I first met Frank “The Tank/Freak of Nature” Beasely when I was seven years old, shortly after enrolling at West Coast Martial Arts Academy in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida. We trained together, sparring thousands of times and breaking each other’s bones throughout our decade-long stint studying extremely rigid and disciplined forms of Shuri-ryū (首里流) karate-do, Shindō Yōshin-ryū (新道楊心流) jujutsu, Akido, Kali, various weapons (including small arm and automatic varieties) training, and many other ways to crush and mangle the variety of opponents we would undoubtedly face in this terrible, terrible world.
We were literally killing machines long before we were technically adults, and our rigorous training under the tutelage of Grandmaster Steven Joel Roensch has served us well over the years. So far there have been no (reported) deaths at our hands, but we’ve still got more than a few decades to go so chances are it’ll probably happen one day. Besides being a lean, mean skull-crushing machine, Frank is also a virtuoso drummer of heavy metal, much sought-after live sound mixer, and a man who won $50,000 for absolutely destroying the obstacle course on that silly ABC show Wipeout a couple years back (see the video above to get a taste of what The Tank is capable of).
Frank called me last February with news that Wipeout had asked him to return, after they completely redesigned the course and format of the show, of course. Tonight at 8 PM EST you can finally catch Frank’s second appearance on the show, in which he was paired up with a contestant who lost her last time around because she broke a neck vertebrae. Will Frank be victorious again? Will the sound effects be better this time? Will he rip off the face of that muppet from Talk Soup who hosts the thing? You’ll have to tune in to find out. For now, read this little chat I had with him and brace yourself for the fury of The Freak.
VICE: Just to give our readers a little bit of background on where we came from and why you’re such a freak, can you elaborate on the man who taught us how to kill people with our bare hands?
First and foremost Steven Joel Roensch was a very well-collected father figure for me—for us, I should say. He never had a son, so we ended up being his family. He’s a golden god, a glorious entity. He’s military-trained, a Vietnam-decorated murder machine who studied under Grandmaster Robert A. Trias, the guy who literally brought karate to the US… Roensch is like the real-life version of Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers. Period. He makes Chuck Norris look like a goddam goofball.
He had a very different approach to martial arts than probably anything you can find today. We had to take written tests to advance in rank, undergo the equivalent of basic training year-round for over a decade, and learn all about guns.
Yeah, did you get my video that I sent you?
Yeah, it brought back memories.
I have millions of hours of that crap. I still have that Ruger 22-cal six shot he gave me way back when—it even has ivory handles. There’s a picture of you and I, we’re about 12 and 13, and we’re just out on the hill looking for shit to fuck up holding AK-47s. We were probably an accidental militia, without the threat to ever overthrow the government. It was just about policing idiots and assholes in Florida, and there are a lot of them, God help us.
We didn’t talk for a few years; I moved to New York to work at VICE and you went to LA to play metal and run sound. What was that like?
Oh God. I did it all: nine months running sound at the Whiskey A Go Go, six or seven years at The Troubadour, the main man, and years at the legendary Henry Fonda Music Box Theater, where we built a 100,000 watt subwoofer that could literally knock chicks over. I also played in a few bands, including the Dollyrots. They really ripped my soul apart, told me to cut my hair, change this, do that, play this way. And I’ve always been right because there ain’t no right or wrong way to rock ’n’ roll, you know?.
On your first Wipeout appearance they nicknamed you some dumb shit like “The Heavy Metal Ninja,” or whatever. But how did you end up on the show in the first place?
Well, my mom called me one day and said, “You have to go on this TV show; they designed a TV show for you.” I was like, “Ah crap, you’re right. Guess I got to do it.” It took four years, and about four rectal exams, bloody pee tests, blood tests, background tests—
They didn’t actually stick a finger up my ass, but they did cup my balls and make me cough and give me EKGs.
Do they make you run through an obstacle course or partake in some sort of “physical challenge”?
Oh no, you don’t physically audition. They just interview you.
But how do they know that you’re physically fit to withstand the beating you receive on the course?
Well, you sign a waiver on every course completely giving them no liability entirely. I was very stoned during my first audition. I like smoking that Humboldt California herb—it keeps me from wanting to pull people’s eyes out of their heads. But, anyway, it was like I was in a job interview, like, “Hi, I’m Frank Beasley, and I’d really like to participate…” They had this little Asian chick and she was hot as shit, and the video tech guy couldn’t actually make physical eye contact with me because he was scared because my eyes are a bit crazy. I look back on it now, when I was in the green room that first time, and I should have started side-kicking holes in the walls just for fun, just to do a through-and-through into the office and grab one of the office guys and been like, “Put me on your fucking show!” but you can’t do that stuff, apparently. It actually terrifies people. Then one day when I was recording at my studio they called: “It is signed. Will you be available these dates?”
You seem like an escaped mental patient to most people. Do you think that’s why they wanted you on the show?
It was a great way for me to utilize my ability and modern media to prove to people in my past that I’m not a liability. I’m not on junk. I am not drugged. People take drugs to think and act and be this way. It just doesn’t actually work out for them; they just end up ODing or fucking fantasizing. I am drugs. But it was a lot of fun, just to see the spectacle. They built a $2 million obstacle course, and I walked through it in 5 minutes and 30 seconds like I was on a stroll with my aunt or some shit. I think I only screwed up once or twice.
So, without giving away anything, what’s in store for viewers tonight for your second appearance on the show?
Oh, god. It was really not fun. They’ve taken all the fun out of it and changed the course and the rules in a way that completely discounts strategy and ability. It’s like a Super Mario brothers videogame, except thankfully there is not lava to fall into. They only gave me about 30 or 40 days notice, so I didn’t have much time to train. This time around was a “winners and losers” episode, so they teamed me up with a chick who, on her first appearance, actually snapped one of her neck vertebrae. So… that was challenging. They gave me a broken teammate.
Anything else you want to say to the world?
It’s a delight to have this conversation with an old-school buddy. And, you know, the good or the greater good of mankind can be retained with this level of awesomeness that we’re propagating right here. All you guys out there: Get off the couch, go play in the backyard, make some steak or grow some tomatoes. Hang up your goddamn smart phone or whatever. Google is a tool, not a lifestyle. Facebook is not a hobby, not a lifestyle. Find some real interaction that makes you think you might die, which is the only way to truly live. Get off the computer and go make friends.