Hello Frank. First of all let me congratulate you on your 40th anniversary. This makes for a remarkable career! How do you feel after all these years? Do you still have the fever to live life as you did at the start? How much do you think you have stayed the same?
Yes, first I would like to say thank you. Thank you for the congrats. It’s nice. I feel brilliant. I still cannot imagine that it is 40 years. On the one side I am really happy that we could make it for 40 years, but on the other hand I see that we are getting really old guys now. Because with Tankard we started like 40-30 years ago so you can calculate how old we are, but in the end in my personal view I feel the same way like I did in the early times. Some things are a little bit more calmed down and more relaxed as in the early times, but in the end it’s still the same. Currently we are working on a new album and it’s still a job you need to do and we still enjoy it very much.
At first I couldn’t believe that 40 years has passed. I think time passes way too fast. Do you have some favourite stories that comes to mind and want to share?
Yeah absolutely. Let me think about it. If you are interested I can tell you how we started the band. This is a really funny story because of the 40 year thing. We were old classmates in school and it was with our first guitar player Axel and another guy Burney, who was never at the band but he was in the beginning. So we started in their basement with just 2 guitars. These guys were in guitar school, so I was the singer at the beginning of the band. So we made some recordings with a really old tape machine and it was really horrible, so we took lyrics from other songs and just made noise. After that we came up with the idea that we need to start a band and that we should do it as a band, but then we needed a bass player. One of our best friends was a guy who I was a classmate with and I knew him since I was 6. So we asked him because we knew that he listens to the same kind of music. Hard rock and metal stuff. He said yes, but he also said that he needed to take some bass guitar lessons and he didn’t want to do it alone. To that I said okay, because I played some guitar before, but as a singer it would be good for me to get into bass a bit. So we went to lessons and from that I realised that I had a lot of fun playing the bass guitar, and then he tried singing, and surprise surprise, he was a much better singer than me, so we switched. That’s how we got Gerre to sing for us. Then we said that we only needed a drummer. When we were talking in the school break in the school yard another guy came and said that he is learning drums. He was Oliver our first drummer. And then the band started. This is the beginning and the rest 40 years is history.
Do you ever think about what would’ve you done if you never started playing music? How different your life would be now?
Absolutely. For sure I have no idea how we would run. At the end we somehow came into the metal scene here in Frankfurt area and we really would have the same friends, but I do not know. Looking back it was a really serious and important stage of my life and I could not imagine how my life would run without it. A short feeling about pandemic, maybe you have the same, last year we only had to play 8 shows, so we got a feeling of how it might be without all the shows and touring and working together with my friends. This is really a boring situation at the moment, so I think my life would be really boring and I would miss everything. All the travelling, all the shows, all the friends I met there and I could never imagine how it would be without these experiences.
As a youngster you listened to a lot of Exodus, Slayer and Metallica. Do you still think they are the best? How much do you follow their recent activities?
To be honest I am not so much into Metallica and Slayer anymore, but I am really in Exodus and I really like it very much, but something I listen to more these days is like Nevermore for example. This is what I usually listen to in private, but still anything. From power metal to thrash metal. I listen to all kinds of metal and rock genres. I don’t really have a preferred music style, but if I were to tell you my favourite band it’s Nevermore.
If I am not mistaken you wanted to change your image that you are a great beer lover, but you couldn’t manage. What does beer mean to you? When is it the best and what should it taste like?
This image was never planned. It was just by mistake let’s say. At the beginning of the 80’s a lot of kind of metal bands came out, and then there was funny stuffs like I remember a song called witching metal or something like that and all these kinds of things. When we were younger we had parties and we liked to drink beer, so then we called it alcoholic metal. It was not really an intention, more of a joke from our side. And also the name Tankard came from, well we had some band names before which were already used by other metal bands, but we didn’t know that and we only found it our later. We started with Vortex and names like these, but then Axel our former guitarist came up to me and he told me that he found a cool word in the dictionary. It was tankard. I said nice, what does it mean? And he said it means beer mug, and so I said we like beer, let’s name our band off of that. And you are right, some years ago we tried to get out of that, but we got the feeling it didn’t work. Because at the end we are the guys, we like to have parties and we like doing things this way and I think it really fits for us. Nevertheless when you look at our albums and songs and lyrics, it’s not always everything about beer. We have just 1 or 2 songs about beer and drinking, but the rest is more serious lyrics.
Since you released a lot of music, it must be hard to create a setlist for concerts. What songs did you play the most during these 40 years? Which song is your favourite?
So, I guess mostly played is „Zombie Attack” and „Empty Tankard”. Especially „Zombie Attack”, because we played it at every show and maybe we had some shows in the past where we didn’t play it, but I can’t remember. We play it since ages, and „Empty Tankard” is also a song that came around 30 years ago, and when we made the decision that we’ll end with it. There were maybe 1 or 2 shows that we didn’t end with „Empty Tankard”, or maybe a low number of festivals, when we didn’t keep the timing and they switched us of, or we had to leave time to play additional songs, but that’s very rare. What I like to play… Well from the current at least I do not know what I would like to play most. I love them all. If you are a musician yourself you know that some songs are not that fun to play, but then you get used to it it, so I don’t have any preferred songs in the current set list. What are songs that I really like in general are „Rapid Fire” and „Octane Warriors”.
You made a huge success with all the albums and live shows, but I still feel it doesn’t hold up for the quality of the music. What is your opinion on that? Do you think some things should’ve gone differently?
I don’t know. At the end music is not a sport. It’s in my opinion is not a competition. There are people who like it, and there are that don’t like it. And if then don’t like it they don’t like it. For sure sometimes you think it could run better, but we all have regular jobs, so we are not 100% living from the music and are not able to play 150-200 shows a year. So we have a limit there. When I look it that way I am really happy with it. And to imagine or to guess if we would have much more success, I do not know. We talk about this situation and we are happy about it, because we are really independent, so we can still do whatever we want. And when you see a band like us on a level like this to survive with just the music you must play 150 shows per year, and I got the feeling that maybe I would loose fun on it. So what we are doing is perfect for us and we still have fun and we can enjoy it. I think this was the best solution what we made in the 90’s. We made a decision, because we had some tours, and we would’ve had to play 20-30 shows everyday, and we thought this could get really boring if we are gonna do it for long. We should do it on a semi-professional way like we did it the last years. And I think this works best for us. At the end it’s better to have more success, but you can’t force it. It is what it is.
For your 40th anniversary you are releasing a compilation album under the name of „For A Thousand Beers”. It will have a bunch of extra content, could you please talk us through about them?
There are 2 boxes available. One with vinyl and one with CD-s. Though there are also albums attached, like „Zombie Attack”. Our first albums were made with Noise Records at that time, and it’s not quite for the 40th anniversary. It is a Noise box, but we will release a new album, and there will also be something for the 40th anniversary. This is something with the first albums like „Chemical Invasion”, „The Morning After” and also the „Alien” EP, „The Meaning of Life”, „Stone Cold Sober”, „Two-Faced” and „The Tankard” with the inclusion of the „Tankwart” EP. We took german pop hits and made them into punk rock. Then it contains the „Fat, Ugly and Still (A)Live” DVD that we did including the live concert film from „Open All Night – Reloaded” and an additional video that has never been released. It’s a video from us when we played in the Dinamo club in ’87, and a really old concert from ’88. And also a book that is 40 pages long with photos from the first decade of the band. You can find all these on the internet.
How does it feel that you are still here and making music from the heart and soul? What words do you think describes your feelings the most?
I am really proud of it that we stayed for this many years. Especially at the times in the middle of the ’90s where nobody was interested in thrash metal really. We never gave up and we did our thing even in years when had only 1 show. I think it was in 2000 or 2001. Nobody was really interested in our music, but we still met regularly to practise and had our fun. So we took our beers and played all the old stuffs and we still had fun. This is what I am proud of. That we still made it and we never gave up and never stopped with that. For sure what I really like and what I still can not imagine that there are still people listening to our music and coming to our concerts and the good thing that I really love is that not only the old guys our age are coming to the concerts who are knowing us from the beginning, but more and more young people are coming. This is what I enjoy, and let’s say that I am very happy and proud of it.
What is a bit interesting, is that in the last periods you didn’t make that much changes in the band in terms of the members. What is your secret? Is it beer?
No. The youngest member of our band is Andy Gutjahr your guitar player, and I said young, but he is in the band since ’98. He started in January 1998, so it’s been 24 years with him. And he said a couple of years ago, because we are wondering about it as well, and he said a really nice thing: he loves this band and he is still in, because we have no rules how to play and how to do it. So he can bring in whatever he wants and in the meanwhile he is our main songwriter and this is what he really likes that he can really bring in himself and also everybody can do whatever they want. Everybody else can bring in ideas and then we discuss about it and decide always as a team. This is maybe on of the reasons we don’t have a boss who makes the decisions. Everything is done in a democratic way.
If I am correct your label is Reaper Entertainment. Are there any new songs in the making? What can we expect from you in 2022?
What I already said is we will release an album. I don’t have the exact date, so I guess in summer or early summer I don’t know. It’s not decided yet or I do not know it, but currently I in the studio recording an album. It will have 10 songs like usually, and the songs are ready and everything is done. I think Gerre is in the studio singing and I will go on Friday recording the bass guitar. And when we are releasing it it will have a 40th anniversary box. Not like the previous one with Noise Records. It will have new stuff on it.
Frank, since we don’t get any younger, we can’t expect from you another 40 years of playing and another 15 albums. How much do you think this will last?
This is really unlikely. It would be nice if I could do another 40 years, because it’s theoretically possible. I will get 55 this year, and it means that 95 is theoretically possible, but for playing I don’t think so that much. Gerre and me are always joking when we are retiring from our jobs we will tour the world. If we have our retirement money we don’t have to worry about any stuff like that, so we can do anything we want. Honestly spoken we do not plan this, but what I can tell you is we will never stop without any good reason. There are no intentions to stop and for sure I can’t promise anything. I don’t know what the next year brings, but I am sure that this album we are currently releasing and the album that we are recording are not gonna be the last ones. We have no plans to stop the activity. We are really eager to see when will we overcome the pandemic situation and when are we gonna have more shows. So the interesting this is that we are fully booked and we hope that all the shows can happen. We do not know. Maybe we can overcome this situation and start touring again because it’s really boring at home.
You as a veteran musician, what is your advice to younger bands? How shall they drink their beers and what to pay attention to on their careers?
To be honest it sounds like a really old man is talking, but the most important thing in my opinion is discipline. To practise a lot. Until your fingers are bleeding. If you have a band don’t give up. And being in time. This is what I saw from other bands very often, who are not existing anymore. Here in the Frankfurt area in the ’80s and ’90s people started their metal bands, but a lot of them disappeared because they agreed to meet up for rehearsal but a guy didn’t come or he came late. I think for us this is the most important thing. Discipline and being in time. And for sure having fun, because this is the most important thing for me. Otherwise I could not imagine how I would do anything for that much of a time. I think it becomes horrible.
Did you notice any changes on yourself recently? Did you collect any new hobbies? What would you tell us about yourself?
New hobbies? No. For sure since a couple of years I have a dog, I am married, I have 3 sons, but the oldest is 27, the second is 24 and the youngest is 18 years old. This is my current hobby. Going around, playing frisbee with the dog, he likes it very much, but in the end my main hobby is still music and playing with this band, which is sure in this current pandemic situation is working a bit slower. At the weekends I am at home, but on the other hand like I told you we are making an album, and I practise every day the new songs to get well prepared and to get there well prepared in the studio to not waste time there. Because every second and every minute costs money. It’s better if you are prepared and record it as fast as you can.
It was a pleasure and an honor talking to you. I am glad that you accepted our request. Let’s have a beer and enjoy ourselves in this virtual space. Wish you the best, cheers!
Yeah, it was also a pleasure talking to you. And to Hungary, stay metal! Yeah!
The interview was taken with Frank Thorwarth on 16.01.2022.