Pirate metal pioneers Alestorm’s new album Curse of the Crystal Coconut was released this past Friday (29th) via Napalm Records (order here). We caught up with the group’s mastermind Christopher Bowes to discuss the record, quarantine life, and reminding everyone to panic less.
What was the process like recording Curse of the Crystal Coconut compared to your prior efforts?
The main difference for this one was, we recorded it in Thailand. Usually, we go to a miserable little studio somewhere in Northern Germany, in the middle of winter and hash out these songs, but this time we decided to waste our record labels money and fly off to a beach in Thailand for a month and make an album in our spare time. So, that was the main difference. That was good. It was nice waking up every morning and going for a swim in the pool and drinking a cocktail, then maybe playing half a song, then drinking some more cocktails. So, it was a very, very relaxed time.
That sounds like an awesome way to make a record. Were there any challenges being on the beach recording?
A few. The most difficult thing was it’s occasionally difficult to get a hold of things in Thailand. Like we needed a couple of microphones shipped from the UK. Our producers are very anal about microphones. We needed a couple of drum microphones and they got held up in Thai customs. I think Thailand is famous for having very annoying customs, like customs and immigration. So, we had to record the drums last because the microphones never got there on time. So, it was a bit nerve wracking for a while worried that maybe we wouldn’t quite be able to record all the instruments, but everything turned up in the end. It was good. Apart from that, it was just so smooth.
Can you talk about the songs “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship,” “Shit Boat,” and “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew?”
That’s a big trio of songs there. Yeah. That was, Zombies, the music for that was written by our keyboard player, Elliot. I think that’s the only song he wrote all the music for. Usually I write a lot of the music, but he takes over the song. He took that and he’d written a song. It had this working title of a Magnetic South because it sounded a bit like our old song, Magnetic North, with the sort of low key intro and stuff. But we had no idea what to write lyrics about. And we were playing a show in South Africa and we were waiting in the airport and we got picked up and the guy who came to pick us up was wearing this tee shirt that said Zombies Ate My Girlfriend and I was like, “That’s a really cool idea. Let’s just change that to Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship,” and the whole song just flew from there. I made this thing that was musically quite serious sounding, made it stupid with these lyrics, hope no one minds. That was a good one.
Yes. Shit Boat (No Fans). I think that’s going to be the best song of all time. It was written as a last minute joke. It previously had different lyrics that were incredibly offensive to a particular person. We were very angry with somebody one day. So, I wrote this song about them and I sent it to the guys in the band and then we all laughed and thought it was amazing, but we realized, wait a second, we can’t release this song. It’s too fucking good, but the lyrics will send us to jail. It was very offensive. We’d probably get sued for libel or something. So, we changed the lyrics to make it about a pirate ship or something. And it just turned out to be the greatest song of all time. And it was almost a bonus track that was going to get forgotten about until we realized it was going to be the best thing. So, that was good. I’m glad that one happened. I don’t know where I’d be without that song.
Pirate Metal Drinking Crew, I guess that’s sort of like an ode to our fans, how much we hate them all. I think it’s a big Alestorm tradition now to just shout abuse at our fans. I think they all like it. They’re all gluttons for punishment. So, it was just a way to write a song and make our fans know how we feel about them. It turned out like a nice little song as well. I like that one.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of concerts or even metal cruises returning as early as January next year?
I hope it really is earlier than that because I want to go and play some shows. Seriously, if someone said there was a gig next week, we could play, I’d play. I don’t care. I just want to go out there and do stuff. I’m getting bored. I really hope that the world gets back to normal soon because music will suffer massively. Everyone’s going to suffer anyway. Everything’s going to turn to shit and everyone’s going to be unemployed, but then a whole bunch of bands are going to have to give up because it’s unsustainable. You can’t just have a band that doesn’t play shows. No one likes you anymore. It’s not going to go well. People will forget about bands. It’s hard to get your band’s name out there when no one’s at a show. So, I don’t know. Yeah, I’d like to get back to normal soon and play some shows because these songs are designed to be played live. We wrote this album to be a live party album. So yeah, I want to do it soon.
It is definitely a scary time. The music industry and other industries are hurting right now. How has life been for you in quarantine? What’s been keeping you busy?
To be honest, I live way out in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee and not much has changed here. And for the most part, right about now I’d be sitting at home, talking on the phone to journalists like yourself and telling everyone how great my album is. That’s all I would do anyway. So, to be honest, nothing has actually changed for me yet. However, next month it’s all going to suddenly hit home because June, July, August is when we would traditionally be out on the road nonstop flying to Europe, playing shows, playing festivals and that’s not going to happen. And that’s when it’s going to get really weird for me. I’ve not had a summer at home in over 10 years … 12 years, I think, since we started doing this band. It’s been nonstop all summer long. So, it’s weird for me. But for the most part, I’ve been living life normal here because Tennessee, no one believes in science here, so the world hasn’t really stopped. But I’ve been breeding ducks for a while. I’ve got some pet ducks and pet geese that I’ve been raising on a farm. That’s been most of my life really. And it’s nice living that pastoral, rural life for now.
That sounds peaceful. A lot different than how it is in New York right now.
Oh yeah. God, in New York you’re fucked ,basically.
Yeah. I’ve been living in a bubble.
A lot of bands have been announcing virtual concerts or live streams. Do you guys have any plans to do something like this to celebrate the album?
Well, the big problem for us is that we all live in separate countries. I live in the states. Our guitarist lives in Hungary. Our keyboard player lives in England and two of the guys live in Northern Ireland. So, it’s physically impossible for us to get together and do anything. But we released this online live DVD from a show we did in Tilburg last year, it’s got super good high quality audio and footage. So, I guess, that’s our contribution to the world of virtual concerts is a real super high quality DVD released for free. I have also been streaming on Twitch, just playing keyboards and taking requests from anyone who cares to listen and writing songs on the spot for people. It’s kind of fun. It kept my brain busy and my hands active on the old tinkling ivories. So yeah, that’s been my thing, just streaming on Twitch and then just waiting for something to happen really.
Is there any advice you have for people during this time?
I wish people would panic less. I’ve seen a lot of people panicking, thinking that the world is going to end and if you go outside you’re going to be responsible for the death of 10 million people. It’s fine. Don’t panic. And just hunker down and live your life as normally as you can. And that’s the best way to deal with this otherwise, you’ll go insane because who knows how long this is going to go on for? But it’s going to suck regardless. So, don’t panic and don’t think that the world’s ending, basically.