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Tankard

Tankard viert dit jaar haar 35ste verjaardag, en dat werd gevierd middels een nieuw album, ’One Foot In The Grave’, die begin juni uitkwam. Alhoewel de laatste langspeler ’R.I.B.’ van deze Duitse legende mij iets tegenviel, daar deze iets te moe en uitgeblust klonk, is een nieuwe plaat van Tankard toch altijd een feest voor mij. Na ‘R.I.B.’ had ik uiteraard enige twijfels over de nieuwe plaat, maar dat werd in één klap weggeblazen. Dit is namelijk één van de meest energieke en meest overtuigende albums in de band’s carrière, en bovenal typisch Tankard. De laatste keer dat we een interview met de band deden is alweer zeven jaren terug en ondertussen is er veel gebeurd. Des te meer reden om even bij te praten met zanger/frontman Gerre, die ons via Skype voorziet van de nodige informatie over de band’s carrière en uiteraard de nieuwe plaat.

Door: Nima | Archiveer onder speed / thrash metal

Well Gerre, 35 years of Tankard. Congratulations on this milestone. How do you look back on your career with Tankard so far?
Thank you very much! It’s been a looong time. Of course, when we started the band we could never have imagined that we would be doing this for such a long time, so it’s an incredible thing. When I look at our long career, I think the most important thing was that we never gave up. Especially in the mid- to the late 90s when thrash metal wasn’t that popular… to put it that way. I mean, it wasn’t dead and it never will be, but not that many people were into thrash metal at that time, and we had a really hard time as a band during these years. We didn’t play that many shows, because nobody wanted to book a thrash band. I remember during one year we only did three shows! But anyway, we were never thinking about calling it quits and just kept on going because, well, we love this type of music. I think that’s the most important think we’ve done in our career: always keep going.

The last time we spoke was for the ‘Vol(l)ume 14’ album, which is seven years ago. A lot has happened since then. Something I remember we talked back then was that although you did adapt your sound a little bit over the years and experimented from time to time, your music always remained Tankard. And when we look at the Teutonic Big 4, the three other bands experimented a lot more than you guys did, whereas you remained true to your sound and style...
That could be. Of course we changed producers a couple of times, which also had an influence on our sound. And that’s what we also wanted. For the last three albums we worked with Michael Mainx, so we were very satisfied with what we got and there was no need to change producers. But we wanted to try something else.

But anyway, when it comes to our music; when we start working on new material for a new album, we never have a masterplan or whatever. It’s not like we get together and discuss in which direction the next album should go, or how this and that should sound. The music is always straight form the heart. I don’t think that Sodom and Destruction experimented that much over the years, and especially on their last few albums. But anyway, I can’t speak for the other bands, so let’s talk about Tankard, haha. As I said; the music is always straight from the heart, and at the end of the process we will find out how the final result turns out. So it’s always a new experience for us, haha. But you’re right; as I always say, if there is Tankard on the cover, there is Tankard on the inside. For sure.

Is there something that you wished you’d done different when you look at these 35 years?
Of course we haven’t done everything right, and had our share of mistakes too. But after 35 years, we’re still here and are still part of the metal scene, so... But when we look back and go to the year 1995 and ‘The Tankard’ album… I think that one is a little bit different and bit of an outsider, because we had a lot of melodic stuff in there. But other than that, I don’t know…

And if you had to pick one thing in all of these years, what would you say is your best memory?
Oh we’ve had so many great moments and there are so many great memories. Playing on big festivals, going to South-America, etc. So it’s very hard for me to pick one memory as the best. Of course we are looking forward to make new memories and going to countries we’ve never played before. And just to be clear; ‘One Foot In The Grave’ is no indication that this is the end of the band. It’s just a break, so to speak. It’s the end of an era. The first 35 years are over, now the next 35 years are gonna start.

Haha, I hope so. I’ll be bald by then, probably wearing big-boy diapers and walking with a rollator, but I’ll still be there at the front row. A crowd of grandfathers… how awesome would that be? Haha.
Haha, yeah! But if you go to a Tankard concert nowadays, it’s really cool. It’s a mixture of older guys that grew up together with us and the scene, with a lot of young kids. That’s really great to see.

So, we covered the good memory part. What is your worst memory?
As I mentioned earlier we went through a hard time in the mid-90s. I remember we did a show in Slovenia, Croatia and also Bosnia and Serbia. And on the way from Bosnia to Serbia some idiots threw a lot of stones at our bus. The windows were broken and all that shit… we were very lucky that they didn’t hit the driver, otherwise there would have been some serious casualties. I think they thought we were football fans or something… But anyway, that was one of the strangest moments in our career, I’d say.

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Let’s look at the last album, ‘R.I.B.’. How do you look back on that one?
Well, I still like that album. I think it was as nearly as successful as the one before, ‘A Girl Called Cerveza’. We still play the title track and ‘Fooled By Your Guts’ live. We’re still satisfied with that album. But the new album is a little bit heavier, and I would say the sound is a little more aggressive, when we compare to two albums. I know that wasn’t your question, haha.

That you have been my next question, haha…
I know all your questions. I see it through Skype, haha. But ok, yeah, we’re still satisfied with ‘R.I.B.’. I think I have to like all the albums. But when people ask me what is your favourite Tankard record, I always say the first one because well, it was our first one, and the last one, because you’re always still a lot more involved with the last one than any other.

Well, you know, I definitely don’t want to put ‘R.I.B.’ down or anything, but to be honest with you it’s one of my least favourite Tankard records. It’s just that I felt that at some points the album sounded a little bit tired and missed the energy that Tankard normally has…
Ok, have a nice evening, byeeee, hahaha. No, but I think it maybe has something to do with the production of the album. I don’t know. And as I said, we were very satisfied with Michael’s production on the last three albums, but for the new album we wanted to do something different and went to a new producer. When you get older you tend to become a bit lazy and fall back on what you know and on your routine. And that’s something we wanted to prevent, or interrupt if you will for the new album.

I don’t think it’s laziness, because the new album, ‘One Foot In The Grave’, is definitely one of the most energetic and hard-hitting Tankard records and the band still sounds very much alive! And even though you never really changed, as we talked about earlier, this record to me is a bit more old-school and more back to the roots. And although you still have those traditional and NWOBHM influences in there, it’s – as you said – heavier and more thrash in my opinion. It’s definitely one of my favourite albums!
Ah, that’s actually very nice to hear. Thanks a lot. But yeah it could be that this one again is thrashier. But as I also said before, we didn’t have a plan to do so. It’s just the way it turned out. Maybe on the next album we will have some Jazz influences, haha.

Another striking point about the album is that you are more and more dealing with more serious subjects in your lyrics. You have always done that, but on this record in particular its seems to me at least, that you are pointing out a lot of social issues…
Yes, but I don’t think we’ve changed that much on that matter. As you said, we have always had that, and we’ve always come with a mixture of serious subjects and funny stuff. It’s a remarkable thing actually, because every journalist has said that to me, that we are getting more serious. And my answer to that is that we’ve always done serious lyrics, but we also live in different times. At the moment there is a lot of terrorism going, wars, politics etc. etc. There is so much going on in the world right now, and so I think that the focus of the people is more on the serious lyrics. That’s how I would explain why everybody says that. Because we have some really funny stuff on this album as well, but everybody is talking about the serious side.

You know, something I always found to be a pity and a bit of shame is that when you talk to someone about Tankard, the first thing that comes up is the party and the drinking image and not so much the music. I think it’s a shame that people lay the focus more on the image, while actually the music is even more important. And I think some people have missed that, or misinterpreted that about Tankard
Yeah that is sometimes sad that the people reduce Tankard to only the beer-thing. But it was also our own fault as we called our second demo ‘Alcoholic Metal’, which was just for fun, and later on with stuff like ‘Chemical Invasion’ and ‘The Morning After’ of course we did everything for that kind of image. Then we tried to get rid of it in the mid-90s, but totally failed. Nowadays we make a mixture of that stuff and use it for fun, I mean, we don’t take ourselves too seriously anyway… we just take the music seriously. But yeah, it’s our own fault, but we can live with this image, haha. But you know, regarding the serious side that we talked about earlier, we are not in our 20s anymore, we’re pushing 50 and we don’t go through life drunk.

Well I think that’s a good thing. Some people say music should be entertainment, but as a musician you can have influence on the younger generation as well, and maybe through music and lyrics opening their eyes and if they can’t change anything, maybe at least try to do better for themselves…
Of course we don’t want to tell anybody how live their lives or how to think, but when we do see bad things happening in the world, then music is a very good instrument to talk about it and to express your feelings. A song like ‘Syrian Nightmare’ that deals with the war in Syria… it’s not that far anyway from here and it’s been going on for years, with so many different countries involved, all with their own special interests in one way or another. But it’s the normal people that suffer like hell, and nobody does anything about it. One the one hand it’s very sad and it’s makes you sad, but on the other hand it makes you very aggressive, if you know what I mean.

When we look at ‘One Foot In The Grave’ as a whole, there are two songs that stand out for me as being different and a bit more experimental, and the first one is ‘Northern Crown (Lament of the Undead King)’, which has a bit of a Viking and Swedish death/thrash vibe to it…
Yeah, the chorus could be that of a Viking metal band. This is a bit of a parody of all these bands that are singing about kings, swords and battles and all that stuff. So it’s a typical Tankard kind of parody of these things, and it is indeed a bit different, but we really like that one.

And the second one is ‘Secret Order 1516’, which is a very epic song, especially for Tankard…
It is, especially the intro and the outro, and maybe the chorus. But it’s a very good thrasher, I would say. It’s an interesting song because the lyrics are very funny on the one hand, because it’s about drinking, but on the other hand also very serious like the beer brewers poisoning the ground water etc. I think we were able to find a good balance in between the funny stuff and the seriousness of the matter.

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It’s a good song. I personally like ‘Lock ‘Em Up’ and ‘The Evil That Men Display’, but also ‘Arena Of The True Lies’ and ‘Pay To pray’. I especially like the “message” in that one, and if I’m not mistaking it deals with the church and the religion in general…
Yes, that one is about the church and that you are only able to go to heaven if you’re rich an can pay. And what is the church doing with all the money they get off the people, and all that stuff. It’s a very critical song on that subject.

Fortunately there are also good things in life and you deal with that as well. And that’s also why I love going to your shows. The vibe and the atmosphere is so positive and also very energetic, and I have never left a Tankard show without a smile on my face. Speaking of gigs, at the moment you have some dates planned for the summer and will do a couple of club shows in September…
We will do another real tour. As we all have regular jobs we try to play as much as we can, especially during the weekends. And yes, we are doing some festivals, one in Spain and after sixteen years we are playing at Wacken again, and at the end of the year we are playing at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting again.

As you know it’s not easy to get decent gigs nowadays, especially for the newer bands. But Tankard is of course a long-running band. How does that work for you guys?
I think it also has to do with the current musical environment. At the moment we are getting a lot of offers, whereas in the 90s there were very few. Of course it’s easier when you have a name and have released seventeen albums. But for the younger bands it is a lot more difficult indeed. The conditions in the 80s were much better for young and up and coming bands. On the one hand it’s great that we are independent from our music and we don’t have to live from it, on the other hand it’s also sad because due to our jobs we are not able to play all the shows that we get offered. But as we have to combine our jobs with the band, it would be difficult to go out there for a month with only a few days off. I mean, last year we did nine shows in ten days in eight different countries in South-America, so you have to spare a lot of your holidays for such a thing as well. Plus, we are not the youngest anymore, haha.

And how do you keep yourself in shape for live performances nowadays? I mean, during a concert you guys are quite active, and especially you are running around all the time, and sings like hell. I really admire that. How do you keep yourself in shape to be able to do that?
Haha, I’m very much out of shape. At the moment I’m trying to lose some weight again, but as you get older it becomes harder. It’s not that hard to lose the weight actually, but to maintain it. But anyway, I don’t do anything. There is nothing out there to keep me in shape. Our guitar player does a lot of sports and everything, but I don’t do anything. And on stage, well, I’m in a different world and it all goes naturally. When I go to see a concert, there is nothing more boring than to watch a band that stands still. I don’t want that. I need action on stage, haha.

Ok Gerre, I think we’re running a bit out of time, so let’s make it fast with one last question. As someone who has been in the scene and the business for so long and has seen it take shape and change over the years, what would your advice be to the younger bands in order to be successful at what they do?
Oh that’s a very difficult question. I would say, especially to the younger bands, that they really shouldn’t listen too much to outsiders about what they should do. They should believe in their own music and try to do their own thing, and to really, really take care of the business side of things. They should really have a trust-worthy person on their side to take care of the management stuff. There are some people in this business, as any other business, that are just trying to make money off of younger and inexperienced musicians so you should be really careful about that.

That’s actually excellent advice! Well Gerre, I guess we can call it a night, unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
Check out the new video clip that we did for the title track. It’s a bit of different thing and there is not much action going on, because we are getting old, haha.

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