CAT SCRATCH FEVER – with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist Micky McCrystal

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?

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‘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’.

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‘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)

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‘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!’

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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’.

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‘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’

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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’.

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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’.

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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’.

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‘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’.

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‘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’.

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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’.

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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.

Recommended:

Steve Thompson, Godfather of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, 27th June 2017.

Richard ‘Rocky’ Laws, Tyger Bay, 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.

STILL BURNING – interview with metal band, Mythra.

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Interview with Vince High and Maurice Bates of Heavy Metal band Mythra.
Maurice Bates ‘Pleasently surprised yeah to say the least and after 30 odd years we’re trying our best to do the songs justice. After the gigs people come up to us and say great we loved it. What’s better than that’

frontman Vince High ‘ Metalheads have their own community they build friendships and that is all pulled together by a passion for the music. There is an underground scene going and a lot of them are real enthusiasts. There is some fans who turn up at all the Festival gigs, they fly across Europe, the USA and South America to see the bands.

Yeah it’s humbling really that some fans travel a long way to see us playing live’ Maurice added ‘And I’ve noticed a camaraderie between a lot of the bands, they support each other at gigs, kind words you know, they say great gig, things like that. Yeah you can say we are having a great time’.

Back in 1976 Mythra began what became a life long journey and through a few line up changes over the years, today they have settled on twin guitarists John Roach and Alex Perry, bassist Maurice Bates, Phil Davies on drums and vocalist Vince High.

At the time of the first New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1979 they played on the circuit which included Raven, White Spirit, Geordie, Fist, and Son of a Bitch who became known as Saxon. In 1979 Mythra entered Guardian Studios to record an EP, with the backing of top music journalist Geoff Barton, Death and Destiny sold an absolute truck load and ended up staying in the UK Alternative charts for 12 weeks sitting next to the likes of Motorhead, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division and UB40, it was all going so well.

In 1980 they were on a bill with Girlschool, Saxon and Motorhead playing to 10,000 hungry Metalheads, another sign that everything was looking up. The band were on the radar of the bigger record companies and positioning themselves for the breakthrough. But then they were dealt an absolute killer blow from an industry which is well known for it’s ruthlessness when it comes to business decisions.

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Vince takes up the story ‘Everything was going great, we had played gigs with Saxon, Tommy Vance was playing the EP on the BBC Radio One Rock show and we loved the Motorhead gig at Stafford Bingley Hall. To actually get on stage in front of 10,000 people is just unbelievable.

We’d gone from the social clubs to the Newcastle Mayfair to Stafford Bingley Hall in about six months. We were also lined up for the Ted Nugent UK tour in August 1980. Then 3 days before we were due to join the tour we got the news through that Mythra had been pulled and a band called Wild Horses got the support slots.

They were ex members of Thin Lizzy and Rainbow with a load of serious financial clout behind them. The upshot was that we lost the gigs and we started seeing a different side to the business, one which we’d never come across before’.

With the ‘what might have been’ stories out of the way here we are in 2017, Vince High and Maurice Bates get me up to speed on what has been happening in the Mythra camp over the last two years.

Vince ’A series of connections happened starting with our reunion gig at Brofest in February 2015, that Newcastle gig was the first show we had done in 32 years, the response to that gig was phenomenal, we were blown away. Our performance was filmed by a German TV company (available on YouTube) and next morning our guitarist Alex Perry was approached by Keep It True Festival promoter Oliver Weinsheiner who booked us to play in Germany in April 2016 which was an amazing gig.

Bart Gabriel, CEO of Skol Records and Gabriel Management EU also approached us after Brofest which led to the release of our ‘Warriors Of Time’ Anthology album on CD in November 2015.  It was thanks to Bart that Steffen Boehm of German label High Roller Records released the vinyl version as a double album and also signed us to record our brand new studio album ‘Still Burning’.  Bart brokered the whole deal’.

Have you found the gigs are different now?
Vince ’In a lot of cities over Europe they have a small underground following of Metal, it’s a whole communal thing now. Some of the gig promoters are fans or record shop owners, so they can get the word out and with the internet it’s made easier, it can spread like wildfire. The venues we play at can get in about 500 to around 3,000 people’.

Maurice ‘The Barcelona gig was great, loved that one. It’s a bit different now using the internet to advertise gigs, I remember back in the late 70’s we played a gig in our hometown South Shields and we had the young metallers Hellanbach supporting us, well to advertise we had to run around with a bucket of glue sticking up posters in bus shelters all around the town ha ha’

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In October 2016 Mythra entered MP studios in Poland to record an album which they never thought would happen. I asked them what was the difference in 2016 compared to their first time recording in Guardian Studios back in 1979 ?
’Apart from having less hair ! ha ha. Yeah obviously we are more mature as musicians and took onboard suggestions on the odd guitar solo or vocal chorus here and there.  But we were really firing the ideas around which was very dynamic. It took us about twelve weeks in all to have that album written, rehearsed and recorded’. said Maurice.

Vince added ‘It was a very intensive process. From coming together with initial idea’s to working them up to a song and getting them in shape, we were very disciplined, that work ethic and our passion got the best out of us.  We initially wrote 16 tracks and ended up taking 12 over to the studio in Poland. Bart Gabriel was producer for the album with Mariusz Pietka engineering, we got on really well with the team and it came out in our playing.

Compared to the Guardian recordings completed in our late teenage years there was more of a mutual respect and collaboration this time around as the band had more input into the recording’.
Maurice ‘In a way we were more relaxed about it even though within 10 days we got the 12 tracks recorded, 11 of them going on the vinyl album plus a bonus track on cd’.

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Does the album ‘Still Burning’ reflect Mythra now ?
Vince ’I wrote the words to the title track about the band as we are now, you know the whole team and how we feel after all these years, we felt we never really went away and the music was always with us so yeah Still Burning sums up where Mythra are right now. And really pleased with the album, we’re proud of it and how it’s turned out. The cover is special as well with great artwork by Italian artist Roberto Toderico’.

What next for Mythra ?
Maurice ‘We’ve already got more gigs lined up, Brofest #5 in February.  Over to Belgium in April, ‘Up The Hammers’ Festival in Athens in May were we’ll be playing more songs from the new album as it is released in April…can’t wait for that’
Vince added ‘We are flying over to America too in October, we are on the bill with our longtime friends Fist, playing in California at the Fire and Frost Festival. Jarvis Leatherby is the promoter there, he’s also in the band Night Demon and sings with Jaguar too. He is a big fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. We are looking forward to seeing some of our American fans and friends out there as they have a real passion for the music’.

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With that Vince and Maurice are off to rehearsals working on the set list. Who’d have thought that 40 years ago in a Northern working class town something that started then would still have a big effect on peoples lives now… the journey continues.

The brand new MYTHRA studio album ‘Still Burning’ is released on High Roller Records on 27th April.  It will be available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.

Interview by Gary Alikivi with Vince High and Maurice Bates,  South Shields 30th January 2017.

Recommended:

John Roach, Still Got the Fire, 27th April 2017.

Maurice Bates, Just a Mo’, 12th May 2017.

Vince High, Vinyl Junkies, 11th December 2017.