That Fu**ing Tank Interview

07 November 2007

That Fucking Tank - Interview

That Fucking Tank - Interview

That Fucking Tank

Hits and Myths

‘It’s just a stupid name, it doesn’t really mean anything,’ says Andy Abbott whilst slicing up flyers in the Brudenell Social Club for another gig in ‘Tank’s busy schedule. ‘We were only going to play one gig, so we picked a silly name. Maybe there are better myths about the name than the actual reason.’ Andy chuckles, happily slashing away while James kicks back and does the damage to a pint of Guinness. ‘We played in Manchester on Friday,’ James responds, ‘and this Girl from York said that Andy’s mum had a water tank that used to make lots of noise and I was like ‘What?!?’’ That Fucking Tank (or That Fucking That in Spain) are the kind of band that breed myths: about their name, about their songs, about their performance. So this seems like a good opportunity to scrap some of those myths; and create a few more.

Formed in 2003 by former Kill Yourself members Andy Abbott and James Islip, ‘Tank began as a one-off excuse to play more when Kill Yourself vocalist Giles Bailey emigrated to Glasgow and subsequently joined Dananananackroyd. ‘We were putting on a gig for a band called Vialka,’ says Andy, still slicing, ‘who were a two-piece from France and we thought it would be funny to do a two piece to go along with it - do a night of duos.’ Fortunately, as a result of their musical joke, James and Andy continued to play together, more often than not face to face, occasionally provoking controversy. ‘It’s causing problems now because people are thinking it’s a deliberate decision to ignore the crowd,’ says Andy, recounting a recent run in with a crowd at a squat in Chambory. He shrugs resignedly and carries on: ‘the most striking thing to them about our band was that one person was turned away from them – to me it doesn’t make any difference…’ James, in the spirit of the entente cordial, took matters into his own hands: ‘I ended up picking up my drums and carrying them round to the crowd so Andy would turn around and play towards them,’ he says. Andy laughs loudly. ‘I think they thought that was a bit more normal and liked that more.’ But, as with a great many myths surrounding ‘Tank, the set up was always a matter of practicality. ‘For us, it was quite difficult music to play,’ explains Andy, ‘because a lot of the ways that we come in to do riffs depend on me and James looking at each other – it’s not like counting, it’s to do with being able to watch each other.’ Myth one dispelled.

Myth two: Pants. ‘All these things that people seem to think are trademarks of what we do, all those things are just accidental a lot of the time,’ says Andy. ‘It’s a bit unnerving; when we were playing in Oxford at the weekend and all these kids have got their tops off already and you’re asking ‘why are you doing that?’ That’s not what the band is about at all. It’s about me and James doing what we want to do.’ James is a bit more forthcoming about the pants thing: ‘We started doing playing in the pants with Kill Yourself when we were playing with this band called JR in Hereford - they liked to take off their clothes and play in their pants; it was a really funny gig that night so we decided to do that pretty much for the whole tour. Then it kinda stemmed from that into being a really practical way of playing, because if you’re doing a lot of gig in a row and you’ve only got one set of clothes, it can get pretty horrible.’ Andy relents a little, having finished his slicing. ‘I don’t know, it’s nice when people expect you to do certain things cos it means that they’ve heard of you, but I never take my clothes off because people in the crowd are saying ‘go on, take your clothes off!’’

So far, you may be thinking that Andy and James are stubbornly non-cooperative, but nothing could be further from the truth. Over the years, ‘Tank have mellowed to their audiences basic dancing needs, as Andy cheerfully points out: ‘A lot of bands start off trying to impress and they think the best way to impress is to play as best as they can. I thought it would be the direction we would go in… but after a while we realised that for people to have real good fun at the gig, they don’t have to hear the most complicated music at all… and maybe in response, when we started writing some newer stuff we did something that was a bit more groove based… and it’s actually a lot easier to play now.’ Not only are they groovier, but their new single features the return of Kill Yourself vocalist Giles, a renewed relationship that they want to develop further. ‘Part of the reason that we’re asking Giles to play with us is the visual element,’ says Andy, ‘Giles is like a totally amazing front man… We’ve only done one gig with Giles for one song and no rehearsals yet… The only time we ever have rehearsals is to write some songs.’ But considering ‘Tank’s new direction, Giles may be playing a bigger part in the ‘Tank experience.

The said song, ‘The Awesome Magnet is due to be released as a 7’ picture disc with a bonus DVD on the 19th of November through On The Bone Records, partially due to Obscene baby Auction being ‘fucking dead in the water’ and partially due to James offering to do it – according to one story. The other is that he was chosen from a long list of candidates for his enthusiasm, vision, personal hygiene etc. You choose your version of events. ‘James offered to do a single much in the same way that we’ve done records in the past,’ says Andy, ‘we tend to say yes to people who want to put our records out. And what he’s putting out is exactly what we’d put out on Baby Auction anyway.’ The other part of the package is a DVD of Andy and James’ recent European tour, a blend of live footage and… scenery. ‘It’s a bit like a home movie, in a way,’ says Andy. James nods his agreement. ‘Our music friends want to know what the ‘tour’ was like, but other people, they always say, ‘you’ve been to some quite amazing places,’ and quite often you just say, ‘yeah, we did go to Paris, but I was just… asleep… I think we went for a drink, maybe…’ and it’s a) hard to remember what you’ve done, which is kinda frustrating, and b) it’s nice to look back on places you’ve been, see it for a second time. And it just came out of that.’ Andy continues, making an important point about ‘Tank: ‘I think it’s important for people that come across That Fucking Tank to realise that we do do all that stuff ourselves.’ Not only that, but they enjoy it. Immensely. ‘I like playing to a lot of people and I like going to new places,’ says James, ‘it’s a nice way for us to spend time together.’

And who could not enjoy spending time with James and Andy. We chat for over an hour about band fakery, European hospitality and British musical snootiness; frankly there’s more than enough for three interviews. But if there’s one underlying message about ‘Tank, one legend if you will, it is this: like what you do and do it yourself. ‘Tank’s a good celebration of amateurism,’ signs off James merrily. ‘Most music is!’ concludes Andy. Such professional amateurs.

Rob Wright

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