TANK86 "Heavy Artillery"

by Earthdog

Tank86 have recorded what I think is the best instrumental metal album released this year with 'Rise' which is a whirlwind of killer riffage, hooks and relentless power. I did this interview with bassist Jochum van Weert. If you haven't heard Tank86 as yet, you better make it a priority now !!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  First up, congratulations on a great album. My first question has to be give the readers some history of the band. Most people have only discovered the band since the release of "Rise" but the band has been around for a few years, am I right ?

JOCHUM VAN WEERT: Yeah ,we've been around for a couple of years. Our guitarist Joost and me and our former drummer Jan started the band somewhere in 2004 and we were soon joined by Floris on guitar. We released our first EP called "Ariba" in 2005. In 2007 Rogier replaced Jan on drums and we released another EP titled "Behold" in 2008. Last year Harold replaced Floris on guitar and now "Rise" is our first full length album. So yeah we've been around, slowly honing our craft into what it is today.

WC: There has been a steady increase in the number of instrumental bands in recent years. Why do you think this is and how did Tank86 come to be an instrumental act, why no vocals ?

JVW: The increase in instrumental bands is probably due to more and more people discovering how cool it actually is, both as a listener and as a musician. As a listener there is a lot more room for your own interpretation since there's no lyrics that tell you what the songs are about, so you can fill that in yourself. As musicians there's greater freedom in writing. There's no conventional song structures you have to conform to and it's easier to incorporate different styles in your music. TANK86 deliberately set out to be instrumental for this very reason. We were in a few crappy bands before this and with TANK86 we wanted to keep things in our own hands instead of depending on a vocalist. We never looked back since.

WC:  A few music-related questions now. The songs on "Rise" have some odd time signatures and a lot of tempo-changes. Was this planned out or did they come from the result of a lot of jamming ?

JVW: I'd say a bit of both. Most were specifically written, but some just came up when jamming on the new songs. Since we're instrumental we have to do more to keep songs interesting. Tempo changes and odd signatures are two great tools to do it, so those have become integral parts of our style.

WC:  Tank86 almost can't be tagged by any genre, it is stoner-metal one minute, then sludge, then doom, then classic metal and the band even sounds kind of like a progressive-metal band in other passages of music. Was there much thought given to the actual style or did it just come naturally ?

JVW: We just play the stuff we would like to hear ourselves. We like all the genres you just mentioned, so it's just natural those end up in our own songs. It's simply what comes out when we start writing. The mixing of these different styles also works very well to keep the songs interesting. A doom riff just sounds way more heavy when it comes right after a fast riff. It's all about dynamics.

WC:  One thing that I didn't mention in my review of "Rise" is the song "Gottes Krieger" features a solo by Dozer's Tommi Holappa, how did that come about ?

JVW: After the release of "Behold" in 2008 we had the pleasure of doing a European tour as support for Dozer. Tommi is the nicest guy you'll ever meet, so when we asked him if he liked to contribute to our new album he immediately agreed. We sent him a demo track of the song beforehand so he knew what he was up for. When we were in the studio recording "Rise", we sent him a rough mix as soon as we recorded the song. He recorded his solo in Sweden and sent it back to us so we could mix it in the track.

The name of the song was also the name of the nightliner bus we did the tour in, so that adds a nice touch. We thought it fitting for an instrumental band to add guest features by cool guitarists to the album and we think it turned out really well.

WC: A lot of people have a pre-conceived idea about Dutch bands and that is they are all pot-smoking hippies. Of course that comes from thinking about all those coffee shops that sell weed. Do the drugs really play a major role in music in your country or is it just a cliché created by the Western media ?

JVW: I think it's a bit blown out of proportion. Of course there are the coffee shops and a liberal view towards using weed, but people here don't really make a big deal out of it. The fact that beer is legal in the US doesn't mean everybody is drunk all the time. There's people smoking a lot, there's people smoking occasionally and a lot of people never smoke at all. Probably the same in every other country except the smoking here is legal, that's really all there is to it.

WC: You told me about all the hard work and time that went into making "Rise." Can you tell the readers when that process began and what went into the recording process for the album ?

JVW: I think the oldest song on "Rise" is about 2.5 years old, so all that time we've been writing stuff for the record and slowly fine-tuning everything. At the beginning of 2010 our guitarist Floris had to quit the band because of health issues, so that set us back some time. We were lucky to find a good replacement in Harold and he worked his ass off in learning the stuff and helping us finish up the writing. We took a lot of time recording the whole album by ourselves first, after that we went into the studio to record it again professionally. This way we had all the details and layers worked out before we entered the studio. That way we could really focus on the recording itself while we were in the studio. We've set up our own label Rising Magma Records to release the album, so a lot of work goes into that as well.

WC: The album sounds amazing, it is incredibly loud but at the same time clean and crisp with each instrument being perfectly placed within the mix. Can you tell us about Rob Van Boeckel who mixed the album and how did you come to work with him ?

JVW: About two years back we decided to experiment in a few different studios. Not to record an album per se, but just to try out different things and recording techniques. New Road Studios with Rob van Boeckel was one of those studios we tried. We liked the session there so much that we decided to record the album there. Rob is great to work with, he really knows his way around his studio and the equipment, but lets us do our own thing. He has suggestions and critique but just at the right times. We're very happy with the recording and mixing process. On top of that, Brett Caldas-Lima of Tower Studio did an awesome job on mastering the album, so kudos to him too.

WC: The band has received some very good reviews for "Rise". Did the band embark on a major promotional campaign for the album or has a lot of been word of mouth ?

JVW: We're very happy that people really seem to "get" our album. We do our promotion ourselves so we sent out CDs to everywhere we saw fit. The rest of it is word of mouth and that is of course the best advertising there is. That's the good thing with the heavy rock community: everyone is very passionate about heavy music, so good stuff spreads itself. That along with the internet gives the power to bands like us to reach a big audience. Good times we live in.

WC: Tank86 is an instrumental band but is the band influenced by other instrumental bands and if so, who ?

JVW: We draw influences from a lot of stuff, surely some instrumental bands as well. A couple that come to mind are Capricorns, Karma to Burn, Pelican and Russian Circles.

WC:  Us American people are really jealous of you Dutch folk... great bands, a great scene and of course the Roadburn Festival. What is your opinion on the scene in your country ? Is it really as good as it seems to be ?

JVW: Yeah, the scene here is great. There's a lot of decent venues, so lots of cool bands come to play here. We're pretty spoiled actually. So for a country as small as ours we're doing pretty good.

WC:  Speaking of the Roadburn Festival and live shows. Tank86 has played on the same bill as bands like Monster Magnet and Pelican which are two very different sounding bands. What have those experiences been like for the band ?

JVW: It's been great. Like you said, there are a quite a few different styles mixed up in our music. This gives us the advantage that we're compatible, so to speak, with a lot of different bands. There's something in it for both Monster Magnet fans and Pelican fans I guess. Both experiences have been cool. Monster Magnet is fun because it's over-the-top rock and roll and it's a big band, so we get to play for a big crowd. Pelican is way more atmospheric and progressive, which is just as cool, but in a different way. We get the best of both worlds in that sense.

WC: The future for Tank86 looks extremely promising. Now that "Rise" is out there, what has the band got planned for the rest of 2011 and 2012 ?

JVW: We're currently talking to booking agencies to set up a European tour after the summer, so that's the focus for now.  We've worked our asses off on this album so we're eager to start destroying stages everywhere. Also we've slowly picked up the writing again too. This album is done, so now we gig and write new stuff for the next one. It's just what we do.

WC: I think that is all the questions for now. Thanks for the interview, much appreciated. Any last words for the readers ?

JVW: You're very welcome. No deep messages from an instrumental band. Just stay heavy, guys!