Exposure: That Fucking Tank

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Exposure: That Fucking Tank

That Fucking Tank - Keanu Reef

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That Fucking Tank is the name given to the instrumental duo that is Andy Abbot and James Islip. Formed in Leeds, the band excel in what sound like live improvisations; mixing home-recordings and a subsequent 'raw' production, with solid grooves, progressive structures and brilliantly feral noise. The pair's second album, Tanknology, sees the band try their best (and succeed) to capture their intense live sound on record, documenting many of the songs that have earned them respect and praise from fans and followers at various shows over the years, whilst occasionally even treading more melodic waters.

Like any good album though, it's probably better to let it (and the band) speak for itself, so, for your reading pleasure, here's James and Andy.

For those that aren't in the know, how did you first meet and get started as band?
A: James and I first met when my mum and I gave a falconry display at his primary school. We showed off a beautiful barn owl and a kestrel that flew off and got lost for a few days. James and I crossed paths again at secondary school where we started to play in bands together doing covers of Metallica, Therapy? and Green Jelly on acoustic guitars and using cushions and mallets for drums. To cut a long story short we continued to play music together when we both lived in Leeds and formed That Fucking Tank in 2003 after our previous band, Kill Yourself, was slowing down due to logistical challenges faced by our singer Giles Bailey moving to Glasgow.

J: Yeah we started playing music together in a cupboard and graduated to playing music together in our terraced house ten years after. Except it was too loud so we stopped after about ten seconds and started doing Tank gigs instead.

What were your inspirations and motivations behind Tanknology?
J: For me the album is just a celebration of all the music that me and Andy have travelled through as friends. Noisy Mothers TV show, the Monsters of Rock Festival (especially the one when Slayer and Sepultura played), Smashing Pumpkins at the NYNEX arena 1996 and all the brit-rock in-between. We've both always loved rock music but also seen the more daft side to it that many people take very seriously.

A: Tanknology is a document of the songs that we have been playing live for the last couple of years, following the release of our debut album ‘Day of Death by Bono Adrenalin Shock’. The newer material sounds a lot more poppy and melodic than our early efforts, which tended towards brain and ear buggery. We’ve tried hard to make a move from being a very loud, very energetic, quite macho, live band towards something that’s a bit more generous towards the audience and translates better on to record. Live, we’ve probably mellowed out a little and aren’t trying as much to assault the audience; which I think has made for a more sophisticated album.

Do you have a favourite track, or one you're particularly proud of?
A: Keanu Reef is the one I’m happiest with. It was the last one we wrote (I think) and is the track where we’ve really let the groove lead the song; we cut out a lot of additional parts in order to give it a slow build. It’s good fun to play live because people seem to lock into the rhythm of it fairly easily.

J: I think I'm pretty proud of the tracks we recorded at home like 'Ludwig II of Bavaria'. In a lot of reviews that track gets picked out as being good and actually it's a crap but mega-distorted recording. No-one knows the difference even though one assumes a highly qualified music journalist could distinguish such fine points.

You make several references to celebrities and musicians via various puns. Are any of these out of love for their namesakes, or meant solely as piss takes?
A: If they are piss takes it’s us taking the piss out of ourselves. Sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that, even when you’re in an apparently avant garde instrumental rock duo, the riffs you’ve just written owe more to the Foo Fighters or Lemonheads than they do to Naked City or Ruins. When James and I write songs we always refer to them by the bands that they sound like (to us); so when it came to giving them titles on the album we just developed that idea slightly. That kind of punning is a good game to keep yourself entertained and awake on long drives too.

J: And I suppose the task of naming an instrumental song is a silly contrived process so we are making fun of that. Did you know there are only a handful of number one singles that do not mention the title of the song in the lyrics? Bohemian Rhapsody is one. There are fuck-all others.

What do you hope, if anything, that people would take away from a live show or a record of yours?
A: That’s a question that can’t really be fairly addressed in a paragraph or two. James and I do spend a lot of time talking about our motivations for making music and what we hope to communicate. I think anyone who is slightly familiar with the way we operate knows that we are advocates of the DIY ethos and that’s our background. I like to think there’s some crossover between the way we approach doing a band (writing music, making records, going on tour, and so on) as a thing-in-itself rather than as a means-to-an-end, and activity outside of music. To me choosing to do music the way we do it is a political decision and one that I hope our audience might feel some affinity with or, if not, be introduced to through That Fucking Tank. We have a few articles and essays on our website that might illuminate that a bit more.

Less grandiosely though, I suppose I’d be happy if people come away from our live performances having seen two friends go at it hard and do something that they sincerely believe in without any theatricality or bullshit. Opportunities to directly experience the kind of honesty I hope we offer are few and far between nowadays. Also, I hope the riffs on our records get stuck in the listener’s head and piss off their work colleagues though being repeatedly whistled and hummed, eventually leading to resignations and sackings. It’s our slow tactic towards bringing down capitalism.

What's the best and worst reactions you've ever received?
A: Live? We play some pretty weird gigs and find ourselves in unusual positions, out of choice, so picking a worst reaction to our music would be hard. Scaring the shit out of a granny and her family as they are sat down to a Sunday lunch in a family pub that you’ve been asked to play in the dining area of is a little uncomfortable, and not the kind of response we might have envisaged provoking when we formed the band. The best reaction we can ask for is that people smile, dance and perhaps want to get hold of a record afterwards. There’s another level which is a bit frightening though; like when we played Leeds festival last year and it sent some older guy into a complete frenzy where he tried to destroy a bit of steel fence for our entire set because he was rocking out so hard.

J: I think the worst reaction is when people just think it is too loud and put their hands over their ears (and start to be sick). The best is when people come up and talk to us and we remain friends or keep in touch at least? Sometimes people come up and talk to afterwards but they are mental and just want to talk about collecting guns or how to keep bees.

Do you have a favourite place to play?
A: We like playing in social centres and independent bars or restaurants, particularly those in Europe where there seems to be better provision for that sort of thing. The XM24 squat in Bologna is a favourite of mine where they have really wild rock and noise gigs in one room, an Italian language school for migrant workers in the next, and a local organic produce market for farmers outside. It is, as the Italians would be keen to point out, the best.

J: Exactly. But also any place that we are made to feel welcome is great. I think good beers and food and other bands who share our way of thinking helps too.

What about least favourite?
A: The worst places are faceless, chain bars or venues where everyone who works there is just doing it as a job with an eye on a bigger and better job in the industry that their current position might lead them to. They are swamps of self-loathing that it’s very easy to fall into the mindset of as soon as you step inside. There’s no need to name names seeing as pretty much every city and most towns have several places that probably fit that description.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
A: We’re playing fairly regularly throughout August and September, although not quite as much as we used to due to other non-Tank related activities, like other bands and real life. Check our website for details on that. We have talked about perhaps recording an E.P that accompanies Tanknology that has versions of some of the songs and older tracks from previous releases with vocals from our aforementioned friend Giles Bailey. It’s likely that we’ll try and do another European tour before the end of the next financial year - purely for tax purposes, obviously - and keep on in our mission to play every town and village in the UK with the best names. We still have Papston, Babtown, Kirk Hammerton, Owl End, Penistone and Cuntly to go.

J: Other than gigs and maybe some recording, we hope to continue to get good press and prove that you don't have to be a money-grabbing corporate wedge sucker to be in a band and 'do well'. People have such weird ideas about how to be in a band as if it is a career like farming, boxing or banking. Our motto is 'organise your own shit now and get it out of the way'.

www.myspace.com/landsandbody
www.thatfuckingtank.com

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