Published on September 6, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Grab a Tyger by its ringpull
A German proverb goes something like: “There’s no off-switch on a tiger”. It’s a phrase that could have been invented for one of the North East’s most enduring heavy metal bands. They hardly ever stop.
Tygers of Pan Tang originally formed in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, in 1978 and despite various changes in personnel and a hiatus of several years, the five-strong group is probably now more popular than ever, regularly touring the UK, Europe and the Americas.
To celebrate a new British tour and the release of their latest album, Tygers have commissioned a beer brewed in Newcastle for fans worldwide which will also appeal ale aficionados and those who might prefer something less strident through their headphones.
Tygers of Pan Tang and Tyger Blood (5.0% abv) join the ranks of a growing number of bands who have had beers brewed in their name – such as Queen: Bohemian Lager (4.7% abv); Iron Maiden: Trooper (4.8% abv); Elbow: Build A Rocket Boys! (4.0% abv); Madness: Gladness Craft Lager (4.0% abv); Super Furry Animals: Fuzzy (8.5% abv), and Frank Turner: Believe (4.8% abv).
Tygers manager Tom Noble says: “The guy who owns the Tygers’ record label is based in Copenhagen where he runs a club. It was suggested that the band had a special beer produced for the new UK tour. I actually contacted another brewery who couldn’t do it, but they said ‘I know someone who can’, so they put us on to Ross Holland at Box Social Brewing in Newcastle. Ross is a bit of a rocker himself (he had a band called Rossi Noise) so it was a match made in heaven.
“We’ll promote the new album which comes out in October, plus the beer and the tour at the official launch at The Cluny in Newcastle on November 21.”
Tyger Blood is an easy-drinking red ale brimming with caramel and toasted flavours. It’s also being canned.
“We’re over the moon with how Tyger Blood has turned out,” says Ross Holland. “Our can sales have taken us by surprise. They’re massively outselling our bottles – and we thought they were doing well.”
Tygers of Pan Tang founder-member, guitarist Robb Weir, admits that he’s “a bit of a pussy” in that he is something of a wine connoisseur, but he and fellow band members hunt for local beers wherever they are in the world.
He says: “Craig our drummer and Jack our vocalist are big dark beer drinkers. They always seek out local delicacies.
“We’ve played from Skegness to Rio this year and did four shows in Brazil, Paraguay and Columbia, then three dates in Holland and Belgium – plus we did Chicago and Ibiza in the same week in May. When you’re in some of those countries where they drink lager-type beers they look at you oddly when you ask for a dark beer, but Craig is great for tracking them down.
“Jack (Jacomo Mielle from Florence) is probably more British than we are – he speaks faultless English and has really adopted our culture as a fine beer drinker.
“When we were discussing Tyger Blood, we put as much into it as we could, but took advice from Ross who came up with an absolutely magical idea for a dark red IPA. It’s filtered, unlike his other beers. It looks clear and dark and red and looks like what it says on the can. And no tigers have been harmed in the process.”
Ross Holland is obviously happy with his creation and the fact that he’s involved with a band that has a huge worldwide following.
“We thought we’d do something different with the red IPA and we’re really, really, pleased with it,” he says. “We did a few trial brews before we got it where we wanted it. The artwork on the cans looks fantastic, too.”
Tygers of Pan Tang’s manager Tom Noble started his career in music supplying rock concert reviews for NME more years ago than he cares to remember – White Snake and Black Sabbath among them.
“Once it’s in your blood it’s in your blood,” he says. “We’ve just come back from a festival in Alicante in Spain where the band played in front of 15,000 people. They’re very well known across the continent in the likes of Germany, Belgium and Italy. The guy in Chicago was absolutely desperate to get them to go there, but there hasn’t been a proper tour of the UK for quite some time.”
And the name? Tygers we can guess at because all their album covers feature beautifully illustrated striped big cats, but Pan Tang? Robb has the details.
He says: “Rocky Laws, our original bass player, was a big science fantasy fan. He was reading Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock which has a storyline describing the cliffs of Pan Tang guarded by attack tigers instead of attack dogs. We loved the idea but changed the spelling of tiger.”
The name Michael Moorcock rings a bell – wasn’t he very much involved with 1970s rockers Hawkwind which featured a frontman called Lemmie? Mention of the late Lemmie Kilmister – better known for his days in MotÖrhead – starts Robb reminiscing. They were good pals.
“Lemmie was a great loss, says Robb. “He was a very, very clever and talented man and a pleasure to know.”
Tygers have a rider that requests 24 bottles of premium lager backstage, but promoters get excited when they ask for local beer.
“You can see them light up,” says Robb. “Ross says he’ll get the beers shipped out to where we’re playing – we hope Tyger Blood will be sold all over the world.”
But are Tygers are as fierce as their name and their decibel-challenging sound suggests?
“This job is a second childhood,” says Robb. “We do as many shows as our lives permit us to and try and fit family life into all that. Then I always bring my grandkids something back from different places.”
It just shows there is no off-switch on a Tyger.