Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 54 - Interview with Tygers of Pan Tang

TYGERS OF PAN TANG

The Tygers of Pan Tang have been one of my favourite NWOBH bands from their first record and have consistently released great rock albums over the last thirty or so years. The new album ‘Ambush’ is a nod to all their previous victories and Sue Ashcroft managed to catch up with guitarist Robb Weir to ask about the album and how they manage to consistently produce such great material.

Your new album ‘Ambush’ is out in a few weeks. Tell me how you came up with the title?

Well, the title was my idea. Ambush is actually the collective noun for a group of tigers. As with a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows and a pride of lions, it’s an ambush of tigers. I’ve been educating people to this along the way, so as it’s a gathering of tigers, I thought it was fitting. I stumbled across it and thought, what a great title. It’s a double entendre, which a tiger would do to you! It’s always on the cards to do another album, but as we’re lazy buggers – I mean, there’s always plenty of songs kicking around, but we’re just always finding excuses not to get together (in an ambush!) and start to put it all together. We were playing at Bang Your Head festival in Germany and, when we went into the backstage area, sat in a seat in the sunshine was Chris Tsangarides! I nearly fell out the van. I thought “bloody hell, what’s he doing here?” It turns out, he was there as a guest of the guy who runs the festival.

How many years had it been since you’d seen Chris then?

Oh, quite a few. Chris mixed our 2004 opus ‘Noise From The Cathouse’, but I didn’t see him, we just sent him the tracks after we’d recorded and mixed them ourselves, for him to do what he does best. The difference now, working with him in the studio, is between like the cheapest margarine and Lurpak butter! Anyway, while we were at the festival, German TV wanted to do an interview with me and Chris, I introduced him to our manager Simon, went off with Dean to the Gibson Guitar Bus and had a play of some of the guitars and about an hour later, after we’d played, with a beer in hand, Simon came to me and said “by the way – I’ve been talking to Chris and he’s going to produce the next album!” I said “oh great – that’s fantastic!” and then I thought, well we’d better pull the finger out then and get some tracks together for him to produce! So, we set about, middle of last year, trying to get everybody’s ideas together. We went into the studio in January this year and put the backing tracks down. Jack went in to do the vocals in February and then Craig and I went back down to do a few guitar solos and I put the voice box down and stuff like that. Dean had already done his guitar solos at home and sent them to Chris and he’d been able to process them like that. So, it was all done and dusted, mixed April time and the masters went to Mark Appleton at Rocksector Records in about May.

How did you get picked up by Rocksector?

We signed to Rocksector last year. Simon was purposefully looking for a smaller record company, that we would be fairly important to them, rather than a big record label where we’d be just another band on the roster.

That makes a lot of sense.

We went out for lunch with Mark, liked what he was saying, and they were very keen to sign us. It all came about when we played somewhere last year, Mark came, we all signed and that was that. To be honest with you, he’s done a really good job so far.

They’re very good at promotion, aren’t they?

I was talking to Simon the other day and he says it hasn’t even really started yet and we’ve already sold out of all the fan packs on pre-order. But there’s all sorts of things planned, which is great.

There aren’t many bands who don’t have full time jobs these days, although there are a few younger bands who think that when you’re signed to a label that you can just BE a rock star and nothing else. You guys have been doing this a long time, so how do you juggle a full time job and being in a band?

I’m touching wood here, but it all seems to run along quite well. As a band, we probably could do quite a bit more than we do, but it all works quite nicely the way that we’ve got it set up. We’re still able to do nice shows and good festivals, we’re still held in some esteem and Simon picks the things that are going to be beneficial to us. As long as the business side is there, which Simon looks after magnificently, then we go and do it. We do more abroad because, as you probably know, England unfortunately just doesn’t have the attendees any more. I don’t know whether it’s that lager is too cheap in supermarkets or that the plot of Emmerdale is too interesting, but there’s just not the people going to shows that there used to be.

Yes, it’s very difficult these days. 

You could offer them a free gig and a tenner and it still wouldn’t tempt them to turn out.

Your singer lives abroad, so how do you manage to rehearse, etc.?

You know what? We can get Jack over here and to a recording studio for less than it used to cost for our old singer – and he lived in London!

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Really?

Yes, really. The thing is, it’s all about planning. We don’t rehearse with Jack and we never have done. Obviously we got together for a week to finalise some writing, but usually, we rehearse as a four piece. I really think that’s made us stronger and extremely tight. It’s a lot easier rehearsing without a singer because we have all the cues for the vocals. When you’re just rehearsing music you have to be very precise or else the song falls to bits. We’re pretty good that way, I have to say. Thankfully, a lot of pro bands who are lucky enough to do it full time – the likes of Motorhead and Saxon, the bands we play with at festivals, they do genuinely say to us “bloody hell, you’re tight!” and it can only be that we don’t rehearse with Jack. Also, we’re not exactly spring chickens, so unless it’s a new song, then we pretty much know our way around them.

I’ve very much enjoyed the Path To Ambush blogs on your website. What a great idea – the pictures and your anecdotes!

Yes, that was Craig’s idea, and what a brilliant idea it was. The cartoon-ising (is that a word? If not, I’ve just invented it!) of us as characters....

The artwork’s brilliant!

....he does all that, he’s so clever. Puts it all into a story and it’s just really clever. I go back further in the band than anybody else, thirty three years in fact, but there are always a few funny stories kicking about my head (the one’s I can tell, anyway), and they’re all true. It’s something we never thought we’d be able to do, to channel these thoughts and Craig came up with it by himself and said “why don’t we do this?” and it’s just fantastic.

It gives such a good insight into the thoughts behind the songs and how each member feels about them and you giving your stories, it’s great.

Well, there’s more to come, so ‘stand by your beds’!

Now, apart from Craig’s wonderful artwork, again, you’ve had Rodney Matthews design your album cover and, as usual, it’s stunning! How have you managed to keep him involved all these years?

Well, Simon got in touch with him and gave him the brief of what we wanted and asked him to come up with a couple of ideas, which he did. I instantly liked the one that we’ve used, but there was another one, which we did as a print inside the fan pack. We just added that as a special little something for people to see. I instantly liked the sketch of the one we used, it was quite rough, but I could just see it. It was mentioned that it could be too heavy metal looking, but I said that, once it was coloured that it would be perfect – and it is. It conveys the whole nostalgia and the whole meaning of where we’re at now.

Well that totally fits with the sound of the album – its classic Tygers.

Absolutely! Chris’ studio is in Deal, down on the south coast called the Ecology Rooms and it’s not a massive studio, but it’s very, very good. He has some fantastic, expensive equipment in there, but the walls are just covered with gold and platinum discs. When you look around the room, you can’t believe the people he’s worked with, like Samantha Fox and Gilbert O’Sullivan! Those are just two of the ones I didn’t know he’d been involved with. Obviously, he got a Grammy for ‘Painkiller’ and there was the Gary Moore stuff, but he’s a really talented fella.

We saw you at Sweden Rock this year.

Did you? Why didn’t we meet up for a sherbet then?

Well, we’re always so busy running around. Was this your first time in Sweden?

It was our first time playing Sweden Rock, but we’ve not played in Sweden since about 1982 or something. We played a show with Simple Minds and some others, but apart from that, this is only the second time we’ve ever been to Sweden.

What did you think of the festival?

Absolutely loved it! It’s such a well run festival, everything went like clockwork. You’re really well looked after, I mean, I couldn’t believe the hospitality tent with the chandeliers and everything – amazing.

Every year they make improvements and learn from any mistakes (which are few and far between), but we’ve been going nine years now and we love it. Hopefully they’ll invite you back again, now you’ve been!

I certainly hope so, that would be fantastic.

So, what plans do you have for touring once the album is released?

Well, we have a show in France with Tokyo Blade coming up and Simon’s working on shows for next year already, so we’ll just wait and see who takes us!

Well, wherever they play, I know they’ll go down well, just as they have every time I’ve seen them in the last few years. Can’t wait for the next ambush!

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