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Interview: TYGERS OF PAN TANG

Rock Stars...


Judith Reeves meets the Tygers...
 

The Tygers of Pan Tang first emerged with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1978 and from that moment slipped effortlessly into that genre of music.

Their first album release, 'Wildcat' reached number 18 in the British album charts and put the band firmly on the map.

The original line up consisted of Jess Cox, Robb Weir, Brian Dick and Richard Laws however the next 25 years were to produce any number of exciting combinations, including John Sykes arriving for the 'Spellbound' record in 1981.

Today's Tygers are Jacopo (Jack) Meille (vocals), Robb Weir (guitars), Dean Robertson (guitars), Brian West (bass) and Craig Ellis (drums), the line up since 2000 excluding Jack who joined the band a little later in 2004.

The end of 2007 saw the Tygers release a five track EP 'Back and Beyond', consisting of two new tracks and three reworked oldies and this appeared to be all that was needed to warm up the engines of Tygers fans everywhere who have patiently waited for more platinum rock from the boys themselves.

The band are currently in the middle of their UK tour which will also see them fly over to Europe for a four day tour of Italy. I caught up with vocalist Jacopo Meille and guitarist, Robb Weir backstage at their Blackpool show, for a chat about hard rock, crazy nights....and cardigans!!

Tygers of Pan Tang, photo: Noel Buckley
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!

So how's the tour going?

Jacopo: Great, it's going great. We have done some really good shows and we have really got some fond memories, especially from me. Last week we were playing in London, it was my first time in London and I was quite nervous especially as my plane arrived 5 hours late so I arrived at the venue just in time to hear them say 'we've done the sound check and we've got to be on stage in half an hour...great, and it was great! The adrenaline! It was really good.

And what's the reaction been?

Jacopo: The reaction's been good. We're perfectly aware of the fact that people are checking out what we are doing now and even the most suspicious ones, after the gig they're all ' I must say...you're great'...' so hopefully they will buy the record.

Are there any particular songs that get the best reaction, Suzie Smiled maybe or any others that the audience react to?

Robb: I think so yes, Suzie Smiled always goes down really well. Jack and I kind of sing it together and there's quite a guitar feature in the middle of it. We've based the set over the last few years on what the fans want us to play. When we first started on this second venture with the Tygers six or seven years ago, you've got to start somewhere and then put the set together of various songs from various albums, go out and play it and go out and meet people and talk to them which we are very keen to do.

We felt particularly when we were playing in North West Europe, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany, the fans were telling us that they wanted to hear more material from the first two albums, Wildcat and Spellbound so perhaps 50 percent of the set is from those two albums and then we move forwards with subsequent albums.

So are you making a conscious effort to keep looking forward, concentrating on the here and now and the future and also try to get the balance from what the fans want from the first two albums?

Robb: We've achieved the balance and we have got the balance right. When we perform the songs from the first few albums we have kept the core of the song the same but we have modernised it, changed certain elements of it. If you imagine the song as a car, we've tuned it so that the song now performs to the standard of a racing car. We've enhanced what we had and modernised it in that way.

Tygers of Pan Tang, photo: Noel Buckley
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!

So with each gig it is just getting better and better?

Jacopo: Our first goal and we think we've kind of achieved it with the release of Back and Beyond, our first EP with this line up, three old songs revamped and two new songs, was to give continuity to the music, being respectful for what has been Tygers in the past and at the same time be very honest and say this is what we are now.

One of the best compliments we received was from some guy who actually didn't know Tygers, past Tygers and said he couldn't say which was old and which was new, which was exactly what we wanted to achieve. Tygers music should be just one and that is what we have done also with the forthcoming album which is Tygers in 2008 and at the same time I guess every single old fan will find in every single song a little bit of the chemistry they want...it could be the riff, the chorus, the harmony, the vocals. In a very natural way we tried to put a bit of the old vibe in the new songs because that's where we all come from.

Talking about the new album, 'Animal Instinct', are there any major differences with what you have done before to this new album and were you still looking to achieve the hard rock sound?

Robb: Very much so and looking to capture, not the Spellbound sound but Spellbound vibe...aura. We are twenty seven years on with technology so all the actual bass instruments, I don't mean bass guitar but the backline instruments are so much better than they were back then because we've moved forward in that way. You've got that running as a huge plus.

Also our song writing...if someone comes up with an idea it's thrown into the forum and we all work on it and we all develop it and our song writing is absolutely finely tuned at the moment and hopefully it will continue to be because there are new songs jumping out of the walls and all sorts of stuff for Back and Beyond and for the new album. The creativity we've got between the five of us is a key item, it's absolutely essential and it's just come out so well.

...which is coming across on the EP too?

Robb: Yes and the album is another step on the staircase, the album is that much better again.

Jacopo: It's a band album. We all have quite a bit of experience and sometimes it's not an easy thing because although there is a band, behind the band there is a little bit of leadership in terms of musical direction, but with this album, with 'Animal Instinct' it's a band album from the first note to the last because everybody has contributed in each song. Even the one that came mainly from one person it has been...

Robb: ...Tygerised!

Jacopo: Yes! Tygerised exactly so that every one of us feels like each song is part of ourselves which is great. This never happened to me, I had not had that experience. I was not used to sharing lyrics, writing and melodies and apparently this time it worked so well. From my past experience everything was divided...the band was doing the music and the singer was supposed to do the lyrics and melodies. It didn't happen this time and everybody was sharing things and this made a difference on the album, it made a big difference.

Robb: We're of an age where we have such a laugh now. Back in 79/80, in the early days it was very much an egotistical trip whereby if a photographer was taking a photograph there was a scramble to be in the middle, the front. When we were recording albums you wanted your name to be above someone else's name and all that kind of bullshit and that's all gone, that's all in the past life.

...so it's now about the music

Robb: Yeh, it's not about all that kind of stuff, you know now you've got to bully someone to get in the front. We're so much more comfortable with ourselves and more grown up I guess.

Jacopo: In some ways that's one of the big differences with someone who's into music and someone who's not. You grow up and learn by experience and that experience is part of your life and at the same time there's a little bit of innocence that makes you do things without thinking. That's why we get in the van and travel all through England every weekend! (laughs)

Robb: ...that is it but when we are all together we have such a laugh there's never a dull moment. Someone is cracking a joke or breaking wind or something. We do just have such a good time and as we've said in many an interview, and we don't say this lightly, we are one huge family from Steve our front house sound guy, Simon our manager, Lisa who's part of the management team, we're all just a huge big family.

It's like that show which was on British television called 'Bread' where everybody is a part of the family. Nobody is the particular leader apart from Simon our manager who makes business decisions because that is what we employ him to do so in effect he leads and he looks after the operation for us, but it's about enjoying ourselves and having a good time rather than how can I get to the front of the picture.

Tygers of Pan Tang, photo: Noel Buckley
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!

It seems as though you are giving a lot back to the music...

Robb: Absolutely. When we play a show we have a ten minute rule, nobody's allowed in the dressing room, we get ourselves together, we're all laughing then though, if someone cracks a joke and we're laughing when we go out to play when really we should be in a trance getting ready to perform but we just enjoy ourselves. That's really what it's all about.

After the show, after ten minutes we go out and meet as many people and get in touch with as many people as we possibly can and say 'what do you think?', 'was it alright?' because we want it to be alright and if it's not alright then we want to know and we want to change it to make it alright.

If you're paying hard earned money to come and see us you want value for money and that's what we want to provide. We're providing a service. We want people to come away from their TV screens in their comfy chairs and to come out here, have some of that wonderful liquid that makes you fall over and makes you say rubbish and come and enjoy themselves.

How did you get together with Ben Matthews?

Robb: Brian our bass player has known Ben for some years and Ben is an exceedingly good fully qualified studio engineer when he's not performing in Thunder. I guess it came about when Brian said why don't we give Back and Beyond to Ben to mix, he's got a window in his calendar when he can do it and we all thought it was a great idea. Thunder have their own studio operation so we went there and he mixed it.

Brian sat with him and it came out absolutely tremendous. It came back to us, we listened to it, we made a few alterations, it went back, Ben did it and we really really like the way Back and Beyond sounds. It's very representative of what we are and what we do. It really wasn't much of a choice at all to ask him if he would mix the album for us.

Is that going to be an ongoing arrangement?

Robb: I think so, I would certainly think so.

Jacopo: After we had been recording Back and Beyond we all felt that we needed some fresh ears to listen to what we had been recording to give a different view of the music and Ben was the right person because he captured exactly what we wanted and at the same time he gave the music a little bit of a twist and us being so involved with it then maybe we couldn't get it.

Robb: We recorded the album at the Soundstation Studios in Wakefield with a guy called Mark Sturgis who we worked with on the Noises in the Cathouse album which we produced ourselves and we recorded this album in the same way with Mark. Mark's a great studio engineer, listens very intently, picks things up which maybe we'd missed.

The core of the album was recorded in the format that we use, that was then taken and given to Ben and Ben put that up in his studio and used fresh ears, made a few suggestions about edits, maybe that there was a chorus that was too long, something was too short, he's moved things around for us which you can do these days, not like the old fashioned days of tape which I used to record with, but on computers you can do that.

He was given cart blanche to help and if things needed moving then we trusted him to do that. At the end of the day, Thunder don't sound too bad to me and I don't think they've made a bad album and Ben does all that so we were in very capable hands. I can't see us not continuing with him.

Tygers of Pan Tang, photo: Noel Buckley
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!

You're headlining Rock of Ages festival in September. Are there any other festivals or charity gigs lined up that the fans can watch out for?

Jacopo: We play Clive Aid (info: charity gig originally staged to support Iron Maiden one time drummer Clive Burr who suffers from MS, now raising awareness in various other worthwhile causes) on the 31st May in Birmingham and then we do a charity show on 3rd May for infant cot death.

...is charity something that you try to get involved in and do what you can?

Robb: Any charity is a worthwhile event to me. Some causes may be more pressing than others and by that I mean all causes are worthy and we would consider doing anything to help anybody out. Cancer is up there amongst the big ones because that is a really scary thing but if we can do it then we will. That's a hard and fast rule.

You're doing the web cast tomorrow (Saturday 15 March 2008)...

Robb: That's right, from Berlin Studios right here in sunny Blackpool. It came about by John Sykes who was a guitar player in the band, His stepfather owns that studio here. He approached us and asked if we would be interested in doing this.

It's a venture that is quite close to his heart and he wants to pursue and promote it and he felt we were a big enough name to do it. So it benefits both. As far as I know John said to his stepdad he can't think of anyone better in the UK than the Tygers.

Do you keep in touch with John?

Robb: When he comes across here I always go and see him and we reminisce about the things we got up to.

On a slightly different note, what was the last album you bought?

Jacopo: You go first

Robb: Why? are you thinking?

Jacopo: No it will just be shocking for them.

Robb: Oh right. It's not that Vera Lynn sings Motorhead? Have you heard that one, it's fantastic. I can't think what the last CD I bought was because I tend to buy music DVDs because the sound is better than a CD and the last one that I bought was Motley Crue and before that it was The Scorpions.

...Jack?

Jacopo: The Cardigans Greatest Hits and why, because I like them very much. You would never expect that but I think that the last two albums from The Cardigans are very rock and roll, not in terms of the music but in terms of the attitude and I think the singer writes wonderful lyrics so its an inspiration for me, I must be honest.

I'm the kind of guy who just listens to anything apart from reggae and hip hop. I'm very excited about what comes from new music. If I go back though, the last album I got, I have a promo, is the new Nazareth album, The Newz.

...any good?

Jacopo: Really good, good riffing, very powerful.

Robb: I've got very wide music tastes aswell from Stefan Grappelli to disco, get down and boogie and all that kind of stuff and I like reggae.

Finally, apart from one of your own albums, what would you consider to be one of your favourite albums of all time?

Jacopo: My top 5 are, apart from Led Zeppelin who are my favourite band, in no order, it's 'In the Court of the Crimson King' (King Crimson), 'Sticky Fingers' from the Rolling Stones, 'Revolver' from the Beatles, 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust' and last one is ...I can't remember. There's just four. No actually 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' from Black Sabbath.

Robb: 'Highway to Hell, AC/DC, 'High 'n' Dry' from Def Leppard, I cant remember the name of the album but it's Narada Michael Walden, kind of disco funk, Gino Vannelli, 'Brother to Brother' and 'Raised on Radio' by Journey. The spectrum is as wide as the ocean.


With thanks to Tygers manager Simon Morton and of course, Robb Weir and Jacopo Meille.

The Tygers of Pan Tang release their new album, 'Animal Instinct' in the UK on 21st April 2008 with further scheduled releases across the world to follow shortly after.

Tygers of Pan Tang are currently touring the UK with upcoming dates in Italy.
 

Darryl/Judith Reeves

GRTR's Darryl and Judith Reeves in precarious balancing situation

 


Interview 2008 Judith Reeves. All rights reserved.

Gig review

 


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