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Interview: Cornelius Althammer of AHAB

Antihero Magazine recently chatted with Cornelius Althammer, drummer of German funeral doom metal band AHAB about his musical background, the band’s history, and plans for a follow-up to 2015’s The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”.

ANTIHERO: Tell me a little bit about how the band was started.

Cornelius Althammer: Ahab was started as a project of our guitar players, Christian Hector and Daniel Droste. In the beginning, it was merely a funeral doom project which was not intended to become a real band. But the concept of mixing doom with a nautical concept seemed to work. When there were requests for live shows, Ahab turned into a band more and more.

ANTIHERO: How would you describe Ahab’s sound?

Cornelius Althammer: Slow, heavy, dramatic.

AHAB - The Boats of The Glen CarrigANTIHERO: It has been 2 years since you released The Boats of the Glen Carrig. I have not heard any rumblings about a new album in the Ahab camp. Can you tell me what you are working on currently?

Cornelius Althammer: Yes, I can: absolutely nothing! 🙂 … we are just rehearsing for some shows during this summer. After September, we´re going to have two months off, without any single show. So, it´s very likely we´re going to start some jams in October/November. But we haven´t written a single riff so far. On the other hand, there is a lyrical concept for the next record hovering above our heads. Christian came up with it and in my opinion, it is the most promising one since Moby Dick. We will see…

ANTIHERO: Do you feel it’s important to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to your songwriting?

Cornelius Althammer: During the writing process, it is inevitable to fight over ideas. And it really is uncomfortable for me to fight with some of my closest friends. Surely, we know that those fights are always over as soon as we leave the rehearsal room. From time to time this is important when you have to find out which idea is the best. Besides that, there is nothing I love more than composing. So, being in the rehearsal room with those three guys is my absolute definition of “comfort zone”, so I am technically stepping INTO my very comfort zone and not out of it.

ANTIHERO: What is going to be the main subject that inspires the songwriting on the new album?

Cornelius Althammer: Well, this would be Christian´s idea of a great lyrical concept I mentioned above.

ANTIHERO: What are some of the high and low points of your career? What’s different in the music industry today compared to when you first started? What would you do differently if you were just entering the industry today?

Cornelius Althammer: It hasn´t been so long that the industry (= money) has become a topic for me. In fact, during the last 2-3 years. So, I actually entered the music business kind of today-ish. My personal high point is and has always been playing. I enter a stage in some awesome country somewhere on this planet, I am allowed to perform my music in front of people and a few years ago it started that I´m getting payed for this. This is way more than I ever expected from my life as a performing musician and I am infinitely thankful for it. The lowest point was that stupid Boats of the Glen Carrig Woodbox. Containing a CD of the album, some collector´s stuff and a 7-inch vinyl with a cover version of Alan Parsons Project´s “Turn of a Friendly Card”. And you can get this fucking 7-inch only by buying this box. It doesn´t come with some limited vinyl, which would have made perfect sense. No, just with a lame CD in a high-priced box. This was a kick in any vinyl collector´s teeth and I am still angry about it. 

ANTIHERO: How does the music affect the lyrics and vice versa? Are the songs a collaborative effort? Does the band have a main songwriter?

Cornelius Althammer: For we compose on the base of a lyrical topic, our music develops with each one. In fact, it turned out that we always do it that way. The best proof for that might be that before we stumbled across W.H. Hodgson´s “The Boats of the Glen Carrig” we had written two and a half songs. But we dumped them. It turned out the lyrical groundwork-based ideas that came up were more profound and had a certain atmosphere. The reason for our music (not the compositions) sounds the way it does simply is growing interest in better instruments, FX pedals, amps, so… I think this is called gear-nerdism. The main writer is Daniel. Most of the riffs and melodies are his. Composing happens as a band.

AhabANTIHERO: What is your musical upbringing when you were young? Did you come from a musical family? Did your family support you in your musical decision?

Cornelius Althammer: My family is very musical. My parents were teachers and so I started early playing the cello. (Classical) music has always been around. Only at the age of 15, I switched to drums. This was probably my cousin´s “fault”, who introduced me into rock music. Of course, my parents weren´t that much happy about me choosing “the left-hand path”, but they always supported me by paying for my drum lessons and sometimes a new cymbal, or so. My bandmates started making music their main purpose in life, early as well. But they didn’t grow up in musical families.

ANTIHERO: In which ways do you think that the band has matured musically between the time the band was formed to the present day?

Cornelius Althammer: Well, we´re older now, haha! Concerning music, this probably shows in the fact that all of us became way more open about different styles of music. I guess Ahab‘s music became more diverse. There´s a wider range in dynamics. So, our jazzy or psychedelic parts are no longer just interludes in the songs. They became musical element of the same importance as the heavy distorted riffs. Or one could simply say there´s a more organic flow in our music now. Daniel made an enormous improvement in terms of vocals during the last ten years. In my opinion, the most important thing about what we do is not to repeat ourselves but still sound like Ahab, which is a pretty mature thing, haha!

ANTIHERO: I know that you cannot speak for all European bands, but what is the reason that most European bands do not play overseas in the United States?

Cornelius Althammer: Judging from what kept us from playing the States, I´d say it´s this working visa thing. As long as you´re not planning to play a six-month tour, it is simply way too expensive.

AhabANTIHERO: What countries are you looking forward to playing, that you have not played in yet? And why?

Cornelius Althammer: I am always looking forward to playing anywhere. So, there is no special country I´d like to play. It´s all of them. Meeting new people from different cultures is always an exciting pleasure.

ANTIHERO: What is your opinion of online music streaming sites such as Spotify, Pandora, and Google Play Music?

Cornelius Althammer: They are probably cool, but I don´t use them, sorry. I have a DUAL record player and recently bought a CD player. But I know that my bandmembers use some of those.

ANTIHERO: Who are your top 5 bands that have influenced you the most?

Cornelius Althammer: For sure I could name a lot of drummers who I adore and I assume they might have had an influence on my drumming. For Ahab in general, I guess people who listen to our music might be able to judge about this rather than me. Even though there are a lot of bands all of us like, musical preferences are very different in this band.

ANTIHERO: What is your favorite song to perform live?

Cornelius Althammer:To Mourn Job“, or “O Father Sea“.

ANTIHERO: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and chat with us.

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