TYGERS OF PAN TANG “Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

Britain’s Tygers of Pan Tang, named after a fighting force in Michael Moorcock’s Elric books, are one of metal’s biggest “should have been huge” stories. Arising in the heady days of the NWOBHM, this band’s first three albums “Wild Cat”, “Spellbound” and “Crazy Nights” were right up there with Iron Maiden, Saxon and Angelwitch as examples of the British metal sound that was conquering the world. But constant wrenching personnel changes and a step towards a more commercial sound took their toll.

The Tygers never threw in the towel, though, and original member Robb Weir kept the flame burning. In 2017, the band has released a new self-titled album that is the best since their glory days and to hear Robb tell it, it’s one of their most successful.

I got a hold of Mr. Weir to learn the truth of the band’s past, present and future and now share the results with you. Get ready to grab this Tyger by the tail!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I’m not sure how long your self-titled album has been out, but what’s the reception been so far?

ROBB WEIR: Absolutely fantastic. It was released in the UK and Europe last October. The American release was held back for record company reasons but we’re absolutely delighted that it’s now currently in the USA and it’s doing very, very well.

WC The usual thinking when you put out a self-titled album is that it should be the very best of your band. Was that the phiiosophy that you used in recording this one?

RW: Yeah, kind of! Mick Crystal…I say he’s our “new” guitar player but he’s been with us for four years even though we think of him as the new boy…it’s his first album with us. We did have some titles picked out for the album but in the end we decided just to call it “Tygers of Pan Tang” just to say to everybody this is where the band is now. Hopefully you’ll love it. We haven’t changed. Our songwriting hasn’t changed. We still write big hard rock anthems. Our current single, which is actually the second single off the album, is called “Glad Rags”. There’s a video that accompanies the song that’s on Youtube and getting a huge number of hits. Our first single that came out last October was “Only the Brave” and that has over 100,000 views. So at least 100,000 people like it! (chuckles)

WC:  I’ve seen the “Glad Rags” video and it reminded me of an interview I did years ago with Ian Hill from Judas Priest. I asked him what he thought was missing from the modern metal scene. He said there was no “happy metal” now, no upbeat kind of songs. The music is all super aggressive and dark without a letup. Your song “Glad Rags” I thought was the kind of happy metal he was talking about.

RW: As a band, we don’t like unhappy dark and depressing songs. That’s just not us. I don’t think hard rock is about that. In fact, I don’t think music should be about that at all. Music can be about many things.It can tells stories, it can tell what happens to people…all sorts of things. However, I don’t think it should be about being unhappy and depressive. Why would you want to go out and see a band that you know is going to make you unhappy and depressed at the end of the night? Why would you do that? You wouldn’t!  You want to get home from work, you want to crack open a beer, you want to put on your “glad rags”. And what are your “glad rags”? Glad rags are your favorite clothes in your wardrobe, your favorite pair of denims that don’t quite fit and your best pair of cowboy boots that you feel great in. You put a bit of aftershave on or perfume if you’re a young lady, you fix your hair and off you go. You meet your friends, you have a few beers, the band comes on and they’re absolutely cooking. It’s the upbeat kind of thing that makes you feel great. And then you get a takeaway, a burger or a pizza or something and you have a great night. The next day, you go to work and say I seen this great band last night, I was out with the boys. That’s the kind of crap that you oughtta be doing, crap meaning speaking to each other.Have you got any good stories, anything good to say?

 That’s what it’s all about. You go to a concert and the next day you’re on the production line and you go, oh man, that was a great night. I just can’t get people who do the depressing kind of music, it just doesn’t ring in me head. We’re not about that, we’re about being live, being entertaining and playing our music to give you the kind of night you remember.

WC: That video was fun to watch. Was it fun to make?

RW: Absolutely, absolutely. The girls are a professional dancing troupe. One of them is acquainted with our drummer Craig and she actually owns her own professional dance group and works all over the world. Craig asked them if they’d be interested in coming in and doing the video with us and if they were freaks. We got lucky.We thoroughly enjoyed it. Craig is incredibly creative. He did the storyboard, gave it to the video company for the shoot and Craig actually directed it. It’s just us having fun, it’s not meant to be anything else.

WC: I’ve talked to a number of band who say doing videos is tedious because you have to redo so many shots. But in the “Glad Rags” video, it looked like you really enjoyed it.

RW. Exactly. And sometimes when you redo all that, it looks kind of contrived. We do everything, honestly we do everything in one take. Now Mick our guitar player is a bit of a perfectionist so he might do two or three takes.  He’s an amazing, monster guitar player. I sit and look in wonderment at what he’s playing. I can see with that many notes in them, he wants to get it right. When I play my own guitar solo, it won’t be particularly complicated. It will be what I think fits in the song. Nine times out of ten, I play it, unplug my guitar and that’s it, we’re done. I don’t need to be messing about and play ten guitar solos on one track. That’s just the way we are. I think sometimes. If you label something too much, it goes to the negative way of doing things. But that’s just me.

WC:  The word “organic” gets overused but that comes to mind with what you’re describing.

RW: That’s good! I like organic!(laughs)

WC:  The new album has got a lot of diversity to it. It goes from hard edged metal to something that’s almost like AOR. Was that diversity really important for you or did it just flow naturally?

RW:  It wasn’t planned, it just flowed naturally. In fact, if you look at the two songs “Never Give In”, which is the metal anthem I wrote, and then the ballad “Angel  In Disguise”, which I wrote as well, you can see it’s just whatever came out of our fingers. The song “Praying For A Miracle”, which was written by our drummer Craig, is one of my favorite all-time melodies. People have got to listen to that, it’s so special. At the very end of the track…this is going to sound quite bizarre…there’s some quite haunting whistling. That’s actually Craig whistling, I didn’t know he did it until it had been mixed by Soren Anderson in Copehhagen and then sent back. I listened to it and went, I just love the end of that! Who did it? I found out it was Craig. Absolutely amazing, great stuff!

WC: You’ve been there during the entire history of Tygers of Pan Tang. Would you say the writing and creating is easier now or has it been pretty steady over the years?

RW: It’s definitely at its easiest point now. It’s probably because we’re a big older and the egos have disappeared and we’re not full of testosterone like we were. I mean, we’ve got a bit of yet but not like we did. We don’t have big heads. It’s so much easier now whereas back in the day, when a photographer turned up, everybody was pushing everybody else out of the way to be in the picture. It was me, me, me. Now if a photographer turns up, nobody will stand in the middle. (chuckiles) It’s completely opposite. Why don’t you stand in the middle? No, it’s your turn, you do it! It’s amusing, if nothing else. It’s great that everybody gets along so well because the band is really your family.

WC:  Would you feel confident in saying this will be the final Tygers lineup? 

RW: I would like to think so. I’d certainly like to think so. Unless something disastrous happens, there’s no plans for anybody to go anywhere. 

WC: It’s got to be a great feeling after all the years of changes and struggle to realize you’ve finally got the right mix.

RW: Yes, you’re right. Absolutely.

WC: Going way back now, you were a proud part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. What were your memories of those days? The explosion of this sound, all the creativity, what was it like to be at ground zero of all that?

RW: Tremendous, absolutely tremendous.  It’s something that you can’t really quantify in words. It was one of those moments when you really had to be there. That’s all I can say. It was a very special time that I don’t think will ever be recreated again. We spent the best part of three years down in London in the red light district….and I say that because the record company was right in the middle of Soho, which was the red light district. The people down there, the girls…Carnaby Street which was very famous in London for fashion was right in its stride and the height of its popularity. It was just a great place to be.

WC: Was there any act from that time, excepting of course yourselves, that you thought should have really been successful? Who should have had the stardom?

RW:  Well, Diamond Head was signed to MCA after us and they had two albums with them, “Lightning to the Nations” and “Borrowed Time”. I liked “Borrowed Time” a lot, I thought there were great songs on there. But they got dropped after that because it did nothing. It just didn’t work for the record company. They were about as unlucky as we were, really. (chuckles) But there were lots of bands around at the time that I can’t quite put back into my memory.

WC It was an amazing collection of talent. Speaking of Diamond Head they just toured around here at the end of last year. I thought at the time that they would make a good package tour with Tygers of Pan Tang.

RW: Very much so, yeah.

WC:  This may be a bit premature but do you have any ideas for new music swirling around?

RW:  Loads. (laughs) In fact, we were driving to rehearsal last night for the upcoming tour and I was playing Gav our bass player a couple of songs which I just finished. We jammed through them at rehearsal and then we jammed through a song which nobody had ever heard including me because I just got inspiration and made it up as we all sat round. Material is being written all the time.

WC: it’s gotta be kind of tough to pick what goes on and what stays off.

RW: Yeah, it is, very much so.

WC: Do you actually follow the current metal scene much or is it something you don’t pay attention to?

RW:  I’m not involved. No, not really. I’m not a big metal fan. I honestly know what’s being released and what’s going on but I’m don’t particularly go out and buy CDs or anything like that. (chuckles)

WC: Do you have any plans to come over and play in the States?

RW: We’d love to come over to the States and our agent is busy talking to American promoters to try and fix something up. It probably won’t happen this year because we’re already booked up through this year. We have tours, we have festivals in the summer. I can’t see it being this year, it will probably be next year by the time we get to your shores and we will hopefully do you proud.

WC: Last year in Chicago you guys played the Ragnarokkr Fest. What memories do you have of that gig?

RW: Absolutely tremendous. The place just went bananas when we came on stage, it was tremendous. And the guys who organized the festival said it was the best reaction they’ve seen, which was a nice thing to say. It was an amazing trip and everybody was so nice. They got the exact amps and pedals and equipment we usually used. Everything was done very, very professionally. We loved it.

WC: In the long history of Tygers of Pan Tang, have you ever had a Spinal Tap moment where things went crazy?

RW:  Probably hundreds of them. (laughs) Life on the road can be very Spinal Tap. Oh my goodness…

WC: First one that hits you…

RW: One that won’t get me sued or divorced. Here’s a couple. We were playing with Iron Maiden at the old Marquee Club in London in 1980. Back then I did a thing where I would bend over backwards when I was playing my guitar. Now I must have went a bit too far when I was bending over and I didn’t realize I was so near the end of the stage. Luckily for me, the guy who drove our truck was standing there. A fella called Fat Eric because he was called Eric and he was fat.  And he had a large amount of body odor but we won’t go there, we won’t go there. (laughter)  Thankfully Fat Eric was standing there and I was actually still playing my guitar as I fell backwards off the stage. Now he caught me and sort of helped me down to the ground. He picked me back up again while I was still playing my guitar and I climbed back up on the stage using the ladder while still playing guitar, just in time to play a lick with John Sykes. So thank you, Fat Eric! If he hadn’t of been there, I probably would have broken my neck!

We had a ton of stories, but the other one that I can think of was when we were recording “Spellbound” in Modern Studios with Chris Tsangerides in North London. Our manager had come down on the train from  Newcastle, which about a three hour or so journey on the train.  We knew he was coming and we decided to set up a little welcoming party for him because we were naughty boys in those days. He was going to come in by taxi. Modern Studios was upstairs and it was huge, it was almost the size of a basketball court. We turned all the lights off  and we set up some flash bombs so when he opened the door, they’d go off. We saw him get out of the taxi and everybody took their positions. He came up the stairs and he couldn’t open the studio door because we locked the studio. He said I can’t open the damn door so I came up behind him and said I’ll open it. I did and he said, ooh, it’s dark in here. That was our signal, we set the flash bombs off and it nearly blew the roof off the place. (laughter) He actually soiled himself. That highly amused us! He actually had to go back to the hotel and he could hardly speak to us, he was so shocked. He went back to the hotel and didn’t return, he was so terrified! (laughs)

WC: Reminds me of the Spinal Tap scene….”It may have been fuckin’ well amusing to you but believe me, it was not pleasant to be a part of the comedy on stage!”

RW: Yeah, absolutely. There are tons of stories I could tell you like that.

WC: Any last words or messages for the fans over here?

RW: All I can say is thank you so much for all these years. If you’re at all curious about the new album, please go out and buy it. It’s good hard rock, it’s well produce, there’s big, big sounds on there, you’ll love it. It’s up there with anybody else’s and I know that because I checked everybody else! If you want to taste it before you buy it, go to Youtube and have a look at “Glad Rags”, have a look at “Only the Brave”.  If you like what you hear with those, the rest of the album is on par. You’ll love it. We hope all you wonderful people come out to the shows because if you don’t go to the shows, if you don’t go to your local venue, it will close down. It’s as simple as that. The trend in the last few years is that people have stopped coming out because they can get live streams on their computers and smartphones and stuff. It’s not the same, people!  Go out, get a few beers, put your glad rags on and have a bloody good time. As a band, we need you to do that because we feed off you. That’s my lesson, that’s my sermon for the evening.