In between the full line-up of Summerrock I took some time off to sit down with Raf Pener (vocals) and Clément Rouxel (drums) of the French melodic death metal band Think of A New Kind (short T.A.N.K.).
I have to admit when I did my research for the festival and I saw Tank on the line-up I thought of the NWOBHM band Tank, but apparently you are the French T.A.N.K.! Do you get confused with them often?
Clément: That’s why we put the dots! We are ‘Think of A New Kind’, not just Tank. We had this problem, but ‘Think of A New Kind’ is more complicated so we had to make the name easier, more in your face. That’s why we chose to put the dots, because it’s easier to remember. But yeah, we know about the British Tank. But it doesn’t happen that much that we are confused with them.
Raf: There is also this RnB guy on YouTube called Tank [Warning: RnB can damage your ears!] (laughter). So when you Google ‘Tank’, the first thing you will get to see is a video of this RnB guy singing (starts singing in a high voice).
(Laughter) Well luckily I didn’t stumble unto that guy during my research otherwise I would be worried!
Raf: That’s way we are ‘Think of A New Kind’ and T.A.N.K. is just a shorter way of saying it and to remember it.
Okay, talking about ‘Think of A New Kind’, what’s the story behind the band’s name?
Raf: I think it’s a good way to sum up the ideas behind the lyrics. Trying to make people think differently, review their judgments.
Of course when I saw you were not a British band I had a listen to your albums. I first listened to Symbiosis, your latest album and first really European release. When I compare it to the older albums, in my opinion you hear it is a higher level. How did you guys approach it to take it all a step further?
Raf: Well thank you for saying that. It’s fun you ask that because the composition of this album was completely hardcore. It was a dark period for us. I think that’s why the album is a little bit darker than the other ones. We had some troubles with our former guitar player [Symheris] and we managed to finish the album with this guy. So that was great, but in the end it was like giving birth. It was that painful. When it was done and we could release the album, it was kind of a rebirth for us. And we felt free of that. And everything changed after that. We had a new guitarist stepping in and now we are so much more motivated. I think the dark spirit we had was transcribed in the music.
Clément: Pain is the solution (all laugh).
I should put that as the interview’s headline (laughs)
Raf: I think the experience of knowing each other so long is something that maybe helped to make the music a little bit more personal than the other albums. Maybe there is more of our identity in this album. I hope so.
You mentioned the new guitar player, Charly Jouglet. I read that he has a background in video game music composing. Will this shine through in future music?
Raf: I think so, maybe not that much but a little bit. We already started to compose for the next album and he has really good ideas. Sometimes really different influences and you can feel this in the new tunes. It’s something more epic about it, just like movie music.
Sounds very promising! Any ideas when we could hear some of this new material?
Clément: Not yet… We have a lot of ideas. Maybe we have like 4 or 5… (looks at Raf)
Raf: … 5 ‘skeletons’ of songs maybe?
Clément: I don’t think it will take that long. The thing is we all compose in the band. So with two new guitarists since the latest album, things are going to change and I think in a good way. You asked what was different for Symbiosis and you know what they say about the third album that is always for ‘maturity’ or whatever. Of course there is this fact and then also new people in the band. When Charly puts in some crazy movie music and we add in some new influences, it’s going to bring some new blood. We are really looking forward to see for ourselves what is going to happen.
Together with the latest album came the first big European tour. How was that for you guys?
Clément: Oh crazy! When we started the band we were waiting to do this kind of stuff. Especially with Soilwork, who is one of our main influences.
You worked together with Speed as well on one of the songs.
Clément: It was a big goal for us and now we reached it. It was a great experience. One you should have when you are in a band. The truth is it was so good. We didn’t even have a fight. For a month we were living all together in a little van, you know? The people from Soilwork and Hatesphere were so cool and we had so much fun. Every day there were new problems with the food, the gig or whatever. We don’t care, because at the end we are all just drinking beers all together! (all laugh)
Raf: It was the first time we played in Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, … this part of Belgium! We already played in the French part of Belgium, but it was the first time playing in Vosselaar.
Any memories of that show in Biebob?
Raf: I think the food was not that good (laughs).
These are the things we as fans don’t get to see of course (all laugh)
Raf: The venue was quite small, but it was okay. We like this kind of venue, not too small and you can see the people, you are really close to the audience. That’s what cool about these kind of places. We are living the dream (laughs)
You mentioned that this was your dream. Your reached it. So…
Raf: … What’s next? (all laugh) Go back on tour!
Clément: We should go back on tour. Of course with other bands. When you play music, I think, the most important thing is to travel, to meet new people, to just play your music everywhere you can. And that’s what we want, like all musicians. That’s what we are looking for.
I saw in interviews and online that you really identify as a French band. How important is the French identity for you guys as a band?
Clément: Not so much… You know, we were very happy to go back in France when we played Germany and all the other places. We know that we are not the best country for metal, but the truth is the best gigs we had was when we came back to our country and bring all the energy we had from the whole tour. It was crazy, the last gig in Lyon was so amazing. We are now more French in our head than we were before. Not because we didn’t like the other countries. It’s just we think in France that playing metal is a battle, that it’s hard. While in fact, we are in a good country. It’s just… We should move our asses (laughs). That’s what we should do in France. So stop complaining and play!
You guys try to get better and better and when people think about French metal they think about Gojira of course. What other bands would recommend to us foreigners?
Raf: You should listen to Goroth, it’s a technical death metal band. A pretty good one. Listen to Dagoba. There is an older one called Loudblast, which is thrash death. Much more modern you have Betraying the Martyrs.
I will definitely look them up. When you talk about coming back to France… I also read online that all of you, except for Charly who wasn’t in the band at that time, all of you mentioned that your best live show was Hellfest 2013. What happened there?
Raf: The thing is we played at something like 11am. It was really early, but it was full. At this early hour, that was crazy. It was not the first festival we did because we already played at Wacken in 2009, Metaldays in the same year. But this one was at home in France.
Clément: Hellfest is the capital of metal in France. You have to do it if your French. There is a lot of pressure around it. And when we played there we were followed by French television, so we had twice the pressure (laughs). So we had to do it right. We took care of everything, it was so much work for only half an hour of playing. But we just… destroyed the stage! We had so much pressure, we broke everything (laughs).
What can we expect tonight then?
Clément: We didn’t play since a while, so maybe tonight we’re gonna be like… (makes intense silent gestures)
That’s something I also wanted to get into. Reviews of your show are always commenting on how energetic your shows are. What do you want to bring? Do you always think ‘We’re gonna destroy the stage?’
Raf: That’s really important for us. I think the first reason is that this is what we feel. When we play this music, it happens sometimes that we see that it is a small audience. When we are warming up just before the concert we think like “We will do this really slow”, but it’s just impossible for us. Once we started, even when there is nobody, we just go. It’s just how we feel.
Clément: The main thing when we started the band, we play metal, we asked ourselves “What is the most important part?”. We always thought it is to be live on stage, bringing this shit all over the place. That’s what is different in this time for music. You have to make a real show. If you just play your music like on a CD, nobody gives a shit. So you should always think about this aspect. That’s the most important. We are not saying that the music is on the second plan, but live the energy is the most important. And when we watched our first gigs, it was not so bad for the beginning, but it was not what we wanted. So we took care of this and it worked out a lot better on stage.
I’m looking forward to that show tonight now for sure. In a few weeks here in Belgium we have Graspop Metal Meeting. Since a few years it is on exactly the same weekend as Hellfest, so for us it’s always a difficult decision between Clisson or Dessel. Have you ever visited Graspop?
Raf: No, I’d like too.
Clément: We’ve always been to Hellfest.
I’m guessing you do want to play there one day?
Raf: That would be great!
Clément: Oh yes! Because we have a lot of friends, like Betraying the Martyrs for example, they played in both festivals and they say Graspop is pretty amazing. Fingers crossed!
Raf: We are looking forward to play more big festivals like Graspop. This summer we have another nice festival in France, it’s called Motocultor. It’s a little bit smaller than Hellfest, but still it’s quite big in France. Let’s hope for next year there will be again some other festivals.
You worked together already with Speed from Soilwork on the latest album. You also worked together with Jon Howard from Threat Signal. How did these collaborations with these big band come to be since you’re still a growing band?
Clément: It is really simple actually. We ask ourselves which singer we would like to have on our album.
Raf: On the first album we had Guillaume Bideau from Mnemic.
Clément: Yes, and so then we came up with Jon and we were like “Hey, let’s contact him!”.
Raf: Facebook… magical instrument! (all laugh)
Clément: Yeah, so just through his Facebook page: “Hey Jon, we are T.A.N.K. would you like to…?”. And he said yes. And for Bjorn [Speed Strid] it was quite the same. We e-mailed him.
The question for a collaboration on the CD came before the plan to tour together?
Raf: Yeah, well before. It was not planned to go on tour when we were recording the songs.
So it was kind of a reunion afterwards?
Raf: And we were all pretty excited about that. As we said, we are living the dream (laughs).
Thank you for your time, guys! The last words are yours, do you want to share anything with our readers?
Raf: First of all, thanks to you, and thanks to your readers, thanks to the guys who move themselves to come out and support the local scene and the metal scene in general. We hope to see you in the festivals!