ROCK CITY LIVE with Robb Weir, TYGERS OF PAN TANG guitarist

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Since releasing their last album in 2016 the Tygers have had a successful two years equalling or maybe bettering the NWOBHM days back in the 80’s. 2018 has seen them playing gigs around the UK and Europe with Kiss, Ozzy and the Dead Daisies plus a recent headline show in Japan. Can they add more to the well oiled machine?

With a new live album release ‘Hellbound-Spellbound ‘81’ from the line up of Jon Deverill (vocals), John Sykes (guitar), Brian Dick (drums), Rocky (bass) and Robb Weir (guitar) I asked Robb was this a recording of that line up at its peak?

Yes absolutely. John Sykes played on the Wildcat tour in September ’80, but not on the Wildcat album and Jon Deverill joined us just before Christmas 1980. We were writing for the next album and with the ‘new blood’ in the line up the sound changed a little bit because those two great guys brought a different edge to the Tygers, more melodic I think.

Wildcat had a heavier feel to it and a bit of a punky element to it as well. I played it in its entirety a while ago and didn’t realise how much punk music had influenced me.

The opening track on this live album, ‘Take It’ was written by John Sykes and me. When John first joined the Tygers he came round to my house to learn the songs for the then, upcoming Wildcat tour. During these sessions John said I’ve got an idea for a new song. He played me the front end, (opening) of ‘Take It’ I liked it, added in something I had, played it together and added a chorus and ‘Take It’ was born.

Unfortunately it was the only song that John and I wrote together. I was used to writing by myself, John and Jon Deverill lived in the same flat so they worked on songs together. As for both Spellbound and Crazy Nights the song writing guitar riff ideas were 50/50 between John and me. Then we would put them in the pot and they become everybody’s….adding drum parts and bass.

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What were the nuts and bolts of making this live album ? We were on the UK part of the Spellbound tour in 1981, it was the second show of the tour at the Nottingham Rock City venue. Normally you would record a live performance on the last day of a major tour when you’ve had 30 odd dates to have a bit of a practice! But the Tygers never do anything easy, always back to front and upside down, we’re at the front of the queue for that (laughs).

Our record company at the time MCA hired the Rolling Stones mobile recording unit. Which was quite revolutionary in those days, it was an articulated lorry with an amazing recording studio inside of it and was owned by The Rolling Stones. It was a business venture for them and they hired it for location recording.

This mobile studio was made very famous in the seventies when it went to Montreux to record Deep Purple and ‘Smoke on the Water!’ It was state of the art at the time. It parked outside Nottingham Rock City running all the recording lines inside so effectively all your equipment was double mic’d. One mic for the live sound in the hall, and one mic that ran back out to the truck for recording purposes.

Who was engineer on the recording? Chris Tsangarides who had produced both the Wildcat and Spellbound albums had come out on the road with us to do our front of house sound. However, on this special night he couldn’t be in two places at once so he did our sound check for us and set the sound up. The guy who came with the huge sound system that we took on the road with us did front of house sound mix that night.

In those days you took your show on the road with you. It wasn’t like in Academy’s these days where everything like lights and sound system are already in house, and all you need is your backline. In those days when you went into a hall it was empty. So you had to put your sound system and lighting rig in.

Consequently touring then was a lot more expensive. When you did a big tour with a big production, you almost lost money but you did it to promote your album hoping next day people would go to the record shop and buy it. That’s where you would recoup your money for the tour.

On the day of recording Chris Tsangarides set the sound up and then went into the mobile where he did the sound check again so he could set the levels and tones on the recording desk. When we were playing live Chris did what you call an ‘on the fly’ mix as well.

What was the set up as far as sound equipment and crew for the Spellbound tour? On the Spellbound tour we had two 40 foot articulated tractor pulled trailers, and a nightliner bus for the crew. We had a 16 man crew working for us. It was quite a big do as they say and in ’82 when we did The Cage tour that was an even bigger production, both productions cost a lot of money.

Of course you hope to get bums on seats to recoup a bit of that back. Support bands would pay to come out on the road with you because that’s the way it was done. That money all went towards the headline bands costs.

As far as I remember when we went out we took the Malcolm Hill rig out which was famed for AC/DC using it. I’m pretty sure it was a 35,000 watt rig, which was a lot of noise coming out the front of the system at you! Then on stage we had about 12,000 watt’s of monitors. I used to have two 1,000 watt wedges in front of me and they were on full tilt. We used to play loud, really loud (laughs).

The live recording was at Nottingham Rock City. Was that a memorable day in the Tygers history? Actually there was a prequel to this show. We were staying at The Holiday Inn in Nottingham and we were all absolutely laden with flu apart from John Sykes. We were so bad our Tour Manager called for medical advice. A doctor came out and said we shouldn’t be playing, particularly Brian our drummer because he was an asthmatic. He had an array of inhalers which he used to take in-between smoking his Embassy regals (laughs).

The doctor actually wrote us out a sick note to excuse us from playing, I don’t know who we were going to show it to! Maybe Tom our manager has still the sick note? (Laughs). But there was no way we weren’t playing, the gig was sold out and we were recording it.

After the gig did you hear the recording played back? At the end of the show John Sykes, who was as bubbly as ever, went to see Chris in the Rolling Stones recording mobile, they had a discussion and John came back and said Chris doesn’t think it’s very good. I can’t remember whether he had said we had made some mistakes, maybe not played very well, or something had gone wrong in the recording process, I honestly can’t remember. Nothing more was said and I guess the record company (MCA) who paid for the whole deal must have been gutted. Again there wasn’t an inquisition about it, it was just left.

It was all recorded on 2 inch Ampex tape and our manager Tom Noble took them away and they lived under a bed in his spare bedroom for years. It was only Chris and John who had heard anything from the tapes.  Brian, Rocky, Jon Deverill and myself hadn’t heard anything.

The life of the band moved on until 2000 when I said to Tom the Tygers manager, ‘you know those live tapes from ‘81 should we have a listen to them?’  He said, ‘yes, they’re under the bed in the spare room.’ So we asked Fred Purser who replaced John Sykes in 1982 and recorded The Cage album, then toured with the Tygers.

When Fred left the band he went into the production side of the music business. Fred now has a wonderful studio called Trinity Heights in Newcastle. He agreed to do it but we had to hire a machine to play the tapes on because they were out dated. There was nothing in the North East so we had to ring down to London and hire a 24 track Ampex tape playing machine. Fred took delivery and transferred the tapes to digital format but because of the age of them we were told we probably would only get one chance to copy them as the Ampex tape could disintegrate! Luckily we did it.

What did the recording sound like? Fantastic, Tom and I couldn’t understand why the tapes hadn’t been used? The only thing that was wrong was because of time, the first four tracks on my guitar had ‘fallen off’ the tape. So I sourced the same pick up I had on my Gibson Explorer at the time, put it on a suitable guitar and went in the studio and recorded my guitar part’s again for the first four tracks.

That is the only thing that has ever been touched so this is a complete live album with no overdubs, unlike a lot of live albums back in the day!

It has now come out years later that on some live albums back then maybe only a snare drum was live and the band went back into the studio to record most of it again– a bit naughty, but I understand band’s want their best work recorded. But if you can’t play live should you really be in the business? I’m very proud that ours IS live.

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Robb and Soren Anderson.

Why the re-release now? Well Fred mixed it and it came out in 2000 on general release. Three years ago when we signed with Target Records the C.E.O Michael Anderson, asked whether we would be interested in putting out a remixed version by Soren Anderson, who mixed our current album. So it’s been on the back burner for a while. It just so happened the timing was perfect because Soren started a mix on the album and two weeks later he appeared in Newcastle playing with former Deep Purple bass player, Glenn Hughes.

I went to see them at the Academy here in Newcastle and met Soren, he said he had a day off the next day in Newcastle. Michael McCrystal (Tygers guitarist) managed to get us some studio time at Blast Studios, through his academy of music connections. This is where we recorded all the backing tracks for our current album.

So we went into Blast, he put the album up and listened to some of the mixes that Soren had done and I suggested some things. All that’s happened is the tones of the instruments have been sharpened up, levels have been changed, we found backing vocals which were too low in the original mix, it’s come out really well, it’s a huge sounding live album now to be fair.

The record company are bringing it out on various formats, CD, vinyl and a box set including a signed tour poster and a ticket to Nordic Noise Festival next year in Copenhagen. It’s a great package. There’s also a tour pass from 1981.

‘Hellbound – Spellbound 81’ is available 21st  December 2018 via the official Target Records website and in the shops 25th January 2019.

Interview by Gary Alikivi December 2018.

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ROKSNAPS #5

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Lemmy, Motorhead 1979.

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as a souvenir – and some people took photographs on the night.

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Thin Lizzy, 1980.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Paul White…

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‘The pics I’ve managed to dig out here are scanned from my original prints as the negatives went walkabout many moons ago. Here’s what you’ve got. Whitesnake – Trouble and the Lovehunter tour. Thin Lizzy – Black Rose tour, Motorhead – Overkill and Bomber tour (I think). Enjoy.’

‘I went to my first gig in 1975. Status Quo’s On The Level tour. What a night. Back then when a band like that played, the first few rows of seats would be ripped up immediately the band came on. Along with Glasgow Apollo the City Hall and Mayfair were the best gigs in the country for touring bands.

If there was a band like AC/DC on at the Mayfair you could be lifted off your feet by the crowd and pushed from side to side. You certainly had to know how to use your elbows. The exhilaration when the lights suddenly went down and a massive cheer would go up. Nothing like it.

At some point I realised we had an old Minolta SLR lying round the house that nobody was using. With only a rudimentary understanding of how to use it, I bought some film and took it to a gig. The Scorpions first Newcastle gig I think it was. I remember, because the gig tickets were white and loads of people had photocopied a mates and applied a perf with a needle, including me. The staff on the doors never had time to properly check tickets back then, it was easy peasy. That happened more than once I have to say.

The photos were crap though. I had no flash and was wary of the staff taking the camera. Worse, I was on the balcony and didnt have a great view. No idea what happened to those shots. Just as well. I was more lucky from then on’. 

‘Next time it was the Whitesnake first tour to promote Trouble which had just been released. Better seats meant better pics. A few times I queued overnight for tickets and got great seats. One time in a blizzard for Rush’s Hemispheres tour. The weather was so bad it made the local TV news. I just remember waking up under a foot of snow.

Queuing overnight wasn’t always a good idea though. One time me and a mate got the last bus from Blyth to Newcastle to queue for Rainbow tickets only to find a sign on the doors saying ‘Rainbow tickets will not be on sale’. Unfortunately the last bus home had gone and we couldn’t afford a taxi. We kipped in a doorway of the Civic Centre and got the first bus in the morning. Wouldn’t swap those days for anything though. Happy days indeed.

The list of great bands we saw is hard to believe these days. Tell some young kid that you saw AC/DC or UFO at the Mayfair and their mouths drop open. We were blessed for sure’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

Steve Thompson (Songwriter & NEAT records producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

Roksnaps #4  4th April 2018.

1980 The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside 11th February 2018.

GUARDIAN RECORDING STUDIO #1 Tygers of Pan Tang

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Gaurdian Sound Studios were based in a small village called Pity Me in County Durham, North East UK. There are various theories on the origin of the unusual name of the village – a desolate area, exposed and difficult to cultivate or a place where monks sang ‘Pity me o God’ as they were chased by the Vikings.

Whatever’s behind the name, it was what happened in two terraced houses over 30 years ago that is the focus of this blog.

From 1978 some of the bands who recorded in Guardian were: Neon, Deep Freeze and Mike Mason & the Little People. A year later The Pirahna Brothers recorded a 7” and there was also an EP released by Mythra. 1980 saw E.P’s from Hollow Ground, Hellanbach and a compilation album, Roksnax.

From 1982-85 bands including Red Alert, Toy Dolls, Prefab Sprout, Satan, Battleaxe and Spartan Warrior had made singles or albums. I caught up with a number of musicians who have memories of recording in Guardian… 

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TYGERS OF PAN TANG – Demo’s & B sides.

ROBB WEIR: ‘When we arrived at the address for the studio I thought we had got it totally wrong! It was a small street full of pit colliery houses. Nothing wrong in that of course, just we couldn’t see a recording studio anywhere. We pulled up to number 32 or what ever the house number was and knocked on the door expecting to be told we were in the wrong area. The door opened and a young man with a ‘bush’ on his head greeted us. “Hi, I’m Terry Gavaghan, welcome to Guardian!

As we walked in his front room it had been converted into a make shift studio with sound proofing on the walls. Terry had also knocked a huge hole in the wall dividing the lounge (studio) to the dining room which was now the control room and fitted a large plate glass window. I remember asking him where he lived, “upstairs,” he said as if I should have known.

Anyway we recorded the entire Spellbound album there as a demo for MCA our record company and Chris Tsangarides our record producer. We also recorded the “Audition Tapes” there, John Sykes and Jon Deverill’s first Tygers recordings. Which was to be a free 7 inch single to be packaged with Hellbound when it was released.

I think we were there for a few days recording and during one of the sessions I was in the studio by myself laying down a solo. When I had finished I put my guitar on it’s stand and as I made my way into the control room my foot caught the stand that John’s guitar was on and I knocked his Gibson SG on the floor!

He was watching through the control room window and ran into the studio going ape! I of course apologised but he couldn’t forget it. In the end I told him to shut the f**k up as no damage had been done and if he didn’t some damage WOULD be done!

What did come out of Guardian were some fantastic recordings. Terry did us proud I have to say. His studio and his warmth were fantastic! The moral of the story is, “Don’t judge a recording studio by it’s colliery house appearance!”

RICHARD LAWS ‘Tygers of Pan Tang recorded at Guardian twice. Although we were usually associated with Impulse Studios (home of Neat Records). We had sort of fallen out with Impulse and Neat so we recorded the demos for our second album Spellbound at Guardian.

We recorded about 5 tracks I think. These demos were later released on various compilations. The demos for Spellbound were the first time we recorded with Jon Deveril and John Sykes in the band.

Later we recorded two B sides for singles off our fourth album, The Cage. Whilst we were there doing the B sides our record company came up and did a play through of the fully mixed album which was the first time we had heard the finished product’. 

More stories from Guardian coming soon. A quick search of 26-28 Front Street on google maps reveals a well known supermarket where the two terraced houses were. This needs to be confirmed if it is the exact location. I wonder if customers buying  tins of beans and bananas know the rich musical history that Guardian Studios contributed to recording in the North East. The Tap & Spile is just next door, the pub where many of the bands went for refreshment. If anyone has information or recorded in Guardian studios, much appreciated if  you get in touch.

Interviews by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

Steve Thompson (NEAT Producer) Godfather of NWOBHM, 27th June 2017.

Richard Laws TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Tyger Bay 24th August 2017.

Robb Weir TYGERS OF PAN TANG: Doctor Rock  2017

1980: The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside, 11th February 2018.

ROKSNAX: Metal on the Menu, 9th March 2018.

ROKSNAPS #4

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souvenirs – and some people took photographs on the night.

Here are more Roksnaps from John Edward Spence pictured above with Janick Gers in 1982.

‘The first gig I went to I was 15. It was on the 31st of October 1977 at the Newcastle City Hall and the band was Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The support band were called Kingfish. Rainbow came on really late and we missed our last bus home so one of friends had to phone his dad for a lift’.

‘Around October ’78 I decided to take my camera to a few gigs. I had a job so I bought a roll of film and some flashcubes, my camera was a Kodak 126. I couldn’t take it to every gig as the film and flashcubes used to make a dent in my pay packet’.

‘I used to go to loads of gigs at the City Hall and the Mayfair of course, that was my favourite venue. I was also lucky enough to see the bands associated with the NWOBHM, just loved the music around then’.

‘I don’t go to many gigs now. I always try and watch The Tubes when they come over, in fact the last gig I went to was to see The Tubes supporting Alice Cooper at Leeds, great gig’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

Recommended:

When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator 6th May 2017.

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

Roksnaps #1 18th February 2018.

Roksnaps #2 22nd February 2018.

Roksnaps #3 27th February 2018.

1980 The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside 11th February 2018.

ROKSNAPS #3

Roksnaps #3 are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of Mecca in Sunderland, The Mayfair and City Hall in Newcastle.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from different towns around the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.
One fan who kept his photo’s and kindly shared them on this blog is Ian Coult.

’The first gig I went to was Whitesnake at the Newcastle City Hall around ’82. The camera I had used at the hotels for both WASP and Twisted Sister was a Halina 110 as far as I recall. I went up to the gig early evening and met up with a few school mates’.

‘WASP played the Newcastle Mayfair around 1984. The photo’s of Twisted Sister on stage were taken in The Mecca in Sunderland or as it is known locally, Genevieves. They had just played on Channel 4 live music programme The Tube’.

‘Nowadays I go to gigs whenever I can. My last one was in 2017 at Bellast Limelight where I saw Opeth on their Pale Communion Tour’.

Interview by Gary Alikivi 2018.

Ian meeting Dee Snider, Twisted Sister, Newcastle 1983.

ROKSNAPS #1

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Scorpions at Newcastle City Hall 13th May 1980.

Roksnaps are fan photographs which captured the atmosphere of concerts on Tyneside during the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a time when rock and metal bands ruled the city halls up and down the country. On Tyneside we had the main venues of The Mecca in Sunderland and over in Newcastle were The Mayfair and City Hall.

The gigs were packed with tribes of mostly young lads from towns across the North East. T-shirts, programmes and autographs were hunted down to collect as souveniers – and some people took photographs on the night.

One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on this blog was Tony Maddison…
‘I started going to gigs in 1978. My very first was Rush at Newcastle City Hall on February 15th 1978. As a 16 year old and still at school, I was musically influenced by older lads. A few of my contemporaries had been to gigs with their older brothers, and I’d heard exciting tales of noise and crowds of headbangers going wild. Should I fear for my life? Should I say a final goodbye to my family?’

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Scorpions at Newcastle City Hall 13th May 1980.

‘Walking into the City Hall that night was a sight to behold. Everyone looked like me! Denim jackets covered in patches – everywhere. GET IN! I can’t remember much about the actual performance, but I know it caused an addiction to live music that I can’t get enough of after almost 40 years’. (Below pics of Danceclass supporting Judie Tzuke at Newcastle City Hall 30th April 1982).

‘Fast forward a couple of years and during the 80’s I was a regular gig-goer. Going to see bands 3,4 or 5 times a week, EVERY week. I was also becoming interested in photography after devouring each page of music weekly Sounds and NME. I bought myself a 35mm SLR camera. I soon started taking it to gigs and experimented taking pics of whatever band I was seeing, with varying results. The better ones you see here but invariably they returned blurry’.

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Girlschool at Newcastle City Hall 4th May 1982.

‘My photographic enthusiasm soon faded when I had to sell my collection of camera equipment at the outbreak of the Miners’ Strike in 1984. But more recently with the vast improvements in smartphone cameras, I find myself taking just a couple of photos as a keepsake. Just recently I got reminded that it was a year since I’d seen The Pixies at Newcastle Academy. The lighting was on the dark side, and it was a lively crowd..well, thats my excuse for a dodgy picture!’

More Roksnaps coming soon from contributors Ian Coult and John Spence.
Gary Alikiv 2018.

Recommended:

Pyromaniax – Bombs, Flashes & Burnt Eyebrows, 12th December 2017.

New Gang in Town – When Heavy Metal Hit the Accelerator, 6th May 2017.

Have You Heard This One ? 18th December 2017.

1980 – The Year Metal was Forged on Tyneside,  11th February 2018.