Alestorm Speak To SonicAbuse

An interview with Alestorm is never an easy task. An interview with Alestorm after they have already indulged in some midday rum is rather like herding cats and so this interview is split, somewhat unevenly, into two parts. The first part is a somewhat heroic attempt to talk about the album, whilst the second part is where the band randomly start interviewing us, drawing in the photographer, Jola, and even the inhouse press officer, Caitlin, who only appeared to try and move the band to their next interview.

Taking part in this bizarre discussion (something of a theme at Hard Rock Hell), are Gareth Murdock (bass guitar) and Peter Alcorn (drums)

 

Inevitably I have to ask about the special edition of the album, the two disc digi pack edition with the bonus disc of songs with dogs barking… The only comparable thing I can think of is Pink Floyd and ‘Seamus’…

Gareth: We just thought why on earth would you be so speciesist… dog’s like music too! We like dogs. We like dogs more than we like human beings, why would you not have a dog version of the album?

Peter: I got interviewed by a dog outside for at least an hour.

Gareth: The only problem is I am not sure if the translations are completely, 100%, so I’m not sure if it’s going to upset a dog or if they’ll like it… it’s a bit of a guess, but I think it’s a pretty big thing for a band to have an album for dogs. We could become the biggest dog band in the world. We could have dog only gigs…

There was an… Italian band, I think, Ephel Duath, that did an album called ‘through my dog’s eyes’, which was all from a dog’s perspective…

Gareth: That’s interesting. It’d be interesting to see what they think of ours… I know what people are going to think… that’s just the same song with a guy pressing a woof button on a keyboard…which is not what it was at all, it was a well-translated dog album.

I’ll be very disappointed if it’s not officially translated…

Gareth: Well, we tried our best but we don’t know. We’re just mere humans.

Peter: Every time a dog woofs remotely close to the note you give it a biscuit and you hit it really hard if it doesn’t…

Gareth: We went through so many dogs…

Peter: Oh god!

Gareth: …there’s a bit of an old dog graveyard at our place.

The animal rights activists are going to be barricading your studio…

Gareth: They’re not going to know…

It’s been three years since the last record…

Gareth: Nice change of subject!

Well, I thought I’d shift away from the animal abuse…

…In those three years, aside from translating your lyrics in to dog language…

Gareth: …via forceful means…

…Touring and then… how long to work on the new record?

Gareth: We’ve had it a while haven’t we…

Peter: It’s been kind of an ongoing process.

Gareth: I guess we started recording on January 5th and finished recording on the 20th and the album’s out on May 26th which is probably one of the quickest turnovers of a record of all time…

Peter: The album had been pretty much written for six months though…

Gareth: Yeah, we’ve been sitting on it for a while. The problem is all these things we just do. A lot of bands just fanny about. A lot of Finnish bands… from Finland… called Wintersun… fanny about. It’s just like, you know, you don’t need your seven hundred and fifty grand for a studio and stuff… you just go out and do your job, record an album and sell it and everyone’s happy!

Fifteen days is quite a quick turnaround for an album I think?

Gareth: Yeah, but Florida’s quite an expensive place to record an album! Swimming pools aren’t cheap you know! But when you have to record an album in fifteen days you record an album in fifteen days!

Was it tracked live or separately?

Gareth: It was all bits and bobs as before.

Peter: We do our bits separately. I don’t know if anyone does everyone playing together in the same room anymore…Maybe Iron Maiden

Gareth: What helped the process this time is that we had demos. We didn’t look at them until the day we went into the studio…

Peter: …you don’t want to get sick of the material (!) So it’s like “what’s this?! I’m surprised! Christ, I didn’t know it went like that! Start Again!”

Gareth: Yeah, so, we had these demos that we’d been able to learn and then record over the demos and then take away the demos and then you’ve got a nicely recorded album. Beautiful! It doesn’t take that long… It doesn’t take that long when you’re not a Finnish band… called Wintersun…

You’re going to pick on them and not Guns ‘n’ Roses or Tool?

Gareth: Guns ‘n’ Roses…

Peter: Guns ‘n’ roses came from an era when it was fine to spend 400 years in a studio and 13 billion dollars.

Gareth: It doesn’t work like that anymore!

You mean you don’t get money thrown at you by semi-clad label executives?

Peter: They throw money at you after you’ve recorded it! A considerable amount of time after… when you beg… “Please?! I’d like to eat!”

Gareth: “We haven’t eaten in three weeks, we’re so hungry!” and they come down from their ivory towers…

Peter: …“Have some crumbs!”

You’re demystifying this to a horrific degree!

Peter: I do apologise!

Gareth: It’s the press area! They gave us loads of rum and now we’re being brutally honest! The album’s cool… bye! …and now you’ve hit us in a place where we’re sitting in gold thrones being filleted by abused dogs!

It’s fine, you’re drinking rum… we can put that in… pirate metal.. rum…

Gareth: It’s only because it’s a girl’s birthday… celebratory drinks… cheers to her!

Who did the artwork for the new album for you and how much interest do you guys take in the creation of the artwork?

Gareth: For the last few albums it’s been the same guy and this time we actually decided to change guy. At first that sounded very scary to me because I wanted all our albums to look nice in a CD collection, but then I don’t even own them. So, there was this man, this man from England, called Dan Goldsworthy, he does a lot of stuff, he does like big proper bands who are famous… proper big bands…

You’re famous… I’ve seen people with your t shirts…

Gareth: So have I…

 Peter: There’s a sale on…

Gareth: …but I’ve seen the people he’s drawn covers for with a million t shirts!

So, you got him to do it…

Gareth: He’s a British man.. from Britain…

Did you give him a brief or did you just say “here is our record, go draw… stuff!”

Gareth: I actually think we said, “this is the album title. The idea is we’re somewhat dead, under the sea!” because we did a photo shoot where we… well, we weren’t under the sea, but we were in a swimming pool but, yes, under the sea dead…

Peter: …well, not dead, but fucking cold!

Gareth: Not in Florida, that was beautiful…

Peter: …but that particular day, at seven in the morning in a pool, it was horrible.

Gareth: So, we had this nice photo shoot of us all under the sea so he went along with the album cover, us being all navy bluey / greeny and…

[At this point the rest of the band wander past]

Gareth: Oh my god it’s the boys! Aaaahhh! Don’t fall over lads.

Peter: They’re very loud walkers aren’t they?

Gareth: They’re very loud everything…

In terms of developing the theme, how much of it is a more generic interest in pirates versus a more historical interest and digging into literature to inform the lyrics?

Peter: [sounding offended] I’ve not dug into any literature!

Gareth: I dug into some literature recently but it was a crime novel… it wasn’t a pirate novel! I’m not quite sure…

Peter: I can’t think of anything I’ve read with pirates… it’s not specifically pirate related… it’s more you write a song about something and then you go “how the hell can we relate this to pirates?”

Gareth: Some of the songs are historically based… but usually with a bit of an old… You know, I want to write a song about this thing… look… Wikipedia… but it’s not like I’m so very passionate about this thing, I know about it already and I’m going to fire off lyrics…

So, you weren’t regressed by a therapist to a pirate life?

Gareth: That would be good excuse…

It would be good wouldn’t it?

Gareth: But no.

You could use that… drink more and tell someone that and then it would stick because everything on the internet is true!

Peter: Then people will think we’re mental…

Gareth: …not that people think we’re the best of sane anyway so…I think we’re more sane than Largerstein…

They do seem a little damaged!

Gareth: Well… those boys are trouble… have you spoken to them? You’re in for a treat if you haven’t!

I’m not allowed to speak to many people… I come up with funny suggestions and then I get weird looks and shuffled out by anxious PR people…

Gareth: And then you end up speaking to us…

Peter: What sort of funny suggestions?

There was the chocolate chastity belt…

Gareth: Tell me more…

Who was that… well, Virus yesterday just revolved around the singer basically pimping out his band – he was like “look, I have young men!”

Gareth: That’s interesting, I have some young men in my band too…

Peter: There’s a band called Virus?

[At this point our photographer, Jola, gets sucked into the increasingly odd conversation…]

Jola: Yes, they were brilliant! Every question seemed to go back to talking about cocks… and sex and god knows what!

Peter: Oh!

Yeah – Jola asked most of the questions

Jola: No, no ,no, I’m just doing photos!

How terribly proper! I’m sorry…

Gareth: Where are you from?

Jola: I come from Poland!

Gareth: You come from Poland. I thought maybe with the Solstafir t shirt you were Icelandic…

Jola: Yeah, I absolutely love them and I thought they were very different… so I bought their T shirt

Now you’re being interviewed!

Jola: Yeah?!

Gareth: Whereabouts in Poland are you from?

Jola: Not far from Krakow.

Peter: I’ve been there…

Gareth: we’ve all been there…

Peter: …nice univeristy…

Gareth: a great univeristy… [with a far-away look in his eyes] lovely ladies outside that university on a summer’s day. Beautiful part of the world… beautiful!

Jola: So, have you been in Poland then?

Gareth: Many times!

Jola: How?

Gareth: To play concerts!

Peter: We’re in a band!!!

Jola: Wow!

Gareth: Most major cities in Poland…

Jola: Did you enjoy that?

Gareth: [To Peter] You attend Poland regularly don’t you?!

What, all of it?

Peter: Not all of it, no, my girlfriend’s from Poland.

Jola: Really, oh wow!

Peter: Don’t ask me to say any words!

Gareth: He made her learn English!

Peter: Her parents don’t speak any English at all.

Well, that does make life easier… Jola’s parents don’t speak English either…

Jola: No, they just smile! Philip smiles as well.

Gareth: Smiling’s great, then you can do whatever you want!

I smile, they smile, we smile at each other… it’s very nice!

Peter: I smile… these ones, they frown and shake their heads!

Gareth: [Adopts Polish accent] This is not boyfriend we imagined…

You lack my natural charm!

Peter: Well… Some of us have to drink for that.

Yeah, I tried that, it didn’t go so well…

Jola: Yes, Phil lived in Poland for five years I think…

Gareth: [To Jola] Now you’re interviewing him!

Jola: Yeah!

Gareth: Why did you live in Poland for five years?

I went to teach the natives…

Peter: The natives!?!

Yes, so you could have a girlfriend who spoke English!

Peter: Her English is shite…

I hadn’t finished!

[At this point the band are encouraged to move on by Caitlin, the in-house press officer]

Caitlin: I just got interviewed with your other ones…

Gareth: I haven’t finished interviewing this man yet!

We’ve given up!

Gareth: I’m dying to know why he was studying in Poland…

I was teaching!

Caitlin: [Also giving up and joining in] I want to know why you were studying in Poland…

I was teaching students…

Caitlin: English?

Yep!

Peter: Did you get married in Poland

Yes…

Gareth: Multilingual wedding?

Yeah, we even received sex lessons from the Priest’s personal minion…

Peter: Odd…

Yes, we had lessons….

Peter: It’s something that Catholics do…

Caitlin: The Catholics have sex lessons?

Peter: Yes! A celibate man comes out and tells you how to have a happy relationship!

Caitlin: I thought Catholics didn’t have sex?

After we got married! We had to be prepared…

Peter: Obviously as a Catholic you’ve never had sex before so they teach you and you smile and say thank you!

Here’s a line drawing of what the consistency of certain fluids should be before you have carnal relations…

Gareth: Goodness me, really?

Caitlin [fascinated] they get diagrams out like in science…

I think I’ve blocked most of it out of my memory!

Gareth: Fair enough

It was traumatic… I was not warned!

Gareth: You just thought it was so normal.

She said “let’s just go down to the church and see what happens and, foolishly, I said yes!”

Jola: He didn’t understand everything but he understood the pictures!

How old were you when this happened?

Twenty-eight

Gareth: So, a twenty-eight year old man is taught how to have sex by the Polish church… that’s brilliant. This is the best interview I’ve ever conducted!

Writing this up is going to be interesting… I’m not supposed to be in this!

Gareth: Your story was far more interesting than mine!

As band have you ever had sex lessons?

Gareth: I’ve given a few! Hooray!

Caitlin: Do you teach each other… when you’re on tour, you’ve got your bunk beds or whatever… do you ever pull and cheer each other on?!

Gareth: Um… no! We never do! We usually send the ones doing that behaviour off to their own little room and… Russia 2015… Dirty bastards! I still can’t look at them the same way after that!

You’re still slightly scarred by that?

Peter: It was… you think we’re scarred…  you should see him!

Gareth: These Russian maidens!

Just Eastern Europeans in general…

Jola: Well yes, very suspicious… wondering around with cameras…

Peter: She admits to be eastern European! Mine insists she’s from central Europe!

Jola: yeah, yeah, yeah! In Poland,  we are in the centre of Europe, everyone says that!

Peter: There was that whole central bloc…The East, the West and the centre…

Gareth: You know how you know you’re in Eastern Europe, you’re driving along a road and suddenly you start bumping all over the place! Poland, Hungry, Czech…

[A brief break as the conversation heads into really odd territory…]

Gareth: My girlfriend’s Hungarian…

Jola: So, she’s weird as well

Gareth: Yes, she’s very strange… very strange!

Well done! Say what you really think! That’s us blacklisted…

We work for Midlands Metalheads…

Gareth: I can’t wait to listen to this again… I’ve never done an interview before…

It’s going to be typed up… I’m going to remove myself completely…

Caitlin: you should release the audio…

I am tempted to…

Jola: Oh!

Gareth: You should! You have my permission to do that! What was the thing I said earlier on… yes, Wintersun! You lads need to learn how to do a fucking album! Thirteen years and asking your fans for money is certainly not how you do an album… I’m honestly gobsmacked that a band as good as you have to do that.

Peter: I’m shocked the record label allowed it.

Gareth: I’m just blown away by it all. get off your asses… do a tour!

 

 

 

 

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