One of our favourite albums of 2018 has just been released on vinyl. “A Compulsion For Propulsion” by Three Dimensional Tanx is fast, psychedelic, melodic and a bit weird. All the things we love about great pop music really.
The Lancaster band are Sean (bass), Loz (drums), Spacey (vocals, organ, synths) and Richard (guitar, piano, synths) and those last two kindly took the time to answer some of our questions.
Listen to the album while you read the interview and then buy it when you’re done!
What was the first music you heard that made you want to play in a band?
Spacey: Usual cliched stuff – Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray, Modern Lovers, Stooges.
Richard: I used to watch Top of the Pops religiously as a child and leapt about ripping my school shirt open. I suppose the indie scene of the 90s was where I came of age, but I’d say the Velvet Underground, Stooges, the Doors and Love were the big ones for me at aged 15.
What was the first instrument you learnt to play? Did you have lessons or teach yourself?
Spacey: Piano in early teens but didn’t stick with it, hated piano practice more than homework.
Richard: Guitar – had lessons for a couple of years as a child – absolutely hated them. The teacher would play a classical piece, and I’d learn it by ear, pretend to read the music and find my way around. Had no interest in it whatsoever. I hated practising so much – I gave up and put the guitar in the loft, vowing never to play it again! A couple of years later, I got it back out of the loft and taught myself. Still teaching myself now, but it’s much easier these days thanks to YouTube etc.
For the new album, how fully formed were the songs and arrangements before you went in the studio? It sounds very “live”
Richard: A real mixture. A few had been gigged, and we had them in the bag really. Some were nearly there, then came together in the studio, A lot just need the vocals finalising.
Spacey: ‘Dwam’ was basically a jam with some overdubs.
Richard: The four of us all played live. We did 1-3 takes of each song, and used the best one. Vocals were added separately. Apart from vocals, most songs don’t have any overdubs at all – it’s just how we are
You worked with a different producer, Alan Gregson who’s got a lot of great Cornershop records on his CV. How was that?
Richard: I also play in Pill Fangs, and we’d recorded our first album with Alan. He was great to work with – really quick, open-minded and a good laugh. Importantly, we could record live and raw. So I knew he’d be great for 3D Tanx. On the first session we had with him, we recorded 9 songs in 5 hours. And the first 2 hours was just setting stuff up!
What items of food or drink were the most essential for re-fuelling during the recording of the album?
Spacey: Coffee (speaking personally)
Richard: Alan kept the coffee pot fully charged. Few beers, nothing too giddy. Possibly a different answer from Loz!
The retro keyboard sounds on all your records are phenomenally good. What kind of keyboards are you using?
Spacey: Philips Philicorda, Korg MicroKorg XL, beat-up old Casio.
Richard: On ‘His Latest Apparatus’ and ‘Racing Car #9’ I added acoustic upright piano, MicroKorg, Korg Monologue, and cheap early ’80s Yamaha and Casio analog synths.
Why the long delay between the CD / download release and the vinyl?
Richard: Everything takes ages. Lots of prosaic reasons. For a start, vinyl is more expensive and harder to manufacture than CDs. All the artwork had to re-done…everything takes longer than you think.
What’s the meaning of the song title “Dwam”?
Richard: It’s a Scottish term meaning being relaxed/in a state of reverie, like in that blissful bit just before you fall to sleep.
There’s a backwards talking bit in that song which I listened to backwards and heard “the human race is in disgrace” Are there any other hidden messages on the album?
Spacey: Ha! I can’t fully remember – some was just the main lyrics spoken, then flipped around…”the human race is in disgrace” was one bit.
Where would you prefer people buy the album from?
Richard: From our Bandcamp page. Also, the LP can be bought direct from Sunstone Records. Other shops stocking us include Action Records, Probe Records, Dig Vinyl, Norman Records and Hey Day. Also Shiny Beast if you’re reading this in mainland Europe.
There’s mentions of stars, satellites, galaxies and interplanetary beings on the new album. If there is life on other planets what form do you think it might take?
Richard: I like to think there might be life out there where idiots don’t make all the major decisions.
Imagine that humans have just made contact with alien life forms for the first time. You are given the job of choosing some human ambassadors from our planet to send to meet them in a pink spaceship. Who do you choose and why? You can also send an animal too if you like. But only one because I just made up a rule that says that.
Richard: Wow, is there anyone up to the task?! Possibly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Caroline Lucas. If there was any chance they’d be sent into space and be lost up there, then Trump, May & Putin! No animals, they can’t say no.
Spacey: Our drummer is usually on another planet, he can meet ’em…with his cat Jasper.
Lancaster seems to have quite a lively music scene with several bands we love here at Trust the Wizards (yourselves, The Thyme Machine, Lovely Eggs, Mr Ben & The Bens) How much of that is because of the Lancaster Music co-op and what other factors are responsible?
Richard: There are loads of bands from our neck of the woods – maybe not your cup of tea, but bands like Massive Wagons and Eliminator who’re both signed and tour all over the place are from the Lancaster area. The one’s you’ve mentioned, plus Khamoon, TV Face, Stuart Anthony (who collaborates with Tim Buckley’s lyricist)
The Co-op definitely helps foster that talent, there’s also plenty of bands in their houses, garages, More Music (in Morecambe) and so on. The Northwest seems to generate a lot of bands – maybe out of frustration, desperation, anger?!
If you could magic yourself into any band past or present who would you choose and why?
Spacey: Ha! I think it’d be an experience being part of the Screamers.
Richard: Maybe to be play bass in the brief 5-piece incarnation of the Stooges – see Iggy in his prime, lock in with Rock Action on drums and witness Ron Asheton and James Williamson both on guitar. That would be pretty cool.
And if you could magically recruit any other musician alive or dead and add them to the existing 3D Tanx lineup who would you choose and why?
Spacey: Lora Logic on sax and gurgleburps.
Richard: Hmmmm…maybe get Pharoah Sanders to play sax with us…or Ken Irwin from C.A, Quintet to play trumpet.
We’re coming to see you at The Castle Hotel in Manchester on 19th July. Where else can people see you live?
Richard: Check out our website for gig updates, we’re playing locally, plus psych festivals in Wales and Derbyshire, something in Leeds…
You’re in a caff ordering breakfast. You can have toast and your choice of tea or coffee. Then you’re allowed 4 more items. Go.
Spacey: 4 more coffees.
Richard: Coffee. Orange juice, beans, mushrooms, Quorn sausage.
Cricket. Is it any good or is it just bollocks?
Spacey: Not sure I have an opinion on the subject
Richard: I don’t like cricket…it’s bollocks.
Other interviews we’ve done: