Having a content Captain Christopher Bowes on the other end of the line today is much more enjoyable than I had anticipated with some brilliant one-liners such as “We want midgets and we want to beat them up” and “Oh yeah I’m not a very good singer” and who could forget the classics “We’re just a bunch of people with rubber ducks who happen to like to sing about pirates” and “I want to get a 50 foot duck”. You would’ve thought that was the end of it but no, you’re obviously forgetting “I guarantee you there’ll be no one hailing Odin” and my personal favourite “We haven’t done a rehearsal in 7 years”. That doesn’t even get to the automatic vacuum cleaner risers…
Anyway, I digress. As always he is entertaining, open and honest as we talk for the next 25 minutes on the new release; No Grave But The Sea, the recording of said album, Download, Warped Tour and most importantly, their beef with vikings and what the deal is with all those rubber ducks? I’m greeted first and foremost by an extended “Helloooooo”, lasting up to 10 seconds, putting my mood at ease (unlike the “Ahoy” I was expecting). The following conversation ensued. Part two
will be up tomorrow now online!
Hey this is Chris, how’s it going, dude?
I’m good thanks, how are you?
Yeah, I’m alright, sitting and relaxed.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, you must be really sick of doing promo by this point.
Yeah, I’ve done a lot of these. Most of the past two weeks have been me sat here screaming through a microphone on Skype. It’s what I do.
Awesome, do you mind if we jump straight in with the new album?
Yeah sure, go for it.
So the first single released was the self-titled “Alestorm”. Has that got any significance to being the embodiment of the band?
Yeah, I guess it sort of is. When I was writing that song I didn’t know what I was going to call it but I had the words and the lyrics and we thought “Wow, we could get away with calling the song Alestorm” and having a self-titled song I think is quite a bold thing to do. It’s one that doesn’t sound too much like an average Alestorm song with all the screaming and stuff, it’s a little heavier with the riffing but we just thought “Fuck it. Let’s just do it. We’ll make it an anthem and it’ll be all about us”. I like that one and I think it’s an interesting one for a first single and it probably wasn’t the ideal choice but I thought it was just fun.
I really like it. I haven’t had the chance to listen to the album because someone else in our crew picked it up to review but if the rest of the album is up there with that song then I’ll be a very happy individual.
I mean most of it doesn’t have the same metal-core riffing, the heaviness and the screaming, we have those aspects in there but that is the screamiest one that we’ll probably ever get.
Is that the first song you’ve done with Elliot doing part lead vocals?
On our last album we had a song called “Magnetic North” and he did the breakdown screams in that but this is the first time he’s been quite so involved with that. I’m not sure how it’s going to work live when Elliot’s standing at the back with his keyboard and microphone, I’ll just be floating around. We haven’t played that song live yet so I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks. The first time we’ll play that song is actually at Download Festival at the beginning of June.
You’ve done “Mexico” live though right?
Yeah, we’ve been doing that one since October on the last American tour because we thought our setlist was more or less the same the last time we came to America so we thought we’d bung that one in there. That one always goes down well live, a fan favourite I think.
I’ve seen videos of it, looks like a lot of fun.
It’s always a blast to play live as it’s a very simple song. Anyone can learn “Yo Ho Mexico” in 30 seconds I guess.
When they both came out with their videos, I wanted to know who was behind the ideas with the midgets in “Alestorm” and the donkeys in “Mexico”.
The midget idea was my thing. We’ve had midgets in other songs before like in “Shipwrecked” – we had one who played the violin. He’s actually the guy who plays bass in “Alestorm”. There’s also one in “Magnetic North” who runs around for about 10 seconds and he’s our guitarist Máté Bodor’s body double. There’s this production company we know in Serbia who will do anything we want because there’s fewer laws there. We said “We want midgets and we want to beat them up” and they say “Sure we’ll make this happen”. For the “Mexico” video, I had no idea what I wanted, all I knew was that there needed to be a donkey and again they made this crazy thing happen with the girls washing the donkey and the video game and all. So, “Mexico” was mostly their idea but “Alestorm” was ours.
Now you’ve added those two singles to your back catalogue of massive singalongs. Has it become easier over time to write those kinds of songs?
Well back when we first started, we didn’t have songs like that. The really stupid catchy pop songs are something we’ve learnt goes down really well live so it sort of comes naturally nowadays. The way I see it is that songwriting is a skill and the more you do it, the better you get at it. There’s no knack to it, you just do it. They’re basically just pop songs with guitars. There will be a lot more of that, not that we’re selling out or becoming this dumb party band but those songs go down so well live, why would we not want to do that?
Recording-wise is there a certain mindset you have to get into to write these kind of songs or has it become natural after doing it for so long?
When it comes to recording you’ve just got to go into the studio and do your job. Learn a song and play it well. There’s no mad ritual to it for us. Our producer Lasse (Lammert) is very strict when it comes to recording, he’ll make you record a certain guitar part 60 times and choose the best take. It’s just hard work, there’s nothing magical about that. Get in there, do your thing and don’t die.
Was it much different this time having done demos? I hear that’s not something you don’t normally do…
In the past we just managed to scrape together nine and a half songs from writing guitar tabs and sending them to each other and that’s usually all we have to take into the studio and make real music. That usually gets mixed results when we lay it down properly but this time we’re all a bit better with our music and we recorded the full album as a demo and figured out what worked well and what didn’t. When we got into the studio, we knew what was happening but more importantly, the producer knew what was happening. Whilst we know what we’re doing, the producer doesn’t, he’s just a guy we hired so with him knowing what we were going for, the process was made a lot easier.
So where did you record the demos?
With that it was no big deal, we just sat in our living rooms with our laptops in our spare time.
Did that make much of a difference to what was recorded as oppose to when you usually go into the studio?
Yeah, exactly. With the demos, there were a few songs I realised I can’t actually sing because they were way too high. When it comes to singing I usually realise “Oh yeah I’m not a very good singer”. There’s a few songs particularly on the first few albums where the vocals are ridiculously low because I couldn’t sing the high parts so I decided to growl instead.
So the album is out this Friday (26th) and there are various different packages, some that come with ducks and canvases. Who was behind those merch ideas?
There are so many versions and it’s just something the label likes to do. There’s the regular CD and there’s a dual CD thing, there’s a big fancy vinyl and we have a big wooden box that comes with all this extra stuff. To be honest we’re not big fans of bonus material, I’d rather it was all on the album, so we decided to make the worst bonus tracks we could which you’ve probably heard of. It’s this CD for dogs we’re doing where we basically just deleted the vocal tracks and got a cheap keyboard like you use at school and used that. That’s the bonus tracks, it’s the laziest, crappiest thing we could’ve done but people are going fucking crazy over it. I just despair. [Check out a sample here – Mosh]
Whose idea was that?
I can’t really remember. I think it was a group decision because we all really like dogs. It was Elliot who went through the album and did all the dog samples though. We have a thing for ducks too, it’s our back drop and again fans just like rubber ducks, that was the first version to sell out. They keep having to make more because everyone wants this fucking stupid duck. It’s like this shitty 99p rubber thing with an Alestorm logo on the side and people are going absolutely crazy for it and I don’t understand what these people are all about, it’s ridiculous.
On a slightly different note, you were talking earlier about how you were going to debut “Alestorm” at Download. Is there anything else you’ll be pulling out of the bag for that show?
This is the first show we’ll be playing after the album comes out so it’ll be good to play some of that. We’re going to do something that we haven’t done in 7 years and that’s to have a rehearsal, we’re actually going to practice before this show. Our last rehearsal was in June 2011.
Yep, we’ve not practiced since then, we just kind of get by but as the new album’s out we’ll be playing three songs off that which will be “Mexico”, “Alestorm” and “Fucked With An Anchor”. They’re a little harder than our normal songs so we’ll be going to a rehearsal space the day before the show and practice which is exciting. It actually feels like a band now!
Fair enough! I was going to ask if you were going to debut any new stuff but “Mexico”, “Alestorm” and “Fucked With An Anchor” it is then.
Yep, those three and the usual classics like “Keelhauled”, “Hangover” and some others. It’ll be difficult though because I think we’ve only got a 30 minute set or something but we’ll squeeze them out.
So with the likes of Amon Amarth putting on a massive stage set at last year’s Download and headlining Bloodstock this year, if you had an ideal stage set, what would you have?
Oh yeah, they have that big daft viking ship haven’t they? I’m not sure really, there was a time when we thought about this a lot and we wanted a big pirate ship we could wheel on and shoot fire or smoke out or something but you know what, I’m not sure we want that. I don’t think we’re that band. Musically it’s all about pirates but that’s not us, we don’t go out on stage wearing any of that like folk metal nerds, we’re just in rock n’ roll shit.
Honestly, I think we’d just have cool flamethrowers and risers and all that shit. We don’t want any of that “Ye Olde” pagan-y nonsense, I don’t feel like that’s us. I suppose just risers really. Could you imagine if the drum and keyboard risers were on those automatic vacuum cleaner things so they ride around the stage and bounce of the walls and bop into each other? That would be great! And we could have remote controls so we could drive each other around the stage! Anyway, my point is we’re not going to get a pirate ship, that’s for sure.
You could have rubber ducks everywhere
At the moment we have like an 8 foot rubber duck but I want to get a 50 foot duck, the biggest rubber duck you could imagine that you can inflate as it goes on. Wouldn’t that be great?
No Grave But The Sea is out now through Napalm Records. Part two of the interview will be online tomorrow.