Interview with Robb Weir
"One of the most successful Metal acts of the late 70's and early 80's has to be 'Tygers Of Pan Tang' along side the likes of 'Saxon' , 'Judas Priest', 'Iron Maiden', 'Motorhead', 'Thin Lizzy' among others. The band has delivered several kick ass album throughout a decade which includes the likes of 'Crazy Nights', 'Spellbound', 'Wild Cat' and 'The Cage;. The line-up seemed to be pretty steady from the beginning with original singer Jess Coxx after recording the 'Wild Cats' album been thrown out of the band and been replaced by the talented 'Jon Deverill' to the bands next album 'Spellbound' which also featured the outstanding guitar work of John Sykes, who went on to join 'Thin Lizzy' & 'Whitesnake'. After the release of 'The Cage' original guitarist Robb Weir decided to leave the band, so I started by asking Robb w little bit about the formation of the band and why he left before he came back with this new line-up. As Robb and the boys are promoting 'Noises From The Cat House', which is a great album it looks as if things are starting to pick up for the band at long last. Th current line-up is: Robb Weir (guitar), Dean Robertson (guitar), Richie Wicks (vocals), Craig Ellis (drums) and Brian West (bass). Here is what Robb had to say to the following questions.
Ok Robb, it's a pleasure to finally meet you once again, I first met you in 'The Cage' tour at the age of 12, that was a awesome gig mate. So as I was too young to be a journalist, I will ask you some warm up questions please. First of all how did u get together the first time around??
"Well we started in 1978 by myself and I placed a ad in the local paper for a bass player just to write some songs together and have a jam. Rocky the original bass player replied and said that he knew a drummer that he was going to college with in Newcastle and asked if it was ok for him to come along as well. I said there was no problem with that so the 3 of us got together for a jam. At that time I was a jeweler at that time and there was a reverend at that time who I knew who has a spare hall that we could rehearse in. So for something like £1 we could rehearse in the hall, and we started out playing songs by 'Rush', 'AC/DC', 'Sabbath', 'Zepplin' and that sort of stuff. I later on came up with some ideas that I put to the other 2 guys and Rocky & Brian learnt them pretty quickly. We then had to find a singer and out of all the singers came Jess Cox, who at that time also had a P.A. and the others did not so we knew we had the right guy for the job. We rehearsed and played the local pubs to start off with and we ended up playing 'Whitley Bay High School'. The Kids seemed to liked it. I local producer called Dave Woods came to watch us at the school as his daughter went there and he liked what he heard, so he invited us to come to his studio to record a song. That song was called 'Don't Touch Me There'. (ED: How did that version of the song differ from that on the debut album?). Well I think it was better version that on the album to be honest. The guitar solo and sound was certainly better. I remember the local papers raving about the guitar solo on the demo version, and I think Dave printed off about 2000 copies of the single and after 3 days they went so he had to print off a load more. It was great timing as it was the birth of 'NWOBHM' was just starting to make the waves of the music industry. So people started writing about us locally and the record company 'MCA' showed interests as all the major labels were signing all the 'NWOBHM' and they wanted to show the rest of the labels that they had a band too in this 'NWOBHM'."
Looking at your debut album 'Wild Cat' which songs from that album stand out for you and why? Also did it sell well for the band?
"Well I was very proud of that album which was recorded, mixed in 11 days with the artwork. I like the songs: 'Slave To Freedom', 'Don't Touch Me There', 'Suzi Smiles'. We signed to MCA in march of 1980 and we went on the road with Magnum a few months later and then in May my manager now - Ian was also part of the Saxon road crew he assures me that our paths did cross back then. The album sold very well for us, as we toured with Magnum, Saxon, The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, al in the summer of 1980. We wanted to also do the Van Halen tour back then and we asked the label if we could support them but they wanted us to go into the studio to record the next album, and it was booked so we could not do the Van Halen tour. So Girlschool did that tour in the end."
So after the release of that album Jess Cox left the band, what happened?
"Well after we did the 'Wild cat' tour which was in October of 1980 we parted ways with Jess. After we finished that tour I decided that I needed a 2nd guitar player in the band so we auditioned guitar players for the live sound to make it sound bigger and fatter. When we played with The Scorpions and Iron Maiden there were 2 guitarist in the band so I knew we needed the same. The final job came between Steve Mann (Lion Heart) and John Sykes. John used to play in the covers band called 'Street Fighter' in Blackpool doing Thin Lizzy covers. The band also featured the bass player from FM who was also a Phil Lynott fanatic. So John was also a brick layer and he came down to the auditions and it turned out well for all of us. John's first gig was Reading 1980. Jess & the band did not part on bad terms, he left because of musical differences as we wanted the band to go in one direction & he wanted to go in another direction. Jon Deverill came along and we started writing songs for the next album and he was the singer in Persian Risk. it is funny because Jon moved in with Jess in a house which was kind of strange."
Tell me a little bit about the following albums.
"Well we had 2 albums that came out in the same year of 81 the 2nd album was asked by our label in October to be recorded within 3 weeks. we had to record 'Crazy Nights' in 3 weeks and I don't think the songs are particularly bad. I hate the way that album sounded because it sounded thin, it was done by Dennis Macky who did Pat Travis album but when he was doing ours he was also doing another album by Stanley Clark. So when he did our album he flew to the U.S. to mix his album & then he flew back again to mix our album. I think he just lost the plot in the end, the drums to me sound like pots & pans. its a great album but if those songs were given a better sound then it would of been a great album. I was talking to the lads now and I would love to record 'Never Satisfied' it's a great song (ED: I agree) I think we could really crack that one.
How well did the 'Spellbound' album sell for you & what trax stood out for you? Also I remember buying the 'Hellbound' single when it came out and there was a audition single free with it, could you tell me a little about that?
"Well I like 'Silver & Gold', ' Don't Stop By', 'Take It', and that song was the first song that John & myself wrote together. I was teaching John the 'Wild Cat' set and I was sick to death of teaching him that stuff so I played him the riff for that song and he liked it. He had his own ideas for the song so between us we came up with that song. We mainly wrote songs separately and that is how it worked best for the band. It sold really well actually. Well the 'Crazy Nights' album featured a extra 12" single with 'Storm Land' & 'Slipping Away', which was produced by a 17 year old girl who was a trainee engineer at that time, who he had left in charge whilst we was mixing the album in the U.S. for the other band. We did 1 show in London at the Marquee in 1981 to promote that album, no tour or nothing!! Well we did the 'Hellbound' single and which was off the studio sessions and it was the first time we had captured Jon Deverill on record. That is why the record company released that."
Do you have any live video footage I can see please Robb?
"Well I really don't have any, because at that time we had no manager we parted ways with him so we only had a tour manager when we were on the road. There a few bootleg albums going about and they are awful really. I would like to see some myself. We had our self's recorded for the BBC for Reading Festival, but when we tried to release it they would not let us have the rights to it as they paid us off."
So out of the 1st 3 albums, how many did you sell of each album?
"Well 'Wild Cats' sold about 200 - 250.000 copies, between then and now. 'Spellbound' slightly did a bit more and I think 'Crazy Nights' did something like 100.000 and 'The Cage' did a couple of 100.000 copies as well.
So John Sykes left the band after 'Crazy Nights', was that to join Thin Lizzy?
"No actually he did not join Thin Lizzy right after he left us, he went to join Ozzy (ED: Shit I didn't know that, tell me more please) John Sykes left the band at about 2.30 am 4 days before we were about to go to France to play a headlining tour of France and he was asked to audition for Ozzy and didn't get the job. After that for some strange reason he ended up in Dublin. Jake E. Lee got the job for Ozzy. John's step-father went to MCA and told them that he thinks John should do a single with Phil Lynott so they agreed and they sent him to the studio in Dublin with Thin Lizzy's producer who was working on the 'Thunder & Lightning' album. So John met Phil and got very friendly with him and Phil was asked to sing on John's single 'Baby Please Don't Go', which is a great song."
So did Fred Purser come straight into the band when join left to what he thought he was joining Ozzy's band? Also did you do a lot of touring for that album?
"Yes that was the case. He had only 4 days to learn the material, and he is classical trained as a piano player. He is a good all round performer. Yes we did do a lot of touring for that album. We did a full blown city hall production tour (ED: That is when I saw you in Hull - UK) and it sold out. The support band was Tytan and they were a great band. We parted ways with our management and 3 days later we where in Japan doing a tour over there which we did 2 shows in Tokyo among other places."
As we are talking about 'The Cage' album I notice that the song 'Love Potion No 9', was also on that album, wasn't that suppose to of been on the 'Crazy Nights' album as John Skyes plays on that and it was released as a single with the cover for 'Crazy Nights' album on it."
"Well that was the record companies decision and I think it was released after 'Crazy Nights' album was released. I think they were in to minds about releasing it and putting it on 'The Cage' album. That album also featured another song that John Sykes wrote called 'Danger In Paradise' and that album was heading towards to very commercial side that we did not want to do. Peter Collin's recorded that album before any other metal band had used him, who was managed by Peter Walterman who claimed to be Tygers manager, which we knew nothing about (Laughing). (ED: does this means that there will be dance versions of Tygers songs - laughing). Yeah more than likely (Laughing)."
After the release of 'The Cage', you left the band, why was that?
"After we came back from Japan, we tried to get a new management and it all fell a part and we recorded a 5th album which was a demo that never was released. Again Fred wrote all the songs for that and none of my songs were accepted and at that point it was well and truly out of my hands, which I was not happy about. So I went on holiday and came back to write new songs & called Rocky and asked how things were going and he told me he had some bad news for me. He asked me to leave the band with Brian, so I asked why we wanted us to leave the band? He said it was a decision that we had all taken. They had been down to London to see their agent and he left it was time for a change, he said that we were too short and he had been serious, I thought it was a joke as I was laughing at this time. He said the rest of the band were over 6ft expect for Brain and myself and I thought it was the most stupid excuse I had ever heard. I could not believe what I was hearing!!
Saying that Robb, I thought you had the rights to the bands name , did you? So Fred or any other band member could start up and call themselves 'Tygers O Pan Tang' right?
"No I didn't, our old manager had the rights to the bands name. Nobody has the rights to the bands name now. Well that did happen for Jon Deverill and Brian Dick did. After the band did call it a day I asked Brian if he wanted to do something together and he said yes. So we formed a band called 'Sargent' and we recorded an album which in the end never came out. It was going to be released on CBS at that time and before we signed to them I had a disagreement with the singer and bass player who were very club land based but very good, but didn't have any idea how the music business worked. The music was kind of blue & hard rock, kind of like Y&T. So it didn't work out, as they said I was not right for the band, it was almost like history repeating it's self. After all these months I had built it all up again and for this to happen they said I was not good enough, so they replaced me with 2 guitar players and 1 of them was fired and replaced with a keyboard player. How strange is that??"
Did you ever speak to the older members after a long or short period of time after leaving the band?
"Yes I did actually, Jess called me in 85 and asked if we were still talking, I told him why shouldn't we? He asked if I wanted to do something with him and I told I was interested. So I wrote a full album's worth of songs and we called the project 'Tyger,Tyger' and believe it or not that never came out either. I was a bit dismayed about that as I was pleased with the way it turned out and in the end I left the music business all together. After I left the band I went to work for the local government for a number of years."
I have to respect you Robb for trying so hard to keep this band together, so rock on man!!
"Well thanx Jase, I did get a phone called again from Jess asking if we wanted to play Wacken (WOA) and did I want to be part of it, witch I agreed too and he called the rest of the guys up to see who else was interested in playing WOA. Nobody else could do it or didn't want to do it, so Jess asked 3 members of Blitzkrieg and we did 4 rehearsals and we didn't know we were going to be headlining till Jess mentioned it at the last minute. I had not played in front of anybody for 16 years and we played in front of 22.000 people. It wasn't great and it went out on MTV and a live album was also recorded. I really did enjoy myself."
OK Robb, so let's talk about the current line-up, as you have done a few albums with them so far. So where did you find each member?
"Well we have only had 1 line-up change since we reformed, and that was the singer. He name was called Tony Liddell who was also the singer in Sargent. We recorded the album at Tony's studio and it was released on Z Records, which in the end did not get the promotion that we needed, ad we only did 2 shows with Tony and I felt that we did not jell as a band. That album was called 'Mystical', it was a great album as well!! When we parted ways with Tony our manager Ian told me that he knew a great replacement, and that was Richie Wicks, who came over and did 4 songs & after that we said he had the job. Our old singer Tony had known them from other bands he had worked with. Craig Ellis was the last member to join and he was recommended by Tony, and there great musician's. To be honest this line-up has actually been together longer than the original line-up. Yes I am the only original member left but this line-up is awesome!!!"
So besides the current album and 'Mystical', what other releases have you done? Didn't you record a CD called 'Cybernation'?
"Yes we did record a CD called that, it was a mini CD which was only a fan base thing which was sold at shows. After that album came out we did the live album and DVD & the new album 'Noses From The Cathouse'."
Are you happy with the way the new album turned out. Also what songs are your favourite?
"I am very happy with the way it came out, and it's usually Dean and myself that come up with the core ideas for the songs, and the rest of the band follows. So we all get together and write the songs, we work great as a team. Well my favourite song is 'Master Of Illusion', because that song has turned out to be a epic as it has everything on it. I also like 'Highspeed Highway Superman', which we open up with for our shows. I also like 'Running Man', and I also like 'Deja Vu', 'Cybernation'. We have just finished recording some new songs and and there more along the Tygers feel than ever before!!"
Are you happy with the way things are going for you and the label? Also I'm surprised that no major metal label has shown any interest in the band, was there any interest?
"Yeah things seem to be going well so far. Well nobody else really showed any interested and I think it was because we had been out of the limelight for too long now. People do take us serious now, because when we play shows the fans thank us for playing so many of the classics."
Lets talk about cover songs for a moment, I'm a fan of Kreator from Germany, the thrash band, who recorded 'Gangland' on one of their singles, did you hear it and what did you think of it? Also what would your reaction be if there was a tribute band to 'Tygers Of Pan Tang'?
"It's kind of strange, because my son likes them, it's one of his favourite band and he played it to me, and I told him it was good but they did not play it any faster than we did (Laughing). I also think it was a good version too. I had heard that Metallica had recorded some of our songs as well. If there was a tribute band to us, I would be very interested to hear it, it would be great!!"
OK Robb, so how long is this tour going to last and will you be playing any shows in Europe?
"After we have played the UK we go to Belgium to a festival called 'Dokken', and the we do a festival in Austria and a couple of festivals in Spain and 1 with Primal Fear, Rage in France I believe, as well as 6 shows in Italy.
Well Robb, it's been a pleasure to meet you again, best wishes to you and the band as well as Ian your manager. Do you have anything to say before we finish the interview?
"Well it has been a pleasure talking to you Jason, best of luck with the website. To the fans thanx for your support and we will be back soon!! Rock on!!
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