German thrash legends Tankard are back with a brand new album titled “One Foot in the Grave”, out on June 2nd and which is another slab of both the funny and serious side of the band. We spoke to vocalist Gerre Geremia about the new songs, their first time in Australia on tour and the 35th anniversary of Tankard.
Andrew: We chatted a couple of years ago when your last album “R.I.B” came out and you came over to Australia for the first time for a tour so how was your trip down under?
Gerre: It was really amazing and exciting! It was the very first time Tankard played in Australia, we played 3 shows – Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. You have a small and very intense metal community and we had a lot of fun and we hope we can repeat this one day.
Andrew: Yeah we would love to have you back. I guess the most important question we should ask you is did you have any Australian beer and how was it?
Gerre: As far as I can remember I had some, yes [laughs]. Everything was cool! So a lot of people ask me what’s my favorite beer and I always answer my favorite beer is the beer in the backstage room because it’s for free [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] That’s very true! Did you find much of a difference in taste as far as all the other kinds of beers that you’ve had? Did you enjoy it?
Gerre: Yeah I did enjoy but I forgot the names, I really can’t remember! But it was cool, we had a really good time and also with a few of your Australian beer.
Andrew: Well now you have a new album coming out again called “One Foot In The Grave”. I have to ask you about the title as I can’t help but think that maybe it’s some kind of reference to maybe thinking of ending the band or is it something completely different?
Gerre: No we don’t think about the end of the band, it’s just the typical Tankard kind of humour. With “One Foot In The Grave” this is our 35th birthday, our celebration this year and Frank (Thorwarth, bass) and I are turning 50 years old and still going and playing thrash metal. We never thought about that when we started the band in 1982 that we are 35 years later still alive so the album title has nothing to do with thinking about stopping the band or anything like that. It’s just a break, it’s halftime! So we are really looking forward to the next 35 years [laughs] and maybe we’ll call the next album “One Foot Out Of The Grave, We Are Back Again” or something like that [laughs].
Andrew: Yeah that would be a great name to call the next album, that’s pretty cool! But that’s amazing though with 35 years as it’s not very often that you hear about bands who stay together for that long so what do you think is the reason for the success and longevity of tankard?
Gerre: I think we decided very early to not do it 100 percent as professional musicians so everybody in the band has their day jobs and guys have families so we are totally independant. We do what we want, we don’t have to play 150 shows in a row to survive to get money, I mean this is really a big advantage I would say. On the other hand sometimes it’s a little bit sad because we are not able to play all the offers we get, we try to spend all our free time for activities of the band but we are not able to play all week. We try to play as much as we can, it’s about 30 to 35 shows in a year and that’s a little sad thing but I think it’s one reason we still don’t take ourselves too seriously. We still have a lot of fun playing that kind of music and I think that is the main reason that we kept on going for such a long time especially in the end of the 90’s when thrash metal was not very popular. We kept on going, we never gave up and people recognised that.
Andrew: Yeah and it must be a good feeling to have that balance between your family life and all the touring because sometimes the touring life can be quite grueling so I guess it keeps you sane in some way.
Gerre: Yeah I mean we are all friends, we’ve been together now since 1998. Andy (Andreas Gutjahr, guitar) joined the band then and we are now together for such a long time and we are good friends and still have a lot of fun when we play on the weekends. We had one song on the “Vol(l)ume 14” album titled “Weekend Warriors” and sometimes we feel like the weekend warriors [laughs]. When you’re getting older, to play 10 shows in a row is also not so easy, you’re not able to party every day so you have to have yourself under control. We are not 21 anymore but we try to play as often as we can and it would be amazing to come back to Australia one day.
Andrew: You have the new album coming out, you just released the first single “Arena Of The True Lies” and I watched the lyric video the other day and I have to say it’s quite interesting and quite funny. Obviously it’s a take on how people are so obsessed with the internet and the online media and stuff like that, tell me a little about your take on the whole online digital media and social media.
Gerre: Yeah so this song is really about fake news, everybody is putting stuff up on the internet and everybody is talking about other people. So in the lyrics it says talking face to face is retro, nobody is talking together with each other and just talking on the internet and spreading lies so it’s a very critical song about that topic. We tried again to have a good mixture of funny stuff and very serious stuff so all the journalists ask me, ‘Tankard is now getting totally serious”. I don’t think we’ve changed so much but yeah we have very strange times at the moment when you see what happens in the world so in our lyrics for example “Syrian Nightmare” which was the first song we wrote for the album, it’s about the war in Syria and so many countries involved in this stuff with all the different interests but all the regular people are all suffering. Everybody is looking to do nothing so this is a very critical and serious song.
Gerre: You guys have always had a nice balance between the humorous side of things and the serious and I feel that the song “Arena Of The True Lies” certainly has both because if you watch the video you see funny moments where people are falling over while looking at their phones.
Andrew: Yeah falling down! I saw it for the first time two days ago and yeah it’s something a bit different but I really like it, it really fits to the lyrics and it really fits to the song.
Andrew: And with the other songs on the album, obviously you have worked out a formula for writing songs at this point in your career but was there anything particularly new this time around that you introduced that you hadn’t done before or is it always business as usual for you guys?
Gerre: We don’t sit together and think how the next album should sound so we just start with the song writing process and then at the end we will see what result we’re going to have. So this time we were again very late with starting to write songs, we had a lot of time pressure as always [which] which we always have but I think I really believe we need that kind of time pressure to create good songs. We worked together for the very first time with Martin Buchwalter, this was something new. I mean we were really satisfied with the last 3 albums with Michael Mainx as producer but we thought maybe to try something new to maybe get a little bit of fresh blood into the band. But yeah I think the album sounds a bit different to the other, the guitars are a little bit more heavy and right at the moment we are really satisfied with the result and we hope that the people, the fans, the journalists, everybody is going to like it. I think it’s still Tankard sounding on the album.
Andrew: What have you got planned in the near future as far as shows and things like that?
Gerre: Yeah we have a tour plan but I don’t have it in my mind. Of course there’s a couple of festivals like Wacken Festival this year, after 16 years we are back again at Wacken as well as a couple of club shows and other festivals. We are already booked until the end of the year and our manager is already booking shows for the next year so we are busy and trying to promote the album!
Andrew: It’s good to be busy and it’s good to have Tankard back again for another album. As I said before we would love to have you back in Australia again and also try and get you to try some different beers again as well!
Gerre: Or we can have a mineral water together maybe next time [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah maybe for the hangover part!
Gerre: Yeah maybe for the hangover!
Andrew: Well it’s been great chatting to you as always, really fun. Thanks for your time today, really appreciated and good luck with the new album and the tour!
Gerre: Yeah thanks a lot and thank you for your support and I wish you a nice evening!