TANK - “No Point Asking Me About What Those Wankers Are Going On Doing”
June 17, 2015, 2 days ago
When there was no Algy Ward on the horizon, it was tolerable ‘aving a go at another Tank. Well, no it wasn’t. Good band as they were, without the chief writer and vocalist and none of the original classic power trio, it simply wasn’t Tank.
Underscore that, because when Algy stormed back with the magnificent old school metal clinic that was Breath of the Pit in 2013, it became graphically clear the overpowering extent to which Algy was Tank. Acceptable quality and perfectly fitting that the use of drum machine was, what was frightful was just how superlative each riff upon each riff was, and is, on that damn thing. Notwithstanding that we got the classic original vocalist for Tank, but man, here was Algy performing the whole damn album, and then every song was sturdy and hooky and loud and proud. If, perchance, it had been recorded with less fuzz and distortion and maybe a live drummer, Breath of the Pit might have been the best metal album of 2013.
And here we are two years later, with the Tucker and Evan version of Tank about to release a new album called Valley of Tears, while Algy...
“The album is Sturmpanzer, and it’s an album that those miscreants didn’t want to play on. So it’s just me. Same as on the last one. Just me.”
That’s Algy, speaking barely decipherable down the line and that’s about all I could get out of the man, on what was about the longest, toughest hour-plus of chat this scribe has had through 1600-plus interviews.
Part of it’s my fault, as I really treated the attempted chat as a retrospective. After all, Algy played on two of my favourite ten punk albums of all time, Eternally Yours from The Saints and Machine Gun Etiquette from The Damned. Plus those first three Tank albums... there are a lot of records in the world, but I’d not deny any of them a slot in anyone’s Top 100, including mine, on any given day.
But yeah, let’s just say I had much trouble following the metal legend’s train of thought as he responded, usually disagreeing but in good nature to most of my questions, and with long pauses and lots of restarts, and often coming around to the answer I expected in the end. Add to that a heavy English accent, many stops for fits of laughter, a general sense of defiance and contrarianism, and that he’d go all muffled when he’s be trying to roll a cigarette, and... you get the picture.
“Same as on Breath of the Pit,” continues Algy, who says stylistically, after one of them long pauses, “it’s about the same. It kind of would’ve been the same as if anyone was playing on it. It’s just what I wanted to do.”
Well, okay, here’s an example of what I mean, even though I’m just going to give you the highlights where I understood the point. Asked if given his Saints and Damned experience, he had put together Tank from more of a punk philosophy than that of your average metalhead, he says...
“No, no, no, those things... not those things. You’re trying out Americanisms now (laughs). No need to apologize. No, no, no, all I did was stuff that was edgy. So that’s it, really. To myself, well, me, personally, there’s no difference. No, no, no, I’m 55 years old, and the first single I ever bought was ‘My Generation’ in 1965 by The Who. And I was listening to jazz and blues when I was in my mother’s womb (laughs). I don’t listen to heavy rock, or I don’t listen... I listen to the stuff I want to listen to.”
But given Tank’s essential pioneering thrashy heavy metal sound, sort of the down-rent end of the NWOBHM... surely there was some knowledge and love for metal in there somewhere?
“In the mid-‘70s? I was listening to all sorts in the mid-‘70s. Oh, no, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin... you’ve got to realize, I’m not... I can’t be confined by what I listened to. I’m esoteric, I suppose. But I like what I like, and if I don’t like it, well then I won’t fucking listen to it. No point, in those days.”
“My brother and I were into ‘70s heavy rock, with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, all that sort of thing, a bit of Led Zeppelin thrown in,” confirms original Tank drummer Mark Brabbs, his brother being classic lineup axe-purveyor Pete Brabbs. “Algy was always a ZZ Top man, and even when he went through his punk period, he was still into ZZ Top, and obviously, Motorhead and Deep Purple. So we were all pretty much rockers. I mean, I got into the punk thing. I hated when it first came out. I remember going to see The Damned before Algy joined them, in Croydon. And Rat Scabies came up, and they were supporting someone like Stray, some heavy rock band. Rat said come up and jam. And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what you’re playing.’ And they’re like, ‘It doesn’t matter. Get up and make a noise.’ And I thought, this is a bit childish. And I didn’t really get it until I heard, actually, ‘New Rose,’ from The Damned and when Stranglers put out ‘Peaches.’ And then Never Mind The Bollocks came out, the Sex Pistols, and that really kicked the whole industry in England right up the backside.”
“But the punk element of the band mainly came from Algy,” continues Mark, “and actually, my brother, he liked some of that. I wasn’t into that. I was more into sort of dinosaur rock bands. But then, obviously, when we started jamming the songs, it just became what it was. We didn’t aim to be anything other than what came out, when we got together. So it wasn’t preconceived, like, let’s do this, let’s do that. And it kind of reflected our lifestyle. Because when we were young, we were party animals. We lived life in the fast lane. So it’s kind of safe if you listen to the early demos of some of those songs that made it onto Filth Hounds. Some of the playing is almost subtle, you could say, compared to what the finished article became, which was a lot faster, a lot more aggressive. And that was probably down to more lifestyle than musical influences, if that makes sense.”
Okay, so, back to Algy, what is the concept behind Tank?
“Well I have the same attitude that I’ve always had. You know, hate the world and misanthropy. You know what that means? And odium as well, just hatred. In-your-face, if you don’t like it, fuck off.”
Pressing the issue, I tell Algy that me an’ the buds always saw the band not only as the baby Motorhead, but the thinking man’s Motorhead.
“Well, I take that as a compliment,” laughs Ward. “My lyrics, I wasn’t into... you know, people say that that we’re Motorhead copyists. I wrote most of those incredibly difficult rhythms and riffs and all that. It was a degree of difficulty that Motorhead... Eddie could never have played those riffs. It wasn’t no influence on me at all, because you’ve got to realize that I already knew them. I knew them since 1977. So no, just because we had the same management... I mean that is just bad journalism.”
So what did Fast Eddie Clarke bring to the table, producing the band’s first album, Filth Hounds of Hades?
“Nothing really, he just brought a lot of drink and a load of amphetamines, that’s all. And said it wasn’t loud enough (laughs).”
Not the favourite then?
“Well, I like them all for different reasons. I like the second one, because it’s the best sounding. And it’s... unfortunately, Nigel Gray didn’t know how to do... he did The Police and various other people, so he couldn’t handle having the loud guitars, you know, properly. He always had to have some other nonsense on it. But I wish Filth Hounds was sounding like the second, and I wish we had enough time on the first and third, that we had on the second, if you see what I mean. Eddie, he had to finish Filth Hounds quick to go and do Iron Fist. And then he pissed off, and then went to what would become Fastway. And then a couple of the songs on the Fastway album would’ve ended up on the Iron Fist album, or, well, whatever the next Motorhead album would’ve been, and he just had enough of that sort of nonsense. And Nigel Gray had, obviously on the same management, Girlschool, so we thought, why not give him a go—why not?”
In any event, not a big fan of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, our Algy.
“When all that fucking load of bullshit was going about, I was in The Damned. Iron Maiden and Saxon and everything else, I had nothing to do with all that shit. You have to remember, I was in The Damned from ‘78 until January 1, 1980, and that’s when all the Maiden and what was it, Toad the Wet Sprocket and all that God-awful bullshit was going on. And I wasn’t interested in all that shit. The first time I saw Iron Maiden, I went to meet somebody at The Marquee, in Wardour Street. And there’s this band playing and they were fucking dreadful. It was awful. And then a few months later, they were on a children’s early morning TV, and they had a video out at the time called ‘Women in Uniform,’ which I knew, being in The Saints, was from some Australian band. And I thought, what the fuck are they doing that for? And that was the video, and they’re on this kids’TV show and they all got custard pied. You can probably find that on YouTube or some other bollocks somewhere. But the first time I saw them in The Marquee, they were fucking awful. I think they did a couple of Montrose covers. They were fucking rubbish. They were really bad.”
“I don’t think we ever did, to be perfectly honest,” agrees Mark, asked to what extent they felt kinship with the NWOBHM. “It was a bit... and again, this is no disrespect to the other bands. I mean, I speak for myself, but at the time, collectively, we thought most of the bands that were coming out were pale imitations of the ‘70s rock bands, like Saxon and Samson and Maiden, and all those sort of things. We thought they were they were pale imitations of what went before them. And so we didn’t actually aim, like I said, to be anything, really. We didn’t aim to be a punk band. We didn’t aim to be a New Wave Of Heavy Metal Band, and we didn’t aim to be a rock band. But obviously with our influences, we were going to be a rock band. And having said what I said, I think, obviously, all those bands have developed and they’ve got their own sound and they’re all superb bands, now. But at the start, I don’t think they... it had all been done before in the ‘70s. And I suppose, you know, a lot of people could say, well, we were an imitation of maybe the Pink Fairies or Motorhead, but we weren’t. Because there was a lot more influences on us, between us. And mainly, funny enough, you have to have a very keen ear, but the big influence on Tank right at the start was the early ZZ Top stuff—especially with Algy and Pete.”
So surely Algy can clarify: Tank were’t a bunch of metal-knowing punks. “No, I’m not, no (laughs); I never had been a punk. I was just a person who’s got attitude.”
And—just testing—were your band mates, Mark and Peter Brabbs, the bringers of the metal? Or did they just have attitude too?
“No, they, just had attitude, you know, and all that long hair. I’m not... it was a brilliant time. Pete, unfortunately, he couldn’t handle the alcohol or the amount of stuff he put up his nose. As I said, I’m not... I’m just myself. The Algy Ward enigma (laughs). What did I like? Everything about Ozzy right from the beginning until... well, lately, he’s just coming out with bullshit. Not necessarily heavy metal, but I liked bits of Rush. Judas Priest, I’ve never liked either. Iron Maiden, never liked. Oh, Metallica, I liked. I’m Uncle Algy to them.”
Back to modern times, don’t look to Algy to be able to tour the new Sturmpanzer album...
“No, no, no, no, I can’t tour anymore. My tinnitus is so bad. I can’t even go... I can’t even have an amplifier. I can’t play into an amplifier anymore. Everything I do is done very quietly on headphones. I do it at home. And the only time I let rip is to do vocals. But I’m nearly finished Sturmpanzer, the next album. I’ve no idea... you know, no point asking me about what those wankers are going on doing. I have no interest whatever. I don’t fucking care. It’s taken a long time to get over my... the loss of my brother. I’ll never get over that, but it can’t be helped. So I‘ve got to move on. So that’s basically what I’m doing.”
Of note, through my discussion with Mark, as I tell him how good Algy is writing, based on what I know, the Breath of the Pit album, Mark wondered if me if it wasn’t too late to contact Algy and offer to drum on Sturmpanzer. I dunno, but I’m gonna email Algy when I get back to the damn office.
As I attempt to wrap up, Algy offers, “Are you sure there’s not anything else you want to ask? Because I don’t like… You seem to be okay. If I didn’t like talking with you, I wouldn’t say anything, so there you are. You can carry on. If you want more stuff, I’ll tell you.”
So I thank him, and we do keep jawing, as I try to get a few nuggets from him about This Means War, which I’ll try fashion into a stand-alone piece one day, to add to my 30 or so short eBooks I’ve got over at zunior.com for 98 cents. There’s also some Saints and The Damned. OK for the former, venomous come the latter. But it’s hard graft, again, with points hard to follow, miscommunication, just tough stuff.
Later, back on another tack, I press Algy on whether this odd trip on a Tank has afforded him the opportunity to meet any of his rock heroes, although I’m gathering he doesn’t have many!
“I’m trying to think. I’m trying to think. Well, the thing is, I already met most of them before I was in a band. Because I was as a roadie for them. I had already met them. I always knew Ozzy. I met Ozzy in 1974. All right, I’m trying to think. I can remember there was somebody who was quoted saying something like, ‘Best not meeting your heroes.’ You know, they’ll let you down. Glenn Hughes, he let me down. He was a total asshole. David Coverdale was perfectly all right. Jon Lord didn’t let me down, Roger Glover didn’t let me down, Ian Paice didn’t let me down. They’re absolute gentleman, as you’d expect they were. Schenker is a fucking idiot—that’s Michael Schenker, not Rudy. I’m trying to think. Jimmy Page is a gentleman, Robert Plant is a gentleman. All of Led Zeppelin are gentleman, were gentleman. I’ve met so many people and drunk with them—and got drunk with them. I liked Jeff Beck. You know, there are quite a lot of those old bastards.”
But old bastards he’s also not seen in a long time are the guys from Tank.
“No, no, I have no idea. Pete hasn’t played with a band since, I think, he was sacked. Mark, no idea. I played with those wankers, Tucker and Evans a lot. But you probably know more about that than I do.”
And with that it’s a goodnight from me, and from Algy, a chortling, “Stay in yer homes!”
My Tank article is up...
When there was no Algy Ward on the horizon, it was tolerable ‘aving a go at another Tank. Well, no it wasn’t. Good band as they were, without the chief writer and...
Guillaume Labrecque Sorry Martin, but for me, the real Tank is the one with Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans. I enjoyed the early albums with Algy, but the 2 albums with Doogie White on vox are just at another level IMO. Sure, the style changed towards melodic metal, but it was for the best, these 2 albums are Tank's best for me. I can't wait to hear Valley Of Tears. Too bad Doogie left to join Schenker (good move for him though, and I love both ToR albums he sings on) but ZP Theart should do a fine job. I didn't care at all for Breath of The Pit... Average songs and bad production ruined the album for me...
Martin Popoff This is more metaphysical than that. The real Tank is Algy's - any listen to Breath can tell you that. Having said that, we are all in our rights to like the other one better. It's just ludicrious to call it Tank - no point. It's a bit like Martin Popoff is the best player on the Cleveland Cavaliers, however I have Labron play my games for me. Plus go tho the practices. And the press conferences.
Martin Popoff The real Tank is the riffs on the first three albums, and Breath. It's exquisite writing on Breath, despite the unfortunate pick of drum machine. But even that is fine, weirdly. Mick's Tank is a fine band. Love the guy, and Doogie is a friend (distantly!). Plus to mean, vocals and lyrics mean so much. It's just no contest. Algy is Tank.
Martin Popoff This is crazy, Mick. I wouldn't even insult you by calling you a Tank cover band. As Guillaume says, you are probably better than Tank by some measures. You don't even try cover Tank, except when you have to play the old songs live. On the other hand, I'm flooored by the writing on Breath of the Pit, and that's Tank's singer. That's like 75% of Tank right there - he jut needs a drummer. And Mark is willing to do it, but it sounds like Algy is too far into the new album to switch the drums - too bad. He should.
Martin Popoff I gotta say, it was painful talking to Algy and I can see how it would be insane trying to work with the guy, but he's a friggin' GENIUS. Half dead, it sounds like, sure, but he's a metal songwriting legend. Unfortunate as that was going with drum machine, the songs are front to back amazing.
Martin Popoff Yes, it's a compromise and it's less because of that. But Algy is singing, writing the words and the lusic for the whole thing... if we are to believe the credts. If Mick said he wrote a lot, fair enough, but it's still Algy singing and likely Algy lyrics and SOME music. And it helps that Mick and Cliff are there, and it helps that the music is very much Tank-ish.
Breno Raphaldini Dinossauro I like the "new Tank" but I don't think it is Tank either. First, no original member, second it doesn't sound anything like Tank, it sounds more like Saxon. It's the same thing with Riot V, at least they put a "V" in the name, but it's just preposterous that they erased the Riot page on wikepedia and put a "Riot V" page instead.
Oleg Tankman Great interview! ALGY is TANK! Martin Popoff is a LEGEND! Hackers calling itself "Tank" must retire & change name of their band! No matter how good or bad they are, that's not TANK. Thank you Martin again! We salute you! This is historical article! HAMMER ON!
Garth Conan I was thinking the same thing with Riot or Riot V but I ain't opening up that can of worms! I will however touch upon this subject regarding Tank. I highly respect Martin Popoff and his views on this subject and they have nothing to do with opinion and everything to do with fact...that simple. When the man is right the man is right! I understand Algys views on the NWOBHM era and he's right although a huge fan of many bands of that era alot of them would quickly soften or totally change and the scene would crash all over $$$$....TANK never did and always stuck to their cannons! I was listening to this band when I was 8 in '84 when my dad would crank their albums for me as a kid while growing up on Long Isand in New York...loved em then and still do so I understand the logic Martin speaks of...there is NO argument neccesary....I myself dealt with Tucker and Evans first hand in the "Tank" group now re-named "TANK (ALGY WARD OFFICIAL FAN PAGE) ~ The REAL Filth Hounds!" and it wasn't a pleasure at all. Tucker constantly bashing threatening of the fans and myself led to me contacting the admin who was unaware of these activities to take over the group. Once I brought order to this page for the fans him and his cronies still would not stop so unfortunatly him along with Evans and quite a few others that went beyond crossing the line as far as how the rest of the fans were being treated and the nasty assumtions said about Algy that I had to remove them...it was that bad. It wasn't even about music it was all about how many Algy fans they can we piss on. I don't care how good the new Tank is without Algy to whoever if those band members are going to disregard other humans/fans to this level then I will not support thier future work even if it was the real Tank. Anyone that supports that kind of behavior is condoning it. So not only is about respect to the real TANK legacy but respecting the fans overall....this is a double edge sword either way you're getting stabbed. I'd rather stick with Algy and get blown away!! I completly understand why Algy has to make new Tank music the way he does with his health and being an introvert..one who doesn't associate with many...it all makes sense to me. If the artist makes the music that's what's important...he's not making it for himself he's making it for us all. Plenty of musicians make only for themselves which is fine as well...it's theirs so they are free to choose. This guy is still alive and kicking and gets less respect than artists that died from drugs or killed themselves long before they even reached 40....ALGY IS TANK...LEMMY IS MOTORHEAD....oh and btw ALGY WARD IS A REAL SINGER...if you don't like his vocals then you don't like TANK and any legacy they've already created in the past...the guy is a GENIUS.
Guillaume Labrecque Say what you will, you're entitled to your opinion. Like it or not, that gives us 2 Tank bands (even though one is a solo act) and I know the one I prefer. BTW, I respect Algy's work and legacy, but he was surely never a great singer (same as Lemmy), he's a vocalist who had an original style. Notice the wink when I talked about the "real" singer thing...
Garth Conan Algy's lyrics and attitude surely makes up for that the fact that he's not a great singer as you say. A great singer has nothing to do with how many octaves or anything else...it's his style and swagger that makes him beyond a great singer. He is a songwriter and a musician not just a singer. One man band or not he is still Tank and sounds like Tank unlike the other sham calling themselves Tank....
Garth Conan Are you out of your mind??????????? I have respected those two for over 20 years!! It's those guys especially Tucker who has not only told me to go to hell but many others that I know....this guy even threatened numerous people with violence and even told someone that didn't even ask for it to go sleep with his own mother...it's all documented here on fb. I know 100's of musicians personally promote them get them signed arrange interviews etc and I've met a few a few screws short but Tucker is as bad as Geoff Tate. If Tank had a high profile like Queensryche this would be everywhere....
Oleg Tankman And yes, "Still at War" was recorded without Tucker, 80% guitars been done by Algy & only 20% by Evans, but still Tucker got credits on the album. "Honour & Blood" with only few solos from Evans. According to Algy Tucker lost all interest in Tank at that time, but he seems started intrested in Tank when Algy got ill & couldn't do any live gigs anymore.
Oleg Tankman What right? Who's the original member of this scumband? NO ONE! Go to www.tankfilthhounds.net for all the history of the band, you won't find any Tucker's photo's in there though , because he "asked" me to remove them, and it was right because he doesn't belong to the band we all know & love!