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ALESTORM's Christopher Bowes Pillages America: A Tale of Guns, Games, BBQ & Johnson City, Tennessee

Photo Credit Elliot Vernon

No band in all of metaldom is better suited to help crush the COVID-19 dog day blues than the salty Scots in Alestorm.

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The lads' patented brand of no fucks given, be as silly as you can with giant rubber duckies and jokes about shoving pizza up yer arse is the cure we not only need, but deserve in these trying times.

For Christopher Bowes, founder of the pirate themed outfit and similarly tongue-in-cheek power metal lords Gloryhammer, he and his bandmates are deadly serious about the art of not taking things seriously.

"I mean, if you look at metal, you go to a metal show and you see these dudes up on stage in ridiculous spiky costumes and paint singing about Satan or Odin or like dissolving people in sludge or anything that’s going to sound grim. And it’s like, look at yourselves, this is the most stupid thing. How can you take this seriously? It’s clearly gotta be fun, right? It’s all absolute over-the-top nonsense," laughs Bowes during a remote interview.

"If you do take it seriously, it’s kind of weird. This is your idea of high art and intellectualism? Putting on corpse paint and screaming? It’s weird. We’re just fairly honest with ourselves and we’re just five dudes making dumb songs."

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Alestorm's latest collection of feel good, 'drink up me hearties' cuts of all kinds drops May 29th through Napalm Records. The bands' sixth studio album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, is perhaps exactly what you'd expect now from the lads who ran out of fucks long ago, only dialled up to 11.

Still, releasing an album during a global pandemic is anything but status quo. Bowes himself, soon to be a newly minted American who calls Johnson City, Tennessee home, finds creative ways to pass the time.

"For the most part my life hasn’t changed that much because on an average normal day, I’m sitting on my ass on my computer," Bowes jokes. "And now that everything’s closed out I'm still at home, on my ass, sitting on my computer. So it’s not life-changing for me. But yeah, I found myself doing a lot more things, weird things to pass the time.

"I’ve started streaming on Twitch. I go on Twitch and I just play keyboards and people come by and they say, hey, play a song about ducks in space. And I just make up a song about ducks in space on the spot, just like making up riffs and playing things and singing along. I just sit and I improvise songs all day long. It’s kind of fun.

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"I’ll play a few video games. I’m not very good at video games. I’m a bit shit. I play a bit of Magic The Gathering, but not very well. I started playing Call of Duty: War Zone. I suck at that as well, but I play anyway. It’s fun to run around and shoot people and get killed. And I like outdoorsy things. It’s good where I am, sort of out in the country where there’s not many people anyway. So you can still go out and about and do things. I’ve been getting into guns and stuff, shooting stuff and blowing things up. I’ve got this big field and I bought these explosives. And it’s these explosives where they only explode if you shoot them. So you go like 100 feet away and you just shoot this thing and it explodes and it’s great. So yeah, I like redneck shit, basically. Redneck shit and the internet is my life."

A native of Perth, Scotland who has previously resided in England and the Netherlands, Bowes relocated to the United States in 2016 following the marriage to his wife, whom he met at 70,000 Tons of Metal, of all places. A match made in metal heaven.

"Basically I met a girl. It was at 70,000 Tons of Metal. We were playing on that, I met a girl and things got good. And she lived in Johnson City and I think I was living in England at the time, near Bristol and we got married. I was like, cool. I’m going to move to America."

From the foggy grey of Scotland and the United Kingdom to the country music state of the world, Bowes explains he was sold on living 'the American dream' from Alestorm's first North American over a decade prior.

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"The very first time we came to the USA was in 2009. It was my first ever time coming to the States and to Canada. We did this tour Tyr and Suidakra, the usual tour everyone does. And basically, as soon as I got here I was like this is my favorite place. I love this. Oh my God, America is great. I love everything about this. This is wonderful. I want to live here one day. And there’s sort of this pipe dream I had and never quite thought it would happen.

"In Europe people look down on America like oh, look at them all with their cars and fast food and all this bullshit. It didn’t bother me, I thought it was great, but even still we never quite toured the south because you don’t really get tours come into rural Tennessee. It’s not a place that is on the map for metal. So I knew nothing about this place. Obviously I came to visit a bunch of times and I instantly thought, this is great. It’s like home but better because it’s country. All forests and mountains. Just beautiful.

"No one quite prepares you," Bowes adds. "Everyone talks about that there’s all these cars and cities in America, but the countryside is so much better here than it is in Europe because Europe’s so dense. It’s like cities, cities, cities, everywhere. But here it is so much nothing. You can go out and you get lost on this trail and a frickin bear walks past. Like, what the hell? Bears and turtles and shit. Like so much nature. It’s wild."

Any culture shock? That transition from Europe to rural USA? In truth Bowes has acclimatized quite well to life in Johnson City.

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"So I came here to the south and I like it. I mean, there’s more churches than people, really. A lot of churches around here. Some of them are quite fire and brimstone with little church signs outside that are quite serious, hardcore Christian, but it’s fine. A lot of metalheads are like all 'fuck Jesus, fuck the church' and they’re all very vocal about how anti-religious they are. I don’t care. Let people have their fun. If it keeps you going then go for it. So that aspect never really bothered me.

"The whole religiousness, people don’t really shove it in your face. Obviously people are very religious around here. Everything’s like 'I believe in God' and all this stuff. And everyone finds a way to bring God into everything and it’s like, yeah, whatever. You just ignore it. And naturally everyone here votes Trump. That’s just the way it is. The rural Republican South and everybody here is fully on board the Trump train, and that’s fine. I’m not going to change people.

"But I feel quite happy here. I don’t feel like an outsider. I kind of look a bit funny, dress a bit weird I suppose sometimes. But I’ve started wearing a lot more camo pants and horrendous cheap t-shirts from Wal-Mart. My current shirt just says 'meth' on it seven times, which is very appropriate. A lot of meth heads out here. I find it satisfyingly normal. I’ve completely adjusted to this. When I came to America it’s like what do I want to do? I want to own a sick ass vehicle and I want to own a whole pile of assault rifles because that’s what you do in America. And here I am. I’ve got this bright blue jeep that’s like lifted up with huge ass wheels, a winch and too many lights and I’ve got a whole bunch of guns that I go shoot all the time. I’m living the American dream, my friend."

His biggest takeaways aside from the wildlife and explosives? Europe can't hold a candle to Tennessee BBQ.

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"One thing that Europe cannot do is barbecue. You cannot get good barbecue outside the south. I’m in barbecue heaven around here. You get like hipster barbecue restaurants that opened up in the UK and Europe. Dudes wearing plaid shirts with manicured beards selling bespoke artisanal pulled pork on a fucking weird metal tray. Hipster food trends, and that’s just so different. You go to a real authentic barbecue place right here and it’s this weird ass little shack and a little old lady comes out and give you this big plate of slop, but it’s great. And I love it.

"I love barbecue and Mexican food. You can’t get good Mexican food in Europe, but there’s no Mexicans in Europe. I was in Germany and I went to get some Mexican food and I said 'can I get some tacos please'. And they basically brought a couple of hard shell tacos that was just ground beef covered in sweet and sour sauce. And that was the tacos. What the fuck? So yeah, the food here is great. I am a fast food addict. I am a cheeseburger afficianado. I love junk. I love it. I hate it when we’re on tour and they have catering and it’s fucking shredded carrots sorts of crap. I want a fucking cheeseburger."

As for Alestorm, who find themselves in the same boat as countless artists worldwide grounded from COVID-19, Curse of the Crystal Coconut may drop at a time without epic metal fest or tours from shore to shore, but it does find the group operating at their highest form of hilarity, throwing caution to the wind and all kinds of shit at the wall, aiming to hit the bullseye of the feel good and fun factor.

"I think on this album it comes across pretty clearly in a lot of lyrics that we don’t care what people think. We know there’s loads of people out there who love what we’re doing. So if you hate it, we really do not care because we do what we want to do and it’s working for us. It’s just the attitude of we don’t give a fuck, but in a good way. We still give a fuck about making music. We’re not dialing it in. We’re putting more effort than ever into recording and writing the songs.

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"I listened back to some of our old stuff and go God, that song was shit, that was badly put together, my vocals were awful. But now I can listen to our stuff and go yeah, this is some tight music. It’s well done and I can be really happy with how it’s going. That’s just where we are right now. We’re here to have fun, as the lyric to the song goes."

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