There are metal bands and there are metal bands with a specific image, gimmick, or shtick. Some of them wear corpse paint and sing about devils and demons. Some of them create characters that are embodied by the band members themselves. Then there are metal bands like Alestorm. Actually, there really isn’t any other metal band like Alestorm. Both ridiculous and awesome, Alestorm is pirate-metal. Alestorm is a party. This isn’t metal enough for some listeners. I doubt Alestorm gives a shit. As Rich Hobson said in a Metal Hammer feature published earlier this year:
“Metal is full of bands who are able to embrace the genre’s most ludicrous elements and capture the imagination nonetheless. Iron Maiden have forged a near-40-year-career doing it, Amon Amarth headline festivals because of it and Ghost embody its enduring appeal. The success of Alestorm isn’t anomalous – it’s coded into metal’s very DNA to love something unabashedly joyous and heavy. And they’re still rising.”
Last year, the band released their fifth album, No Grave But The Sea, and have been touring behind it relentlessly. Both loved and loathed by the metal community, one thing is clear: you can be all up-tight and “hardcore,” or you can have a blast catching them live. Indeed, when the band came to Dallas a few weeks ago (check out our review and photo gallery), the crowd was adoring. The Void Report’s Corey Smith sat down with the bands bassist, Gareth Murdock, to talk about his history with the band, their recent U.S. tour, and of course, pizza and beer.
the void report: Welcome back to North America!
Gareth Murdock: Thank you very much.
the void report: Festival season just ended for you guys in Europe.
Gareth Murdock: That is correct.
the void report: What was the biggest festival that you played or your most exciting experience?
Gareth Murdock: (Laughs) Well, we played Europe’s largest festival in Poland and we played to about a quarter million people. (Laughs) So, that was probably the biggest one.
the void report: And which festival is that?
Gareth Murdock: It’s called Poland Rock. It’s a free festival. Everyone goes, so every year everyone in Poland goes to it. So yeah, there’s upwards to a million people there. I’m not saying a million people watched our show you know, but a lot of people did and that was huge.
the void report: So, would you prefer that kind of show during the festival season in Europe or coming to America and doing a headlining tour?
Gareth Murdock: I love them both for different reasons, you know? A crowds a crowd, really. I really don’t find it to be much different if there are 250 people going crazy or if there are 250,000 people going crazy. I mean it looks different and it’s magnificent, and it’s obviously louder and what have you. It’s still people enjoying it. I don’t take one and say that was better than the other. But, the only reason the North American tour is better than the European Festival tour is not flying every day.
the void report: That’s true.
Gareth Murdock: We flew every day and it’s exhausting.
the void report: But, now you have 15 hours in a bus tomorrow.
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, but 15 hours of sleep on the bus. (Laughs).
the void report: We’re going to go back a little ways.
Gareth Murdock: Uh-oh.
the void report: You joined Alestorm in 2008?
Gareth Murdock: That is correct.
the void report: And your first album with the band was Black Sails at Midnight?
Gareth Murdock: Yep.
the void report: Before that, you and I were sitting in a hostel in Nurnberg, Germany in 2007.
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, So not long before, really.
the void report: You showed me Battleheart on a phone, connected to a computer…
Gareth Murdock: Did I?!? (Laughs)
the void report: …at that hostel while we were drinking beers.
Gareth Murdock: Crazy!
the void report: You were in Waylander at the time?
Gareth Murdock: I was.
the void report: At that point were you expecting to join that band? Were you friends with them?
Gareth Murdock: Yeah I was already friends with them. That’s probably why I played you the song. It wasn’t much after when they asked me to be in it. But, at that time I didn’t have any idea I was going to join. It was more of “Here’s my friends band, check it out. It might be something someday.” Then here we are fucking 11-12 years later. (Laughs).
the void report: At the time, I was a huge Waylander fan. I don’t know if you remember playing “Hero’s Lament” in that guitar shop on an acoustic or not?
Gareth Murdock: That rings a bell, yeah. That sounds like something I would do.
the void report: Bringing up Waylander, do you still have any kind of connection with that band?
Gareth Murdock: Not musically or anything like that, but I’m still friends with them, you know? Obviously they’ve had their ups and downs, but we’ve played a couple of gigs together over the past ten years and whenever we do happen to be on the same bill as them we all just kind of hang out as if nothing ever happened. And it’s all very wonderful and I love those guys to death. I’d be so happy if they could just skyrocket.
the void report: Do you miss playing that music?
Gareth Murdock: Yeah. I do, actually. It always had that Irish folk crown thing. A lot of the Waylander stuff I was involved in writing as well, so I miss that. Some of the things being mine, you know, that was always a nice feeling.
the void report: While we are talking about side projects, I know you are also doing Mekkwarrior. Is that still active?
Gareth Murdock: The problem is I’m just so busy with Alestorm. Any time I’m not doing anything with Alestorm, I’m doing anything but music. I never realized that this would take up so much of my time. So, it’s not a bad thing. (Laughs) But you know, far too busy and, you know, I’m enjoying being busy, so that’s good. Mekkwarrior has kind of taken a back seat. I keep bumping into the guys when I’m in the UK and I’m like “Next time I’m here we’ll do a few shows and stuff,” but we haven’t done a show in over a year now. Actually, two years.
the void report: Show-wise, I vaguely remember you discussing playing a Mekkwarrior show, I guess it’s been a couple of years ago now.
Gareth Murdock: I think it’s been nearly two years to the day because it was my birthday and it’s my birthday next week.
the void report: I remember you mentioning something about it being a weird experience having to load your own gear onto a train or a bus to get to the venue. Is that something that you miss?
Gareth Murdock: I do. In like a weird sort of way. I’d complain if I had to do it all the time, but whenever you actually get to go and do the pub shows, and kind of working hard, and selling your own shirts and stuff. Yeah, you miss that stuff. It’s kind of cool, it makes you reattach. It’s nice, I love it.
the void report: So with this tour and Gloryhammer, Chris’s other project, do any of the other members have any other projects going on?
Gareth Murdock: Well, he doesn’t even really do Gloryhammer anymore. He doesn’t play live with them. He writes all of their music. Well, I’m not even sure if he writes all of their music anymore, to be honest. Basically he started writing the music, but now they have turned into their own fully fledged band, you know? He doesn’t even play live with them. So, none of us I don’t think. Máté has some stuff back in Hungary, he’s Hungary’s most famous guitar player.
the void report: That is absurd to me, but well deserved (Laughs). With Máté being the most recent member of Alestorm, how has that changed the dynamics of writing and coming up with the new album and future progress of the band? Are there a lot of contributions?”
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, everyone contributes at least a little bit, you know? We work better together than we ever have with the current lineup that we’ve got. You know everyone works well, this is a good line up. There’s no issues, no drama.
the void report: With the lineup that you have, you are placed all over the world. So, logistically how does that work as far as writing, rehearsing, recording?
Gareth Murdock: We write online. You know, Guitar Pro and record little bits and send them to each other. We have Dropbox and it all works out and makes sense. Rehearsing…we don’t really rehearse. We play so often. You know, sometimes if its been a few months since we’ve all been together and then we do a tour, we’ll take a couple of days before the tour. Like Warped Tour, we all met up a couple of days before the tour to rehearse, and Florida we had a day of rehearsal before this tour. Just that kind of thing. To be honest that’s more for just the productions and just the lights and stuff. It’s very rare that we actually need to rehearse stuff.
the void report: With that, this is the first tour that you’ve brought your entire crew with you. For the first few shows do you enjoy that or do you like the idea of going into a show and not knowing what the sound is going to be and rolling with the punches or…
Gareth Murdock: Yep, this is our first time in the US with in-ear monitors. And yeah, it’s the first time with the whole crew. It’s really nice. Here we are 3 hours before the show and we’re just sitting in a bar, we’ve had a lot of pizza, a lot of beers, and I’m not remotely worried about the show. I’m going to show up, put my ears in and I’m ready to play and everything is going to be perfect. So yes, it is a big deal to have our whole crew with us. That’s what it’s all about. They’re the ones who keep it going we’re just the ones who play the songs, you know?
the void report: Does that add any extra stress of accommodations for extra people? Or does everyone still get along.
Gareth Murdock: Oh no, no. Yeah, it’s all worth it.
the void report: As you said, you’re busy, Alestorm is busy, you’ve got a lot going on. What do you do in your down time? What is your idea of enjoyment outside of having to focus on pirate metal 24/7?
Gareth Murdock: I can’t remember the last time I had down time (Laughs). I had two weeks between summer and this tour. But, that was just, went home, caught up on sleep, caught up on PlayStation. I like to try and keep myself in shape off tour so that when you’re on tour…
the void report: You can eat pizza and drink beer all day?
Gareth Murdock: Yes! That’s essentially it. So, basically yeah, when I’m at home I get into shape and when I’m on tour, I don’t. That’s my life.
the void report: On top of tours, the shows, etc., you have to think about videos, music videos, shooting all of the press. With you being spread about, I assume that those are all things that take place when you aren’t touring?
Gareth Murdock: In and around gigs. The last time we did music videos we did two music videos in the space of two days and we released them months apart. So, we actually did them at the same time.
the void report: Where was that at?
Gareth Murdock: Belgrade in Serbia.
the void report: Why there?
Gareth Murdock: Because they have no rules in exploiting dwarves (Laughs).
the void report: (Laughs) Fair enough.
Gareth Murdock: If you’ve seen the videos you would understand. Some things just wouldn’t be possible elsewhere.
the void report: If it’s around a tour of a festival I assume it….
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, usually. I think we did a festival last March and we went to Belgrade all together and did a couple of videos. And yeah, we’re probably not going to do anymore videos now until the next album.
the void report: Now you are living in Spain?
Gareth Murdock: I am.
the void report: You’ve been there for?
Gareth Murdock: Three months, but I’ve been on tour for three months so I been there for like, two weeks.
the void report: How is it having to adapt to that kind of change so much with the different cultures?
Gareth Murdock: Ah, I’ve traveled so much I don’t notice a difference from place to place. I can cope.
the void report: And as far as your family, are you still close with them back home? Do you get to see them often?
Gareth Murdock: I do, yeah.
the void report: They support what you are doing?
Gareth Murdock: Oh, they love it. They come to shows and stuff. They absolutely love it. It’s not an issue. I see them when I can and stuff and they are just use to me being away for long periods of time. So, it’s like being with my friends as well, you know? I don’t have normal conventional friendships with people. I go “Oh, that was a fun day out we had together, see you again in two years.” Just like with yourself you know.
the void report: Yeah, we’ve known each other for eleven years now and have seen each other a handful of times and we don’t miss a beat.
Gareth Murdock: Exactly.
the void report: I respect it. I can’t say I’m not envious at times. Seeing pictures of you backstage shaking hands with Hansi (Blind Guardian).
Gareth Murdock: Ah, yes. Hansi is the man! (Laughs).
the void report: With playing European Festivals like that and rubbing shoulders with some of your favorite artist over the years, does it get old?
Gareth Murdock: It doesn’t get old, but you don’t get star struck. You just get into these weird situations where they are all around, and it’s all fine, and you act all normal, but the back of your brain is going, “Fifteen years ago, you had their poster on your living room wall.” It comes up in your mind sometimes but you try not to get giddy. We’re all doing the same thing.
the void report: What does the future hold for the band?
Gareth Murdock: I wish I knew. Well, after this tour we have a couple of months off. And a bit of down time.
the void report: Anything planned? Sleep?
Gareth Murdock: Sit in my underwear and play PlayStation. (Laughs) And yeah, we have a European tour later this year, a couple of festivals around Christmas. Australia early next year. Uh, it’s pretty much just…
the void report: Back to touring, more shows?
Gareth Murdock: Yep.
the void report: So, being the pirate metal band. Approaching songwriting, new albums, what kind of inspiration do you get? How do you keep things interesting for fans? At some point you have to think, “Is this a gimmick or are we doing this because we love it?” What keeps you going to do what you’re doing?
Gareth Murdock: I have no idea.
the void report: Obviously, you still love it. You still have fans.
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, of course. It’s a load of fun and it’s wonderful, and you’ve gotta keep it going. I guess what we did was, all of those years ago we found a niche. And then it’s like, we’ve gotta stick to that. It’s quite easy to come up with new ideas because we’re always together. We always have the same jokes, the same ideas, we kind of toss them around. Even on tour we will say “Oh, that would be cool on the next album.”
the void report: It’s almost organic?
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, it kind of writes itself. We’re so use to the process now, nothings…
the void report: Difficult?
Gareth Murdock: Yeah.
the void report: I think that is portrayed through the music as well.
Gareth Murdock: Yeah, yeah.
the void report: People still love it. Tonight, there will be people dressed up as pirates and they love it.
Gareth Murdock: As always! And we love that. It’s nice that we go through the effort and they go through the effort as well. It’s nice.
the void report: Any last thoughts? Anything you’d like to share? Secrets? What kind of underwear that you’re wearing?
Gareth Murdock: I’m not wearing any. I went swimming before I met you this morning and I’m still wearing my swimmers and I’m still covered in mosquito bites from Florida. And I really enjoy, what do I enjoy? Sour beers.
the void report: Yeah, sour beers!
Gareth Murdock: I enjoy sour beers, as of today (Laughs).
Click here for Alestorm 2018 Tour Dates