LAST GANGS IN TOWN

 

The title reflects the original music scene in South Shields during the 1990s. The town had countless numbers of venues booking bands who played their own music. But it isn’t the case today. Looking through some photographs I took then, I wondered what the bands thought of those times ?

Iain Cunningham, (Cripplin’ Jack) The 90s was a great time for music. In Sunny South Shields by the Sea the original music scene was thriving. There were original bands with lots of venues willing to give them a stage to hone their craft. Whether it be a Sunday night in the Ferry Tavern, Wednesday night was spent in Porters and The Vic was a Monday night downstairs or Saturday night upstairs. There was always somewhere to watch original music.

 

It felt very much like a community and I’m surprised none of the bands actually cracked it and broke through to the mainstream. It was a great scene to be part of. The nights had great crowds, a cracking atmosphere and cheap beer promotions, which usually lead to hangovers and regret.

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Cripplin’ Jack in 1996. Iain Cunningham on the right.

Crippling Jack were formed in 1995 by Ian Maxwell, Dean Walsh, who was later replaced by Paul Westgate, Richard Gardner, Christopher Charlton and myself. We went on to play all over the North East and recorded our demo John Woo E.Q. in the Underfoot studios with Dave and Pete Brewis, who themselves, are enjoying a great career in music with their band Field Music.

Davey Mac was a supporter of the music scene. His rehearsal rooms were legendary and, if they could speak, would tell some stories. I think we still owe him a small fortune as we always ended the rehearsal shouting back up the stairs to him ‘We’ll pay you double next week!

Actually Crippling Jack reformed in 2009 and went on to play more gigs around the town releasing 2 more EPs. After nine years apart, vocalist Ian Maxwell summed up the bands feelings as he stepped up to the mic and declared… ‘It’s good to be back’.

Iain Robertson, (January Blue) This band had many incarnations, and it all started with me and vocalist Woody who were mainstays throughout January Blue and later New Rising. We first played a gig together in April 92 at Cleadon Village Hall with another band called Agadoo Factory. This gig featured the first song Woody ever wrote called Die Forever ! We wanted to keep going and little did we know that we’d be still playing together 8 years later, frequently visiting London having gained a record deal with London records.

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January Blue in 1994. Iain Robertson at the top.

We’d heard Pete Edmonds the manager of Porters bar in South Shields, would pay £300 a gig if you managed to pack the place out. So we hit every bin in King Street with a flyer and our piece de resistance was at 6.30am hanging a bed sheet on both sides of Westoe Bridges to catch the rush hour traffic coming in and going out of town. We got an ear full (and rightly so) for plastering one flyer on the arse of the war hero Kirkpatricks donkey statue in King street, which in hindsight was disrespectful but hell – we had a gig to promote.

Needless to say, Porters was full, we got our £300 quid and Pete Edmonds was bouncing around and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. He booked us again and we were definitely in a good bargaining position for the next gig’.

 

Newts Newton, (Cloud 10) On reflection, I didn’t really enjoy the 90s in general for many reasons but musically, I detested all that ‘mad for it’avin it’ laddish bollocks. It seemed like every new band had curtain haircuts, walked like chimps and stood onstage like tins of milk, wearing tracker tops zipped up to their noses, all while strumming mindlessly with faces like a smacked arse. Trying to be ‘edgy’. Aye right, fuck off man.

Meanwhile, the band I was in at the time, Cloud 10, were writing kitchen sink drama style songs that moaned about all and sundry, while we marched about in overcoats and quiffs thinking we were the fucking Clash, glowering at everyone (laughs).

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Cloud 10 in 1996. Newts on the right.

Locally, plenty bands were springing up and yeah, we in Cloud 10 pretty much sneered at them all. Not that we had much to be smug about mind, we were arrogant and nothing special really.  Looking back, being brutally honest, it was a waste of time as our band were better at talking about things, instead of actually getting up and fucking doing them. Although one night, two of us did go out and do some promotion work with two roller brushes and 10 litres of minty buff emulsion paint. But ultimately, it was all pointless.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi December 2018.

ROAD WORKS with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Micky McCrystal

Since we last spoke in March 2017 Micky McCrystal has in his words ‘been a bit busy.’ Guitarist for Tygers of Pan Tang is Micky’s main gig but he also teaches guitar here in the North East and has recently been touring with Marco Mendoza ……This past year has been crazy because I’ve done a lot of touring with Marco Mendoza (ex Blue Murder/Ted Nugent/Whitesnake). We played nearly 100 shows together within 6 months. A lot of the shows were in countries like Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania as well as a lot of shows in Germany and the UK. With the Tygers we played around 30 to 40 shows in 2018.

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Our last shows of the year were in Spain, Japan and the UK. Japan was amazing, the Tygers fans are super passionate out there similar to South America where they’ll figure out which hotel you’re staying in so they can get a photo and get albums signed etc. They’re super polite and kind and would bring gifts for us, however as soon as we hit the stage they lose their minds and sing every word and guitar lick (laughs). Our tour schedule was surprisingly quite relaxed for Japan. We flew out there and had a day off. The gig was the next day headlining our night at 7pm. We had another day off then flew home. I’m hoping when the next album is out we’ll go back and play some other cities too.

How did the Tokyo gig come about ? I’m not 100% sure but I know we received a message from our booking agent who’d been talking with a promoter of a festival out there. We got an email saying ’Do you want to play in Tokyo’. Simple as that really. To be honest I leave that stuff down to our agent I just get told where and when to turn up with my passport and guitar (laughs).

Can it get tiring doing long journeys on the road ? Yeah often depending on the tour schedule but there’s little distractions now which I guess people didn’t have years ago, you’ve got everything in your phone now, camera’s, music, internet etc. I tend to find I’ll listen to music, read or work on things music related to try and occupy the time. Believe it or not the Tygers Spain tour was more tiring than Japan. We had shows everyday with 8 hour drives and the stage times at the earliest are midnight so by the time you’ve signed merch and talked to the fans your lucky if your back at the hotel by 3am then hit the road at 8am and repeat. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong though I love being on the road and the fans were amazing in Spain.

How did working with Marco Mendoza come about ?  I was at the 2017 NAMM show out in L.A. demoing for various companies. We met out there and found we had a few mutual friends. We stayed in touch and later that year we did a 6 week European tour. This year we’ve toured Europe in February, March then May and June. They’re intense tours, very much show after show back to back which I love and to be honest I prefer that. Sometimes having a lot of days off gives you time to think and I end up missing my fiancé and family. Depending on what country you’re in you can go sightseeing but others can be dangerous… certain areas of South America you don’t wander about without knowing where you are or you can get yourself in some serious trouble. (laughs)

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Playing live with Marco we would play everything from rock and blues through to fusion and some latin stuff too. He’s big on improvisation and would give us cue’s on stage ‘go to the bridge’  ‘chorus’ or Micky solostuff like that. Structure of song’s would change every night so you had to be on it, but it keeps you on your toes and it’s fresh and fun. I loved it and have learnt a lot from Marco, he’s a mega talented guy.

Is there a new Tygers album soon ? We’ve got an album’s worth of material but we just need to fine tune it. I’d say it’s heavier than the last album. I feel like the last album was quite diverse but I spoke to the guys about us focusing on more of a hard rock album for the next one, I felt songs like ‘Only The Brave’ on the last album were such a success with the fans that we should focus on that hard rock vibe.

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In the studio do you work with a producer ? On the last album we had Mark Broughton producing the album with us. He works with Andy Taylor (ex Duran Duran/Power Station). He gave us input and had some great ideas. We also do that with each other within the band. One of us might say ‘maybe that’s not working, try this,’ and we’ll work together to try and get the best possible result. For myself I find that really helpful and Craig (Tygers drummer) has a great ear for melodies so I’ll tend to run a lot of ideas particularly my solo ideas past him first.

Working like that do you come across any happy accidents ? The main riff in Glad Rags from the last album was me literally messing about in a rehearsal and I played it as a joke. The guys said ‘What’s that?? It’s good’.  Sometimes you’re not the best judge of your own work and you need someone to say that’s the take or that’s the riff or else I would sit in the studio until I’m a skeleton (laughs). For the Tygers, I try and write solos like a composition within a composition. In my mind I always think of guys like Randy Rhoads who’s solo’s are like a song within a song.

What’s in the diary for 2019 ? There’s an album’s worth of Tyger songs nearly ready and it’ll probably be the same team that worked on the last album. Søren Andersen (Glenn Hughes) mixing and Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) mastering. Once the album is released we’ll be following it up with a tour. I’m also looking to release a few more guitar lesson products through Jam Track Central in 2019.

For Micky’s latest lesson package releases go to…http://www.jtcguitar.com/store/artist/micky-crystal/

and for the latest Tygers of Pan Tang news go to…http://www.tygersofpantang.com/official/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi December 2018.