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Alestorm Interview

A Conversation With Vocalist/Keyboardist Christopher Bowes




Napalm Records
Quick, name a metal band from Scotland. Hard to do, right? Well, Alestorm is out to change that. They play a rousing brand of metal that they dub “Scottish Pirate Metal.” Their debut release, Captain Morgan’s Revenge was just released and produced by Lasse Lammert. Christopher Bowes is Alestorm’s vocalist, and also plays the keytar. Some of the Scottish terms he uses in the interview were unfamiliar to me, but after a quick trip to the dictionary I know now that “numpties” means fools or idiots.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Alestorm.
Christopher Bowes: We formed back in 2004 under the name of Battleheart. Had a couple of rehearsals, then disappeared for a bit. Then in 2006, Gavin (guitars) and I got our act together and recorded our first demo. People liked it. So we recruited a new live lineup, and played a couple of gigs in Dundee, Scotland. We did another demo, and left it at that for a while. Then in 2007 we tried to see if we could get signed… and it worked.

How did you decide on the band name?
Kinda came up with it randomly when we were looking for a new name. Napalm Records weren’t happy with our previous name Battleheart, so we had to come up with something quickly. We all like the new one, it’s short and catchy.

How would you describe Alestorm’s sound?
What pirates would sound like if they had a wall of Marshalls.

How did you come to sign with Napalm?
We emailed their A&R guy with a link to our MySpace, and within a couple of days they wanted to sign us. It’s as easy as that, really. It’s not hard for a band to get signed if their songs are up to scratch.

How did you hook up with producer Lasse Lammert?
Gavin knew him previously from a forum on the internet, so when the time came to get somewhere to record, we suggested him, and Napalm were good with that. He’s a great guy to work with, and knows how to get the best out of us.

How was it recording the CD in Germany?
Great fun. We ate too much sausage and drank too much cheap beer. I lost my voice a couple of times, and I think it shows on some of the songs. But apart from that, it went pretty smoothly. It was nice to record in a location more exotic than Gavin’s bedroom for a change.

What are your expectations for the CD?
I just hope it doesn’t bomb! Napalm Records threw quite a lot of money at the recording and promotion of it, hopefully their investment will pay off. Maybe we’ll reach the heady heights of getting to number 97 in the charts in Austria or some such. But bands rarely get big off their first album. Hopefully we’ll be something big by the 3rd or 4th albums.

What are your upcoming tour plans?
We have a UK tour with Turisas and Norther in March, which is gonna be utterly crazy. We’ve never gigged on a scale that big before. After that, there’s a bunch of festival appearances throughout Europe, the highlight of which being Metal Camp in Slovenia. It’s an absolutely fantastic festival, and I can’t wait to play it!

Do you wear the pirate costumes on stage?
Oh aye, absolutely, though they might be toned down a bit for the purposes of not sweating like a pig too much. But we’re definitely up for dressing up like a bunch of numpties on stage.

Any chance of coming to North America?
If someone wants to pay for it, yeah! In Europe, it’s easy to tour because there's a high density of places you can gig, and it's not hard to get there. Getting to America, however, is really expensive, and we'd have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles between venues. So the risks for a promoter are high. Maybe next year.

How did you get started in music?
Started with piano lessons when I was naught but a wee lad, began learning drums a while later, then quickly found myself drumming in a punk band. The drums were the main focus for a good few years, playing in various bands, until I decided to concentrate on keyboards again. I wrote a bunch of songs, then Alestorm came along, which was nice.

Was there a song or album that inspired you to want to perform music?
Countless songs, probably one by Bal-Sagoth. Any metal band who isn’t afraid to use keyboards in a prominent way, that’s what has inspired me to make the music I make today. Too many bands are stuck in a guitars only mindset, which I find kind of sad.

Who are some current artists you admire?
I’m well into bands such as Forefather, Bal-Sagoth, Primordial, and a bit of Turisas now and then. I’ve kinda gone off power metal in recent years, doesn’t do it for me like it used to.

What’s your all time favorite metal album?
It has to be Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule by Bal-Sagoth. Pretty much anything by them is a masterpiece. If I could write an album for Alestorm that’s even a tenth as epic as that, I’d be a very happy man indeed.

What’s the metal scene like in Scotland?
Pretty abysmal, really. There’s only a handful of bands up here, and nobody really gives a damn about them. Local bands tend to play a few gigs now and then, then give up and disband due to the lack of support. I doubt I could name another Scottish metal band who has ever made it beyond being an unsigned act. Hopefully things will improve, and we’ll see a bunch more Scottish bands coming out of the cracks.

What's the best movie or DVD you've seen lately?
I don’t really watch much in the way of films. Last thing I saw was The Golden Compass, that was pretty good I suppose. Childish, yeah, but a pleasing romp nonetheless.

What CD do you own that people might be surprised about?
My CD collection is mostly metal, really. I guess the most atypical thing I own is a couple of albums by oddness legends Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, and one by Ballboy, who are a twee Scottish indie band. That’s about it, though.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not playing music?
World of Warcraft, baby!

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