Interview with Robb Weir, Tygers of Pan Tang (August 2010)

From the beginning of the NWOBHM movement in the late '70s, there's been no other band, with the exception of maybe DIAMOND HEAD, ANGEL WITCH and IRON MAIDEN, that has been at the forefront of the scene since its inception. TYGERS OF PAN TANG carry the flag of the true sound of the NWOBHM and have been together for over 30 years for a reason - for the love of making music and the NWOBHM scene in general. Before some TYGERS OF PAN TANG festival dates, original guitarist Robb Weir took the time to answer some questions by e-mail.

After forming in 1978, did you think you would be able to carry the NWOBHM flag even to this day?

When the band started in 1978, it was just a dream to play music and get a record deal. To still be playing and writing 30+ years later is just incredible for me personally and for the band. We have had some ups and downs as a band, but I am enjoying the Tygers now more than ever. We have a very high-energy live stage show now which is much more visual than ever before, and our last album release, "Animal Instinct," received some fantastic reviews, all of which makes it worthwhile.

The band really seemed to be at its strongest on the first three albums. Not that I'm saying you didn't have good material after that, but it seems like that classic NWOBHM spark was missing. Or was it the end of an era so to speak?

There was a unity in the writing for the first three albums which created that Tygers sound. Also, with the social issues in the UK at the time, NWOBHM was perfect music for the working man who just wanted a release from the day to day struggles. The NWOBHM movement was at its highest point during those albums and so was British hard rock, so it all just came together. It was a simple process which focused on the riff and lyrics, which changed with "The Cage". Fred (Purser) had joined the band and was a University-trained musician, so he brought a technical side to the band that was very cutting edge for the time, but just wasn't the Tygers. Saying all that, "The Cage" was our most successful album to date even though it’s not a fans’ favourite. In 2007 when we started recording "Animal Instinct," we wanted to get back to our roots with the Tygers sound. I think we achieved that, and if you compare that album against the first three, the signature sound continues throughout. 

With various member changes, record label frustrations, break ups, poor record sales, etc. With you being the only original member, what made you want to keep the TOPT legacy alive?

Since I decided to put the Tygers back together, it has been a struggle. There was a lot of poor decision making by the management at the time and myself, which I regret to this day. Up to 2007, there was a huge focus on the fact that I was the only original member from the early days, but this now seems to be getting less of an issue. We needed to play our shows and release a product that the media and fans would respect to get that credibility back. A lot of bands suffer this stigma when all they want to do is keep their music alive and keep playing songs they love live. What I have learned, is In order to really produce good music, you need the comradery and continuity within the band that only comes through time. The present line up has been together since 2004 and that is now showing huge dividend. We have a new manager (since 2007) that takes care of all our business so we have an infrastructure for merchandise, touring, etc. So that just leaves the music and playing to the band. It’s a great weight off my shoulders. You ask why we keep this going? I believe the Tygers songs from 1980-82 are worth keeping alive and I just want to play these for anyone who wants to hear them. I also want to record music I am proud of, such as "Animal Instinct". There is a lot left in the band yet.

How’s it feel to be on the upcoming Bridgefest 2010 bill?

We know Tony, the owner of the venue quite well and usually play warm-up shows at the Bridgehouse on our way to Europe. It’s a fantastic little venue and one bands should check out on the circuit. Tony asked us to play the festival and we were happy to oblige.

As you say 2008’s “Animal Instinct” still carries on the TOPT sound, but has a bluesy vibe especially on “Live For The Day.” This is just great stuff. What was your mindset while writing the material?

"Animal Instinct" was a band recording so you get a lot of influences in there. When I listen to the album I hear some AC/DC, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Saxon and a touch of Free/Zeppelin on the vocals. In order to get back to the spirit of early ’80s rock, we were listening to a lot of older albums and this came through in the writing/recording. As I have said in the above, we do have an overall sound though that always shadows over the influenced sounds. 

Are you working on any new material and what kind of direction is it heading in?

We have started writing the new album and have a couple of demos already. The direction will be similar to "Animal Instinct" with a bit more sophistication. We are very aware that there is a new expectancy that this album has to be better than the last, so we will take our time and ensure we explore every way on every song to achieve this. In between, we will be releasing another 5- track EP to celebrate 30 years of Spellbound. I like this concept because it shows an ode to the past, I am extremely proud of the band’s past and present ,and I want to keep the past music alive because there was some great songs. There are too many bands that have forgotten their past, but the fans want to hear those songs played live, so they are as important as the new ones.

When will it be released?

We will be looking at mid 2011.

With the recent resurgence of traditional and NWOBHM bands like Enforcer, Cauldron, White Wizzard and many others. Do you feel you have something at stake or something to prove that you are still in the game, and you virtually started, or was an essential part of the whole movement?

When your fans are paying their hard-earned money for a product, then of course there is something at stake. As a musician, there is always something to prove because you want to push yourself into releasing the best possible songs you can write at the time. I think as a band up to 2007, we had become a little lazy and complacent, but our new management will not allow that at all any more. We have been asked to be more competitive when we play festivals. We used to be quite laid back but now our manager wants us to be the best band on the bill and steal the show, so we are really pushing ourselves as musicians and entertainers. The publicity from our recent performances have been fantastic, so it seems to be working. 

Anybody that knows their metal, especially NWOBHM, remember you and still love the band. How’s that make you feel to know that you are still revered and are still important in the metal world?

It’s really nice to receive such attention, which is most apparent when we go abroad. We have some great fans in the UK, but our main market tends to be Mainland Europe, South America and Japan, where we sell most albums. It’s great to play festivals in Europe, as they are still true to original Rock/Metal. At the Headbangers Open Air Festival, we did a signing session that lasted 1 hour 15 minutes. The comments from the fans were great and it did show the affection people still have for the Tygers of Pan Tang.

What’s next for Tygers of Pan Tang?

We will continue releasing our concept EP CDs, we will record a new album in 2011 and still keep playing live. We are accessible to the Rock/Metal Fan to really get on board with the band and taste what it was like back in the early ’80s.

Any last words or comments?

Please check out our website and myspace site for latest news/gig dates and shop etc. If you can buy "Animal Instinct," please do so and give it a try, you will not be disappointed, I promise.

Thanks for taking the time Robb and keep rocking!

Thanks Kelley, I will.

Interviewed by Kelley Simms