"It's a hell of a two ton drum riser!"
Showmanship has been at the heart of every drummer since Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich first pulled out the chops and flair behind the kit, right up to today's drummers like Joey Jordison and his rotating hydraulic riser, or Tommy Lee's drum kit rollercoaster taking things to extremes.
But there's a new contender to the showman throne in the shape of Hannes Van Dahl, drummer with Swedish Power Metallers Sabaton. Not only is Hannes a fierce player, but he's becoming increasingly known for another weapon in his arsenal - his kit sits atop a full scale tank complete with CO2 and flame throwing turrets.
We couldn't resist asking Hannes how the unbelievable drum riser – called Audie - came to life, how it works and how the hell the Sabaton crew carts it around the world.
If you want to see Audie for yourself Sabaton plays London's HMV Forum on Monday 12 January. New album Heroes is out now.
When and how did the idea for the tank drum riser come about?
“The first call I got from Sabaton, just when I joined the band in august 2013, was from their production manager. He asked me to specify my preferred drum riser measurements. I sent him a reply back by email with an approximate draft of what I need, circa 2.5mx2.5m something like that. He then called me back and said that I can unfortunately not work with 'circa' at this specific moment, I need exact measurements. I asked him why, and he said 'check your email'. And there was a draft/sketch of a full blown tank drum riser! This monster took eight months to build, by a guy called Jamie Sims in the UK. And during the summer of 2014, eight months later, it arrived on the shores of Sweden. And it's a hell of a two ton drum riser!”
"The tank takes 30 minutes for two people to build"
There are plenty of drummers around who use unique and spectacular risers. Were there any in particular that inspired you to build the tank?
“I think in general Sabaton always has done things in an unorthodox way compared to many other bands. We of course wanted a drum riser that goes with the theme of the band, and something that hasn't been done before. Of course Kiss had their cannon/tank sorry excuse of a drum riser in the Eric Carr era [I love Kiss], but I think ours tops it off… But no other drum riser specifically inspired us, it came from an original joke about having a tank on stage that we made into reality. The challenge was also in the consideration of building something that can tour 150+ shows a year and take a good ol’ beating and something that doesn't take too long to assemble. Audie the tank takes 30 minutes for two people to build from cases to finished riser.”
Do you consider yourself a showman behind the kit? Is this kit just an extension of that?
“Showmanship has always been very important for me. As a musician myself but also as a fan of other bands and a frequent concert attender, when I go see a show I want to see something spectacular and special, not just a pair of blue jeans and a white T-shirt and one or two occasional old man headbangs... Don't get me wrong, the playing in itself can be spectacular and showmanship worthy enough for me, and that's why I have John Bonham, who was a spectacular player and a thinker outside of the box when it came to grooves and challenging traditional playing in general, and Keith Moon with his utter craziness, as my favourite drummers of all time. I've always thought of these two maniacs combined in my head. The great playing and grooving and the great showmanship as one. They both had qualities from both camps of course. But yes, the tank is most definitely an extension of the whole show as more than you would expect going to a heavy metal show.”
"It's two tons heavy and loud as a motherfucker!"
Are you a military vehicle/history fan? Is the riser modeled on a specific model of tank?
“I'm not a huge history buff. I can appreciate reading about history and learning new stuff, which is a constant touring with a band like Sabaton, but I think it´s important to have a clue of what happened to your own country and the rest world before we jumped out on this planet. The tank itself is not built from a specific model, rather a mix of different ones. But it´s also not a real tank, and it’s not supposed to be. It´s all theatre and it´s made to look authentic and first and foremost serve the purpose of being a drum riser.”
Tell us about the design and construction of the tank. What is it made of, how long did it take to build, what testing was involved, how much did it cost etc?
“Audie needed to be very safe and stable to walk on and drum on, show after show, so it´s a mix of different materials. The frame is an aluminium frame with sides built of glass fibre and other metals. The walking area is mainly built from heavy wooden planks with a layer of grip tape on it, for the stability and non slippery floor. Building time took a year from first initial idea to finished product. If you want to buy the tank, I’ll send you an invoice and deliver it to your door, but remember it's two tons heavy and loud as a motherfucker!”
Do the canons fire anything or the turrets move? Any other fun moving parts that you can reveal?
“The turrets are built of solid metal and can be prepped with whatever pyro or CO2 you prefer. When they are mounted on the tank they cannot move, they're very set. The whole tank can be moved and rolled into different angles and directions, but for the safety of us and the audience the turrets must be attached and stay put.”
"I always liked Tommy Lee´s way of going absolutely mental when it comes to his drums"
It must be expensive and logistically complicated to ship around the world? How does that work?
“It took some extensive and meticulous planning from our badass crew to make it happen, but they made it and now Audie and my Yamaha drums have their own truck as a home on the road.”
What do you have planned for your next crazy drum riser?
“Well… when Audie retires, she will have a worthy replacement that’s for sure. We always plan far ahead, and the talks are already in the planning. There will be no spoilers here unfortunately… I always liked Tommy Lee´s way of going absolutely mental when it comes to his drums and risers over the years. I heard something about them [Motley Crue] retiring, so the spot to top that off seems attractively available, haha!”