Andreas “Gerre” Geremia (Tankard)
Formed in 1982, the German thrash metal band Tankard has long been hailed among the big 4 of Teutonic Thrash along with Kreator, Destruction and Sodom. As the band gears up for the release of their 16th studio album “R.I.B” and for their first Australian tour, our writer in Frankfurt caught up with Andreas “Gerre” Geremia and spoke at length about metal, beer and football while watching the Brazil v/s Mexico world cup game.
HB: Hey Gerre, thank you for taking the time off to do this interview with me. I’d like to start with congratulating you and Tankard for 32 years of thrashing across the world. How does it feel? When you started playing music in school in 1982, did you expect to be where you are right now?
AG: Thank you. No, definitely not. We started Tankard when we were 14-15 years old and we never thought that we’d still be active after 32 years. It’s a great feeling to be a part of the metal scene. We’re bringing out our 16th album “R.I.B” and we’re playing all over the world. It’s an amazing feeling.
HB: That’s awesome to hear. Okay, how did you get into metal? Everyone has a glorious story on how they discovered metal. What’s your tale?
AG: Well, when I was 9-10 years old, I was a big fan of the English band Smokie. When I was 11, I think 1978? Frank (Thorwarth, Tankard’s bass player) and I heard a live song by AC/DC for the first time on the radio and we loved it. Later on, Frank got a copy of the album the song was from; “If You Want Blood…” He bought it because of the album cover, the guitar through the stomach and that was it. Later on, we started listen to Black Sabbath and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest but also smaller bands like Tank and Jaguar etc. In 1983, the first Exodus demo came out, along with the first albums of Exciter, Metallica and Slayer. That really influenced us a lot. You could say I’ve been infected with metal since 1978 and I don’t think this will go away until I die!
HB: And that’s what keeps you going all these years…
AG: This is what keeps me goes. Yes, definitely. Tankard is a band that has a lot of fun. It is great when we can play our music live. As long as we keep having fun, we’ll keep on going. I can’t imagine a day without Tankard! I can’t see an end!
HB: After 32 years of playing music, do you have any plans of retiring or ending the Tankard tale?
AG: No, definitely not. We have so many countries left to play in. We need to keep on going until we’ve played them all! We’ve been thrashing for 32 years and we’ll be thrashing for 32 years more!
HB: Sounds great! Speaking of tours; Tankard has played a lot over the world. What has been your best touring experience and atmosphere?
AG: The craziest fans are definitely in Colombia; South America in general. But of course, we love playing all over the world. The metal community is the same everywhere you go – it is a brotherhood. No one cares if you are black or white, thin or fat; the metal community is the same. It is a really atmosphere thing all over the world. We are all one. We still have a lot of countries left to go to, so we need to do a lot more touring in the next 32 years!
HB: Growing up in the 80s and 90s with bands like Kreator, Sodom, even the Scorpions, how did Tankard differentiate themselves from the other metal bands in the region?
AG: We keep making great metal! That’s all! We called our second demo “Alcoholic Metal” just for fun because at that point, there were so many subgenres emerging all over the world – speed metal, black metal, glam metal etc. We created a new genre called alcoholic metal but we continued the trend with our other albums “Chemical Invasion” and “The Morning After.” It was quite new at that point to combine thrash metal with a lot of fun, and that’s what made a difference. We’ve never changed our style (expect for one melodic album but that stayed true to Tankard’s sound) and we’ve also never split up, never taken a break or had a reunion. We’ve played through the good times and the hard times especially in the 90s, when thrash metal wasn’t very popular. You can see it in our fans at our live shows as well – a lot of older people who have aged with us, and a lot of younger people who are getting introduced to metal.
HB: Despite being 32 years old, all of the members of Tankard still have day jobs. What do each of you do, and how does that affect Tankard’s touring plans and schedules?
AG: Yes. I’m a social worker, and the rest of the band work as engineers and in automobile companies here in Frankfurt. All of us keep our work separate from Tankard. Whenever we have tour or show possibilities, we need to check whether the dates work with our schedules. That is an advantage because we can then do things the way we want. We aren’t forced to tour and play 150 shows a year to make money. In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons why we have lasted for so long. It is also a disadvantage because we’ve had a lot of offers to play from all over the world in the last few years after we got signed on to Nuclear Blast. They promote us a lot, and it’s sad when we have to reject shows. We play 30-35 shows a year and that’s quite good for us.
HB: You’re playing in Australia next month…
AG: Yes, we play Metalfest Lorely in Germany, then Tuska Open Air in Finland the weekend after and then head to Australia for the first time. 3 shows in 3 days in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – one of the fastest trips we’ve ever made. I’ll be missing a few games of the World Cup but oh well. We’re really looking forward to the trip; it looks like it will be great.
HB: What about India?
AG: We’ve never had an offer to play in India but we would definitely be interested! I have no idea how big the metal scene is. I really don’t know what to expect if we were to play there. There are metal heads all over the world and I’m sure there are a lot in India. I hope we get some chances to play there and have a big thrash metal party with the Indian fans and bands! We’ve heard about Bangalore Open Air and maybe something will happen there! I know that Kreator played there as well.
HB: Yes, Kreator played in India in 2012 at Bangalore Open Air. I hope Tankard get a chance to play there or at another Indian fest in the coming years.
AG: Yes, that would really be; great a dream come true.
HB: Moving on to Tankard’s music. “A Girl Called Cervaza” was your last album and it received good feedback from fans and critics. “R.I.B” releases in a few days, and you already have a few video clips out.
AG: Yes, we have a music video out for the title track and a new upcoming video for “Fooled By Your Guts.” It’s a very different video – completely animated and done by a few film students in Australia. It really looks great and releases the end of this month. Metalfest Lorely will be our first release show where we debut a new track from the album.
HB: What can fans expect from this album?
AG: A lot of jazz and techno. Haha, no, it is of course Tankard. Straight up thrash metal. Compared to our previous album, it is heavier and more to-the-point. The songs are shorter and hits harder. We’re very satisfied with the album, especially the production. It’s a good mix of heavy guitars, combined with transparent production so you can hear all instruments clearly. We recorded the album in Frankfurt with Michael Mainx and we like his work. Our last album was on the official German charts (debuted at #32) and we hope we top it with this album!
HB: Tell me more about Tankard’s song writing process.
AG: Well, most of the songs are written by Andy (Gutjahr, Tankard’s guitar player). I get a CD from him with different guitar parts and structures, and I try to find melody lines to fit the parts. We meet at Andy’s home studios and make rough recordings and decide what to use, what to work on and what to drop. We discuss how the structure of the song could be, the chorus and verse lines etc. We listen to the recordings for a while, decide on the pattern and start practicing. The lyrics are written by our ex-guitarist Andy Bulgaropulos and our roadie Harald Mauer. We give them the topics and the melody lines and they work with it. They are a great help for us. Andy is still involved with Tankard, though he doesn’t play music with us anymore. He wrote the chorus of “A Girl Called Cervaza” and a few tracks on “R.I.B.” He left the band in 1998 (after Disco Destroyer) but we’ve still been friends with him and he helps us a lot.
HB: On “A Girl Called Cervaza,” you recorded the track “Metal Lady Boy” with Doro. Why Doro? And if you had to record another track with another artist, who would it be?
AG: I’ve always been a big Doro fan. It’s a funny story, really. I was at a Doro show in Aschaffenburg as visitor and I’d already had a few beers. She saw me in the 3rd row from the stage and called me on to sing a song with her. Later, backstage, we were talking and the idea was born. She was extremely interested and gave me her telephone number and asked me to send a song over to hear. We did and she sang and it was great! It’s one of my favourite tracks from the album. If I had to work with someone else, it would have to be Bobby Blitz, singing with him. Overkill is one of my favourite bands. That would be really cool.
HB: Yes! A Tankard track with Blitz would really be great! Okay, since we’re in the middle of the World Cup, I need to ask – your predictions for this year?
AG: The World Cup will be won by Colombia! I collect the Panini Football Cards and the first team I completed was Colombia, so hey, it will be Colombia! They won their first game as well.
HB: And what’s your favourite beer?
AG: The best beer is what we get in the backstage room before we go on stage because it’s free! That is the reason for the existence of this band – to travel across the world and drink beer in every country!
HB: What’s next on the Tankard agenda after the release of “R.I.B?”
AG: Well, we’ve got a lot of shows lined up. We’re playing Romania this year for this first time as well. Tankard is a live band and we love playing live – playing on stage and getting energy from the crowds, and giving the energy back to them.
HB: It’s been great talking to you, Gerre. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Best of luck for the future and we’ll hopefully meet each other at a gig in the future. Kryptos from India is playing the day before Tankard at Hamburg Metal Dayz. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to experience some Indian thrash metal.
AG: Yes, it should be good. Thank you. PROST!
Article image courtesy: Grzegorz Chorus