The Tygers of Pan Tang release their new album "Ambush" on 24th September. As a long time fan of the Tygers that was good enough reason to arrange an interview with founder member and lead guitarist Robb Weir.



NI ROCKS - Hi Robb, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions for Rock Radio NI. We’ve met and talked a few times before but with Tygers of Pan Tang on the verge of releasing their new album “Ambush” on 24th September it seemed like a good time to put something down on paper.

By my reckoning “Ambush” will be the tenth studio album (excluding compilations and live recordings) and is the first new material since “Animal Instinct” in 2008. How do think the new album compares to “Animal Instinct”?

Robb ….Hi Everybody, Hope your all keeping well…`Ambush` is a progression of `Animal Instinct`, we wanted to keep a similar tempo but really try to work on the groove and melody for each song. We had some different ideas for `Ambush` and as musicians, I think we are better now than we were in 2008. When we sat down to plan the album we said `Animal Instinct` but a bit more sophisticated and I would like to think we achieved that. The songs were better crafted and the album was professionally produced and mixed together which makes a huge difference to the finished sound. I would also like to think we are getting better after all these years on our song writing skills. Don't get me wrong 'Animal,' is a fantastic piece of work which I love, and Ben (Mathews of THUNDER) did a great job in creating the sound we wanted at the time but I think the fans will just love 'Ambush'.

NI ROCKS- Am I right in thinking that “Ambush” will be your first release with Rocksector Records? The free download of the track “Speed” (which I’ve played a few times on Rock Radio NI) seems to have had a great response, all 300 copies of the fan pack sold out quickly and the first reviews coming through are all very positive. You must be pleased with the response so far?

Robb....Yes 'Ambush' is our first release with Rocksector Records and so far, so good, we are very happy with the way things are going. The promotion which has been mainly internet based has created a lot of interest but the magazine advertising will start in September as well, which should further create awareness of the release. The bench mark for me is that if our management is happy then all must be well, because they are really driving this release and working closely with Rocksecter. The overall response so far has been truly amazing and we hope that continues with some of our older fans re-connecting with the band as well as new fans taking a chance on the album.

NI ROCKS - Chris Tsangarides produced the new album. Is this your first time working with him since the first two Tygers of Pan Tang albums “Wild Cat” and “Spellbound” and how did he become involved this time around?

Robb....This is the first time since `Spellbound` that Chris has worked on an album for us from start to finish, he has done bits and pieces of work over the years but this was a full recording, mixing and production contract. When we played the Bang your Head Festival in Germany we met Chris backstage. It was a fantastic reunion, Chris and I did some interviews together and we just reminisced about the past. He then told me he was in the seat for `Ambush` and that our Management had offered him the gig just a few minutes before, I was absolutely delighted. He did not do a bad job on the first two albums did he? Chris is a legend and I know Tygers are very close to his heart, his work on ‘Ambush` is phenomenal, there is so much going on throughout.

NI ROCKS - The band took the unusual step of part promoting the new album by releasing a series of blogs about some of the tracks on the album accompanied by cartoon storybook artwork and usually a brief related tale from you. Who came up that concept and what kind of reaction have you had to it.

Robb... We wanted to let the fans know how the songs are conceived and then composed but we did not just want to put basic descriptions of chord structures and lyric meaning so I was asked to put pen to paper. For those who know me I have quite a lot of infamous tales from the past which I just thought after all this time could and should be now shared. I have an awful lot more tales from the road! Some of which are unfortunately not publishable! The whole idea has been very well received and I have received hundreds of requests for more of these outrageous tales. We were even offered an opportunity to print the blogs into a magazine type release, maybe this will come in the future. If you have not seen them check them out on the website blogs section

NI ROCKS - Going through the blogs, Dean has stated that “Rock n Roll Dream” is his favorite track and Jack has said that “Burning Desire” is one of his favorites. Do you have a particular track from the album that you’d call a favorite?

Robb....I like them all, but if pushed I would pick, 'Keeping me Alive', it was the first song I wrote for the album and the first one we worked on in rehearsals so it was the start of `Ambush` for me.

NI ROCKS - The Tygers played a new track from the forthcoming album when I last saw you play in The Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill back in March of this year. I’m presuming that there’ll be some more tour dates in the near future to promote “Ambush”. Are there any plans for gigs in N Ireland or elsewhere that you can share with us?

Robb....Our management gets offered shows all the time, and they look at each and every one to see where we can fit them into the band schedule. We always want to play in Northern Ireland because the fans there are just incredible and so welcoming. I know it is getting better but still not enough bands travel across the water, they don`t know what they are missing out on. When we play the UK again in 2013 we will be there as long as you guys and the venues want us!

NI ROCKS - Tygers of Pan Tang of course are famous for the many changes in line-up back in the 80s. Since 2004 you’d managed to retain the same line up until last year when Gav Gray replaced Brian West who’d been in the band since 2000 (when he had replaced Gav Gray!). How big a factor has that continuity in line-up been to the success of the band in recent years?

Robb...Continuity can be both positive and negative, you become tight as a musical unit but the creative ideas can become stale or even worse complacent. Nobody likes change but sometimes you can't stop it. Brian was a very sought after stage manager and his work with Uriah Heep meant he could not commit to the band and album so we had to make a very difficult decision. I approached Gav, who did the Wacken show with us in 1999 and he has been an inspiration, like new blood in the veins, the band has really raised its game to keep up with his enthusiasm and technical ability. His song writing and bass playing are second to none. He's a real asset to band.

NI ROCKS - Lead singer Jack (Jacopo Meille) is from Italy and I believe still lives there. How does that work out when it comes to writing material and rehearsing?

Robb....Jacks lives in Florence, Italy but with modern communication technology it is not a problem at all. In fact it is what we have always done albeit through different channels with all our singers, they rarely rehearse with us! We jam a song, record it and send it to Jack for his input and lyric creation. Jack is hugely committed to the band so he rehearses the songs on his own to such an extent that when we recorded the vocal parts to `Ambush` he `nailed` 12 tracks in 3 days (yes there is a bonus track to be heard). If he needs to come to the UK for tour production or recording, he is there first. A really true professional and great bloke.

NI ROCKS - “Wild Cat” was one of the first albums I ever bought and I treasure my 7” picture disc of “Love Potion No 9”. When you’re playing gigs or festivals how much of the crowd are made up of old timers like myself? Do you see a new generation of younger fans coming through?

Robb....It is quite a mix to be honest. At the Cambridge Rock Festival a couple of week ago there was an age range from 4 year olds to right old `buggers`like me! You're never too young OR old to Rock'n'Roll! We are also seeing many more female fans coming to the shows, long may that continue I say.

NI ROCKS - In 2010 the Tygers released “The Wildcat Sessions” EP to celebrate 30 years since the release of “Wild Cat”. That was followed in 2011 by “The Spellbound Sessions” EP. I understood that recording of a “Crazy Nights Sessions” EP had been on the cards. Will this materialize or has it now been shelved?

Robb....When the dust has settled a little bit after `Ambush`, we will turn our attention to the 'Crazy Night Sessions.' It is defiantly on our radar and something we want to do, to give those' Crazy Night' songs the makeover they deserve. We like the idea of `The Sessions` series, it keeps the recording and creative side of the band active each year and because we keep the print run to 1000 the fans get some new product at a good price that will become collectable in the future. I think it also keeps the early albums in peoples mind instead of catching dust some 30 years on, they deserve in my opinion to be heard regularly because they were classic of the time.

NI ROCKS - For all the guitar techies out there; tell us a bit about the guitars and kit you’re currently using. I think I recall you saying at a gig in Belfast back in 2008 that you’ve been using the same talk box since the early days of Tygers of Pan Tang.

Robb....Wow I love this question! The trouble is I could waffle on for hours! the moment I am playing TC Ellis handmade guitars. I have 2 x Les Paul shape and an Explorer type. Tim is a small independent guitar maker, who owns a business in Cardiff, South Wales. Tim makes guitars for Phil Campbell and Lemmy of Motorhead, and a host of other clients now including me! His guitars are fantastic, right up there with the big manufactures, only better in my view! I also have a Spear Grand Tyger Tomcat guitar which Spear made for me, complete with black 'Paw' fret inlays on a maple neck. I use Warman Destroyer pickups; because they are properly wax potted and has a massive, full sound. I now use Electro harmonix floor pedals and my talk box is a Rocktron Banshee from the States. I still have my original Electro Harmonix Golden Throat talk box, which I bought back in 1975 in J.G.Windows in Newcastle upon Tyne! My backline for the past few years has been Hughes and Kettener Mk II,Tri amp heads and cabs but I have been offered another deal that hopefully I can announce very soon. .I could go on and on with this subject as I am a real gearhead.

NI ROCKS - Finally, a question that I like to ask everyone I interview. Presuming that you have one, if I was to pick up your iPod or MP3 player and pressed shuffle what artists would I be likely to hear?

Robb....I don't have either I am not that up to date on iPods, pads and whatever! I still love Vinyl and reading of the inner notes on albums etc., real old school me. I am hoping to get into CDs next year so I will be able to talk about `shuffling` iPods with some authority closer to 2020. If you asking what you would hear on my home taping cassette however which is killing music they tell me, Classic Rock, Classic Rock and more Classic Rock, I just love it. By the way `Ambush` will also be available on Vinyl so watch out for more details. It will be released around the same time as `Ambush on the 24th September.

Thank you for all your questions, all the best for the show and to your listeners. ...God bless you and, 'ROCK ON!'

Check out more about the Tygers, their blogs and the new album on their website

Last Updated (Tuesday, 27 November 2012 19:49)