Fireworks Magazine Online 65 - Interview with Alestorm

ALESTORM: An interview with CHRIS BOWES

Interview by Sue Ashcroft

His granny is from my home town, he plays the keytar and he’s a pirate – what’s not to love about Alestorm’s maniacal leader Chris Bowes? I caught up with a very sleepy boy on the phone a week before the release of Alestorm’s new studio album to find out just how it came about that the founders of Scottish Pirate Metal were borne out of the birthplace of the legendary Captain Kidd…


‘Sunset on a Golden Age’ is your fourth studio album - how do you keep coming up with these fantastic pirate themed songs?

I don’t know really. We just seem to pull them out of the dark recesses of our minds. We’ve kind of exhausted all of the traditional pirate clichés, like plank walking and rum drinking, so we’ve started writing songs that are completely stupid. I mean, one of the songs on the new album is about a load of pirates travelling through time to defeat an army of undead squid. There’s one about underwater bees. It’s still about pirates, but just in a very bizarre way. I guess we’ve just branched out as to what piracy means.

How did you get into this in the first place?

It was all a terrible accident I suppose. One day, me and my friends said “let’s start a Power Metal band!” which we thought was cool, then I said one day “I’ve written this song” and it was a song about pirates. They said “oh cool – let’s play that!” Then we wrote another song which was also about pirates. Then we thought about it and said “should we ONLY sing songs about pirates?” So we just decided to do that. We didn’t plan on becoming a Pirate Metal band, it just sort of happened.

Did you even know it was a sub-genre?

I know it is, but back when we started there weren’t really any bands who sang about piracy – there was that band Running Wild, but they’d been dead in the water for a while, but that was about it.

How did you feel when it took off for you? I mean, your fans are all nutcases (me, being one of them). Was it a surprise when it took off like it did?

When we started out, our plan was just to play a few shows in Dundee, which was in 2006. So, we played three shows in a pub in Dundee and I thought, “yeah, that’s cool”. That was summer 2006 and we just left it at that. We did nothing for a year after that. Then we thought “those songs are quite good, let’s see if we can get a wee record deal, wouldn’t that be cool?” So, we emailed a load of record labels for a laugh and Napalm Records emailed back within an hour saying “yes, here you go - we’ll give you a record deal!” and we were like “Oh, okay!” I mean you just don’t expect things like that to happen. Suddenly, we’re on tour with Turisas and we’re all like “What’s going on?!” We were just a bunch of kids making daft wee songs. It never really sunk in quite what was going on. I don’t think we realised what was happening and that we had something special here, I mean, this was all of our first experiences of being in a band. We just thought that must be how it went – every band plays three gigs then goes on world tours!

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And what about you playing the keytar? Was that a case of “hey, I know what will make it even better….!”?

Basically, when we got started we thought okay, how completely over the top can we be? I thought I know, I’ll get a keytar because the ‘80s is funny. You know what though, it works out really well because it means I can sing while I’m back-flipping around the stage. It helps the live show a lot.

It also adds to the whole pirate sound…..

Yeah, because pirates were well renowned for playing keytars…… (laughs)

You know what I mean! It sounds like an accordion!

Yes, of course I know what you mean.

Where are you living now? Last time we spoke you were in Holland.

Yeah, I lived there for a while. I got over it and came back. I’m living in Bristol now.

Your family is from Greenock – my neck of the woods, so why did you choose Bristol, other than of course it’s a great place for pirates?

Ahoyyyyyy! Nah, I went to university here, I’ve got a lot of friends here and it’s nice. And of course, it’s very inspirational for pirate stuff.

You certainly can’t go to one of your gigs without coming away with a huge smile on your face. Do you find it inspiring that people get so into it?

Yeah, I love the way it’s all such a happy experience. You go to a lot of Metal gigs, especially Extreme Metal and it’s a grim experience with angry, shouty people. It’s scary. Obviously I’ve never seen Alestorm live, but I know what it looks like from the stage and I just love the atmosphere. I love to see the happy, smiley people just having a good time. I know most of our fans are twelve years old….

….with the (very) odd fifty something year old woman up the back with an inflatable parrot and some dubloons…….ahem!

Ha, ha! We do have a very unique demographic! It’s fun – it makes me happy.

When is the album out?

In Europe it’s August 4th – michty me!

And then you have a tour?

Yes, we have forty five shows back to back across Europe, UK and Ireland. I’m a wee bit terrified that I’m just going to die, doing all those shows without a day off.

No days off at all?

I think there’s one, between the European and UK dates, but that’s it. We start in the UK on October 8th and there’s nineteen dates. I didn’t even know there were nineteen cities in the UK! Ha, ha!

And with that, I had to let him go. He was just about to board a flight to Dundee to visit his family. I do love speaking to musicians with a sense of humour who don’t take themselves seriously at all. In fact, I’m actually hoping that next time I chat to Chris we’ll get a chance to talk about his solo album ‘At The Organ With Christopher Bowes’ – for lovers of Ivor Cutler, it’s a must have! In the meantime, I’m off to buy another inflatable parrot (my last one was popped at the gig by another overzealous pirate), some chocolate dubloons and an eye patch in readiness for October…

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