Whether you were ready or not, Alestorm’s ship has once again set sail for their latest voyage, titled Sunset On The Golden Age. The record is full of the same jaunty pirate metal silliness that you can expect, along with a few things that you might not have expected at all! I sat down with the Cap’n (that’s not a registered trademark of General Mills, I hope) as Chris Bowes told me a little bit about the record, some of the ideas behind it and his thoughts on REAL piracy! Arr!
For those who aren’t aware of your act, tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you began. What made you guys decide to play pirate themed folk metal?
We are Alestorm, and we sing about pirates because pirates are righteous dudes, and babes totally dig guys with wooden legs. It’s true.
Let’s talk a little bit about your new album, Sunset On The Golden Age. What did you want to do differently on this album and how do you feel about the finished product? Is this the best Alestorm record yet?
On this album we have two song titles that begin with the letter “M”. No other Alestorm album can boast that fact; so to me that counts as being very progressive. For this reason and this reason alone, I can safely say this is the best Alestorm album ever!
Tell me a little bit about the recording process for Sunset On The Golden Age. What was it like in the studio and how long did it take write and record everything?
Writing took about 7 months, starting in June 2013. The studio was very relaxed as usual, with lots of drinking and fucking around, as well as waking up late in the afternoon to record one or two parts. We’re the laziest bunch of professional musicians you can imagine! Somehow we managed to get everything done in one month.
I’ve noticed that you put a rather lengthy piece on the disc in the form of “1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)” Could you tell me a little bit about this historic battle?
Dude, I wish I could. Everything I know about that battle I skimmed from Wikipedia in about five minutes. There were some Spanish people, and a bunch of English guys died? I think. (Laughs) Sorry! I don’t really know anything about history or naval battles.
Secondly, I noticed that the album’s title track clocks in at over ten minutes, which I believe might be a first for the band. Also, it’s got quite a bit of instrumentation and atmospheric parts. This is definitely something of uncharted waters for you guys, so please tell me a little bit about this piece of epic proportion.
That one was mostly a mishmash of leftover riffs I’ve had lying around for years now. For some reason all these bits and pieces just seemed to fit together perfectly into the song without too much fiddling required. Gives the song a very funky diversity, I like it. The lyrics are also a recipe for cheeseburgers, if you listen closely.
Where do you come up with the ideas for some of these songs? You’ve got two tracks called “Mead From Hell” and “Surf Squid Warfare” which both sound like late night grindhouse films.
There are only so many songs you can write about walking planks and wrecking ships and hauling keels, so we sometimes let our imaginations wander to bizarre locations. “Mead from Hell” is of course about a colony of magical underwater bees that produce the finest booze known to man. “Surf Squid Warfare” is about travelling to the future to kill an invading army of undead space squid who are allergic to beer. I think we just pull this stuff out of our collective asses.
Calling yourselves pirate metal is something in a way ironic, because what piracy entails these days is by and large much different from what piracy was in those days. Proud digital pirates have even been using your songs as “pride anthems” in their plunders. So what does a pirate metal band like yourselves actually have to say about real piracy?
Stealing music is cool. I haven’t bought an album since 2007, so why should I expect you to do the same? Obviously if you want to own a physical product and maybe put a few dollars in our pockets, then sure, we always appreciate that. But if money is tight or you’d rather spend it on booze instead, that’s cool. Just as long as you give us a listen and become a fan!
Rolling back to the album, I’ve noticed the addition of some death metal growls and even some surf rock, modern metal/core elements, in addition to solos. This is also uncharted territory for you guys, so tell me a little bit about it.
Basically we came to the realization that we aren’t a folk metal band nor a power metal band, and we can do what we want, so we don’t have to answer to anyone. So all the stupid and diverse elements such as surf rock and rap and metalcore came piling into the mix. I’m happy with how it’s turned out, but expect even more silliness on future albums!
You’ve been a band ever since I was in high school and I’m now approaching thirty. That being said, I’m sure that you’ve been on some amazing adventures while on tour. Surely those adventures entailed lots of fine ale, voluptuous wenches and loads of pule pounding heavy metal right? But tell me what some of the most memorable tours that you’ve been on were, and what made them memorable.
I think Paganfest Europe 2009 was our first awesome tour – huge venues, huge bands, and everyone was cool to hang out with. Before that we’d only been doing crappy little miserable shows. That tour was when it finally got real, when we realized that we could probably go on doing this band thing forever. So far, that’s been true. Nonstop party!
The album is called Sunset On The Golden Age. What is this in reference to? Usually the sunset on something means that it’s coming to an end, as all things must and do over time. But does this mean that the record could be a possible swansong, or is this a metaphor to humanity? Or am I just completely off?
People have been assuming that a breakup of Alestorm is imminent ever since our first album came out. It’s not going to happen any time soon, as I’ve still got a hell of a lot more music to write! The album name is just a cool sounding thing, nothing more, nothing less. I think it sounds pretty epic.
Do you think there’s a possibility that we’ll see the Alestorm ship docking in American waters this year? Who might we see you plundering with on that tour?
Expect a tour sometime in early 2015! We might try and continue this “Piratefest” tour we are doing in the UK and maybe get some other pirate bands from around the world to play with us. Party times ahoy!
What do you guys do when you’re not sailing the high seas of heavy metal while banging wenches and drinking copious amounts of beer? What sorts of hobbies do you have outside of music?
Video games and Magic the Gathering. I’m the worst sort of nerd.
Finally, what are some of the hearty tunes that you pirates have been listening to lately? What are some of the best albums that you’ve recently sailed to?
I like a lot of country and bluegrass at the moment. Elevation by The Yonder Mountain String Band is pretty sweet, give it a spin!
Thanks for answering my questions, and for another great pirate metal album! May your stomachs always be full and your heavy metal treasure hoard plentiful! – Eric