Ahab interview (07/2020)
|Conducted by:||ScreamingSteelUS (e-mail)|
Some time ago, Ahab returned to port to find that the streets were empty, everything was closed, and nobody was packing the pubs to hear tales of the high seas because everything sucks now. Fortunately, like any good funeral doom band, Ahab know that when the world is drenched in never-ending misery, there's only one thing to do: wallow, and wallow good. Thus the release of Live Prey, a crushing set of classics recorded before the Dark Times, and thus my opportunity to ping drummer Cornelius Althammer with inane questions, for which I thank him.
Ahab, as they appear when not socially distancing
SSUS: Hello and thank you for doing this interview with us at Metal Storm.
Let's get the most pressing topic out of the way first: please describe an average day in the life of a funeral doom band that has been quarantined due to a global pandemic.
Cornelius Althammer: Well, since the situation in Germany has been way less extreme than in other countries, there was nothing like a quarantine. We simply didn´t rehearse and we didn´t play shows. Which is truly annoying, but no disaster. I, in fact benefit from this in a certain way. I have much more time for playing drums. Working less is a blessing, it makes me think about how to approach "the working world" after this. I will definitely try to reduce time I spend with work. [Ed: I, for one, have decided to quit my job and become a full-time recluse.]
SSUS: If there is one thing I think the world could use a little more of in these dark, uncertain times, it's funeral doom. Is Ahab concocting any plans to return to the studio (separately in your own homes over the internet, I guess)?
CA: Yes, absolutely. We have structures of about four new songs. So, things are definitely happening. Just this week we decided to cancel all shows we had planned for the second half of the year, which is a pity, for sure. But we will use these dates for meeting and composing and make the best out of this situation.
SSUS: Although many of the more fanciful stories of wildlife returning to nature have proven to be pure fantasy (the "dolphins in Venice" story, for example), it does seem that the Earth is getting a much-needed break from humans while we panic and wither. Then again, as I write this question, I'm scrolling past a BBC article about discarded protective gear winding up in the ocean, so maybe there is no silver lining after all. Why do you suppose it is that humans just can't let the whales catch a break? [Ed: Yes, this question changed course as I was writing it, and I blame all of you.]
CA: I guess it´s all bad habits you possibly can have at the same time. Laziness: Just throwing stuff away instead of disposing it in a proper way. Greed: make it as cheap as possible for yourself and just dump stuff somewhere. Egoism: Simply don´t care about consequences of your actions.
I don´t even think that the majority of humans are that bad. But there are enough of them to cause severe damage. Plus, the way our western civilization works is built upon exploitation. Even though you might be a person who is aware and awake and tries to act responsible, you contribute to the destruction of this planet. Let´s take energy as an example. Production of energy which is 100 % green actually works... theoretically... but practically switching to this is extremely intricate and expensive. So, nobody seriously does. Governments or companies celebrate themselves for each tiny alibi step towards a greener and healthier future but there is no serious interest in making a comprehensive change.
SSUS: Your new live album, Live Prey, was first announced back in April. Was this release already in the making before the entire planet shut down, or is this album specifically intended to remind us of what human civilization was like when live music was still a feasible undertaking?
CA: Haha, yes, this album was absolutely in the making. It took me like forever to get it sounding like it finally does. So, there were no plans to release a live show within this situation of absolutely no live shows in sight. Like most of the circumstances behind this live album, this was purely coincidental.
SSUS: Back in 2017, Ahab played several shows that centered on The Call Of The Wretched Sea. Live Prey was recorded at one such show and consists of five tracks, all taken from The Call Of The Wretched Sea. As this is Ahab's first live album, was it intentional that the set list focus exclusively on Ahab's first studio album?
CA: Principally speaking yes, it was. But as I mentioned above, things happened coincidentally. We didn´t plan to put this show on a record nor did we even plan to record this show in the first place. But the justification of releasing a live album is the fact that there are only songs from our first one on it. It´s not a secret that I am not quite satisfied with my drumming performance on The Call Of The Wretched Sea. So, when I heard that there was a recording of this show, I saw the opportunity to make these way cooler versions of the songs accessible for people.
SSUS: The Boats Of The Glen Carrig featured Ahab's most unusual album artwork to date, with bright, contrasting colors and grotesque creature designs of the sort that you would expect to see on a space-themed tech death album. Live Prey goes in the exact opposite direction: a monochrome woodcut-style depiction of a good, old-fashioned whaling. In fact - quite appropriately, given the set list - this cover seems like a reversal of the cover of The Call Of The Wretched Sea, with the whale apparently losing the fight instead of crushing the pitiful humans. Was there a reason for the drastic shift in art styles, and am I reading too deeply into the thematic comparison?
CA: Wow, you are indeed reading very deeply into this, haha! It was a very basic decision, actually. We just wanted to have the cover of The Call... in a simpler style, more like a native painting or woodcarving. Nothing more or less... [Ed: I slept through most of my 100-level art history class in college, which makes me feel qualified to make these observations.]
...then the other
SSUS: Press releases for Live Prey mention how these songs have evolved over years of performance, and, indeed, "The Hunt" in particular has gained about five minutes since the initial studio version. What does it mean for you to be playing these songs after so many years? Does revisiting your earliest works affect how you continue to write several albums later?
CA: Hmm... thinking about this now, we probably should have given the outro of the show an extra title and not just attach this one to "The Hunt". Besides, nowadays we play all of the songs slower than they are on The Call... It´s this outro that gives the extra length to this song... So there are no wild alterations on Live Prey. The changes in the songs, compared to how they sound on The Call... you can mainly find in drums and the great bass lines Stephan [Wandernoth] contributed. When The Call... was recorded, Stephan wasn´t in the band yet. So "resuscitating" the songs with decent drums and proper basslines was the chance to enrich the songs with an additional musical layer.
It is satisfying to finally be able to give the music the performance it deserves.
SSUS: At the end of last year, you celebrated Ahab's 15th anniversary with a special birthday gig in Stuttgart. After all this time, do you feel pressured to stick to the "Nautik Doom" theme? Is that still an aesthetic that is comfortable to write within, and do you think that fans would accept a land-based Ahab album?
CA: No, we don´t feel any pressure, at all. It´s simply like we want it to be. I have never thought about what people would think of a whatever-based Ahab album, because it never came to my mind to question the sea-topic...
SSUS: When will you do a Titanic-themed concept album? We also have a special request for a Gilligan's Island album, if you don't mind us throwing completely random water-related things at you.
CA: Haaaa, this won't happen before I leave the band!
SSUS: When will you fight Mastodon for the exclusive right to play songs about Moby Dick?
CA: When we are rich and famous, I think, is the time to become dickheads, I guess... isn´t this what you´re supposed to do, according to the book?
SSUS: Iron Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is already over 13 minutes long, so one naturally assumes that a funeral doom version would be at least two hours. Could this be Ahab's quarantine project?
CA: Yeah, for me as a total Maiden nerd this would be super exciting. But I guess Christian, who absolutely dislikes them, might be not very enthusiastic about a project like this, I fear, haha...
SSUS: To accompany the release of Live Prey, you just released a video for the live version of "Old Thunder" that comprises live footage, goofing around backstage, and some choice shots of the band standing on the beach and gazing wistfully into the ocean. The video's description suggests that "Old Thunder" was chosen because "The Hunt," while perhaps a little bit more of a trademark Ahab song, is also really, really long, as opposed to just really long; is it difficult coming up with enough footage to make a video for a ten-minute track?
CA: It was not difficult to find stuff because we have been filming constantly over the years. It just took a lot of time to get through those countless hours of stuff. At the same time this process was very emotional. Seeing all those faces we have toured with, sharing those great memories with them brought me close to tears more than once. The one night I chatted with Greg (Esoteric) when I was working my way through one folder full of tour memories. This was one of those situations when it became crystal clear that it will be a long time until we can experience this feeling of being on the road again... if ever...
And yes, with the outro attached to the song "The Hunt" would have been simply too long, you´re right. Since the song merges into the outro there was no chance to simply cut it off and not ruining it, anyway.
SSUS: With that video so new, perhaps it's too soon to be talking about future videos already, but if you could choose any living director to direct a music video for Ahab, who would it be and why?
CA: Tarantino! [Ed: YES] I guess, if there was unlimited budget he´d be able to deliver a truly haunting and strange piece of art... Or Lynch... [Ed: NO] haunting and even stranger...
SSUS: On a more personal note, when Marcel Hubregtse passed away last December, you guys made a Facebook post in his memory. Marcel was Metal Storm's longtime curmudgeon-in-residence, so we thought it was very cool, and also very telling of his character, to see some of the bands he supported remembering him. Do you have any particular Marcel memories or stories that you could share with us?
CA: Yeah, he was super awesome. I didn't see him very often, but it was always super fun to spend time with him. I remember when we had the listening session for The Boats Of The Glen Carrig in Stuttgart in 2015. After the session we walked to the train station, super hammered, through a city full of church congress participants. Talking total nonsense and just having a good laugh all the time. I am very glad that I met him last year at Dutch Doom Days when he was dejaying. I gave him a rant because "DJ hardcut" interrupted a song of Black Sabbath, of all bands. For sure he ranted back... There was mutual understanding and respect. It was no less than shocking when I heard of his death.
SSUS: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
CA: In these times, it has never been easier to show respect to other people. So please take care of each other, wear your masks, wash your hands, and all that shit. And think about this, try to get the whole story, try to learn a lesson from this. Maybe this pandemic is the very last chance we´re being given to jump off that running train into perdition. This planet clearly is fed up with us. Treat it with respect, then maybe it will welcome us back, one day...
And so we end with a nice memory and some wise words. Thanks again to Cornelius Althammer for taking the time to answer these questions and to the rest of Ahab for being the rest of Ahab. Please heed our guest's advice and exercise proper health precautions, or else we'll all die, and as tempting as that frequently seems I'd like to at least get another King Diamond album or the next Rebuild of Evangelion out of the way first. Anyway, don't forget to check out Live Prey and keep your fingers crossed that we'll be able to experience live music in the flesh again some day.
||Posted on 29.07.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.|
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