the band's first full studio album. You did however release an album in 2003 split three ways between yourselves, Tygers of Pan Tang and Girlschool called 'The Second Wave: 25 Years of NWOBHM', which I have to admit completely passed me by. Three bands contributing new songs towards one album is certainly an unusual idea. How did that come about?

Graham - We were asked to contribute five songs for a project called 'Second Wave' along with the other two bands. A tour was promised, which never happened, but the album had a very limited release so that's why we revisited a couple songs for 'Motorbiker'. We thought they deserved a wider audience and the song 'Nursery Crimes' is a perfect ending for the album.

Actually the last full album that you released was 'Victim You' some 16 years ago under the Son Of A Bitch band name, with a very different line-up. Looking back on it now, how do you view that album?

Graham - Son Of A Bitch was a project we did with three founding Saxon members [Pete Gill played drums] with Haydn and an American Ted Bullit on vocals. He is a great singer but it was never a long term thing. We toured Brazil and did the 'Isle Of Man TT Fest' but Pete and Ted had other things to do.

Steve - We all love that album and Angel Air will be re-releasing it later this year. We will be remixing it and adding a new cover as well as video footage of that 'TT Races' show on the Isle Of Man with the original line-up.

So why did you decide to move on from Son Of A Bitch?

Steve - Well, most bands start at the bottom and try to go to the top. Son Of A Bitch started at the top and went down through a series of bad managers, agents and record companies. As well as, obviously, a very costly court appearance, which sank the ship...

Looking back, what are your thoughts about that court case where you fought for the Saxon name?

Graham - It was very hard at times as there was a lot of propaganda coming from various sources, which some fans believed. One story that was put out, suggested I released the Saxon 'Live At Donington 1980' album and ripped the band off. But I was lucky enough to obtain a contract for that CD and it's not my name on it - something I can prove! So we just said nothing and took the shit in the knowledge that our CD and live shows would be our voice. It's great now as we network with fans all over the world on Facebook and so on.

Did those court wrangles that you had with Biff Byford's version of Saxon, ever mean that you've encountered any negativity from Saxon fans towards what you guys are doing now?

Steve - Sometimes, but when they see us play, they are quickly won over. I think 'Motorbiker' will finally show some of our critics that we are a great band!

You've just completed a tour of Germany, how did that go?

Graham - Germany was fantastic despite the weather being 20 below and there being no hot support bands, although that's not something we need to put on a great show. We had some great fans coming to see us and going crazy.

Steve - We really did win the fans over in Germany and also had more people coming to the shows than the promoter expected, so we will doing more shows and festivals over there later in the year.

Are there any UK shows already planned?

Steve - We have had lots of offers to play all over the place. Japan, The USA, Sweden, Holland, Finland among others, but we do have some UK shows lined up for later in the year as well. Places like Swindon, Warrington, Barnsley, Upton and Skegness. We are just sorting all of that out right now and will post them on our website [www.metalthunder.co.uk] as soon as we can.

How much of 'Motorbiker' have you guys been adding to the set and how have those songs been going down with the fans in comparison to the old Saxon classics?

Graham - The new songs 'Wippin' Boy' 'Sinternet' and 'Motorbiker' fit in seamlessly with the likes of 'Dallas...' , '747...' and 'Strong Arm Of The Law'. We have a killer set and 'Whippin' Boy' especially has been going down a storm, especially when you take into account no one knows these songs yet - it's a great song to play too!

Well that's all my questions guys. If you had one message for your fans out there, what would it be?

Graham - ODS rock and we are looking forward to the Summer Fest's . We will 'Never Surrender'!!  

Steve - Just give 'Motorbiker' a listen and make up your own mind up - "You are the music, we're just the band!"

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