TYLA’S DOGS D’AMOUR
Interview: Tyla and Simon
Rockfiend caught up with Tyla and drummer Simon Hanson before their recent album release gig for ‘In Vino Veritas’, at Bannerman’s in Edinburgh, and talked about the new album, their recording process, touring plans, dodgy movies, art and serial killers.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to Rockfiend Publications.
Q: Tonight is the second of your two album release gigs. How did the first gig go last week?
Tyla: “The gig was great in York. One especially nice thing was people said, “we didn’t realise … we thought the new songs had been in the set forever”. I don’t know if that’s them saying I’ve just used the same chords with different melodies – nah, nah!!”.
Simon: “You can sense it with an audience when they’re bored with new stuff. You know if an audience is just thinking “come on, get to the ones we know”. It felt to me like they thought they were classic songs”.
Tyla: “It felt good. It was like I remember when we did the first album and had been playing it and then suddenly I came up with songs like ‘How Come It Never Rains’ and ‘Last Bandit’ and when they started coming into the set it felt like “Oh this is proper now, I’m getting there”. It was like that sort of feel”.
Q: So, it was a good reaction then?
Tyla: “Yeah, fantastic. Google it and go on You Tube you’ll be able to see the faces. The proof’s in the pudding”.
Q: Is it much the same that we can expect tonight from your second gig?
Tyla: “Yeah, we’ll kick off seven new songs and then bust out some old ones. And tonight, we’ve also got a sax player. We didn’t get one the other night, couldn’t make it. We’ve got a lad called James who’ll take the place of the chap who played on the album”.
Q: We’ve got the album release gigs just now, but are there any plans to tour next year on the back of the new album?
Tyla: “Well, what we’ve been doing the last two days is recording an acoustic version of this album, which is obviously completely different to the electric one. That comes out in March and we’ll be doing some gigs. But we’re also headlining Hard Rock Hell (Sleaze) for the first time in September in Sheffield. And we’re headlining a biker sort of thing that my mate Mutley from the Corporation in Sheffield is putting on, we’ve got a tour of Spain and then odd dates that we’re going to do at weekends. No massive touring, because we’re all too busy to say “let’s do this” and also who wants to go out on a Monday night? I thought it was Saturday today and wondered “why’s there no horse racing on the TV?” It throws you a bit. Weekend warriors, but working like a bastard on the Art Tavern. Last year we did a tour of nine dates, but rather than coming back home it took up 20 days. I’m still doing orders from last Christmas”.
Q: The four of you have previously played and recorded together as the Tyla J. Pallas Band. This album’s different. It sounds much more like the classic Dogs material. What was different about how you approached it in terms of writing it and recording it to get that different feel?
Simon: “Can I answer that? I think that what we ended up doing was we kept the same line-up. I mean I’ve been playing with Tyla for 25-30 years. We kept one line-up of people and you can’t fake that. You can get the best musicians in the world and put them all together, but you’ve just to go out and gig and gig and gig, and stay together and learn each other. I think that’s the difference with this record. We found the format with Gary and Matty and me and Tyla, and just kept the same format. We’ve all been together for about 5 years and that came through”
Tyla: “And I knew Gary, about 30 years with me and him”.
Simon: “There’s this whole thing about “are you good musicians?”. That doesn’t matter if you’re the right musicians. We just work as a four. We hang as a four as well, we go out drinking together”.
Tyla: “I had what I thought were 40 or 50 ideas for songs. But when we went in, I only found 6 or 7 ideas. Initially it was me and Simon. I did electric guitar and vocals. On that first day we did 7 songs literally off the top of my head. Next day Matty turns up and added the bass, so we were able to do [singing] “You’re Everything To Me” and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without something running underneath, and then I came up with the guitar lick. Then we did ‘Bloodline’ and a few more, and then Gary came in the next day and we did stuff like ‘111’, some others and that was the album done. Then about two months after that I found on my phone this little thing where I’ve got the memos and I found 47 ideas that I’d put there and I’ve got as brand new songs and even more. I knew I’d had them somewhere! But we literally wrote everything on the album between us all, used some odd lyrics that had been around and wrote some on the spot. I went away wrote some more lyrics and did the vocals. That was the process that worked with that. It wasn’t rehearsed or anything”.
Q: The reviews for the new album have been great. Did you expect that reaction?
Tyla: “But on the website I think we’ll have ‘Good Reviews’ and we’ll also have ‘Crap Reviews’.
Simon: “I like that idea. If you put what someone said, like “I don’t like that”, it’s good, because it’s a genuine response”.
Tyla: “We should have the “Absolutely brilliant. Every old Dogs’ fan won’t want to miss it ..”. But also the “this is the worst bloody record ever. Don’t even bother going there””.
Simon: “I mean, have you ever bought a record because of a review?
Simon: “Good review or bad?”
Rockfiend: “Generally good”.
Simon: But that’s because you’re a journo”.
Tyla: “Whereas I watch films that have only got 1 or 2 stars and they’re generally way better than films on Netflix that have got 5 stars.”
Simon: “Not always”.
Tyla: “Well, bloody hell, The Meg isn’t exactly Jaws is it?!”
Q: You mentioned the acoustic version of your new album. How is that going?
Tyla: “Done. Just need to go away and add some bits and bobs, add some violins. The future is the way we do it – Mac, Garage Band, Logic. He’s got his studio down in London. I can literally play acoustic guitar, with no click track, send it to him. He’ll put drums on it, then we do bass. Gary’s got his studio as well. I’ve got mine on the coffee table with my art. I think he’s got his in the kitchen! It’s literally all done like that, but we gel it all together at the start with everybody there”.
Q: So, when you first write songs do you do them acoustically?
Tyla: “It can be like I woke up the other morning after seeing Frankie Valli and I’m almost starting singing this song and dreamt I was trying to tune that guitar I built, but the machine heads were on backwards and I thought I’ll need to get up and get that other good guitar. But I wasn’t at home, I was in the hotel. So, I had to get up, get the voice memo and started singing “You’re nothing but a heartbreaker …”, so it can be like that and from then I can take it. It’s usually about four in the morning. I’m usually still up then. After one o’clock is when something happens. I don’t know what it is, but that’s when the ideas start coming. It could just be a little tickle. I don’t sit down and go verse then chorus. I might have an idea for some lyrics. Just two lines and these will be on scraps of paper all over the place. But the process of “let’s get together and have a writing day” is just not on my agenda. I tried it, but it doesn’t work. Me and him do. But I have to have rough outlines and we can write like that.”
Q: You’ve recorded as the Tyla J. Pallas band and also now as Tyla’s Dogs D’Amour. Given the good reaction can you see yourselves recording more as Tyla’s Dogs D’Amour?
Tyla: “Yeah, we’ll just stick with that now. ‘Cos it’s a name that wherever we go people connect with the Dogs D’Amour. We’re doing the songs, so why not stick with it? It keeps it all simple”.
Q: With your solo career, you’ve had an incredibly prolific output with well over 50 albums …
Tyla: “I don’t count, but I think someone said 72”.
Simon: “Yeah, that tricky 72nd album!”.
Q: What drives you to produce that level of output and how do you maintain it?”
Tyla: “It just happens. It’s like drawing. I just sit. We were playing a game the other night and by the time we’d finished I’d done a doodle which can be used for something. I don’t do it intentionally. It’s just there. I’ll be watching the telly, pause it, do something and then carry on. I’ve been that way since I was 9 or 10, writing stuff down, things that happened at the youth club, keeping a diary, trying to write poems. And when you don’t try to do it, that’s when things come out”.
Simon: “Two things I really want to say on that. You’ve always been really ahead of the curve. When the music industry was dying in the late ‘90s you switched it around. “I’m going to do art, give somebody a different value and they’re going to have my music as well”. You’re ahead of the curve, you’re not scared of doing it”.
Tyla: “But I’m not doing it intentionally …”
Simon: “But you did it then and you’re still doing it now. This album has been a hit. Five years ago we wouldn’t have expected to have any recognition in the Chart. You did it and you’ve done it before. I’ll say this about you, when everyone else was scrabbling about in the music industry, you said “right, it’s going to be art, we’ll probably have to give the music away, but they’ll have to come to gigs”. You were ahead of the curve then and again with this album. We’ve shocked people by doing so well, it’s got into the charts, there was no upfront support from a label, there was no massive street team, none of the music industry mafia saying we’ll get on the radio”.
Tyla: “If we hadn’t had the distribution problems with Pledge it could have been higher in the charts. No record pluggers, but we had Duff and Gordon”.
Simon: “Yes, but that’s indicative that you are an immensely over-driven and hard worker. I’m not blowing smoke up your backside”.
Rockfiend: “But there’s very few artists have had that level of output in that time”.
Tyla: “I know, but I can’t explain it. I don’t do it on purpose. It’s just the way it is. It’s like, if I have an idea of writing a horror movie I find myself writing ‘Monster’. It’s a blues song. So is ‘F*** Off Devil’ from the new album. I’d had too many sweets. It was like my girlfriend’s son, who’s 19 now, was coming into the room for some water or something and I was going [loudly] ‘F*** Off Devil. F** Off Devil, I ain’t no disciple of yours” into my phone and then “Alright, Jamie. I’m just writing an idea for a song” and he was like “Fair enough”. And that became a song. It’s just the way I am. I spend a lot of time watching ‘Four in a Bed’, ‘Come Dine With Me’ and horse racing and two or three films a day sometimes, so it’s not like I’m constantly doing stuff”.
Q: Despite your frustrations with the distribution problems with Pledge, from my point of view you gave fans added value with the additional album of covers, ‘In Musica Veritas’. How did you choose the covers to appear on that album?
Tyla: “I could have done another 20 albums like that. All the songs that I’ve grown up with were in the 50s or 60s and then in the 70s when I really got into music. But even since then I like odd songs that have gone on. Everything. I didn’t even do a Be Bop Deluxe one and couldn’t believe that when we were in that chart at No. 23 below it was ‘Sunburst Finish’ – one of my favourite albums of all time. Rather than being No. 23 we could have been No.98 and I’d just have been happy being in the same chart as Be Bop Deluxe. He (Bill Nelson) is a genius. If people say I’m under-rated he is like mega, super under-rated”.
Q: The cover of ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ was fantastic. Who’s choice was that?
Tyla: “Mine. The choices were all mine”.
Q: Will any of these songs feature in your live set going forward?
Tyla: “Not at the moment, but maybe in the future we might knock something like that out occasionally”
Simon: “There isn’t time. We’ve got an hour and a half window. We could play for another couple of hours. We play the new stuff and they don’t get bored. We could go on.”
Q: The album was released to mark 35 years of the Dogs D’Amour. Within the last year or so we’ve started to see a number of Classic Rock acts tour on 50 years in the business. Do you still see yourselves performing in 15 years’ time?
Tyla: “Yeah, when I was 20 I wanted to be an old blues guy sitting in a chair.”
Simon: “You will be!!. The music industry has gone back to the 50s and we’ve got to go out and play now. That’s the truth of it. You have to go out and entertain. Music intrinsically is free and we’ll have to be going out and playing gigs because that’s how we earn a living”.
Q: Am I right in thinking you’re based in Edinburgh now?
Tyla: “Yeah, I love it and I also love going to Glasgow. I think it was first back in about ’89 I thought about moving to Scotland”.
Q: And Tyla’s Art Tavern is still going. Does that appeal to you having another creative outlet in addition to your music?
Tyla: “Yeah, it’s great. I am working on statues and painting glass. It’s fans who give me ideas. They’ve got everything and it’s like “can you do a Mad Bad Jack and Bukowski one?”. And another bloke said, “could you paint me some wine glasses with the songs on them?” and I went ahead.
Q: Final question. You’ve got your musical side and your artistic side – do you think that makes you write in a visual style?
Tyla: “Yeah, I do. Gordon (my manager) said “I’ve never understood you, but I’ve just worked it out. Your songs are like paintings”. It’s like I visualised ‘Monster’ as a whole film and got it down into a three minute song and video. I’ve had ideas for films based on the places in the world I’ve been. I could’ve been a serial killer, because I’ve lived in Sweden, America and Spain, all over. And when you’re watching programmes about serial killers it’s like why did they stop for 4 years? Did they move? Were they in jail? Did they have a family?”
Simon: “It was just like one of the members of a well-known 80s band was questioned by the police during the Yorkshire Ripper case, because their tour patterns were in similar areas.”
With that, thanks. It’s been a pleasure.
Read the Rockfiend review of the ‘In Vino Veritas’ launch gig at Bannerman’s, Edinburgh on 13 December on the Rockfiend Facebook page.