Tankard - Off The Wagon Again

By Dr. Abner Mality

To many of us, beer is an essential part of life. For the German thrashers Tankard, it is a sacred drink...a sacrament that must be respected and worshipped. For over 25 years, these warriors have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of purity in brewing. They have also done a darn good job blowing off everybody's doors with some of the best thrash metal ever performed.

Let's face it, beer and thrash are two of the most fun things you can find in this life, so what's better than a band that combines the two? It's Tankard's sense of fun that has kept the band alive through thick and thin for decades now. But don't think they don't take their craft seriously...from their classic debut "Zombie Attack" right up to the latest offering "Thirst", they keep a high standard of song composition and technical excellence going.

On the joyous occasion of "Thirst" entering the U.S. market, I shared a lager with Tankard drummer Olaf to discuss the band's lengthy career as well as the woes of the American beer market and other subjects. Pull up a stool and join us...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Tankard has now been around for more than 25 years. Does it seem like that long since you've started and how do you explain the band's longevity?

OLAF: Nobody could have known that before that this is going to be a never ending story.And now it still goes on ‘cause we enjoy what we are doing.We are not focused on making profit with the band and this fact takes away much pressure. I always like to say it’s a self entertaining thing for us.We all have regular jobs and Tankard is a little more than a hobby now for the last few years.

WC: Was there every a time when you thought the band would fold? The early 90's were very tough for many thrash bands.

O:The early 90’s went well for us but from the middle to the end of the 90’s we’ve had a short period thinking about to quitting but as we thought about it, what else we would do instead of Tankard? Everybody came up with the same idea to run a band just for fun…So we decided to go on and have the fun together ‘cause we still have a well known name and we still have a record deal. So here we are.

WC: I'm interested in how you come up with crazy lyrical ideas for stuff like "Myevilfart" and "Deposit Pirates". Are you boozing it up pretty good when you get these ideas or is it better when you're clear headed?

O: Most of the ideas we come up with while we are on the road and that means that we joke around all the time and yes, sometimes we go over the limits but we also have a few ghost-writers. Friends of ours and also our former guitar player Andy Bulgaropulos help out sometimes.

WC: "Thirst" is a classic Tankard album, but I would say you guys are concentrating more on catchy grooves these days than really over the top speed stuff like "Shitfaced" or "Mon Cheri". Would you agree and is that by design?

O: Yes, I agree but that’s not a result of a masterplan. It just happens. When the songwriting period starts we usually don’t have any plans to sound like this or sound like that. We just put all of our ideas together and fix it on CD and as long as we are free to do so we won’t change that.

WC: "When Daddy Comes To Play" is a very different song for you. What was the inspiration for this tune and what has the reaction been to it?

O: At the time the song was written there was a case of incest in Austria on every news channel and all the papers.A man locked his daughter in his basement for 24 years and they had 7 children together. Horrible!!! That was the inspiration for the tune, which is very serious for us.About the music ,the reactions are the same like always- some like it and some don’t. We are happy about it so far.

WC: The song "G.A.LO.W." has mythical, almost power metal type lyrics, which is also something different. Usually you write about humorous boozy stuff or serious real life topics. What was the inspiration for this one?

O: We have different opinions about it in the band. Half of us realy like that power metal stuff but for the other half , it’s a little fluffy (but not too much).I think the lyrics are from our former guitar player Andy B. and he is much more into mythology and fantasy things than we are all together.

WC: The covers on your albums always are telling a story. What's the story behind the cover of "Thirst"?

OL No , there's not always a big story and not for this time. Just a drawing of a thirsty man somewhere in the middle of nowhere and no beer’s left. The idea comes from a beer can from a Danish brewery. (type "tuborg der durstige mann" into Google and click on the first result. Then you’ll see what I mean)

WC: Thrash metal is undergoing a big revival right now. Do you think the newer bands are up to the standards of the 80's and are there any new bands that impress you?

O: They have a number of different styles of metal from which they could get influences from and that wasn’t the case in the 80’s.It seems to me like a small throwback and I enjoy it. It’s a cool thing hearing the kind of music I like in new dimensions. New bands i’m interested in are for example: Dew Scented, Blood Tsunami, Andralls,Mantic Ritual, SSS, Gama Bomb, Ritual Carnage, Scornage... and many others.

WC: What have been the high and low points of Tankard's long career?

O: For me, the highlight was playing in Japan and spending a few more days of sightseeing there. The lowest point until now is always if we have to use Air France airlines ‘cause they always mess up our luggage!

WC: Do you plan on doing anything more in connection with the Tankwart project?

O: Not at the moment but never say no. We’ve dropped all Tankwart songs from our setlist but there are many requests to do some of them so maybe we will do one or two in the future. Years ago we’ve played some Tankwart only shows but we got bored from the simple music and decided to put our concentration back on Tankard.

WC: I remember on "Chemical Invasion" you guys spoke out against anybody trying to weaken Germany's beer purity laws. Are those laws still in place...was your fight successful?

O: The laws still exist but because of the influences of the European union getting bigger all the time you can buy very strange stuff from all over the world these days. They sold that crap also years ago but nowadays they are allowed to call it beer. So we failed in this case.BUT... Most of the breweries (over 1300) in Germany do conform to the purity law from the year 1516 and note that on every bottle like a quality sign.

WC: What are some of your all-time favorite beers?

O: My all-time favorite is "Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen" and all the local beers from this area."Schlappeseppel" from Aschaffenburg and the "Hexe" from Michelsbräu is also in my top ten. I always try to get local stuff wherever I am. That’s what I call eco beer! Itt also depends on the season ‘cause we have lot’s of special brews which are not sold the whole year.

WC: Are there any decent beers coming from America at all in your opinion?

O: Unfortunately not. I know only the mainstream brands like Budweiser and Miller and a few more but they are full of chemical flavours and preservatives so that is nothing I like. I hope we can sometime make it to Milwaukee to try to find out if you have some good stuff or not. (Don't hold your breath, mein Freund...Herr Mality)

WC: If you could ask any three characters from history to drink with you, who would they be?

O: Joey Ramone, Marilyn Monroe, and Charles Bukowski.

WC: Do you have any plans in place for the follow-up to "Thirst"?

O: We will do the next record in summer 2010 but before that ,we will release a new dvd including the "open all night" live video from 1990 and a show from the Rockhard Festival 2006 in Gelsenkirchen Germany and all our video clips. But I don’t know if the dvd will be released in the US.

WC: Is there any way you guys could come over to America? Maybe hook up with Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, etc?

O: We’ve made it to a single show in Minneapolis in 2006 and tried to do a promo show In New York one or two years later but because of some problems with our visa and working permissions we couldn’t do that. There were a few conflicting stories about our visa status and if we need a working permission or not for one single show where we don’t get payed for. The Immigration office and the US embassy made some different announcements so there was no happy end to that story. Touring in the States with one of the other bands would be cool but we can’t do that for four or six weeks in a row because of our regular jobs . Also the other three guys in the band are much more professional than me so they need to earn some money! I think that will only work If there is a minimum of 10 or 15 shows. Flights, hotel,buses,crew, food,backline,visa and many other things havet to get paid and we could only handle a maximum tour of two weeks ,I think.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up just because you wanted to check out the band?

O: Candlemass – Death Magic Doom

WC: What was the last gig you went to just to check out the band?

O: The Quireboys with Dan Baird &The Homemade Sin

WC: In the long history of Tankard, is there any one "Spinal Tap" moment where things went horribly wrong that you care to share with us?

O: Once we toured in the former Yugoslavia part now called Bosnia Herzegovina . They don’t have something like a straight Highway with more than one lane. We had to leave the big road cause It was blocked in, case of an accident. After half an hour while we followed some native looking cars the detour was also blocked and we had to return half a mile backwards to let some cars pass driving in the opposite direction. After we found a place to let them pass ,we walked up a hill for 20 yards to pee when the local promoter starts to scream how stupid we are and that we are about to kill ourselves walking in the middle of a minefield… There was a big red warning sign with a black skull and crossed bones on it that we saw on the way back to the bus. That was scary then, but funny now.

More of "funny" things like that can be found on our "Fat, Ugly And Still (A)Live" DVD we released 2005

WC: Any final words to all the Tankard die-hards out there?

O: You can find more information on and maybe the circumstances will allow us to come back to the States some day. Who knows? Cheers!!!

Tankard's Official Website