What informs your music and songwriting?
I listen to a lot of records, from the 1920s up until present day, and the myriad influences aggregate into some kind of malleable, multicoloured metaclay after going through the juicer of my mind. Setting slow. Flow the juice. As a songwriter, it’s important to be informed of current situations, globally and locally, but to not get stuck in the mire of a particular event, unless it’s massively world-changing. You want your song to stand the test of time, so there has to be emotion, some relatable and entertaining content, plus an element of vagueness. A bit like boardwalk astrology, I suppose.
I am blessed to be able to travel a lot with my job as a musician, so naturally a lot of the situations and characters I come into contact with make it into the songs. At its most powerful, songwriting is a vehicle for looking at life in someone else’s shoes.
How have you evolved as a band over the years?
We’ve added new sounds, taken some away. I’ve been really influenced by New Orleans jazz, and added a fantastic horn section as a permanent feature since visiting that wonderful city the first time. Horns – tenor sax, trombone, trumpet – are a big part of the Tankus the Henge sound, but instead of sounding like ska, enable us to bridge the weird gap between heavy, groovy rock and New Orleans street jazz.
It took us a few years to work out what we wanted to sound like, because that happens with every single band. You start by imitating your favourite records, and for a while we tried out a whole load of genres all at the same time. In the last few years since the release of the previous album, we’ve honed it down to the avenues we really care about.
How does your new album I Crave Affection Baby, But Not When I Drive (out 29 Nov) differ from your previous album?
It’s longer, it’s dirtier and it’s louder. It’s a culmination of the last three years of playing relentless tours around Europe, so many of the songs are about travelling around as part of a band, but you’ll also hear songs with suspicion of digital surveillance, organised religion, love in general but with a vein of hope running through nonetheless.
We’re very proud of it, and we’ve tried to capture the breakneck energy of a live Tankus the Henge show in the studio, which is quite a challenge.
Tell us about the creation of the new music video for Things Were Better Before.
For those who haven’t seen it, this is an animated marionette short film with myself as the captain of a submarine roaming through a dark and dead ocean with a little fish in a bowl next to me. It’s apparent that we are the ones who have killed the ecosystem and, well, you’ll have to watch it to find out what happens. We played at a beautiful Italian festival in a town called Pennabilli and met artists from around the globe, and this is where we met the guys who created the video. We worked together using the lyrics as a story, and then they dreamed up something more magical than we could ever have imagined. It took four months to make, and has gone on to be nominated and win film festival awards around the world. We’re pretty excited for you all to see it.
Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I mean, there’s got to be some sort of filter for a question like this, surely? I think I’ll go with surreal.
In the space of 48 hours, I went from Auroville, an experimental township in southern India, where I’d been attempting to write songs, to Oakland, California, where I fell straight into a party, complete with a gnomish Californian alchemist brandishing a suitcase full of black and white Czech films, which all played backwards. In the morning they gave me a few drops of LSD from the fridge, and we drove to a mausoleum to find John Lee Hooker’s ashes. That was pretty strange.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Definitely MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb, made famous by Richard Harris when he unexpectedly had a hit with it. Jimmy has never really told anyone what it’s about, but it just takes you somewhere. I was playing the piano on a ship, alone for a month. It’s pretty lonely. I sat at the rail and listened to it seven times in a row. It’s seven minutes long. It got to number one. Check it out!
What can we expect from a live show from Tankus the Henge?
Chaos, community, catharsis. Other things using different letters of the alphabet. The alphabet is a strange and wonderful thing, when you start thinking about it. Just sit on the grass with the moon out one night, thinking about the alphabet.
You can expect huge riffs, so loud the amps feel like they’re about to explode, raunchy, filthy swing, and moody, brooding ballads that burrow inside your head and grow and grow until they slip out of your mouths and ears and from under your fingernails. You never see your hands in your dreams – did you know that?
You’ll be sure to leave singing and with a few new friends in tow. We’re in the band we wanted to see but didn’t exist, and you are in the audience that we wanted to create this world with.
For tour dates see tankusthehenge.com
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