Interview: Gloryhammer

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We’ve structured the interview below to tell the tale of the bands conception from beginning through to present time. If however you can’t be bothered reading our shit, you can skip to the bottom where the raw, unedited question and answer text is located!

Power metal is the greatest thing ever, if you disagree you’re wrong. Sound the Charge! met with Gloryhammer’s Paul Templing in Glasgow last Thursday to discuss things like power metal, gloriousness, mighty dragons and Cowdenbeath.

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The band formed back in 2009 when Paul and drummer, Ben, supported Alestorm in Bristol, meeting with the bands keytar player/lead singer Chris Bowes. “That was kind of where the Gloryhammer thing originated from” Paul told us, “that’s where we originally met up and got talking about it.” Back then it wasn’t so glorious though. “The original name was Gloryhole as it was sort of power metal sounding, but also hilarious.”

A few years ago The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee appeared online. “It was written by Chris in 2010, 9, something like that. At the time we were like, maybe we’ll record this one day and hopefully it’ll be funny. And it just sort of snowballed from there, Chris ended up writing a whole album, with help from us as well, and we’ve ended up where we are now. Which is crazy.”

The line up just needed a singer. “A couple of years ago, DragonForce, ZP left and they were looking for a new singer. We took advantage of the situation because we were looking for a power metal singer to, so we just went through every single video pretty much and Tom was our favourite, we had to have him.” This was problematic at first as “he was going to join another UK band so he said no and we were really disappointed.” Thankfully for Gloryhammer “it didn’t work out between him and this other band so [they] asked him again and he said “yeah, I’ll do it.” He was the only guy for the job really.”

Unlike many bands, the first time they actually met Tom was at a photoshoot for the album. “We’re from all over the place. Chris lives in the Netherlands, I’m from South Wales, Jim is from Bristol and Ben is from Surry. It’s rare that we all get to meet up in the same place at the same time, and until then we had never really had a reason to because we never played together, the songs weren’t even all  finished at that point but we wanted to get ourselves together for the photoshoot. So that’s where we all met, we had a photoshoot in our costumes, it was pretty surreal.”

Did this lead to an awkward situation in the studio though? Apparently no, “as it turns out we get on well, it’s a nice band to be in.”

The band by this time had switched from the Gloryhole name as they had a proper album to release. “we thought – hammers, that’s pretty metal. So Gloryhammer. And the album is based round this hammer, the hammer of glory. It’s kind of a nod to various bands referencing Hammers. HammerFall being the obvious one.”

The album itself focusses on the exploits of the evil wizard Zargothrax and the hero, Angus McFife. “It’s kind of that classic fantasy situation where you’ve got a nice peaceful Kingdom, everything there is good and everything’s working well, and then an evil character appears. In this case it’s the evil wizard Zargothrax, he comes along with his army of undead unicorns and together they take over the Kingdom of Fife and the mighty city of Dundee, and capture the beautiful princess who is promised to Angus McFife. Then of course Angus is incensed, he must rescue the princess and conquer Zargothrax, but to do so, in classic fantasy style, he has to collect three artefacts. He rides a dragon, he goes on quests, eventually there’s a big battle in the end, and good comes out on top. It’s left open ended, we might want to make another album..”

The story of the album is based in an alternate, mythical past of the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland. While the East Coast of Scotland may seem a strange place to base an entire fantasy power metal album in it’s where Chris Bowes comes from. “Initially I think the idea was to make a huge fantasy concept album about the most mundane crappiest place anyone can imagine so Chris just went straight for Fife and all of his favourite locations in Fife, in a friendly, playful way. There’s somewhere in his heart for all of these places. He just thought it would be funny to apply of these huge grandiose concepts to these mundane normal places in Scotland.”

With the tour now in full swing, they began in the mighty city of Dundee itself, but did it live up to the mightiness? “It was pretty mighty actually yeah. We took the opportunity to visit Crail as well just because we were travelling from Chris’s house in Perth over to Dundee, so we thought we might as well see the sights because as it is, I’ve never actually been to Scotland so I thought I’d better see why my army comes from. It was nice. When we got to Dundee it was probably better than we even hoped for because it’s Dundee, you don’t expect big crowds but the place was pretty full and the people there were crazy for it. You’re singing about all these local locations there and it must be nice, I’d like some band to sing about Cardiff, where I’m from, you know, Unicorn Invasion of Ely”

While inside Scotland everyone knows Fife, to many the album truly is based in a made up land. “We uploaded a photo of the “Welcome to the Kingdom of Fife” road sign and that was the main reaction, people didn’t know this was a real thing!” One of the places they visit is the town of Cowdenbeath but Paul warms people curious “but don’t go there expecting unicorns or dragons or anything, you might be a little disappointed.”

By now you probably know the appearance of the band from the video for Angus McFife and from various promo pictures. They also take these costumes on stage. When asked if any “performance” accompanies the costumes we’re told “There’s a little bit of theatre, maybe pantomime you might call it. There’s a little bit of back and forth because we have the story of Angus McFife and Zargothrax who are both in the band somehow, so they have a little battle onstage and Angus has got a bit of banter. We’ve got a goblin now as well, one of our techs…he’s a goblin, he’ll come on and crown the King of Unst, the barbarian warrior of Unst. He will crown him at the end of the show, and we will kneel and bow. Standard rock n roll stuff you know?” The costumes were also worn briefly in the studio, while Paul had to give up on his cape because it impaired his playing, Ben continued on regardless “because he feels comfortable in it I guess. Getting into the character makes him play better or something.”

We move on to discuss power metal in general. While fans of metal listen to songs about death and disembowelment, they’re also seemingly more than up for listening to songs about frozen princesses and unicorns. Though they’re open to the music, oddly it seems “a lot of people are hung up on Toms hair, it’s a common comment. People say “oh he’s got short hair, why is he in a power metal band.” I don’t really understand why that’s an issue at all because he’s got a great voice so that’s all that should matter.”

Trying to break into the power metal scene could also be difficult these days, as without a niche like Alestorm it could be hard to break away from the pack. Thankfully the musicians all come from solid power metal backgrounds helping them claw their up the line Paul himself has been “doing power metal for quite a long time, myself and Ben, we’re in another band called Sorcerers Spell so we’ve been doing power metal since…Ben joined in about 2007, so together we’ve been trying to push the UK power metal thing.”

One track on the album in particular contains maybe the most power metal title of all time, The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder which is “kind of a nod to the Rhapsody albums you get where you’ve got one massive huge crazy song. We wanted to include all of the clichés, but just do it as well as we can, make it into a genuinely good power metal song, but in a self-aware kind of way where we’re referencing other bands.”

Moving to the future we discuss the future of Gloryhammer and Angus McFife. Will it continue? It may do. In the end he rescues his princess, and Zargothrax is cast off in a ball of liquid ice… or something like that, into space. If you listen to the final album on the album, the bonus track, that’s got a few references to what we’re planning for the next one. Wizards in space perhaps. If you listen to that track there are a few precursors.”

With that there’s just time to ask the important question all the fans are clearly dying to know. If Alestorm are Bacon Powered Pirate Core, what delicious breakfast meat powers Gloryhammer? “Since our fanbase is generally German we’ve found we’ve ended up going there quite a lot and eating quite a few sausages, that seems to be all they eat for breakfast in Germany, it’s sausages and ham and cheese as well. Some kind of particularly glorious sausage breakfast I suppose, I don’t know what you can put in a sausage that’s glorious. Less of the bacon more of sausage, same animal, different parts.”

The review of the full show will come tomorrow.

Original, unedited interview

A quick check to make sure everything’s recording properly, can you just introduce yourself?

I’m Paul, I play guitar for Gloryhammer

Excellent, well onto the first and most important question, you played Dundee last night, was it as mighty as expected?

It was pretty mighty actually yeah. We took the opportunity to visit Crail as well just because we were travelling from Chris’s house in Perth over to Dundee, so we thought we might as well see the sights because as it is, I’ve never actually been to Scotland so I thought I’d better see why my army comes from. It was nice. When we got to Dundee it was probably better than we even hoped for because it’s Dundee, you don’t expect big crowds but the place was pretty full and the people there were crazy for it. You’re singing about all these local locations there and it must be nice, I’d like some band to sing about Cardiff, where I’m from, you know, Unicorn Invasion of Ely

I liked that on the Facebook page, some people seemed surprised Fife was a real place

Yeah, we uploaded a photo of the “Welcome to the Kingdom of Fife” roadsign and that was the main reaction, people didn’t know this was a real thing!

That’s the funny thing, in Scotland a song about Cowdenbeath is pretty funny, outside it’s like this mythical made up place

Yeah, but don’t go there expecting unicorns or dragons or anything, you might be a little disappointed

On the whole subject of live shows, I know from the videos and pictures that you’re pretty theatrical with your costumes and I know you wear them live, but do you add any other theatrical elements to it?

There’s a little bit of theatre, maybe pantomime you might call it. There’s a little bit of back and forth because we have the story of Angus McFife and Zargothrax who are both in the band somehow, so they have a little battle onstage and Angus has got a bit of banter. We’ve got a goblin now as well, one of our techs…he’s a goblin, he’ll come on and crown the King of Unst, the barbarian warrior of Unst. He will crown him at the end of the show, and we will kneel and bow. Standard rock n roll stuff you know?

Did you wear your costumes when you recorded the album?

I didn’t I have to admit. I brought it with me and I wore it a little bit but it sort of impairs the playing a little bit so it gets to the point where you think, “I should probably just try to play as well as I can because no one can hear my costume.” I think Ben our drummer actually ended up wearing his costume for quite a lot of the recording because he feels comfortable in it I guess. Getting into the character makes him play better or something.

I almost don’t want to ask this as you’ve probably been asked this as many times as Chris has been asked “why pirates?” But could you explain for those who don’t know, what is the back story of the album?

It’s kind of that classic fantasy situation where you’ve got a nice peaceful Kingdom, everything there is good and everything’s working well, and then an evil character appears. In this case it’s the evil wizard Zargothrax, he comes along with his army of undead unicorns and together they take over the Kingdom of Fife and the mighty city of Dundee, and capture the beautiful princess who is promised to Angus McFife. Then of course Angus is incensed, he must rescue the princess and conquer Zargothrax, but to do so, in classic fantasy style, he has to collect three artefacts which he may or may not do, I don’t want to give any spoilers or anything……. He does. He rides a dragon, what else does he do? He does things, he goes on quests, eventually there’s a big battle in the end, and good comes out on top. It’s left open ended, we might want to make another album..

Apart from the obvious connection, is there another reason you picked Fife as a setting or is it purely down to Chris = Fife.

Well initially I think the idea was to make a huge fantasy concept album about the most mundane crappiest place anyone can imagine so Chris just went straight for Fife and all of his favourite locations in Fife, in a friendly, playful way. There’s somewhere in his heart for all of these places. He just thought it would be funny to apply of these huge grandiose concepts to these mundane normal places in Scotland.

I know The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee was released free online a couple of years ago, and Alestorm played it live once or twice; how did Gloryhammer go from that to becoming a full fledged “thing”

It kind of shows the progression of this from a silly idea that would be funny to a something that actually happens; now it’s got really out of hand, we’ve got a tour off it and album and everything. It was written by Chris in 2010, 9, something like that. At the time we were like, maybe we’ll record this one day and hopefully it’ll be funny. And it just sort of snowballed from there, Chris ended up writing a whole album, with help from us as well, and we’ve ended up where we are now. Which is crazy.

I heard you got Tom from a youtube video in a DragonForce video

Yeah that’s true, yeah. A couple of years ago DragonForce, ZP left and they were looking for a new singer. We took advantage of the situation because we were looking for a power metal singer to, so we just went through every single video pretty much and Tom was our favourite, we had to have him. Initially we asked him and he was going to join another UK band, that I probably cant mention so he said no and we were really disappointed. But it didn’t work out between him and this other band so we asked him again and he said “yeah, I’ll do it” so worked out well for us, he was the only guy for the job really.

And the first time you met him was actually in the photoshoot?

Yeah, how did you know that!

Research!

Research yeah! No that’s true, we’re from all over the place. Chris lives in the Netherlands, I’m from South Wales, Jim is from Bristol and Ben is from Surry. It’s rare that we all get to meet up in the same place at the same time, and until then we had never really had a reason to because we never played together, the songs weren’t even all  finished at that point but we wanted to get ourselves together for the photoshoot. So that’s where we all met, we had a photoshoot in our costumes, it was pretty surreal.

Did that make it a bit awkward in the studio or was it pretty easy going straight away?

I think we were quite lucky as we put together this band with a mish mash of people from all over the place but as it turns out we get on well, it’s a nice band to be in.

With Alestorm there’s the whole pirate niche, do you find it hard to break into the general power metal scene with Gloryhammer? Or does the fact everyone’s from other bands make this a bit easier?

Well I’ve been doing power metal for quite a long time, myself and Ben, we’re in another band called Sorcerers Spell so we’ve been doing power metal since…Ben joined in about 2007, so together we’ve been trying to push the UK power metal thing.

You guys supported Alestorm right?

Yeah we did, that was in Bristol. That was kind of where the Gloryhammer thing originated from, that’s where we originally met up and got talking about it. It feels kind of natural for me to keep playing power metal because it’s all I seem to do.

Well it’s the best kind of metal!

It is powerful!

Is the Epic Rage of Furious Thunder and attempt to write the most power metal song title of all time?

It’s kind of a nod to the Rhapsody albums you get where you’ve got one massive huge crazy song, but yeah, we wanted to include all of the clichés, but just do it as well as we can, make it into a genuinely good power metal song, but in a self-aware kind of way where we’re referencing other bands. A few bands in that you’ll probably be able to pick up.

People in the long hair and bearded club who generally like songs about death and anger seem to be more than happy to listen to songs about unicorns and princesses as well, have you had problems with people perhaps not being so open to it?

A lot of people are hung up on Toms hair, it’s a common comment people say “oh he’s got short hair, why is he in a power metal band.” I don’t really understand why that’s an issue at all because he’s got a great voice so that’s all that should matter.

And guys like Bruce Dickinson have short hair these days

Yeah. And I mean, I’m in the short hair club now these days as well, I shave my head a couple of weeks ago so you can’t get any shorter. You won’t be able to pick it up with your thing but…*removes hat to reveal a shaved bald dome*, squeaky head man. So I’ve joined that as well. Maybe that’ll become a new thing in power metal, everyone shaving their heads.

At this point someone comes in to tell Paul the doors are open and people are wanting merch etc, one of these items being an inflatable hammer.

Where did you get the hammer from anyway?

The hammer..well..well! The original name was Gloryhole as it was sort of power metal sounding, but also hilarious. When we were going to release a proper album, we thought “maybe we should change the name to something” so we thought – hammers, that’s pretty metal. So Gloryhammer. And the album is based round this hammer, the hammer of glory. It’s kind of a nod yeah, to various bands referencing Hammers. HammerFall being the obvious one.

When you hone in on one band and just use their sound, then maybe you can be accused of ripping them off. But if you reference enough bands then it’s no longer ripping them off, it’s more paying homage, paying homage to power metal.

The album cover, is that Angus McFife

Yeah, it’s supposed to be a depiction of him.

And that leads us to a question from earlier, his tale continues?

It may do, it may do yeah. In the end he rescues his princess, and Zargothrax is cast off in a ball of liquid ice… or something like that, into space. If you listen to the final album on the album, the bonus track, that’s got a few references to what we’re planning for the next one. Wizards in space perhaps. If you listen to that track there are a few precursors.

The final main question is, there’s a t-shirt that says Alestorm are Bacon Powered Pirate Core. What delicious breakfast meat powers Gloryhammer?

Ooohh I’m not sure. Since our fanbase is generally German we’ve found we’ve ended up going there quite a lot and eating quite a few sausages, that seems to be all they eat for breakfast in Germany, it’s sausages and ham and cheese as well. Some kind of particularly glorious sausage breakfast I suppose, I don’t know what you can put in a sausage that’s glorious. Less of the bacon more of sausage, same animal, different parts.

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