Ahab are the kings of funeral doom, their music is crushingly heavy while hauntingly beautiful at the same time. Their latest album The Boats of Glen Carrig has been on rotation in my home since last year and it is without a doubt a special album. In June I finally got the chance to speak to drummer Cornelius Althammer about the album, the book of the same name, returning to the live stage and more. The interview was also notable for me as it reminded me that Wikipedia is not always right.
Jack: Hi Cornelius, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How is everything going?
Cornelius Althammer (Drums): Well, summer break!!! So of course everything is perfect with me.
Jack: Last year you released your fourth album The Boats of the Glen Carrig, looking back are you happy with the response?
Cornelius: Yes, definitely. You see, even though it has been over ten years with increasing success for AHAB now, I am still excited like a child seeing so many people from all over the world loving and buying our stuff. If you lose this enthusiasm you should probably quit, in my opinion.
Jack: How did you first discover the book that the album is based on?
Cornelius: A fan pointed us to W.H.Hodgson’s works via Facebook. We went through some stuff he wrote and Stephan (bass) discovered this one. When all of us had read it became very clear that “The Boats…” will make it.
Jack: Was it a band decision to adapt the book to an album?
Cornelius: So yes, it was a band decision.
Jack: Was it hard converting the book into an album?
Cornelius: Well, no. We chose this one due to the atmospheric depth, the great plot and subtleness. We liked that there is stuff to discover when you read in-between the lines. I can claim we not only used the book as lyrical groundwork. It inspired us while writing the music. It always makes a difference when you write riffs, arrange songs or just strum around on the guitar when you have a strong story at the back of your mind.
Jack: Who did the beautiful cover art for the album and is there a meaning to it?
Cornelius: Sebastian Jerke, a friend of ours and great artist who already created the artwork for “The Giant” made it. It shows a place that is never mentioned in the story. The story is being told from the sight of a participant in the wreckage of the Glen Carrig and the “survival trip” following after. So of course it is never being described where all those creepy creatures appearing in the book come from. Well, this is the place. So one can say Sebastian Jerke added an aspect to the book by painting this piece of art.
Jack: You covered The Turn of a Friendly Card by The Alan Parson’s project as a vinyl exclusive. Why did you pick this song?
Cornelius: We like the original song and felt we could contribute something to it at the same time. It is a beautiful one (a bit kitschy, maybe) but played in this slow and heavy way with those amazing vocals by Olaf Iverssen (Sagh) it revealed a hidden doom aspect. If you listen to our version and you don´t know the original one you´d probably wonder wich classic-epic-whatever doom band this could be.
Jack: What was the reason for making it a vinyl exclusive?
Cornelius: Please ask the record company. I was really angry when I was told that the 7 inch vinyl would be released in a wooden box, containing a CD and not the double LP with the album. Nobody ever gave me a suitable explanation for this shit idea. Even seen from a capitalistic point of view (which a record company obviously must have) it makes absolutely no sense, because it “surprisingly” doesn’t seem to sell that well. As you can see I am still angry about it. In my opinion it is an insult for the vinyl collector (as I am).
Jack: In your opinion what makes Vinyl so special?
Cornelius: The feeling. Of course there is the aspect of sound. When I recently bought a “new” record player (built in 1972 and lovingly restored by a friend of mine) I was astonished how much better vinyl sounds… played with an excellent player it clearly outplays the CD. And of course the size. You would rather have a beautiful cover in the size of an LP than in CD size, right?
Jack: You recorded the album with Jens Siefert, what was it like working with him?
Cornelius: He is everything you can wish from an excellent studio guy. He has the knowledge, the equipment, ideas and space to record and create a production like you can hear on “the Boats…”. And he is fucking nice. Far beyond imagination. It is always enormously funny and close to transcendental to work with this genius.
Jack: The album has been described by many as more melodic than previous albums, would you agree?
Cornelius: No, I wouldn’t. AHAB has always been very melodic. It might have happened that especially Daniel´s vocals and vocal lines are even better than before. But If I had to point out a difference to “the Giant” I´d probably say that “the Boats…” is way heavier and darker.
Jack: How would you compare the album to previous Ahab albums?
Cornelius: Heavier and darker on the one hand. But jazzier and more psychedelic on the other hand. Simply better [Laughs]!
Jack: How did the tour go in support of the album? Did any show stand out?
Cornelius: High Fighter and Mammoth Storm who joined us on that tour turned out to be the nicest and funniest guys on earth. So this was some of the best twelve days I ever had in my life. I think each show had this through and through positive vibe. But of course there are always differences in the quality of each performance. For me and Daniel (Vocals, Guitar) the show in Nantes (France) stood out. Interestingly Christian (Guitar) and Stephan (Bass) particularly didn’t like this one so much.
Jack: You played your first show after a six month break in Heidelberg. How did it go?
Cornelius: It felt incredible to be on the stage again. Of course we needed this break for several reasons. But to be honest, I hated it after four weeks already.
Jack: Have you started discussing a follow up album?
Cornelius: [Laughs] No! We are far from that. We even haven´t had a single jam since the release of the Boats… But besides, we never discuss about making an album. It´s more like at some point we realise that there are finally coming riffs or general ideas out of us again. And then we get to work.
Jack: When are you next back on the road?
Cornelius: In Autumn we finally will be back. Belgium, Protugal, Spain, and some more…
Jack: I know you’re friends with one of my favourite new bands, High Fighter, what do you like about their music?
Cornelius: Everything you can possibly like about a rock band. Excellent groove, kicking riffs, great vocals and energy!
Jack: Thank you so much for your time and I hope to see you in the UK soon!
Cornelius: Oh yes, UK has always [been] very good to us!