One Friday night in September 1982 I was at the Newcastle Mayfair to watch Tygers of Pan Tang. 6 years later Micky McCrystal was born in Durham, UK, by 2013 he landed the gig of lead guitarist with the Tygers… how time flies…I asked him how do the older songs work with the new songs in the set today?
‘Some of the songs were recorded 30 years ago but they still sound fresh and relevant alongside the new songs, I feel that it’s a very strong set that fans of the band past and present will love. I look at the gig as playing as a fan of the band and what would I like to hear if I was in the audience, we always try to give the fans what they want. The songs from Wildcat, Spellbound, Crazy Nights and The Cage albums have been classics for years so fans know how they should sound. It’s amazed me the amount of new fans who are just discovering the band and like the new songs and then go back and look at the history of the Tygers’.
‘It’s about respecting the song, doing it justice and sticking to those key Sykes solo’s and licks that people are waiting for, otherwise I feel like people aren’t getting what they’ve come to see plus there’s plenty of opportunity for me to put my own stamp on the songs’. (John Sykes former guitarist 1981-82 albums Spellbound and Crazy Nights)
‘We’ll play songs like Paris By Air from The Cage album and I’ll do my best to add in the keyboard lines and synth parts like the original track but on guitar which it gives it a more modern edge that works great in amongst the new songs as well as the heavier tracks. It’s great to see the crowd enjoy the song and sing a long to the chorus as much as they would Hellhound or Love Potion No.9 especially the hardcore heavy metal guys or bikers who we wouldn’t normally expect to like this AOR song but yeah they sing every word, it’s great haha!’
Who were your influences and how did you get involved in playing music ? ‘When I first started playing I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, I used to sit and jam along to those albums for hours and hours and try and figure out their licks. Then I went back and started listening to the classic blues players like BB, Albert and Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf. The influence that seems to surprise most people is that I got heavily into country music especially players like Brent Mason and Brad Paisley. I try and keep an open mind so I love listening to John Scofield as much as I do Richie Kotzen or Yngwie there’s always something to pick up and learn’.
‘My Dad was a drummer and always had vinyl in the house and he had a lot of guitar albums Hendrix, Larry Carlton but the one that stuck in my mind is ‘Friday Night in San Fransisco’ by Al Di Meola, Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin. I found it incredible that they had that level of technique but were so musical at the same time, it’s without a doubt one of my favourite albums ever. My parents always encouraged my interest in music from day one, they bought me my first guitar from a guitar shop in Newcastle, a Blue Aria Les Paul copy, I still have it today and it’s got a lot of sentimental value’
What led you to joining the Tygers ? ‘Tygers bassist Gav Gray messaged me asking if i’d be interested in auditioning for Tygers of Pan Tang and of course I said yes. It turns out Satan guitarist Russ Tippins had recommended me for the gig. In the audition we played Keeping Me Alive, Hellhound and I think Raised on Rock. I received a message that night to say I was in and I learnt the rest of the set and began rehearsing for my debut show with the band’.
Last year you played a tour around South America how did that go ? ‘It was my first time in South America and it was amazing, I loved it. The fans are incredible, they know the songs so well, they sing every word as well as the guitar melodies, some of the fans had actually had Tygers tattoos done specifically because we were playing. They live and breathe it, it’s amazing. Also the night we played Sao Paolo was my birthday and Jack got the band and the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to me which was really special. The centrefold sleeve of the latest album has a photograph of that gig so yeah that has special memories for me, I’d love to play there again’.
How did the recording go for the new album ? ‘It was great, I had in my head that it would be a good idea to try and mix the flavours of the first four Tygers albums with a slightly more modern feel. We recorded in a great studio in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Blast Studios. We practically lived there for three weeks haha. The process was very organic, things changed right up to the 11th hour. I had written the solo for Never Give In and Craig walked in and sang four notes as I was about to do the take which ended up becoming the first four notes of the solo. The verse drum part for Devil You Know changed the day before recording it to a tom part. We trusted each others judgement and were open to constructive feedback, at the end of the day we were all there attempting to reach the same goal of making a great album’.
‘We worked with a great tracking engineer, Mark Broughton who often works with Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. Soren Andersen mixed the album, he works with Glenn Hughes and Mike Tramp. I was very familiar with his work and was excited when I heard he was on board. For mastering Soren recommended Harry Hess of Harem Scarem. It was a great team and we’re all happy with how the album has turned out’.
‘We released Only the Brave as a promo single for the album along with a music video that has now had over 100,000 hits on YouTube. We’re just about to release the second music video for the song Glad Rags. The storyline is fun and a bit more lighthearted (In no time at all Mickey whipped out his phone and showed me a clip from the video ‘Glad Rags’. The track has a radio friendly feelgood bounce with a very catchy sing a long chorus, the video is not bad either with dancing girls, smoke and mirrors) ‘I’ve got to mention the company Flashlight Films who have done a great job on both videos, they were great to work with and we hope we get this new video well over 100 thousand hits too’.
Where would the Tygers like to go next ? ‘We’d love to go and play for the South American fans again. It would be great to get to Canada, North America, Asia. Anywhere there’s fans hungry to see the band we would love to play. We’re looking forward to an Italian tour in a few weeks time followed by a two week European run and then some shows on the European festival circuit. We’re super proud of the new album, so we’re excited to play the new album for people as well as the classics’.
New album Tygers of Pan Tang available from the Official Site tygersofpantang.com also European tour dates for 2017.
Interview by Gary Alikivi 9th March 2017.