Christopher Bowes is the frontman for Alestorm, a band that has been self-described as “Bacon Powered Pirate Core”, “Patagonian Pirate Polka”, “True Scottish Pirate Metal” and “a drunken band of pirates on an epic quest to drink your beer, steal your rum, and be the greatest damn band that ever did sail the seven seas!” Alestorm released their fourth album, Sunset on the Golden Age, this past August and they are currently on their tour entitled “Pirate Fest”, along with Swashbuckle, The Dread Crew of Oddwood and Rainbowdragoneyes. Prior to the sold show out at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City, I sat down with Christopher for a highly-entertaining discussion about meeting fans at shows, Halestorm, food, alcohol, the new album and more!
Alex Obert: While on Pirate Fest, what are your thoughts on playing in New York City?
Christopher Bowes: There is a lot of traffic on the way in and you can’t park a bus. So that makes me a bit sad. It’s fourteen dollars for a Bud Light at the bar here. These are the things that I think of about New York City right now. But it is nice. It’s an exciting place to be. It’s one of those cities where it’s a cool place to play a show. From what I’ve heard, it’s on its way to selling out or sold out already. It will be very busy. The last time we played in New York, we were at The Studio at Webster Hall, a little downstairs pile of crap. This is a real venue and it sold out. That’s cool. We feel like a real band right now.
Alex Obert: Speaking of destinations, one that’s the complete opposite, what were your thoughts on Jamaica?
Christopher Bowes: Jamaica itself was pretty crappy. We were on a cruise ship that drove to one of these little tourist trap towns on the north coast. Everything was fake, it just looked like some town in Florida or something. I barely felt like I was in Jamaica. But it was nice. There was a man singing songs and we got some cocktails.
Alex Obert: You enjoy meeting fans at shows, but you’re against the idea of a VIP Meet and Greet. Why is that?
Christopher Bowes: We’ve toured as a support to a lot of bands who have done the VIP Meet and Greet. I can very clearly remember we’re all sitting backstage, the tour manager comes down and goes, “Guys, it’s time for your Meet and Greet.” And they go, “Oh no! The fucking Creep and Freak!” Bands hate it. The bands hate meeting the fans, but they’re doing it because each person in that queue has paid them fifty dollars. It’s people who hate their fans that want five hundred bucks. We’re sometimes in a mood to the people, sometimes we’re not. It depends on how you feel. I always feel like it should be very natural, it’s weird when it feels forced. There’s already enough money in this business. I think it’s fine, but I don’t wanna do those things. It’s just very fake. It’s awkward, you line up and you shake hands, the guy takes your picture and you get to be first in the queue for the merchandise. What is all this crap?
Alex Obert: What is your advice for approaching a musician to make the interaction natural?
Christopher Bowes: Just be a person and do person stuff. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. A lot of fans will come up very nervous and be like, “…….hi.” That’s just as creepy as the “OH MY GOD! I LOVE YOU!” people. Just be a normal person as though you’re talking to anyone. We’re just stupid kids.
Alex Obert: What’s the most a fan has bought for you at the bar?
Christopher Bowes: Usually they just offer to buy me a drink and I’m like, “Yes! I would like that.” I once got thrown through a bar while crowd surfing and smashed all the beer taps and then we had to pay for that. That was the most memorable thing.
Alex Obert: What would be in an Alestorm shot?
Christopher Bowes: I would like Creme de Cacao and honey whiskey. That would be nice.
Alex Obert: What’s your typical bar order?
Christopher Bowes: Depends how rich I’m feeling. Tonight it’s fourteen dollars for a beer. But if someone was buying, I’d say whiskey sour. That’s what I’m feeling right now.
Alex Obert: If you could only have one type of drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Christopher Bowes: It’s a tossup between a margarita or a whiskey sour. Can’t decide which though.
Alex Obert: Regarding the music of Alestorm, how has the listener feedback been for Sunset on the Golden Age?
Christopher Bowes: Very, very positive. As far as I know, everyone loves it. And a lot of people like it most. I guess Drink is the hit single from new album. It’s pretty much turned out to be our most popular live song now. That’s really encouraging.
Alex Obert: How about working the new songs into the setlist? How has the compromise been?
Christopher Bowes: We’re doing four, five new songs. And we have a ninety minute set, so we can get a lot in. We actually manage to have an equal representation of each album. We always like playing our best stuff in the set, so we decided to cut down on the songs that we feel don’t work well live and stick to the ones that are fun.
Alex Obert: What do you think of Walk the Plank as the opening track?
Christopher Bowes: I like it. It wasn’t always gonna be the opening track of our album and of our live show, but in the studio, we realize that this sounds really, really fucking good. And we decided to just go and open with it. It works very well. It’s high energy within easy course to sing along to, it’s great.
Alex Obert: Where do you rank Keelhauled in the band’s entire body of work?
Christopher Bowes: It’s not my favorite song. I thought for a very long time that it was gonna be, every band’s got that song that they always have to play, but I think it’s been overtaken by Drink, in that respect. I like it as a song and it’s very much a fan favorite. It’s kept us going for a few years, I would say. (laughs)
Alex Obert: How was the intro to Keelhauled developed? It really sticks out more than most songs I’ve ever heard.
Christopher Bowes: It’s the most cheesy, simple folk metal thing you can do. I’m surprised we haven’t used it more, the accordion oompa thumping, as a thing. I would love to start more songs with that sort of riff, but people will go, “Oh that’s just Keehlhauled!”
Alex Obert: Tonight you’re playing with Swashbuckle and The Dread Crew of Oddwood. What are your thoughts on those two bands?
Christopher Bowes: They’re all great! We’ve toured with Swashbuckle many times in the past. We’ve only met Dread Crew for the first time on this tour and they’re all great guys. They’re essentially an acoustic band, so it changes the flow. It starts with them doing their acoustic thing, Swashbuckle playing pirate grindcore, then it’s us doing this sort of party metal thing. While being thematically similar, it’s crazy different, which is nice.
Alex Obert: With your band’s name, what’s the story behind Alestorm and Halestorm?
Christopher Bowes: When we were changing our name to Alestorm, we of course made sure to search the internet to see if there’s anyone called Alestorm. And there wasn’t. At that time, I think Halestorm had just gotten signed and released a little EP on an independent label or something. That’s very annoying because a lot of people get confused. Every time someone stops us and asks if we’re in a band, we say yeah and they ask what we’re called. “We’re Alestorm.” “Oh my god, you’re Halestorm! I love you guys! Where’s your chick singer?” (laughs) It’s not us!
Alex Obert: Do you know if Halestorm is aware?
Christopher Bowes: Yeah, they are. I remember seeing on Twitter that Lzzy Hale posted “Time for some Wenches and Mead. lawl” A couple times it’s happened where we played in the same town. It happened in England once and in America. Same night, but different venues. We’ve tried to set up a little meet and greet, but it’s never worked out.
Alex Obert: You think someone ever saw the marquee at the venue and think a letter is missing?
Christopher Bowes: I don’t know if people have ever been that stupid. It’s never gotten that bad, thankfully. I really hope pirates are going to their shows, that would be so funny!
Alex Obert: Have you ever gotten to fire a cannon?
Christopher Bowes: I fired a fake cannon at the St. Augustine Pirate Museum in Florida. (laughs) You press a button and it makes a boom noise, it was quite good. We have cannons on stage, they’re quite cool. Unfortunately they’re not finished yet. In a couple of days, they’ll be able to shoot out jets of smoke. But right now, they just light up and stuff. They’re quite cool.
Alex Obert: So I understand you’re a fan of barbecue sauce.
Christopher Bowes: I love barbecue sauce!
Alex Obert: Who has the best barbecue sauce?
Christopher Bowes: I like Carolina style the most, the really vinegary stuff. My favorite sauce might be at this barbecue joint in my town in Bristol, England. It’s called Grillstock. And they have a really, really nice sauce.
Alex Obert: Is it true that it’s only real fish and chips if it’s served on newspaper?
Christopher Bowes: You can serve it on whatever you like. They actually don’t use newspaper anymore, they use fake imitation newspaper sometimes because the ink of the actual newspaper gets into your food and that’s not a good thing. But you can have fish and chips on whatever you would like.
Alex Obert: What is your favorite chain restaurant to eat at on the road?
*Christopher proceeds to pull up his pant leg and show me his In-N-Out tattoo on the back of his left leg*
Alex Obert: Wow! My goodness! What’s your order there?
Christopher Bowes: Animal Style Double Double.
*Christopher is informed that a Meat and Wheat has been sold*
Christopher Bowes: Instead of doing a meet and greet, we’re doing a Meat and Wheat. We’re selling a packet of jerky gaffer taped to a box of cake mix. (laughs)
Alex Obert: Very interesting! I read that you’re somewhat of a gamer. What are some of your favorites lately?
Christopher Bowes: Dani, our guitar player, is mostly the video games guy. I really like Kerbal Space Program. It’s like this PC simulator game of spaceships. I like stuff like that! (laughs)
Alex Obert: Have you ever given Monkey Island a try?
Christopher Bowes: Of course! I like it because it’s funny and stupid. It’s definitely got our same take on this whole thing, the very nonserious side.
Alex Obert: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Christopher Bowes: My first ever concert was Rick Wakeman, the guy from Yes. He was doing a solo show in my hometown of Perth, Scotland in about 2001. And that was awesome.
Alex Obert: On Pirate Fest, how do you want fans to walk out of the show feeling?
Christopher Bowes: Just like they were at a really good party, that’s the main thing. It’s a party tour, it’s good fun. We try to be funny and lighthearted and make people sing along. They should be happy and have no voice left and drunk. And spent.
Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have to say to the fans who have either supported you throughout the years or are just discovering you and liking what they hear?
Christopher Bowes: Thank you for all the stuff. Without fans coming to the shows, we obviously wouldn’t exist anymore. So keep doing that thing where you turn up, it’s nice. And remember to eat recycled pork.
Alex Obert: Thank you very much for your time and a great interview!
Christopher Bowes: Thank you very much!