My Music DNA: Jaz Delorean of Tankus The Henge

Self-described as the world’s only Gonzo Rock’n’roll band, TANKUS THE HENGE are a genre bending, never-ending, furious and joyous force. Coming together from all corners of the earth, the band are most at home when they are on the road.

They have performed on stages across the world, from New Orleans to Albania, and most places in between, and have become regulars at Glastonbury Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, WOMAD, and countless other festivals.

Since their self-titled debut in 2013, the collective has steadily built up a wildly eclectic repertoire that can range from explosive rock riffs one-minute to New Orleans swing, spaced-out funk and beyond the next. Their second album I Crave Affection Baby, But Not When I Drive was released in 2018) and their third Luna Park! (recorded in Studio Owz, Pembrokeshire) is available now.

The release features the single, god, oil, money, which finds Tankus turning-up the megaphones loud and clear to project a rousing message of hope and equality. Released digitally and as a 7” vinyl release, 50% of the profits will go directly to The Flying Seagull Project, a charity who provide theatrical and circus-based entertainment in refugee camps across Europe.

Hailing from the River Thames, Tankus the Henge vocalist, pianist and trombonist Jaz Delorean discusses the music that has inspired his life and career with Andy Howells.

What was the first song that made an impact on you?

I guess the first song I remember making an impact on me was Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something. I probably heard it a couple of years after it came out, so I would have been ten or eleven. I had the cassette single, but it only lasted the length of the song, obviously, and I wasn’t interested in what was on the other side. I was annoyed that I had to keep rewinding the cassette to hear it again, so I spent the whole day laboriously taping it onto both sides of a long tape, you remember the ones that were about 45 minutes each side? I reckon I got it on there about twenty five times. I could just listen to it over and over again without having to do any winding. I was happy then. I didn’t really know what it meant, and I wasn’t even sure of all the words, but I loved the way it sounded and felt. I haven’t thought about that song for a long time… thanks!

What was the first single /download you bought?

I’m gonna interpret this as two questions. Ha!

The first single I owned was two different ones, which were shared between myself and my brother. I’m proud to say, without a hint of regret or shame, that it was Wonderwall by Oasis, and Wannabe by the Spice Girls although he insists his was Shania. Pure pop madness. It’s ironic how I went on to become a pretty major Blur fan, and Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave really influenced my outlook, via music, on the world and subsequently were a very, very big reason I wanted to be in a band at all. I didn’t own any of their music until a few years later when ’13’ came out and it blew my mind. The 90’s was a delicious time, let’s face it. For the most part, it was hilarious to grow up with guitar bands and outrageously baggy jeans and chains hanging everywhere.

The first download I actually bought was Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós. I was at university, and I lived next door to a Welshman called Tom who was a massive influence on my music taste. iTunes had just happened and it was all very exciting. It’s a good job I had the download. I set fire to my entire desk one night by mistake, and completely destroyed all the paper, CDs and anything else which was on it. I could have burned the whole place down. I was very upset about the CDs. That was the sort of tower block where a spliff or the toaster would set the whole building’s alarms off, but an idiot knocking a candle over on his desk and everything going up in flames at 3am did absolutely nothing.

I text some of the other guys in the band about this question, and these are the answers. George first bought “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy, Franco’s was “Christmas Time“, by The Darkness, Dan’s was “Ben“, Boyzone covering Michael Jackson. A set of rounded music tastes.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I owned was given to me by my grandpa John. It was a CD of Homage to New Orleans and contained the thrills of Kid Ory, Wilbur De Paris, Sidney Bechet and Firehouse Five plus Two. This was the first time I’d heard anything that sounded like this and he was nuts about New Orleans. I played it hundreds of times, and I still have it. It was probably a year after the Wonderwall/Wannabe episode. I never looked back. Now I’ve got vinyl of Kid Ory and I have a record player next to the piano with a pitch shift on it. I like to get the pitch just right and play along with the same tracks I heard when I was 11.

What’s your constant go to track?

I’ve had a love of long songs since I was 15. I remember it was then, because someone gave me a Pink Floyd CD for my 15th birthday, and I had a ‘disco party’. Against all advice, I put Shine On You Crazy Diamond on the sound system and everyone went into another room or outside or looked like they were going to cry.

That was my go to track, probably until I discovered King Crimson, and then it would have been 21st Century Schizoid Man which I completely obsessed about, and still do, really. I had a minidisc player with things recorded off vinyl, and I listened to most of the King Crimson albums I could get my hands on complete with skips and crackle from the needle.

Most recently, and currently, it’s Richard Harris singing MacArthur Park. I adore this song. It’s written by Jimmy Webb, and he asked Richard to sing it when they were in the pub together, and it got to number four in 1968, which is crazy when you think it’s a seven minute epic, and no-one is sure what any of it is about.

Once we took over a club in Austria after playing a set there. When I say ‘took over’, I mean the band elected themselves to DJ when the DJ didn’t show. We played anything we wanted, it was brilliant and awful. We took turns putting tunes on this massive sound system and dancing over the floor with bemused looking revellers, and staff. By the time we got to 4am and the stragglers were on their last legs, we finished the set with this tune, and I was on my knees, arms in the air, eyes closed in this club in the middle of the Austrian alps singing “Someone left the cake out in the rain…”. We haven’t been invited back yet.

I took a piano playing gig on a ship once, and on a particularly lonely day I stood on the viewing deck and played it ten times. That’s over an hour of 1960s psychedelic melodrama. Do other people do that thing of just playing songs over and over again? I know that Prince had a collection of music so large that even if he’d played everything once, back to back, he still would never have heard everything. It makes me think, do I listen to enough music? Why play things over and over? But that’s part of loving music so much, we love the songs and where we were and who we were when we heard them the first time. It would be an honour if anyone ever did that with Tankus tunes.

What’s your constant go to album?

Shishko Disco – Human Alien. I think the band would agree with me that this is probably one of the most played albums in the tour van. When a song comes on from this album, invariably the entire thing gets played, and it’s just the most intoxicating, boundary-smashing, exciting piece of work. It was released in 2018 and if you haven’t heard it, go and hear it now.

Who’s your latest music discovery?

Tedeschi Trucks band. Shown to us by a dear friend called Ollie from the Isle of Wight, and I’ve just been hammering their albums. It’s got that rock and soul vibe which is prevalent in 1970’s records I really admire, such as Joe Cocker/Leon Russell – Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus, but it’s happening now and you can actually go and experience it. Harmonies, great playing, horn section. Everyone on stage having a party.

What’s your own track that best defines you as an artist?

I know it’s almost cliché but our new single god, oil, money is really the song I’m most proud of us making. It’s got a message (loving your neighbour no matter when they come from), it’s a big, singalong tune, and it’s got riffs and groove and a horn shout section to make you get up and scream. I know, I was behind the glass when the horns recorded it and the boys killed it.

It’s hard to write a song under 4 minutes that tells a story, and although I love the previously mentioned long song, I actually find it more challenging, and satisfying to fit the elements into a shorter space of time. I’d much rather think “I’ll play that again now”, than “I’ll play it again next week”.

What’s the track that best defines you as a person?

I don’t think people are single tracks. I think we are crazed, unplanned DJ sets in the middle of the Alps, not caring who is watching.

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