Super news! Our favourite pirates, Alestorm, are releasing their new album in May, and we were very lucky to catch Christopher Bowes, the founder, composer and vocalist of the band for a sincere talk!
Hi Christopher! I am very glad that you agreed to talk to Metal On Loud Magazine! It is our second interview with Alestorm ! The first time we talked to Elliot…it happenned in Marseille last year.
Congratulation with resigning the deal with Napalm Records! It’s good for you, isn’t it?
I suppose so…Thank you very much! It’s the better devil we know, how we say. So, they are good to us, so we signed.
Do you have any tips to unsigned bands how to charm a label, how to get a deal, how to get noticed?
To be honest, I guess, first and foremost – write good songs. So many bands have just the worst songs, you listen and you think – your band sucks, what a crap, get better! It doesn’t matter how good your repositions, if you do these crazy three fingers seven hands sweet pick stuff…you write good songs – nobody is gonna care. Secondly, have something a record label can sell – have something unique, nobody wants, you know, a Metallica clone, a record label is not gonna sell it, write something new, it’s easy.
Thank you! I think young bands will appreciate your advice! We all can’t wait for your new album which is to be released in May. Let’s talk about No Grave But The Sea. The name of the album… it scared me, I hope it’s not good bye from you, no?
I’ve always said, ever from the last time…We had the album called The Sunset Of The Golden Age, and people were, like: ah…that’s the end of them, they are going to give up! Just I love the names which suggest the ending, that’s the end. Maybe, we will call the next album The Final Album, even if it’s not! (laughs) No, it’s funny: oh, my God, what could have happened???
And the next-next album – The Final-Final Album!
Yeah, we are not going to give up, we’ll keep going. Actually, the name of the album is a inscription of…you know, there is a naval memorial in London, it is dedicated to merchant sailors, civilian sailors, who lost their lives, so it is written there: to those who have no grave, but the sea… So, we stole the name from there, made an album of it.
Is it only me, or do other people, who listened to the new album, say that it sounds more like power, not like folk metal?
Power metal? Well, we’ve never pretended that we are a straight folk metal band. Power metal… I don’t know, I suppose it’s a lot of harmonized solos going on and on remind power metal.
Ah…maybe, it’s all about Mate’s solos! Before you didn’t have guitar solos, only your excellent keyboard solos…
Yeah, solos have been a bit a rarity for us, you know… I guess on the first album there were loads of them, because we didn’t know how to write songs; it was like: yeah, it’s time for a three minutes solo here! But gradually we started to write less solos, more songs. This time we thought: wait a second, solos are kind of really cruel, Mate.. he can shred! It’s a kind of tasteful things which have meaning, not meaningless nonsense. Then Elliot, our keyboard player, we have two people who can do stuff, so he added his solos, harmonized with Mate’s ones, so it sounds like classic power metal. Well, I don’t know how to describe this band musically, I think it is a crazy thing on its own. Though, there is some power metal there, of course.
So, it’s like a compromise – folk and power…plus something unique!
By the way, about metal in general. We got some feedback from our readers since the first interview with Alestorm, they were a kind of disappointed when Elliot said: “We don’t like metal. We don’t listen to metal”. Do you have any comments, Christopher? Has something has changed, as we can hear that the new album is darker and heavier than the previous one?
Yes, I really don’t listen to much metal. Occasionally, of course, we check out big bands... but, for example, when we are on a tour, nobody puts metal, it’s a kind of the worst thing to do, the whole day we play shows, you play metal, you play supporting metal bands, the last thing you want to do is to listen to more metal. So, what do we like? Pete likes like Billy Joe stuff. Garreth, our bassist, and Elliot, they like musicals, they always listen to something like soundtracks to Les Miserables or Phantom In Opera. I like bluegrass and American country music… I suppose that Mate sort of likes metal, but also he like Queens, stuff like that, soft rock. Yes, I think we get bored of metal, it’s true. We just like making music. We are not here to be true metal warriors. We are here to write good songs and have a party.
Somewhere, I won’t tell you where, on some site, I read that they called you pop metal…
Yeah! That’s pretty good description!
Oh, good description? Ok, agreed!
I mean, if you think about our songs, they are a lot of really simple, big catchy vocal hooks, huge cords, a few verses, we sort of take a formula of popular music and play it to metal. We make it heavy, we have guitar solos, we have pedals, riffs and stuff, but still… Metal, all metal, whether people like it or not, is pop music. All metal has a pop music base, just some people pretend that it doesn’t.
Going back to the new album…What songs can become metal hits, like, for example, Drink, from your previous album?
You see, I am not quite sure, there are three songs which, I guess, may become the favourites. Mexico, Alestorm and Fucked With The Anchor. I think these three could become bigger. They are a kind of short, simple and catchy. I mean, I think at least one of those.
So, I see, at least one of those… we’ll see when you start playing them live if the opinion of the audience coincides with yours. By the way, have you already played any of the songs from the new album live, besides Mexico?
Yeah, we started to play Mexico last November, at the US tour, and we have been playing it since everywhere. We are gonna add those two songs, Fucked With The Anchor and Alestorm, from the new album, at the festivals in the summer. Later during the year when we go on tour we will add a couple more. We are making a music video for Alestorm, started a couple of weeks ago, it was filmed in Serbia… and we saw a bunch of people singing along with the song. We hired a bunch of random metalheads in Serbia for a video shoot, they came, and even before they heard the full song, they were singing along with it. It’s a kind of a good sign, when people are loving a song which they never heard before, and already singing words along the song, it’s a pretty exciting.
Very nice! So, perception is already positive.
Yes! I think at least there is something good here.
Your main lyrical topic is pirates, all this romantics which surrounds them…But have you ever had temptation to write a song about real pirates, who were and are actually criminals, robbers and murderers, with blood and death, bad things connected with them?
Yeah, the reality of piracy is nothing like the way we are presenting it. We are pretty much a Disney side of pirates. People, like, ask us – hey, write a song about Black Beard, the sign of pirates, but all they want is us to write a fantasy version, happy, wonderful and makeup stories. As you’ve said, the reality of piracy is really creep, they are criminals, thieves, robbers and killers. I think it’s been glamourized too much. We are not really into writing historical songs. We have a couple of songs, like the final song in the previous album, about the battle which really happened. We could have written historical songs, it might be the creepiest ones, maybe, one day we will, it could have been fun to reveal the truth about pirates what crap they are. So…who know…
After a few albums covering a pirate topic, is it hard to come out with something new?
Surprisingly, not. We sort of caught the idea what pirates could be about, not just a bunch of guys on a ship drinking rum and robbing treasures. We have such songs like Mexico, it has nothing to do with pirates, but it works well, you sail a ship to get to Mexico…but pirates will be always.. we always have crazy ideas like pirates fighting against Batman, that superhero. In the next, sixth album there will be a song about pirates fighting Batman.
Imagine, one day you will decide dramatically to change your topic. What would you write songs about, if not pirates? Politics? Flowers or…?
I will find something crazy to write about. You know, in this band I feel a kind of restricted, are asked to be a pirate… but I will come out with some stupid ideas like new bands which decide what they will sing about… Something crazy like recipies. Imagine a band singing about cooking! All songs are description of how to cook a certain meals, that would be cool! Some dressing on stage, like frying pans or fried eggs, the guitars like frying pans, things like that…Yeah, it will be my next band!
Okay, I wish I could see this band (laughs)! Now, Christopher, a serious question. What is your attitude to crowdfunding campaigns. Bands announce crowdfunding campaigns here-there. Do you think it’s fair to make your fans participate in an album production?
I think when a big band announces a crowdfunding campaign, I think, an example is Wintersun, and I think it was pretty silly, they take an advantage in fanaticism of their fans, like, hey, we give you some MP3 for 50 bucks, and when it is Wintersun, it’s ok, people don’t say anything… but when it’s a small band which really needs money, as they don’t have 2 thousand to make a semi-professional production – here it goes crowdfunding, but Wintersun… bands like that.. they don’t need money of the fans… pulling out of people half of million of bucks? They really don’t need super computers and stuff like that to make an album. You already recorded guitars in a studio, why do you need another one?
Then, what was that announcement about your crowdfunding campaign?
We did it as a joke. It was pretty silly, but a new silly. I don’t think we will ever go that road, we will keep doing regular things like we used to do. Get a record label bill, they send us some money, we make an album… no drama, no stupid crash that it required.
You mentioned one band… here’s a question which really is a matter of interest of our readers. Does it exist, this brotherhood/sisterhood among metal bands, or is it tough competition at the metal scene? What does exist, in your opinion?
You mean among the bands, right? I don’t feel really connected to other bands, a part of the metal scene, we always will be outside. I wouldn’t go far like saying competition. Like: whoooo, that band is cool, we need to do the better stuff, no… But definitely there’s no brotherhood, I don’t feel connected, never feel to support another band…(laughs)
Interesting, it’s a view from the inside. Another opinion. As some bands say – we love to hang with other bands at the festivals, and so on.
Yeah, we don’t really care, we just love to do our thing. Let the world get over this life.
After the release of No Grave But The Sea everybody expects a big tour in support of the new album… Will you be doing it? I saw on your Facebook page that performances at the big festivals are planned. What about separate shows in the cities?
Yeah, the biggest thing we announced is the world American tour, like 40 shows across America, including big festivals, up to 25 thousand people at a show, playing at the festivals of punk, pop punk scene, where there will be two-three metal bands on top, it would be fun to try this alternative scene. And, yeah, we are planning a sort of a big European tour, in fall, October, maybe…playing in big cities, it will be fun. We’ll go to Russia, to South America, to England, it will be a big tour…
A matter of curiousity… What questions do you hate to be asked?
(laughs) Questions like this! I hate having ideas by myself. I like defined questions, what I hate are the questions: tell us something! It’s like – tell us everything!
(laughs) So, you like more precise questions.
Yeah, questions which have answers! Not like this – tell something… I don’t know… stuff… (laughs)
OK! Taken into consideration! And the last question: what would you wish to our readers? Your final words – a call for actions to our readers.
I would like to tell you… remember - eat recycled pork! It’s good for environment, it’s good for you!
Thank you very much! It was a nice talk! Good luck and big success with the new album!