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Interviews Tank

Interview with guitarists Cliff Evans and Mick Tucker

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: June 23, 2019


Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen

Legendary British Heavy Metal band Tank split in two separate camps in 2007 and since then, there's been two different lineups making music under the Tank name; Algy Ward's Tank and Tucker/Evans' Tank. The latter Tank has recorded four studio albums since these unusual, now-separated twins were born.

Re-Ignition features eleven re-recorded songs from the first four original Tank albums and was released by Cleopatra Records on April 26, 2019. The album also introduces the band's new singer, David Readman (mostly known as the frontman of German powerhouse Pink Cream 69) as well as new bassist, Randy var del Elsen, and both have injected new life into this pioneering British Metal outfit.

The last time Tank were supposed to play in Finland was in 1984 supporting Metallica on their headlining "Ride the Lightning" tour. It is hard to believe it's been thirty-five years since they tried to come to Finland from Sweden but had unexpected problems entering the country.

In April 2019, the band had three gigs in Finland and after soundcheck at the Helsinki show, The Metal Crypt was lucky to catch up with Cliff Evans and Mick Tucker, which was their first stop.

Luxi: First off, welcome to Finland, guys!

Cliff: Thank you. It's nice to be here, finally bringing Tank.

Luxi: This is your first ever tour in Finland so what are your expectations regarding these shows?

Cliff: It's just nice to come to a place where we haven't played before.

Mick: Just get our foot in the door.

Cliff: From our fan mail, we know have fans here, so it's nice to come over and bring this lineup to play a lot of stuff from our recent albums plus the old classics.

Mick: It's a good mixture of old and new stuff.

Cliff: Yes, a good mixture of songs from across the back catalog. We hope people come out to see us and enjoy some real British Metal. That's it. It's what we do.

1984 AND TRAVELING IN A VAN WITH A HOLE IN THE FLOOR

Luxi: Back in 1984 you tried to come to Finland as a supporting act on Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" tour but your bus broke down in Sweden. So you were stuck in Sweden with a broken van. Did you continue touring with Metallica after you got a new van or the old van fixed and just had to skip Finland?

Cliff: It was a very cold winter as I remember. There was a very bad snowstorm in Finland, so we were...

Mick: The Metallica guys invited us on their super-bus because we had a really beat-up old truck [*laughs*].

Cliff: Metallica had a big nightliner. We had a small van, and it had a hole in the floor, so we were in sleeping bags. It was snowing here. Unfortunately, we had to go back.

Mick: The road manager wouldn't let us go as well.

Cliff: We just weren't equipped to go during a snowstorm.

Luxi: After that unfortunate incident, did you continue touring with Metallica?

Mick: The last show was at the Lyceum in London.

Cliff: We hit everywhere except for Finland. We missed out on that.

Luxi: Did you try to get your van fixed or did you change to a working one?

Mick: We can say it's changed a few times.

Cliff: The last show of the tour was in London. That was with Bernie Tormé and the Electric Gypsies. The lineup that night was Metallica, Tank and Bermie Tormé.

ABOUT TOURING WITH BIG NAMES BACK IN THE DAY

Luxi: Besides Metallica, you did some tours with Motörhead, Saxon and Judas Priest in the early days. What was the biggest or most memorable highlight for you guys out of all those early tours?

Cliff: I guess it's always good when you tour with bigger names and you're doing bigger venues. It's touring on a nicer level so you have a bigger stage with a better sound system.

Mick: We can put a better show on.

Cliff: I think you can really get up there and do the job properly and play to more people, so they can hear your music if they've never heard you before. It's just a nice way of doing it, but we always go back to, eh...? Well, this weekend just going to...

Mick: Small clubs.

Cliff: Places called "shit holes".

[*laughs*]

Luxi: You can call them that I guess, haha!

Cliff: That's it.

Mick: They are fucking toilets, man.

Cliff: That's the way it goes. In territories where you're bigger, you get to play bigger places.

Mick: It is good to play the cross section. Keeps your feet on the ground as well.

Cliff: It's still nice. It's good to play in a small club when the people are in front of you.

Mick: It's all good.

Luxi: You never know how many people are going to attend your show, especially in the middle of the week.

Cliff: It's difficult. When the place is almost empty, it's just hard to put on a good show, but you have to do it.

Luxi: As I remember both Tank and Motörhead had the same manager, correct?

Mick: Doug Smith, yes.

Cliff: It was Motörhead, Girlschool, Tank, Vardis, Hawkwind, etc. There was always a bit of a Punk sort of edge connected to the bands on his roster.

Luxi: You guys played with Motörhead a lot back in the day...

Cliff: Yes, we played loads of shows with them.

Mick: They were always on the same bill somewhere. Motörhead was always touring, so it was hard not to play with them.

LEMMY WASN'T A WILD MAN

Luxi: How was Lemmy? How did he treat you guys back in those days?

Mick: He was a true gentleman to us.

Cliff: I remember he was a cool guy. I've known him for long time.

Mick: I actually auditioned for him.

Cliff: He didn't get the job.

Mick: I didn't get the job, though. I'd be dead now [*laughs*].

Luxi: Were there less sober moments when touring with Lemmy...

Cliff: People often talked about him living the full-on rock and roll life, but it wasn't so all the time. If he was at a bar, he'd just plan on playing on a machine. If he had a few drinks, people thought he was a wild man, but he wasn't.

Mick: He was not wild. He enjoyed his own quiet time.

Cliff: A very nice lad. Very quiet.

Mick: Steady drinking.

Cliff: Minded his own business, so he wasn't like partying and going crazy, he never did that.

Luxi: You had the stigma of being pretty heavy drinkers when you were on the road and having fun, parties and so on [*laughs*] How is it nowadays?

Mick: It's still pretty good actually. He's still doing it [*laughs*].

Cliff: It's not wild parties or anything, we are sensible. We like a few beers.

Mick: A few beers and chilling out, that's basically it.

Cliff: You gotta look after yourself.

Luxi: It's not like you need a bottle of Jack Daniels every night, acting like a rock 'n' roll dude...

Cliff: You can't do that. A lot of people say they are doing that, but I think if that is true, you are just an alcoholic.

Mick: Your body can't do it. We do have nights off when we don't drink.

REIGNITED OLD SONGS

Luxi: OK, let's jump back to current day. You have a new album coming out on April 26th and it's called Re-Ignition. It features eleven remakes of songs taken from the first four Tank albums. Where did you get the idea to re-record some of these old classics?

Cliff: We were talking about a year and a half ago in our tour bus.

Mick: David was sounding so good on the old stuff we thought maybe we should revisit the originals.

Cliff: A lot of the old songs are still in the set but we play them in a different sort of way now, with a bit more energy and different sounds. When you listen to the original recordings, they sound very dated. It's great that they are classic recordings, but we thought, "Well, because we play them now, they are not going to sound anything like the originals". Those originals will always be there. We thought, "Let's re-record some stuff, get an updated sound and a better production".

Mick: It's a showcase for the tour we are doing now. It's actually the same set.

Cliff: We chose stuff from just the first four albums. It's quite a low budget album but we still kept that energy. Now, we're just two guitars, bass drums, no overdubs or anything like that.

Mick: Straight down the line.

Cliff: It sounds pretty raw. It's good.

Luxi: Do you think you got a more metallic and modern vibe injected into the re-recordings?

Cliff: Yes, exactly. I would say so. Much bigger sound, with big drums, louder guitars and stuff.

Mick: I think it showcases the songs really well. It's given them a lift, you know. Sounds good.

Luxi: How did you end up signing with Cleopatra Records and not with some European label?

Cliff: One of the main guys at Cleopatra is a really good friend of mine. I have known him for a long time, since 1985 when we toured America. He was a young kid then and he came to see us. We've kept in touch with him ever since and now he's one of the top guys at Cleopatra. We thought, "Let's just go. Let's try a different label". We still have a deal with Metal Mind Productions, the Polish label. Our next studio album will be on Metal Mind, but this one is on Cleopatra. We decided to try an American label that can help us get to America as well.

Luxi: It's tough on your wallet to order stuff from overseas due to high postage rates...

Cliff: It's too expensive.

Mick: That doubles the price.

Cliff: That's right. There should be links to European outlets now, I'll have to check on that.

Luxi: Which is, of course, a way better option for us Europeans at least.

Cliff: Yes, I know. They were manufactured in America and then shipped here. There will be Amazon links and everything over here.

Luxi: You have guest appearances by Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth and Tom Angelripper from Sodom on this album. Are both guys Tank fans?

Cliff: Yes, that's right. I saw them (Cradle of Filth) in London, and I started to see him (Dani) there. He was really up for doing this. He's a Tank fan, and he loves that song.

Mick: He was only doing it for himself.

Cliff: Because this album is old songs, it's not like it's just a new studio album. Let's make it a bit more fun and get a couple of guest vocalists on there. On the Japanese version, we have the guitar player from Dark Angel (Jim Durkin).

Mick: And Doogie singing in it.

Cliff: Yes, and Doogie White on the Japanese one as well. We asked Doro and she was up for doing, but our management was taking ages to get back to us. She would have been cool on it. It just makes the whole album a little more fun, a bit different. It worked out pretty well.

Luxi: Is your deal with Cleopatra Records for just this album, or more?

Cliff: It's just for one album.

Luxi: Okay. So there was no option for one more album on the contract?

Cliff: No. We only wanted a one-album deal. We're working with a different label now, but I gave them one album and that's it.

Mick: Although there might be a Re-Ignition – Part 2. That's how it goes, you know?

Cliff: Just an idea keeps product coming out.

Mick: "We have a studio album, guys. If we have a dead space, we can bring it out," just to keep the band's profile up there.

Cliff: It was a quick one to get out as well because we hadn't released since 2015. I thought, "Let's get an album out there." Then later this year, we'll finish another studio album and we'll probably release early next year. We have David Readman (also in Pink Cream 69) on the vocals now.

NEW TANK MEMBERS

Luxi: Yes, I am aware of that. Since the days of your previous album, Valley of Tears (2015), you've found a new bassist Randy Van Der Elsen and as you just mentioned, David Readman on vocals. What's the actual story behind this slight change in the Tank lineup?

Cliff: ZP (Theart), he's a great guy, a really good vocalist and he put a lot of new energy into Tank. He's pretty good, but his favorite band was always Skid Row.

Luxi: Yes, and now he's singing in that band...

Cliff: We told him, "Yes, go for it – just go for it!". He's having a great time.

Mick: Yes, he's a big David Readman fan indeed.

Cliff: That was kind of cool for him. It's a little bit funny how things have happened for us vocalist-wise. First we did a couple of albums with Doogie White and then Michael (Schenker) comes and takes him. And then Skid Row takes ZP. There were other bands at that time looking for vocalists, you know.

Mick: Yes, we're just a launching pad for singers.

[*laughs*]

Luxi: As for David, I believe he's fully committed to carry on with Tank this year because I just found out that his other band, Pink Cream 69, only has one show booked when they will play at Big Gun festival in Moscow, Russia, this July...

Cliff: Yes, they don't do much anymore. It's always difficult with other musicians because everyone has a few different bands. There's not much money in it, so you've got to keep working. David has, I think three or four bands. Tank is a commitment to a certain extent, but obviously, if someone's paying money, you've got to go and make a living.

Mick: You earn a living.

Luxi: You have shows coming up in Latin American this year, right?

Cliff: Yes, but that's in August. We went there about three years ago for a small tour. It was our first time playing there. Now we're using a better agent. Before, it was just Brazil. Now, it's all over Latin America. That's in August. Before that, we will do Japan in July.

Mick: We just another date added to that.

Cliff: Yes, that's the first time we've done it since 1999 when we played Tokyo.

Luxi: What do you expect from your tour there? It's well-known people in those countries can be pretty fanatical and crazy about the bands they like, which might be a bit scary at times...

Cliff: Yes, it feels really cool because they don't get that many bands down there, so they love it. It's always exciting to do those kinds of shows.

TANK IS NOT AN NWOBHM BAND

Luxi: People often want to put Tank in the NWOBHM category. Does it bother you to be labelled a NWOBHM act?

Mick: Yes, it does bother us.

Luxi: Are you trying to get rid of that "irritating" watermark?

Mick: We are, because Tank wasn't really part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It was only two years - from '78 to '80, and then that's--

Cliff: In almost every interview we've ever done, we said we were never part of that. That's it. You look at bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon. No one says, "Ah, these New Wave Of British Metal bands, Iron Maiden". But they were right there in the center of it. We're just a Metal band.

Mick: Most of these New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands all got together again out of the woodwork after fucking 30 years. We've never stopped.

Cliff: We just didn't progress at the time.

Mick: "Let's get the band back together" is getting very popular. You know what I mean?

Cliff: They are the same and they haven't changed at all.

Mick: They haven't changed. I just look at things and I think it's a fucking joke.

Cliff: As soon you're labelled...

Mick: With that, and we're labelled with that.

Cliff: There are only a few festivals around Europe that specialize in that music and all you can do is stay away from it. It was good music at the time there, but it's old now.

Mick: It's a long time ago and we've progressed.

Cliff: There's some young bands in England now who are kind of taking the influence, but they've updated it now. It's like there is an underground scene in England of bands doing that kind of stuff now but in a slightly different way. That's kind of cool. You gotta to add something to it.

Luxi: I think there's a whole new generation of musicians that are actually trying to emulate that classic NWOBHM sound nowadays, trying sound like Maiden or Priest or whatever.

Cliff: Absolutely! They are trying to go that way. That's it. They're listening to that really old stuff and they're learning their instruments. They're putting stage sets together, and it's actually quite good. That's good fun.

Luxi: Being labelled as NWOBHM act these days puts very narrow frames around your music that doesn't allow much space for your music to evolve or show its different colours so to speak?

Cliff: Exactly, and it's a small audience like that, and that's it. It's not good.

Luxi: Then again, I can understand that the music industry people, people working for labels, festival organizers, etc. want to advertise Tank with the NWOBHM tag because you are originally from that era...

Cifff: They'll advertise it how they want. There's nothing we can do about it. They're paying the money. You've got to do what they want, and that's the way it goes.

TOURING PLANS FOR 2019

Luxi: Speaking of playing live, how does 2019 look for Tank at the moment regarding live gigs?

Cliff: After this tour, next week we go to Ukraine, Sweden, Japan, South America; and in September-October for a full European tour. We have a new booking agent now.

Mick: We'll also be doing a new video in the next couple of weeks.

Cliff: A couple of new videos next month.

Mick: Top class videos.

NEW TANK ALBUM – WHEN?

Luxi: Have you already started the writing process for the next Tank album?

Cliff: Yes, we have been throwing ideas back and forth.

Mick: We are always writing songs. We are always putting ideas down.

Cliff: We start getting a new Tank album together and recorded this year.

Luxi: You don't have any finished tracks yet?

Mick: No.

Cliff: We only have raw ideas of songs at the moment.

Mick: Yes. That's the way we do it, we just pass it around and try to develop it.

Cliff: When we get in the studio, it's very quick because we have everything. It'll be all worked out.

Mick: We do a lot of stuff in our own studios; you have to keep costs down. The advances are very low these days, and you don't spend loads of money in studios when you don't need to.

Mick: Every one of us goes on studio as well. It's quite easy to record everything.

Luxi: You mentioned earlier that you still have a deal with Poland's Metal Mind Productions. Is it for one more album only?

Cliff: Yes, we'll do our next album for them, we still owe them one more album. They're a good label. I think of all the labels that are out there, they're one of the better ones. They have good promotion and their advance and pay are okay. They're nice people to deal with. I'm happy to give them another album, and then we'll go from there and see what happens.

Luxi: Besides those three previous Tank studio albums, I remember that they released a very limited box set from you guys like 10 or so years ago, which contained eight studio albums and a live DVD...

Cliff: You got one?

Luxi: Yes. I wanted it badly for my own collection.

Mick: It's a lot of money.

Cliff: They're expensive now because it was limited to 1,000 units only.

Luxi: Yes, I have noticed that if you go to places like eBay, you can see people paying a lot of money if you can even hunt one down one these days...

Mick: It's a good package though. They did a good work with that one, with the booklet and everything, I think.

Cliff: As for Re-Ignition, it will also come out on vinyl in August with a gatefold sleeve.

Luxi: That's very cool. What about next year? Besides plans to record your next studio album, what else have you planned next year?

Cliff: Touring as much as possible. We'll have this one done really early next year and then we can tour as many festivals as possible. We haven't done festivals for a couple of years now. We haven't done any big festivals, so we need to get on doing that.

Luxi: Do you have any festival slots booked for this year?

Cliff: Nothing.

Mick: We lost the agent at the wrong time, didn't we?

Cliff: Everyone's booked so far in advance. They are booking now for next year's festivals.

Luxi: The festival train for this year seems to be far away for you guys, I see.

Mick: I'd say so, this year is pretty much over for us festival-wise at least.

Luxi: Well, I guess that's all I had in my mind for this chat. Thank you for your time, and of course, all the best for your tour here in Finland as well.

Cliff: Thank you so much.

Mick: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

Other information about Tank on this site
Review: Honour & Blood
Review: Filth Hounds of Hades
Review: Valley of Tears
Interview with guitarist Cliff Evans on August 3, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)




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