Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Tank

Interview, pictures, and questions by
Marko Syrjälä and Luxi Lahtinen

This interview was done in November 2003 when Cliff visited in Finland as a member of Killers. Besides playing with them he is also a member of legendary NWOBHM group Tank. This interview is mainly about Tank but there are also other interesting things here. Some recently updated info must be added: Cliff is not a member of Killers anymore. ENJOY!

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Well first I have to ask … Have you ever been interviewed about Tank before?

Yeah many times.

 

 

In Finland?

No, this is the first time. This is my first interview ever in Finland. Finnish Tank interview (laughs)

 

 

That’s cool for us then (laughs) … You first joined Tank bank in 1984?

Yes that was in 1984. I remember it was November and band was just doing recordings of “Honour and Blood” album. I did a couple of the last songs for that album and within a couple of weeks after that we started a tour together with Metallica. They were doing “Ride The Lightning” tour … It was my first big tour then …

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In Europe?

Yes in Europe. Tour went very well. We crossed across the manner and everything was really good for us and for Metallica. Metallica guys were so cool … We liked to drink beer a lot … so … I think they learned a lot from us .. (laughs)

 

 

I believe that (laughs). If I remember right you were supposed to come in Finland with them but you never did. What happened then?

We kind of ... Well they came over and we broke down. We travelled separately to them … and we went to Denmark and then really bad weather started and we broke down. The wan we ere travelling with didn’t go any further so Metallica then did it but we never make it to Finland. Other wise it was a really cool time. We got that tour because Metallica guys were originally fans of us. They liked Tank but in the beginning they didn’t liked drinking too much. But within a few days with us they were like … beer non-stop. So after a couple of weeks in tour … their manager ... what was his name?

 

 

I can’t remember?

What was his name? … Metallica’s manager… Anyway their manager told Metallica not to come anywhere near us because of our drinking habits … and in the end of the tour they really were not allowed to come any near us. So we stayed away of them they stayed away from us.

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I have heard some rumours that you had kind of drinking contest with Metallica guys then?

First of all we did. But unfortunately we had to stop (laughs) I started to be too serious

 

 

Ok maybe it was good for them (laughs) … then back to interview … Before you joined in the band, TANK toured constantly supporting headliners from the likes of MOTÖRHEAD("Iron Fist", "Ace of Spades" European Tours 81/82), GIRLSCHOOL, DIAMOND HEAD, BARON ROJO, DEADRINGER and ANGEL WITCH among others. Did you ever saw them live before you joined?

Yes. Actually I was a big fan of Tank myself. I used to work in a shop when I was young. It was a guitar store in the western London and Algy Ward used to come our place to buy bass guitars. Thunderbirds, Gibson Thunderbirds basses etc ... So I always knew Algy and he knew that I played guitar. Sometimes we took a couple of beers together and when one day all of a sudden when they needed another guitar player I got the job right away because they knew me. They had never heard me playing before but I get that job because they knew me. So it was cool thing for me.

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Names of Lemmy and Motörhead are often mentioned when people talk about TANK. Do you think that it is a good or bad thing for you?

I think that Lemmy and Algy have a really good understanding between them. They are very similar people. They both like a drink a lot. They used drugs and stuff. They both were very kind of “deep” people. So Lemmy … the way he played bass, the way he sings all these things, the same label, same manager. Tank has always been credited of being Motörhead’s younger brother you know? So we are quite similar people with them.

 

 

As you probably know, some people also call Tank “a second hand Motorhead” ..

True. I guess that those are people who hear Tank first time. When you really listen to those songs you will notice that they are totally different to Motorhead. There‘s a big difference there … I think. And even I do like Motorhead a lot, I prefer Tank more … (laughs)

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It’s also often mentioned that Tank was one of the first and most important NWOBHM bands in the early 80’s.

Yeah I guess that … When Tank first came out in 1980 it was a totally new thing. NWOBHM was just starting and were there kind of from the start and … Tank was a first NWOBHM band to go top 20 in the charts you know? Before Iron Maiden Tank was in there. We were doing very well. That big punk influences obviously which Algy bring to the band bring a lot of fans from that genre but we were accepted in the metal scene as well so it did big following. It’s quite legend. I think the album indeed with the machine gun etiquette it’s cool. And when you listen to it … it it’s a great album, one the best albums, so it’s a lot of metal in there..

 

 

Unfortunately, TANK was disbanded in 1988... after the release of TANK album. What were the main reasons behind that hard decision?

Well caught into that point when … it was a time when whole metal was going, in England, was going very difficult. It was hard to keep your record deal no one was interested anymore. We went to the studio and we started doing a new album. It started okay but then suddenly our second guitar player Mick Tucker said he wanted to leave. He wasn’t happy he had some legal problems. The management was … waste of time the record company was doing absolutely nothing … so the album … I was a little bit surprised that we managed to finish it all. It was done with no money. We just went in and jammed and that was it. It was quite sad I mean it was a shame It ended like that after all that we had done. After that we ended band for a while. We didn’t split up we just stopped it for a while and we went separate ways. That time in England … it was almost hopeless. No any money or tours for bands. There was nothing, which was a shame really.

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After Tank you played in a band called DESTROYER in 1988?

(laughs) We never actually played anywhere. That’s the thing. All we did was … we took some photographs together and never played. We didn’t do anything. We sent some photos for newspapers and … there was our photos on big daily British newspapers but we never really played anything together … so that’s the story of that “band” (laughs)

 

 

Lea Hart (Paul Di’Annos current manager ) was then a member of that “band” Was it first time you worked with him?

Maybe? That whole thing is legendary isn’t it? (laughs)

 

 

Have you ever heard those Fastway albums where Lea is singing?

Yeah.

 

 

Do you have any opinions of them …

Well I think they both are good albums but it’s not like, I mean remember Fastway since they first came out and .. which is a great band. The original Fastway with Fast Eddie .. that was really good. But what Lea did was completely different. Good songs but it doesn’t sound like Fastway anymore.

 

 

Good songs still?

Well … yes.

 

 

Would you really sign that?

(Laughs) Original Fastway was a stadium class band in the U.S it was really, really big. A friend of mine used to manage them over there and they were a massive band. But then after two or three albums they kind of went down and they get Lea to work with them and then they totally changed. It was only Lea’s songs and they didn’t sounded like old Fastway too much.

 

 

Once you also had a band called MASK?

Can’t remember that one?

 

 

But you recorded an album called "Why Me?" with them?

No it’s wrong. Your research is wrong (laughs)

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Are you sure? There was Lee Phillips on keyboards, Mike Keen (HYDRAVINE) on vocals, Steve Clarke, Simon Hannaford (SOMA) on guitars and Terry Crowdy(SOMA) on bass ….

Oh yeah you’re right! Lee Philips called me up one day and asked me to come down and play some guitar … and I said okay. They gave me 50 pounds or something … and I went down and played some guitar for them. I had no ideas of their stuff or songs. All I remember is that music was quite a crap. Even I wasn’t playing songs I just like played lead breaks and … it was quite crappy music so maybe that’s why I have forgot that … (laughs)

 

 

How would you describe briefly that stuff?

It sounded like old Queen kind of bad Motörhead stuff … (laughs)

 

 

Like Bad News?

Exactly like that. I totally forget that one. That’s interesting (laughs)

 

 

Okay. After all these more or less great bands you formed another new band called Killers?

Well Killers was formed back in … 1990 or in 1991 it must have been. I was living in New York then with and I was staying with manager of Fastway then. A friend of mine called Steve Hopgood, who played in Battlezone. He just called me up and said “let’s get something together?” Next we took contacted Paul and we brought him over to New York and then we formed a band together. Within a few days we kind of … we recorded together with John Gallagher from Raven on bass and then we had an American guitar player on second guitar. We formed the band there and we soon recorded a live album in two days. We just did that and then some videos and stuff. Then all suddenly it started to get bigger we got record deal with BMG. In fact … when we played a showcase for them, we had all big companies watching us to play. We had people from Virgin, EMI, Sony and BMG flowing from all over the world to see us playing in studio in New York. Then we played just Iron Maiden songs ... (laughs) because we hadn’t written our album yet. We actually hadn’t written any songs together yet, nothing … we had to play Maiden songs … (laughs)

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That sounds really interesting … (laughs)

Yeah. We played “Phantom Of The Opera”, ”Wratchild” … all that stuff and all those record company guys there were amazed. “Great songs, great fucking band!” … and we were like … COOL!! And then BMG gave us a deal for $250,000!! (laughs) It’s a quarter of millions dollar, okay? That’s not a bad deal when you’re just playing old Iron Maiden songs? (laughs)

 

 

That’s an amazing story!!!!

But that’s what happened then. So once we got record deal we started to write our first album. And we did ... We moved into, it was upstate of New York in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in a little motel which owner had a little a rehearsal studio there and we wrote “Murder One” there. We wrote that about in two weeks. It took only two weeks to write a whole album and then we recorded that in one month. I really like “Murder One”. It’s still one of my favourites and I’m really proud of it. As I said before it was a really good deal for us to get ... with just playing Iron Maiden “shit”. You could have been written songs for years and years and really trying hard to make it but no one is interested. But those head guys from record companies they had never heard those Maiden songs so they believed it was ours. For us it was a true Jackpot! (laughs)

 

 

Wow … You really hit the jackpot then.

So we did.

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Marko with the band (he's the one in the KISS shirt of course! ha!)

 

After the brilliant “Murder One,” you released a second Killers album, “Menace To Society” which is totally different style of music. What you like about that album now?

For me it’s a shitty album. It’s a load of shit really. Maybe one or two songs are okay rest is horrible. It’s funny that for that album we got voted in Metal Hammer in Germany, it was voted best new album for that year. Someone liked it but we don’t do it anymore. I thought it was a bag of shit, right? That’s why we don’t play any songs from that album anymore. Crap!

 

 

So why did you changed your style then…?

That was because Paul wanted to sound like … you know? He really liked Pantera and other that kind of bands then.

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Luxi of Metal-Rules.com (on the right) with Cliff

 

Okay I believe it. Let’s jump now into year 1998. Tank is suddenly active again?

It was mainly because of fans demand. Lot’s of people were sending e-mails and stuff. People were asking what’s going on with Tank and they just asked us to something together again. And we started to think about that. We were still around, you know, so it was still possible to get back together. I get in touch with all the guys. We got different drummer then. We got Steve Hopgood then who was with me in Killers and first we did a live album. It was like a “best of “recorded live. It was just really raw sounding. It was called “Return of the Filth Hounds”. We just decided to put it out and see what is going to happen. We played our re-union show on the Wacken Festival on Germany which is … that was our first real show in with Tank in twelve years or something? Of course we were kind of nervous ‘cause Steve had never played with us before. We only did one rehearsals before the show, and we were playing in the front of really massive crowd. I’ve got it on video too. Show went down really well so we went on tour right after that together with Hammerfall and Raven. We had this three bands bill. We played all over the Europe and after that we did a couple of more tours after that and then we went to studio and we did “Still At War” album.

 

 

Good. Have you any plans to release Tank DVD someday?

Yes. We have been actually thinking about for a long time. We have a lot’s of stuff recorded during the years. We have a brilliant full show from Japan, which we did a several years ago. Show is about one hour long and then we filmed a loads of backstage stuff there. Live in Wacken we have and some vintage videos from day one, promotional videos. We just should put it all together and release it. It should be a good package.

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Yes I think so. Well then some other stuff here. You know these German guys in a band called Sodom

Yeah.

 

 

It seems that German thrash metal outfit SODOM guys are huge fans of TANK. They covered TANK songs "Don't Walk Away"("Agent Orange" album in 1989), "Turn Your Head Around"("Better Off Dead" album in 1990) and "Shellshock"("Ten Black Years" album in 1996). Have you ever heard their versions of TANK songs?

Yes I know those versions. Tom Angelripper is a nice guy he is. Tom have always been a big fan of us and we have been drinking together many times…. We are good friends.

 

 

How do you like Sodom's music?

Well I like some of their stuff and I like watching them live. I’m not a huge fan of theirs but I think they are pretty cool. I liked when Tom does a every year in Wacken he closes the festival And just does his own drinking songs (laughs) He’s a great show guy I have to say. He’s like a drunk as shit plays the backing tapes … it’s a good show.

 

 

Everybody should see that show I agree with you (laughs). Well then we go back to Tank for a while. Would you briefly comment each of your album here?

Sure no problem.

 

 

POWER OF THE HUNTER 82’

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But I wasn’t on that ..

 

 

I know that, but tell us your opinion of that record as a fan.

As a fan on early Tank I think that Algy’s voice here is great. It sounds like Motorhead with good vocals. Algy’s voice is cool as hell here. HE has really raw and original sound. There are good gongs on it but the best thing here is Algy’s vocals. Lemmy’s voice doesn’t do much for me but Algy’s does. The title track “Power Of The Hunter” is my favourite from that album. We still play that song and it’s one my favourites to play live. There’s a big chorus on it and it’s a really fun to play. That’s a cool song.

 

 

THIS MEANS WAR 83’

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That’s then album when Mick Tucker joined in the band. He’s a real musician. He changed the sound a lot. He writes songs more. Like … before him Tank had more “Motorhead” style then all suddenly came … songs. He’s more into 80’s and 70’s rock than rest of the guys and that can be heard on this record. He is a very great guitar player and he uses very tasteful licks and other things on these songs. On that album Tank changed a lot to be more rock than just being Motorhead you know? That’s the thing.

 

 

People are often thinking that “This Mean War” was THAT album for Tank …

Yes that’s true. Actually there happened two different things there. First of all it was a really good album and otherwise people really seemed to like it more than first album .

 

 

HONOUR AND BLOOD 84’

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There are lot’s of good songs on it there’s a good song writing. The whole sound of the album The first song “The War Drags Ever On” it’s a true classic. I really love that song. When this one came out we did that tour together with Metallica. It came out in 1984 and … after that tour we did another one in U.S with Raven. That might have been in 85’? I still have some tour t-shirts from that tour.

 

 

TANK 87’

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Well … There are some okay songs on it.

 

 

Did Mick play on the whole album at all?

There might be one or two songs where he did not played, I’m not quite sure? The whole vibe of the album is really sad. We had so many problems with our management and all that shit.

 

 

Also the cover art is quite different on this album ..

Yeah. It’s like … It’s just red and black. Algy had some strange ideas then … There’s not much more to say.

 

 

THE RETURN OF THE FILTH HOUNDS 98’

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That one is quite cool album. Really raw live sound there and it’s a a good live album. There are good songs on there.

 

 

It was a sort of comeback album for you then?

Yes that was the one. It kind of brought us back together and we got a record deal in Germany.

 

 

Where are these un-released bonus tracks from on this album?

Those songs are played again on “Still At War”. These versions are just demo versions of the songs. These are some of the first songs we started to work after our rebirth.

 

 

METAL CRUSADE 99’

That was cool. That was a good show in Japan. There are good stuff on there.

 

 

STILL AT WAR 02’

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Well … it’s our latest work to date.

 

 

I heard that Tank in also doing a new record. Is there any truth behind that?

Well. Next album is already written. It’s ready to record.

 

 

Do you have any ideas who is going to release it this time?

No. We are still doing a work for “Still At War” re-release at the moment. We just get a deal for that now. Actually we signed a deal last week for worldwide release for that so once we get that one out at it deserves we will work another one that’ for sure.

 

 

Is that “new” version of “Still At War” any different than the first edition of it?

Yes there are bonus tracks on it. Some live stuff.

 

 

How are the new songs, which are already written for the next album?

We are kind of going back to our early roots. It will be much more eighties sound there than on “Still At War”.

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Our time seems to run out soon. A couple of quick ones now ... I know that your long time friend Steve Hopgood is not in the band anymore. What has happened for him?

Steve has … Steve is one of the best drummers when we are talking about metal drummers. He has bad problems with his ears. He is suffering of tinning so loud voices are ringing all the time in his ears. So if he hit’s a drum snare the voice will drive him mad so he can’t play anymore which is really sad. He was a great metal drummer, really good.

 

 

That’s sad thing to hear really. Who is playing drums now?

We have a guy called Bruce Bisland on drums. He’s really good and he has played before with Praying Mantis. Sometimes he is too busy and then we are just using someone else who is around. We are also talking with our very original drummer Mark Brabbs and he might come back and do some shows with us. That would be very cool. He is still very good drummer.

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Well that sounds very interesting.

I agree. He still looks exactly the same as in the old days and he still likes to drink like fuck and … he is a good drummer. It would be cool to have original drummer back in the band. Then we come to Finland … I promise (laughs)

 

 

Ok Cliff. We thank you and have a good gig tonight!

Thank you!