Interview by Victoria Llewelyn and dedicated to the memory of Tina Sherwood
TIGERTAILZ BASSIST ‘DIRTY’ BERTY BURTON TALKS ABOUT THE PROGRESSION OF THE BAND, THE UPCOMING ANNIVERSARY PERFORMANCE OF ‘BEZERK’, NEW SINGER ASHLEY EDISON AND THE BASSISTS THAT INFLUENCED HIS CAREER.
Tigertailz are back with a brand-new singer, getting ready to work on some new music and looking towards a very positive future. Bassist ‘Dirty’ Berty gives us the score.
MGM: How did you come to step into the very big shoes of the late Pepsi Tate and start playing bass for Tigertailz?
BB: I was first introduced to Tigertailz by Rob (Wylde), formerly of Tigertailz, who told me they were looking for a bass player – at the time I was familiar with the band but fairly recently. He sent me some source material to see whether I thought it was for me or not, then after a push from my mate Howard from Trench Dogs I decided to put myself forward. The band had looked at the kind of music I used to play – I’d played with New Generation Superstars and Drug Dealer Cheerleader previously – and scoured my social media profiles to see if I had the right look; Tigertailz being a very visual and image conscious band.
Shortly after that, I was sent a set list and it was arranged for me to go down to Cardiff to do a rehearsal and photo shoot, which we did first so I already had the photos done with the guys before I’d even played for them, which made me think they must be interested! I took a bag of glad rags with me, a few different outfits, it was a great shoot, you can still find those early pictures where I hadn’t even played a note with them yet!
MGM: Speaking of image, you don’t have the typical hairspray look that is usually associated with a band like Tigertailz. They are known for being the epitome of glam metal, over the top, back in the early days it would hurt your eyes to look at them!
BB: A funny thing is, just before getting the job with Tigertailz I was talking to JJ Watt (The Main Grains, The City Kids) and I told him that I’d taken up the mantle of playing bass for them. He chuckled and said, ‘you’re the last person I’d have thought of to be in there!’ You don’t really want to be the carbon copy of the people who have been there before. You might as well stick to the same formula otherwise, and your band won’t progress any further. My feeling, and Jay has said this himself, is that the whole visual concept of Tigertailz, the whole hairspray and makeup stuff, it has been more of a selling point for the band as opposed to a lifestyle thing.
Ironically, around 1987 when Tigertailz launched, hair metal was almost on the cusp of dying out, it was only a few years later that grunge took over everything. It’s good that the scene evolved a bit more, but I was always a big fan of Motley Crüe and Nikki Sixx and had already adopted his kind of style. My ‘look’ in Tigertailz wasn’t too far off how I would usually dress on stage anyway. I was comfortable with it, I still am.
MGM: Do you think Jay is steering the band away from that 1987 image, especially with the addition of yourself and Ashley (Edison, newly appointed singer)
BB: It’s probably a good thing for Jay to distance himself a little from the old school Tigertailz to show that he’s not doing the same cut and paste formula, that there’s more to him. All bands need to evolve to a certain degree. If you had heard the name Tigertailz and not listened to much of the back catalogue, on first assumption, like myself before I joined, you’d have thought they were a very squeaky-clean pop metal band. If you dig deeper there are some really aggressive and hard-hitting tunes, particularly on the ‘Wazbones’ album, and they are some of my favourites anyway!
Tigertailz will always be a very visual band, it’s a big part of what makes the band pop when we go out there and play. We are still fairly close to the LA Glam style but have drifted more recently towards a slightly more modern, smarter take on things. We’re not ripping all the sleeves off our T shirts like we used to do, but we’re not about to get the iron out and start being presentable either.
MGM: How is new singer Ashley getting on? What does he bring to the band?
BB: Ashley has taken to it like a duck to water. He’s said from the start that the style Tigertailz have always done is a bit more like what he used to listen to when he was a kid. Ashley was a huge fan of The Darkness when they first came out, and the Justin Hawkins, high reach, falsetto voice is something he’s able to achieve, so he pitched this to the band with a couple of audition tracks. He sang ‘Sick Sex’ and a version of ‘Living Without You’ and to say he did them justice would be an understatement. He sang those tracks in a way that they haven’t been sung in years and made them sound so close to the original recordings – in the past we’ve even had to resort to down tuning guitars to make sure we can get the sound close enough to what we want, which comes at the cost of losing some of the songs’ energy. Ashley just got it straight away.
MGM: Tigertailz next show is planned for June 3rd at Camden Underworld where the band is going to be performing ‘Bezerk’ in its entirety, with support from Kickin’ Valentina and Star Circus. What are the band planning and what can we expect to see?
BB: We planned this show well in advance to give us plenty of time to rehearse with Ashley, get the pre-production done the way we want to, and make sure that everything is tip top when we go out there. ‘Bezerk’ has been performed this way before and we want to go bigger and better this time of course! It’s going to be great to hear it the way it’s meant to be heard, the way it’s meant to be played and sung. We’ve played the Underworld before and it’s always been a fantastic show, we’ve always had a massive turnout in London. We know of a lot of people who are going to be travelling a fair way to come as well. We’re hoping to spend some time doing a ‘meet and greet’ also, get some photos for people, sign things for them, so we need time to organise that too.
MGM: Will this show be a one off, or are we going to be seeing more live dates this year?
BB: We’re looking to book a lot more for the year ahead, we’re checking out what’s available for us to play. We’ve always done really well playing in Europe so we’re going to see about going back out there again and hopefully even further abroad. We did have the opportunity to go to the States a few years back which got scuppered unfortunately, but we’d love to go out there – who wouldn’t want to do that? We know there’s an audience in the US that are really keen for Tigertailz to come out and do some shows, so if there’s a way that we can make that happen we absolutely will.
We’re headlining ‘desTINAtion 2023′ music festival at The Corporation in Sheffield on July 15th to remember our friend Tina Sherwood who died very suddenly just before Xmas last year. Tina was a big fan of Tigertailz and a huge supporter of the UK rock and metal scene; she did a lot with mentoring and promoting new bands via the Forge Initiative. She was a treasure and is sadly missed, so we feel very honoured to have the opportunity to do this for her.
MGM: Will there be any new music coming soon?
BB: Before we do the show, we’ll hopefully be releasing a new single and a new video with it. We’re looking at writing a brand-new album, now with the capabilities of Ash, we’ve got plenty of options to explore, we can expand our material and try out some new stuff. There will be new music to come either later this year or early next year; I can’t give you a time frame, but I can say it will be sooner rather than later.
MGM: Your music career spans almost 20 years, how did it all begin for you? When did you decide you wanted to pick up a bass and learn to play?
BB: That’s a funny origin story – I first started playing when I was around 12 years old, I had a couple of friends in school that played different instruments, one of them a guitar player, one a drummer. There was this American kid that came over as an exchange student I think, and I remember him bringing out this green Fender Strat in school, and playing it, and there’d be girls surrounding him watching him play and I thought – I want a bit of that! So, I decided to create a band with these two friends, and I started learning to play this ridiculous nylon stringed Spanish guitar, not having the first idea what I was doing with it, I can only imagine it sounding abysmal. My mate Joe who was the guitar player eventually said – Look, you can’t play guitar, you’ve got to either learn to play bass or get out of this band!
I thought I’d better try and find a bass, and there was a kid in our year that was selling one, he brought it to school, and I pleaded with my Dad to lend me some money to buy it. It only cost £100, a cheap old thing, which shows how much I knew about basses, and the first thing I said when he got it out of the bag to show me was – It’s only got four strings on it? Yes, it’s a bass, you Dumbass!
Once again, I hadn’t the faintest idea of rock music growing up. I had no idea of how it was made. I didn’t have the knowledge of what sound came from the guitars, what came from the bass and stuff like that. I just sort of grew and started to learn gradually from my favourite bands by watching music videos, reading old guitar magazines or trying to play by ear, which as it turned out I picked up very quickly.
I took up some lessons at school, but mainly because it got me out of doing shit lessons that I didn’t like as it was on at the same time, so I got to raise my hand up and say – I’ve got to go to my guitar lesson! Once it was done, I wouldn’t go back to class, I’d just fuck off home. I’m a complete fraud. I’ve literally bullshitted my way through the past 20 odd years!
MGM: You’re saying that you got into music for all the wrong reasons then, to get out of shitty lessons, go home from school early and impress girls?
BB: Yeah. And if any person of my age and my gender would say otherwise, they’re fucking lying!
MGM: To be able to go forward playing bass once you were out of school, to decide to make a career out of it you must have had some inspiration. Which bass players did you look up to, follow and want to learn from?
BB: When I started out I didn’t know who any bass players were, I was more influenced by the music as a whole. Growing up I was a massive AC/DC fan and still am, technically the playing of Cliff Williams appealed to me, it’s a very solid way of playing but I didn’t feel it was anything to write home about. Then I discovered Motley Crue and that was it for me. I got completely hooked on the music and the image of Nikki Sixx. I went right down that rabbit hole and veered towards the glam era, started to emulate the image and wore heavily ripped flared jeans and tried to spike my hair. I went to a Halloween party once with my bass dressed as Nikki with stripes under my eyes, the full works!
I got heavily into Motorhead as well and Lemmy is a huge influence on the way I play and how I sound. That started my love for Thunderbird basses, he used them quite early on and they really lent themselves to both the way he played and the volume he played at. There was an era where the bass player in a band was the boring guy standing at the back, almost inaudible, and Lemmy took that and completely bastardised it to the point where he and his bass were the focal point of that band. He did it his way and that’s what made him the absolute behemoth rock star that he was, and still is, even after death.
Tigertailz are –
Ashley Edison, lead vocals
Jay Pepper , guitar, vocals
Berty Burton , bass, vocals
Matt Blakout , drums