Robb Weir - Guitars
Craig Ellis - Drums
Deano - Guitars
Jacopo Meille - Vocals
Gavin Gray - Bass
In the year 2012, Tygers of Pan Tang look to release their tenth full length release entitled "Ambush", you can find the review in the list; now let's see what a more than thirty years old band can tell us.
Welcome on Aristocrazia Webzine, it's a pleasure and an honour to have you here on our website. How are you doing? Did you spend this summer retouching the new album which will be released on September 24th? Is the "first time" emotion still present, even after so much time?
Hi everyone, how are you all doing? Thank you for your interview!
Robb: We recorded the new album "Ambush" at The Ecology Rooms recording studio in Deal near Dover in the UK. The studio belongs to our long-time friend and producer Chris Tsangarides who we commissioned for the first time since the "Spellbound" album to take control of producing the songs. I think because of the history between us both it certainly brought back for me personally the memories and feelings of the early 80s and the excitement there was with Heavy Rock/ Metal at that time.
Who are Tygers of Pan Tang today? Almost thirty-five years have passed since your birth, did all the difficulties and line-up changes leave any scars or were they a reason to not give up and to continue your story?
Robb: The Tygers today, and indeed for the last decade or so have been and are... Italy's very own Jacopo Meille on vocals, Craig Ellis drums, Dean Robertson my fellow guitarist and now Gav Gray on bass as well as myself Robb Weir, guitars. Line-up changes are part of being in a band unfortunately; it is just like being married, people and their circumstances change so at times it means that they want to go in a different life direction than the band. At the time it can hurt for both parties involved but time heals, I would like to add though that the band will never forget any previous band member or their contributions they made, they will always be valued as part of the band family.
"Wild Cat" and "Spellbound" are two gems of the N.W.O.B.H.M. era, "The Cage" is probably the most loved/hated one, what do you remember of those days? How was the Metal scene and which were its positive sides? Are they present today too?
Robb: It was such a fantastic time for everyone concerned, I guess you had to be there to truly experience it. There was such a vibe in the air, everybody wanted to go and see as many shows as possible and record collections were a source of envy and competition. Everybody was talking about the last band they saw play live and how much backline they had and how loud they were, what guitars they were using and what drums were played. It was a huge time for the Industry that will never be repeated in my view.
Did you use to have relations and friendships with other bands during those years? And among the less famous, is there any of them which you wanted to wish better luck to?
Robb: We have played with a lot of bands and individuals who have made a great living from music such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, Magnum and loads of others. I wish anybody and everybody all the best luck in the world when they enter the world of music, it`s an emotional roller coaster.
Let's step back to 2008 and talk about "Animal Instinct". The Tygers still roar and at the vocals there is Jacopo. How did you meet him and why did you decide to welcome him in your line-up?
Robb: Jacopo was sourced through a Talent Agent who arranged for him to come to an audition in the UK, Jacopo is a huge music fan and he already knew our repertoire so he had revised the songs prior and nailed them on the day. As soon as I heard him sing the songs I knew we had the right man for the future. In fairness it was the same when we heard John Sykes first play the guitar, you can tell when there is something special in the room, you just know.
I felt a big change compared to the two previous works, "Mystical" and "Noises From The Cathouse", the Rock'n'Roll vein and that ability of communicating easily typical of the ones who have a free spirit came back on that album. Is there something that you wanted to change in those two releases?
Robb: "Mystical" was testing the water at the time and a very low budget release, "Noises..." was an experimental album and a different affair completely. I think the whole feel of the album was a bit too modern for the Tygers, a bit like Def Leppard and their, "Slang" album. You should stick to what you know, and the public know you for because were good at that, we are a good time band who play catchy songs. I don’t think either album was our greatest hour.
Now it's time to talk about "Ambush", first of all let's introduce this album to our readers, tell us anything about it...
Robb: We discussed with our management the strategy on terms of sound, production and presentation. They went away and made it happen for us which then allowed the band to concentrate on the music and songs. We wanted everything that was good around the band in its early days to re-affirm that we will never forget the past even if we are fully focused on the future. I think the fans will love this album as its classic Tygers with modern production.
Jack: It’s the Tygers album we wanted to do. It has got all the ingredients: a fantastic producer: the "Dark Lord" Chris Tsangarides; a classic album cover from Rodney Matthews and, most of all, 11 killer tracks we can’t stop listening to! To me it’s the perfect link between "Crazy Nights" and "The Cage".
What happened during these four years in which you wrote the songs? Did the composition process change? How much has been important the influence of Gavin Gray? I feel like he got immediately into the band.
Robb: The song writing process has never changed for me in 35 years! I write a simple riff, add a chorus and solo idea, record it in my studio and send to everyone for consideration. Dean does the same with his ideas and the process starts from there. Our new bass player Gav Gray has been quite inspirational for us! He has fitted in so well, his writing input has been a god send and his playing ability is fantastic! Craig and Jacopo work on the lyrics and vocals and then we rehearse the songs to death when we meet up weekly.
I noticed one thing since the first listening, the choruses are really catchy and memorable, and there are songs that wouldn't sound bad at all on a radio even if not "commercial". How can you keep your coherence in making music, in this Metal world that seems to become more and more "mainstream"?
Robb: The band does have the benefit of 35 years in the music making business with a recognised signature sound and lyric content. We don't mentally say to ourselves "Right, this song has to be catchy", it just happens, by some miracle we just are able to do it naturally!
Jack: When we have written the songs, we knew what we wanted to achieve. To me Tygers have always been a hard rock band with a heavy riff attitude. That’s what ‘Ambush is all about! ‘Keeping Me Alive’, the opening track is a good example: a perfect riff on top of which we have written a nice catchy melody. Think of some classic songs from Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy: Tygers were sons of those bands.
Is "Hey Suzie" the follow-up of "Suzie Smiled"? What are the lyrics about? I couldn't read them, so I'd like to understand if and how this song is related to the one included in "Wild Cat".
Jack: We are talking of the same Suzie. It was Craig’s idea (the drummer and the one who wrote most of the lyrics and melodies of the album, teaming with me and Dean). She‘s older but still hot and naughty as she was back in 1980!
Jacopo, I know that you play in a Led Zeppelin tribute band with Francesco Bottai which is with you in Norge, you prepared an acoustic set tributing Plant's band, right? Was it love at first listening with Led?
Jack: Led Zeppelin are my favourite band even though it wasn’t love at first listening as you might have thought. I was 13. The first rock record I bought – actually I asked my father to buy it – was Queen’s "A Night At The Opera" back in 1976. I was 8 years old. I then fell in love with Kiss and then AC/DC. The first Led Zeppelin record I listened to was "LZ I" and I didn’t like it. A friend of mine then lent me "Houses Of The Holy" and after hearing "Over The Hills And Far Away" I became addicted to their music, and it’s been like this ever since!
There are two songs, "Man on Fire" and "Rock & Roll Dream", in which I can feel a performance which reminded me to Robert Plant, while in "Hey Suzie" I felt something of Joe Lynn Turner. Is there a modus operandi that you follow to give each song the right vocal lines?
Jack: Robert Plant is my hero! I think is part of my DNA, I don’t do it on purpose. On the day of his birthday this year, I posted on Facebook a photo of him just saying: "Happy Birthday Dad!" I’m blessed since my vocal range is very similar to his. Joe Lynn Turner is a great singer, I loved his performances on Rainbow’s album. You can always learn by listening to great singers: Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm (Foreigner original singer), the immense Freddie Mercury, but even Frank Sinatra or Tom Jones... they are more r’n’r than you would ever expect!
Have you already chosen the single that will anticipate the release of "Ambush"? If so, why did you choose that song?
Robb: Mark Appleton, the head of Rocksecter Record is handling the promotion for the album and he chooses his favourite song which seems to change by the week. I have heard at least four different songs played on the radio stations. The album is catchy and a lot of songs are Rock Radio friendly hence the change of mind.
Chris Tsangarides again behind the mixer for Tygers of Pan Tang, how is working with him? He is the responsible of the sound of so many famous albums which left a trace on the history of this (and not only) genre.
Robb: Chris is an absolute legend and great friend of the band, he even did the live sound for us on tour back in 1981 before he got famous, I bet you did not know that. He is an absolute pleasure to work with because he understands the recording process and is a brilliant engineer.
During the last years there are many new acts which keep alive the essence of the Eighties sound, people like Ram, Skull Fist, Striker, Alpha Tiger, Enforcer etc... Oddly, Heavy Metal which is the base of Metal is usually deposed by the million "extreme" releases, but weren't Venom considered as a part of N.W.O.B.H.M.? Why young people don't like Heavy Metal?
Robb: Hey, there are lots of acts rocking around the globe preaching the NWOBHM word and they are all doing a great job. Long may it continue is what I say! Regarding you last question, the world has changed and fashion does dictate what is popular as well as exposure every Saturday on TV for celebrity musicians. I do not for one minute think Rock/metal is dead but it certainly less popular around the world than it was in the 80s and 90s.
Which events did you participate to during 2012 and which one left you the best memories?
Jack: We really had fun at Sweden Rock. Great crowd, great bands to listen to also. Dean and I couldn’t wait to hear Michael Schemer playing with Hermann Rarebell and Francis Bucholz from Scorpions and Dougie White on vocals. It was pouring down, but we stood there listening... And one hour later we were on stage playing “our” classics like "Suzie Smiled" and "Hellbound"!
Robb, is there a live show or a festival in the past which left an unforgettable trace in your memories for the bands which played with you, for the audience or for any other reason?
Robb: No, not really, I love every single live show, where ever we play or have played. We keep playing new countries which is very exciting even at my age!
Which are your plans to support the release of "Ambush"? Are you planning a tour?
Robb: We have been touring this year and playing a small selection of songs from Ambush, but you can't play too many new songs because people want to hear the classic's. We will keep on touring during 2013 to continue promoting the band`s name and "Ambush".
How is your life outside Tygers of Tan Pang? Side-projects, hobbies, anything?
Jack: As you mentioned, I play in a Led Zeppelin Tribute band called Norge and with the guitar player we have also an acoustic duo playing rearrangements of Zeppelin classic. I’m the singer in General Stratocuster And The Marshals, an Italian band. Our debut album is available on ITunes, and you can buy online. Its rock’n’roll with a southern rock twist. We are currently working on the new songs for a possible double album. I will be touring Europe next October with Carmine and Vinnie Apace. The project is called Drum Wars.
Robb: No, just music, family life and dogs.
Is today possible to hope (or at least dream) of living just playing music?
Robb: It’s hard but possible, the industry today is much harder to make a living than it was back in the early 80s. I do believe in "Ambush" and this journey has plenty more miles left to travel.
Jack: I’m trying. But it is hard. You need to be very open minded. I teach vocals, and that keeps me busy when I’m not singing, and it’s still music related. If you know what I mean.
Thanks for the time you spent with us, I wish you all the best for you new upcoming adventure, the last message for our readers to close end the interview is up to you...
Jack: Can’t wait to hear fan feedback n the album! To all Italians fans be ready: we will come to play live very soon! Be aware: there’s a Tygers ambush on the way!
Robb: Just check out the album "Ambush" and the website www.tygersofpantang.com . We also have a fanclub called Tyger-Force so make sure you sign up to this also.