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!!
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!
So how's the
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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.
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.
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.
Photo: Noel Buckley/GRTR!
headlining Rock of Ages festival in September. Are there any other
festivals or charity gigs lined up that the fans can watch out
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
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.
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,
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
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
Tygers of Pan Tang are currently touring the UK with upcoming dates in Italy.
GRTR's Darryl and Judith Reeves in precarious balancing situation
Interview © 2008 Judith Reeves. All rights reserved.
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