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Interview: Tygers of Pan Tang

mit Robb Weir vom 30. Januar 2012 via Mail
Man stelle sich eine fantastische Welt vor, in der ein Albinokönig aus der „Träumenden Stadt“ über ein mächtiges Reich herrscht und in dem mutige Krieger, weise Magier, finstere Gesellen und allerlei andere illustre Gestalten ihr Unwesen treiben. Während dieses Reich nun an seiner eigenen Stärke zugrunde geht, sollen zwei verzauberte Schwerter mit den Namen „Sturmbringer" und „Trauerklinge" dem Helden Elric von Melniboné und seinem Cousin Dyvim Slorn beim Kampf gegen das Chaos helfen, welches in einer finalen und epischen Schlacht besiegt wird. Daraufhin muss dieses Chaos einer neuen und gereinigten Erde weichen ...
Liest sich nett, aber was hat das alles mit Heavy Metal zu tun? Nun ja, genau aus dem letzten Band - namens Sturmbringer - dieses insgesamt sechs Bände umfassenden Zyklus von Autor Michael Moorcocks stammt der malerische Name einer NWoBHM-Band, mit dem im Roman die Tiere der Magier bezeichnet werden: Tygers of Pan Tang. Was es genau mit TOPT auf sich hat, was die Band in ihrem musikalischen Stil ausmacht und wie die Vergangenheit und auch geplante Zukunft des Szene-Ur-Gesteins so aussieht könnt ihr unten stehend in unserem Interview mit Robb Weir, Gründungsmitgleid und aktuellem Gitarristen der Truppe, nachlesen.
Zu den angekündigten TOPT-Highlights des Jahres zählt unter anderem der im Juni stattfindende Auftritt der Band beim Sweden Rock Festival und die Veröffentlichung des neuen Albums im Mai!
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The interview

Alex: Hi Robb! First of all, thanks for taking the time for this interview! How are you doing and how is the band doing right now?
Robb: Hi Everybody! Thank you for taking an interest in the Tygers and requesting this interview. I think it is fair to say that we all feel great at the moment, writing and recording a new album, rehearsing a new live set and generally enjoying the music we play. It is looking like a busy year for the Tygers in 2012 and we are really excited.
Alex: You will be at the “Sweden Rock Festival 2012” with bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd or Mötley Crüe. What are your expectations for this event?
Robb: It is always nice to be asked to play Festivals and Sweden Rock is one of those premier festivals for Classic Hard Rock music so we are particularly thrilled. This gives us a great chance to re-connect with as well as expand our fan base by getting our music across to a large Festival crowd. I have always thought the band should be bigger in Scandinavia as our music has always been well received there but for various reasons we have never fully promoted ourselves in that region so this is the perfect opportunity for us to make up ground. We will be playing a set based around the first three albums so there will be quite a few crowd favourites in there as well as adding a couple of songs from the new album and one maybe to remind fans of the 2008 album `Animal Instinct`.
Alex: Does it – after 35 years of band history -still feel like something special to play at festivals of this size?
Robb: Festivals are great to play, the atmosphere is usually fantastic, you also get a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones too. We try where possible to get involved through the promoters to participate in meet and greets or signing sessions etc so we do try and get ourselves around a bit and make a day of it. We love to connect with people and most times we will be in the crowd at some point watching other bands and having a beer. It is all about taking these opportunities with your performance, looking after your fans by spending some time with them and genurally enjoying the day.
Alex: What would you say are the main aspects that make your shows special and unique?
Robb: Our shows are a lot of fun, most people in the audience know of the songs, there is a lot of movement on stage and sing a long moments too. We have always tried to create songs with a catchy melody that gets your feet moving and puts you in a good mood. Its good time Rock n Roll and it can be refreshing to hear at some festivals that have bands that are a little darker in their music than ourselves. I also think we still show a lot of energy on stage for a band that is now 33 years old and this then reflects to how the audience reacts to you. If you have not seen the Tygers check us out I think you will be surprised at the overall atmosphere which tends to be very party time.
Alex: What does Tygers of Pan Tang stand for in these days? Still the old school sound of classic NWoBHM? Or has there been some kind of development over the years?
Robb: We will always have the NWOBHM tag because of how and when we became established but I have always just seen us as a classic British Hard Rock band. We had become a bit of a novelty act where promoters wanted us to play live just for nostalgia reasons but with the album `Animal Instinct` which was released in 2008 all that changed for the better.` Animal Instinct` gave us new product which was extremely well received and reviewed by the critics and fans and this gave us the legitimacy back of a current working band.
Alex: Would you call Tygers of Pan Tang a “True Metal” Band? In Germany it seems to be a popular term for characterizing you …
Robb: We are a band with a lot of history and a proud history but I would like to think that we are a band that metal fans really took to their hearts especially in the early years. As long as you keep producing quality songs the best you possibly can and delivering this with raw energy and enthusiasm there will always be room in modern music for bands that still play in the style of Classic ROCK. We have developed over the years a certain style of music so our fans know what to expect. I still write music the same as in 1980 and on the new album `Ambush` there are three song Riffs that sound similar to the stuff I wrote for Wildcat. I am not too concerned with tags for the band as long as people enjoy the music.
Alex: When can the fans expect a completely new album after all those recent re- recordings?
Robb: We have written 19 new songs but have 12 that we are moving forward with and will start the recording process in February 2012. We will be recording with Chris Tsangaredas who produced both the `Wildcat` and `Spellbound` albums as we know he can get the sound we want. The working title of the album is `Ambush` and it should be released around Europe by May. We are very excited about the new songs, they show a maturity in the band and the benefit of having a stable line up has become invaluable. The writing team is Dean, Jack, Craig and myself and we have been together now since 2004, we now now how each other works and this comradery has really helped the writing process because there is a trust and respect between us. I really think the fans are going to love this album, the expectations are now far higher after `Animal Instinct`, we know this so we had to make sure this album is absolutely right and I think we have achieved this.
You also mentioned the Sessions Eps which we have recorded which celebrate the 30 years anniversary of the original albums. It is always important to remember your past and embrace it, there are too many bands that want to forget it and move on and be modern, but I was extremely proud of what we achieved in those early days and the quality of the songs still stand tall today in my opinion so we wanted to re-record these. The EPs are limited editions of 1000 only available from the website shop so we are not flooding the market and the fans love them. We have so far recorded `The Wildcat Sessions` and `The Spellbound Sessions` and we will be looking to continue with this concept this year with the release of the The Crazy Nights Sessions EP which will be available at the back end of 2012.
Alex: You tried to go back to your early roots with "Animal Instinct" by playing hard- edged rock in the manner of 'Wildcat' or 'Spellbound'. How about the next record? Will it be of this kind of old school stuff, too?
Robb: As I said before, our writing style has changed only that we are more ambitious than on `Animal Instinct`. We are comfortable as a band and together more now so we are pushing each other as musicians with ideas that would never have been entertained before. Ambush` still has the foundation of `Animal Instinct` and the tempo is similar but it is more sophisticated and varied. We have also tried to look at the production value on the songs and have added little bits which make them more entertaining to the listener. I do not want to give too much away but there are some surprising aspects on this album and I will be very interested in the comments we receive back. The main thing however which is always the most important factor is that we have taken our time on this album and we believe we have 12 great songs for the album.
Alex: In general, how is your song writing process done and where do you get new ideas from?
Robb: The writing process is quite simple, both I and Dean come up with basic Riffs and Music. This is then sent to the other guys to develop their parts and write the lyrics which is mainly done by Jack & Craig. Once all the parts are completed by each member they are all sent to Craig who pastes them into a structure. We then at rehearsal develop the music further and knock the idea into a working song. The lyrics are then applied and altered where needed to be compatible and then we rehearse the hell out of the song and change parts and play with ideas until we are all happy. Musically for me new ideas are just chord variations and what I think sounds good. There is no one particular influence we have, you will hear numerous influences in our music.
Alex: While growing on age, do you ask yourself from time to time how long you will be able to stay present in the metal scene?
Robb: Obviously you do think about how long this journey will last but whilst the fans still want to hear the band then there is a future. We have found over the last 2 years that promoters still want to book the band for shows and record companies are still interested in releasing new product from the band which is all positive stuff. Once all this stops then that will be the time to stop playing, we nearly decided to call it day back in 2004 but we then got a new singer Jacopo Meille from Italy and he brought a new energy into the band. We then got new management in 2007 and they have really helped us get back to business and continue to push us as a band. For the first time ever we have a constant running 2 year plan to aim for. There is a harmony in the band at the moment and we are really enjoying music, this is a real inspiration for me personally.
Alex: Currently, a lot of bands have a quite hard time to get their concert halls sold out, especially in rock and metal music. How about you? Do you have this kind? of problem, too?
Robb: I think we all have this problem like you said, that is why we are seeing bands join forces for joint headline Tours to create better value for money for the concert goer. In this current economic climate people are struggling to get through life never mind spending money on non necessities and when they do spend their money they want to see good value for it. Last year we really stripped down our tour expenses so we could keep ticket prices below 10 euro for the fan. We bought a cheap tour bus instead of hiring one for every tour, reduced our crew to one instead of three and we now work with the venues to sell our merchandise instead of having another individual coming with us throughout the tour. We do try to explore everything possible to help out the fans but until the world economy turns for the better concert halls are not going to be full like in the past.
Alex: How old is the average fan who comes to see you live on stage? Is he male or female?
Robb: That is very difficult to answer because lately we have seen a huge influx of female fans at the shows. We still get the mid forty year old male who lived through the early 80s scene and remembers the band from that era but recently there has been a real mix of gender and age. I do hope this continues because we need to get our music across to as many people as is possible and let us be honest it is also really nice to have some ladies at the show. The first time I noticed this change was when we played in Athens, the majority front row was female and they were all rocking out like the guys, singing along with the songs and they knew all the lyrics. It was a bazaar experience but very friendly on the eye. I also think this mix of fans really helps the party atmosphere we want at our shows.
Alex: TOPT had a lot of line-up changes. Currently, you are the last remaining founding member of the band. How did the fans react to all this changes?
Robb: The line up changes the band made in the early 80s enabled the band to progress to the next level so they were needed and the benefits from that change were really positive. You have to embrace change and expect it when you are in a band, there are very few original line ups still plying their trade today. Granted we had some changes when I resurrected the band after 2000 which was two vocalists until we found Jack and lately Brian has left to concentrate on his role within Uriah Heep but he was replaced by Gav Gray who was with the band back in 2000 for the Wacken show. Being the only remaining original member has been difficult at times there is no question about that but it’s a problem more from the media than the fans. The reason I reformed the band in the first place was just to play Tygers music because people still wanted to hear it being played. The media however will never let it go and always refer back to me being the only original member in every review and interview. The 2012 line up is every bit Tygers as the original line ups were back in 1980 – 1982. The fact is that two of the most remembered members of the Tygers John Sykes and Jon Deverill were not original members of the band.
Alex: Why did you leave the Tygers in 1984?
Robb: I actually left in 1983 when the record company decided to drop the band from the label because we would not follow the strategy of playing cover songs. The band then started to get involved with a number of people that did not really have the bands interests at heart and therefore we decided to all quit and go our separate ways. It was a ridiculous decision and one that we all probably regret as if we had stronger management we could have gone a lot further as a band. We needed someone to bring us together, organise us and then fight our corner, we could then have gone much further forward as a band. The fifth album that was never released `Square One` was way ahead of its time and would have broken the band worldwide. It is all very easy in hindsight to have the answers but we were young with ego`s and this lack of maturity clouded our judgement and stopped us from making the right decisions. It was too easy to just walk away....
Alex: In 2000 you joined Tygers of Pan Tang again and brought up a completely new line up in 2001. What's the reason for that?
Robb: I regrouped with Jess to play the Wacken Festival in 2000, we were the only two members form the early 80s line up interested in playing the music, everybody else had other commitments. After the experience at Wacken I just wanted to continue playing but Jess was not interested in pursuing this, so I decided to put together a band of musicians from the North East of England that were known to me. I love the Tygers, they are my band and I just wanted to keep the music alive.
Alex: Generally, what’s up next for the future of the band? What can the fans? expect?
Robb: 2012 will be quite busy, we are playing a number of festivals and club shows, we have a new album due in May called `Ambush` and we need to also get into the studio and record the Crazy Nights Sessions later in the year..
Alex: Any last words for your fans out there?
Robb: If you like Good “old school” British Rock then certainly check us out; we do want you on board with us. Get in touch, keep up to date with the latest news and be part of the Tygers 2012. We run a fan club Tyger Force which keeps you up to speed with events etc, we have some great products in the Tyger shop and we really do value you as our fans.
Check out the website tygersofpantang.com
Thank Everybody, and see you very soon!
Robb Weir
Moderation: Alexander Kipke

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