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Interview with Sarah Firebrand (Tigertailz)

Following a recent discussion with founder Jay Pepper, our Tigertailz interviews continue with bassist Sarah Firebrand. Earlier this month the band released Bezerk Live – Burnin’ Fuel, a compilation of live material recorded throughout the year that marked the twentieth anniversary since the release of their breakthrough album, Bezerk.

Tigertailz first formed in Cardiff, Wales in the mid-1980s by Pepper and original bassist Pepsi Tate. Following the release of their debut album, Young & Crazy, the band fired their singer and recruited Kim Hooker for Bezerk. With the death of glam metal during the early 1990s the band disappeared from the scene but eventually returned over a decade later with the highly anticipated follow-up Bezerk 2.0.

Sarah Firebrand talks about her first year with Tigertailz and her plans for the future.

With December having marked the release of Bezerk Live – Burnin’ Fuel, how do you feel the Tigertailz of today may compare to the one of twenty years ago when Bezerk was originally released?

Bezerk is a classic glam metal album on the surface – but as a fan pointed out to me this weekend at Hard Rock Hell, there are some much heavier influences behind it. Listen to I Can Fight Dirty Too and the pounding, scratchy opening of Call of the Wild and you can see that it wasn’t all hairspray and make-up. Pepsi Tate was influenced by Nine Inch Nails and Megadeth, and in later ‘Tailz albums you can hear that. The later Tigertailz material like Long Live the New Flesh and Dirty Needlez show a much-heavier side to the band.

Was the music of Tigertailz a part of your life growing up and when did you first discover them?

I discovered Tigertailz quite late on actually and hadn’t heard any of their material until a few years ago when I saw them live a couple of times. When I was growing up I loved Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Poison, Guns N’ Roses…all of them just defined the image of the rock star to me. Tigertailz see themselves as being very much a British Heavy Rock band, and not necessarily part of that scene so I am delighted to be part of the gang now!

How much of their material could you play prior to your audition and would you say that the chemistry was there between Kim, Jay and yourself from the moment you met?

I hadn’t tried to play anything up until I had my audition, but the first song I wanted to attempt was I Can Fight Dirty Too, because of its leading bass riff – that grabbed my attention straight away. I learnt all of Bezerk so that at the audition I’d be able to play it through with the guys in sequence. I think they were only expecting me to learn a couple of tracks! As for chemistry – I was so nervous I wasn’t really myself. I’m usually quite the joker and like to have a laugh, but I was worried more about remembering everything and playing the best I could. Jay was fabulous, shook my hand and made sure I was happy with everything. Kim was a bit weird but then that’s him all over. He said at the end, ‘Sarah, you’re a lovely girl but I’m going now.’ So – as you can imagine I had no idea what was going on. They’ve both really welcomed me to the fold and are two of the nicest chaps you could ever meet.

With Robin having joined the band recently you are no longer the new blood. Do you think this has made it easier for fans to accept you as part of the group and did this create a common bond between you and Robin?

Yes – in fact on 30 September this year we played in Cardiff with Y&T and for me THAT was the show where everything fell into place for me and I really did feel a member of the band. At shows before that, I still felt I was in the band, but it takes a while to settle in, to be confident in playing the songs and most importantly interacting with the rest of the band and the audience.

The fact we spent the first half of the year playing Bezerk in sequence was perfect for me because it helped me get everything solid and in place. When we played in September and it was Robin’s first show with us, I was no longer the new kid and wanted Robin to feel happy with the show – and I just knew the crowd would love him. The fact Robin and I are new additions to the line up is great because I’ve seen in Kim and Jay a real new lease of life – they’re so excited about the band and the new energy we have now. (Robin and I are both on the same page as far as music’s concerned and just want to play as much as we can.) Also – with two new members, there’s a whole new Yin and Yang to Tigertailz – you’ve got the old and the new (!), the Welsh and the English, the frontmen and the rhythm crew, the brunettes and the blondes! The drunkards and the talent … no I’m kidding. We’re actually all drunks. Seriously though, this is a powerful new Tailz and I hope the fans give the new line-up the thumbs up.

Being the first female of the band, what new dynamic do you think you have brought to Tigertailz that may not have been explored previously?

Erm…ovaries?! Charm, beauty and wit?! Kim and Jay were very conscious that, with a male bass player, he would always be compared to Pepsi Tate, whereas introducing a female erases any thought of a comparison. By having a girl in the band they’ve added in something different to the mix which hopefully the fans approve of.

I play bass with my fingers, not a pick, which both Kim and Jay have commented on. It’s something I have always done and when I started playing when I was 14 playing with a plectrum was never something that even entered my head. When I first played Call of the Wild with the band, Kim and Jay were quite amazed at how different it sounded, they said I played it really rhythmically and even said ‘that sounds like Steve Harris!’ which is a massive compliment to me. And of course, the most obvious thing is that now they have a female vocal in the background – It’s only a small aesthetic change but noticeable.

How did you come to be a blog writer for Rock AAA and did you ever consider being a critic if your music career hadn’t taken off?

I was approached by Martin Kielty of Rock Radio who was putting together Rock AAA – the brand new news strand of the station. He said he thought I was ‘interesting’ and it would be nice if I could write a regular blog on what’s going on in music, and my thoughts and opinions on various matters. I have got to say, I was very flattered to be asked, as there are a lot of other musicians he could’ve asked and I imagine a lot of people will think ‘who’s this bint and what’s she banging on about’ but hopefully my tales, rants and advice will be of interest! No – I didn’t consider being a music critic – I always wanted to be up on stage. I’ve had a taste of it though in the past few years as my husband, Steve Beebee (Kerrang!) gets to go and review a lot of bands. It’s nice to be able to go with him and see bands I wouldn’t normally go and watch.

Was the decision to record a live album already in place when you joined Tigertailz and how long did you have to prepare before the shows?

It was only my third meeting with the boys when Jay Pepper told me they were considering recording some shows this year to mark the 20th Anniversary of Bezerk. What I liked was he didn’t say ‘we’re doing this’ he said ‘how do you feel about it?’ – I jumped at the chance. To be part of the twentieth anniversary live recording of an iconic album is a real honour.

Tigertailz

Tigertailz

Have you performed any of your new material live as yet or are your songs still in the early stages? Would you say that the writing is a collaboration between the four of you or are there principal songwriters who bring the music to the other members?

The songs were always written by Kim, Jay and Pepsi. There hasn’t been a new album since ‘the boy’ passed away and it was talked about earlier this year. Then, Kim and Jay asked me if I would like to write some new tracks for the band. When I joined the band, I honestly thought that I would be there to play the songs and that’s it – so to be asked to contribute is massive. I’ve had a few songs on the go for over six months, but I can’t tell you how terrified I was sending them my stuff, to the point where I actually only sent some final demos over a few weeks ago. You have to remember, they’ve written together for 20 years and so to have someone new come in, who’s been in totally different bands it’s a scary thought and I did worry that they’d say ‘Actually it’s not really that great.’ So far, they’re pleased and there’s more to come.

From a back catalogue over twenty years, which songs in particular do you enjoy playing and have you been performing much from Young & Crazy or has the focus solely been on Bezerk?

We’ve played Shoot to Kill a couple of times and Living Without You…both fabulous tracks and fun to play. For the first half of the year we did solely play Bezerk tracks, but from September onwards we’ve been introducing other crowd favourites like Natural Born Animal, Wazbones and Long Live the New Flesh. I enjoy playing Sick Sex, it’s such a powerful opener and as I mentioned before I Can Fight Dirty Too is very bass driven so that’s a favourite. The most challenging for me so far has been Dirty Needles. If any bass players/guitarists are reading they’ll know that the main riff is really fast and Pepsi played it with a pick so it’s been doubly hard trying to get the riff up to speed playing with my fingers. But – practice makes perfect!

Thanks LOVE-IT-LOUD! See you soon!

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