Jay Pepper: It may be time to bring curtain down on Tigertailz
Tigertailz guitarist Jay Pepper has shared his frustration over the turmoil that’s surrounded his band over the past five years.
He and bassist Pepsi Tate restarted the Welsh outfit in 2004 – but their plans were derailed when Tate was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in 2007 after they’d released two new albums, Bezerk 2.0 and Thrill Pistol.
Since then Pepper has remained with the band as frontman Kim Hooker returned then left again, amid a revolving-door progression of other musicians. Yesterday original drummer Ace Finchum announced his second departure, calling the organisation a “bloody mess.”
With bassist Jason Sims having recently dropped, Pepper admits it could be time to “bring the curtain down” – but he’s not yet sure.
He spoke to Classic Rock about the ups and downs of the band’s recent incarnation.
What happened with Ace?
I wasn’t aware of any problems as such, but it seems Ace based his decision to quit on lies our ex-singer Kim Hooker was feeding him about us getting previous drummer Matt Blakout back in. That’s untrue – but Ace, love him, is very gullible. He swallowed it. He thought he’d jump before he was pushed. He also seems to be banging on about contracts and how many records we sold 25 years ago. All I would say is, take it up with Universal Records… and good luck with that.
I’ve never had a problem with Ace – he’s a nice enough guy and not a bad person, and I do have a laugh with him. But he can barely tie his own shoelaces and he’s constantly kicking off about something or other. It gets to the point where you’ve got him ready for school, then out come the toys from the pram again. All this from someone who’s never written one song for this band in over 25 years!! As I’ve said many times, the people who cause the most grief are the people who contribute the least.
When we reformed in 2004 me and Pepsi said we just didn’t need all that grief again, hence the reason we used other drummers. But once Pepsi passed away I was alone in my thinking, and Kim was doing his usual underworld dealings with Satan to get Ace back in the band. Eventually he got his way. I was quite happy with the Matt Blakout on drums – if Pepsi had still been alive the change would have never happened.
Was there a moment you knew it had all gone wrong (again)?
When we finished the last tour with the new line-up at the end of last year. The band sounded great – better than we had in years. But as soon as that tour finished, everyone was looking to me to get stuff going. None of them were really working the band as much as they could: writing songs, booking shows etc.
I’ve seen it so many times where people think they’re joining Kiss with this band. They expect everything to fall at their feet. And that’s just not the way it works in the 21st century. Everyone looks at me as if to say, ‘So what’s happening now?’ rather than being empowered to go out there and exploit the Tigertailz name as members of the band.
Is it all just bad luck?
You can look at it as bad luck – but I saw my mate Pepsi die from pancreatic cancer in 2007, so all this is just trivial bollocks by comparison. I’m 50 years of age and I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible life experiences with the band over the last 30 years. So I consider myself very lucky indeed.
Is it all down to Pepsi’s absence?
Any band would miss someone like Pepsi. He wasn’t really a peacemaker as such, just a well-balanced guy with a razor-sharp mind who I completely connected with. We both had similar outlooks on how the band should be run. I’ve never had a connection with anyone like I had with Pepsi Tate, before or since. Losing him was a massive blow. But that’s the hand life deals you and you need to get on with it. The one thing I’m absolutely sure of is Pepsi would respect my decisions and be behind me 100% in whatever I choose to do with the band. I have absolutely no doubt about that.
Would he have done things differently?
I think he would have handled the personalities and recent situation in much the same way as I have. He was one for not getting too caught up in the emotion: if there’s a problem, you deal with it and move on. But I know he’s pissing himself laughing right now and would see the funny side of all this…What a bunch of fucking chumps!
What happened with bassist Sarah Firebrand and original singer Kim, who both left in 2012?
Our decision at the time to get a female bass player in was probably the single worst decision we’ve ever made. That’s in no way a personal attack on Sarah – she’s a nice person. But it was without doubt the catalyst to all the current problems.
Within a few gigs it was very clear the dynamic of the band had completely changed. We looked great, but from a personal and creative level it all went down
the shitter within a very short space of time. Kim seemed to prefer working with Sarah, so there was no longer any collaboration with us anymore. He and Sarah also had different ideas about how the band should be run and operated. I’m happy to take some of the blame for this as I’m a very driven person and have my own ideas. But I think I’m a reasonable person who’s more than happy to sit down with anyone over a beer and discuss what’s best for the band; if their ideas make more sense then I’m totally cool with that.
But we ended up in a complete meltdown situation where Kim and I didn’t connect any more. The final straw came when we arranged a band meeting – but Kim sent Sarah to talk on his behalf! She came in with written notes and the points Kim wanted to make. I felt really sorry for her. That was it for me. I just couldn’t believe the guy I’d known for over 25 years and looked upon as my friend was sending his ‘secretary’ to talk for him at a band meeting. Spinal Tap be fucked – you couldn’t write it!
So we exchanged some words, like a bunch of fannies. Myself and Ace agreed that it would be best if Sarah left the band in the hope we could get back on an even keel with Kim. That failed to materialise; from then on Kim kept saying he’d had enough and was leaving. We tried to talk him out of it, but after the third time of “I’ve had enough I’m leaving” texts or emails, we decided our only option was to cut our losses and announce Kim had left the band. Sad yes, but this wasn’t life or death.. We’d already been through that in 2007.
Kim Hooker has said he’s moving on with a new band. You’ve said you’re “relieved” he’s gone. Has your relationship completely broken down?
Yes. But life’s too short – if I see Kim around I wouldn’t be rude or have any problem speaking to him. We had gone down different paths so it would be unfair to put the split down to Sarah. I think mine and Kim’s time together was done and that whole episode just expedited what was inevitable anyway.
What’s the legacy of Tigertailz?
I think we’ve released some really good albums and played some absolutely amazing shows on some of the biggest stages. I’m very proud of the fact that we managed to pull Thrill Pistol together in the space of six weeks when Pepsi was ill. He would literally get his missus to sneak him out of hospital just to get to the studio to be involved. It was against all odds but we managed to do it.
I’m also extremely proud that we helped launch the Amser Justin Time charity with Pepsi’s wife Shan. I Believe, the track we recorded with Bryn Terfel and Shan, is one of the best things we’ve ever done. The Amser charity has since gone on to raise over £150,000+ and helps provide services to the Cancer Unit in the University Hospital of Wales. So if Tigertailz does nothing else, that’s something to be very proud of and worth continuing with.
What was the lowest moment in recent years for you?
Watching Pepsi waste away before our eyes and not be able to do anything about it. When his passing came that was actually less painful – at least you knew he wasn’t suffering anymore.
I went to see him the day before he passed away. He was sitting on the bed, barely able to breathe, and staring at me. I just didn’t have any words for him – I couldn’t let my emotion out. I felt pathetic that I couldn’t find it in me to embrace him and at least try and give him some comfort. I’d like to think I’d handle a similar situation better if it happens again. All you can do is learn from your mistakes and strive to be a better person.
Is there a future for Tigertailz?
Well, probably not. But then, I’ve thought the same for the last seven years, and something always tends to come up. We’ll see.
But you must have considered retiring the name?
Oh God, yes – and this may well be the last will and testament of Tigertailz… There’s no question the name has been damaged by all the recent events. I and Pepsi thank those responsible for that. But I still have things worth releasing, such as the Box Set, merch and so on. Stuff that fans want. So I don’t see any reason to close down just yet. I’ll finish the projects I’m working on, then make a call.
But I think it may be time to finally bring the curtain down. I’ve done the best that I could and we’ve achieved some incredible things over the last 30 years that I’m very proud of. I don’t think you can ask for more than that.
It’s been a blast and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…
What’s next for Jay Pepper?
I’m working on new songs with a view to doing an EP based around The Shoe Collector, a film Pepsi made before he passed away. It’s dark and heavy sounding and probably a bit more “intelligent rock” than the usual stuff we do. I’ll finish the tunes and then see whether I want to release them under the Tigertailz name, or start a new band – that is an option. I think people still want to come to shows and hear Tailz songs so I may well just tour with a new band.
I’ve also had some discussions about putting together a kind of project group made up of Tigertailz, Cherie Currie, Shameless and Pretty Boy Floyd, just for one tour. That kind of thing appeals to me as people are thinking outside of the box. I think bands need to be imaginative and break new ground in the way they operate. So putting together a kinda “supergroup” project like that for a run of dates floats my boat. Watch this space…