TYGERS OF PAN TANG were one of the best bands to appear under the banner of the NWOBHM but, although their career continues to this day, they're best remembered for that albums of the early 80's. Ah, the promised land and its tales of success! Many of those great NWOBHM bands fell under the spell of the industry and got immersed in that race for glory, but only a few reached the coast. All in all, we still have those fantastic albums that paved the way for 80's heavy metal, and Tygers recorded some of the best!
Hi Robb, how’s everything going? Your latest news are around the re-recording of some songs from your first albums under the name of “The Wildcat Sessions” and “The Spellbound Sessions”. I have to confess that I usually don’t like the re-recordings of old songs, as I think that an album is a child of its time, with the conditions that made it possible. It's a very personal opinion though. What was your main reason to do these re-recordings?
Hi everyone! I’m doing really well, Thank You.
I am also very excited at the moment about the Tygers up and coming shows and our recent EP releases. The main reason behind the re-recording of some of the old tracks was to celebrate the 30 years anniversary of Spellbound as we did last year with `Wildcat`. The songs are in the main true to the originals with a few tweaks here and there. We were very careful not to move too far away from the true feeling of the original songs but a 30 year re-fresh has given them a new life. I suspect that fans will be brushing off the dust of the original versions as well so they themselves will have renewed playtime.
You’ve decided to record five songs from “Wild Cat” and six from “Spellbound”. Why only those ones? Are they maybe the songs that you usually play live?
We do play these songs live, but the idea was to pick out our favourite songs as a band, each member and our Management Team. We also listen very carefully to our fans at shows so we tried to please as much as we could. We did look at the idea of re-recording the whole album but that idea was quickly dismissed. The EP was a better celebration of the original and keeps with the Sessions EP series.
In both cases we’re talking about limited edition EP’s, with a very good price, that you’ve totally self-produced. Have you thought in looking for a label to make a proper distribution or is it totally conscious to keep it as limited editions to be sold exclusively by the band?
We are very keen as a band to have that emotional connection with the fans, they like to get in touch and buy from the Tygers of Pan Tang direct, it gives them access to the originator and not just simply a transaction through a third party distributer or retailer. This will only work on these Ltd Edition EPs though with an album release you need the expertise and infrastructure of a label to support the release.
Are you going to make a tour to support this releases? I don’t know how busy is the band live wise currently but, do you share your musical career with any other professional activities?
As a band we always try and work live as much as possible but we are actively writing new material at the moment. We made a decision that a new album would come first in 2011 but when an opportunity to play live presents itself, we have to consider the benefits of always promoting the band. This happened with the invite to play the BYH Festival in Germany. All the band members do work though with other bands or as session musicians so it can be hectic working within diary restrictions.
I’ve read in an interview from last year that you did have intentions to record a new album soon. Anything more to tell about the new album? Will these re-recordings of the old stuff influence you in any way with the new songs? I mean, returning to the vibe of that old amazing songs...
As mentioned above the writing of the new album is under way; we probably have 30 ideas already! When I write it’s always in the vein of NWOBHM. That’s what I do! The other band members then piece my ideas together; add their version and we make a song. Jacopo and Craig tend to then take care of the lyrics although Dean also has some great lyrical ideas that are presented. We are looking to start recording later this year.
One of the main problems of bands as Tygers of Pan Tang which recorded great albums in the past and were out of the business for a while is getting the attention of the fans on their recent stuff. I’m going to be sincere and recognize that I hadn’t checked “Animal Instinct” until I was preparing the interview and now I think that it’s a very good album, maybe not as metal as your early works, but really good. How has “Animal Instinct” worked so far? How was the response to this album
Animal Instinct has had fantastic reviews worldwide, we are all VERY proud of it. This was really the kick start for the present band line up as the album proved we still had what it takes to write and record very good songs. It gave us lots of confidence too which was then emulated in our stage performances which further enhanced the bands reputation. It was an album that we needed to make to re-establish the Tygers name and it does seem to have worked.
In that same interview that I mentioned before, when you were asked about the possibility of a reunion of the “classic” line-up, you said that it was impossible, partly because John Sykes was busy with Thin Lizzy and the other guys with the regular jobs. Now things are even better for bands as Tygers of Pan Tang as there’s an increasing interest in old school heavy metal. Have you thought about the reunion thing again? (For example, in Spain seemed almost impossible to see Baron Rojo’s classic line-up again and it happened a couple of years ago).
The original line up was fantastic in its own right and I have tremendous memories of that time, but the current band which has been together 10 years now is the Tygers of to-day. Everything just rocks! Between us and I have been there in both and I am enjoying playing with these guys every bit as much as the original line ups. I don’t think a reunion would be possible as the guys all have other projects in their life and only John (Sykes) is still in the Industry. I do think that one day there may be a chance that JS may join the band on stage for a song Jam or something if we are in the same part of the world at the same time. I know John is up for that and it would be great for the fans to see.
Now it’s time to make a travel to the past. I'm a heavy metal fan since I was a kid and I've also always loved to travel to England and London in particular. When I'm walking around London and I go to the record shops from Berwick St. (where I sometimes find great NWOBHM gems) I always try to imagine how special a time as the early 80's could have been. Can you, as someone that lived it directly (although you were from Whitley Bay, in the north of the country), tell us what that magic period between '80 and '83 meant for you?
Wow great question, where do I start? The Tygers lived in London off and on for 3 years so we went out to see the bands of the time, check them out, and make sure we were as good and original as them. We would learn and steal some ideas and then see if we could expand them further! It was a fantastic time, there was bands playing anywhere in pubs and clubs, basically anywhere they could plug into a wall socket. It’s very hard to describe but the fans and bands alike lived for music, it was there life. The scene was magical and probably will never be repeated in the UK. You had to be there and live it to feel the true essence of it all.
Those years were incredible in terms of musical creativity with newer bands as Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pan Tang, Angel Witch, Def Leppard, Diamond Head,... releasing amazing works, bands from the 70's as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or Thin Lizzy recovering their best moments... but I've always wondered how was the relationship between the bands in the scene. Which other bands were you in touch with? Which were your favourite among your contemporaries?
Everybody more or less liked and respected each other; there was a friendship among us all as well as a friendly rivalry. The Tygers are mentioned a number of times in Brian Tatler (Diamond Head) book as a band they always looked at as a bench mark to their own progression. There was a form of chivalry between musicians in those days. My favourite bands were not particularly NWOBHM though, they were and still are, Ted Nugent, Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Rush, the list goes on and on. I just love music. It’s a fantastic disease you get in your blood which is with you till you die!
I've always thought that the NWOBHM bands where the ones that finally changed the face of heavy music setting the pillars where the entire 80 heavy metal scene would later stand on. We just have to think in the roots of 80's hard rock, thrash metal, traditional heavy metal... This would be extremely difficult for you but, how do you measure the NWOBHM legacy 30 years after its peak of fame and creativity?
NWOBHM was a very important movement of the time. It spawned many a stadium act to come in the following years. A lot of bands took their roots from our movement including Metallica who once said the Tygers were one of the main reasons for starting a band in the first place! Check out Wikipedia. I feel humbled and proud that my vision of music and song writing style back in 1979 has inspired so many musicians. Although not as influential today, every year NWOBHM is celebrated and remembered in some way, which is nice.
For your first album you got signed to a big label, MCA Records. They should have given you big support. Was it very difficult to get signed back in those days? Nowadays it seems impossible to see a debuting band with a label as MCA Records.
I hope it was our music that got us signed! To-day there are only a few large record companies left! A lot of bands self-release product which seems to be a possible way ahead, although I do believe you need the expertise of a label to get the product to the fans in mass . For a major label, however MCA in the early 80s were very poorly organised compared to the likes of EMI or CBS. We did the best we could, given with what we had at the time.
Another quite usual phenomenon back in the early 80's was seeing bands releasing many albums in only a few years. For example you released four between 1980 and 1982 (two in 1981), if I'm not mistaken. Did the label force you to record in a so fast schedule?
Yes, MCA, for some mad reason kept asking us for albums when we hadn’t properly toured and promoted the last one. Thinking back the timescale was ridiculous, but I guess that’s what made life exciting in those days! Especially when your 21 years old.
If I'm not wrong some of those albums never got the touring support that they needed. What do you think that it was more important to push the band back in those days, touring or recording? Was this also due to pressure from the label?
Touring was the most important way to play to the masses and spread the word! We didn’t tour enough, and I think that played a part in the break-up of the band. The record company are all powerful, they hold the purse strings and what they say goes! Our management at the time could have been more pro-active and agree a five year strategic plan for the band before we signed to a record company which was what Rod Smallwood did for Iron Maiden, that all history now though.
I've always liked "Wild Cat" but, in my opinion, the quality improvement between the debut and "Spellbound" (my fave in all your history) was impressive. The songs got much more mature and diverse, the sound was better and the overall impression of the album seemed that you finally ended with a perfect product. What made these changes possible between both albums? How would you value John Sykes and Jon Deverill's contribution to the band in that moment?
The addition of both John and Jon made a huge difference. The band took on a whole new persona, direction and attitude. JS had a slightly more melodic song writing style to me. This gave the Tygers a more diverse direction which would benefit us in the years to come. Spellbound was a masterpiece (in my opinion) and Crazy Nights was a great album too but was let down with its poor production. It was a natural musical progression which I believe was the right decision looking at the songs that were produced with that line up.
After these two albums and the also excellent "Crazy Nights" things started to change. John Sykes left the band and you recorded "The Cage". Why did John leave the band when it seemed that you were gaining more and more reputation?
The true answer lies with John on that one. I was shocked when I was told he had gone, we were bigger than ever at that stage. I guess he left to become famous even quicker! I really loved John in a brotherly sense, we shared a room together on tour and got up to all sorts of things we shouldn’t! It hurt me when he left because he didn’t talk to me and tell me how he felt. There is no grudge though, it was a privilege to play and share a stage with John, and we will always be friends.
"The Cage" was one of the albums that I bought in Berwick St. and I have to confess that it was a big disappointment for me when I heard it. What did exactly happen after "Crazy Nights"? In "The Cage" you go for an obvious more commercial and melodic sound? What lead you to this style change? How do you feel with "The Cage" now?
The ‘Cage,’ was quite ground breaking at the time, and MCA should have had us tour it in the States for 2 years….but there you go another lack of vision on their part. The album charted in the UK at 12 and sold across the world really well but because we did not tour the world to support the release, it was quickly forgotten. The direction was quite deliberate on the part of the record company. They wanted a ‘USA’ friendly album but then didn’t promote it properly! I don’t think the band quite wanted to go quite that far in terms of musical direction but again the power of the label dictates….
After this album you make the decision to disband the band. What happened? Despite the problems with MCA Records, did you ever think in restarting the band again, recover the style from the early albums and look for a new label?
We recorded a 5th album and played it to MCA. They said it was OK, BUT they wanted us to record songs from outside writers, they needed 4 or 5 hit singles to finance the band across the world. We argued our case as the fifth album had really catchy tunes but they were adamant. We agreed to disagree, walked out of the MCA boardroom and never went back! Foolish maybe? Were we right to do it? taking on the might of a label, Of course we fucking were!!
And now we arrive to the bizarre reincarnation of the band in the mid 80's with Jon Deverill and Brian Dick leading the line-up and following an even more commercial approach. Did they ever inform you that they had the intention to reform the band? I've seen that you don't include this years in the band bio from you website. Do you consider that this band was not Tygers of Pan Tang?
I wasn’t informed or connected to the band at that time. They did what they did and they were Tygers of that day. Brian was involved as an original member but It’s always difficult for a band to continue with none of the primary original songwriters which Brian was not, guiding the musical direction. We exclude this era from the website mainly as we have no real knowledge of the band set up and what went on. It was a version of Tygers of Pan Tang, we would never claim otherwise.
Now I just want to ask you one thing that I've always wondered. Tygers of Pan Tang is one of the most original names that I've found in the metal world. Where does the name and your fascination with tigers come from?
The name comes from a fantasy science fiction book written by Michael Moorcock. The book is called ‘Strombringer.’ I the book there are cliffs along a shore line called the cliffs of Pan Tang and the emperor’s tigers guarded them. So we put the elements together and….the rest is history!
Well Robb. Thanks for everything. I hope that you enjoyed this travel along Tygers' history. If you want to finish the interview, it's your turn.
Thank you for your fantastic questions, and thank you, the reader for your time spent reading my ramblings about my band! God bless you all and remember if we are playing anywhere near you come and say ‘Hi Robb.’
PLAT IT LOUD and KEEP ROCKIN’
Watch out for some news on a Spain show very soon and check out the Official website for all the news:-
Robb Weir/May 2011