"This band has literally cost me everything!": Tigertailz know it's ludicrous to keep dreaming but they're in too deep to stop

Tigertailz studio portrait
Tigertailz in 1989: (l-r): Kim Hooker, Jay Pepper, Pepsi Tate, Ace Finchum (Image credit: Ray Palmer Archive/IconicPix)

It’s Saturday night at the Underworld in Camden, North London. The below-ground venue has welcomed literally hundreds of bands and artists over the years, some coming up, others going down. Tonight, as if time has warped a little, it’s jumping with life to Tigertailz. 

Under the hypnotic glare of two giant Bezerk album-sleeve backdrops (the band’s commercial breakthrough, released 33 years ago), the nearly sold-out audience is as entranced now as audiences were back then, as songs such as Love Bomb Baby and Call Of The Wild land with a surprising thump and a thrilling clarity. Hair is crimped and there’s guyliner, and not just on those on stage. 

New singer Ashley Edison – a rather droll Adam Lambert lookalike in a spangly teddybear top – is the latest vocalist in a band who’ve had more line-ups than most southern rock bands. More importantly, he’s the one component they’ve long been missing: the right singer for the band. He looks the part, sounds even better, and realises that a song like Sick Sex doesn’t necessarily need to be sung with a straight face. 

Tonight Tigertailz sound as vital and as fun as they did when Bezerk confounded everyone and crashed into the UK Top 40 album chart in 1990. This performance, off the back of a handful of well-received support shows with Steel Panther, gives, even at this late hour, something of a rosy glow for the band’s future.


It’s springtime 2023 in Cardiff, and the living, breathing engine that keeps Tigertailz humming is having something of a reverie. This writer first met guitarist Jay Pepper in 1988 or ’89, it’s hard to keep track, when the band, not least bassist Pepsi Tate, were in London almost as much as they were in Wales’s capital city. 

Pepper hasn’t changed much; the faint black rim of kohl pencil, the mop of hair, he’s both manic and happy as he is rueful and downbeat. By his own admission, Tigertailz, have cost him financially, emotionally and mentally. “I’ve endured everything this shit industry and life has thrown at me,” he says. 

We’re two beers in, and even though some proclamations he makes might sound full of defeat, Pepper is still coming out swinging. “I mean, it costs me personally thousands of pounds each year just to keep the band afloat,” he says. 

These might sound like the words of a man just about at the end of his tether, but he’s grinning as he says it. He knows how ludicrous it is to keep dreaming, but is still happy to dream just the same. 

“To be honest, it’s cost me my marriage, I lost my best friend and bandmate when Pepsi died, gone through countless singers, and the shit just keeps coming. This band has literally cost me everything!”

There’s that glint in his eye again though. He looks around at the hotel bar we’re seated in, trying to locate the barman. “Shall we get another beer?” 

Rebirth is nothing new to Pepper. To give you some idea of the scale of the band’s to-ing and fro-ing, Edison is Tigertailz’s fifth singer. Previous ones have either jumped ship, or Pepper’s helped them on their way. “Rob [Wylde]. Don’t get me fucking started, the stroke he pulled.”

Tigertailz studio portrait

Tigertailz in 1987: (l-r) Jay Pepper, Ace Finchum, Steevi Jaimz, Pepsi Tate (Image credit: Ray Palmer Archive/IconicPix)

Pepper is briefly livid, but he’s laughing before he’s even finished the story. Even he realises the madness he’s living in.

“We had these two festivals booked in Europe, and days before the whole thing he says he can’t do it, he’s got covid. The venues and promoters have paid this deposit, you know, thousands in the bank, and it’s cost me three grand plus on transport and buses. So I have to go to the promoter – this is a few days before we’re meant to play – and he goes ballistic, as you can imagine. Had to refund him, I’m completely out of pocket, had to apologise, the whole thing. 

“So this is on the Wednesday that Rob told us this, and gigs are that weekend. I’m on the plane travelling to Europe or whatever, get the wi-fi working on my phone, and find out that Rob’s playing some other show on the Saturday with his Poison tribute band, and then he’s announced some other show on the Sunday too! I texted him. I said: ‘What fucking covid?!’ Sacked him right there from the plane. [A pause…] It was fine.” 

So far, so Spinal Tap. It’s easy to look at Tigertailz’s story through the prism of history and old pictures of Pepper with black-and-blue hair, bassist Pepsi Tate the perennial blond bombshell, both sporting pink guitars that have more sharp edges than a broken bottle, and forget just how good some of the band’s songs were – and how they might have been overshadowed by their glitz and glamour. 

“I found some old photos that we had done, and [former singer] Steevi Jaimz takes a lot of credit for how we looked because he’d been out in LA before joining us,” says Pepper. “But Ifound these old black-and-white promo pics from before he’d joined, and we look a bit Women And Children First-era Van Halen. I mean, we looked absolutely fucking ridiculous. It was probably more Van Halen-meets-Marilyn Monroe, thinking about it.” 

It was when Steevi Jaimz joined (found via an advert in one of the music papers) that things really began to move for the band. Jaimz was said to have liked trouble the way a fat child enjoys ice cream. Which was ultimately part of the reason for his departure from Tigertailz.

“If things aren’t working, then you have to change them”, Pepper says flatly, on Tigertailz’s revolving-door history with band members. They started playing fewer gigs in places like Cardiff’s Bogiez nightclub – imagine a bar on LA’s Sunset Strip in the late 80s, but where most of the clientele came from Port Talbot, and you’re close – and the slightly less salubrious Checkmate in Caerphilly. 

With 1985’s Shoot To Kill EP they started gaining real traction, picking up an audience in London and having a feature in Kerrang! magazine – which managed to lift the band up and forever paint them into a corner, in one psychedelic two-page spread. 

“And that was… well, it became a defining moment. But it also killed our career before we got started,” says Pepper. “We just didn’t realise it at the time. We were so pleased to get it because it was a full feature, and we got to, you know, get so made up for the photos, and make it as glam as we could. And I think the way we looked in that piece defined us in the eyes of some people for the rest of our careers.” 

Still, it was hard to argue with its impact at the time. Their next show at the Marquee club was suddenly a very hot ticket. “We got to the gig, and that edition of the magazine had just come out before the show. We were used to crowds who just didn’t get it, everyone hated us. And it was one of those moments you thought: ‘What’s just happened?’ We came on and it was hysteria. They were going mad for us. Seriously fucking mental. And that was from the coverage in the magazine.”

Austin, Texas, October 2022. A balmy autumn evening, and Peacemaker (the Suicide Squad TV spin-off) is playing in the background. The whimsically titled episode A Whole New Whirled is as cartoon-violent as the film that preceded it, and the soundtrack is a playlist of 80s rock that perfectly suits the frenetic, bleakly funny script. The episode ends in happy calamity, with a fitting song playing over the end credits: Tigertailz’s Love Bomb Baby

Certain things strike you (apart from the fact that you’re in a hotel room in Texas and the only thing you can hear is Tigertailz): how well the production has endured; how good the song still is. It might suit the goofy TV show it’s been paired with, but the purity of the song still stands, no matter how bubblegum the lyrics. 

“All I ever wanted is for people to listen to our songs,” says Pepper. “And it’s taken a lot of work over the last five years to effectively get the rights back to our albums – cost shitloads of money, absolutely fucking brutal – and get it on the streaming platforms so that people can hear it, not necessarily see us, and think this is fucking banging. They weren’t just a throwaway band, Tigertailz. 

“So, James Gunn [Guardians Of The Galaxy, Peacemaker], major Hollywood producer and director, he makes all these playlists on Spotify, and we’re on one of them, and we get this call from this agency in LA: we want to use your song, it’s a lot of money, you know, whatever. But it only happened because of my tenacity of getting all that shit back, of making us heard. I’ve had a few back-and-forth things with him on Twitter, which was lovely, bless him. He’s a nice fella. We sent them a bunch of stuff over, T-shirts and things, and he was like: ‘Great. Thanks, man.” 

James Gunn gets it. 

Tigertailz in 2023

Tigertailz 2023: (l-r) Berty Burton, Ashley Edison, Matt Blakout, Jay Pepper. (Image credit: Bekah Davies)

There’s a whole other story after this one. Label wranglings, the departure of singer Kim Hooker, the devastating death of band founder and bassist Pepsi Tate, how the band briefly lost their name, were forced to become Wazbones, signed with a huge Japanese entertainment conglomerate then watched that deal disappear overnight, moved to New York, moved home again, got held up, pushed down, hired and fired more lawyers than Pepper can remember… and made at least three genuinely great albums that had nothing to do with glam rock. Albums, thanks to Pepper, that they can now call their own again.

“Forty years, all I ever really wanted was for people to give us a chance”, he says. “Is that too much to ask for after all this time? I’d like us to be recognised and respected, we’re bloody good at this. I won’t let anyone tell me that Tigertailz aren’t worthy.”


It’s an early curfew at the Underworld in London, but no one wants to leave. The merch – covered in images of Klint, the band’s mascot, designed and illustrated by Pepsi a long time ago – is selling well, and along the bar there’s a queue of fans eager to say hello to the band, not least Pepper.

He’s grinning, as is everyone who comes up to say hello and get something signed. None of them doubt the musical veracity of Tigertailz or their enduring appeal. Another full Saturday night in a London venue rattled by the music from the Bezerk album, and somehow the years just slip away.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.