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Before he had to play a show in Nijmegen on the 14th of October, I got the chance to have a quick chat with Alestorm’s frontman Christopher Bowes about their new album, some inspirations and of course some random stuff.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for your time. I was going to welcome you to the Netherlands as well, but you’ve already played a show and you’ve been to the Efteling. How was the Efteling?
Chris: It was wonderful. It’s my favorite place on earth, all the rides are just so magical and it’s just my favorite theme park ever. It’s just so well designed and so much fun.
I love the design as well. The magical rides are great, even though people like to say they’re for kids.
Chris: The ‘Droomvlucht’ is just such an amazing thing. You go through all these amazing animatronics, I just love it.
Yeah, no matter how old you are, you still have to get into the ‘Droomvlucht’.
So, to dive into the real questions, I want to start off with the deluxe edition of No Grave but the Sea, because you made a version for dogs. Do you think cat owners will feel left out?
Chris: You know, the whole dog thing was just a… We don’t really like doing bonus tracks so much, we just love sticking to the album. But of course, the record label wants some bonus material, so we thought: “what’s the lowest effort thing we could ever make?” So we made this thing, we just replaced all the vocals with a dog on a keyboard going “woof wowoof wowoof” and it took like twenty minutes to make. It’s kind of weird, because it seems to be more popular than the original album, but nevermind. I don’t think we’re gonna do any more animal themed albums, it’s never funny to tell the same joke twice.
Since we’re on the topic of telling jokes already, you had Fucked with an Anchor on the album and it turned out to be a huge success. Did you think it was going to be that huge or was it more or less of an inside joke?
Chris: I had a feeling it was gonna take off. Because when we were writing the song, you know, we were like “let’s just write the stupidest, catchiest sing-along song ever that just sounds like a bunch of drunk guys at a football match shouting at the other team or whatever” And that’s why it works. All our fans are just drunk idiots and it’s just a song for drunk idiots, it’s just great!
Of course, you already had Questing upon the Poop Deck, but that one was very subtle except for certain points.
Chris: It’s just like, we decided to put no subtlety in this song or whatever.
Are you planning on writing any more songs about uncomfortable objects in anal cavities?
Chris: Yes, actually! I know I just said it’s never funny to tell the same joke twice, but I just really enjoyed writing this sort of thing so I’ve begun writing a song about sticking a cannonball up your cunt.
Well, that’s an interesting one!
Chris: It might not be real, but I’ve started writing it so you know, we’ll see how it goes.
Another song that I really like is 1741 (Battle of Carthagena), because it has this historical feel to it and it also seems true to the event. Can we expect any more songs about historical battles on the sea?
Chris: Well, for example, the title track on this album, No Grave but the Sea, is about a battle in the 17th century between France and England somewhere in the Carribean Sea, so we try and not to do too many because we don’t wanna be one of those, you know, history-sorta themed bands, we want to stay in the world of make-belief. But you know, maybe one per album or something!
Another album that you guys did was the Skálstorm album, which was a collaboration with Skálmöld where you covered each other’s songs. Are there any other bands you’d like to do a similar album with?
Chris: I’d always wanted to do that with Swashbuckle, you know, have them cover our songs and we’d cover theirs, but I don’t know… maybe they’re not keen. It’s been brought up a few times and they’ve always said like “naaah”… But I think that would make sense you know, some other pirate band. But one day, we’ll see.
What do you think about internet pirates? Are they as good as the real deal?
Chris: I don’t really mind when people steal the album, as long as they listen to it. Because for us, you know, the most important thing is this, these shows. The shows on this tour have been ridiculous, we’ve just sold out a venue… we’re playing in France in a couple of days, 1800 people in Lyon… Who the hell lives in Lyon, but all those people want to see us there, and I think the free sharing of music helps that because they’re gonna hear it and be like “Oh wow, that’s awesome, I gotta see this band!”
You also sold out both Dutch shows, and yesterday’s one was in the Max, the big room of the Melkweg right?
Chris: Oh, no! It was in the small room. It should’ve been in the big one because it sold out in like three days, but Airbourne was already there, so there was no possibility to upgrade. But you know, we’re thinking of coming back sometime and do a big show, maybe like an arena or something, you know.
If there was one person in the world you could keelhaul right now, who would it be?
Chris: Yeah I don’t know, I don’t… I don’t hate anyone too much and I wouldn’t want to be mean. I think people ask this a lot and they’re like “who would you make walk the plank?” and I’m like “I don’t know, I don’t wanna say anything mean about anyone, that’s not nice.”
Not even someone like Kim Jong Un?
Chris: No, I think it’s kinda funny that he exists.
As a pirate, you don’t really give a fuck about borders. Do you think other people should take an example and not really care about it being their country?
Chris: I think it’s fun having countries being different, it’s exciting and it makes travelling around the world all different when you go to different places and things are very different you know, so I think it’s fun having a bit of pride in where you live, I think it’s a good thing.
Did you take any drugs, and what inspired you to create the psychedelic banana duck?
Chris: I’ve not dabbled in anything drug-ish for about ten years, you know. I’ve only tried weed like once or twice and ah, it’s not for me. It’s actually just idiocy. The banana duck, how it came about was, we were playing this festival on a boat, it was called the Wacken cruise or something on the Mediterranean Sea and of course we get on the boat, bla bla blablabla, you’re in the middle of the sea and then we get told “oh hey guys, there’s this digital wall that you can use as a backdrop.” and we were like “Oh, cool!” but realized we didn’t really have any graphics to use for it, and of course, in the middle of the sea, there’s no internet. So we thought “right, what the fuck do we do?” and our keyboard player, Elliot, opened up his laptop and he had this picture of a banana duck. It was just this stupid thing you know, one of these funny pictures he downloaded and we thought “Right, this is all we’ve got, we’re making this into our backdrop,” so we drew up this stupid thing and that was our backdrop that day. We loved it so much and we thought “Fuck it, let’s get a ten or twenty-foot tall version of that.”
If someone wants to join your quest for booty and booze, what are the requirements?
Chris: *snickers* Well, I think anyone who uses the word “booty” unironically is just not allowed to come. *more laughing* Sometimes the whole pirate speak thing gets a little annoying.
Alright, I’ve got one last question. If you had to write Alestorm music in any other musical genre, which would it be and why?
Chris: I think we’d make a really good freelance jazz band. It’s a very limitless genre, I’d like to try that challenge of writing freelance jazz about pirates, I think that’s definitely never been done before.
I don’t think so either, but I do think it would sound pretty interesting!
Chris: Yeah, a few little piratey trumpet solos here and there, you know, it’d be cool.
Then I’d like to thank you for your time again, and wish you all the luck with your show tonight!
Chris: Yes, thank you very much!
Alestorm’s latest album No Grave But the Sea is out now and can be bought here. Don forget to read our album review of No Grave But the Sea or the review of Alestorm’s show in Doornroosje (both in Dutch).