Louder Than War Interview: That Fucking Tank

Louder Than War interview West Yorshire’s finest, That Fucking Tank.

Originally due to be released a few weeks ago (which meant that most people, including us, reviewed ‘A Document Of The Last Set’ a while back), That Fucking Tank’s latest album  album is properly released today, the 21st of October. To coincide with this we managed to collar the band’s Andy Abbott, albeit via email, and asked him a few questions about the album, the band’s career (which now stretches ten long years) and the future.

Louder Than War: Hi guys. Congratulations on making it to your tenth anniversary! Did you have any idea when you started this you’d still be going in ten years time?

That Fucking Tank: Ta very much. The original idea for That Fucking Tank was that we just played one gig: it was a joke band that kept on going. James and I have been playing music together since we were eleven so I guess it’s no surprise to us that we’re still playing together, but it certainly wasn’t intended that TFT would last as long as it has.

So how have the ten years been? What are your personal low points & highlights of your time together? Happy with what you’ve achieved thus far?

We’ve always approached TFT as an opportunity for us to hang out, play the music we enjoy playing and do a bit of travelling. I think if you go in with that attitude then everything we’ve achieved above and beyond that is a bonus. My favourite experiences with Tank have been the tours we’ve done and the gigs we’ve played. Our run of gigs this summer have been the best I reckon. As for lows: we’ve always managed to get through the tough or stressful moments of being in a band with a stiff upper lip. We’re lucky they’ve been few and far between, but have normally involved having to travel long distances in too short a time in hazardous weather conditions, or sleeping next to a dog shit in the freezing cold or something.

For people new to TFT can you describe your ‘sound’ in your own words (and maybe riff on the “merging rock & dance music” theme).

We play instrumental rock music that draws on traditions from classic 70s to alternative 90s to noise 00s. There are lots of riffs. I wouldn’t say we play dance music, but often people like to have a boogie to it.

Simon sent over a copy of the album a few weeks ago – I’ve been loving it I must say. When I saw the title I immediately thought it was suggesting you were calling it a day as I assumed by “Last” you meant “Final”! So I was very happy to find out that wasn’t the case! Anyway, can you tell people why you’ve titled it “A Document of The Last Set” please?

Our first E.P., which was also a live recording, was called ‘A Document of The First Set’ so it seemed neat to reference that after ten years. People can read the title as they like. The record won’t be the last music James and I make together, but it’s nice to have the option of treating it as a marker of a certain ‘journey’ we’ve been on. I guess having something that’s ‘the definitive article’ gives us some space or opportunity to reassess where we’re going.

Can you tell us about the recording process of the album and why you chose to record it this way.

We wanted something very raw and unrefined that captured the energy and volume of our live performances. I think Matt J did a great job of that. We basically set up as we do live, ran through the set three times and chose the best takes from that. It was quick and immediate which I hope translates for the listener.

You’re on Gringo Records now (Hookworms, Broken Arm and Bilge Pump), how did you get involved with those guys & how has the relationship been?

We’ve known Matt and Gringo for a long time, since before TFT started. He released an E.P. by our previous band Kill Yourself and I’ve always been a fan of the bands on the label; it’s pretty much my favourite. Initially the Tank stuff came out on Jealous records who no longer exist and so we approached Matt for the second album and were chuffed when he agreed.

You’ve always been a DIY band at heart, has that been out of necessity or is it something you believe in, doing as much as you can yourself?

There are many facets to DIY, and lots of different interpretations of what it means, and it means different things to different people. My take on it is that by operating on our own terms and taking as much responsibility for what we do as is manageable we can act in a fairer, more humanistic and ethical way than if we were to pursue a career in the industry, which tends to put profit-making at the forefront. So it works for us because we get to play the music we want, how we want and when we want and at the same time I hope it’s contributing to and sustaining an alternative culture that is more open, democratic, inclusive and has more soul.

photo of that fucking tank © cath aubergine.

Your live shows have become things of legend, can you tell us about some of your favourite live dates? Cath Aubergine has reviewed your album for us & recalls the first time she saw you play live “…and now I was watching two men wearing nothing but pants, a shared woolly bunny-ears hat (on and off for alternate tracks), some tattoos and a lot of sweat.” Is that a pretty routine TFT live date? (See photo above).

It used to be, but we started keeping our clothes on when it seemed word had got out we were a kind of noisy striptease act. We’ve been banging out pretty much the same live set for the last couple of years now and we’re still not bored with it. Keeping the set consistent means you start to realise how big a role the audience and context of the gig play in it being fun. Gigs of late that I’ve enjoyed have been at The Audacious Art Experiment in Sheffield which was ‘old school’ in that there were a lot of semi naked young lads dancing around and crowd surfing in an overcrowded room, but sometimes you enjoy the gigs that you think are going to be rubbish or not appropriate and turn out great, like when we played at Leeds and Reading Festivals in 2008.

What’s the reception like when you play abroad? I know you’ve played The Greater Europe a few times, have you made it as far as the States yet & where have you yet to play live that you really want too?

We’ve always had a good reception in Europe. We used to tour a lot with Kill Yourself and Tank kind of kept that going, even though we’ve slowed down in the last few years. It’s a cliche, but you get really well looked after on the mainland and the venues tend to be more interesting than your average pub, club or purpose-built venue. That all adds to the experience and so the gigs stay in the memory longer! We’ve not managed to play the states. James has in his other band The Magnificent and has done some solo dates. If we can find a way of doing it as we do Europe and the UK then I’d love to. Our friends Vialka, who are a massive inspiration musically and in the way they go about things, tour DIY all over the world. I’d love to go to Asia with TFT.

Have you ever considered (or actually had) a third member of the band?

Our friend Giles who was in Kill Yourself sang with us for a tour and recorded a song for a 7-inch a few years back. It was fun, but he’s got a lot of other commitments and it changed the dynamic a lot too so we returned to the duo format after the tour. We’re talking about collaborating with more musicians, hopefully that are very different to us, as a way of moving what we do on over the next year or so.

I’ve always been intrigued by the track ‘Bruce Springstonehenge’ which I’m glad to see has made it onto “A Document Of The Last Set”. Tell us a bit about it. Homage or piss take?

It’s an interpretation of Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Spingsteen. We both love the original and Springteen, but obviously it’s quite funny for a song that popular to pop up in the middle of our sets. It provides some light relief and a chance for a sing along before we get back into the proper riffing.

You just played ArcTanGent right? How was that? Was it great to be playing a festival celebrating almost exclusively the kind of music you make or do you prefer a more diverse bill?

It was cool but we were only at the festival for an hour due to us turning up five minutes before we were on stage. The experience of playing was great though and there was a fantastic crowd. I have mixed feelings about playing very genre-focused gigs or festivals: obviously in this instance it worked for us in terms of getting a good and excited crowd who were familiar with what we do but my preference is for a more diverse offering that introduces audiences to new stuff and people.

The whole Leeds scene appears to be on fire atm. Can you list some upcoming bands we should be keeping our eyes open for? Or any bands you rate from farther afield that we should be looking out for?

Leeds has always got a good stream of bands coming out: I like Unwave, Cowtown, Menace Beach, Beards and a ton of others. I do most of my stuff in Bradford at the moment though and am a fan of Gerrard Bell-fife, The Family Elan and Dean McPhee from here. Further afield? People should listen to Vialka from France and In Zaire from Italy / Germany.

So ten years down the line, have you got a long-term game plan or are you just going to take it as it comes?

We’ll happily go wherever the Tank rolls.

Finally, anything you’d like to add? Upcoming dates to plug? General words of wisdom to bands just starting out?

We’ve got the album coming out and will no doubt keep adding UK dates to coincide with that. We plan to tour Europe early 2014. Our website is thatfuckingtank.co.uk. In terms of advice: I think you should approach music, art or any creative activity with passion and integrity, as a thing in itself rather than a stepping stone or a means to an end. If you’re having fun keep on doing it and try to avoid being forced into making decisions that would reduce that fun, no matter what the ‘long-term’ promises.

~

See our review of A Document Of The Last Set here.

‘A Document Of The Last Set’ can be bought via the Gringo Records webshop on a limited vinyl pressing or digital download. You can still get their previous albums there as well, along with records by the likes of Hookworms, Cold Pumas, Bilge Pump and many more.

For more info about That Fucking Tank visit their website. That Fucking Tank’s website is here. They’re also on FacebookTwitter & Bandcamp.

All words Guy Manchester. More words by Guy can be read here. He tweets as @guid0man & uses Tumblr.

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