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Interview: Alestorm

Scottish swashbucklers Alestorm have been bringing their pirate metal to us for over 12 years now, and are due to drop their much awaited sixth album!

We caught up with lead vocalist and keytarist Chris Bowes to find out what we can expect from ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’, and why exactly is there always a giant duck on stage?!

You guys first played Download in 2017, what was that like for you as a band?

Chris: That was really cool! That was the first time we did what you’d call a mainstream metal festival, we’d usually end up playing these sort of dorky metal festivals with lots of guys dressed in medieval costumes playing bagpipes and all of that sort of crap, it was great to play a sort of real festival with real bands. It was a really nice vibe, we really enjoyed it.

I think we did this stupid thing where we played twice. We got told “Hey they want you to play this thing on this tent or the side of a truck” and we were like “yeah sure, whatever”. That ended up being just as ridiculous because thousands of people came, and it was like this little party. We didn’t expect people to be there, so we were just in our normal clothes, but then we were like “Oh crap there’s a thousand people who want to see us, we should probably put some effort in”!

Where did the giant duck idea come from?

Chris: We were doing a European tour with Sabaton in 2016, and they have this big tank on stage. So we were like “S**t they have a huge tank and we’re supporting them, we need something to cover up that tank because we can’t just be there doing pirate songs, with this tank behind us, it just wouldn’t look right”.

So we went on Amazon and the biggest inflatable thing we could get was a 7ft tall duck, so we just got that and plopped it on top of the tank and it was instantly a big hit, so we accidentally became a duck metal band. We actually nearly ran out of ducks last year, the company that made them folded, so we had to get our own duck supplier. Now we have a limitless supply so can just cover the stage in giant ducks and make it one big duck party!

What’s the recording process been like for your upcoming new album ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’?

Chris: It’s been pretty straightforward for us, this time we went to Thailand to do it, because we can! We were recording in January and going to a studio in England or Germany, January is just kind of a sad time.

So we thought f**k it, let’s go somewhere stunning, so we went to Thailand, recorded some stuff and it was pretty fun. It was mostly an excuse to swim in a pool for a month and pretend to make music, and the record label paid for it so thought we might as well.

What can fans expect from the new album?

Chris: I don’t want to say it’s stupider because I think people worry we’re just turning into a stupid band who writes stupid songs about ducks and things. But it’s exciting, there’s a lot of real good live bangers. I think we’ve come to the realisation that no one really likes or listens to our albums but they love coming to see us live so we just write songs that work live, lots of big singalong choruses and good wee beat-downs to get the head banging.

But there’s a lot more adventurous stuff on this one, we’re trying a couple things we haven’t done before. There’s one… I don’t want to say it sounds like rap, but it’s got weird sampled bleepy bloops and stuff. It doesn’t sound like something you’d expect from Alestorm, it’s going to be ridiculous but we’ll see how it goes!

It’ll be silly, but the good kind of silly. I am slightly terrified of the reviews because people will say terrible things about it but you know: f**k it!

Have you explored any other new sounds on the album?

Chris: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for us that we don’t really fit anywhere in metal, like we don’t have a scene. It makes it a pain for us trying to find bands to tour with: like we never have any f**king clue, we get asked “What cool bands have you been on tour with?” but there’s not really anyone because nobody really fits with what we do.

But that’s also good because it doesn’t feel like we’re stuck doing any particular thing, so yeah there’s absolutely a lot of new sounds on this album. I feel like it’s punkier in parts, like a late 90s pop-punk album with an orchestra and a keytar.

When making a new album do you have a favourite pirate film to get you in the mood for recording or writing lyrics?

Chris: The thing is we actually don’t like pirates! *laughs* We think stupid stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean and that sort of crap is really dumb. But now I’ve got all these fans coming up to me like “Ahoy! Captain Alestorm, let’s drink some rum on my ship”.

So we try to avoid any and all pirate clichés while writing, so we don’t end up making a generic album about swabbing the poopdeck or something rubbish like that.

If you could cover a song from either KISS, Iron Maiden or System Of A Down, what would it be?

Chris: We actually really considered doing a System of a Down cover for our last album. We were in the studio and finished the album a week earlier than we thought we would, so we were thinking about covering ‘Toxicity’.

Then we realised we’re not actually very good and particularly I’m not very good at singing, so thought it might come out a bit crap, but I’d love to try.

Lastly, what role do you think Download Dog would be best suited to on a pirate ship?

Chris: Hahaha! That’s the most contrived question ever, that’s great! You can get those pirate outfits for dogs that make it look like it’s walking along with arms and legs – those are adorable. I think we should redesign the Download Dog to have a costume like that on, or at least an eye patch!