Since the beginning of this year Alestorm has been quite busy, between releasing their fifth album ‘No Grave but the Sea’, touring in America and performing at many festivals in Europe. Luckily for us we were able to have a moment with Christopher Bowes while Alestorm was in Leeuwarden for the well-known festival ‘Into the Grave’. Of course we talked about the new record, the video clips and the donkey and some more.
Hey, how are you doing?
Great, flying around the world busy, busy times.
Welcome at Into The Grave, did you play here before?
No, we have played in Leeuwarden before but never at this festival.
If I am right, you just ended the Vans Warped Tour in the USA?
Yes, that ended just two days ago.
It’s not really a metal tour, is it?
No, it’s the biggest travelling festival in America. It’s mostly: pop, punk, metal-core, alternative stuff. Those bands are huge in America and no-one knows them here but the other way around for us because we’re pretty big in Europe but no-one knows us there. So it’s a totally different world, it’s kind of fun. The entire festival moves every day to a different town, 7 stages which they move to the next city, build up, shut down and move on to the next city, it’s crazy. It’s amazing!
And you played at every show?
Except for the first two because we were at Graspop and Hellfest and then we went straight there. We played 38 shows, that is every day.
And how was that because it’s a totally different kind of music?
Yeah well everyone there is like: ‘Wow Alestorm, you, crazy pirate people!’ because all the other bands just had this metal-core kind of pop, punk sound and we were so very different sounding. They liked it!
So you had a nice experience?
Well Alestorm sings about booze and it being a need to men, about rum, beer, mead and ale but what is your favourite kind of booze?
Things like Bacardi Breezer, Smirnoff Ice but mostly this. It’s refreshing and delicious. These are the best things to get drunk on when you’re 12.
Alestorm has been given the name pirate metal but when you started as Battleheart you played power metal, is this correct or how did it come?
I mean yes we started under the name Battleheart, a really stupid name by the way but we covered a Rhapsody song ‘Holy Thunderforce’ in the rehearsal. So we thought we’ll be a power metal band but then I wrote a song about pirates and it was good so we thought let’s write more songs about pirates! Suddenly all our songs were pirates’ ones and we were a pirate metal band! All these fans came to our shows with like pirate hats and that was kind of crazy but it worked!
When you signed to Napalm Records you were asked to change the name Battleheart because of another signed band named Battlelore.
That isn’t actually true. It’s a thing someone said once a long time ago and it kind of stocked. But they asked us to change it because it’s just a really shitty name. I don’t think the Battlelore thing was such a big deal as being said, it was just ‘this name sucks, let’s get a better name!’
At the moment Elliot does the backing vocals but how did you get the idea to be in this other style, more screaming?
Well, we know from the regular songs he can do these great backing vocals but he can also do these great screams. We don’t feel like we have to be like all folk metal bands and only have ‘folky vocals’. We can do what we want so we have like death metal bits, metal core bits, black metal bits, we just stick it up all together. We don’t feel like we ‘re stuck doing one thing. A lot of folk metal bands they always sound the same with violin and songs about their ancestors. We don’t do that we just let ourselves do what we like.
Where did your inspirations for ‘No Grave but the Sea’ come from?
I don’t know; I know the album title. Last year I was walking through London with one of our crew members because he had never been to London before so I showed him around. There is this war memorial by the river, and it’s like a memorial to all of the merchants and civilian sailors who died in wars and it says ‘this is dedicated to all those who have no grave but the sea’. I thought this is fucking cool! This is going to be a new album title. I knew it had to be an album title but the songs, that’s just stuff inside your head. A lot of pop music, catchy songs you know, we study those and see how they work and then we turn them into party pirate metal songs.
I have multiple questions about the clip from Mexico, did you shoot it in Mexico?
No we made it in Serbia! It’s great because it’s easy to get there and we know some guys with a great video studio there and it’s cheap because you know, south eastern Europe.
What was that with women washing a donkey?
We just wanted all this kind of dumb stuff! We wanted to make it look like some sort of rap video and ‘Oh we’re all really cool’ and these hot girls going like ‘yeah baby’ but with a donkey just to make it really stupid.
And with watering a cactus?
That was the video director’s idea because it’s a cheap joke I think.
And that video game too?
That was the director’s idea because we didn’t know what to do apart from just wanted to be in Mexico and I wanted a donkey. Let’s just make a video game thing too, it flows and we liked the idea.
We aren’t going to see a video game in the shops from Alestorm soon?
Well I’d love to but we don’t know anyone who can do that. We had a lot of people like ‘I’ll make you a video game’ but it’s just like some kid in college or high school but not very good and we want something really professional.
Like Iron Maiden has for the phone?
Yeah for the phone or for console we would love a really good game maybe one day we’ll find the right person who can do that.
What was that with that donkey?
The donkey was great! We turned up there and I said I want to ride a donkey but I have never ridden a donkey or a horse in my entire life. So this old man came along with a donkey and he said: ‘This is the donkey, its name is Donkey and I will show you how to ride a donkey’. I was like ‘ok’ and then I got a 20-minute lesson on how to ride a donkey and how to sit and the right words and how you do this and that and in 20 minutes I could ride a donkey. It’s great and not very hard you just pull reins and make some noises and it does what you want. It was a little scary and my ass was like sour for a week because it’s really bumpy!
You also play keyboard for Gloryhammer but it’s a complete different style from Alestorm so how do you manage?
Well, it’s kind of easy because in a way the music is very similar. It’s all about big melodies and catchy choruses, it’s just slightly different things: with Alestorm it’s more the folky side and with Gloryhammer more the orchestral side. With Gloryhammer we have this amazing singer Tom who can sing all these beautiful notes that I couldn’t even think about doing so a lot of times he carries on these beautiful melodies. We analyse it very closely, there are a lot of musical similarities between the two, we just express it in a slightly different way. And sometimes I write songs and I ask myself is this an Alestorm song or a Gloryhammer song?
And with schedule when you play with both bands?
It’s getting more and more difficult because Gloryhammer wasn’t supposed to be popular! People were not supposed to like that band! We thought we would play 1 or 2 shows a year, easy, not a problem. And now we have like tours everywhere, Australia, America, Europe and headline this and support that and I can’t do it all so sometimes someone has to take my place in Gloryhammer for a few shows because I can’t do everything. Alestorm is still my main thing!
What is your opinion about Running Wild, because sometimes they are called the first pirate metal band?
We used to get a lot more comparisons to them when we started like ‘Oh my god Alestorm you’re the new Running Wild’, we don’t sound anything like them. They are a classic German speed metal band from the eighties and we don’t have anything in common with them apart from having some songs about pirates. And it’s not my kind of music. These days a lot less people would compare us which is nice because it was very frustrating. People thinking: ‘I hate Alestorm only Running Wild is real’ but it’s different music, you can like two different bands at once, believe it or not!
On most of the covers we see a rotting pirate, is he your mascot or do you just like him and the tiny rat?
Well it’s not really a mascot more like a thing that’s stocked on the album cover. It’s nice to have some consistency. It’s on most of our covers, not on our last album but you see something of it. A lot of people asked ‘where has the rat gone?’ because it was not on our last two covers. But we will always have that same style because it’s kind of what people expect. You look at it and you say ‘that’s an Alestorm album’.
In the clip ‘Alestorm’ there is this random explosion at the beginning and tiny look-a- likes pretending to be Alestorm, can you explain the situation in this clip?
Well that one was our idea. We were in the studio in Serbia where anything can happen, and we wanted to walk away from an explosion in slow motion putting our sunglasses on and look really cool like in a movie! They said ‘Yes we can do that’. Of course the explosion is fake, it’s all on a green screen. And the little people thing was just great. In our previous video we’ve had them before. In ‘Shipwrecked’ we had a midget playing the violin and in ‘Magnetic North’ there is this little guy running across so we thought ‘Can we have five of them and make them look like us?’ And they were like ‘Sure’! So these five dudes turned up and they dressed them up just like us and I thought ‘Holy crap they’re just like us, just smaller’ and they loved it too. And at the bar where we were all drinking they all got drunk because they are small they can’t handle much alcohol but they loved it. We had lots of fun together. In fact, it is kind of a continuation of the video ‘Magnetic North’ where we drive this little truck off of a cliff and it explodes. It’s sort of the sequel.
Are you already working on something new?
No, I mean, not with Alestorm! I should probably start with the next Gloryhammer album; it’s been on my mind for a while now. Hopefully maybe next year we can make that happen. The next thing for Alestorm, not told anybody yet, in January we are going to re-release our first album, but on vinyl, so we can remix it with even better sounding, no re-recording it, we keep the same recording just a better mix so it will sound very cool. And after that we want to make a cover album with covers from all kind of songs, pop songs, metal songs, folk songs, lots of stuff. And maybe in a couple of years, that will come out. It’s a fun thing to do. Because you know we play a lot of covers live, like ‘Wolves of the Sea’, ‘The Hangover’. So many songs and people like our covers so maybe they like the other songs too.