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  THINK TANK
By Pippa Lang
15th March 2011
pippa lang

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"Did knee..." What Doogie? You did your knee in? Aww, does it hurt?

"Naw naw, ah said "DID NOT,'" Doogie sings operatically and with perfect, English, enunciation. Appropriate, since we've just been talking about vocal lessons, the difference between rock and opera singers, and Doogie's conversation with Robert Plant about voice preservation.

Interesting that accents can get lost in song. Not a trace of Scottish on Tank's latest, ubertastic album, 'War Machine'.

Doogie raises an eyebrow, and slaps his butt plug on the table (I don't ask). My claim to 'selective hearing' or, maybe, a pathetic attempt to rip the piss out of a sweaty sock's accent, is greeted with the derision it deserves, Sassanach that I am (get on the Forum sweaties!). But I should know better. This may not be the same Tank who teased and tormented this very young, naïve journalist conducting her first ever interview in a Stockwell pub nearly thirty years ago, but they're blokes, and I'm still the last one to get the joke. Plus, I really am a tad deaf after decades of direct injection Metal (let it be a warning).

tank
Tank 2011

Anyway. From Tank 1982 in a London pub to Tank 2011 in a London pub. It's like déjà vu. Except this pub is in Turnham Green and instead of frontman/bassist Algy Ward and the Brabbs brothers talking about 'Filth Hounds Of Hades', I'm in the delightful company of ex-Rainbow/Midnight Blue/Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Doogie White, guitarist Cliff Evans and bassist Chris Dale. We're here to talk about 'War Machine', the new line-up, and anything else that crops up, except butt plugs.

It appears that amongst the legions of Tank fans, some are still clinging to the flotsam and jetsam of the past, as they obstinately resist swimming to the Big Rock that is Tank 2011, preferring to faithfully tread water and err on the side of Algy. To err is human, to drown is bloody stupid just because you don't like the look of the nearest rock.

"There were all these people saying 'it can't possibly be Tank without Algayyyy,'" says Doogie, adopting the voice of a woolly old British gent (good at accents, is Doogie).

Nothing wrong with loyalty, but if it's at the expense of ignoring what is, frankly, a metal album of largesse, quality and potential seminality, well that's just downright blinkered, and not very Metal.

I mean, it's not as if they've suddenly turned out a rap album. 'War Machine' does what it says on the tin, and is likely to elevate the name Tank into the Super League, so Algy should be proud to have conceived it, and those particular fans should marvel at the extraordinary seeds of evolution. Doogie continues his minor rant:

"...and I just thought "well, fuck you, if you don't like it, don't come and see us'."

(Quite right.)

"And then they did come and see us," finishes Chris, "and they liked us."

tank
Sweden Rock 2009

Ah yes, the battering-ram approach. Barge onstage all guns a-blazing and show 'em what you can do! So the shotgun wedding had the desired effect. Apart from anything else, they must've noticed that the two guitarists straddling the band like two bookends had, actually, been navigating the, erm, tank for nearly thirty years.

Mick Tucker and Cliff (who joined in 1983 and '84, respectively) have as much right to use the name Tank as anyone else. It's not as if Algy was sacked or anything. Due to health problems, he simply can't play gigs anymore. The band were only fulfilling fans' wishes, as Cliff elucidates:

"We get so many emails asking when we're gonna play live again, and Algy just didn't wanna know. So me and Mick were getting really frustrated. We're guitar players, we like to play, so we needed to get out there."

They'd also just clinched a deal to release an eight-album boxed set, so the need to play live was even more urgent. Of course, replacing Algy meant finding either another singer/bassist or two separate entities. Enter Doogie and ex-Atom Seed Chris (who, apart from running his own, very silly band, Sack Trick, has worked with Bruce Dickinson and – really – Ricky Gervais).

Doogie's initial intention was to listen to the entire Tank back catalogue:

"I'd only heard nine Tank songs, and those were the nine I had to learn for the live shows. Then Cliff gave me the boxed set, and I said 'right, I'll go and listen to them all to get a flavour'. But he said 'for fucks' sake, don't do that, we asked you to do this coz we like what you do, and we don't want you to copy what anyone else has done', so I didn't.

"The point is, if Algy could and still wanted to perform in Tank, I wouldn't be here. If Algy wants to come back and the guys want to work with him, I'm more than happy to step aside and say 'right, go and do it'. I've no problem with him."

tank
In the pub, studying the racing form...

Huh? Cliff and Chris look a bit taken aback. Surely Doogie would put up a fight, wouldn't he?! Anyway, it's hypothetical. This is not a band Algy could front anymore. Doogie, quite willing to simply step into Algy's shoes, was invited to infuse his own Doogishness into Tank, and so he has done.

He's a well-respected singer (even has his own Wikipedia page, which he's delighted to discover), regarded as worthy of stepping into Ronnie James Dio's shoes in Rainbow, so there is no way they'd let him go. Okay, he was gazumped by Blaze Bayley to join Maiden for the ill-fated 'X-Factor' album, but that was a mistake quickly remedied. Had Doogie got the job, who knows? Maybe Bruce would 'just' be an airline pilot:

"And we wouldn't have the pleasure of having him in Tank now," finishes Chris.

This is all academic, so let's move on to Doogie as Tank's vocalist, one of the reasons for the almighty buzz surrounding the album. I say one reason, because a band is only as good as the sum of its parts, and the pieces of this particular jigsaw puzzle are fitting together very snugly indeed.

tank
"Two more pints please barman..."

Mick Tucker is elsewhere today, and ex-Zodiac Mindwarp drummer, Dave 'Grav' Cavill, is in Wales. But last time I saw Tank at The Peel in Kingston in 2009, Mark 'Brabbsie' Brabbs was attacking the drumkit once more. Why, what and how, and where is he now?

"He's on the Isle of Man," smiles Cliff. "Living in a mansion with his rich American wife and six children..."

Six children? I didn't realise Brabbsie was so... prolific (it turns out they're not all his), but now we're digressing. Cliff continues:

"He just did that Peel gig as a comeback, an introduction to the new line-up, but he can't do tours because of family commitments. He does play in the local church band though..."

Mmm. Not many drum solos then, more like a few delicate brushstrokes. No wonder he wanted to do The Peel gig. So how did Grav join:

"We needed someone funnier than Brabbsie, which was a tricky thing," Chris grins. "Plus they needed to be able to play drums... And I think we've found him. Though him and Brabbsie, it's a pretty close thing, humour-wise."

Okay, so Mick and Grav aren't here today, but it's obvious there's a rampant rapport at work within the ranks of Tank 2011. Forget Doogie's easygoing claims that he'd happily step aside for Algy should he, hypothetically, reappear. Doogie is a professional, but a band is a united creative force, a bond built on personal and musical chemistry. From personal experience, I know that leaving some bands is like leaving family. Anyway, if you've listened to the album, you'll know what I mean about chemistry.

After a few gigs in 2009, it was time to work out which tracks worked best live, before committing them to the album. 'War Machine', incidentally, was produced by Pedro Ferreira, well-known for his work with The Darkness, Therapy? and Meatloaf.

tank
"well, fuck you, if you don't like it, don't come and see us."

Doogie: "We asked him to get involved because he managed to get those great guitar noises out of Justin of The Darkness, and I felt, as a vocal producer, he could do a great job for me as well which, of course, he did."

I have to ask Doogie at this point if he's ever had singing lessons, as he hits some extraordinarily high notes on the album. Yes, Pedro Ferreira has done a fantastic vocal production job, but he's only complemented a talent that is obviously innate:

"No, never had singing lessons. You can't teach somebody to sing; what you can do is teach them how to preserve their voice. You either can sing, or you can't. The only guy I know in the rock business who had any singing lessons was Marky from Skin and Jagged Edge. He was a brilliant singer, and he had an edge and everything, and then his voice went. So he got singing lessons, and he never sounded the same again.



"Singing lessons are for people who work in the theatre, where they have to work and do nine shows that (sings) 'all sound the same, they never change, they all have to be perfect'. Rock 'n' roll's not about being perfect, rock 'n' roll's about putting your personality out there.

"When I was a kid, I was friendly with Scottish DJ and journalist Tom Russell, and he used to DJ at the East Kilbride place where I played with my band. One day, he told me he was going to interview Robert Plant, and I asked him if he could ask Robert how he keeps his voice. But Tom went "no, you call him. I'll put you on...'. So I spoke to Robert and said 'so if you're doing a lotta gigs, how do you keep your voice in trim?' and he said 'well, I gave up smoking when I was 40... people expect me to hit the notes... if I can't hit the notes, I know where the next note is, so I just go for that one!' ...and it's absolutely true. People who are trained singers, it's a discipline and what happens is that they lose the improvisational skills that rock 'n' roll requires.

"I've listened to a lot of old black soul guys, and guys like Terence Trent D'Arby, Jeffrey Osborne and James Ingram, all these top singers who can do extraordinary things with their voices. In the same way that Hendrix and Yngwie and Van Halen do with their guitars, these guys were doing with their voices, not within the context of the kind of music that I loved, but what it did was to open up my mind to different ways of phrasing.

"Of course, you also have great original singers within the rock genre too, and I'll give you three: Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and Robert Plant."

"And Ronnie?" I interject:

"Sure. But those are the three guys whose styles were based on something else. Ronnie was based on something that no-one had ever touched on. Robert Plant had this wild yelping kinda thing going on, Ian Gillan was based on Elvis Presley, and Ozzy's extremely unique as well. And we're talking about British guys."

Absolutely. But back to the album. I mention 'Last Laugh', one of my favourite tracks on 'War Machine', oblivious to its connotations:

"Ah well, this is a wee sorta aggressive attack," Doogie explains, bit firmly between his teeth. "Originally it was gonna be called 'Rawk 'n' Rule', but there was this whole Algy thing going on when me and Chris joined the band, so we changed it to 'Last Laugh'."

('Exorcism of The Damned' may've been a better, though more obvious title.)

Cliff butts in: "Yeah – you changed it on the day it was about to get mastered!" he reminds Doogie.

So did Doogie write all the lyrics?:

"I did," he replies, warming to the subject. "'Judgement Day' came from two old songs I had lying around, and Micky Tucker came round to the house and I had 'see the tears of the lost and lonely', which I thought was what the riff should be. We just melded these two old songs together."

The two halves of 'Judgement Day', then, originated in 2009 during collaborations between Mick and Doogie for the latter's solo album. Mick subsequently asked Doogie to join the band. Doogie continues:

"'Feast Of The Devil' was another that made sense to me. I was in my 'I'd really like to work with Tony Iommi' moment. 'Feast of the Devil' was really in that Dio time period that I wanted. This was one of the ones that we've been out playing live, because we needed to see if any of the songs worked live. So we did these, did demos of them first and played them live, and they went down remarkably well."

This was in the summer of 2009, when Tank tried out the set at festivals in Sweden, Italy and Germany. Doogie goes on, and I sense a conspiratorial tone:

"Lyrically, in 'Phoenix Rising', I threw in some of the old Tank lyrics, 'you'll feel the Power Of The Hunter', just to see if anyone noticed! I stuck a few old song titles in here and there to see if anybody noticed, but nobody's actually picked up on them yet...'

This could even be news to Cliff and Chris, judging by the looks on their faces. (Wonder if Algy or Brabbsie have noticed?). But Doogie's itching to tell me a tale of woe from the recording of the title track:

"The great thing about 'War Machine' is that it has these huge 'WARRR MACHINE' backing vocals. Well, I'd recorded forty-eight backing tracks at my home studio... yes, all me, individually recorded. Anyway, we lost them! Cliff came round with his machine to take them off and put them on the album, and we lost the whole lot somewhere en-route. They're around somewhere, but we don't know where."

If anyone finds a bunch of backing vocals wandering about lost, singing "Warrr Machine' (obviously), do let the band know. Mind you, it's a bit late now. The whole band, plus a few guests, ended up doing the backing tracks again. Hey, this may be the technological era, but organic is still the unspoken rule of thumb in rock and metal. There is no way Tank would've considered samples:

"That's what I call cheating," says Doogie. "It's like people getting music for nothing these days, but sadly it is the way it is, horses and stable doors and such like. People are used to getting shit for fuck-all. I don't wanna be too down on it (yes I do!)... and, to be honest, real Metal fans buy the albums, something tangible to look at and touch and feel, look through the lyrics..."

"Yeah," Chris chips in. "Most of the time these days, people don't care about the artwork, they don't know who's played on the songs, or what the bands look like. And at the end of the day, it costs money to make a record, and if you can't make that money back, then bands won't make records anymore."

That's why the live circuit is such a hive of activity these days. The internet has opened up a Pandora's Box of free music, which means the only way bands can make money is by playing live. Talking of which, Tank will not be playing the UK.

Boo, you may say, but it is precisely this reason that they're only playing Europe: because it isn't possible, financially, to sustain a professional band on the road on the UK circuit.

In Europe, where the Metal market has always been so genuinely ardent about British bands (and now the European band market is gaining momentum too), Tank can easily play 5,000 to 6,000-capacity gigs. Indeed, they're supporting Judas Priest in Poland in August, so you'd better start planning your summer hols!

Meanwhile, there are, of course, other ways for musicians to make a bit of extra money, and that is teaching, which is what Chris does in his spare time – teaching bass. The conversation takes an academic turn as Chris and I (music student) drift into matters of music theory. It turns out that Tank have "quite a lot of dominant sevenths" in their music, announces Chris. They do, you know.

Doogie looks blankly at his butt plug and strokes his wee beard. Cliff takes another swig of beer and looks a bit cross-eyed. It's all academic anyway. As Doogie says:

"Music either touches you or it Disney..."

Disney? What?

Ohferchrissakes, get a hearing aid woman! I think I will. Either that, or a Scottish/English dictionary. Doogie puts his butt plug in his pocket, and bids us good night. Is it something I said?

Pippa Lang


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sanctuary SANCTUARY ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR
The tour starts next March with a very special show in London before they join the mighty Overkill for a run of mainland shows...

metal all stars METAL ALL STARS POSTPONE EUROPEAN DATES
All November and December dates, including Brixton Academy, will now be rescheduled to Spring 2015...

ac/dc AC/DC: 'ROCK OR BUST' STREAMING NOW ON iTUNES
AC/DC may be going through it, but it sounds like it's all worth the wait. 'Rock Or Bust' is streaming now for free on iTunes...

absolva CHRIS APPLETON OF ABSOLVA RELEASES FREE SONG FROM FORTHCOMING SOLO ACOUSTIC ALBUM - LISTEN HERE
Absolva frontman Chris Appleton is to release a solo acoustic album, 'Restless', on 2nd February 2015...

arthur brown ARTHUR BROWN ANNOUNCES DATES FOR 2015
The Showman Of The Year will be telling his story in his own unique style and also performing shows with The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown...

system of a down SYSTEM OF A DOWN ANNOUNCE A ONE-OFF SHOW AT THE SSE ARENA WEMBLEY
April 10th 2015 sees System Of A Down play their first UK indoor show in ten years...

krushfest KRUSHFEST TO TAKE PLACE IN OCTOBER 2015
Classic Rock Tours honour the icon and legend Krusher Joule with his own festival...

eluveitie ELUVEITIE PARTS WAYS WITH PATRICK KISTLER
"After six years and four albums, he leaves big shoes to fill..."

heat H.E.A.T ANNOUNCE 'LIVE IN LONDON' ALBUM
The powerful performance of the Swedish rock sensations is captured here, from their date at The Garage in May 2014...

revolution saints REVOLUTION SAINTS TO RELEASE EPONYMOUS DEBUT ALBUM
Put three rock titans together - Deen Castronovo, Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich - and you have the new exciting supergroup of melodic rock...

ufo UFO ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM DETAILS AND 2015 TOUR DATES
"A Conspiracy Of Stars is another successful combination of those typical UFO elements with fresh, contemporary ideas..."

battle beast BATTLE BEAST RELEASE NEW TRACK 'TOUCH IN THE NIGHT' - LISTEN HERE
"'Touch In The Night' is probably the farthest away from typical Battle Beast sound we've ever gone..."

sebastien SEBASTIEN RELEASE NEW LIVE VIDEO FROM MASTERS OF ROCK FESTIVAL
The track is a version of Black Sabbath's 'Headless Cross', recorded earlier this year...

napalm death NAPALM DEATH DEBUT FIRST SONG FROM 'APEX PREDATOR - EASY MEAT' ALBUM
A first online teaser from the new album is now available. Napalm Death are currently on tour in Europe...

audrey horne AUDREY HORNE ARE NOW ON TOUR
'Pure Heavy' comes to Europe with an extensive run of dates..."

peckham cowboys THE PECKHAM COWBOYS UNWRAP VIDEO FOR 'BROMLEY GIRLS'
The song is a tale of "a young aristocratic lady of high breeding, led astray by a terrible man. Only the names have been changed, because we forgot them..."

abgott ABGOTT PLAY ONLY UK SHOW OF 2014 IN DECEMBER
The Black Metal heroes will play the Boston Music Rooms on December 5th...

fear factory FEAR FACTORY CANCEL EUROPEAN TOUR
Fear Factory will be concentrating on finishing their new studio album and will return in the Summer of 2015...

download KISS AND MUSE ANNOUNCED AS DOWNLOAD 2015 HEADLINERS
British rock trio Muse will headline the Saturday night of next year's event, which runs between June 12th and 14th...

magnum MAGNUM RELEASE NEW SINGLE 'ON CHRISTMAS DAY' ON DECEMBER 1ST
The poignant song is based on a true life incident in the WW1 trenches...

sonata arctica SONATA ARCTICA DANCE ACROSS NORTH AMERICA IN HILARIOUS NEW VIDEO FOR GENESIS COVER 'I CAN'T DANCE'
"The experience ranged from no one even paid too much attention to us to people looking a little scared..."

manowar MANOWAR ANNOUNCE GERMAN DATES FOR 2016 WORLD TOUR
The German dates are just the first of many live appearances, with plenty more to be announced. "And for 2016, we will have more surprises and an even bigger production..."

ensiferum ENSIFERUM ANNOUNCE ALBUM TITLE AND RELEASE DATE FOR 2015
"Kippo kicked our asses to make us do the very best, and you can hear that in this album. It's a killer album with killer sound. I'm very proud to a part of this masterpiece..."

hellfest BREAKING NEWS: HELLFEST ANNOUNCE MOTORHEAD, SCORPIONS, ALESTORM, SLASH, ZZ TOP, VENOM AND MANY, MANY MORE FOR 2015
Hellfest have announced a stellar line-up for the 2015 edition of the festival which will take place at on June 19th to 21st 2015...

download BREAKING NEWS: JUDAS PRIEST, SLIPKNOT AND MORE ANNOUNCED FOR DOWNLOAD 2015
Slipknot will play the main stage at Donington on Friday June 12th, following Judas Priest...

chris appleton CHRIS APPLETON ANNOUNCES ACOUSTIC ALBUM & TOUR
In the downtime between Absolva projects, Chris Appleton applies his skills to solo album 'Restless'...

out and loud NAPALM RECORDS ANNOUNCE LABEL NIGHT AT OUT & LOUD FESTIVAL 2015
The German festival gets off to a quality start with the warm up night on July 3rd featuring a fine cross-section of the label repertoire...

jeff loomis ARCH ENEMY WELCOME JEFF LOOMIS AS NEW GUITARIST
The ex-Nevermore guitarist will debut for Arch Enemy on the European tour starting November 26th as Nick Cordle's replacement...

wildfire WILDFIRE FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2014 CHRISTMAS SHOWCASE
The two day showcase promises to give Glasgow a Rock and Metal party to remember...

periphery PERIPHERY ANNOUNCE DUAL ALBUMS FOR 2015
There will also be plenty of touring in next year, including a stint on the road with Devin Townsend Project...

anathema ANATHEMA ANNOUNCE 'RESONANCE' SHOW AT SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE IN APRIL 2015
This special show will be a celebration of the entire history of Anathema music...

cradle of filth CRADLE OF FILTH SIGN WORLDWIDE DEAL WITH NUCLEAR BLAST
"For the full frontal assault we have planned for the awesome new album, Nuclear Blast are the perfect war stallion to carry us screaming into the heart of the next chapter of COF's dark, enigmatic history..."

yardbirds THE YARDBIRDS RETURN TO LONDON WITH SPECIAL GUESTS SOME VELVET MORNING
The Yardbirds will play Bush Hall on November 21st, fifty years after the release of the seminal 'Five Live Yardbirds'...

marilyn manson NEW MARILYN MANSON ALBUM 'THE PALE EMPEROR' COMING JANUARY 19th
The album is available for pre-orders now...

udo UDO, ONE OF GERMAN CLASSIC ROCK'S GREATEST, ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM
'Decadent' is mastered and due for release in January 2015...

fozzy FOZZY LAUNCH VIDEO CLIP FOR 'DO YOU WANNA START A WAR'
"Fog, slow motion camera shots, and chicks in military uniforms. Touchdown!..."

phil rudd 'PROCURE TO KILL' CHARGE AGAINST AC/DC DRUMMER PHIL RUDD DROPPED BUT OTHER CHARGES REMAIN
Rudd is on bail and is scheduled to reappear in court on November 27th and still faces one charge of threatening to kill...

blind guardian BLIND GUARDIAN TO RELEASE 'BEYOND THE RED MIRROR' IN FEBRUARY 2015
"A story between science fiction and fantasy. While there used to be several passages between the worlds, there is only one gate left now: The Red Mirror. It has to be found at any cost..."

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