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Cliff Evans (Tank)

Interview with Cliff Evans from Tank
by Grigoris Chronis at 01 November 2010, 11:11 PM

I agree with guitarist Cliff Evans that the new TANK lineup is here to stay. You just have to listen to the traditional British Hard Rock/Metal outfit’s comeback album “War Machine” and believe there are still songs being written to become timeless pieces of music. TANK, to me, is another example/proof that no one is irreplaceable as long as good music is produced.

Needless to say, Cliff, “War Machine” is a brilliant traditional British Metal album and I must confess I was not expecting something like this. In addition, however, it would be difficult for me to think its TANK music if it wasn’t for the band logo in the cover artwork, since there’s not much in common with what someone would expect from TANK members. Were you conscious from the beginning you wanted to make a more ‘global’ British Metal album and – hence – broaden the musical style?
TANK has been constantly evolving since the very beginning. Starting with the punk influenced sound of “Filth Hounds…” and “Power Of The Hunter”, then with the addition of Mick Tucker on guitar for the next album “This Means War”, the band headed into a more classic Rock direction with the big guitar riffs. When I joined for the “Honour And Blood” album we were starting to gain a more Metal edge. Now “War Machine” is the next generation. A new era of TANK. We had to come back with something very special and put TANK back up to the forefront of British Rock.One thing that remains constant throughout is the TANK attitude that is always present. We’ve been fucked around by so many record labels and managers over the years, nothing can break us. We’re moving forwards.

Listening to the album for the first time surely made me think TANK is not just releasing a pale comeback album but they seem sure they’re here to stay. Is it my impression and only?
TANK are back and we’re here to stay. We’re very proud of the new album we’ve created and the new lineup feels really good. We’re really enjoying working together and it shows in the new songs that we have a very special chemistry in the band now. We’re looking forward to recording many more albums together in the future.

Did newcomer Doogie White participate in the songwriting for the new cuts? What amount of work did every member put for the making of “War Machine”? Chris and Dave had a saying too?
Bringing Doogie into the band has really made a huge difference to our song writing. Mick and me would come up with guitar riffs and give the ideas to Doogie. We told him not to be influenced by past TANK albums and just do his own thing. We were really blown away with the ideas he was coming up with and the songs took on a new direction which we are very happy with. Chris and Dave aren’t songwriters but they are amazing musicians. Without them this album wouldn’t have been possible.

Not willing to say anything more regarding TANK’s lineup without Algy, I’d just like to ask how anxious were/are you in regards to the possible feedback of old TANK fans towards the new lineup/album. I’m in parallel thinking of ACCEPT without Udo’s voice as they are now and the brilliant new album they’ve also released!
We decided that if the fans weren’t happy with our decision to carry on as TANK then we would not go any further.Last year we performed at several festivals around Europe to showcase the new lineup and the reaction from the fans was great. To our surprise nobody even asked why Algy wasn’t there. They were just happy to see the band and hear their favorite songs. Algy had a habit of disappearing for several years at a time. He also seemed to have lost interest in the band and had some health problems to deal with. We were constantly receiving emails from fans all over the world asking what was going on with the band. This became very frustrating for Mick and me so we made the decision to move TANK forwards into a new era with a great new lineup and record an album that we could be proud of and give the fans what they want. ACCEPT are having great success with their new album and their fans have stayed loyal to them. It’s all about making great music.

The fact that enough songs in “War Machine” have a wide ‘epic’ atmosphere, I’d like to know if it was difficult to decide on the general style when you started writing songs. Was their any kind of conflict regarding the direction of the music. To be honest, in-your-face tracks are not the majority in here and I’m thinking whether you decided the album should sound more ‘classic’ or it just ended this way.
The direction of the songs on “War Machine” just came naturally to us. This is the kind of music we listen to and are influenced by. We wanted to make a record that you could listen to from start to finish and remember every song for it’s different qualities. Too many bands make albums these days that sound very one dimensional and have a very sterile production. Our favorite albums were recorded in the 70s and early 80s and many of those albums are still classics today with great songs and production and not just disposable garbage like a lot of bands are releasing now. We just play the music we love and so far the reaction to the album has been amazing so I guess the fans are very happy with the direction we’re taking.

Thinking of your chemistry with Mick all these years, how possible would it be to have a new (excellent, I repeat) TANK album without one of you in the lineup? No one is irreplaceable, in on e hand, but…it’s not the same on the other…
I couldn’t imagine playing without Mick. A big part of the TANK sound is the Gibson Les Pauls through the Marshall stacks with a raw metal edge and Blues/Rock feel and harmony. We work as a team…Robbo/Gorham.

I saw you live in Germany in late July 2009 ('Headbangers Open Air' festival) and literally did not know what to expect: take Doogie who is a phenomenal voice with a great portfolio, then take the supremacy of TANK’s music…but do these two match together? Thankfully, after on hour of set everything was beautiful. Were the first gigs with Doogie stressful enough? How’s thing now in gigs?
It was a bit strange at first having the new guys on stage but it felt good. We knew we had the start of something special. It was difficult choosing the set list for the shows so we just did a selection of classics that we thought the fans would enjoy. Some songs worked better than others but the two new songs we played went done really well. Future classics.

From the TANK backcatalogue every era shall have the lion’s share in your gigs? How many songs off the “War Machine” CD are you going to include, really?
We are re-arranging and updating some of the old songs to suite Doogie’s voice and make them sound fresh plus we’ll add a couple of old tracks we’ve never played live before. As for new songs, it depends on how well the new album does. We want to introduce as many new songs as possible so we can showcase the new lineup’s musical ability and I think there will be several new songs that will become live favorites.

Back to music: in a set of equally exciting tunes, I lost my mind with “After All”. I try to imagine how the song would sound like without lyrics but I’m glad you eventually did it this way (Doogie sounds quite dramatic, huh?). Your personal pick(s) from the album would be…?
It’s difficult for me to pick any songs out. I listen to the album from start to finish which is the way an album should be listened to, to really understand and appreciate it. Every track is different and as a whole it’s very enjoyable to listen to. You can hear a lot of different influences in there, all mixed into one album.

I try to think if and what kind of impact an album like “War Machine” can have on younger metalheads, who – you can assume – have been trained (sic) to more different up-to-date sounds/styles. OK, there’s always space for classic Metal/Hard Rock on the other hand. Your thoughts on this?
Everything goes round in circles. “War Machine” is influenced by the bands of the 70s and 80s but we’ve added our own sound and production techniques to bring this album totally up to date. We’ve had a great response from our growing army of younger fans who haven’t been exposed to this style of Rock. It now sounds fresh and new to them. It’s all about great songs.

TANK was mostly credited as a NWOBHM band, which – if you ask me – is kind of a narrow description (OK, maybe the “Filth Hounds…” debut has a fitting texture). Time tells no lies, though, and you along with a handful of other British metal bands of the early 80s still play music and get on the road. Was there something that went wrong with British Metal and – even if I think this region invented Heavy Metal as we know it – the days of glory have now passed, moving the center of the Metal world to e.g. Germany and Scandinavia?
Not to be disrespectful to the NWOBHM, but we have never considered ourselves as part of that movement and never will. We’ve been trying to lose that tag for a long time. Nobody refers to IRON MAIDEN as a NWOBHM band. We’re just a British Rock band moving forwards and creating great new music and not living off the past. We think “War Machine” is a good album and stands up for itself and hopefully paves the way for the future of TANK.

When you travel and meet young fans and newborn Metal bands that treat you and/or TANK as a big influence for their life, does all this tug a heartstring?
It’s a great feeling knowing that you have inspired somebody to get involved in music and they’ve appreciated the time and effort you’ve spent through the years creating your music. If I hadn’t bought the first ZEPPELIN album all those years ago I probably wouldn’t be doing this interview now. Influences are very important in music.

All these years you’ve been playing the guitar, did you finally make your dreams come true and share the same stage with one of your own idols? Which – by the way – are…?
I don’t think that will ever happen. Unless ZEPPELIN reform and add a rhythm guitarist or Paul Kossoff rises from the grave.

Cliff, do not want to waste your time anymore, haha! We’re really grateful TANK is back with a wonderful album and hope we’ll soon see you onstage in (my country) Greece or anywhere else in Europe! Thanks a lot.
Thanks for a great interview. Hopefully we’ll see you somewhere on tour in 2011.


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Edited 21 March 2023

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