Alestorm's Chris Bowes: "Everything I've learned about pirates, I learned from Johnny Depp and Wikipedia"

Alestorm are back to steal all your alcohol.

Alestorm are the self-proclaimed masters of Bacon-Powered Pirate Core. They are back with a brand new album called Sunset on the Golden Age and it is their strongest effort to date. To find out a bit more about this new album, MaF woke up a groggy (and possibly hungover) Chris Bowes to have a chat about it.

Your new album Sunset on the Golden Age is coming out soon. Right now you’re in this period where you can reflect on the album before finding out the public reaction to it. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on this new album. “I love it. Am I allowed to say I love it? I think I’m gonna say I love it. I think it’s great. I honestly think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. All the reviews I’ve read so far and from talking to people, everyone seems to agree with me. So, I’m excited.  I’m very happy with how it all turned out. I’ve been just as worried as a lot of our fans have about whether or not we’re going to run out of ideas and somehow we managed to pull this out of our arses. I think it’s a slight change of direction in parts, I suppose it’s heavier in places and it’s got a lot of more daft influences. I’m really excited for how everyone’s going to react to it.”

Sunset on the Golden Age is probably your most diverse album to date, did you set out to shake things up when writing it? “I think what happened was we just realised that we don’t have to pretend we’re a folk metal band and we don’t have to pretend we’re a power metal band, so we can just do whatever the hell we like. So I just started deliberately sticking these stupid riffs, like there’s a lot of surf rock riffs going in there, there’s a random metalcore breakdown, there’s kind of screamed death-metal vocals thrown over the whole thing. We even put Nintendo noises in there because we don’t have to act like a lot of folky metal bands where people expect them to stick to some traditional world where everything’s done on accordions and violins and stuff. We were like, ‘we don’t have to do that’. Yeah it was very much a conscious decision to mess things up a bit and see what happens, and I think it’s paid off.”

How do you feel you’ve progressed as song-writers over time? “I think we’ve learned much more about what makes- well, the main thing about Alestorm is writing catchy, sing-along songs that you can party to- I think we’ve learned how to do that a lot better. We ask ourselves ‘how do we bring those almost pop elements out?’, with all of them having cool hooks and stuff while still keeping it nice and metal with big riffs and stuff, but always getting back to some sort of big catchy hook and a melody. Does that sound really cynical? On a lot of our earlier efforts, sometimes the songs sound like they’re not going anywhere. As in, you’d get to a riff but you’d want some more. This time round, every song seems finished. In the past, a lot of the songs haven’t. So I think that’s where we’re getting better at stuff.”

The Battle of Cartagena is probably your first real historic epic. Do you think you’ll be exploring this subject of naval history more in your future songs? “I’ll be honest. I don’t know very much about history, especially piratical history. Everything I’ve learned about pirates, I learned from Johnny Depp and Wikipedia. I’ve always wanted to do a song about Cartagena or something, I don’t know why, that town just excites me, it seems like a cool place to write a pirate song about. So I just looked it up and found out there was a battle there in 1741 where a bunch of English guys died. I thought, ‘sweet, that sounds cool’. Once you get into the depths of the lyrics, the history’s pretty light and it starts going into the usual fantasy, questing, Alestorm territory. I don’t know, I’d like to maybe write some more songs with a bit of relevance to pirates historically. I know a lot of people love that sort of stuff, I don’t mind writing it as it’d be interesting and make a change from writing songs about questing for treasure. We’ll see what happens. I’m not really sure where we’re going to go next time around, but I think we’re going to get even stupider. We’ll probably find some ridiculous piece of history to sing about next time as well.”

Speaking of stupidity, the music video you put out for the song Drink is probably the best one you’ve done so far. Do you enjoy making these videos? “That one was particularly a lot of fun. The video was pitched by this German production company and we were like ‘well fair enough, Germans aren’t particularly well known for their sense of humour, but let’s give it a go’. Then they came back with this idea that was basically: you break into this house full of babes, you get them drunk and you start partying. It was the most fun day shooting that video, we were just pouring beer on these girls, dancing and throwing food around. We’re very glad about how it’s turned out. It’s the exact image we wanted to portray of this band, and I think it’s paid off a lot.”

I’m just about to run out of time today, so do you have any final words for the readers? “I just want to say, buy our album. It’s nice.”