Interview with Cliff Evans
After having split in two back in 2007, the name ”Tank” now refers to three distinct and similar, yet very different bands. The original Tank, the Algy Ward-led Tank and this one, the Tank fuelled by Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans. Being by far the most active current version, Tucker and Evans have added three new members to their line-up and released their third full-length album since the break up of the original band. The newest addition to their repertoire is entitled Valley of Tears and received very high praise on our site.
MR: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Now, for people who might not have been following, could you quickly recap how you ended up with your current line-up?
Cliff Evans: Our previous two albums (War Machine, War Nation) featured the excellent vocal talents of former Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow frontman ‘Doogie White’. When Doogie was recruited by Michael Schenker to join his ‘Temple of Rock’ along with former Scorpions members Herman Rarebel and bass player, we had to re-think how we were not only going to retain the quality of music we were creating but move Tank forward another big step. I was having a few beers in a pub with our former drummer ‘Mark Cross’ (who had also recently been a member of the Scorpions) when ZP Theart walked in. He was a friend of Mark’s and he introduced him to me. I wasn’t familiar with any of Dragonforce’s material but we got on well and as he was no longer a member of Dragonforce I asked him if he was interested in playing a couple of shows singing for Tank. He agreed and was really fired up about it. From the moment we hit the stage with him we realised that we had found the perfect replacement for the departed Doogie White. ZP Theart was the new Tank frontman. Bobby Schottkowski, formerly the drummer of German thrash legends Sodom, was already a good friend of ours and a die hard Tank fan. It was only a matter of time until we were able to recruit him to our ranks as our permanent drummer. It’s like he’s always been there. We needed a world class bass player to complete the line up. Mick had heard about a guy in Holland who was regarded as the best player around. His name was Barend Courbois and he was the bass player for Blind Guardian. We asked him if he was available to come on tour with us for our first visit to South America. He loved our music and jumped at the chance to play with us. This is the line up that recorded the new album ‘Valley of Tears’.
MR: Looking at your combined experiences both within Tank and in other projects looks quite impressive. Do you feel this has inspired or influenced your current sound?
CE: Without a doubt. When you have musicians of this quality and a wealth of experience to draw from you just know that when it comes to making music you are going to create something meaningful. We have all grown up listening to great rock music from the 70’s and 80’s which is the period when all the best rock albums were recorded. You absorb the vibe and sounds of these great recordings and draw upon them when needed. We play and sound like this naturally. There is nothing fake about how we sound unlike so many of the new bands emerging today. There is no substitute for experience.
MR: Valley of Tears has been well received here at Metal Revolution. But does that mean that you will promote the album with a tour?
CE: The album has been very well received so far which we’re very happy about. Our main priority now is to get the band out on the road to promote the album and expose it to a wider audience. We are at our best when we are on stage delivering some full on metal to our fans. We have such a great back catalogue to choose from now. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to leave out. We have recently started to drop the songs from the first two Tank albums as they are now so far removed from the direction we have been moving in these past few years. The fans are ok with this because ZP’s voice is much more suited to songs from our more recent albums so he can really show what an amazing vocal range he possesses.
MR: Your newest release has a somewhat different sound compared to the two that came before it. Is this the new direction of the band, or is it more an example of a bit of experimentation on your part?
CE: We try to push the band forward with every new album release but we will always retain the essential Tank attitude that has existed since the start. When you have musicians of this quality to work with you have to let them do what they do best as this will help drive the album and add a new dimension to the band. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation either as long as you don’t wonder too far away from where you started.
MR: Valley of Tears was pushed back from June to September. Personally I agree that it was well worth the wait, but I am still curious as to what caused the delay?
CE: We were originally on schedule for the planned June release but then we ran into some technical problems with the recording. Some parts had to be recorded again which took up valuable time. We could have made the deadline but we thought we’d best not rush it and put the release date back. This is not unusual for us as nothing ever seems to go to plan, much to the annoyance of our label.
MR: The fact that there is two different, active bands operating under the same names well as under the same logo must be a bit confusing. Have you done anything in order to distinguish yourselves from another?
CE: There is absolutely NO confusion and the fans know that we are the only Tank that is currently recording and releasing quality albums worldwide and touring to support these releases. The last time we worked with Algy was over 15 years ago and since then we have moved the band a big step forward releasing some of our best selling albums, our first ever live DVD and we’ve recruited some of the best vocalists and musicians in the metal world to work with us. Unfortunately, mainly due to ongoing health problems, Algy is unable to tour or play live and has only released one album which was made on a very low budget and had a very limited release. We wish Algy all the best with any projects he is involved with and we miss playing with him very much but the fans have chosen to follow us and are enjoying the music we release and play live at our shows. We are giving them what they want and deserve.
MR: Looking back and comparing Valley of Tears to the releases that came before it, what do you feel works better than in the older released, and vice versa?
CE: Every album we make now will be a progression from the last one. We are very proud of ‘Valley of Tears’ and now this has set a new bench mark for us. We try not to dwell on the past anymore, like so many bands are doing, and only look to the future. We intend to release many more albums in the years to come. The mighty Tank will fight on!
MR: There seems to have been a resurgence in the popularity of traditional Heavy Metal, particularly the eighties-formed ones. Is this something you have noticed or feel have affected you in recent years?
CE: I think the reason that people are listening to the bands from this era again is because of the great songs that were written during this period. Songs, songs, songs, songs, songs! Good songwriting has become a dying art with many new bands more concerned about wearing some ridiculous looking demonic make up and sounding like every other band that looks the same.
MR: Thank you for your time. Anything you would like to add to our readers as well as your fans?
CE: We are constantly striving to write better songs, record better albums and make our live shows more spectacular. We’re having more fun than ever and enjoying playing music (and drinking beer) together. Our fan base grows with every new album and we will continue to deliver the best metal into the future. Guaranteed!
Metal Revolution: For those out there who may be too young to remember the eighties, can you give a quick recap of who you are as well as Tank?
Cliff Evans: Tank was formed in 1980 and was originally a 3 piece band fronted by ex Damned bassist Algy Ward. The band had a punk influenced sound and were often compared to Motorhead. Both bands shared the same management and had toured together on several occasions.
Mick Tucker, who was previously in White Spirit with Janik Gers of Iron Maiden, joined Tank in 1983 and immediately injected an element of classic rock into the band. I entered the ranks in 1984 to record the “Honour and Blood” album which we then took out on the road as support for Metallica on their “Ride the Lightning” tour. Since then we’ve released several albums and gone through many line up changes to reach the stage Tank is at today.
Metal Revolution: Your newest album has been very well-received here at Metal-Revolution. Hopefully that makes you feel proud?
CE: It makes us feel extremely proud. We put a lot of time and effort into the writing and recording of “War Nation” so it’s great for us to hear that people are listening to it and really enjoying the music we are creating. We love making music together and we all have similar influences so it’s a real pleasure to be in a band with these guys. We will continue to write and record great rock music for as long as we can.
Metal Revolution: Your new album is entitled War Nations. Can you explain the drive behind the album, as well as the lyrical themes?
CE: We were having a problem coming up with a title that we were all happy with. Our label had a deadline so we had to come up with something we all agreed on. We noticed that every time we watched TV or read a news paper we were confronted with pictures of fighting and war. We realised we are all just a war nation. The name stuck.
Metal Revolution: Your previous album was entitled War Machine. Can you explain the difference between that album and War Nations?
CE: War Machine was the first album we made with our new line up featuring Doogie White on vocals and pointed us in a different direction to previous Tank albums. We combined all our influences to create music that had the epic sound of those classic albums from the 70’s/80’s but with a much more up to date production to compete with new bands on the scene. Between us we’ve been members of bands featuring such names as Ritchie Blackmore, Bruce Dickinson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker and Paul Dianno. There’s a lot of experience within the band which you can really hear on our records.
War Nation we took a step further. We were now more comfortable with our way of writing and constructing songs. As with War Machine we approached every song in a different way and the album has many different styles and tempos to make it interesting to listen to from start to finish. Also we wanted to bring in a new younger producer who wasn’t familiar with our music so they could give a fresh angle to our sound. We used a guy called Phil Kinman who hadn’t really recorded any well known bands before but what I heard he had done sounded great so we decided to try him out. He really captured the energy of the band and got us an amazing sound that can easily compete with any big budget albums released recently.
Metal Revolution: What is your favourite song on this album and why?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Usually on albums I’ll have a couple of songs that CE: I really like but on War Nation I can’t just pick out one or even a couple. When I play the album I listen to it all the way through and enjoy every second of it. That’s the same reaction I’ve had from everyone that’s listened to it.
Metal Revolution: Looking back at Tanks entire career, what album would you consider as being the best you ever made and why?
CE: It’s hard to come up with one favourite album over our entire career because the style of music has progressed throughout the years. Filth Hounds of Hades, recorded before I joined the band, was a groundbreaking album that fused punk with rock that was driven by Algy’s distinctive vocals and bass playing. Honour and Blood was our first real metal album. Recorded in 1984, it still kicks some serious ass today. But I guess overall I’m really liking the music we are making now, especially on our latest work Metal Nation. Maybe our best album is still to be made though.
Metal Revolution: Tank, as a band, held a small break during the nineties. Why was that and what do you feel you gained from it after you started playing again?
CE: The band didn’t actually split up. We had a lot of problems during the recording of the “Tank” album in 1987. Mick and Algy were arguing a lot and our management didn’t help with the situation. The album was released but wasn’t promoted so it didn’t really sell many copies. We had no tours lined up and eventually the band drifted apart but we never even considered the idea of splitting up. We’d had long periods of inactivity before when Algy decided to go into hiding and no one could contact him so we were used to taking long breaks between albums. This was one reason why Tank never reached the level of success it deserved. No one new if we were still together as a band. When we returned again in 1998 it felt good to be back together. We recorded our Filth Hounds Live album and toured across Europe with Hammerfall.
Metal Revolution: Fairly recently (2008 and onwards) you got three new members (Chris Dale, Doogie White and Mark Cross). How would you say that this has influenced the sound and atmosphere of Tank?
CE: It was great bringing new blood into the band. We really needed to get our shit together and get down to some serious work and move Tank forwards to compete with all the other current bands out there. We brought in these guys because they are the best at what they do and we all understand the direction we’re heading in. Unfortunately Mark Cross moved on and now we have Steve Hopgood back on drums. He was with Tank from 1998-2000 and he was also in Killers with me and Dianno.
It’s a great line up to be a part of.
Metal Revolution: Where was the album recorded and over how long a period?
CE: Our producer Phil Kinman had constructed his own recording studio in his back garden. It had everything you need to record a great album. He really knows how to record guitars and drums to get the best results possible. We were on a tight schedule so all the tracks were recorded over a couple of weeks. This does give the album a certain energy. We were well prepared before entering the studio so we knew what had to be done. The mixes came together very quickly and mastering was done in a day. When you’re working on a tight budget and schedule you can’t afford to fuck around. That’s why we have these guys in the band.
Metal Revolution: Are you currently planning a tour to support your new album?
CE: At the moment we’re looking for a new agent to work with. Tank is a live band and we need to be on the road as much as possible playing to our fans. Hopefully later this year we’ll be heading out across Europe playing a set of old classics plus a selection of new songs from War Machine and War Nation.
Metal Revolution: Last, but not least, thank you for taking your time answering our questions. Anything you would like to add to our readers?
CE: Enjoy our music. We make it for you.