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29th April 2009
Since exploding onto the scene with 2008 debut album 'Captain Morgan's Revenge', piratically themed Scots metallers Alestorm have experienced a fast growing fanbase, already establishing themselves as something of a cult band so early in their career. Well into the UK leg of their lengthy European headlining tour, I arranged to meet with the "true Scottish pirate metallers" in Nottingham before their show in Rock City's basement. I arrive at the venue a few minutes before my scheduled slot with the band, although their tour manager is seemingly non-proactive in instigating the interview, and it's well over an hour after the originally arranged time when I eventually manage to hook up with Alestorm's guitarist Dani Evans. We wander backstage, and with Dani in good spirits (although he informs me not of the alcoholic variety for a change!), we settle down to engage in discussions about, among other things, the forthcoming new album; kilts; Eurovision; and, of course, pirates...
METAL DISCOVERY: Is this the longest headlining tour you’ve done to date and how have audiences been for you?
DANI EVANS: I think it is the longest tour we’ve done. I think it’s just shy of six weeks - we had a day off in the middle of it and that’s about it. But yeah, it’s our first time headlining so it’s a different experience from playing as a support band because you go on the latest and ninety per cent of the fans are there to see you, so it’s kinda like excellent.
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(Dani Evans on the up-kilt photos of his appearance at last year's Bloodstock festival)
"I’ve seen a few. They’ve not been published, but I’ve seen a few...I had private emails from photographers..."
Dani Evans backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, 29th April 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Yeah, you’re playing to your own crowd, so…
DE: Yeah, so it’s good fun a lot of the time. The venue tonight should be absolutely packed because the presales are absolutely through the roof.
MD: How did Hammerfest go last weekend, and did you get a chance to check out any of the other bands?
DE: It was phenomenal; we had a lot of fun there. We arrived a day early thankfully so we could go out and party, and go out and get very, very, very, very drunk! [laughs]
MD: You were staying in the holiday camp?
DE: Yeah, we had our own chalets and I somehow managed to get back to mine! But we ran into a lot of friends there and had a good day. The only band I managed to see that day was Power Quest because I was on stage with them at one point.
MD: Was that planned, or…?
DE: No, I just turn up for anything! The show itself was phenomenal. They actually had to close the doors on our stage because it was full and nobody was in the main hall, because our TM went to take a look and it was maybe 150 people in there.
MD: Who was in the main hall?
DE: Exit Ten I think. And I think there was about three and a half thousand people in the bloody hall so, I mean, it was well and truly packed. It was amazing.
MD: I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but why pirates?
DE: They’re bad ass! Pretty much! [laughs]
MD: That could be the headline for this interview!
DE: Pirates…bad ass!
MD: Were you in any small way inspired by, or fans of, Running Wild? I’m sure you get asked that a lot too.
DE: I’ve never listened to Running Wild before this band, so I was never really a fan. I just think the reason we get asked that is because they did a pirate album once twenty years ago and have been re-branded as a pirate metal band ever since. So it’s kind of a loose connection with us but it’s still one that comes up a lot.
MD: Even though you’re part of what could be called a Pirate Metal scene…if there is such a thing…would you say…?
DE: Er…Dicky Folk Metal scene is what I prefer! [laughs]
MD: Does it amuse you there is such a thing, particularly as pirate metal bands like Verbal Deception, Swashbuckle and yourselves are all very different in terms of the music you play?
DE: Yeah, Swashbuckle are obviously thrashy/death; Verbal Deception are blackened prog sort of stuff; and then us just dicking around with keyboards. To call it a scene would be giving it a bit too much credit to be fair! [laughs] But I think it’s cool there’s bands not playing thrash, and bands that are actually going into things that are fun, and having a bit of a laugh with music because I think that’s what’s missing a lot these days. Everybody’s just - “we are a serious band” - it’s like, come on, have bit of fun.
MD: Yeah, that’s what’s good about Alestorm because you’re not…well, you take the music serious, but you’re not taking the whole stage thing seriously. I remember at Bloodstock you came on to the theme tune from ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’…
DE: Yeah! [laughs] We’ve got an even better one today!
MD: Which is?
DE: Ah, I’m not gonna say! [laughs]
MD: It’ll be a surprise later then! Is there an element of satire in Alestorm towards the pirate metal scene in that you don’t really take yourselves too seriously, albeit you do take the music seriously of course?
DE: Of course. I mean, I think every band in the music business has to have a sense of humour about themselves, especially when they do stuff like this. If a band takes themselves so seriously then it loses all point of playing music. A lot of people get into this business because it’s fun, it’s different, and it’s never the same thing every day, and I think enjoying that’s the main thing. As I was saying, bands that are taking themselves so seriously, I think they kill the music for themselves more than anybody, and I don’t ever want to be like that.
MD: Yeah, and your tagline on MySpace is “True Scottish Pirate Metal” which for me is kind of satirical of the fact there is a pirate metal scene, and you’re kind of saying, yeah, we’re that, but having fun as well.
DE: Yeah, it is.
MD: You have Paganfest - do you think it would be a good idea if a promoter ever organised a Piratefest tour with all the pirate metal bands?
DE: Er…no, no, no!
MD: I think Swashbuckle are doing the next Paganfest.
DE: Yeah, they’re doing Paganfest, and we’re doing the European one. We’re going back to the States in November I think.
MD: As part of Paganfest?
DE: No, as part of another fest, so we’re going over there again. But Paganfest will be really good. We just played with Korpiklaani in Lichtenfels so we went out drinking with them.
MD: They’re big drinkers from what I hear.
DE: They are big drinkers! They definitely gave me a run for my money! [laughs] That’s why I don’t remember much about the Ragnarok festival either!
MD: So Piratefest…a bad idea.
DE: Probably, yeah! Maybe in the future…
MD: At Bloodstock last year I remember a somewhat lengthy queue at the signing tent after you played for your band. Were you overwhelmed by such a large crowd?
DE: Yes! It was the biggest thing we’ve ever done inside of the UK. We’ve never really been able to see how our music’s done, and how well we were covered, and stuff like that. And when we stood out on stage, we all just went - “what the hell!”.
MD: It was one of the biggest crowds of the weekend I think; even over Nightwish, the headliners that day.
DE: Yeah, it was immense.
MD: All the skull and crossbone flags too.
DE: Everywhere, yeah. And then we went to the signing. It was an hour and a half sitting in the signing tent, and they were just like, “are you okay to sign more?”, and just like, “keep bringing us beer, we’ll keep on signing!”. It was dead cool!
MD: I remember writing in my review about your kilts and the strong winds during your set…you know where this is going…
DE: Yeah!
MD: …hoping that it wouldn’t be revealed whether you were true Scotsmen or not. Out of interest, was there a possibility the wind could’ve exposed more than you would’ve wanted to?!
DE: [laughs] Yes!
MD: I was in the photopit, and it was quite a high stage, and I was like, if anybody had a good view…the photographers…!
DE: [laughs] There is a few photographs actually!
MD: Is there?!
DE: I’ve seen a few. They’ve not been published, but I’ve seen a few! [laughs] I had private emails from photographers…“you might wanna see this!”, and I’m “ah, I know exactly what that is!” [laughs]
MD: I wouldn’t have published any…I wouldn’t want the webzine to be taken offline!
DE: [laughs]
MD: Do you ever feel out-pirated by crowd members at certain gigs who turn up in pretty extravagant pirate costumes?
DE: Yeah, I mean, we’ve just come back from the US tour and there were pirate re-enactment groups everywhere.
MD: Wow, in the States?
DE: Yeah, there were people with these amazing costumes, and we were just sitting there going…“we’re too lazy for that!”. We started off trying to do all the piratey thing but when you’re on the road so much, you’re just like…ah, to hell with it, and you just go out and play. It just makes life so much easier, and the band happier. At least us, anyway.
MD: Is it quite flattering to see all the pirate costumes everywhere?
DE: Yeah, of course, it’s always impressive to see somebody with, you know, a full crazy thing. It’s like…that’s bad ass!
MD: And they’re making that much effort just to see your band.
DE: Just to see my band, yeah, it’s cool.
MD: And funny as well - do you look in the crowd and think…
DE: It is entertaining to see people with tri-cornes and crap like that on in a circle pit! It’s like, “what?! What’s going on here?!”
MD: Very surreal. You must be “have I had one too many beers?” or whatever!
DE: Yeah, something like that! [laughs]
MD: What’s your most amusing piece of fan mail you’ve ever received? Have you ever had anyone claiming to be an actual pirate?!
DE: Oh, we’ve had death threats, and…
MD: Seriously?
DE: Yeah, we’ve had people saying - “you guys are fucking stupid…fuck you…if I ever meet you, I’ll kick the shit out of you…”. It’s always these like epic black metal people who think they’re amazing and it’s just like the only bands they listen to are Limp Bizkit or something. Stupid people like that. We don’t take any of that stuff seriously. We don’t give a crap about people who don’t like it.
MD: At least you’re provoking an opinion of sorts, because once you’re in the public eye…
DE: Yeah, of course, for whatever good reaction you get there’s gonna be a massive backlash as well. There’s obviously the Running Wild elite fans who…we had one of them come to one of the shows on the Grave Digger tour and he was such a dick! He stood in the front row with his Running Wild twenty five year old shirt, standing there like that for the whole fucking time. I thought brilliant - I walked over and shook his hand after the show! He was just like, “what’s going on here?!”.
MD: Do you think there’s an expectation from fans to sustain the pirate imagery through your band and music or have you ever contemplated alternative guises for the future? Maybe if people start losing interest or you run out of pirate-themed ideas?
DE: I don’t think so. I mean we’ve never really considered changing the music and that. It’s stayed in the same vein for…I mean the album that’s just coming out, it’s the same vein of thinking and drinking and all that crap. It’s all really good at the moment. Probably when we come to the third album and finish that up, then we might start looking into new avenues of ways to write and things to be doing. But, at the moment, I think we’re still very much happy with what we’ve got and what we’re doing.