WORDS: Tim Redman
AHAB‘s sludge doom assault have been ensnaring fans for over a decade now. On the brink of the band’s latest studio record, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (which you can see our review here), Tim Redman talks to guitarist Christian Hector about the new record, the band’s themes and the popularity of doom metal.
Hello there, Tim from Distorted Sound here. I suppose the best way to start this interview would be to congratulate you on the monumental slice of melancholy you’ve managed to create with The Boats of the Glen Carrig. Did the record feel as good as it ended up being when you guys were recording it?
Chris: Thanks for the kind words! Actually it was a kind of relief, when we were finally finished with the recordings. This time it was really challenging to record. We were quite exhausted after the recording sessions, because we were really hard working on every little detail and Jens Siefert (our producer) was more strict with us this time. He wanted us to play laid back, which means, you have to play slightly behind the metronome. You can only manage to play like this, if you’re really into the music. For that you have to be very much focused. The good feeling starts, when you listened to the final mix and the mastered album. Then you need a break. I think, I didn’t listen to the full album for some months now. I guess, I’ll need some more, before I’ll give the album another spin. My head’s already fixed on the next AHAB project, actually.
You’ve recently released the song Like Red Foam (The Great Storm) as a single. The video is certainly an experience to watch. How did that come about and what’s the response been like?
Chris: We were well aware the song and also the video would be a bit controversial. But we like to do experimental stuff. Many people didn’t get quite the connection of the video to the song Like Red Foam (The Great Storm) as it’s highly metaphoric and is about some thoughts of William Hope Hodgson within the book. It’s about social distinctions, that do not matter anymore, if you’re in extreme situations. When the crew of the Glen Carrig is shipwrecked, als social disctinctions between the crew members were set aside. The only thing that counts, is to survive. So it’s about the lines in the lyrics “Doesn’t matter who you are within the elements’ fierce ire”. It’s up to the listeners what they make of these lines and what they connect with “the elements’ fierce ire”. The waterboarding is actually a metaphor for some lines in the chapter “The Great Storm” in the book. But I’m not a big fan of explaining art.
AHAB have always been known for your lyrical use of nautical themes, but this album deals with the 1907 book of the same name. Why did you choose that book for this record and why the change, if you consider it too be a change at all?
Chris: We do not consider it a change. The listeners only hear what finally is on the album. Of course they lack the three years of musical evolution within the band during the three years in between the albums. So for them there may be some change. For us it’s three years of composing, throwing riffs away, try again and finally write a new album. As for the book: It just fitted our sound perfectly with all the psychedelic components, the horror novel stuff and the social level of the book. When a fan hinted the author to us, we started to read some of Hodgson’s works and “The Boats” just turned out to be the perfect fit for our sound nowadays.
In a similar vein to the previous question, AHAB makes great use of both clean and harsh vocals to create an atmosphere. Is the use of these differing vocal approaches something that happened organically or did you cultivate the style to help create that atmosphere?
Chris: Well, Daniel always says, that the contrast of both styles, makes each style even more extreme. Probably a bit like: You can’t appreciate good times if you never had bad ones. And of course our music lives of the contrasts between melancholy and fury as well. We have beautyful calm passages that are destroyed in the next moment by fierce and slow riffing. For me contrasts make music interesting – and it doesn’t really matter how you create such contrasts. If a whole album is only fierce, it will soon be boring. At least to my taste.
AHAB was formed in 2004 and since your debut in 2006 you’ve released albums constantly every three years since. Is this a deliberate plan or just a coincidence?
Chris: I think that to some part a coincidence, to some other part probably just the time we need to free our minds from the last album. But it’s not planned in any way.
You’ve also been signed to Napalm records since your debut, how’s that relationship changed over the years as you got bigger as a band?
Chris: I don’t think so. We always had a quite nice relationship to Napalm. We talked to Max (the label boss) some months ago, and he actually likes how we work. It’s a totally different way many big bands work, but we just know, what’s good for us, for our music and for our art as a whole. He told us, he wants us to stick to this. We never had a manager or anyone much involved in our stuff. Of course it’s much work for us as a band, but it’s just good that way. What else can you ask of a label? We can do whatever we like and we know Napalm stand behind us. We’re still thankful for the opportunity Max gave us, when they signed us with our very first record. No one expected much of The Call Of The Wretched Sea – not even Daniel and me. Now it’s 11 years of AHAB. Who could have foreseen that?
As a younger band in the doom scene have you felt there’s been a change in the popularity of the doom genre, and indeed the funeral doom sub-genre, over those 10 years?
Chris: When we started out, the underground Doom scene was still small. And I think it still is. There are no big bands like in the Black Metal scene for example and I guess it’s good that way. Most of the Doom bands are happy to play in front of 100 to 300 people. Of course the Doom scene is bigger nowadays but there’s no so called “Sell-out“ like in Black Metal for example. The core of the Doom Scene is quite like a family. Few bands are bitching about others – it’s almost vice versa. Many of them seem to support each other. We do like this a lot.
On your social media accounts you regularly interact with your fans and genuinely seem to enjoy doing so. Do you feel this is something more larger name bands should be doing and how do you feel it effects your relationship with your fans?
Chris: Well some say, if you interact to much with your fans, it’s bad for the “Rock Star Image” and you’re not mysterious anymore. But we do not like such Rock Star platitudes. If someone posts something nice, why not say thank you? Of course we do like to be respected for our art, but at the end of the day, I think it’s more important, that if someone talks to you, he has the feeling he just met someone respectful and nice. What goes around comes around.
You also appears to have very strong views on the damage humans are currently doing to the world’s oceans and their inhabitants, specifically whaling. Is this something you’ve always felt strongly about, or is it a result of playing under the AHAB name?
Chris: I think this doesn’t have anything to do with AHAB itself but the persons behind the music. We’re a non-political band but we’re political persons. We have a strong opinion about different things and we do not hesitate to tell people if we think, it is the right time to do so. Some fans dislike that, but what can you do. We won’t be still just because someone wants us to be. We’ll speak our minds whenever we want.
You’ve recently played Hellfest and headlined the doom stage at the UKs own Damnation in 2014. Can we expect to see AHAB out on the road again soon to promote the new album?
Chris: Yes, we’re on tour in late august in Germany, France, Switzerland, probably Austria etc. We’ll also play Eindhoven Metal Fest and afterwards we’ll take a break and probably be back in the second half of 2016.
How do you plan to work the new material into the setlist?
Chris: We’ll play three new songs and the rest will be taken from the former albums.
With such an impressive back catalogue it must be difficult to know what to drop?
Chris: It’s more difficult to fit enough of the long songs into a set-list. But it’s not hard. We discuss a bit and then we just decide.
I’ll bring this interview to a close by offering you the floor. Is there anything not related to your line of cuddly whale drum-kit accessories you’d like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Chris: Decelerate your life!
The Boats of the Glen Carrig is out now via Napalm Records