Hi Robb, great to meet you!
Robb: Great to meet you too.
MG: NWOBHM is still relevant after all of these years.
Robb: Absolutely! Do you know it’s never really gone away, maybe just underplayed little bit. Newer things come along and take precedence and people love to pigeon-hole things, it makes people feel safe when they can use a label, and back in 1978 when Geoff Barton wrote about this new musical movement that was following punk, he gave it a label, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and that helped a lot of people identify with it. People could say ... "oh yeah, this new band, I have just heard are called the Tygers Of Pan Tang and they are part of the NWOBHM" ... I don’t know, maybe it’s a safety net for people because they can put something in its place. NWOBHM has steadily grown since its inception into the beast that it is, but other things have come into the fore and have taken a bit more precedence. NWOBHM has just sort of bubbled away underneath.
MG: Yes and so many bands have reformed recently haven’t they?
Robb: Absolutely and are probably reforming as we speak in somebody’s lounge!
MG: Bands like Tank for example ...
Robb: Yes, we did a show with them in Belgium recently. First time we had ever played with them and you know the place was absolutely packed to the rafters, it was a complete sweatbox, it was a really great show.
We have recently come back from three shows in Spain, so we are hot to trot. We are a very honest band, what you see is what you get. We don’t use make-up, we don’t use flame throwers, we don’t use flashes ... unless somebody’s zips bursts!
MG: A proper Rock Band then!
Robb: Yeah! So we play live and try to entertain in the way we see fit really.
MG: The new album's called 'Ambush', why that name?
Robb: Right well a little bit of education for everyone, possibly or possibly not. 'Ambush' has two meanings. 'Ambush' ... when someone jumps out from behind a bush and ambushes you, or more importantly it is a collection of Tigers. Just like we have a flock of seagulls, or a herd of elephants, indeed a pride of lions, well 'Ambush' is a group of Tigers!
MG: You learn something new every day! So what are your plans for the rest of the year? Are you going to be working on another album?
Robb: There are ideas popping up all the time for new material. We set out probably two years ago to create 'Ambush' and things happened. We had a bass player change, which we kind of used as excuse which we should not have done, but we are well and truly back on track now. We had a stock pile of about twenty five songs for this album and we chose twelve.
A track of the new album called 'Hey Susie' has a great deal of relevance as it is the follow on from 'Susie Smiled', so Craig our drummer took the idea of the lyrics from 'Susie Smiled' and created a story of Susie grown up and coming back into the fore as it were.
MG: What bands do you listen to when you are out and about? Any new bands that have grabbed your attention?
Robb: There’s a local band supporting us at The Newcastle Academy called Sons of Arcadia and I really like them, check them out on YouTube. Another band that's grabbed my attention was a year ago when we played in Bournemouth and I can’t remember their name, it was double barreled, like something Tiger ... I would love to see them again, they were like a hard rocking Supertramp.
MG: Are there any bands you wish you could have toured with or want to tour with?
Robb: Yes, when Van Halen were first starting to make waves over here, we asked the management if we could to be added as support, but the promoter would not for whatever reason agree, so we were upset. We went to see them as fans instead and they were phenomenal.
MG: Tell me about your earlier days, any outrageous behaviour you would like to tell me? Reason I ask is because I recently interviewed a fairly big up and coming band and I was disappointed to go into their dressing room and find juicers and vegetables. Not exactly Motley Crue is it!
Robb: I don’t think anyone could ever reach the excess of that band! But, we were hell raisers in the day, but not to the extent of Motley Crue. Myself and John Sykes used to play practical jokes on people and the one I know that has been well documented is the one where we were playing in Thetford, it was the middle of winter and driving through all these lanes with snow at the sides. Anyway we get to this quite posh guesthouse were we were staying and up the staircase towards all the bedrooms, the owner had cactus, all these different types and it didn’t take long for me and John to see them and not say anything but telepathically decide what we were going to do with one or some of these cactuses!
Everybody had their own rooms, so when Jon Deverill was downstairs having a drink at the bar, John Sykes and I tip-toed up the stairs collecting cactuses and we went into his room took the light bulb out, so the room would be in total darkness. We unscrewed the bed legs so that the bed was just resting on them and so obviously, any weight on the bed and it would just collapse. We then placed the cactus' in his bed.
We were absolutely besides ourselves with laughter. We went to the show, played that then came back to the guesthouse. It was about 2.30 am and we could not wait for Jon Deverill to say goodnight to everybody and go upstairs to bed, which he did. John Sykes and I were crying with laughter, even in the state of the amount of spirits we had drunk. I mean you have these two long haired studded monsters in ragged jeans and cowboy boots, crawling up the stairs wanting to just burst out laughing.
Outside John's room we could hear him flicking the light switch and realising it wasn’t working and we heard him saying his welsh accent ... ”oh I think the bulbs gone, oh I'm in darkness” ... and then all of a sudden he’s gotten onto the bed and then we heard this big noise as the bed collapsed and then this scream. Then the door bursts open and Jon Sykes and I kind of separated as we were like two naughty boys listening at the door with our ears. Out rushes Jon Deverill with this cactus attached to his buttock running down the corridor going ... “Oooooo boys, somebody help me“!... We were just ill with laughter! Sorry Jon! It was at his expense but it was just so funny!
MG: I remember the Tygers of Pan Tang being in the first ever issue of Kerrang (1981-82), looking at how the industry and times have changed since then, would you want to be starting from back then or now as a band?
Robb: I definitely would not start now… The record companies saw what Geoff Barton was talking about with the NWOBHM and the record companies jumped on board. Def Leppard signed to Phonogram, Iron Maiden signed to EMI, Saxon to Carrere. We signed to MCA and it was the big four sort of thing, the starting four.
We were busy carving out our destiny for ourselves, some achieved great heights, some didn’t.
MG: Looking back on your career, which would you say is your favourite Tygers album?
Robb: 'Wildcat' was a very special time starting out on the road. I can’t really explain, but if you were there at the time, you'd know what I mean. Coming out of the pits and shipyards, not being able to wait till it was Friday night to put on your denim and leathers, pint in your hands and the volume turned up high! It’s hard to quantify, you had to be there. But the new album 'Ambush' is the first Tyger's album I can honestly say where I catch myself singing the songs while I am working etc.
MG: Thank you for your time and is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Robb: Hey if it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be sat here! Thank you very much indeed and if there’s a band coming to your town and you fancy going to see get your shoes and slippers off, get out and see these bands. Live music is everything and if it dies out, a major part of history will die, it will be awful, so please, please support live bands and you know if the Tygers are playing, come along and see us. We are very sociable Tygers, we don’t bite and we will certainly come out after the show and have a drink with you. Speak to you, have photographs taken. We do all sort of crazy things. Thank you ever so much and see you soon!
Interview by: Seb Di Gatto