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Tankard

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After 35 years in the world of thrash metal playing self-proclaimed ‘fast metal’ songs in honour of alcohol, Tankard are set to unleash “One Foot in the Grave” on June 30, and after all of these years playing alcohol-fuelled songs, vocalist and founding member Andreas ‘Gerre’ Geremia says the band are still not alcoholics in the true definition of the word.

“No, no, not really,” he laughed. “I mean, it’s a long time ago we released our second demo tape back in 1985 and called it ‘alcoholic metal’ just for fun. At that time there was a lot of new types of heavy metal like speed, thrash, black, and all kinds of other types, so we had a joke by calling it that, and, of course, later on with albums like “Chemical Invasion” and “The Morning After” we did a lot for that image. We tried to get rid of it in the mid ’90s but that really didn’t work because nobody believed us (laughs). Nowadays we’re doing a lot of ironical stuff about our own image. If we put out an album with a serious title and totally serious lyrics, nobody would believe it was Tankard. So we try to do a good mixture of our kind of humour but also be serious occasionally with our lyrics, like on the new album.”

Maintaining that sense of humour has been an integral part of Tankard’s music and success, and is something Gerre believes is almost as important as the music itself.

“It’s a very important part of Tankard and fits with us as people,” he affirmed. “We really love to combine thrash metal with not-being-serious. But, as I mentioned before, we also have had a lot of serious lyrics over the years and especially on the new album.”

Fans of Tankard know what to expect with new music but Gerre argues that doesn’t necessarily mean they will get the expected.

“The guitars are very heavy on this one and we spent a lot of time doing the vocals,” he offered. “So we are satisfied as a band, but, of course, the journalists and the fans have to decide if they like the album or not. I really would say that if it’s got the name Tankard on the front then it’s Tankard inside. I think it is maybe a little heavier than the last one, but we don’t sit together and talk about how the album should sound. We just start out writing, and at the end, we see what the result we have. Nothing is really ever planned.”

With a name like “One Foot in the Grave”, it has to be asked if the title is a reference to the band itself, but Gerre laughs and shrugs off the notion.

“Of course, this year is our 35th birthday, which is a very long time,” he smirked. “The bass player Frank and I will be celebrating our 50th birthday in a couple of weeks. We have been going for a long time and we’re getting old and having things like pains in the back, but we keep thrashing, so of course, the album title and cover is typical Tankard humour.”

Tankard was formed in 1982 with classmates Gerre, Axel Katzmann (guitar) and Frank Thorwarth (originally vocals, but later turning to bass) who were all in their teens when they played their first show in a local classroom. Gerre admits the seeds were sewn from an early friendship and it has kept the band thriving through the good times and bad.

“I knew Frank when we six years old,” Gerre expressed. “It’s like we are married a little bit (laughs). We will play in this together until the end but I can’t really see an end at the moment. We still have too much fun playing our music.”

Back in high school, the aspiring musicians barely gave thought to their next beer, much less a career in music, and Gerre concedes their success sometimes baffles even him.

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“We never thought that we would be alive 35 years later selling records and travelling all over the world,” he confessed. “Three years ago we came to Australia for the first time and it was amazing and this year we are going to play in Malaysia for the first time, so we will keep on going until we travel to as many countries as we can and try as many different beers as we can (laughs).”

With their roots set more in punk in the early years, Gerre says that Tankard’s music has evolved progressively into what it is now, naming some of their more popular contemporaries as influences.

“In the beginning, we were really influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal: bands like Judas Priest and Saxon and Iron Maiden,” he recalled.  “Then the Bay Area thrash wave came over to Germany with Exodus and Exciter. Nobody ever talks about Exciter, but their first album “Heavy Metal Maniac” is still one of my favourite albums. We were also really influenced by early Metallica and Slayer, of course. In the beginning, maybe the first songs and the first album really were a little more punk influenced because our former guitarist Axel was really into bands like U.K. Subs and that kind of stuff. The big step musically was from “Zombie Attack” to “Chemical Invasion”, I would say.”

After performing for 35 years it would be natural to assume that the songwriting well would be starting to dry up even a little, but Gerre disputes that theory and says while the water is still there, Tankard will keep drawing on it.

“It’s always a lot of work to write new songs,’ he admitted, “but we still have some ideas after 35 years and I hope we’re still going to have ideas in another 35 years (laughs).”

When I mentioned that would take him to nearly 85 years old he lets out another laugh.

“We will see then,” he stammered between laughter. “At the moment, a lot of people think this could be the end of the band with the title “One Foot in the Grave”, but it’s only one foot—not the whole body—in the grave. Maybe the next album we will call One Foot Out of the Grave or something like that (laughs).”

Maintaining an old-school thrash sound and vibe isn’t easy in the modern world, and while Gerre concedes the band much prefer the older days to today, he is also smart enough to know that you have to try and adapt to the changing climate.

“We try,” he noted. “Of course, we have a Facebook site and it’s very important. Nowadays, our manager is doing that and Nuclear Blast—our record label—is involved in all these things. We try to fit in with this new kind of media, but I really love to think about the old times in the ’80s when you put a cassette into your tape deck or listened to vinyl. I’m the type of guy who still buys CDs. I know a lot of young people stream music but I need to have something in my hands – something like a final product – and I have to read lyrics. I need a booklet and I need a cover.”

When pressed on why he thinks Tankard is still popular after so long in the industry, Gerre lets out yet another laugh.

“Do you think we’re popular?” he managed. “I think we try to do this mixture of thrash metal and a lot of humour, and I think people really like Tankard because we have never given up. We have been around since ’82 and gone through tough times in the mid-to-late ’90s when nobody was into thrash metal anymore and I think that might be one reason why people respect us. And, of course, we play great music (laughs).”

Written by Kris Peters

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