Interview with guitarist Cliff Evans
Conducted by Robert Williams
Photography courtesy of Tony Mottram
You can call them a longstanding veteran British metal institution, just don’t refer to Tank as NWOBHM. Never resting on their former laurels, the band of Brits have returned, minus one Algy Ward with new album "War Machine" the first new studio record to feature the fantastic pipes of new Tank frontman Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Praying Mantis). Tank guitarist Cliff Evans recently took the time to chat with Metal-Rules.com and bring us up to speed with the band’s current activities on the frontlines of the heavy metal battlefields.
Tank are set to release "War Machine" your first new full length album in eight years through Metal Mind Productions this October. Tell us about the new record, what should your loyal Tank fans expect to hear on "War Machine"?
"War Machine" is an album that blends together many different influences and styles which makes it an enjoyable and interesting album to listen to. It goes from full on metal epics like "Judgement Day" and "Phoenix Rising" to the dark orchestral ballad "After All". This album is a mixture of the finest elements of rock from the past thirty years and is a great listen from start to finish.
I have to ask the obvious question, why did it take so long to complete "War Machine"? Why was there an eight year gap between this new album and your last full length "Still At War"?
Algy had a habit of disappearing for several years at a time. He also seemed to have lost interest in the band and had some health problems to deal with. We were constantly receiving e-mails from fans all over the world asking what was going on with the band. This became very frustrating for Mick and me so we made the decision to move Tank forwards into a new era with a great new lineup.
If you had to pick a couple of favorite tracks from "War Machine" which tracks would you pick and why?
I must admit it’s very difficult to pick out just two tracks because I really think that every song on this album is a classic. They are all so varied and incorporate a lot of different influences ranging from our favourite seventies classics right up to the latest cutting edge metal. It’s an album that you never get bored listening to.
What did you find to be the most challenging aspect about writing and recording "War Machine"?
Once we started writing together everything seemed to fall into place. We all have slightly different influences but this combination worked really well. We worked on the songs for almost a year and then went into Steve Harris’s studio to record the drum tracks. That was really cool. Maiden had recorded four of their albums in there and the vibe was great.
We brought in producer, Pedro Ferreira who had previously recorded the first Darkness album. He really knows how to record great twin harmony guitars and he got a fantastic vocal performance from Doogie on every song.
So replacing your longtime frontman the recently departed Algy Ward is famed vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Praying Mantis). Tell me what lead to the parting of ways between Tank and Algy, how you guys originally hooked up with your new frontman Doogie and your success so far in doing so on that front…
As I mentioned before, Algy had a habit of disappearing and didn’t seem very interested in doing anything. We were getting really pissed off not playing or recording and the band was starting to fade away. Mick has been in Tank for twenty-eight years and me for twenty-six years. Tank has been our home for a long time and we’ve always been very proud to be in the band so we couldn’t just let it end without a fight. Instead of replacing Algy with a look/soundalike, we made the decision to recruit a separate vocalist and bass player. We wanted to add something to the band both musically and visually. The Tank sound had become very stale and dated on albums such as "Still At War" so we needed to update our sound and put Tank back where it belongs at the forefront of British rock. Mick had worked with Doogie on his solo album and suggested we try him out. Everyone thought Doogie was a strange choice for the Tank job but I’m sure they’ll agree now that he is without doubt one of the best rock/metal singers around today.
What do you say to people who don’t agree with your decision to carry on as Tank minus Algy Ward?
Last year we played festival shows around Europe to introduce the new lineup and see the fans reaction. Every show went down really well and nobody complained that Algy wasn’t there. They were just happy to see Tank and hear the songs. Hopefully all the fans will understand why we have carried on and moved the band forward.
That must have been a very difficult decision to march forward with a new frontman in-tow. Tank has always held their own in terms of credibility in underground metal circles, yet it could be perceived as a stretch to reference the band as being a household name. With that in mind, when the decision was made to carry on minus Algy was their any hesitation on your part to continue using the band name Tank? Did you ever play around with the idea of starting fresh under a different moniker?
We decided that if the fans weren’t happy with us carrying on as Tank then we would end it. Fortunately the fans are on our side and have welcomed the new lineup. For a long time the Tank sound has been down to our twin Gibson Les Pauls through Marshall stacks and the most popular songs in the live set were written by Mick. Tank has never really had the success it deserves and has always been considered a cult band. We’ve always been let down by bad management and record labels. We now have a great new album and a good label behind us so we’re ready to work hard to put Tank up where it belongs.
Tank had split-up in 1988 and of course eventually reformed in 1997. What originally caused the band to cease making music and what would you attribute most to Tank eventually returning to the front-lines of the metal battlefields?
We didn’t actually split up. It was just another period of inactivity. I moved to New York and formed the band Killers with ex-Iron Maiden frontman Paul Di’Anno. We signed to BMG and recorded the "Murder One" album and toured around the world. In 1997 I contacted Algy to see what he was up to. We had some live tracks and a couple of new songs to demo and we looked around for a new deal. We signed to the German label Rising Sun Records and released the "Return of the Filthhounds" live album. We played the Wacken festival and did a short European tour followed by a trip to Japan.
After writing, recording and performing metal music for over thirty years now, what advice if any would you offer to the younger metal bands starting out their respective careers in the music industry?
It’s all about writing good songs.
Going back several decades, what was it like to be a part of the NWOBHM movement? Who were the bands you enjoyed sharing concert stages with the most? What are your memories of being part of a musical movement bred by working class, do-it-yourself musicians? Looking back, do you have any regrets?
Not to be disrespectful but we never considered ourselves as a NWOBHM band. We’re just a British rock/metal band that is still evolving and with the new "War Machine" album we are now reaching our peak. It was a great time for music back then but it’s a long time ago now. The bands that are still carrying on as NWOBHM have never really moved on and the audience is getting smaller.
During your formative years as a musician, who would you say influenced your sound for the most part? In contrast, as it stands now, who could we currently expect to find on your i-Pod/Stereo/CD Player?
Jimmy Page is the main man so there’s always Led Zep on my i-Pod. Gary Moore has always been a big influence and Leslie West. I think the majority of music on my i-Pod is from the seventies. The golden era of rock.
As the popularity of the NWOBHM movement continues to conquer ground with younger listeners, many of whom never having the opportunity to witness Tank live, are there presently any plans to bring your live show to the U.S. or Canada?
We want to tour as much as possible in 2011 and it would be great to make it over to the US and Canada. We have an ever growing worldwide fanbase and the majority have never had the chance to witness a Tank show. We’re looking forward to playing for them soon. But we won’t be billed as a NWOBHM band. You never see Iron Maiden referred to as NWOBHM.
You know, a lot of metal fans associate Tank with the aforementioned NWOBHM movement, headbanging… and large quantities of beer. What are some of your favorite ale’s to consume after a gig or extended rehearsal session?
I’m a big fan of traditional English real ale. I’m currently favouring a lovely pint of "Old Speckled Hen" Fullers "London’s Pride" is always a band favourite and it’s brewed very near to where we live. This interview is making me thirsty.
Once the new album is released in October what will be your immediate plans for the future? Are there any lofty goals you are working towards as a band?
Touring, touring and more touring.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk metal. Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your Tank fans reading at home?
We hope you all like the new album "War Machine" and we’re looking forward to playing the new songs in our live show along with some classics from past albums. We’ll see you on tour in 2011.