"The Old Men And The Sea"

By Lord Randall

On the watery eve of the release of "The Boats Of The Glen Carrig", Lord Randall sets sail with vocalist/guitarist Daniel Droste to share a pint (or few…dozen) and discuss AHAB’s fourth…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: How has life been in the AHAB camp since the release of "The Giant", and how does the writing process work with you? Do you suddenly look around and realize you have enough material for an album, or is it more methodical – first inspiration, then perspiration, as they say?

DANIEL DROSTE: After the release of "The Giant" in 2012 we focused on playing live. We've been on tour with our mates of ESOTERIC and OPHIS, played our first show in Russia and several festivals across Europe. It is important for me to get a distance to the new material and to analyze/experience the songs live on stage to make a reorientation possible. I somehow envy bands that have tons of unreleased material left, but on the other hand i guess I'd always prefer the newer song material, because it will always be closer to my actual musical taste.

WC: When did the first seeds of what would become "The Boats Of The Glen Carrig" first begin to bloom in your mind? Were you familiar with Hodgsons’ 1907 book prior to beginning the album?

DD: The structures of the first song for the new album were finished around one and a half years ago. We didn't know Hodgson's book before, it was actually a fan on Facebook who gave us the hint. It is not unusual that fans make proposals to us about sea-related literature we should compose, but this album was the first recommendation we thankfully accepted!

WC: What is it about the book that you feel eases the path into a musical interpretation? Do you and Christian [Hector, guitars] just sit around all day searching for ancient nautical stories/legends in your free time?

DD: [Laughter] Not me! Not at all! If a story doesn't have a fitting working surface, we can't use it. A new AHAB record is always a mixture of our musical trademarks and our current musical tastes, shaped by the literature we composed...and Hodgson's story was the perfect guideline for us this time.

WC: Do you ever foresee an AHAB album not based on or with a water/nautical concept?

DD: I can definitely negate that!

WC: You work as a therapist, from what I’ve heard. What sort of therapy? Physical or more mental/emotional? Obviously you can’t disclose some aspects of your position, but do you find your clients/patients to be inspiring as well within the context of Ahab?

DD: I'm an occupational therapist, so I have to deal with many aspects. I started to work in a practice after I finished my exam, and mostly had children as clients back then, but soon recognized that I'm more interested in working with adults whose lives already have a story to tell. I've never been inspired by my work musically, but these people who seem to be perfectly happy with these little things they have in life keep me grounded in a way.

WC: Speaking of working “straight jobs”, Andrew [Stainthorpe, MY DYING BRIDE] once told me that for all the success MDB has known, he’s glad he still works a full-time job, because it enables him to be free with his music and not need to depend on it for a livelihood. I think it also keeps you grounded, do you agree? I mean, it’s clear that the members of, say, METALLICA or OZZY no longer live in the real world anymore.

DD: I'd actually love to know if a guy like Ozzy Osbourne would be able to do his annual tax declaration [Laughs]. I'm absolutely sure that all members of AHAB put as much energy as possible in the band, but we also agreed that keeping our regular jobs is a must. We are not forced to go on tour for months or to record an album every year. We are free to do what we want, to accept or refuse gig offers and to record when we feel that it's the right time to enter a studio. It is a privilege for us to play in a band that gets quite a lot attention by the press with playing extreme doom metal, which still is a quite non-famous subgenre. It is a luxury to have the possibility to travel, to experience different cultures, to meet interesting people and to make new friends. It is nice to have “a foot in the door” of the music industry, but having the possibility to close that door again, ending up as a lazy couch potato watching DVDs at home is something I also don't want to resign!

WC: Coming off of "The Giant", were there things you knew you wanted to steer clear of? What elements grew in the AHAB sound between albums, and was there anything you were sure you wanted to focus on that maybe you hadn’t before?

DD: Before we entered the studio this time we wanted to make sure that we'll have more time to record and to experiment with different equipment. "The Giant" recordings went really well, but especially the vocal recordings - which were done in just one 17 hour session - were quite tiring. I also did most of the vocals spontaneously in the studio this time. It was very important for me to have at least one band member with me during the recordings to get quick feedback, which wasn't the case three years ago. We spent almost one whole day to check amp sounds and different combinations of amps, microphones and cabinets to reach the sound we wanted. In the end we used six or seven different amp on the record, and again it was a really hard job ...but in the end we're very happy with the result, and came as close as possible to what we imagined the record [should] sound like.

WC: ALAN PARSONS PROJECT cover? Personally, I’m thrilled by it. "The Tales Of Mystery"…, "I Robot" and "Vulture Culture" albums still get regular rotation on my record player. What led to the choice of covering that song in particular, and why have Olav [Iversen, SAHG] do the vocals instead of yourself? 

DD: When the decision was made that there’d be a cover song by AHAB, we agreed that it couldn’t be a metal song we were going to cover. So we searched for potential candidates, and had a quite long list of songs in the end. Some were lyrically sea related, others just songs we liked...but to do a cover song you need to have a personal connection to the song in my opinion. Chris and I already were big fans of ‘The Turn Of A Friendly Card’, so I just slowed the tempo down to half speed and recorded a simple demo version of it on my laptop...and I was amazed how qualified for a doom metal version this song actually is. We knew that the song would have to be a special bonus song that stood apart, because it doesn't fit to the concept, of course. We wanted to have a guest vocalist for this one to make it a bit more special, maybe again as a kind of separation from the rest of the record. We thought about some candidates from time to time, but it wasn't easy to make a decision we were all satisfied with. After our show on Summer Breeze last year, the whole band went to see SAHG playing on the festival’s final day. I guess they were the last band on the billing, and played at 3am. It was a great show and it was a shame that such a great band got such a weird slot. After the show, Chris and I went backstage to watch for Olav, trying to be as serious as possible - we already had some too many, I guess [Laughter] - and just surprised  him with something like “Hey man, great show. We play in a doom band called AHAB, wanna do guest vocals on our new record?” We exchanged e-mail addresses, sent him the demo I recorded and thankfully he joined us!

WC: Random, but going back. I actually own a PENETRALIA album, and still find myself listening from time to time. Did you already have the AHAB concept in mind back in those days? What led to PENETRALIA’s breakup?

DD: Not at all. We started that band as teenagers, and were lucky about our first ( shitty) record deal. It was in the mid ‘90s, we were big fans of death and black metal back then and just tried to do something between those styles. We released a Demo Tape, one Ep and two full length albums, and had a quite good fan base in or area. There were two factors that led to our breakup in my opinion; one was our record company. The label boss was a deceiver exploiting our ignorance of the music business. We never saw a cent and we never got any settlements about the amount of records we sold. Our deal thankfully ended after the Seelenkrank album was released. Searching for a new label, we decided to record a demo cd on our own and to send it out to record companies in Germany and Europe, but never got response. We also came to a point of reorientation, but today I guess we just had no common vision, which I'd consider as the main reason why we broke up. In retrospect, I'd say that this band was important for Chris and me as a first step into the music industry, but from a musical point of view I'm not proud of all we've done back the, especially the production, which is really horrible. [We] were young and green, so I made my peace with it.

WC: As far as the artwork on the new album, who did it, and what does it signify to you? Do you think artwork/packaging are as important nowadays as they were back in the ‘80s/’90s? Could there be a time when the album cover/layout/design of an album becomes obsolete? 

DD: The artwork was done by Sebastian Jerke. We already collaborated on "The Giant" album, so we knew that he was a very talented artist. He always reads the books we're composing before he starts painting the first sketches, which is a very professional way of working in my opinion. On our first two releases we didn't have the funds to realize our vision in detail, so we had to use already existing paintings. I think that a good cover artwork still is very important. I buy most releases for my collection on vinyl nowadays, due to the nice sound and  bigger artwork. The artwork/booklet of an album is the main aspect that separates a physical copy from a digital download. I guess it is natural for teenagers nowadays to download music, [but] for me it still is a strange thing. I only did that once in my life when i purchased LATITUDE’s "Agonist" album which wasn't available as a physical copy back then. As long as there is music available on
vinyl, CD or tape, a good artwork is an important piece of the total work.

WC: You’ve said the new album was recorded “mostly” live, but was mixed completely analogue. Is this something you’ve done before? I can tell you the new album does have a richness some of your older material doesn’t.

DD: "The Boats Of The Glen Carrig" was recorded and mixed by Jens Siefert, who already did the whole production for prior album ,so we already had experience with analogue mixing. Recording mostly live was something we never did before. When we first met with Jens before we entered the studio in Mannheim, we talked about the sound we wanted to achieve and discussed different ways of working. 

WC: With the new album, you’re definitely stepping out of your comfort zone  On ‘The Light In The Weed (Mary Madison)’, when did you know you wanted to not only make this song the final one on "The Boats Of"…, but sing it completely “clean”?

DD: Chris wrote the main riffs and the lyrics for this song. All songs on the record are in chronological order, so after the lyrics were written it was just logical that ‘The Light…’ had to be the last song to keep the structure. He already had a clear vision about the vocals. I got two orders  before I started  the vocal recordings - start singing at that point and keep it clean!

WC: Then we have ‘Like Red Foam (The Great Storm)’, where you actually move faster than a disoriented snail for once. Was it time to raise the energy, and did you imagine a listener’s face who was familiar with the band the first time they heard it?

DD: In ‘Like Red Foam…’, the characters of  Hodgson's story have to face a massive storm, it was our intention to compose this song with a strong energy. We just started jamming around with the main riff I already had in mind, and the rest just happened quite fast, in the truest sense of word. 

WC: I never thought I’d see the day, but doom is becoming popular. It hasn’t bled over into the Hot Topic/mainstream world the way black metal has, thank God! Do you see this as a good or bad thing for doom, and why?

DD: Well, getting popular in music is one of the aims every musician wants to achieve, isn't it? There are so many interesting and talented bands playing doom metal that deserve bigger stages and more attention. We experienced the doom scene as really loyal and open minded, and never got offended by underground hardlines as a quite popular band in that genre. Doom and especially extreme doom is - and in my opinion, always will be - underground in the world of rock and metal music, which is actually a good aspect for us. We played many festivals with big crowds and a very mixed line up...and you always have some death-metal bands, some thrash and black metal bands playing. But if you're the only extreme- doom band on the lineup, which actually happens quite often're always exotic and people keep you in mind.  

WC: It also means you have to stay in front of the pack to not get swept under. Who do you like that’s around now, or do you mostly stick with the old reliable ones?

DD: There will always be some old heroes that will stay unsurpassed. ANATHEMA’s "Pentecost III" is one of my all-time favorites and I still can enjoy this record after so many years. I guess especially in death metal, I'd always rely on the ‘90s scene. I was a teenager back then, and there are many records connected with good memories of the old days...but besides that, I'm always open minded for new stuff. I really enjoyed TRIBULATION’s latest release and BEASTMILK’s "Climax" album. I'm also a big GHOST fan. Those guys are great songwriters and have a excellent concept.