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Interview with Jacopo Meille | Tygers of Pan Tang

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  • Jacopo hi, how are you?

JACOPO: I’m fine regardless what's happening in, you know everywhere in the world

 

 

  • First of all, I want to thank you for joining me it's a big pleasure for us. How things going there?

JACOPO: well we played the last concert on the 8th of March in Belgium and that was the last time that we the five of us got together so it's been a while and we had so many gigs planned for this year that obviously had to be cancelled/rescheduled and everything we were supposed to be going to Mexico, we were supposed to be going to Australia but obviously the current situation didn't make it possible, then we had to let the people know that mickey our guitar player was going to leave and we were hoping to do some live auditions but that wasn't even possible so we had to do it online but  luckily we have a new guitar player who's a is an Italian guy called Francesco Marras who lives in Germany, he's Italian but he lives in Germany and he is now the new guitarist for tygers and since he joined we started working on new songs and that's what we do, that's actually what I do today and today I have to record a demo because we have an idea that we have to develop and I have to record a demo so we're taking this time that we cannot play live to write new music and I think it's the best way to get through the pandemic by recording new music and hopefully, as soon as we can get it recorded.

 

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  • Many changes I see, do you want to share something about the new songs or the new album?

JACOPO: We are currently using technology because Rob, Craig and Gavin are based in England and I’m based in Florence in Italy and Francesco is based in Germany so luckily, technology can help us so, we bounce each other's demos and ideas and riffs and that's how we do it I mean, I’m used to that because in the past there were four guys in England and one guy in Italy which was me so, they were at least they could rehearse and get together, and then, they were sending me the demos. Now we're doing it a little bit in a different way but we think that we're very pleased with what we do, I think it's psychologically, the best thing to do because, if you're stuck at home and you basically can’t go out for just tiny little bit, having to record and having to deal with your passion, it's the best way to keep your mind occupied.  The last time I saw Rob in person was like in Belgium at the airport and since then he's been sending and writing stuff, he's been writing riffs and sharing ideas so we're pretty on board. We're pretty happy, for the first time ever I think, we will be able to write a lot of songs and to develop all the songs, to a stage where it will be easy to pick up the best ones, and to go in a studio whenever it will be possible to record a new album, which I hope it will be very soon because we would like to have new stuff ready for when we're going to play live again, which I don't see possible until the next spring which means April 2021 if everything goes right.

 

  • Since 2001 with the ‘’Μystical’’ album you steadily making albums almost every four years. Νot an easy feat even for many bands in the Industry. What's your secret?

JACOPO: Well if you speak to Μichael Αnderson who is the boss of Τarget -and we have done two albums with them- he would love to have at least an album every two year and that's what we are looking for and we're trying to do this time around, but it takes some time especially if you are in Tygers, an independent band you have to promote the album, at the same time you have to  also have to gain the money to record the album because in the past we always been kind of self-produced the album ourselves so we invest on the making of the album and so, you need money for that and the only way a band can get money uh is by touring so that's mainly one of the reason that it took some time to get right budget to go to the studio and record the album, mixing it and mastering it and everything, so that's one case. The other thing is that in the past we never had a problem in writing stuff but there's always been the need to feel the pressure if you know what I mean, we need to feel the pressure that I record and be a date where we have to go to the studios and start recording so we need to have some pressure on our shoulders to be focused on at the certain time otherwise, we are a bit lazy and so that we do demos but we never come to the stage where we are 100 happy with it, and only when suddenly the record label says ‘’oh you we need to have the master by whatever day’’ that's when everything clicks. And we are really impressed by how many good ideas and how many songs we've been developing since last august with Francesco and the rest of the band we've been really concentrating on writing new stuff so hopefully this time around a new album will be out, definitely sooner than four years. I can’t say it a certain day but I would love to record the album in 2021. Ηopefully it would be out in 2022

 

 

  • I have to ask you, “Ritual’’ is the 17th most recent album of Tygers back in 2019. Have you ever thought that the Tygers will be around after 40 years?

JACOPO: well (laughs) I’m in the band since 2004 so it's been 16 years that I’ve been in the band and I would never expect that we'll be together so long but yes if that question you should ask to Rob who was there since the beginning just says it's been you a real roller-coaster ride because we started back in 1978 and all of a sudden we were you know with the ‘’Wildcat’’ and everybody was saying they were going to become big stars then came ‘’Spellbound’’, ‘’Crazy Nights’’,  it was like two years where they released like three albums within a very short period of time, and speaking with Robbie you would never expect that since he reformed the band in 2001 with ‘’Mystical’’ he would be going and the band will still be running, there's been several line-up changes, but even for me when I  think that two days ago three days ago it was the anniversary from ‘’Crazy Nights’’ and for me it's an honor to be in a band that celebrates a 30th anniversary of an album so it's an honor and a responsibility to keep the quality, the standards, the expectation, and  to cover the expedition that fans will have when we will do a new album. It's great feeling at the same time because obviously you are proud of what you've been working on, and you were being achieving, and it's great that you know the fans are still here after so many years, then you say you're a member of Tygers of Pan Tang you see heavy metal fans and hard rock fans their faces that there's some kind of excitement and there's still excitement and a lot of respect to the name. For what we know the man (Rob) has been releasing through the years and everything so, it's great fantastic I wouldn't imagine yeah, I would never think that that it would be like this in 2020.

 

 

  • Tygers were one of the first pioneers of NWOBHM. How things changed now in the bands philosophy, in the music industry, and how things work in heavy metal now as you can see them?

JACOPO: well luckily, I would say that heavy metal is a genre and has a general that keeps doing pretty well and one of the reasons why I think it is, is up to a 100% to the fans. The fans are so devoted, they are still buying records, they still go to shows and they're loyal even if they grow old (laughs)they still love the music, they still buy the records, they still come to the concerts so, in a way heavy metal has survived all the changes, the drastic changes that have been in the music business, with the advent of internet with the fact that you know more and more people so, if you listen to pop, a lot of a pop albums don’t sells much because everything down digital, streaming or digital downloading so it is a completely different way of promoting and also a way of completely different attitude towards music and attitude, a completely different relationship to music when it comes down to heavy metal. The kind of relation between the bands and their audience, their fans has been the same since 1980, meaning fans still love to buy vinyl, they want new stuff and they want it physical they want to buy the cd, they want to go to the record store, they want to add the new album to their collection and most of all, coming to the show no matter what happens and I’m so sorry that Tygers came to Greece only once with me on vocals but I remember that we played a terrific show in Athens and that I still have so fond memories about that because  the audience went really crazy, it was one of the wildest nights that we ever had and I remember that we had the show, and then we stayed with the fans, and then I don't know what time of night was, but some of the fans took us to another club somewhere in Athens I don't remember because I was starting to be drunk (laughs again) but we had a hell of a night which is something that probably doesn't happen if you're not into heavy metal or if you're not into hard rock and you have that kind of relationship with your fans, and that kind of relationship is the reason why heavy metal is still alive and every metal festival are still alive and they're still doing well and that's why unfortunately not this year but there's always being invited to a lot of festival, big ones, and it's fantastic, it has never changed the attitude, the only problem is that  we are getting old so, we cannot afford such a tight schedule sometimes so we need to have a number of dates and a half and a day off and that's it, and you know sometimes the traveling is a bit exhausting but so far I think that heavy metal is doing pretty well.

 

  • Since we are talking about the festivals and Greece when all these things with pandemic and all these stuff comes to an end is there any possibility to see you in Greece again?

JACOPO: yeah sure any time as I said you know I still have such great memories of that gig in Athens that goes really back in time I think it goes back into 2009 something like that so, we need to come back and we met some Greek fans at a festival in Barcelona and they were asking us and if you have any promoter that is interested or suggest giving us the contact and we will try to contact and we will try to arrange and we would love to come there for a couple of gigs anytime as soon as you know touring will be again possible.

 

  • I have to ask you about the name of the band. Many of your fans know what the tiger of Pan Tang is but also many doesn't. What does it symbolize for the band?

JACOPO: Well again Rob would be the perfect one to ask but tigers of Pan Tang. The cliffs of Pan Tang are some sort of a fantasy place that was mentioned in one of Michael’s Moorcock novels and they were saying that the cliffs of Pan Tang were a very, very dangerous place because tigers were there so that's the thing that came out. I don’t know exactly who had the idea of the Chinese lettering of tigers of Pan Tang and who was the one to -not pretty sure if it was Rob- who suggested to put the ‘’Y’’ in tigers instead of the ‘’I’’ but that's where it all came from. I remember Rob saying that they all thought that having such strange and long name was a little bit different from anybody else and if you think about the fact that they were coming out of NWOBHM where you had Def Leppard and Iron Maiden and then Saxon and Venom, all of them had their own logo everyone had their own, you know, we the tigers, Iron Maiden had Eddie since the first album had their specific lettering and then you had Venom who had one of the first satanic, you know, reference and everything. So, it was a time when, I think, everyone had the freedom to try, and felt the freedom to just be different and develop their own image and their own style, how to present themselves. And it is something that nowadays has been a little bit lost because obviously there's a completely different marketing strategies that have changed so drastically. But I guess that was a typical example of how back in the 80s there was completely freedom to experiment and liberty from the record label. They were open-minded (the record labels) so they allowed the band to choose by themselves everything. If you speak to Rob you could tell him that you know even on the artwork that they had almost complete freedom which is something that if you think now it's unbelievable (Laughter), they would never allow you to do it, like you know, big major labels. They will want to have the control of everything. So, it was I think that Τygers of Pan Tang even the name is a kind of a reminder of how were free to express themselves back in the 80s.

 

 

  • That's a good question. How difficult was for a band to make an album back in 80s or 90s in comparison with nowadays?

JACOPO: Well as I said, music business has completely changed meaning now. In the 80s  a band need to be ready and prepared to get in the studio because no matter if it was  low budget or a big budget studio it was going to be expensive and on the other hand the record labels were very curious and were very open-minded and they were always looking for something new so, in the case of Tygers what happened  is that they went in the studio, they released an EP and the EP went so well in the northeast of Newcastle and in that area -because the story of tigers is a little bit of the same story of Def Leppard, that produced their own EP- and the EP sold so well that MCA  interested in the fact that a band coming out of nowhere was selling by themselves so many copies that they wanted to sign  and this is something that don't happen anymore, I mean, big major labels they're not interested in investing in new stuff in a way. They're happier to invest on big names and everything. On the other hand, nowadays it's much easier to produce an album because you can record almost everything at home, meaning guitars vocals and bass and everything only the drums unless you want to program them which is not our case because we still record at the old ways with the four of us in the studio playing backing tracks live so that you need to have proper drums, proper equipment and a proper studio, big studio that allows you to have a full band playing together. But nowadays, we actually tested this by ourselves and just I was saying we're recording a lot of demos being in different countries by sending backing tracks and the backing tracks they sound good even the demos they sound pretty damn good they give you exactly the idea of how the song should sound like so, nowadays making a record is not a big deal. The big deal is getting the promotion and getting your song or your name and the name of your band in to the general public, how to use the platforms and the strategy around Spotify or Apple music and how to make the m work for the band that has to do a lot of promotion by themselves. I think every band now nowadays have to have a knowledge of marketing more than it was in the past, where a band just had to write music and play music and then a record label will be interested and once the record label will have them sign a record, the record label will take care of everything. nowadays the record label takes care of a lot of stuff and we are very lucky because Target, our record label is one of the Best independent regular labels that I ever I’ve been working with, because they're very into promoting, getting Tyger's records you know everywhere they are very happy to invest money and time and efforts to make you know Tygers sell as much as possible.  a new band that's coming out now has to be ready to self-produce their own album, has to be ready to self-promote their album even if they have a record label, that they have to do themselves and it's not just a matter of you know writing and recording uh a good song

 

 

  • About these platforms on the other hand many artists are now standing their ground to Spotify for not giving to the artist the appropriate royalty for their work. what is your opinion?

JACOPO: it's true, we're getting a little piece of the pie, very little piece of a pie. But that's how it is because nowadays there's not that much alternative. People don't buy records anymore there's only few countries where people like Germany for instance like Belgium and holland and I think Greece also where people still buy records but in most other places there's not many people who buy a record and every everything it is in streaming so everybody is listening to music through digital platforms and I think big companies like Spotify they know that, and they know they make a difference they know they make an impact on the market. and so, and so obviously they play they play their role and they get most of the money out of it basically. On the other hand, that’s part of the music business and the music has always evolved so, it will come a time where, things will be different. Particularly now with the Pandemic the only way you can listen to music is either they allow you go to a record store and buy a record or get it on the internet and listen to music so, this is the right time for Spotify as well of the other ones Amazon and Apple that ‘’we make a difference so you have you have to accept it or not. People are listening more through us and they and they're getting your music through us so, you have to just accept it’’ and get away with that. Hopefully things will probably change a little bit in the future but still they will get more of the money. It's fine that they get the money I don't say that they should not, at the same time the artists should get more money out of it more percentage of the copyright, because without them (the artists) the streaming services would not do anything.

 

  • What bands or music players inspired the Τygers and to you personally?

 JACOPO: Well with Tygers I would say if I speak for Τygers, back in the early days I would definitely say, they were inspired by Thin Lizzy they were inspired by Status Quo they were inspired by Deep Purple they were inspired by -well Rob is a great fan of AC/DC and you know Bon Scott era- and so that were the inspiration. They were basically kids that really loved hard rock and they took the hard rock to a different level with a more aggressive sound and that's the common that me and rob have together because  I grew up listening to Kiss and Queen and then Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, Black Sabbath so, I  grew up listening to hard rock and that's the core and that's what I like, and still like to listen right now, even though I’m a big of a record collector so I listen to a lot of stuff and I buy a lot of stuff, but when it comes down to make a decision hard rock it's the genre that  represents me I’m a huge fan of UFO -and it was a tough year for me because you know two members of UFO died this year  and it was a great loss for me it was a big  one of those tough moments that we had during this year because to me UFO are one of the best bands that UK has ever produced and  I always loved them, i always loved the fact that they were one of a kind, I loved  the lineup with Michael (Schenker) obviously but I was a great fan of Paul Chapman so, this here was a tough one and this is just to say how still I am a big hard rock fan and I’m still one of those musicians who still buys records and there's records everywhere in my house there's more records than you know than shoes I would definitely say (laughs). so yes, that's where Tygers come from. It is basically a hard rock fun band and that started playing with a rougher attitude, a more direct attitude, with a little bit of a punk if you say they were when the punk was born in England in 1976-1977 so they were listening to that generation so they got some inspiration also for that so, and that's the thing where the you know the metal edge came out, and that's how they developed their sound.

 

  • Are there any memories from your first time on stage or the worst or the best moments of a show you want to share with us?

 JACOPO: This one show in Athens that was really one of the best experiences in my life also the one of the worst headache I had the day before and the day after, there's another one that we played a show in Darby in England well I think it was  way down in 2005 I think it was the second or third gig I ever did with Tygers and that's when I had a chance to meet  one of my heroes  in the backstage I was so excited and I was so nervous  that I’m sharing the backstage with Pete Way and so I introduced myself to him and I said look I’m a great big fan I’m a singer from Tygers and I said -he was still think he is but he was a great football fan- I am Italian  he asked me if I was into football obviously and what was my favorite Italian team and luckily I said the right answer I’m from Florence so, my team is Fiorentina and you'll say was a relief  so and that was it,  and I met him several times after and he always remembered me and it was always nice the fact that at different shows indifferent times we had a chance to meet each other it was him saying  ‘’hello jack how you doing’’ and to me that it's still one of my fondest memories I have. Pete Way recognizing me and saying hello and taking time speaking with me so that was great

 

 

 

  • Is there anything that you regret throughout the years?

 JACOPO: Not a single thing. In my life there's no time for regrets. That's something that I always believed in that, I’m a person that it's always looking at  tomorrow, I try to leave the present as much as I can and at the same time I’m completely devoted to the future and  I’m looking forward to what the future will bring me, and I don't list what happened in the past that has happened and there's probably a good reason why this has happened and  I never looked behind me and  I must say I might be probably a lucky guy to have this kind of attitude and so, no regrets. if you leave (regrets) in Rock and Roll there's, I think, there's no time for regrets. If not, optimistic you have to have some kind of excitement towards the future

 

  • I absolutely agree with you. Do you want to tell something to your fans? a message for your fans?

 JACOPO: Yes, I want you all Tygers fans from Greece and who are listening to Black Velvet Radio to help us come into Greece. we want to come to Greece and to play live for you. We can't wait to do that so help us making this dream possible because we miss you and we would love to stay and do a couple of shows in Greece and meet you all.

 

  • Thank you very much it was a great interview we are waiting the new album we hope to see you in Greece again until then stay safe and stay strong.

 JACOPO: thank you very much, stay safe too and keep rocking, bye bye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Mouskos, Elena Manta, Tasos Zervoudakis

Black Velvet Radio

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