JAGUAR – A solid unit
Eternal Terrors journalistbabe Helle Stenkløv was so lucky that she got to meet all the legendary Jaguar for an interview in Oslo earlier this year. Despite the large shooting problems and several interruptions, the band showed great patience and talks about the beginning in 1979, bad album covers, breakup and reunion, etc. etc. all the way to who conduct interviews and how these are to be made. The entire session took about an hour and it is well worth reading.
Garry, tell us about the forming of Jaguar in 1979.
Garry: Yeah, ’79, in the end of ’79, eh, earlly 1980. Yeah, Jaguar was first put together by myself and Jeff Cox, the bass player, because we wanted to play stuff that we really liked. Not replayed stuff that we were really in to, so we decided to just, we, we’ll do ourselves, you know. Start from scratch with a new band and play exactly what we want to play. Not what anyone else were gonna play. And it grew, from that really, it grew out of a, the time. At the time, you know, we were in to Judas Priest, U.F.O. and Sabbath and Van Halen and stuff, so we, you know, that’s the stuff we love and listen to. And naturally that was what we wanted to play, I guess. Similar rock. Eeh, and I was also in to like punk and Sex Pistols and The Clash, I still do, you know, love old punk as well. So, I think it was in, for me, it was an element of punk in there too, you know. But yeah, for some reason we just liked playing fast, you know. The faster we played the more we liked it, so that was kind of happy accident, really. Because at that time there weren’t too many bands playing fast metal really, it was, not many. For a starter, there was us, Raven, Metallica wrote only, but we had a demo tape at that time they didn’t even have an album. And then there was Venom. It’s the Neat Record thing I suppose, that really kind of started it.
Yeah, because you got a contract with Neat Records after you had put out the "Back Street Woman" single.
Garry: Yeah, that’s right. I mean we happened to be doing a gig, some gigs in Holland actually, with Raven and the guy who owned Neat, eh, Dave, was there with them. With Raven. And of course he saw us, he liked it and he said "Do you wanna do a single?" you know, we’ll see how it goes. A single EP sort of thing. Yeah, so it kind of grew out of that, really. But yes, yes, we were with Neat. But a lot of people say that Neat were perhaps the start of new wave of metal, but… Yeah.
Your debut album came in 1983, "Power Games". What’s the concept behind this album?
Garry: There’s no concept to such, it’s just, eeh, I guess it’s a collection of the songs that we had, you know, at that point. We just liked the name, the phrase "Power Games". Although I wasn’t very impressed with the cover that Neat actually came up with. It was… That wasn’t what we had in mind.
It’s one of the worst covers I’ve seen. I’m sorry, but…
Garry: It is bad, you’re right, but I mean, it’s poor. But, of course, what happened there, he sent me a drawing, if you like, of it. You know Jeff, who was very good at art, he did a drawing of the cover as you know it now. And we said to Neat "that’s what we want". And what you see is what they came up with. I never, they never showed it to me. First time I saw it was in a record shop. And I was like "Oh my God!" Yeah. So I didn’t get a chance to complain. I didn’t get a chance to complain about it, it was all, it was too late.
Jamie: It was like a printed tea towel.
Garry: Well, it’s… Yeah, that’s probably. Yeah, yeah. I mean with the, when Neat put out the CD of it, they changed it slightly. They darkened it digitally, computer enhanced it.
Jamie: If you got 3D glasses it stands like that.
Garry: Yeah. But it wasn’t what we had in mind.
Earlier we talked about your change between "Power Games" and "This Time" from the year after. You were telling us about why you did this change, and that you regret…
Garry: Well, yeah. It was, well, hindsight is a great thing obviously, and… Yeah, it was a mistake to do that, clearly. But you know, we didn’t change for any particular reason, no specific reason. Just simply the fact that we were listening to stuff like U2 and so on, and that kind of cracked into our song writing. And we just considered that, those songs to be better songs and… You know, we were very young, and as I mentioned, no-one has ever said to us: Look out guys, I don’t think you should do this. They wouldn’t say don’t do it, you know, idiots. But, but we did. There was no plan, it just happened… Happened on its own sort of thing. I wish we hadn’t, but it’s too late now. But yeah, it just happened because we were young and writing what we thought best. Catchier songs, poppier songs… I’m still proud of the album, but we, it really wasn’t a great idea.
But then you split up, and you came back again 15 years later, 1998. And after this you came with the "Wake Me" album. Tell us about "Wake Me" and "Run Ragged".
Garry: Yeah. Well, as we mentioned, "Wake Me" was a mixture of perhaps, slight mixture of styles and, eeh, influences. You know, looking back on that perhaps we shouldn’t have done. And we didn’t realize what people wanted from us then, and… But yeah, as Jamie previously mentioned we learned lessons from that. We took that forward into "Run Ragged" which really was… I wish "Run Ragged" had been "Wake Me" for the like.
Garry: In terms of our start.
Jamie: After Jaguar restarted.
Garry: Yeah, we didn’t really know each other very well either.
Jamie: Stuff like, at the time like "Wake Me" I had ideas to lyrics, a bit social co-entry, you know, it was that kind of aggressive forceful, punky rap and then bloody chorus, which the chorus came first. And a few others, Jeff had written a few, and had his ideas. And we all worked together and put an album together. You know, we’re proud of the songs individually, but as a package it, it’s as you said we agreed it’s schizophrenic. It was the wrong thing, you know, we hadn’t really… As we formed back, we entered enough gigs in Europe to realize that the old school metal scene was still thriving. And that’s what the Jaguar fan really wanted. In short. And then came "Run Ragged".
Before the shit recorder died, we were talking about your new album. And you were saying that it’s done the traditional NWOBHM way.
Jamie: Yes of course. I mean we… Obviously this time was, you know, as Gary stated, you know, was young and foolish, a mistake. "Wake me" was a little schizophrenic. I was writing some stuff at the time: Melodies, put it to rest and we were writing. Eeh, "Run Ragged", you know, was okay because it’s the fans, this is what they want, so we wrote, you know, we wrote "Run Ragged" which… The band achieved at that point very, very, you know. And the new material… Along the same lines and the same ethics and the same true to form the new wave of british heavy metal…
Jamie: Yeah, stamp.
We were talking about all the NWOBHM bands that are coming back these days. You are one of them, for, well, you’ve had a pretty long comeback now, but what do you think is the reason all these bands reform and fans come back to the old wave of heavy metal?
Garry: Well, it’s different in Europe than it is in the UK. Because the market for older, more traditional types of metal, styles and bands is far more in in Germany, Holland, places in Europe than it is in the UK. We did do a recent gig in the UK, which actually was pretty good. As far as, you know, people turning up and going to gigs. But in the UK, often you find… If you’re playing something that seems a little bit old-fashioned or dated in any way – they’re not interested! And young kids that have got all the money to go to gigs, they’re listening to completely different stuff! The majority of them. You know, they’re listening to R’n’B and all the crap that’s on MTV all the time, and we don’t fit into that at all. So it makes more sense for us to come to Europe and do shows where the fans really love it. Which obviously is what tonight is all about, you know, than it is in the UK. Although we do do some shows there, and, you know, it’s more difficult.
Jamie: A lot of youngsters again back into the old school, though, and listening to the old school, downloading. You know, possibly even borrow their, some of what’s left of their dad’s collection. And I think a lot of the sort of nu-metal or emo metal bands have had influences from the old school. And I think some of them are going back and listen to the old school. You, you know because of this, this… They’re probably fed up of you know "hiss the verse, scream the chorus, quiet bit, late bit, quiet bit, late bit and I hate my dad". They wanna hear some, you know, some good melodies and some good riffs. That could be a reason. It might not be, but…
Simon: I mean as far a band’s reforming goes, I think, it doesn’t necessarily rhyme (?) with Jaguar, because Garry reformed the band quite a while ago now. But I think a lot of bands that were famous in the 80s, or at least achieved some success in the 80s, and then had a long period when the band split up and they didn’t do anything musically or whatever, they’re just doing their 9 to 5 jobs as we all know is pretty dull. It’s pretty boring. So maybe you know, you get to the age of 40-45 and you think: Well, why don’t I just put the band back together, we’ll get a band together, you know.
Will: Almost like a midlife crisis (everyone laughs).
Is this true, Garry?
Garry: Eehm. That’s what my wife tells, so it must be true (laughing). Haha!
Simon: But we’re a bit different though, really, because, allright, we wear jeans and t-shirts and what have you, and you know, boots on stage, but you know, we’ve gigged with bands that Garry knew from first time around. We’re not mentioning any names, but they got, you know, they sort of 45-50 year old guys, and they’ve got big sort of…
Jamie: Bondage gear.
Simon: Leather, yeah, bondage gear on and metal gear on and you know what I mean? Their hair is falling out, and they look like a granddad, except they’re all done up in metal gear. We always tend to thinks that’s a liiiittle bit ridiculous for us. Like, I guess I’d feel uncomfortable if the band said: "You must have this metal image, you must have a bullet belt, you must have leather trousers, you must have studs all the way up." And we never have. Sometimes, you know, when we find ourselves backstage at festivals, you know where there’s lots of other bands playing, you know, we sort of sit there going: "This is, this is great. We’re all wearing our sensible clothes," We don’t follow that, the image strictly to the law.
Jamie: It’s how you play. I mean people want, people want metal. And they dress up in their finery, a part of the show. If they want to come up on stage and play el-guitar they’re more than welcome. You know. Because we won’t be, like tonight, here where we are, if it wasn’t for people paying on the door. And a real show is the time we’re on the stage. We don’t live a heavy metal lifestyle as in, you know, my house is not a shrine to Satan. You know, none of our houses are. It’s a normal, normal house. But when we play, we get down and play.
Simon: Yeah, it’s all about the music.
Jamie: It’s all about the music! And you know, people enjoy it and share their appreciation. We travel hundreds of miles just to do, you know, just put a show on basically.
Simon: The trips are often very long in to Europe. This one is an exception, really, because we’re flying. We don’t normally fly, do we?
Jamie: No, we drive.
Simon: Driving to Europe.
That’s old school.
Simon: We spend a lot of hours on the road.
Jamie: I got big, black four-wheel bus, specially designed to take us anywhere. Snow, ice… If people wanna, people gonna be there waiting for a band, we will be there and play. Honestly it’s not, it’s not a shrine to Satan. We don’t applicate devil worship, hehe. It’s what we do, basically. You know, and it’s all worthwhile. To see everybody there. They can wear their stuff and their leather jackets, and throw the hand around and up, and we do the same thing.
What’s your favorite new wave act besides from yourselves?
Garry: Diamond Head, I’d say. Diamond Head and Raven, my two favorites.
And the rest of you?
Will: Oooh. Gotta give it to Maiden, yeah. (everyone speaking at the same time) Diamond Head as well definitely.
Garry: Yeah, I mean apart from Maiden. Raven I’ve always loved.
Jamie: Yeah, I love Maiden. It’s classic.
Will: Well, they were classic! And Def Leppard.
Garry: Yeah, Def Leppard and Maiden are the first two, but yeah, it depends whether you, do you include Maiden in that one? Because Maiden and Saxon, I knew of them back then, they did become you know, successful… (everyone speaking) But apart from Maiden should we say Diamond Head. And Raven would be my favorite, too.
What do you think about the Metal Merchants Festival?
Everyone: It’s good!
Garry: Yeah, we don’t know too much about it. Obviously it’s not the first time here, I mean, I don’t even know, I know what I learned of the net, really.
First time in Norway?
Garry: Yeah, I’ve never been here before, so it’s all totally new, really.
Simon: It’s good to be here, isn’t it?
Garry: Yeah, this sort of festival, I’m sure you know, happens all the time in different countries. You know, getting, as you said old school bands. Well, you know, this is our first time, so it’s all pretty new.
Simon: We’ve done similar festivals in other European countries, so if it’s along those lines, which it seems to be, you know, medium sized venues, with a decent crowd that has obviously come to, you know, listen to metal bands, I’m sure it would be great.
Will Sealey: Drums
Jamie Manton: Singer
Simon Patel: Bass
How did the rest of you end up in the band? Garry is the only original member left.
Everyone: (Chattering, laughing)
Simon: Jeff, original bass player, reformed in ’98, he couldn’t stay, so he left. And then Garry came in.
Jamie: I’ve known Garry and the band for 15 years.
Simon: So he then took the bass on. And Darren left about five, six years ago now. And the old drummer Nathan got in touch with me. I’ve never heard of Nathan, I didn’t know him, I didn’t know Garry…
Garry: He lived around the corner.
Simon: I live around the corner from him.
Garry: We never met!
Simon: I was out advertising online for musicians and bands, struggling a little bit to find what I wanted. And then Nathan got in touch, so we met up in a local pub, and then me and Garry realized that we lived about two miles away from each other. And they said "Let’s try it, here’s a CD, it’s 30 tracks. We’re going to Germany in two weeks!" So I went on, spent two weeks learning the songs, then we drove to Germany together, and that’s when we really, I really got to know the guys. Did the gig, and they said "You’re in!" So I was like okay then. And it’s been that way ever since. Will on the other hand…
Will: Came in by Jamie. We were in a cover band. Just over a year.
Jamie: I’ve known him since he was 13.
Will: Me and Jamie were in a cover band for three or four years. Weren’t we?
Jamie: Yeah. And prior to that I knew Will when he was 13, and gone off, and he’d done every crap job going to earn some money to buy a descent kit, pay for training, he’s been to the States to train. Drop counts and stuff like that. Played with Roger Daultrey and then all sorts of stuff. You know, through his own funding. I got a lot of respect for him. You know, to better himself as a drummer and a rock and a metal musician. Yeah, gave him a go and I know him character wise and you know.
Garry: We’re a solid unit now though, aren’t we? As far as our personalities go, you know, it works. We’re all very close friends as well as, you know, sort of band members. And the band is much more social now I think. Especially when I first joined, you know, we see each other more often, we’ve got more gigs at the calendar, you know, year on year seems to be more gigs coming in for us. And you know, the material, the writing of the new album material, seems to be stronger. You know, it’s sticking to the roots, but still has that…
Jamie: We all seem to be working towards the same goal and, you know, writing another "Power Games" or "Run Ragged", we know that this is the direction that we have to go with regards to writing. Eeh, you know, any other ideas, fair enough. But with Jaguar, we know what Jaguar is. Hopefully there will be an album out this year.
Now we have talked for almost an hour because of this shit recorder, but I guess this isn’t the worst you have experienced in your 30 year long career?
Jamie: I don’t part take in interviews normally. I let Garry do all the talking.
Garry: But we do, normally interviews by e-mail these days. Sometimes phone. I tend to do them simply because I’m, you know, the original member of the band. They can do it, but… Everyone’s got something to say, so. I mean that’s fair, isn’t it?
Jamie: What I do is on stage. What I say on the tape or what’s written is not gonna change the world. And I might read it in ten years time and think "God, why was I talking like an idiot?" You know what I mean, that’s why I don’t.
Thank you very much for your patience and good luck tonight.
Everyone: No problem!