To say I, like many more of my kind, was disappointed when the news came down the metal mojo wire that Venom Inc would not be arriving on Australian shores next week in the company of Raven and Girlschool, would be an understatement of frankly criminal proportions. However the seismic gnashing and wailing stopped abruptly upon the announcement that Mantas and the Demolition Man were to be replaced by NWoBM legends Tank – or at least their 2019 iteration. This addition to the bill was and is a cause for no little relief and even more celebration, so of course Sentinel Daily jumped at the chance for a pre-tour chinwag with one of the band’s prime movers and all round good egg Cliff Evans.

The call must have been a bit of a surprise when it came through? “It was! I wasn’t expecting it at all so it really was a nice surprise when the promoters got in touch with us. Some of the other guys in the band had some other work on, so we had to move things around a little bit, but we’re really happy we were able to do it and it’s great for us to come to Australia for the first time”.

What sort of set can we expect – something from every era of Tank? “Because it’s our first time over there I think we’ll do a lot of tracks from our new album Re-Ignition, which is re-recorded tracks from our first four albums… a bit of a best-of set really, we’ll give the fans all our classics. It’s only a forty-five minute set and obviously a lot of our songs are quite long so we’ve had to pick and choose quite carefully. But it’ll be a full-on, in your face set and I think people are going to enjoy it”.

You’ve got a new singer, David Readman – how did you hook up with him? “Our last singer ZP Theart, was snapped up by Skid Row… we’re happy for him because Skid Row are his favourite band of all time! It was a real dream come true! So we had  to find another singer. Mick Tucker (Tank’s other long-serving guitarist), lives in Holland, and somebody mentioned David to him, saying we should check him out – he lives quite near Mick. David’s well-known for his work with Pink Cream 69, which I’d heard, and I didn’t think he would fit in – it’s a different style of voice. But we still thought ‘let’s get him down for a jam and see how it works out’. So he came down and as soon as he opened his mouth it went perfectly! We’re really enjoying working with him and he’s a great frontman. We’re looking forward to doing a new studio album with him as well”

The stuff he’s recorded in the past puts him more in that Coverdale area, doesn’t it? I was very surprised when I heard he was coming to Tank. I guess a great singer just lends himself to any style of song really, doesn’t he? “Yes, that’s right. With our past couple of vocalists, ZP and Doogie White, both were great singers – and I think the albums we did with them were fantastic –  but they had a bit of trouble singing our old songs off the early albums. But David came in and could do the whole lot. He’s got quite a raunchy voice. It fits the band really well”.

That’s great to hear. Now, looking back, as we inevitably do at Sentinel Daily, the first time I saw you with Tank was at that now-legendary London Lyceum show with Tormé and Metallica in December 1984. Did you think for a minute back then that you’d still be doing Tank thirty five years later? “No! you don’t even think about those kind of things do you? Looking back it’s so, so long ago! But me and Mick are still together and still doing it, travelling round the world! I’m very grateful for that. But at the time you’re not thinking about things like that. We will keep going as long as the fans are enjoying it!”

That’s the thing isn’t it? We did a piece a few weeks ago on the history of the Music For Nations label and featured This Means War (the band’s 1983 album, recorded before the arrival of Evans). Out of all the albums we featured it was the most well received and people asked if we were going to feature the follow up Honour and Blood (Cliff’s first recorded appearance with the band) as well. People still clearly enjoy the band. How does that make you feel, that enduring love and interest in the band? “That is fantastic and so nice for us to hear. It’s what keeps us going. At the shows we’re doing now we are getting loads of younger kids, wearing Tank tee shirts and patches. We certainly notice those kind of things. We had a spell when (founding member, bassist) Algy (Ward) left the band in 2002 where we kind of fell off the radar a bit, but from around 2009 we got back in the swing, recorded new albums, toured as much as possible, and one of the most fantastic things for us is to see these younger people coming to the shows and getting off on the music. That’s been fantastic for us”.

How hard is it to keep a band like Tank going in today’s music industry climate, given you have that legacy and that history? “It’s getting harder and harder. At the level we’re at realistically there’s no money in it, yet you have five guys in the band who need to get paid! It’s difficult but right now we’re getting into a better position; we’ve just released an album, we have plenty of dates coming up, we’ll start work on a new studio album for release next year very soon. It’s about building things up, and if we can get up to the next level then it’s all been worthwhile. There’s a lot of life left in Tank!”

You’re touring with Raven and Girlschool down here – what can you tell me about your earliest memories of those two bands? “The first time we toured with Raven was when we supported them in America in 1985. They’re great guys and we’ve been good friends ever since. It’ll be great to work with them. Girlschool we’ve played with many times! We had the same management with them and Motörhead a guy called Doug Smith. It’s always a pleasure to see the girls out on the road – it’s just this time it’ll be on the other side of the world! I’m looking forward to it!”

It’s a really good package of bands. Let’s just go back to Re-Ignition. It’s obviously a good way of introducing David to the fans. But was it hard to decide which tracks would make the cut? “Well, there are so many tracks to choose from. Some are pretty obvious… it didn’t take that long to decide. ‘Let’s just do the more obvious ones, a couple more… if this album’s well received we can always do another one!’ So it’s a bit of a promotional thing – like you say it’s a way to introduce David – but also, playing some of those old songs for so long, we play them differently now, with much more energy. We’ve given them a bit of a kick in the arse, a new lease of life!”

Tank team up with Raven and Girlschool in Australia, kicking off next week in the Nation’s Capital:

Wed 26 June – The Basement – Canberra

Thur 27 June – The Zoo – Brisbane

Fri 28 June – The Manning – Sydney

Sat 29 June – Croxton Bandroom – Melbourne