Daniel Droste of Ahab: Interview

Daniel Droste has fronted Ahab for sixteen years. Their nautically themed funeral doom is wondrously crushing. Always rich in narrative and awash with ambiance, Ahab sail the seas of metal enrapturing people with their distinctive and unique sound.

The band are set to release their first live album; Live Prey. The album contains selections from the bands’ debut LP, Call Of The Wretched Sea. We managed to be able to catch up with Daniel in the run up to the release.

Ahab live on stage at Roadburn Festival 2017. Picture: Stefan Raduta

Why have you chosen to release a live album? 

We actually never planned to release a live album to be honest. After we played that show at Deaf Row Fest in 2017 we found out that the sound engineer who mixed us that evening recorded the show. We were thankful for the material of course, but had no further plans for itI guess it was last year when one of our drummers friends who’s also running the tape label “Low Fidelity Assaults” came up with the idea to publish our show in Jena as an official bootleg on tape. But when Napalm Records listened to the recordings they were so excited about it they wanted to release it on LP and CD as well.

Moreover we recently celebrated our 15th anniversary, so it felt just right to release that record at that time.

How did you pick which songs to release from the show?

When we were booked for Deaf Row Fest back then the organizer which is a friend of ours asked us to do a special set. We don’t have that much time to rehearse as i mentioned above, and we already did a special “Call Of The Wretched Sea” set at Roadburn festival the same year which we’ve never played before. So it was just obvious that we’re going to choose that set for the show in Jena as well. Although we also played one of our newer songs as encore that evening, we decided to publish only songs from Call of the Wretched Sea on Live Prey.

Especially, these old songs developed a different feeling live during the years, so we decided to focus on that with this release.

The only time I have ever seen Ahab live was at Damnation Festival in the UK in 2014. It was a devastating show and one that is scorched in my brain. Was it hard to bring the intensity of the show to the live album or do you see the album more as a document of a great show?

I’d definitely say that this album should be seen as a document of that evening in Jena. As far as i know we only got one single track as mixdown from the show, so our possibilities of tweaking anything were limited of course.

When the idea grew to publish that material on tape in a very limited number for tape collectors i absolutely agreed on doing that….but with Napalm Records interest in releasing it as well and by that making it available for the mass…I was unsure that some may expect a high polished live recording and may be disappointed with the raw sound. There are for sure many people out there that don’t even know that many live albums are pimped in recording studios afterwards to create the impression of a thick sounding live show.

Promoting the album as an official live bootleg was a good option in our opinion to point out what “Live Prey” is all about. 

Ahab - The Call Of The Wretched Sea | Releases | Discogs

How have things changed in the band since the original release of Call Of The Wretched Sea? 

We had our first and only line up change after The Call of the Wretched Sea was released. The resonance to that record was really impressive, that opened many doors for us. We played our first shows on big festivals in Germany and got more offers from all over Europe than we could accept. We released three more records so far developed our music I’d say that we found or shaped our style, the fact that all that happened slowly and with the years ended in a natural sounding result. We do have some stylistics in our sound that i’d consider as our basis, but most of the influences that were built on top were guided by the novels we’ve composed…and i’m curious where the book we’re composing this time will lead us in the end.

Do you still get a buzz from playing the older material? Are there any particular favourites that are always in your mindset when putting a show together?

I almost don’t listen to our albums at home to be honest. You always hear small thing’s you’d do different nowadays, especially on our first records….but i still like the atmosphere of the songs and really enjoy playing every single one of them live, especially those we don’t play that often. I have some personal favourites of course, but creating the set list is a democratic process as well. If we promote a new album we have to focus the set list a bit more on that one of course…but if we play a regular live show we try to include at least one song from every album to the set list. That’s what I would expect as a fan, so we try to implement that of course.

Your albums are wonderfully narrative and conjure up plenty of mental images. Would you ever do shows dedicated to the whole of an album; maybe as a soundtrack to a film or something like that? 

Putting a show together combined with visuals is something we actually already discussed. We only played two shows that were dedicated to one (our first) album so far, at Roadburn Festival and at Deaf Row Fest in Jena. Although all our albums are concept albums based on literarture,i would prefer  to play our songs to visuals we created than to an already existing movie. That would actually be very interesting cause it would be vice versa the way we usually work with the music being the template.

Triptykon recently released a live album with an orchestra. With songs the depth and grandeur that you create, do you ever feel that this is something Ahab could do? 

To work with an orchestra offers you tons of tools for composing. Lots of aditional instruments, dynamics and timbres….but all that stuff has to be paid as well of course. It would be an interesting experience for sure but also a lot of work writing a score for every instrument. Almost all of  us had lessons in music theory and we write scores for every AHAB song which makes it much easier to teach session musicians. Doing that for a whole orchestra would take some time.

Our challenge is creating atmosphere with only four instruments and that still attracts me after all these years. 

Has the state of lockdown due to the current pandemic in the world enabled creativity within the band?

Due to the pandemic situation i decided to change the period i planned for parental leave, so i was off work the last three month. I had a lot off time yes and tried to pick up the guitar as often as possible to write stuff. On the other hand we weren’t able to use all that time for rehearsals, which was really annoying. So i tried to collect as much material as possible for forthcoming rehearsals, and i guess i now have a solid base to work with.

Would you like to see anything change within the music industry as the world adjusts to a ‘new normal’?

Well not specifically in the music industry but in the consumers heads in general maybe. The internet offers many possibilities, for fans such as for the bands. There have been and still are plenty of events during the pandemic. Not all but many people tend to take that as a matter of course and forget all the people  putting that stuff together also invest time and often money in doing that.  So all those should get their asses up, buy merch or donate events they’ve watched to support the bands and even more important the venues to survive these weird times.

Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. We hope to see you on our shores again.

Thank you very much for your interest!

Huge thanks to Daniel Droste of Ahab for taking the time to talk to us. You can pre-order the album digitally via Bandcamp (below) and buy on physical formats here.

Ahab: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

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