AHAB Interview with Cornelius Althammer
Interview by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Having made a splash back in 2004 with a pioneering new nautical doom style, AHAB are riding fresh waves in the wake of new album The Giant. With previous works having focused heavily on the whaling themes suggested by their name, drummer Cornelius Althammer elaborates on the new inspiration behind The Giant and takes on the subject of dodgy pirate names…
Ahoy there – how are things in the AHAB camp?
Cornelius Althammer (CA) – Things are pretty well here, thanks for asking. We seemingly recovered from our tour with Ophis and Esoteric and are hot again to rehearse and try out some new stuff.
I understand the band took its name from Moby Dick – what is it about this novel in particular that attracted you?
CA – It’s these two things .On the one hand there is the tragic figure Captain Ahab. He is a perfect picture of mankind in its selfish and destructive rage, senselessly struggling in made up hostility against whatever. Moby Dick is just an animal a selfish whale hunter didn’t manage to slay. While trying he lost a leg and began to hate this whale from the depths of his heart. Of course it must be tragic to lose a limb of your body, but if you throw a harpoon against an animal you should not be surprised when it strikes back. This is nature’s law, no reason for feelings like hatred. But it is the human way to create something one can cling on, something that keeps one going on and fills life with at least some sense. The desperate quest for sense in life. And the quest for someone or something to blame instead oneself.
On the other hand there is the ocean and the whale, beast that lives in a huge and mainly unexplored world on our planet. This world depicts the supreme power of nature; it reminds us of our humbleness. What does a tiny human being mean compared to nature’s powers which manifest in the sea?
This is what fascinated us in “Moby Dick” as well as “The narrative of A.G. Pym” and furthermore all stories we are going to choose in future.
Do you find literature a major source of inspiration?
CA – Yes, of course. When we have chosen a topic we try to feel the aura a story has, the mood it brings one in. This for example is the reason why you can barely hear any death metal elements on “the Giant”. Of course it is desperate over all, less of hope in this narrative but there is none such as cannibalismin it for example. So this time there is no death metal.
I would be exaggerating if I would say “the story composes the album”. But it is the mood of the story that leads the way of composing.
Do you see a lot of similarities between your songs and stories?
CA – For we write music in the specific mood our literary draught lifts us into we hope that it manages to depict the story in sound and feeling. This is our main intention.
Your new album is called The Giant – what is the thinking behind this release? Any particular themes?
CA – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) – which is the literary groundwork behind “the Giant” – is the only complete novel written by Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall Pym, including shipwreck , mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is saved by the crew of the Jane Guy. Aboard this vessel, Pym and a sailor named Dirk Peters continue their adventures further south. Docking on land, they encounter hostile black-skinned natives before escaping back to the ocean. The novel ends abruptly as Pym and Peters continue towards the South Pole.
The appearance of the Giant is the dramaturgical climax of this novel. He/it has not been specified by Poe and is a symbol for the supernatural and chaos.
Will you be doing anything to celebrate the release?
CA – Well, we had the tour with Ophis and Esoteric, but there was no special release party. But on this tour there was enough of celebration, I believe.
I saw you’d put out a couple of studio teaser videos ahead of the album – do you see this kind of sharing of media as increasingly important to bands?
CA – Yes of course. The Internet has become the most powerful instrument to spread your name as a band. In our special case concerning our studio teasers compared to the effect it has it was quite easy to give impressions from the studio to everyone on earth.
This seems to be the new way: On the one hand we have this all-for-free-thing called internet which enables you to reach at least everyone with your music directly on his computer. On the other one demand for vinyl, elaborate artworks, significant outputs at all is increasing.
The album features a guest appearance from Herbrand Larsen (Enslaved) – how did you find that experience?
CA – We really like the last Enslaved outputs and especially Herbrand Larsens performance. Great band, great musical evolution. Last December we played on a festival in Madrid with Enslaved as well. Daniel came up with the idea and just asked. And for 2 bottles of rum we got this astonishing result.
We were absolutely stunned by his performance. Nothing more to say, he did a perfect job!
You’re soon to head off on a major European tour – excited?
CA – Due to this tour this interview had to remain unanswered for a while. So by now tour is over and we are still thrilled by this great experience. Ophis and Esoteric are really great guys, nearly all shows went well and we sold well.
Any new locations you’ll be heading to?
CA – Yes, there were some new. We had never played in Slovenia and Switzerland before. Zurich was totally great, Genève not very well attended. Megadeth were in town when we played in Ljubljana so this also was not our biggest show so far.
Will you be looking to perform a lot of new material? Are you looking forward to giving The Giant a live airing?
CA – We had three songs from “the Giant” in our set (“Further South”, “Deliverance” an “Antarctica the Polymorphess”) and three older ones (“The Divinity of Oceans”, “Old Thunder” and “The Hunt”). It turned out to be a good mixture. We really enjoyed to play the new stuff but didn’t exaggerate performing new material. First of all we had the chance to play a “real” doom set on a tour. On festivals or as support act it is often unsatisfying for a doom band, due to short set times. Leaving stage after 3 songs doesn’t feel right.
Given the musical themes of the band have you ever thought about touring by boat ;P?
CA – Yes, jokingly. It is very unlikely that something like this could ever happen. If we were millionaires we surely would, haha!
What does the rest of 2012 hold for the band?
CA – Let’s see… We will play the Summer Breeze Open Air, as I mentioned, and some gigs in autumn. Nothing confirmed, yet. Next to playing live there will be jam sessions to find out what the next album maybe could sound like.
Finally, if you had to take to the seas, what would your fearsome pirate, or sailor, name be?
CA – Of course our mercher would be named bursar Grimbeard, that´s for sure. Daniel´s name would be Captain Beckethead due to his hair. I´d name Stephan the flying Dutchman, Hector would be Cox Hector (for Hector sounds piratesque enough!) and I suppose and mine probably would be Cornbeard the Harpoon. Or something similarly silly…
CA – Same to you!