For those who are not too familiar with Portugal there is much more than sandy beaches & football. Some of Europe’s major Music festivals are also held here annually. One that has taken place for almost a quarter of a Century is the Hard Metal Fest (HMF). It is a non-stop marathon of 12 hours of metal & very hard rock.
As the night cooled the music got hotter. One outstanding band that turned up the heat was the British band, Tygers of Pan Tang. They started out in 1978 and inevitably went thru several line-ups. The only remaining Member is lead guitar Tyger Robb Weir. The current line-up also includes Craig Ellis (drums), Gav Gray (bass), Jacopo Meille (vocals) and Micky Crystal (guitar).
Between the hot music, cooling down and great vibes I managed to grab some chill time with Robb…..
Crow Xp: Good to chat, Robb. Thank you. The band has been around for some 40 years which is much older than half the audience here tonight; yet, they are totally feeling the vibe. What’s the core ingredient that keeps the original fans and creates new ones?
Robb: Yeah! Good chatting Crow. I’m not sure what gives any band its core; perhaps it is being consistent in creating good music. I think if a band does that it retains its fans and creates new ones. Our line-up has changed a few times, our albums over the years have tweaked the boundaries but overall we have remained true to our sound & genre.
Crow Xp: You’re right. Fans stay loyal to good music. Nowadays, Bands come up with interesting and unusual names but 40 years ago it was things like The Beatles, The Moody Blues, The Kinks, etc … what is the story behind Tygers of Pan Tang?
Robb: The name was derived from a Michael Moorcock novel called ‘Stormbringer.’ Within the story line the Emperor’s kingdom was entered by passing the cliffs of Pan Tang. These were guarded by his pet Tigers. A fictional archipelago in the, ‘Elric of Melniboné’ fantasy series of books. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy science fiction and as with most bands we played around with different ideas and names and when Rocky, (the Tygers original bass player) suggested ‘Tygers of Pan Tang’ it was nothing short of brilliant!
Crow Xp: As with most successful bands you get booked internationally and hence travel a lot; do you get much time to play the tourist and get to see much of the places you perform? I am especially interested in your take on Portugal...
Robb: I can tell you I’m an expert on the inside of a tour bus, the inside of a dressing room and the inside of a hotel room! Very occasionally we get a day off in a foreign city. We all tend to go out exploring, some for sightseeing some of us for bars! And Jack likes to go vinyl record hunting. As you are driving from the airport you can take in the surroundings but normally that’s about it! As for Portugal, I had never been here before but I’ll certainly be back, it’s beautiful! And the Portuguese people are really warm and friendly.
Crow Xp: That’s interesting because not many audience members actually know of the logistics of travel, Roadies, equipment, flights etc. No reason they should but there’s a whole unseen world that happens prior to going on stage. Speaking of which, your band has both been the lead band at Music Festivals and also a support Band. I chatted briefly with Craig your drummer and his view was, “a gig’s a gig”. Be interesting to get your own personal & professional take on that?
Robb: Well I kind of agree with Craig on a professional level. As a band you are there to do a job. People have paid good, hard earned money to see you and you must deliver. There can be no excuses, people don’t want to hear you have a headache, you are tired from traveling or the airline have lost your guitars, they want and expect to be entertained. Actually when the Tygers played HMF, Brussels airways DID lose our guitars so we had to beg and borrow so we could play the show. Playing with someone else’s guitar is not ideal but you have to get on with it! I also would like to thank the boys who lent us all there guitars and basses. There is a lot that goes into a show that happens behind the scenes. We have a Dutch agent, management, record company, and publicist all who have to get involved at some stage. Long gone are the days where you just turn up to a bar, plug in and play!
Crow Xp: Is the band currently working on new material. CD’s? Any release and tour dates you care to share...
Robb: We sure are! All the songs for the new album have now been written and they are HUGE! We go into the recording studio on January the 4th 2019 and the doors will be closed for three and a half weeks till we finish! Mixing will be done in Copenhagen by Soren Andersen, and the album will be mastered in Canada by Harry Hess just like last time, with an expected release of May the 4th 2019, my 60th birthday! This will be our biggest album and production to date! Watch out people…….
Crow Xp: Looking forward to that! Moving away from Music… the Band has its own brand of beer. Good Marketing. Did you have an input or was it the PR & Promotion people? How did that come about?
Robb: It was actually our manager’s idea! Tom Noble who has managed me for 40 years came up with idea of our own brand of ale! Tom approached a local independent brewery Box Social Brewery in Newcastle upon Tyne where we live. They were delighted with the idea. Ross the owner immediately set to work in creating a brew for us. Using red Belgium hops Ross created a 5.6% by volume, red in color IPA beer. It’s called, ‘Tyger Blood’ we’re actually onto version two already! Please be assured no tigers have been harmed in the making of this beer!!
Crow Xp: Let’s talk about you for a bit… not as much as part of the band, that matters of course; however, we are interested in how & when you first picked up a guitar, how your playing evolved over the years and indeed any major influences ...
Robb: When I was about 11 my dad brought into our house a nylon strung classic guitar hand painted in army camo colours! I loved it and immediately started to figure out how on earth to make it sound like some of the music I was listening to, like Status Quo, Elvis, the Rolling Stones and so many more. I worked at it and started to make my own music. It’s so much easier to play your own music than learn somebody else’s! My playing is still evolving! I truly believe you never stop learning. My influences came from the fifties and sixties, rock and roll and the blues and I developed a writing style that I thought and still think is pretty dam good! They called it ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal,’ I called it ‘Robb’s Rock Music!’
Crow Xp: As with all folk in Showbiz there are 100’s maybe 1000’s of stories, anecdotes & incidents along the years. Is there any one or two you care to share with our readers?
Robb: Hard to pick just one or two but there was this one time when we were gigging in Osaka in Japan. On the same night in Osaka the Scorpions were playing on the other side of the city. We were staying in the same hotel as them and we outsold them by 400 tickets! We did 5000 people and they did 4600! How do I know? Well, when we got back to the hotel we met them in the hotel bar and our show promoter who traveled with us while we were touring Japan got talking to the Scorpions show promoter and we discovered this fact!
Crow: That certainly is one for the history books. Thanks Robb. Appreciate you taking time out & sharing. Until next time.
Robb: Thank you.