Latest release: R.I.B. (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
Everybody into metal knows about the Big Four of thrash, which arguably could extend further. However, if Germany was your home turf, you may have instead opted for a different batch of bands, no doubt influenced by the American counterparts. The bands Sodom, Kreator, Destruction and Tankard constitute the Teutonic Big Four who soon enough will have all finally toured Australia. Tankard have epic intestinal fortitude having been hammering out albums for almost three decades and are at last going to bring their pun laden, thrash metal to our shores. Loud Online spoke to front man Andreas “Gerre” Geremia about the impending tour which will show local crowds how to be as heavy as a full stout wheat beer. Of course, he also talked about the new album ‘R.I.B’ and Tankard’s comedic artwork.
Tankard regularly plays festivals in Europe having being in the industry for thirty years. What can Australian fans expect from a longer club gig for this coming tour?
A recent festival was just cancelled but we played for free in club for fans so it was cool.We play in festivals in Germany and a couple in Finland with the biggest one being Tuska. Now we will come over to Australia for the very first time, are really looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a cool festival in a metal club. We have so many festivals here, it is really amazing. You can start in May until September every weekend for smaller to bigger festivals. For us, as a band, it is great as you can play them all through the years and that is really cool.
With a huge back catalogue of albums, is it hard to work out a tight set list?
We always have some discussions in the band about which song we want to pick out or which new song we want to play. We always try to do a good mixture of old and new stuff. But we now have sixteen albums out so we cannot play songs from all of the albums as that doesn’t work but we always try to do a good mixture. Of course we have to play songs like ‘Zombie Attack’, ‘Chemical Invasion’ or ‘(Empty) Tankard’ otherwise the fans would not accept us if we did not play those songs. We have some old classic songs but I try to put in a couple of new songs in the set list.
For songs from ‘86 or ‘87, have you altered them from playing them live for so long?
No but we never will bring out an album like Zombie Attack nowadays with that typical sound of ’86. We do have a lot of fun playing these old songs but I would not say we have changed something. It is still a cool feeling to play the old shit. Sometimes it is a little bit faster when we play live. We are not the youngest anymore so we need to be in good condition to play ninety or one hundred minutes of thrash metal.
What was around in Germany at that time that inspired you to write thrash metal music?
We grew up on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. We got into the whole metal thing in the beginning with the first magazines and festivals of metal. So we really grew up with bands like Tank, Jaguar, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead and then the first Exodus, Slayer, Metallica and Exciter albums were released. So, that blew us away and it was those four albums that really influenced us.
On the previous album titled A Girl Called Cervez, you had Doro as a guest vocalist on the song ‘The Metal Lady Boy’. Was she also an influence?
Yeah and that was a very funny story with Doro. I met her at one of her concerts. She saw me in the audience and she said, ‘Hey Gerre, come up on stage’ so I had to sing a little bit with her. Later on in the backstage room I asked her, ‘Do you want to join a Tankard song?’ and she said, ‘Yeah’. So, it was very funny to have her on the last album.
You’re on the same label as Municipal Waste. Do you think they’ve ripped you off at all?
They are cool guys and we got to know them a couple of years ago at the Summer Breeze festival. They are very funny guys and yeah, they are on Nuclear Blast which is getting bigger and stronger. They do a lot of good promotional stuff and have a lot of power so we’re really looking forward to what is happening with our new album now.
Do you find that you get labeled as a party band and is that a problem if you want to write songs with heavier material lyrically speaking or topic wise?
We always try to put together a good mixture of serious lyrics and funny lyrics. So, on the new album we have very serious songs like ‘War Cry’ about a good friend I lost two years ago and ‘Enemy of Order’ about spying on telephones and emails. It is a very critical song. On the other hand we have the typical Tankard lyrics, so we try to do a good mixture of serious and funny stuff.
Do you have to cut back on the alcohol consumption these days?
Well, first of all, it is our own fault. We did everything in the beginning of our career for that kind of image with Chemical Invasionand The Morning After. Later on, we really wanted to get rid of that image with albums like Two-Faced but nobody really believed us, really. Nowadays, we approach this image in an ironic way. We make a lot of fun of our old image. The musical aspect is sometimes a little bit missing because when people hear the name Tankard they think, ‘Yeah, it’s the beer drinking party band’ but it is our own fault. We did everything in the beginning to have this kind of image but nowadays we see it in an ironic way and we can live with that. But, I don’t think we stopped drinking beer. I could not really imagine that we stop but just not too much, you know.
There are some harmony guitar solos on the album. Are there any plans to bring a second guitarist on tour to flesh out the sound?
No, we made a decision in the band that we have one guitar. We have a special bass sound when we play live so I think that yeah it will still kick ass with only one guitar.
Given the structured nature of the songs, can you tell us about the songwriting process?
The songs are mostly written by our guitar player, Andreas Gutjahr but we always start too late with songwriting. We know when we have to go to the studio but I think Tankard needs tight pressure to write good songs. I listen to the guitar parts and try to find a melody line for those parts. Then we go to Andy’s place where he has a little studio at home and then we go and record it. So we put the songs together and later on we have two guys who write the lyrics for us; our former guitar player Andy Bulgaropulos and our roadie Harald Maul. They get the topics of the songs but they write the lyrics and so on. This is how it has worked since for a couple of years for the songwriting process.
There seems to be the odd comparison between German and American thrash metal bands. The Teutonic Big Four is interesting. What are your thoughts on that topic?
In the last couple of years it was just the big German three and then people just spoke about the big Teutonic four so now Tankard is now joining the metal world. We are a little bit proud that we are mentioned and we all played last year at a festival together for the very first time, after more than thirty years. I would really love to repeat that but with any of the four bands, there is always tour dates, plans and stuff going on.
What is it about the latest production that makes Tankard’s thrash metal so tight?
For the new album R.I.B. and with the technical stuff today, things are much easier but if you record vocals, you have to sing them so it is still hard work. This is now the third album we’ve worked together with our producer, Michael Mainx. I think we found a good sound now with really heavy guitars and a very transparent sound where you can hear every instrument very clearly.
Have you had to change any techniques to keep your voice strong?
No, when I go to the studio I try to stop smoking to help my voice, but I do nothing special for that. Of course I don’t sing like I did in ’86 when I was nineteen years old but I don’t think that I take any kind of special care of it. I do nothing.
What is your favourite Tankard song to play live of late?
Mine is ‘Metal Lady Boy’ but not only because of Doro being on the song. Sometimes we’ll play it live and it is my favourite to play live from the previous album. For the new one, we’ll have to check out a couple of songs we try live and see how the fans react. We will play the title track and ‘Fooled by Your Guts’. There will be a new video clip for that one too. An Australian film student and Tankard fan contacted us about a clip. We gave him the song and the lyrics so he did a comic video. We recently saw it and it is really funny and a blast so the fans have to check out two video clips for this album.
Can you talk about the much celebrated album artwork on numerous Tankard releases?
The artwork of the latest album is done by Patrick Strogulski. We had Sebastian Krüger but he is not available anymore as he is too expensive but some of his students are available as is the case with Patrick Strogulski. We are really satisfied with the new album artwork. It is great that the crazy professor is coming back too after so many years and it is on our covers. I think that the covers of Tankard are really also a trademark of the band of course. We are looking forward to playing in Australia for the very first time. Hopefully a lot of people will show up and we’ll all have a very good time together.
Tankard plays three shows in Australia this week with Abigail:
10/7: Crowbar, Brisbane QLD
11/7: HiFi Bar, Sydney NSW
12/7: HIFi Bar, Melbourne VIC