STEVE GOLDBY'S HEAVY METAL CHRONICLES
THE CREATION OF A CLASSIC HEAVY METAL ALBUM
25th October 2010
A long, long journey has come to an end today and now the next part of the adventure begins.
It was around eighteen months ago that I first spoke with Tank guitarist Cliff Evans about his plans and ideas for a new Tank album and its been full on involvement ever since then, right up until this morning when the album was finally released.
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I've known Cliff for just over ten years now, since the days when he was lead guitarist in Paul Di'Anno's band and I was running the band website. There was no sign of any action from Tank in those days and it was to be quite some time before we would see any.
But I was always aware that Cliff wanted Tank to play again and all the way through those barren (in Tank terms) years, he never gave up on the idea.
We met regularly in West End London for beers and music biz talk last year and it hardly came as a surprise when he first revealed his plans for the relaunch of the band but it was nevertheless exciting and in a moment of reflection last night, I started recalling the massive amount of work that has gone into the making of this album.
The first thing that had to happen was the formation of a new line-up. Original frontman Algy Ward was no longer available for various well documented reasons and Cliff and guitar partner Mick Tucker had to make the very difficult decision whether or not to carry on without him.
When that decision was finally made, they set their sights on a replacement with stature and came up trumps with former Rainbow frontman Doogie White. This was the best possible start that the new band could have had as Doogie is one of the top vocalists around today.
Doogie had asked Mick to play on a couple of tracks on his solo album and they started experimenting with other material that Mick had and it worked so well that Doogie's induction into the Tank ranks was almost a natural occurrence.
Chris Dale, formerly of The Bruce Dickinson band, Atom Seed and Sack Trick was recruited on bass and former Zodiac Mindwarp drummer Dave 'Grav' Cavill was drafted in and the new five-piece line up was complete.
I've made it sound very easy there but it was far from it. There are always politics and obstacles when it comes to putting a group of people together and this situation was no exception. Everyone involved had different projects on the go and it was nearly impossible to get all five band members in the same room at the same time in those very early days.
But whatever obstacles existed then were overcome by the sheer determination to make this work and make it work well. There was now a very clearly defined excitement about the new band, even at this early stage, and Tank set out their stall to produce a very special album indeed. It was a new era of professionalism for Tank with new focus, new ambition and a new energy.
And then the hard work began.
The songs came together really quickly and with great fluidity but it would be some time before anyone got to hear even the demo versions. In the meantime, the not so insignificant tasks of negotiating a record deal, building a new official website, organising merchandise and endorsement deals, writing press releases and organising photo shoots needed attending to.
Once Cliff and Mick had decided upon the final songs for the album, at this time mostly lyricless, it was time to present them to the band for completion. A large part of this process was done over the 'net and its a wonder of modern technology that this could happen in this way.
Cliff would send a music file to Doogie who would then add the lyrics in and send it back and pretty much all of the tracks were knocked back and forth in this way until everyone was happy with them.
There were many live 'rehearsal' sessions also and the final demos were completed in fairly good time.
Eventually, Cliff sent me four MP3 demo tracks to listen to and as soon as they arrived, I became reluctant. Strange, I know, but I had already invested some time and energy into this project - although nowhere near the amount Cliff had - and now I had something tangible and the only thing I could think was, "what if I don't like it?"
So I waited. And waited, and after a couple of hours, I hesitantly pressed play and tried to be as objective as I could...
I was absolutely blown away by 'Phoenix Rising' and thought the other tracks were outstanding too so this was it - we really were sitting on something outstanding.
I can't remember the exact date, or even the month come to think of it, that we launched the new website but it is one that I am particularly proud of and is definitely in my top two current favourite designs. The other one is the site you are currently on.
Getting a record deal is always a tough call for any band, especially in this day and age and although there were offers there, none of them were quite right until Metal Mind came up with a deal that was more than satisfactory. The only tough part was that they wanted the album delivered three months from the day the deal was signed.
So now it was time to organise the studio sessions and approach the producer who had been identified as the right man for the job. Pedro Ferreira has a tremendous pedigree in the rock world having produced the multi-million selling Darkness album and worked with such huge names as Meat Loaf. So when Cliff said he was going to approach him, I had my fingers crossed in a big way that they could reach an agreement.
They did and everyone is delighted with the job that Pedro has done on the album.
The drums and bass were recorded at Steve Harris' Barnyard Studios by Tony Newton and I regret not being able to be there. I was away working on the World Cup at the time but I looked forward to my daily telephone updates and when I got back to London in July, the recording of the rest of the album was well underway.
This was probably the toughest time that Cliff had with the album as organising the schedules was a perpetual nightmare for him. Doogie had a string of solo gigs booked and one day during the recording, he spent an afternoon in the studio, flew to Germany to do a gig and flew back at stupid o'clock the next morning ready to spend another day in the studio.
It wasn't always that simple though because as mentioned previously, all of the band members have other things on the go - like full time jobs for example - but somehow the album was recorded on time and within budget. Just.
Whilst the band were recording, there were other important aspects of the album to deal with, the top priority being the artwork. We were let down by more than one artist but we finally settled on Jens Reinhold, a well know Metal sleeve designer from Germany. The sleeve is excellent and instantly recognisable and will be available on shirts and other merchandise items when we hit the road.
There was also a wild goose chase to undertake with the tax office. Monies coming in from overseas these days are subject to source deducted taxation and the budget from the record company would have arrived 25% short unless we got a form signed by our tax office.
So I went to a central local tax office who sent me to another branch, who sent me somewhere else, who sent me back to Ealing where I live. Everyone I encountered was as useful as a chocolate fireguard. How difficult is it to get a form stamped? Just stamp the fucking thing - its no skin off your nose and you'll get rid of me as well...
Eventually, and after much heartache and hassle, I got the form off in the post to my tax office in Middlesbrough and a few days later I chased it up. I was told it would be dealt with in September and this was July. I wonder what reaction we will get if we ring the tax office when next year's returns are due and tell them that we'll be sorting it in two months as we're really busy right now?
I wanted to illustrate this story because it is typical of some of the administrative headaches we experienced during the making of 'War Machine' but it shouldn't be taken as a complaint because the process of creating this masterpiece was generally smooth. Nothing worth working for is ever completely problem free. It's how you dealt with it that counts.
We finalised the sleeve with several days of the deadline to spare after a fantastic photo shoot with ace rock photographer Tony Mottram. The same night we retreated to Doogie's local pub and did an audio interview for this site and consumed several small sherries each.
All five band members wrote their credits and thanks for the album and I prepared the liner notes and Metal Mind seemed to be delighted with the end product.
Things went quiet for a while after the recording process was completed but we kept the website constantly updated with new interviews, new videos and our 'Tank Has Spoken' press releases.
Momemtum was building nicely by now with all the major magazines taking a big interest and then the promo copies of the album were sent out. Reviews started appearing quickly on magazine websites and the response was better than we dared hope for.
Then I got a call from Rock Radio in Manchester who wanted to run a feature on the band because 'War Machine' had apparently been downloaded over 10,000 times in the four days since it had first appeared on illegal torrent sites. 10,000 in four days is an incredible figure and it tells me that the album is going to be very successful.
I didn't see Cliff for a while around this time because he was doing interviews nearly every day and besides, I was busy updating the site with the raft of reviews that were pouring in. Out of more than twenty reviews, only one has been bad and the guy who wrote it clearly has some sort of agenda. I put it on the site anyway.
So this morning, the album was released and with it, the end of this part of the journey was reached. We all knew that today was not going to be a particularly eventful day but it most certainly is a personal milestone for everyone involved.
And there's a lot more to come as well, most of which I cannot talk about right now. But keep your eye on the music press and the gig guides and I'll write more about Tank when the things we have in hand are out in the open.
In the meantime, all of the items I have mentioned here including the Rock Radio article, the reviews and interviews and samples of all the tracks can be found on Tank Official by clicking here.
I intended this column to be an insight into the making of a classic Metal album and I hope it has provided that. It was also written to bring some personal closure to a manic period of time that I feel very privileged to have been involved in.
And the next chapter promises to be even more exciting. Bring it on!