Before their London show, eGigs gets the chance to talk to bassist Stephan Wandernoth of German funeral doom metallers ahab on the band's forthcoming album, the role a particular fan plays in that album and the current doom metal trend.
How are you?
I'm fine, thank you.
How has your time been in London so far?
Great. Yesterday we were sight-seeing, went to Paola's place who is our promoter here in London, having some beers, hanging out with some guys that we know around the London area. It was great.
How was your performance in Hellfest last month?
It was good, I think [laughs]. Hellfest is great. It was our first time and it was amazing. Wow! It's so huge. They put a lot of love in the small special things they do with the sculptures and the fireworks compared to German festivals like Summer Breeze and Wacken, you have something like a field and that's it. It was huge. We were playing the tent I think 10,000 people fit in one of those big tents - and it was stunning. We had crowdsurfers for the first time! At a doom show!
You're about to release your new album 'The Boats of Glen Carrig' next month. What does it sound like?
That's a hard question. It sounds like Ahab, of course. We still have our trademarks we have the heavy riffs, the growls, the clean singing, the melodies maybe it's a little bit more rock-ish, a little bit more riff-y. We rehearsed a lot live in our rehearsal room. We were writing a lot of music in our rehearsal room. Before we had a lot of ideas from Daniel [Droste vocals, guitars, keyboards] he did it at home and came with the complete songs in the rehearsal place and we just played it. Every guy put his input into the music. This time, we took the time to jam and arrange the music. I think it worked out well. It's different, somehow. I can't explain it now. Maybe I have to listen to it even more [laughs]. I don't know, it's quite diverse still. We have one of our longest songs that we ever did it's about 15 minutes and we have one song that is our slowest song that we ever did and one song is our fastest song that we ever did [laughs]. I'm really anxious to hear what the people will think about it.
The cover art looks amazing. Is there a particular meaning behind it?
It's actually a scene from the book ['The Boats of the Glen Carrig']. There's this one scene that it would fit to. We gave the book to our artist. He's called Sebastian Jerke and also did the cover for 'The Giant' and the important thing is that he reads the books every time so he's into the story. He painted that cover on canvas so it's a real painting and it took him about five or six weeks to paint that. There's no special meaning; just a scene from the book and we liked the idea to have this creepy hand in the front. That's what we gave Sebastian as input as well. It's very colourful, of course! We like it.
A lot of metalbands have monochrome colours but this really sticks out and there's so much detail. Why did you choose the book 'The Boats of the Glen Carrig' to name your album after?
We read a lot of books before. We always try to find a book that we all like.
So all of you are big literary fans?
Yes, kind of. We have to read the books before we start the writing process because we like the idea to have some pictures in mind to make music. It should fit on some level. We read about three or four books before. We read I don't know the English title of the book 'The Ice Sphinx' by Jules Verne. It's the same in English. Also '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' and stuff like that but it wasn't what we were searching for. Somehow it was too friendly and we were searching for something dark, a mix between a horror and a fiction book. It's great, I love the story.
Who recommended the book?
Well, actually it was a fan on Facebook. He said: "Have you ever heard about the book by William Hope Hodgson?" And we said: "No, let's try it." We read the stuff and it turned out it was great.
That's amazing! Did you let the fan know that he was the inspiration?
We can't find him anymore! So if he reads this interview please, please, please write us a note! It's a shame. We don't know who exactly that guy is.
You might be getting more recommendations after this interview!
Yes, maybe [laughs]. We'll have lots of CDs to send out!
So before you wrote the album, you all got together and said: "These are some books that we should read if we haven't already read them?"
Yes, we spend a lot of time choosing a book and reading. We tried to make music without the idea of an album in the back and it didn't work out. We wrote about three songs but none of these songs are on the album now because it doesn't work. I don't know why. So we found an idea to integrate this book and somehow there was a change and it worked.
Ahab's career has been fairly varied. On 'The Curse of the Wretched Sea', there was more prominent funeral doom and now there are more distinct post-rock influences. How do you explain this evolution in sound?
We're getting older [laughs]! No actually, it sounds so stupid but it just happened. We don't want to do another 'Call of the Wretched Sea' album. That's not the point we like to throw. We want to work as a team, as a band. So we can stay at one point and do that funeral doom all the time. We have a lot of different influences of course and that's what you find in our music. Maybe that was the reason I don't know. It's just what comes out of us at that moment. It's a natural thing. We are not those guys sitting and saying: "Let's do a post-rock song." What's the point?
You don't play live often because you all have your own jobs so it's quite special to see Ahab live. You have these long and slow songs, which is the opposite of the stereotypical metal sound. How do you adapt your performance live so the fans can get into it and really enjoy it?
Sometimes. People aren't used to listening to long songs maybe but the doom scene maybe it's different. The doom people take their time to get into the music and that is what you need. We're not the guys making three and a half minute of radio edits of course. So that's what happened and it worked out I don't know why [laughs].
Was it quite a challenge to grow your fanbase from the early days I know you joined later but was the growth steady or did it increase dramatically over the past couple of years?
Actually, it grew over the past few years. Maybe the doom scene is growing at the moment, yes. There are many people listening to doom right now. I don't know what we do to grow. It's still the same thing as [usual]. It's our third time in the UK and we can feel each time that it grows. We're also likely to tour the UK in March because we have the feeling that something will happen. Hopefully! We're working on it. But I don't know; of course we have our label Napalm in the background. We try to do our best to play shows when we can. We all have normal regular day jobs so that's not that many shows. We try to do a tour every year so if you play live, maybe you have the chance to grow but it's crazy sometimes. For example, we had one show in France at Fall of Summer Festival and the second show was Hellfest so what happened? Man, that's a massive difference. We didn't expect that so it's also great for us. We're wondering about that fact. I don't know what that is.
Would you say you have directly benefitted from doom metal's current popularity? It's usually the stoner, traditional and sludge metal bands that the doom fans love.
Yeah, I think so. If you're into slow music, I think it's a smaller step to get into funeral doom. The stoner scene has grown in the last few years. There are festivals that only play stoner rock and I didn't know that five years ago so it's new. Of course we get our profit from this scene and this aspect.
Do you have any final words for the readers of eGigs.co.uk?
Thanks for having us, come to a show, have a beer with us, check us out, whatever [laughs].
Thank you very much for the interview.