This year marked the twentieth anniversary since the release of Bezerk, the breakthrough album from Welsh glam metallers Tigertailz. The success of Bezerk, along with the hit single Love Bomb Baby, saw the band becoming regular staples of rock magazines and music shows.
Formed in the mid-1980s by bassist Justin Smith (known to fans as Pepsi Tate) and guitarist Jay Pepper, Tigertailz has undergone several line-up changes over the last twenty years. 2010 saw bassist Sarah Firebrand and drummer Robin Guy (read our interview here) joining the group and their latest album, Bezerk Live: Burnin’ Fuel, will be released on 16 December.
Jay Pepper looks back on twenty five years of Tigertailz.
Being the only original member, does Tigertailz still feel like the band you first started over twenty years ago and what would you say is the core ingredient that has survived through the numerous incarnations?
Oh that’s a hard question to answer, mainly because I’m twenty years older and have things in my life that are more of a priority than Tigertailz now – like my children/family, etc. That said, I still take Tigertailz very seriously and anything and everything I do with the band I do to the best of my ability and give a hundred per cent. Whether that’s playing live, recording, rehearsing or whatever – I mean every bit of it.
Although I didn’t know it, life was much easier twenty years ago as all we would focus on was the band. We had no money but it didn’t seem to matter as long as we were working and had enough booze to get by. And, with Pepsi now gone it’s different for obvious reasons. But it still all feels pretty much the same. Whenever we get together it doesn’t take too long before the arsing about starts and we’re all falling about drunk and laughing. As for the core ingredient, I’d have to say that remains as strong and clear as ever – and that is to write great music and entertain people, and have a great time doing it. We’ll never lose sight of that.
Having undergone several line-up changes over the last few years for various reasons, do you feel that the chemistry between Kim, Sarah, Robin and yourself feels like a new beginning for Tigertailz?
Yes I do. It goes without saying that working with new and different people is something fresh and exciting. And when people are as nice and positive as Sarah and Robin it makes it even more exciting. So, I think the next year in Tailzland will be really productive and produce some great music, and I’d like to think we’ll release a new album.
What was the main reason behind releasing a live album now – was it to mark the twentieth anniversary of Bezerk or because you wanted to release a recording with your new line-up?
Yes, the new Bezerk Live: Burnin’ Fuel live album is to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Bezerk, and also to bring Sarah into the fold and give her a chance to record with us. We actually recorded the album at shows earlier this year so Robin isn’t on the live recordings – but he does feature on the album cover as he’s a fully paid-up member of The Tailz now and we didn’t want to confuse people about who the band is.
Although often labelled a glam band, your style of playing has often included elements of thrash metal (on songs such as I Can Fight Dirty Too), whilst you have also covered bands like Metallica and Megadeth. How influenced are you by thrash and have you wanted to venture further in that direction?
We’ve never really signed up to the whole ‘we’re a glam band’ thing, so we don’t restrict ourselves to just playing that ‘one’ kind of music. Previous record companies tried to make us write commercial songs (which we did for a time until we realised we were selling our souls). But once we got away from those companies we’ve always written stuff that we like – big sounding rock anthems. We grew up on the likes of KISS, Ozzy, Priest, Motörhead, AC/DC, Sabbath, Maiden, etc. We just found a niche in the UK rock scene at the time that got us noticed and we did this by looking a certain way. But as far as the music goes I don’t think we ever say ‘we can’t do that’, or ‘we must sound like this.’ For example, Pepsi was really into NIN and Megadeth so he would always write songs in that vein. But so do the rest of us – we just do what comes naturally and write songs we get off on.
In 1990, Tigertailz released a home video on VHS called Bezerk Live. Are there any plans to release this or other vintage material on DVD?
We’ve looked into this and the problem is no one has the original recordings. Plus these videos were all released on VHS (which is poor quality) so we just can’t get the quality up to a level where we think it should be sold as an official ‘Tailz product. People are selling these videos on Ebay as official DVDs but they’re not – just bootlegs and poor quality. I would say to anyone just avoid them and ask one of the real Tailzfans to send you a copy. If we do ever find the originals then maybe we’ll reissue. But for now it’s time to move forward with new product.
The band’s image on your debut album was very effeminate, yet with Bezerk there was a more sinister element added, particularly with Kim Hooker’s demonic face on the cover. What prompted such a change of image and are you still comfortable wearing make-up?
As I mentioned earlier, in the early days we got noticed from having an OTT image and our first album (Young & Crazy) was the result of this. There were a few EPs after which were equally as OTT (if not worse!). But by the time we got to do Bezerk it was clear we had enough profile that we could start being more ourselves and refining the image, but at the same time keeping it powerful. Pepsi was always at the forefront of anything to do with the band’s artwork and branding so he came up with the idea of Kim’s red eyes – which BTW are real contact lenses and not just coloured in on the cover. It was a major exercise for Kim to put these in and when I saw him he scared the shit out of me – seeing someone with real red eyes is really sinister, believe me. We never wanted to be a band who just got up on stage in jeans and T-shirts so having an image was part of us – and still is. As for being comfortable wearing make-up now, trust me, I look worse without.
Did you ever grow tired of always having to perform material from Bezerk (particularly Love Bomb Baby) and were you not concerned that recording a live version of the album could have been seen as taking a step back?
In some ways yes and this was discussed. But at the end of the day as a band you’re lucky to have music that touches people’s lives and leaves a mark. So to ask those same people to come and see you play live and not play the songs they love is wrong to me. And, as a band it’s about making music and playing live and this Bezerk Live: Burnin’ Fuel album to me sounds much better than the original.
I always loved Kiss Alive I and II, Priest‘s Unleashed in the East, Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, etc. And AC/DC’s If You Want Blood is one of the finest records that band has ever recorded. I see Bezerk Live: Burnin’ Fuel as the same for us – one of the best things we’ve done.
Were any of the shows that you recorded Bezerk Live – Burnin’ Fuel at caught on film as well and could fans expect to see a DVD in the near future?
Not to a professional standard but yes, and we have our own video website where we put the clips up for free. We host these clips on Vimeo where people can download and burn their own copies if they want. We’re big into not ripping people off and try to give as much stuff away free as we can. I don’t really see the need for a DVD which people would pay £10-£15 for when it’s all up there for free.
It is uncommon for a band that has been together as long as Tigertailz not to have released some kind of ‘greatest hits.’ Is this something you have considered or do you feel that it is unnecessary when your fans already own your albums?
I personally don’t like these kind of albums. If we could do a decent job on it with, say, a few new songs then maybe. But to release a mix of tracks with nothing new on it doesn’t float my boat. I remember getting KISS’ Double Platinum and being hugely disappointed. Maybe we’d do something like this at a later date but it would have to be something worth charging people for.
What dynamic do you feel each member brings to Tigertailz and why do you feel the band has managed to survive for so long?
Myself, Kim and Pepsi were all individuals who brought something different to the band and it created a dynamic that worked. With Sarah and Robin now in the band they bring their own sparks of magic that add to the cocktail and ‘Tailz sound. Tigertailz has always been like the Banana Splits – the new members just have different coloured cars.
Recently, Sarah commented on the band’s Facebook page that ‘New songs are being written right now.’; Can you elaborate at all on how this is coming along, what direction the band is taking and when you hope to have a new album completed?
Yes, everyone is writing new songs at the moment and it’s coming along. It’s a bit too early to say what direction the songs will take – but it’s definitely going to be heavy for the most part. We hope to record a new album later in 2011 so will keep you posted.