TYLA J PALLAS, MUSICIAN, ARTIST, POET
TALKS TO MARK
OF ALL THE BANDS TO COME OUT OF THE UK IN THE EIGHTIES THE DOGS D'AMOUR was the most important, at least to me. somehow they seemed hopelessly flawed but beautiful, chaotic and poetic at the same time: something different and distinct that should have taken the world by storm. But we all know that life JUST ain't like that.
over the years tyla has put out music under a number of guises, tyla: tyla and the dogs and the dogs d'amour; all of it good, most of it great. this year sees him re-interpret one of the dogs' most revered albums: 'in the dynamite jet saloon' personally i'm not a big fan of re-workings as often the artists involved do it for the worst of reasons... this is different. There's new life breathed into old songs, not just a dash of paint here and there. It's staggeringly good...
TYLA kindly took the time to speak with Mark from the Rockpit.net, though if you don't get enough this sitting we have a very unique offer to our readers: send us your own questions and we will put them to the man himself in a follow up- just send to the e-mail link at the foot of the page with the title 'Tyla' and we'll get back to you with part two...
IN THE DYNAMITE JET SALOON MMXI - get yours now!
In the Dynamite Jet Saloon – I was expecting a straight reworking – when did the plan change or was that the plan all along?
T. I’ve been working on the idea for some time, and decided that I would record it the way it was going to be before the other 4 songs came about namely, ‘Debauchery’, ‘Medicine Man’, ‘Gonna Get it Right’ and Heartbreak. I didn’t even refer to the CD version with ‘Kid from Kensington’ on, only the original vinyl version.
Did you record other songs and if so how did you decide on the ﬁnal track-listing?
T. I re-recorded ‘Trail of tears’ and ‘Victims of success’ which are only available via ITunes when you buy the album online.
Was the whole project like revisiting old friends, and if so were there some you really didn’t want to meet again?
T. You must have got that ‘old friends’ line from my latest biog, ha ha! I drank with the ones I chose.
Which reworking do you feel most affinity with?
T. The whole of the album has come out just as I wanted. I knew from the off what I wanted to achieve which was to remain true to the songs in their original form.
As always there’s some beautiful packaging and the vinyl format is something I’ll be dusting off the turntable for. Throughout your career you always seem to have striven to do something extra special for the real fan but unlike many bands you seem to have made that real connection with your supporters how important are they to you?
T. I’m a great believer in value for money, and seeing how great the artwork once again looks on vinyl I wish I had never left the format on the shelf for so many years.
BACK IN THE DAY WE WERE ALL WEARING IT...
The ﬁrst time I saw you was at a pub called The Rocket in Nottingham (I think), the last time was in Rock City’s basement in 2007 and in between there have been countless Dogs tours and solo dates. I remember a date in Derby years ago where you were sick with the ‘ﬂu’ but still put on a great show you always seem to have had that commitment to the music.
T. Of course I’m committed, and I no doubt some would say I should have been committed ha!
What was the ﬁrst music you heard that really resonated with you?
T. Although I listened to music from a very early age thanks to having a sister 10 years my senior, imaging that in the ‘60s I would say Be Bop Deluxe and Thin Lizzy really struck a chord, pun intended.
How old were you when you ﬁrst picked up a guitar?
T. I’d been picking them up and throwing them down ever since I can remember but never really had a clue how it really worked for years, still learning, always will be, that’s the way it is with music and the arts for me.
Who were your early heroes?
T. Bill Nelson (Be Bop Deluxe) and of course Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) then I had a kung fu ﬁxation in my early teens, so Bruce Lee.
In retrospect who are your greatest influences?
T. Bloody hell that’s impossible, I think I’ve just picked up things along the way including what is in me, and out of that big pot came what you see an hear.
You seen to have a great love and affinity with English eccentrics and icons and your lyrics in at least some songs reﬂect that, it gives a really individual ﬂavour to your work and seems to come from the heart, do you feel the days when our heroes (no matter how ﬂawed) have passed? Are there any heroes still out there?
T. There are plenty around still; it just takes time for them to evolve.
TYLA J. PALLAS 2011
How were the ﬁrst days of the Dogs? (Or should I take it back further to the Bordello Boys?) I have an original copy of the ﬁrst Kumibeat CD and the reworking that came much later – something to forget or an essential ﬁrst step?
T. I formed the Dogs about a year before the 1st gig in April of 1983. I was searching for a singer. Id written all the songs but it didn’t occur to me to be the front man until Karl suggested it after Ned Christie (Robert Stoddard) left after a few months to pursue a solo career in the UK. He had already released solo stuff in the States before he joined us. He also pushed me forward; he did me a lot of favours, and introduced me to the writings of a one Charles Bukowski. Finland was a blast, and a classic example of learning your trade in the public eye and public conveniences in the guise of gigs.
China Records released the Dogs in the UK – tell us about them?
T. Google them, Wikipedia them. They gave us our big break. We didn’t see eye to eye over the years. Think young upstarts versus weathered corps. We thought we knew best, as they did too. In the end they let us walk away. In hindsight it was a wrong move on our side, but that’s the way life goes. Why was it wrong? Well let me tell you no band in their right mind walks away from a deal without having secured another one. Everyone thought we had been dropped, we weren’t, and I’ve never had nor have I required a deal since.
My induction into the band came via the Official Bootleg Album – and on the new Dynamite Jet saloon release you are revisiting some of those songs (some of my favourites) why?
T. The majority of the songs on Dynamite were written in the period between 1982 and 1987. We split them into 2 albums back then, simple as that.
Dynamite Jet Saloon (the original) really made a real impact after a few great singles and you were being touted as the great British Rock hope in the pages of Kerrang. There are some great songs on there and the live show at the time seemed to get better and better is that when you felt things were really on the move?
T. The old saying is when you’re in the eye of the storm you don’t realise what’s going on around. We were just happy to be out there gigging, recording and doing what we love, we never analysed our situation.
THE VINYL VERSION OF THE NEW DYNAMITE JET SALOON
Graveyard of Empty Bottles that followed is a great if unexpected follow-up (Your ﬁrst Top 20 hit) how did that come about? And how quickly was it recorded?
T. Well this is where our falling out with China began really. We had been on tour for months and I had written a whole new load of songs, as always on acoustic guitar. We had meetings with China and they agreed to book us a studio and see what came out of it. Initially they (China) hated what we were doing. It confused them. You’re a rock band they said, and couldn’t come to terms with this acoustic direction we seemed to have suddenly acquired. Having been out on the road for some time we knew what Joe Public was into. We eventually came to an agreement that The Graveyard would not count as an album off our contract and they would only press 15,000, 10 inch vinyls. It would later be released on CD and 12 inch vinyl and go on to sell over 50,000. But as it failed to reach 60,000 we never got the cherished silver disc. The Graveyard, with no promotion, ads or press entered the UK album charts at number 16. Dynamite had charted at 44 in comparison after a very large marketing campaign.
Touring with Mick (Ronson) and Ian (Hunter) that year must have been a thrill? Tell us about it?
T. Ian Hunter said that I shouldn’t smoke if I was a vegetarian, which funnily enough a Scottish landlady had also said the same to me. I never spoke to him on that tour but did get to sit down and have a drink an’ a laugh about 7 years ago when I lived in Spain. Mick Ronson seemed like a nice chap. What I do remember is that they lent us their whole back line, including guitars and straps and plectrums to do a show in London while all our gear was stranded in Amsterdam. Knowing what we were like, that was very brave, so I thank them from the bottom of my heart. It was a good gig as well, The Dominion.
‘Drunk Like Me’ was an instant classic where I came from, I still think that is one of your best how do you view the song today?
T. I’m too modest to rate any of my songs as classics. Yes I love playing it, along with hundreds of others, just to see the adulation on the crowds faces. It’s nice to make people smile you know. It’s a good sing song one innit!
Then came Errol Flynn and Satellite Kid and Top of the Pops! Was that where it all started to seem possible?
T. Again it was an ongoing journey that you travel. With the young arrogance an ego’s after what seemed like a lifetime of gigging and having no money, something I’ve never understood, I mean what other business do you ﬁnd the harder you try the harder it becomes ﬁnancially. So after having a mid week at number 12, number 26 seemed a bit of a downer, and I’ve never been much good at miming.
In those days Kerrang and the Dogs seemed to get on like a house on ﬁre, how was the press in general to the Dogs?
T. We had a press agent, we were all over the shop, Good press, bad press, any press is better than no press don’t they say?
It all seemed to come to an end in Los Angeles? I know a lot was going on for you at the time. Can you tell us a little about that part of the story?
T. Well it didn’t end there, and no it wasn’t supposed to either. I’d cut myself plenty of times, I just misjudged it slightly that night. I was out of hospital in hours and banging on our manager’s door in Hollywood asking where the fee had gone, we did after all ﬁnish the show, albeit abruptly. But you know yanks get a bit scared when reality shines a light in their faces. After that I think people rightly thought I was a bit of a nutter, whereas I just told them I was getting in touch with my feminine side, self harm used to be a ‘woman’s thing’ before I got involved in it, and I believe there are a few other ‘infamous chaps’ who have indulged in the old blood letting ceremony since. I do however abstain form that practise these days. I’ll have enough trouble explaining it too, once my kids grow up, never mind all the drinking and drug taking I’ve got to answer for, ha!
Where were you at that point?
T. Florentine Gardens, thank you and good night Los Angeles.
TYLA - FLYING SOLO
After the split you wrote your ﬁrst poetry book and Bam brieﬂy joined The Wildhearts are you still in touch with any of the members of what might be considered the classic line-up of the Dogs?
T. Well if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. The Dogs never split up, ever, we, the ‘classic line up’ as people call it, went our separate ways one day and never happened upon each other again. These times are quite strange, for instance when I started out back in 1978, I became friends with a guy, and was in the same band, Kitsch. His name was Paul Raven; he went on to join Killing Joke amongst others. We talked quite a lot on telephone over the years, but when he died a few years ago I realised we had not set eyes on each other since 1982! Time is a funny card, but a great healer.
The 1993 comeback ‘More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace’ was a great album and was well received by critics – it also charted well how do you rate it today?
T. Its one my favourite albums from the time. I never listen to my old records though. It was good fun to make, I remember that!
How big a decision was it to make the break and record your ﬁrst solo CD (Albeit with the then current Dogs line-up) ‘The Life and Times of a Ballad Monger’?
T. Again it was the way things went. I got the band in on it, paid them well, and we also recorded some Dogs tunes that ended up on my ‘Gothic’ album. It was after that we drifted around in separate directions, I headed out on the road solo, an’ when I got home no fucker was in!
Some people accused you of becoming a little maudlin at that stage, how do you respond to that?
T. Cheeky blighters! Send them to my study, ill sort them out! After having a minor hit about being in love with a bottle and making a living out or writing and singing about having relationships going wrong, I think Balladmonger was a breath of fresh air, and had some deep heavy shit on it, dealing from everything from child abuse on ‘The Town’ to foetal alcohol syndrome in ‘Little Thing’ I even wrote ‘Bloody Mary’ about a woman serial killer. Maudlin (after looking it up, ha! ha! is one thing I am not).
What happened in the gap between that release and the next release ‘Libertine’?
T. I was on the bloody road! And I believe I also knocked out a little number,‘Flagrantly yours’ with my mate Spike, singer and main man from the London Quireboys, ever heard of em? Ha!
After Libertine you had a proliﬁc run releasing at least one album each year putting out some great CDs including your ﬁrst revistings of the Dogs catalogue with 2005’s As It Was How It Is Vols. 1and 2. Was that a very fertile period for you as an artist?
T. It was as fertile as I’d ever been, but with the digital age weaving its way into our lives I was able to write record an get a CD to pop out, set it to a mate in Blighty, Wills, he mastered them, I did all the art as usual, and another mate Oscar, now living in Mexico sat at the early computer with Photoshop 1, and there we have it. I upset people by experimenting with drum loops an’ what have ya, but I’m an artist, I couldn’t lay the same 3 chords forever, I had to ﬁnd that fourth one, ha! Some good songs in that lot, and I’m proud of the whole lot.
I remember chatting to you by e-mail when you were still in the UK back in 1999 before you moved to Barcelona, what was it like to be immersed in an alien culture? Looking back what do you take from that?
T. I was in Sweden when I 1st got into computers and bloody hell I dived in the deep end with a Swedish keyboard, and no knowledge of the Nordic tongue whatsoever. I’m used to alien culture, I’m an alien. I d like to think I’ve learnt from other cultures, and not just taught those around me a load of crap jokes and English sayings!
What triggered the move back to the rain and gloom of the UK? (Only joking I’m from Nottingham)
T. Well I don’t know if it was just me, but after a few years in Barcelona, I found myself acclimatised and wearing big coats in winter and spending lots on water and heating… in Spain yes, it also snowed for the 1st time in 18 years the ﬁrst year I lived there! Then of course the Euro came in, so everything wasn’t so cheap anymore. And anyhow I like the rain and gloom, its good for developing my maudlin characteristics, ha!
As someone who has always written memorable lyrics putting out collections of poetry must not have been too big a step for you?
T. Not really, modest ain’t I? Wait till you see what I’ve got in the pipeline, books galore dear boy!
Your art has been something unique and I have always seen it as an important part of the whole Dogs/Tyla appeal how important is it in your life? I know it predates the Dogs and while it is complimentary the whole ethos of the music business and the art world seem oceans apart?
T. I know that I must have painted the ‘guitar man’ over a thousand times over, on top of all my other ‘canvas’s I’ve knocked up had framed and ﬂogged before the last drop of paint was dry’ You know the art world and the music industry don’t really bother me, so I don’t bother them. I love painting and making music.
Your book 'Beauteous and Bedevilled' a collection of short stories, poems and lyrics came out in 2004. When is that autobiography coming out! The Treasure Chest teaser was not enough!
T. I don’t think I’m worthy of an autobiography quite yet, but again keep your eyes peeled for my verses that will be coming your way soon. I like the digital age, it’s just another hook to hang me coats an hats and words ‘n’ music ‘n’ art on innit?
TYLA - TODAY
How does an artist hope of surviving in the music business today?
T. Well like everything else, it’s bloody hard no matter what you do. It’s important to really believe in what you do and want to do it for the right reasons, if it don’t work out you’ve had a bash, just never give up, and never give in.
Limited editions, picture discs, treasure chests, etched tins- you seem to keep that love of the limited and the collectable alive?
T. Yes value for money, and of course I love collectables as much as the next bloke/missus.
Tyla, Tyla and the Dogs, The Dogs D’Amour and now Tyla J Pallas – where does the J come from and where does the Pallas? Greek mythology?
T. My natural Father, who I sadly never got to meet, died in 1999. His name as been well documented in a few of my soul searching songs such as ‘Where were you?’ and ‘Even Angles have bad days’ James ‘Jimmy’ Pallas. So I took his name.
If you had the chance to change one decision in your career what would it be?
T. I don’t think like that. It would be cheating. You take what cards are dealt and play your hand.
Do you have a most treasured possession?
T. Yes, my family.
If you could have been involved in the creation of a piece of music or album at any point in the history of rock what would you choose?
T. Again, it’s not the way I think. What’s done is done.
What is the meaning of life (sorry we ask everyone that one!)
T. The answer is in my answers.
All the very best T.
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