Interview, March 15 2019.
As most readers know, 130dB is organizing a NWOBHM Top 50 in the spring of 2019. Because of the 40th anniversary. Therefore 130dB is approaching a number of bands that meant something to this movement. Tygers of Pan Tang for example. We ask several bands the same questions.
This time we asked guitarist and founder Robb Weir from the Tygers of Pan Tang a number of questions about the start of his band. Which bands did he get along well with? And which band made him an offer? You can read it below!
– To which live concerts have you been in the 70’s? And was there a live concert, after seeing it you knew that you once also would be standing on a stage?
I first started going to concerts in 1974 and my first concert was a band called ‘Man.’ I remember I was very excited as they walked out on stage and started to play. The next week I was back at the same venue watching Nazareth and they really started me thinking….
– What were your personal favourite albums in the seventies? And which bands / albums have influenced the sound of your band?
I was a music whore! I liked just about everything, however I did have a soft spot for ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ and ‘Piledriver’ by status Quo.
– At what age did you start playing a musical instrument?
I started playing guitar when I was about 12.
– Do you still know which song you could play first entirely?
‘Caroline, ’by Status Quo.
– Which band(s) was the reason that you wanted to start Tygers of Pan Tang?
I can’t say there was any one band that was the reason, but the whole live performance thing really excited me.
Start of band
– How did Tygers of Pan Tang started? And how did you meet each other?
I placed an advert in the local press looking for a bass player and a drummer. Within a few hours of being published a bass player named Rocky was on the phone to me, he said he was friends with a drummer as well. And that’s how it all started!
– What is the first song that the Tygers of Pan Tang has ever written? Is there some kind of a story about that song?
I used to kind of write alone, so I can’t really remember the first song we all wrote together if indeed we did! One of my first songs I wrote for the Tygers was ‘Wildcats.’
– Is there a song from the Tygers of Pan Tang where you immediately thought after writing it that it was a super song and might stand up above the others?
‘Suzie Smiled’ or ‘Slave to Freedom.’ They are both still in the live show, and still sound good 40 years on!
– Did you listen to a lot of other NWOBHM bands at the time? Which albums belong to your favourites? And do you also have an absolute favourite?
No I didn’t really listen to NWOBHM bands at the time as I’m a bit of a disco music freak! However ‘High and Dry’ by Def Leppard is one of my favourites.
– Do you have many NWOBHM albums and singles in your collection? And do you have a (collectors) item that you love the most?
No I don’t have many, if any NWOBHM albums and certainly no collector’s items!
The first years
– With which bands did you have regular contact in the early 80’s and / or belonged to your close friends?
With starting about the same time as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon, and touring together we all became friends. My greatest friend from those days and still a great friend is Graham Oliver, the guitar player and main song writer from the original Saxon.
– Which concert in the early days of your band, do you consider as the best and what was so good about it?
Out selling the Scorpions in September ’82 when we both played in Osaka, Japan on the same night but different venues!
– The general impression is that the NWOBHM was influenced by the punk. In particular, the energy is called. Do you also see that the energy of punk has influenced the sound of the Tygers of Pan Tang? Or are there other or more things that have contributed to your sound?
I think Punk and NWOBHM were totally different to be honest! With Punk came short songs with very few guitar solos. NWOBHM brought more complex songs with time changes, solos and soaring vocals. I liked a bit of punk so I think it was inevitable a bit of that crept into my song writing.
– Metal and punk were quite the opposite. Punk was hot, metal not for example. What did you think of the punk movement and did you listen to it?
There were a few punk bands that were border line hard rock bands if it were not for their singer. For example the Sex Pistols, big heavy metal chords but with a shouty punk singer mixed over the top of Steve Jones guitar!
– Has a record label or band member ever suggested to you to change strategy, for example a little more towards the punk or a bit more commercial, so that more records could be sold?
Yes our record company MCA. After we recorded the ‘Cage’ our fourth album in 1982 MCA wanted us to record outside song writers songs that were a lot ‘softer’ in sound to us. We couldn’t agree on this and the band walked out of there recording contract!
– Are there things in your musical career, looking back, that you should have done differently with the knowledge from now? And with the wisdom of today, what would you have done differently?
I probably would have done it all the same to be honest. We’re still a headline act, we produce new albums every three years and tour all over the world!
– You see a colleague band, Iron Maiden, going up like a rocket. Most NWOBHM bands pale a bit on their success. Do you understand the success of this band? And could the Tygers of Pan Tang have been just as successful and what would have been needed for that?
Opportunity strikes in different ways, I’m never envious of anything or anybody. If you suffer from envy then you suffer from stress which leads to health issues! I say good luck to my friends Iron Maiden, they deserve it. Could we have done anything different? Probably, but we are where we are. On a brighter note, the new album coming out at the end of October is HUGE! It’s the biggest Tyger yet…
– If Steve Harris had asked you to come and join Iron Maiden in 1981, do you think you accepted that offer at that time, or was the belief in your own band too high?
No I wouldn’t have accepted. In fact in ’82 Lemmy from Motorhead came to several shows on the UK Cage tour and asked me if I was happy in the Tygers as Motorhead was looking for a new guitar player and I told him I was a happy Tyger!
– DJ Neal Kay had set up a kind of Metal “Mecca” in the Bandwagon. A metal disco, eventually 5 evenings a week. Fans and bands came to watch and perform. Have you ever been there to watch or perform?
No, I never went. Back then I wanted to play live not go to listen to other bands records!
– Neil Kay kept a list of which tracks were most frequently requested. In the music magazine Sounds, the “chart” was published, did the Tygers of Pan Tang ever appear in that chart as far as you know and with which song and at what spot?
We were constantly in the top ten with songs such as, ‘Hellbound’, ‘Gangland’, Suzie Smiled’, and ‘Euthanasia’ to name but a few.
– In America the Thrash Metal came on. They took over the NWOBHM in terms of speed and aggression. Did you listen to this new movement yourself? And did you have favourites in albums / bands, which ones?
No, I hated it! Singers stopped singing and vocalists started growling and shouting. I can’t get away with that!
– The metal is now completely fanned out in all kinds of forms. After the NWOBHM, you got the Thrash, Death, Doom and Black Metal. And we also had the Grunge, nu-metal period and so on. So is there a metal movement after the NWOBHM period that you liked? If so, can you name some personal favourite bands / albums?
Does ‘Hair Metal’ count? Ratt is one of my favourites. I like all the bands from that genre.
– Which album of your own band is the most special to you and why?
The new album that we are recording at the moment. Why? Because it’s the best songs that the band has ever written.
– What did being a part of your band has brought you?
Some nice guitars!
True or fiction
– In Wikipedia stands the following sentence: “Tygers of Pan Tang’s fourth album, The Cage, was released in 1982. The band then had a disagreement with MCA, who were not prepared to promote them unless they agreed to play more cover recordings (following the band’s hit with “Love Potion No. 9” They subsequently tried to break free from their contract, but MCA’s demands exceeded the willingness of any other record company to pay to free the band, and the band broke up in frustration”.
Is it completely true or (part) fiction?
For the most part it’s true, BUT there’s two sides to every story!
TOP 10 Robb Weir, Tygers of Pan Tang
– At the request of 130dB you have made a top 10 of the best NWOBHM songs. Could you tell the readers why you picked these songs?
There’re all classic songs of the time and I never tire from hearing them….
|1.||Tygers of Pan Tang||Suzie Smiled|
|2.||Samson||Riding with the Angels|
|3.||Def Leppard||High 'n' Dry|
|4.||Iron Maiden||Run to the Hills|
|5.||Diamond Head||Call Me|
|6.||Saxon||Strong Arm of the Law|
|8.||Raven||Don't Need Your Money|
|9.||Fist||Name, Rank and Serial Number|
Would you also like to participate in the top 50 best NWOBHM songs ever? Enter your top 10 here.