Tigertailz's Jay Pepper and Kim Hooker

Wayne Madden | Monday, 28 June 2010

Tigertailz's Jay Pepper and Kim Hooker

Tigertailz reformed in 2005 and have had a whirlwind musicial journey since. With two studio albums - most recently 2007's Thrill Pistol - the band have reclaimed their former glam metal sound.

The passing of bassist Pepsi Tate in 2007 brought sadness, but also a lot of attention to noble causes, and the band rose like a pheonix from the ashes. With a new album and a new bassist the band have treated 2010 like the new beginning it is. We invited founding members Kim Hooker and Jay Pepper for to muse over a new album, their forthcoming UK dates and a very special anniversary.

First and foremost, what's it like to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Bezerk album this year? Is it a surreal feeling?

Jay Pepper: Yes, it certainly is surreal. Last time I looked I was 20 and thin! Feeling pretty good though and really enjoying doing the Bezerk album live - those songs still sound great despite being 20 years old.

Kim Hooker: Well if you would've asked me that 10 years ago I would've said 'you're crazy'. I never thought I'd be doing this for a second, so yes it's surreal, but everything we do is a real honour; every day is special. One lesson I've learnt over the years is we never know how long we'll be here. Today could be the last so cherish every one.

What can we expect from the set list of your UK dates?

JP: We've been using this year to both celebrate the Bezerk album and playing live in sequence. So the UK shows will be that and a few newer Tailz tunes thrown in at the end.

KH: We've been playing the whole Bezerk album in order so expect the same plus others. I think Newcastle will be the last time we'll do this but I think 'Heaven' and possibly 'Twist And Shake' will stay, which is a big surprise to us all.

Sadly you had to cancel a date in Wolverhampton - any particular reason that happened?

JP: Tigertailz don't cancel shows - we never have and never will. The show was postponed by the promoter as the date clashed with a World Cup match. It's now been rescheduled to 16th October.

You're travelling north to Newcastle this year, and it's been a while since you've headlined there. Do you have fond memories of your last performance?

JP: Actually, Newcastle was the first show we played after our reunion in 2005. We played the Demolition Ball which was great. Before that my memories of Newcastle are playing the Newcastle Mayfair numerous times where the Geordie people were always lovely and we had some awesome shows... Good days.

KH: I remember on the Bezerk tour I went into a charity shop in Newcastle and bought an old jumper, hat and glasses. I put my hair up in the hat, put the jumper and glasses on and went to watch the support act from the mixing desk. When I went backstage two fans asked Kevin the sound engineer if I wore a wig and contact lenses when onstage. These days I just get on with it. Find me at the bar.

You've had a lot of success touring this year in Europe. What has the response been like at the festivals you've played?

JP: I can't quite believe the response we've had since we've been back, and the bigger festivals is where Tailz are at their best.

KH: We love going across the water. We're very spoilt when we go there. Back in the day we never went there so we're making up for it now. It's always great for us and we've made a lot of special friends there. The metal scene is wonderful over there. I'd recommend a trip to one of the festivals to anyone.

And of course you're one of the headline acts at Hard Rock 4 this year, with bands like Skid Row and LA Guns on the bill; it's kind of like a proper class reunion?

JP: HRH has been a revelation for us; we've gone down so well there - every time it's been fantastic. And this year we've been asked back to headline which I never saw coming. That's a credit to the promoters who've listened to the fans and who they've been most impressed with. There's not another festival I can think of who look at their message boards and re-book the bands who the fans want to see. Just brilliant.

KH: Yes this'll be our third one in a row - the fourth if you count the road trip to Ibiza we just did. HRH is a great treat for us and we look forward to the whole weekend every year. We always stay and have fun with the other rock fans because that's all we are ourselves. It's in our contract we stay for the whole festival (with free beer, of course)! I know it sounds weird after being in this game for so long but HRH has taught us a lot. The main thing being, if you be yourself and work hard to entertain people they know it and appreciate it. We love HRH. We're planning something very special for this year but whether it comes off is too early to say. I hope it does.

A few years ago you supported Ace Frehley in the UK. What was it like to work with him?

JP: We've been huge Kiss fans all our lives so to play on the same bill as Ace Frehley is nothing less than awesome. The first night in Sheffield was good but the second night at the Astoria was incredible. Kim in particular was like a kid in a sweet shop.

KH: There's been a few highlights in my life and that was right up there. I was like a big kid when he turned up in Sheffield. The first thing Ace said to me was 'where's my changing room, man'. Then he came up and used our toilet which was surreal in the extreme.

Before he arrived I was stood there with his light guitar he uses in New York Groove but they couldn't charge it up, because they didn't have a UK adaptor and they were running around looking for one.

His smoking guitar actually smelt of burnt wood. If I knew as a kid that one day I'd be in this position, I would've cried for weeks. You have to understand what Kiss meant to me as a kid. There was simply nothing else in this world. Kiss fans will understand this only too well.

What can you tell us about the reports of a new live album? Have you decided on the shows you're going to use for this, and when can we expect it?

JP: The Live album is already recorded and we're just putting the finishing touches to the edits and mixing. It will be released before the end of the year and we hope to do a couple of videos for it. Hopefully enough to make a DVD (who knows!), but they'll definitely be on our website.

KH: The Bezerk live album sounds fantastic. It blows the studio album out of the water mainly because of the guitars. The studio album was dumbed down at lot because of record company pressure to make it as commercial as possible. The main difference now is we're a two guitar band so the guitars are right up in the mix, right where they should be. As for a live DVD, just go to tailz.tv - it's warts and all stuff of recent roads trips, as well as old stuff.

Obviously it's been a difficult time since the loss of Pepsi. How has the pairing with Sarah Firebrand worked, and when did you know she was the right person to solidify the line-up once again?

JP: It's difficult to comprehend what Pepsi was to Tigertailz and us a friend. It's only when you lose someone like him that it really hits you - we miss him very much. But we decided to be a band again and Sarah has fitted in fantastically. She looks great, is a fantastic musician, and is already contributing to the songwriting. She's also a lovely person and a pleasure to work with - we're very lucky to have her.

KH: We weren't in the right frame of mind to even try and replace Pepsi when we lost him to cancer. It's fair to say that now after a couple of years we feel it's time to regroup again, get hungry and go out and show the world. We knew straight away Sarah was right for us. She fits in on every level. She's our saviour. She's made us all up our game. She looks great, plays great, sings great and she's fantastic with everyone she meets. Sarah plays with her fingers all the time.

As soon as she plugged in and played 'Sick Sex' we all thought 'wow, tailz sound fantastic'. I realised how percussive she sounds when she's playing which really pumps the band along, though I should've known this having grown up on the first three Iron Maiden albums. There is lots more to come, trust me.

You've been selling a programme at shows dedicated to Pepsi and raising money for charity?

JP: The programme was a tribute to Pepsi's life and the funds initially raised went to the Marie Curie Hospice in Cardiff which took care of him when he was ill. Since then we now put all money raised into the Amser Justin Time (www.amserjustintime.org) charity which was set up by Pepsi's wife Shan and raises money for pancreatic cancer in Wales. To date the charity has raised over £70,000 and has paid for a dedicated pancreatic nurse in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. It's truly amazing and Pepsi would be very proud.

The Welsh Rugby Union are also now supporting it too. In September we're doing a fundraising dinner at the Hilton in Cardiff. Damon Rochefort (a script writer on Coronation Street and Pepsi's school friend) will be bringing some cast members along, too. Katherine Kelly has already confirmed and I've also told him to bring Kym Marsh and Michelle Keegan. As you see I'm keeping things on a strictly professional level here...I think our role is to empty the place when they call last orders. We also did the programme as a celebration of Pepsi's life. Every time I look at it it's hard to believe he's not around anymore. He was unstoppable when he was here. To me he still is and always will be.

So, what can you tell us about the new album? When can we expect it?

JP: We're currently writing songs for a new Tailz album. We also have some time pencilled in at Rockfield Studios in Wales for later in the year to record it. However, I'm not sure we'll be ready in time. Either way we plan to have the Bezerk live album out this year and a new Tailz album out next year.

KH: Songs are being written now. We've been demo-ing for a while, but now we have Sarah we've stepped back a bit and looked at the album as an overall statement. Sarah comes from a punk background and has a great sense of melody so she's writing too. We should have a more recognisable Tailz album when we finally pick the 10 tracks.

That said, it will definitely be the heaviest Tailz album ever because age has made us more angry. It's just that it hurts more now after a show. Jay and myself are basically metalheads. The new album which, as it stands, is called Filthy, Loud And Pissed, will be hopefully out early next year, though we may play a track I wrote called 'Spit In Your Eye' at HRH 4 in December.

And what other plans do you have for the future?

JP: We don't plan too far ahead and try and analyse it all anymore - we just do this and enjoy every moment. I think that's probably down to losing Pepsi so young which has put everything into perspective. As mentioned, we'll do a new album and take it from there. 'No drama, no stress' is now the Tailz's motto.

KH: Well you'll have to wait and see but plans we do have. All I can say is we've all been on a cake decorating course. Ask me in a couple of months. Deal?

Thanks for speaking to us; anything else to say to your fans?

JP: I know this sounds cheesy and typical but I really would like to thank everyone for sticking with us and making Tigertailz worthwhile. Thanks to you all - come and say hello at the UK shows.

KH: Everything Tigertailz do, we do for you. Never forget or doubt it. There's no question or bull. It's all for you.

Tigertailz will be performing live in Newcastle's Legends Bar on 2nd July 2010 and in Wolverhampton on 16th October 2010. They are also headlining Hard Rock Hell 4 in Wales this December.