Ace Finchum: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Ace Finchum Interview

Feature Photo: Licensed by Shutterstock/ Text Design: Brian Kachejian

Ace Finchum, formerly of Tigertailz

Interview by Andrew Daly

Cardiff, Wales, isn’t exactly the first place you think of when looking back on the glam metal era. But what’s “normal,” be damned, and to be sure, no one told the members of Tigertailz as much.

Primarily known for their hit singles “Love Bomb Baby,” “Heaven,” and “Livin’ Without You,” Tigertailz hit the scene with a fierce lineup featuring Steevi Jaimz (vocals), Jay Pepper (guitar), Pepsi Tate (bass), and Ace Finchum (drums). And things were looking up on the backside of 1987’s Young and Crazy, but soon, it all fell apart.

Jaimz’s tendency to attract trouble led to his sudden dismissal. But no matter, Kim Hooker was quickly called in as a replacement. Still, there were problems, namely that Finchum was close friends with Jaimz and that Pepper seemed to hate both of their guts.

Tigertailz soldiered on with its new lineup, recording Bezerk in 1990, which went to No. 36 in the U.K. Another album came in the form of 1991’s Banzai! But soon, an ever-irate Jay Pepper unceremoniously fired Finchum, leaving the drummer without a gig for the remainder of the ’90s and well into the 2000s.

But that changed when Finchum received an unexpected text from Kim Hooker in 2011 asking that their long-standing differences be set aside and that Finchum rejoin Tigertailz. After a quick round of sweaty, beer-soaked discussion, hatchets were buried, and Tigertailz was back in action, remaining together for two years before old toxicities crept in.

Finchum quit Tigertailz in 2013 and soon lost contact with Hooker and Pepper, though he reportedly remains friends with Steevi Jaimz. And in 2018, still without a gig, Finchum formed Tigertailz USA, which is effectively a high-end Tigertailz tribute band. The idea was to play the songs he helped create, but gigs have been hard to come by, leaving him inactive.

Time will tell what the future holds for Ace Finchum, but one thing is certain: it won’t include Jay Pepper. And seeing as Pepper controls the band’s activities, Finchum’s immediate and distant future probably won’t include Tigertailz, either.

Plotting his next move, Ace Finchum dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into his journey through the ’80s glam rock scene and beyond.

What first attracted you to the drums?

I started on guitar, and I wanted to be Eddie Halen badly. The trouble was that I didn’t really understand the guitar [laughs]. After three months of trying to become a guitarist, I gave up due to frustration. I was listening to music and playing air drums, and I immediately understood what the drums were all about. I could play along to a song, and everything just made sense.

So, I bought a drum kit and played along to a lot of albums. I mainly played along with Iron Maiden’s Killers and Tigers of Pan Tang stuff. I fell in love with the drums and understood everything about them in ways I never could with the guitar. Soon, I went for an audition, got the gig, and by 1980, that was it; I was a drummer for life.

Can you remember your earliest gigs?

My biggest influences were Clive Burr from Iron Maiden, Alex Van Halen from Van Halen, Tommy Lee from Mötley Crue, and John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. Those served me well in my earliest of gigs. I lived in England, so I started out playing covers in the pubs and gradually slipped in our originals. My first band was called Treason with Steevi Jaimz, which was in 1981.

How did you end up with Tigertailz?

It’s a long story. So, I had played with Steevi Jaimz all through most of the ’80s until I decided to move to America, Colorado, to be exact. Because all the bands I loved came from the States, bands like Ratt, Mötley Crue, Night Ranger, Black ‘N Blue, and many others. So, I moved to Colorado in 1985 and immediately joined a band called Idol Threat; we played all the ’80s songs that were popular.

Stevie moved over to the U.S. at some point, too, right?

Yes. In 1987 Steevi Jaimz moved over, and we both relocated to Los Angles to make it. We both joined different bands, starved, and slept like shit; we had no money or jobs. In the end, we both moved back to Colorado; we had no choice. Later, Steevi Jaimz returned to England, and I started playing covers again.

Steevi joined Tigertailz in the early era, sending me tapes when they did demos. I didn’t care for the first demo too much, but in ’86, he sent me a demo that blew me away, had pictures of the band, and looked professional. Steevi wanted me to move back to Britain again and join the band.

I was so torn as I loved Colorado and didn’t like England. But I knew if I was ever going to make a record, I needed to leave a join Tigertailz. So, I joined in 1986, and God, I hated being back in Britain; it was hard to be gone from Colorado. So, I was in Tigertailz with my best friend, Steevi.

Cardiff isn’t exactly known for its metal. What sort of imprint did Tigertailz make on the local scene?

Cardiff sucked. I hated it; always raining [laughs]. I had my first-ever gig with Tigertailz at a local club called Bogies. I just remember playing through the first number; all made up in makeup. All of a sudden, I saw a pint glass whizzing toward me, and it busted above my head. Most people loved us, but there were a lot of haters! And this kind of behavior was to follow me around for years.

How did Tigertailz end up signing with Music for Nations?

By 1987 we were selling all our shows, selling out two nights in a row at the famous Marquee; we were getting major news everywhere. We did an interview with Kerrang! with pictures, and we just started to take off. Martin Hooker owned Music for Nations and had bands like Metallica, Poison, Tank, and many more. Martin was at our second sold-out show and returned after the show and offered us a deal; we were over the moon. So, in 1987, we signed with Music for Nations.

“Living Without You” gave the band a taste of early success. What are your memories?

Well, “Living Without You” didn’t strike big from the Young and Crazy album. Only after it was redone with Kim Hooker and re-released did it take off. But why that even happened is another matter. Things began to break down with Steevi on tour, which led to the big decision to bring in Kim. Replacing a vocalist on the backside of a debut album with momentum is never easy. I hated that it happened, as I loved Steevi.

What led to the fallout with Steevi?

Steevi was getting a reputation as a brawler, but I didn’t think anything of it. He was my best friend and didn’t really care what he got up to; I mean, he got us publicity [laughs]. But one morning, there was a meeting in London at Music for Nations, and I had no idea what it was about. And when we all ended up in the office, I asked, “Where is Steevi?”

Martin [Hooker] asked Jay [Pepper] and Pepsi [Tate] if they had “said anything” to me yet, and I was like, “What the fu*k? Are they going to fire me?” So, the next thing was playing me a demo version of “Living Without You” with Kim Hooker singing. I had no idea they had recorded this; it was a total headfu*k! I liked the version they recorded, but of course, they wanted to eliminate Steevi. I was so down; I didn’t want to be in the band without Steevi.

Was it you who gave the news to Steevi?

No. So, Martin told us, “There is no band unless Steevi is gone.” I liked the demo but loved Steevi. So, Jay and Pepsi met Steevi at a pub to tell him he was being fired. Me? I went home and didn’t go with them. Fu*k it. Jay Pepper calls all the shots and always has.

With Kim Hooker, Tigertailz recorded Berzerk. How did he shape the album?

Bezerk was a masterpiece in my mind. But our producer, Chris Tsangarides, was the reason it came out so good. We had a bigger budget this time, and that helped, too. With Kim on board and Chris producing it, it was a whole new animal!

What led to your departure from Tigertailz in 1991 after the recording of Banzai?

To this day, I still don’t know. Jay called me and fu*king fired me. It was as simple as that. I asked, “Why,” and was coldly told, “This is a mutual decision. You’re fired.” Nothing more. It was never explained to me, which wasn’t fair. I was so sad as our new material was getting to be so good. I actually begged Jay not to fire me. I was so disappointed.

How did you ride out the remainder of the decade?

I ended up playing on demos for Steevi Jaimz and being asked to audition for Asia, which I did, but obviously didn’t get the gig. So, it was back to covers and a few bands that did demos, but I just couldn’t get a record deal.

Fast forward to 2011, you rejoined Tigertailz. How did that go down?

I was at work, and Kim texted me to call him, which I did. He wanted to know if I would rejoin Tigertailz. I was so excited I said, “Yes.” We all met up at a pub to discuss the situation; I was happy, and just like that, I was back in Tigertailz. We played the Steelhouse Festival for my first show back; it was so awesome.

But the reunion didn’t last. What led to your second departure?

Well, Kim left, and we hired Jules [Millis] from the band White Widdow. Jules was a massive fan, and being over in Australia was hard to set up rehearsals. We did a European tour with Jules, which was not good at all, playing to fat, bald men and no girls. To be honest, no girl was a shock [laughs].

Did any of the shows with Jules go over well?

Not really. Well, there was one. We did one great show at a festival in Germany with Stephen Pearcy, which was cool. But by the time we returned to Britain, I knew the game was over. Jay hated me; I could truly and deeply feel his hate. I told my girlfriend, “I’m leaving the band after the British tour,” and that’s exactly what happened. We did our last show, and I told them, “I’m leaving.” Jay Pepper was so fu*king horrible to me that I actually didn’t mind leaving the second time around.

How did Tigertailz USA come about, and do you see yourself taking the stage with Tigertailz again?

It took me three years to get a lineup, but we have only played one show to date. We are still trying to get shows, so there’s not much to tell. Maybe that will change in the future. As for Tigertailz, Jay and I have no contact whatsoever. I would never play in a band with Jay Pepper ever again. I was always polite and nice to Jay, yet he treated me like fu*king dog shit. So, my focus is to try and get gigs for Tigertailz USA; it’s rough getting shows, though. It’s going to be a long wait, I think.

Ace Finchum: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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