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Interviews : “We don’t want to go on stage and play boring songs that no one likes” – An interview with Chris Bowes (Alestorm)

By on January 16, 2019

Alestorm is once again swashbuckling their way through Australia on tour and I caught up with singer/keytarist Chris Bowes to chat about their plans during their time Down Under. Unsurprisingly, for a man who dresses and sings like a pirate a fair amount of the time, Chris has a fantastic sense of humour, something that has a hand in the evolution of Alestorm‘s music.

“I think musically we’ve changed over the years, I think you can tell that by listening to the music,” explains Chris. “It’s not the same band members either, I’m the only person in the band from when we did our first album, so, in a way, changing line-ups sort of helped with evolving our sound a bit. I think we’ve spent more time discovering what it is that works live, what it is that we like to do. We don’t so much go in for the long, serious epic songs anymore, we’re more about writing good, fun catchy party tunes cause that’s what we want to hear, that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to go on stage and play boring songs that no one likes.”

Part of this evolution has been an expansion of their musical horizons as well: “There’s always new ideas coming in, thinking about new nonsense, getting inspired by a lot of pop music, believe it or not… if you expand your musical horizons, there’s lots more nonsense things you can incorporate into your sound… I guess it’s all about really having what people call ‘the hook’, there has to be that moment of the song, especially when you play it live, there’s always that one bit of the song where you see that’s the bit the crowd joins in and they sing the lyrics cause they all know that little bit where there’s like the entire chorus of the song and there’s some fun little bit. Usually that’s where the songs start, thinking ‘What is the thing from this song?’ whether it’s musical or lyrics… That’s sort of the nucleus that songs get built around.”

Given that Alestorm are, in part, famous for their pirate theme, I was curious as to whether Chris felt this was an inspiration or a constraint. Chris was candid in his opinion: “I’ll be honest, a bit of both. It’s nice to always know that we’re gunna sing about this, like there’s always going to be a ship and a guy with an eye patch and swords and treasure and it’s always good to know where to base your songs. I’m not really a very, let’s say, sentimental person. I’ve always wished I could write, ‘real serious’ songs, songs with big fancy lyrics [that are] really introspective that makes people go ‘yeah, that song is about me!’ I wish I could do that, but I can’t, I’m just unable to do that [laughs]. If I could, obviously I’d feel very restricted by the pirate thing, but it’s nice having a theme, it’s nice saying ‘Right, we’re singing about pirates, today, the pirates are gunna get drunk and have a fight with Batman’ and bang, there’s a song.”

Chris extended a similar approach to his singing: “I wasn’t really supposed to be the singer of this band. Way back in the yonder days of old when we got started we were called Battleheart and I was just the keyboard player… We had this singer and then when we decided ‘hey, let’s sing like pirates’ we kind of told the guy ‘hey so could you like, sing like a pirate?’. Then he did some stuff and we were like ‘Ehhh, nah’ and I was like ‘How about more like this?’ and I did an example and I was like ‘Actually, you know what? I might just do this on my own, sorry’… But I can’t actually sing, that’s why I sing like I do, cause it’s all I can do! I can’t hold a melody it’s just ‘blah blah blah ahoy!’ you know? But it works for us.”

I was also very curious about the new side project ‘Chris Bowes and his Plate of Beans’, featuring two members from Wollongong folk metal band Troldhaugen. “We were discussing the music industry and our label, Napalm Records, and it came up that [we said] ‘Ah, that label would probably sign anything, they’d probably sign a plate of beans! That’d be funny, should we actually make a band that’s a plate of beans?’ We sent it to the record label and they kind of took it, which was weird, and it all got totally out of control, we weren’t expecting that to happen. We’re actually doing a live show on this Australian tour, Beans is going to be the opening band in Sydney, that’s the world exclusive opening show for Plate of Beans.”

Finally, we turned to the topic of Australian metal. When I asked what came to mind when he thought of Australian metal, Chris replied: “It’s usually all the bands we tour with, we tend to take Australian bands on tour quite a lot… I dunno, I guess… I don’t really like metalcore at all much but that’s the thing I kind of think of, that metalcore scene. And just really zany bands like Toehider as well and all that nonsense…. I used to keep up with this stuff, I used to be really fascinated with metal in Australia ‘cause it is such a little middle-of-nowhere place, it’s sort of a microcosm of the world. You don’t get many bands that escape because it’s so restricted with where you are in the world, you can’t really hit the big European cheesy metal circuits or whatever so it’s its own little thing. I guess the only other band I really like is the old Parkway Drive – especially these days where they’re on stage and everything’s on fire and the drummer is upside-down doing loop-de-loops and things. This past summer in Europe they just completely blew up, because their drummer was upside-down and on fire. I guess that’s the key to getting popular if you’re from Australia, is be upside down and on fire. That’s my hint for the day.”

As a final comment, Chris left some advice for us all: “Just tell people to eat more beef and see you in a month!”

Catch Alestorm on tour in Australia this February thanks to Soundworks Direct. Tickets on sale now here.

Alestorm with Rumahoy performing at:
Feb 6th – Perth, Capitol w/ 
9 Foot Super Soldier
Feb 7th – Adelaide, The Gov w/ 
Shadow Realm
Feb 8th – Sydney, The Metro
w/ 
Christopher Bowes and His Plate of Beans – First ever show!
Feb 9th – Melbourne, The Croxton w/ 
Triple Kill – SOLD OUT!
Feb 11th – Brisbane, The Triffid w/ 
Dragonsmead
Feb 13th – Auckland, Whammy Bar w/ 
Forsaken Age & Liit*
*Rumahoy not performing

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About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.