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Alestorm, the reluctant pioneers of pirate metal, return to Australian shores this week to pillage and plunder their way around the country.
It’s been a while since the party animals were down under and Hysteria got vocalist Chris Bowes on the line to talk about the tour, giant rubber ducks, new material and the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked them to do.
They are one of the biggest metal exports to come out of the United Kingdom, and while the Scottish band are reluctant to be pegged as the pioneers of pirate metal, they are definitely one of the first bands who took the gimmick and made it what it is today. But even on the 11th anniversary of the debut album Captain Morgan’s Revenge, Bowes and his merry band of misfits laugh at the idea that they began the popular sub-genre of folk and party metal, and how they are portrayed in the metal media around the world.
“I think we have got very used to the fact now, that the mainstream metal press does not like us, does not care for us and does not like anything that we do. We used to be worried that we got a bad review in Metal Hammer. But now, we are like ‘bring on your shit reviews! F**k your shit magazine Metal Hammer!’” Bowes laughs.
“But I remember back then, thinking ‘I wonder where we will be in five years’. Thinking we will probably be broken up, or dead! I never quite imagined that we’d be where we are today. And I say this every year. Even twelve or eighteen months ago, I couldn’t have quite imagined the places we would have been. I have to keep reminding myself though, that every band will play their biggest gig, and then it’s all downhill from there!” Bowes says.
But for the moment, the popularity of Alestorm is definitely still on the rise and with one show in Australia already sold out, the band are very excited to be heading back here after almost four years.
“Your country has always been very nice to us. It’s one of those places where we always have a very good time, people understand the nonsense that we get on with, on stage. Alestorm is made for Australia I think,” Bowes says. And in true Alestorm style, these shows will be a lot of fun, with a giant rubber duck, lots of rum sing-a-longs and of course, the inevitable shooey. But it’s all about the ducks! Bowes is very excited about their ducks and having Australia finally experience them in all their glory.
“Giant inflatable ducks! That’s the main thing!” Bowes laughs. “You’ll actually be the last place in the world to experience the joy of duck,” he says.
I’m actually just about to start writing, well not right now, but in the next couple of weeks I will start thinking about writing some new songs with a view to put out a new album in probably 2020.
[ Chris Bowes ]
“But of course, there will be lots of party, lots of silliness. And these days we’ve decided that we only play the best songs. We’ll go on Spotify and type in what’s the most popular Alestorm songs and we play those. Because we’ve got no interest in playing the weird songs that no one actually likes, just to stroke our own egos, so we play the crowd pleasers, so everyone should be happy,” Bowes continues.
In saying that, it’s not a ‘best of’ sort of tour as the band are still well into touring their last album No Grave But The Sea, and according to Bowes, five or six of the new album songs appear on their top played Spotify lists, so they definitely make the cut. But with a variety of back catalogue classics, the band have plenty of crowd pleasers to draw on as well.
But come May, it will have been two years since No Grave But The Sea was released, and even though Bowes has two other projects that are growing in popularity in Gloryhammer and Christopher Bowes and His Plate of Beans, the frontman has no plans about slowing down and has already started thinking of new material for the next Alestorm album.
And while they are a band that has been quoted as saying they are wanting to break free of their pirate shackles, there will always be some part of their soul that will call to the sea. And there are many things that could reignite that passion for the pirate life and inspire new material based on nautical themes, such as playing the 70,000 Tonnes of Metal festival, which literally takes place on a ship in the Caribbean. “Playing 70,000 Tonnes of Metal, it filled my heart with rum and yar!” Bowes laughs at the suggestion that the festival could have brought back the pirate spark. “Maybe we’ll do a song about being on a ship in the Caribbean. Playing shuffleboard and going to the Windjammer Cafe for bacon and eggs!” Bowes says.
“I’m actually just about to start writing, well not right now, but in the next couple of weeks I will start thinking about writing some new songs with a view to put out a new album in probably 2020,” Bowes says.
And as usual, fans can expect the usual weirdness that comes along with an Alestorm release, like on No Grave But The Sea. That album came with a special b-side bonus disc in some formats, where all the vocals were replaced by dogs barking, as a tribute of sorts to all dogs everywhere. “I think these days record labels expect bonus material, which is kind of why we did the dog b-side of No Grave But The Sea. We didn’t really want to do bonus tracks, but that was easy and stupid and fun to do!” Bowes laughs.
It seems that dogs hold a special place in all of the hearts of the members of Alestorm, which may or may not have something to do with one of the strangest experiences the band has had with a fan, back when they were first touring their debut album Captain Morgan’s Revenge. “Ok, this was a long, long time ago. April 2009 to be exact. I can recall the story so well, because it was so weird,” Bowes says.
See, we don’t like doing the paid meet and greets. You know ‘Pay $100 and get shuffled into a room to get a photo with a band with their backdrop, then get forced into a merchandising room where you get 10% off t-shirts.
[ Chris Bowes ]
“It was one of those tours where we were either sleeping in the van, or getting cheap hotels when we could afford it. But one night, it was in a place called Milton Keynes, in England. Lovely little town. Dreadful place (laughs). Anyway, we were hanging after the show and this guy says ‘Hey, do you guys need a place to sleep, you can come round to my place!’ and we thought, ok, well we have no place to sleep, so we’d like that, so we went with this guy,” Bowes continues.
As he tells the story, you’re left picturing Alestorm heading off with this guy, completely disregarding that they might be butchered in their sleep with their heads hung like trophies next to some other unfortunate bands in some weird trophy room in Milton Keynes, because well, a house to sleep in is better than a van.
“So when we got to the house, his Mother comes in and brings in this little dog. And she starts to give us this sob story, about how she can’t afford to keep this dog and care for it and then fully serious, starts asking us to take the dog with us. To be our on-tour mascot, to give it a better life. We were all a bit weirded out, like, we don’t really want your dog. So she let that go and says to us ‘Ok, well you’re staying at our house, so you must play a song for us now’,” Bowes continues.
He explains that the band laughed her off, thinking she was joking, saying they were just wanting to head to bed. But the woman was insistent. “No, no, no. You MUST play a song for us now,” Bowes continues, expressing how determined this woman was, that they would play a song for them in exchange for their hospitality and decline of the offer of a free dog. Worn down, Alestorm finally agreed and were handed an old acoustic guitar and a banjo. “It was me and Gaz [Gareth Murdock] the bass player there. And I can’t play the Banjo! I can’t even play the guitar,” laughs Bowes. “But they sat around and stared at us while we hashed out this creepy version of Keelhauled like we were being held at gunpoint and it was just really weird!” Bowes finishes.
Very glad to depart the next morning, with no dog, and after sleeping with one eye open all night, the band can still laugh and despite the interesting requests they receive, they do very much enjoy hanging out with their fans. “I have a habit now of going offstage, and I take off my headphones etc and then I run straight out front and shake hands and take photos with people,” Bowes says. “See, we don’t like doing the paid meet and greets. You know ‘Pay $100 and get shuffled into a room to get a photo with a band with their backdrop, then get forced into a merchandising room where you get 10% off t-shirts’. I think that’s all very silly and it just sounds dreadful. So we don’t do those things!” He continues.
But as their popularity grew, the band have had to limit their interactions to after a show. While they used to love being out in the venue before and after, it’s crazy before a show now, so afterwards is the way to go, Bowes explains. “I guess it’s the only real chance that we get to interact with the fans, is after the show. I used to enjoy, before the shows, walking around and just hanging out in the venues. But it gets horrendous these days! Everybody thinks ‘Oh my god! It’s Alestorm! I want to meet you! Can you pour rum on my newborn baby’!’ But I just want to hang out!” Bowes laughs.
And while he clarifies that no fan has ever actually asked him to pour rum on their newborn baby, but being the Alestorm fans are a crazy bunch, Bowes wouldn’t put it past some of them to try! (Please don’t though!).
“I like hanging out with fans and having fun. But sometimes there are too many and it’s terrifying!” he laughs.
There’ll be fans aplenty, awaiting Bowes and his crew as their tour of Australia as already sold out in Melbourne with other cities not far behind. Secure your tickets now to catch all the rum-fuelled, rubber duck antics as they sail through Australian cities in February.
Catch Alestorm with special guests Rumahoy at the following dates.
Wednesday 6th February // Capitol // Perth w/ 9 Foot Super Soldier
Thursday 7th February // The Gov // Adelaide w/ Shadow Realm
Friday 8th February // The Metro // Sydney w/ Christopher Bowes And His Plate Of Beans – First ever show!!!
Saturday 9th February // The Croxton // Melbourne w/ Triple Kill – SOLD OUT!!!
Monday 11th February // The Triffid // Brisbane w/ Dragonsmead
Wednesday 13th February // Whammy Bar // Auckland w/ Forsaken Age & Liit*
*Rumahoy not performing