DOCTOR ROCK – in conversation with Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist, Robb Weir

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How did you get involved in music and who were your influences ?

‘I was born in Ghana. My dad was working for the British Colonial Service out in West Africa as a doctor/surgeon specialising in tropical medicine. His transport in those days was a horse, and with two saddle bags full of medical supplies. Dad travelled from village to village coming across things like black magic and cannibalism. In 1959 my mum wanted to return home to the UK and in particular the North East of England.

When we came home Dad worked as a medical officer of health and later went into general practice in South Shields. To get to work my father had to get the ferry across the river Tyne from North Shields to South Shields. One day he came home with a nylon strung Spanish guitar. He bought it from a junk shop I think. Dad was very musical and had trained in classical piano. To be honest he could pretty much play anything. He thought it might be fun for me to try and learn how to play.

In our house there were records by Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles and the Stones and I used to play along with them. I didn’t have any music lessons I basically taught myself how to play, I’m still learning one day I’ll get the hang of it!’

‘I started listening to Slade, Status Quo, Black Sabbath and then around 1974 I started going to the Newcastle City Hall and Mayfair to see every band you can think of. I became great friends with the manager of the Mayfair, Steven Lister who worked for the Mecca Association. I’d ring him up and ask who was playing and he’d leave my name on the guest list. I think it was after the first time Tygers of Pan Tang played there in ’79 that we became friends’.

The Tygers of Pan Tang formed in Whitley Bay in 1978 and by the early 80’s they had a lot of success. Can you pinpoint the time when the Tygers career took off ? ‘In 1979 we went into Impulse Recording studios in Wallsend and recorded, ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’ It had a release number 003 so we were in at the beginning of the Neat Record label story. We were the first heavy metal band to be recorded in the studio. So I’m very proud of the Tygers launching the label and giving the Neat label a direction. Impulse studios took a chance and pressed 1,000 copies, that was a lot for a small independent label.

Our drummer’s girlfriend used to sell the single for us on the door of the venues we played like the Boilermakers in Sunderland, the Central club in Ashington and other workingmen’s clubs in the North East of England. That’s the gigs we used to play in the early days before the big time arrived. At that time workingmen’s clubs were full of men from the shipyards and mines. Most had long hair, jeans, tattoos and listened to rock music.

All around the country the rock scene on a Friday night was huge and all the shows were packed. To see a band you had to get your arse out of the house, go to the bus stop in the pouring rain and get to the club. You couldn’t see a concert on the internet in those days! We were definitely in the right place at the right time’.

‘Don’t Touch Me There’ was reviewed in Sounds newspaper which made a massive difference to awareness so the next pressing was 4,000 copies! Then Dave Woods the label owner at Neat records was approached by MCA record company, they wanted us! So Dave did a deal, essentially selling the Tygers to them. MCA pressed around 50,000 copies of the single! But our success still hadn’t really sunk in. We were caught up in the moment I guess, you’re just in a giant musical blender getting whizzed around with all the other acts.

One of my more defining moments was when the album Wildcat came out. I got my first physical copy of it in my hand and showed my parents. They said yes that’s great but it would be nice if you got a proper job! I guess they just wanted the best for their son.’

Were you aware of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ? ‘Only when I read about it in Sounds! It was a 3 or 4 page spread by Geoff Barton. He had started writing about the music – he coined the phrase NWOBHM. Geoff wrote about 4 bands initially – Iron Maiden from London, Def Leppard from Sheffield, Saxon from Barnsley and the Tygers from Whitley Bay. Reading it I thought, so we’re NWOBHM eh (laughs).

Listening back to Wildcat I didn’t realise how much punk had jumped into my head song writing wise. Well a rock voice on any song from Never Mind the Bollocks album would have turned that iconic punk album into a hard rock album. Steve Jones with his Les Paul and Marshall stack – had a great hard rock sound’.

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The Tygers were originally a 4 piece then changed to a 5 with the addition of guitarist John Sykes… ‘We recorded Wildcat in Morgan Studio’s in Wilsden, North London with Chris Tsangarides producing. We had just finished 11 days recording the album – which was very quick. We’d been playing those songs on Wildcat for two years on the road so we knew them inside out and for the recording process.

Chris put forward a few production ideas. For example, I played a guitar solo through a Lesley cabinet which is normally associated with keyboard players. The top of the cabinet has horns inside and they spin when activated. So Chris had this idea of playing the guitar through it to see what it would sound like. He was quite inventive and it worked really well. I think we recorded the harmonic bit in Slave to Freedom that way and something else I can’t quite remember’.

‘1980 was a really busy year for us, we completed several tours supporting established bands. The Tygers went out with Magnum for 3 weeks in the March, they were promoting their new live album Marauder which Chris had just produced. We then went out with the Scorpions on their Lovedrive tour, then we did the On Through the Night, tour with Def Leppard. There was 3 weeks with Saxon on the Wheels of Steel tour and we did shows with Iron Maiden and Whitesnake as well’.

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‘Apart from Magnum, all the bands we opened up for where 2 guitar bands. When I played a guitar solo there was no rhythm behind it so the sound would drop. It was felt that to give the band a bigger, fuller sound we needed to add another guitar player. So our management and I.T.B (International Talent Booking) our agent down in Wardour Street, London said we think it would be better if the band added an additional guitar player. So after Wildcat was recorded we advertised and held auditions at Tower Bridge rehearsal studios, London.

About 80 guitar players were invited down. There were 2 that stood head and shoulders above the rest and that was John Sykes and Steve Mann, who had just come out of a band called Liar. Steve went on to play with MSG and Lionheart who have just reformed. Steve now lives in Germany where he is a record producer. Steve played guitar and saxophone – John just played one hell of a guitar as you know.

John had everything, he was six foot tall, long blonde hair, stunningly good looking, incredible guitar player, great singer, good songwriter, although he never knew it at the time as he was just starting out – and the girls loved him, they fell at his feet. He was so much better at playing the guitar than me I thought to myself, I’d better up my game here.’

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Was John in a band previously ? ‘He was in a covers band in Blackpool called Streetfighter, and they were fronted by bass player Merv Goldsworthy who is now in FM. Merv and I remain good friends both the Tygers and FM were on the Cambridge Rock festival bill earlier this year. Streetfighter were famed for their exceptional Thin Lizzy covers’.
(Streetfighter appear on a 1980 heavy metal compilation album New Electric Warriors).

‘John was at my house one day and I was showing him the root chords from the songs on Wildcat and he said in a cockney accent ‘Ere Robb I’m fackin’ sick of this I’ve got this fackin’ idea what do you think of this’. He played me some chords, I said ‘I really like that I’ve got something that will go with that’.

He replied ‘Fackin’ hell we got a song there, let’s go for that’. So we spent the rest of the day forgetting the set we were learning for the upcoming Wildcat tour and wrote Take It, which we recorded for the Spellbound album, unfortunately is the only song we wrote together’.

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Sykes went on to co-write and record two albums with the Tygers. ‘Spellbound’ was his first along with new vocalist Jon Deveril who had replaced Jess Cox. How did Jon Deveril get the job with the Tygers ? ‘John Sykes first gig was Reading festival, 1980 with Whitesnake headlining, there was 42,000 people there! What happened was we had done the Wildcat tour, it was a sell out across the UK – Mayfair’s and Locarno’s and places like that, they all had a capacity of 2,000 people. There was a big buzz in the music press about us, we were getting full page adverts in Sounds, NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. It was all going well, really well.
But there was a meeting with our management and Rod MacSween our agent who said ‘With the singer you have at the moment we can’t really further the career of the band outside the UK’.

So our management took the decision to change the line up even though Wildcat had been so successful. We took this forward and advertised for a singer.

We knew we were in a good position to get a great response because in the national charts Wildcat entered at number 13 and around us were the likes of Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. All those multi platinum artists and here’s the little ‘ol Tygers of Pan Tang from Whitley Bay hanging in there. We were hoping it would do well but never expected it to do that well – it was fantastic.’

‘We had a huge response for a new vocalist with well over 130 singers turning up. But again there was one who was head and shoulders above everyone else, and that was Jon Deverill. A lad from the Welsh Valleys with a huge voice, he walked into the job really. So he moved up from Cardiff, his home city to the North East. Our management got him a place to live with John Sykes and we immediately started writing songs for Spellbound. So the Tygers story rolled on’.

‘We were living down in London and the Angelic Upstarts were down there at the same time. We were signed to MCA records and they were signed to EMI. I remember Mensi their singer sold second hand jags to supplement his income. The drummer Decca would also make a few quid.

When the likes of Praying Mantis or Iron Maiden were playing at the Marquee club he’d appear wearing one of those big long trench coats. He would walk around the punters and open up his coat like Arthur Daley and inside were all the latest EMI album releases. He’d sell them out of his coat ha-ha! Obviously he had acquired them, ‘somehow’ from the EMI offices. It was hilarious to watch – and he always made a few quid.

They were lovely lads you know, I’ve always liked them.’

1981 was a very busy time for the band. They were still contracted to MCA and that year saw the Tygers release two albums. ‘Spellbound’ recorded in Morgan Studio’s in London produced by Chris Tsangarides and released in April. The Tygers third album ‘Crazy Nights’ was recorded at Trident Studios in London and produced by Dennis MacKay. It was released late 1981.

The more successful and commercial sounding album ‘The Cage’ was recorded in 1982. Extra songwriters were used resulting in a couple of singles that charted in the UK. But there was another line up change. Fred Purser, formerly of fellow North Eastern band Penetration, was in on lead guitar…
‘John got the Lizzy gig because he wanted to push his career further forward. Unbeknown to us he auditioned for Ozzy first but didn’t get that job. When he got back to the North East the news didn’t go down well with the rest of the band so we got another guitarist in.

From what I gather John’s stepfather, Ron contacted MCA and told them they shouldn’t drop John as he had great potential, which they agreed. So they set him up in a recording studio in Dublin to record a single. In the studio next door was Thin Lizzy. Inevitably John met up and Lizzy and asked Phil if he would sing on, Don’t Leave Me This Way, John’s first single.

Lizzy had just lost their guitarist Snowy White and there it was, the opening for John to join. We’ve remained friends after everything that has happened. I’ll always have a soft spot for John’.

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By January ’83 Thin Lizzy appeared on live music TV show, The Tube. A show where I was lucky to be in the audience. Interviews on the Tube had a look of almost falling apart and not quite knowing what was going to happen next – but that was its appeal. Thin Lizzy were interviewed in the dressing room before they went on stage.

Interviewer:Now perhaps the topic on everybody’s mind the Thin Lizzy split, tell me about it”.
Lynott:Yes we’re splitting up
Interviewer:Why”
Lynott: “Cos we want to”
Interviewer: “Why not just split when Snowy left as opposed to getting John in and starting all over again for just for a couple of months ?”
Lynott: “Cos we felt that John was better and we thought that we would give it a go with John, establish him as a protégé, and then let him go on and do great things.”
Interviewer: “Well how do John and Darren feel about this, it’s their claim to fame. “
Lynott: “No it’s not”.

The full interview is available on you tube. Sykes went on to massive worldwide success with Whitesnake, then as a solo artist.

The Tygers also played the iconic TV show The Tube, what are your memories of that day ? ‘Yes it was Christmas ’82. I remember our crew had just loaded our full touring backline of 18 Marshall 4×12’s, stacked three high in cages and fourteen 100 watt Marshall heads onto the stage in Tyne Tees TV studio.

We were in our dressing room and in the distance heard our track Gangland playing, what’s going on here we thought it was getting louder and louder. Then all of a sudden our dressing room door burst open and standing in the doorway was this huge, blonde, stripped to the waist, head banging monster. We were all shocked. He had a big cassette player on his shoulder playing at full volume…’You guy’s fuckin’ rock I love you guy’s’. He turned around and walked back out. We looked at each other…

Wasn’t that Dee Snider of Twisted Sister?’ I’ll never forget that. We talked with them afterwards and they were fantastic, really brilliant. I got what they were all about, the dressing up and make up. Dee was really clever writing those songs, you know the big shouty anthems.’

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In 1982 Love Potion No. 9 was a hit in the UK charts, did you record many TV appearances for the promotion of the single ?
’We were at Newcastle Central Station two weeks running with our tickets in our hands ready to go down to do Top of the Pops, but both times we were told we are not being included in the show. One show they said they had the full quota of metal bands, i.e. one! To fill the time and the other show was cut ten minutes short because of a Queens speech – and our spot was in those ten minutes.

But we did appear on TV quite a few times, I remember the Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, we did a programme called Something Else on BBC2, there was Tony Wilsons Pop World and we did Friday Night Live on Tyne Tees television. There were more I’m sure.’

You formed a band called Sergeant, how did that come about ? ‘Tygers came to an end for me around late ’83, I was still writing songs, I had a little recording studio to put them together. I had over an album worth of songs. At this time I was still working with Brian Dick the drummer from the Tygers, he left the band at the same time as me. We recruited a singer and bass player, and named the band Sergeant.

We recorded a 4 track demo at Lynx studio in Newcastle, which was owned at the time by Brian Johnson from AC/DC. The manager of Sergeant, Colin Rowell and I, went down to London and hawked the demo around all the record companies. Colin had a lot of contacts in the music business. He was working as the stage manager for The Tube music programme on Channel 4 at the time.

There was interest from a guy called Dave Novak head of A&R at CBS records. He came up to see us rehearsing in a hall near Jesmond, Newcastle. He liked us and said why not come down to London play a show with Mama’s Boys at the Marquee and I’ll bring Muff Winwood along, the CEO of CBS. We’ll do the deal in the dressing room. The initial advance was going to be £60,000.’

‘With this good news we set up a meeting at the Egypt Cottage pub in Newcastle with the other lads. They said great but, ‘We’ve decided we don’t want Robb in the band anymore’. I never got to the bottom of why they didn’t want me in my own band! I left the pub and Colin walked out with me telling them that ‘The record contract is walking out the door as well’. They were shocked and didn’t expect that, they thought Colin would just carry on as there manager.

They apparently replaced me with a guitar player plus a keyboard player! Nice to know it took two to replace little old me! But they only lasted 4 or 5 shows. They supported Accept in the UK, and then disbanded’.

‘Not long after that I got a call from Jess Cox. We met up and eventually ended up recording a song of mine called ‘Small Town Flirt’ which Jess released through the Neat record label as he was working with Dave Woods the label owner at the time. He also re-released a whole load of other Tygers early demo material. But I wasn’t happy at all with the situation and I just got sick of it all so that’s when I ducked out of the music industry. Until, out of the blue, I got a call in 1999 which resulted in the Tygers, well I say Tygers !

Jess told me he had called all the previous members and asked them if they could take part in the reformation. Apparently only Jess and I could do it as everyone else had commitments they couldn’t get out of. This is what I was told.

So we hired 3 fantastic musicians, Gav Gray, Glenn Howes and Chris Percy who were in Blitzkrieg at the time I think, and asked if they could help out. We actually were the Friday night headliners at the Wacken Festival in Germany. Saxon and Dokken were on before us for goodness sake!

We played in front of 22,000 people that night. I got so badly bitten again by the rock’n’roll bug I knew I just had to put the Tygers back together again somehow.’

Fast forward and the album Ambush was released in 2012 and then in 2016 a self titled album…’That went into the British charts at number 24, the Danish charts were the record company is based, at 13. The album has done really well. In 2013, Dean who was our longstanding guitarist from 2000, a good friend and a great player decided he wanted to do other musical things and left so we auditioned and now we’ve got Mickey McCrystal on guitar who is a great guitar player, six foot tall, he’s got the looks and an amazing career in front of him – in the spirit of John Sykes!

Tygers are run as a family, and just like a family we all look out for each other and we get on really well. When on tour we’ve got a reputation amongst hotel managers of being a nice set of lads, we don’t tear the place up – anymore, the hotel managers tell us we can book with them again and again. Gone are the days when we would set off fire extinguishers on hotel landings and super glue TV’s in the bath!’

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What is the feeling in the Tygers camp now compared to 1980’s ? ‘Tom Noble is back managing us, he first managed the band from 1978-82. He saw us play about three years ago in Rome, we had a drink after the show and we said we were putting a new album together. He asked if we wanted any help. Perfect timing if you ask me. So it came at a good time for both of us life is SO much easier with Tom.

It’s much better now, back then you were constantly chasing fame and glory, the autographs, photographs, interviews were all great but having to prove yourself all the time, the competition and ego’s – you couldn’t get away from it. Thing is, you wanted to be recognised, people buying your records meant you were doing well and you were alive. It was a double edged sword really.

However today is a totally different story, we are very pleased that people still choose to come and see the Tygers. Meet and greet is a massive part of our night and we look forward to it, say hi to the fans, sign a few things and talk to people. The pressure and ego’s are gone it’s so much more relaxed and enjoyable.’

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What does music mean to you ? ‘I’ve loved every second of my musical career, the whole ride has been like being sitting at the front of a giant roller coaster, hands up, screaming with delight! Music is a way of life, it’s a wonderful thing, and it can be your best friend. You can turn to music at any time of your life and it can be a great comforter. I absolutely love it.’

Tygers of Pan Tang are on a UK tour during November 2017. For further info and tour dates contact the official website http://www.tygersofpantang.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2017.

Recommended:

Brian Ross SATAN/BLITZKREIG: Life Sentence, 20th February 2017.

Lou Taylor SATAN/BLIND FURY: Rock the Knight, 26th February & 5th March 2017.

Micky McCrystal, Cat Scratch Fever, March 17th 2017.

Steve Dawson SARACEN/THE ANIMALS: Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.

Martin Metcalfe HOLLOW GROUND: Hungry for Rock, 18th June 2017.

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

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

Dave Allison ANVIL: Still Hungry, 12th November 2017.

INCREASE THE PRESSURE – with Salem’s Paul Macnamara and Simon Saxby

This year UK metal band Salem completed dates at Brofest in Newcastle, Metarock in Barcelona and Wedfest in Hertford. They have also been working on new album ‘Attrittion’ with release date early 2018 on Dissonance Productions.

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The Hull based group have lined up 4 gig’s starting September 30th in Bury at the Grimm Up North Festival. On the bill are Spartan Warrior, Weapon UK and a host of metal bands coming together to help one of their own. Steve Grimmet vocalist with Grim Reaper tragically lost his leg while on tour in South America. It left him and his family with massive medical bills. With a lot to sort out, Salem guitarist Paul Macnamara (pic. below on left) and frontman Simon Saxby told me about their plans.

Paul: ‘We played at British Steel in France 2015 and we’re really looking forward to do that again. Blast From The Past is new to us though we have gigged in Belgium several times already. And then Grimm Up North, well that’s something else quite special’.
Simon: ‘Preparing for gigs these days takes less time than it ever did when we were young and keen. I think because we’re old and keen to get out of going shopping…again. We tend to rehearse at home, and have a full band rehearsal nearer the gig just to make sure. Paul Mac does most of the travel arrangements and thankfully, so far nobody has forgotten passports. However we are guilty of forgetting that it takes longer to remember whether you have got everything you need before you set off. Maybe that’s an age thing’.
Paul: ‘I do remember one time when arrived to pick up Simon at 6am in the way to a gig in Europe. He was asleep and didn’t hear his phone – so we resorted to throwing stones at the window of his third flat apartment!

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On 7th October they go to France for the British Steel Festival playing on a bill with Tytan, Satan’s Empire and headliners Oliver/Dawson Saxon. How do the band write the set list, decide what songs are in/out and is tempo important to the set order ?
Simon: ‘The set list is obviously governed by the time allotted, however, as we have continued writing and recording new material the choice of what to leave out gets more challenging. The first song is always one with impact and power and thankfully we have a few to choose from. The last song is usually a song like Forgotten Dreams. The pace of the set fluctuates between those two’.
Paul: ‘We try to select a good blend of old and new, some from the 1980’s and increasingly more from the recent albums. We are always excited to include our newest material, so we may start incorporating songs from our forthcoming Attrition album soon – maybe!

During December the band have two more festival gigs to wrap up the year. On the 2nd they are at the HRH NWOBHM in Sheffield with Avenger, Diamond Head and headliners Raven. What kind of ages are in the audience and do you see familiar faces ?
Simon: ‘With the popularity of rock music and the organisers of gigs being family people, we find a mixture of all ages. There is an honesty and warmth amongst the metal community that is ageless and the audience always reflects that’.
Paul: ‘And we do see more and more people at our gigs who have become our friends over the years. It’s great to see them there – singing along to all our songs.  We really appreciate their support’.

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Finally they travel onto Belgium for Blast from the Past festival playing alongside The Deep, Tysondog and headliners Diamond Head. Is there any difference from coming off stage now to when Salem played their first gigs ?
Simon: ‘Yes it’s more tiring but many times more rewarding. We actually take time to enjoy every second on stage and enjoy a cold beer, a chat with people afterwards. Then a good night’s sleep before setting off again’.
Paul: ‘Definitely. For a start, we are playing bigger events than in the 80’s so there are a lot more people keen to talk with us at the merch table – which is great – and the dressing rooms are better, rather than having to change in the toilets! I’m sure we work harder to put on a show which as Simon says is tiring – and it’s so good to engage with the audience. It is such a brilliant feeling to see so many people enjoying themselves who know our music and are singing along with us’.

For more info on gig’s, album releases, merchandise and listen to some of the tracks contact the band at the official website salemband.co.uk

Interview by Gary Alikivi August 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, April 6th 2017. 

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: On the Hoof, 21st August 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast & The Fury, 24th October 2017.

ALL FIRED UP – with Danny Hynes frontman with Weapon UK.

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Danny Hynes vocalist with NWOBHM band Weapon loves to tell stories, he mixes a pint of honesty with a large slice of humour… ‘Now we liked having a few explosions going off during our set you know, flashes, smoke bombs the whole lot. Well we just got on stage in Newquay, first few bars of our opener and a pyro went off between my legs…I almost became Danielle haha’.

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‘I’m sure you are well aware that Metallica were big fans of all things NWOBHM and in the early days they used to open their show with the Weapon song Set The Stage Alight. So when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and record company Vertigo were putting together the compilation album New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited, he insisted that Set The Stage Alight went on the album. Nobody from Vertigo called the band but they did contact Virgin Publishing who owned the rights to the song. They in turn asked our permission which, of course, we gave.’

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‘We are delighted it made it onto the LP. We are very, very proud of the song, written by guitarist Jeff Summers, and we think it’s stood the test of time. As I said Metallica used to open their show with the track so it was very influential to them. So much so that they ‘borrowed’ the beginning of it for their song Hit The Lights. In the very near future we have some really exciting plans for that track’.

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Who were your influences in music and was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Probably the first time I saw The Small Faces on TV. I became a huge fan of Steve Marriott who I thankfully got to meet a few years before his untimely death. Influences ? It’s got to be The Small Faces, Free, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Tom Jones to name just a few!’

When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘After my move from Dublin in the 70’s I lived in Birmingham for 5 years where I began my musical career playing lots of social and working men’s clubs in and around The Midlands. Also played local rock venues like The Railway and Bogarts in Birmingham.
Then I moved to London with my mate Baz Downes, and we formed Snatch. Other members of that band included guitarist Bob Angelo and the late Daryl Read on drums. Bob had also played with Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis. Snatch played all the usual London rock joints but folded after about a year as we just couldn’t get a record deal.
Then in March 1980 I put an advert in Melody Maker magazine and through that met guitarist and vocalist Jeff Summers. We formed Weapon, signed to Virgin Publishing and supported Motorhead on their 32 date ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ tour. Culminating with 4 sell out shows at Hammersmith Odeon. We were on our way.’

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What were your experiences of recording ? ‘I can’t remember the name of the studios where we recorded the first Weapon demos but once Virgin showed interest they gave us time in their demo studio which was on board The Barge in Maida Vale, London. We then signed a 5 year publishing deal with them and recorded more tracks at The Manor Studios in Oxford which was Richard Branson’s country home.

We also recorded at The Townhouse Studios in Shepherds Bush, London. Everything was looking up, it was all looking good, but as happens with a lot of bands it took a bad turn through lack of record company support. It all came to a head and ended with Weapon calling it a day in 1982′.

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Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ?‘There is lots of funny and not so funny stories here’s a couple for you! We were at Edinburgh Odeon on the Motorhead tour and had just finished our sound check. Jeff and Baz went to the side of the stage to tune their guitars when the cables on one side of The Bomber snapped sending it crashing through the flight case that the tuners were mounted on. An inch or two closer and we would have lost two members of the band!

Once we were playing a gig in Stoke and the stage was very low, I walked towards it through the dry ice, tripped and went head first into the drum kit… Happy daze!’

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Have you any plans for Weapon in the future? ‘Weapon UK, as we are now known for legal reasons, are still very much involved in the music business. During the past few years we have played shows in the UK and all around Europe and another tour is planned for September this year. We are also on the bill at the two day ‘Grim Up North’ festival in Bury.

On the recording side we have a new single coming out soon and very shortly we will start work on the new album at Scream Studios in London. Yeah the future is looking bright and busy for Weapon UK !’

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The full line up for WEAPON UK is
Danny Hynes (Vocals) – Original member 1980
Jeff Summers (Guitar/Vocals) – Original member 1980
Darren Lee (Drums) Joined in January 2015
Tony Forsythe (Bass/Vocals) Joined – January 2017

All the information on tour dates, record releases and back catalogue is available through the official website http://www.weapon-uk.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2017.

Recommended:

SALEM: To Hull and Back, 6th April 2017.

CLOVEN HOOF: Shine On, 20th April 2017.

SAVAGE: The Mansfield Four, 8th May 2017.

TYTAN: Back in the Ring, 25th May 2017.

TOKYO BLADE: Under the Blade, 26th May 2017.

SATAN’S EMPIRE: The Devil Rides Out, 4th October 2017.

JAGUAR: The Fast and The Fury, 24th October 2017.

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’.

SAOPOALO

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.