the permission to use the interview.
If there’s one old soul out there that truly embodies the wild leather-jacketed soul of punk and metal and living fast, it’s Algy Ward. Not only is he
main man behind legendary snarlers Tank, he’s also done deep stints with punk legends The Saints and The Damned. His musical career has seen trends come and go while always staying true to his own vision. His life has left him admirably out of step with much of the nonsense that masquerades as metal these days. He’s the real deal. I caught up with ol’ Algy one scorching afternoon to reflect on life, metal and ZZ Top.
DS: Hello Algy!
AW: Hello…. It’s me again! (in low Billy Gibbons voice) I’ve just returned from the island of Chandelier!
DS: Hahah, YES!
AW: Yeah, do you know Heaven, Hell, or Houston or whatever it is by ZZ Top?
DS: Absolutely, great tune. So how’s life?
DS: Well, life is usually just varying degrees of shit isn’t it? That’s not an interview question. I’m just sayin’.
AW: Ahhh right.
DS: Alright we’re gonna start with some painfully routine stuff. How did you first get into music and what made you want to play?
AW: I’ve always been interested in music! How far d’you wanna go back? (chuckling) The first record I ever bought was “My Generation” by The Who in 1965. That was because I loved the bass solo and I had it in my mind that I always wanted to play like that.
DS: Oh yeah, that’s a monstrous solo.
AW: Right, and my family was always musical, but not anything professional like that.
DS: Were they supportive of you or did they think it was a waste of time?
AW: Nah they were quite positive. When I was growing up in the 60’s there was a piano in the house, and my grandma was always playing it. She actually played piano for silent films. And there was always music in the house, sheet music, records and everything else. My father was heavily into blues music, but my mother she loved jazzier stuff, dancier stuff.
DS: Wow that’s interesting about your grandmother. Sounds like a noisy house.
AW: Actually my uncle replaced Jeff Beck in a band called The Tridents here in Croydon, when Jeff joined the Yardbirds. But he was nowhere near as good as Jeff Beck (laughter) even then… but even Jeff Beck wasn’t that good then, hah! You can hear him, they recorded a single. It’s out there somewhere.
DS: Holy Shit! So how did you first hook up with The Saints? Was it through your brother?
AW: Yeah, my brother was working for a PA company that took care of them as well as the Ramones. He had done tours with them and they had relocated over here from Australia. Before I’d gotten into that stuff I’d been in a prog rock band and other stuff, all sorts of clever shit. (mutual laughter)
DS: Well it always seemed like The Saints got way more love in England than they did in Australia.
AW: Oh yes, oh yes. Absolutely. Well, until they finished, then it was the usual things like “what have we missed!?” and everyone citing them as influences. Meanwhile The Ramones couldn’t understand how this band from Australia that they’d never heard and vice versa were both playing exactly the same as
DS: Hah! Good point.
AW: But I first saw The Ramones at the Croydon Greyhound on May 27th, 1977. That changed my life. I remember seeing them and just thinking “I wanna do that.”
DS: Yeah I think The Ramones probably changed a lot of lives around then.
AW: Talking Heads did as well. They changed my life too, but in a different way. But anyways a few weeks later The Ramones were playing at the Roundhouse, and the bill was Ramones, Talking Heads, The Saints and some other band I didn’t see.
DS: Whoa what a show.
AW: Hah, a lot of now famous people were at that show. Marc Bolan was there, members of The Damned. I didn’t know who some of them were then, all these other wankers. Billy Idol and all the great and good. Hanging about being total cunts.
AW: Anyways the original Saints bassist Kym Bradshaw decided he’d had enough after they had come over here. Actually all of them had had enough, they moved here from Australia and really couldn’t understand all the bullshit, assholes like McLaren or how the press was and all that.
DS: I understand they had a terrible experience with their label, who really wanted them to be pushed with a punk image. Ripped jeans, leather jackets and all that when the band didn’t give two shits about flimsy image shit.
AW: That’s right, yes. So after endless gigging Kym met some bird and just said “Oh, bollocks to this”, and my brother said “What about Algy?”. So I auditioned and was their first choice and got the job.
DS: Ah yeah buddy. So when you finished with the Saints how did you get caught up with the Damned?
AW: Well, I knew Captain Sensible and Rat, they worked as toilet cleaners in the same place as me, but I worked in administration… (in low conspiratorial tone) I used to pay them their wages (laughter).
DS: Haha, how ironic!
AW: Yeah but I knew those guys even well before the Damned
DS: Do you still speak to Rat Scabies at all? Any insight into his obsession with the Holy Grail?
AW: No, no, not at all. Don’t speak to him at all. He’s the reason I got sacked out of the Damned. He wanted Paul Gray in the band even before I joined, but he was signed to Eddie and the Hot Rods.
DS: So what was it like living and playing in the UK at that time?
AW: Living in the UK at the time was horrible. There were violent strikes, the Ripper murders, power outages for no apparent reason. It was shit.
DS: So why did you leave the Damned?
AW: Well I knew what was going on and the door was opening for me to be shoved out.
DS: It all sounds really ugly.
AW: It was, it really was. But by then the songs that Captain and Rat were writing, I wasn’t interested in playing them.
DS: Yeah by then the Damned seemed like it had a lot of competing personalities behind it, they were a really confused band musically.
AW: Yes, and they began to make more money from the band which led to other problems. We were all doing amphetamines all the time but Scabies and Captain were doing the brown as well and got quite into it, so there wasn’t a lot of fuckin’ sense coming from them musically or otherwise,
DS: That explains a lot, haha.
AW: I wasn’t into that, I did a lot of the white but never messed around with the brown.
DS: Sounds like a really alienating scenario to be in. So when you left the Damned, why Tank? Why did you want to start something way more aggressive?
AW: (long reflective pause) I can’t really explain it mate, but I know it’s just what comes out of me. It’s anger and hatred I think, more than anything else.
DS: Which usually makes for the best music.
AW: I really loved The Damned and really wanted to carry on the sound we had made, that raw sound when everything came together. That hatred, and that “Kill the audience!!” feeling.
DS: Absolutely. So moving on, any memories of recording Filth Hounds? That must have been exciting?
AW: Ahh, not really.
DS: No? Come on. Why not?
AW: We’d just come off tour with Motorhead, and Eddie was there, drinking of course. We were all drinking and there was plenty of powder going about. It was two days after tour, so it was very natural.
DS: How long did it take?
AW: Less than a week, very easy.
DS: So who was behind Kamaflage Records?
AW: That was part of a company called Dick Jones Music, he was a DJ and used to be huge with Elton John and such. But his idiot son was allowed to, uh, (once again in low Billy Gibbons voice) “Give that boy somethin’ to dooooo”. Pardon me, I’ve been listening to a lot of ZZ Top lately.
DS: Always a good idea.
AW: Haha, anyways Tank was in the same management company as Motorhead,
Girlschool and what not, run by a fella Nick Raymond, who’s know the boss man at some multi conglomerated shit or whatever. He sorted it out and connected us with the label. But the label was run by Dick Jones’ son and he was really into the band which was great. They also had Ian Gillan, Baron Rojo the Spanish band and a couple others that I can’t remember.
DS: Did the label work well for you or was it a rip off type scenario?
AW: Ahh, no no not at all, they worked very hard for us, always on the case. PR was always working hard. It was really good!
DS: That’s great, because all you ever seem to hear about young bands at that time is that they had shit deals with swindler record labels who couldn’t give two shits about them.
AW: Well, the band never really had any money but you know we’d always be in the newspapers and there was lots of press. But also remember we were in the same management company as Motorhead, who from ’80-’83 were fucking HUGE!
DS: Yeah good point. Blowing everything up then. And you had done a huge German tour with Motorhead around Filth Hounds right?
AW: Actually no it was a whole European tour, and we were doing shows sometimes maybe 10,000 people in a stadium on the bigger dates, from Finland and all over the continent.
DS: Wow… that must have been incredible and a huge jump from your previous bands.
AW: It was fucking huge. It was a real mindblast I’ll tell you that.
DS: You probably shaved a few years off of your life on that trip I imagine?
AW: Ahh, no I was pretty good. I paced myself. I didn’t drink too much and didn’t take too much of the white stuff. (laughter)
DS: So you were a good boy then? I don’t know about that. (mutual laughter) So let me ask you a bit about “This Means War” and “Honour And Blood”. On those albums you started writing songs that were much longer, some almost 8 minutes. They were also noticeably more metal? I remember buying those albums when I was much younger and being frustrated by the longer songs. Why the shift on those albums?
AW: Nah, well there was so much nonsense coming from the press at the time so I just wanted to do the unexpected.
DS: What do you mean, what kind of nonsense?
AW: Well just shit like “They’re a wanna-be Motorhead” as if they had any fucking ears. Also I was playing with Pete Brabbs on “This Means War” and he had a real problem with drugs and alchohol…and when he was on the case his intake was such that he could barely play. He couldn’t handle it, but he’s still alive. That’s why I got Mick Tucker in the band. Pete was a good friend and I hoped he would pull through but didn’t and he still hasn’t now I’m sorry to say.
DS: What was it like working on the first Bulldozer record?
AW: It was a complete waste of time! They didn’t know what they wanted and if I made it what they were asking for they changed their minds!
DS: Haha, that sounds very Italian.
AW: They wanted to sound like Venom. Well, OK, play like fucking Venom then! Thing is they could actually play well, so you can’t be like Venom if you can actually play! (uproarious laughter)
DS: It sounds very frustrating.
AW: It was, and also the bass player was the only one with any grasp of English, and I could barely do anything with the equipment I had, but I did the best I could do. The drummer kept on saying “ I CANNATA HEARA DE CHARLESTON!” and after three days I got the fellow upstairs to finally explain to me that the “Charleston” means hi-hat in Italian.
DS: The Charleston!
AW: The studio computer also exploded. (totally deadpan) There was a ghost in there as well. The computer we had caught on fire and exploded also the door of the studio was ripped off one day. When it was starting to get really cold as well. I didn’t se anything but there was a ghost there for sure.
DS: Creepy. So how did your big tour with Metallica come about?
AW: I really have no idea. I knew Lars, because he HAUNTED Diamond Head everywhere, and we had supported Diamond Head on a British tour. So each night I’d have to say to the booker “Get this fucking short-ass out of my dressing room!!” I had no idea who he was or what he’d go on to.
DS: What were they like on tour?
AW: Who Diamond Head?
DS: No, Metallica.
AW: Ah well, Lars was always this little mess in the corner, but I’d way rather talk about Diamond Head than fucking incompetent Metallica and Lars (much laughter)
DS: (laughter) So when you toured with Diamond Head what point were they at in their career?
AW: It was when they had released their first album on a label, not their own label. Actually it was on that Diamond Head tour that we got dropped from
DS: Whoa. How did that go down?
AW: We were at Bristol Coleston Hole, and I got a telegram, which shows you how long ago it was and how old I am. So that little asshole had been given his toy of a record label by his dad but had decided to just sell it.
DS: Ah man what a dweeb.
AW: Yes and we still had to honour our obligations, gigs promotion and such, so we did a tour with Baron Rojo who were also dropped, everyone was dropped. The whole label closed. But that was a huge tour in Spain.
DS: So what’s the deal with the “fake” Tank that your former band members do?
AW: Don’t care. I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. I haven’t even listened to it and I don’t plan to. Don’t care to at all.
DS: Damn. So what the fuck is “Whichcatchewedmycuckoo” all about?
AW: Which cat? Hah! Well if you’re asleep and you wake up in the morning and you’ve come, well, which cat chewed your cuckoo? Come on!
DS: Maybe too British for some people here haha (laughter). It must be a real bummer not being able to play live any longer.
AW: I’m over it. I’m over it. It took me three or four years but I’m over it. I’d really love to mate but I’d be falling over and all so it’s not going to happen.
DS: How has the reaction to “Breath of the Pit” been?
AW: Good! I’m listening to the demos tonight for the next
DS: Another already? Geez. So what’s your take on the metal scene today? Do you care at all?
AW: Well I’m the same as I always have been. I don’t listen to much at all, but I’m satill the same guy. I’m still like was at 18, the only difference is that I’m fucking knackered mate.
DS: (laughter) Fair enough. Any last words?
AW: Ah not really. Should I say some record company promo stuff? Put the hammers down! Tank is Algy is Tank! Shove it up your trousers! I don’t really give a shit. If you want to listen to my stuff, fine. If not, fuck off!
DS: Hah, well, thanks for your time. We appreciate it!
AW: It’s my pleasure! At least I’m talking to someone who doesn’t want to know some god knows what old rubbish.
DS: Take it easy bud!
AW: Yes. Anytime mate, you’ve got my number!
Thank you to folks from ZERO
the permission to use the interview.
1. ZT: Can you tell us what to expect from Breath Of The Pit?
Algy Ward: A 'REAL' TANK ALBUM.
2. ZT: How long did you spend writing and recording the new album?
Algy Ward: I AM ALWAYS WRITING AND RECORDING SO I HAVE MANY SONGS TO CHOOSE FROM BUT THESE TOOK AROUND 2 MONTHS TO RECORD AS I CAN ONLY WORK 2 TO 3 HOURS AT A TIME AS MY TINNITUS/HYPERACUSIS IS SO BAD.
Did you take any influence from any particular bands or artists while writing the album?
Algy Ward: NO NOT REALLY I DON'T LISTEN TO ANYTHING WHEN WRITING AND RECORDING.
Why did you decide to do everything yourself on the record?
Algy Ward: AS I MENTIONED BEFORE MY TINNITUS RESTRICTS ME TO HOW LOUD I CAN LISTEN TO ANYTHING I USE HEADPHONES AT MY HOME STUDIO AND VERY QUITELY IN THE GRANARY I CAN'T STAND BY A DRUMMER OR BACK LINE AS AFTER 5 MINUTES I CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IS BEING PLAYED AND LOSE MY BALANCE AND FALL OVER I HAVEN'T BEEN TO PROPER GIG SINCE 2005 AND THEN TO USE EAR PROTECTION. ALSO I TRUST NO-ONE.
Will you be touring to promote the album?
Algy Ward: NO, I REFER THE HONOURABLE GENTLEMAN TO THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION I GAVE BEFORE.
Did you encounter any obstacles (i.e. challenges from Mick and Cliff's version of Tank/or their management) while trying to get the record released? What does your return to the scene as Tank mean for Mick and Cliff's version of the band?
Algy Ward: YES THOSE CUNTS WILL DO ANYTHING TO STOP ME I DON'T GIVE A FUCK WHAT IT MEANS THEM.
What did you think of the two albums that they've released under the Tank name since 2010?
Algy Ward: NOTHING!
On a totally different note, Tank seem to distance themselves from connections to the NWOBHM. Why is this?
Algy Ward: AS IN THE DAMNED WHEN NWOBHM WAS HAPPENING AND I STARTED TANK IN APRIL 1980.
Have you got anything else you'd like to say to your fans? What can we expect next? Thanks!
Algy Ward: ALGY=TANK=ALGY=TANK=ALGY HAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Another interview with Algy Ward @
MAYHEM RADIO(New York)
is now online for streaming.
Great, brand new (August, 2013) interview with Mark Brabbs about good
old days from VOICES
FROM THE DARKSIDE ZINE by Frank Stöver.