Ye Banished Privateers: more than music

With the start of this project, I never believed that I would be able to interview pirates. But, a thing that this project is pointing out to me, is that everything is possible. After our first article about the Swedish group Ye Banished Privateers, me and my father were personally invited for a conversation at Castlefest. The meeting turned out to be a very interesting history lesson and closer look at this unique group of people.


“Inspired by Irish Folk, Sea Shanty and traditional Scandinavian Ballads, you play your own interpretation of pirate music from the 18th century.How do you combine all these elements?”

“That is something we do not know exactly as well! We are a group of 25 musicians, with musically seen different backgrounds: punk, rock, folk and so on. When we are in Sweden, we have different backgrounds in our social life as well: some of us are teachers at the University (History and literature), others are professional singer-songwriters for example. The combining element (besides Music in general), is the willing to perform and have a lot of fun.”

“I also have the feeling that the music itself is never finished.”

“That is true. The group changes because we are with 25 in total, but are mostly touring with 11. When the group changes, the music and the way it is performed changes as well. Everyone in the group has their own influence, which makes it feel so great.

“So, with that in mind: how much on stage is scripted and how much is freestyle?”

“We decide what we are going to do whenever we are on stage. Sure, some ideas are scripted, but even than you should always expect the unexpexted. Two of the eleven people on stage can make an agreement with eachother, without telling the others. It makes the reactions and performances as authentic as they can be.”

“How do you combine the modern ideas with the more historical and classical music?”

“That is actually quite simple, because the pirate song itself has got a timeless character. In general, it goes about the little people fighting against the power. It is a general theme in storytelling, which we have translated into modern days. We do that, with keeping in mind that sometimes the lyrics need to be adapted into modern days. For that reason, we have gender equality in our songs and performances.”

“How hard is it to find the history of piracy?”

“Describing the history of pirates is really hard, because they mostly did not read or write it down themselves. Reading and writing those days was something for the upper class. For that reason, we see the 18th century as a mirror for our society nowadays. Modern politics are also described, for the songs that go about equality or about people that are on the run from their home country.”

“Does your audience directly sees the connection with modern days or do you have to introduce it in every song?”

“Because we can not know what the audience sees or feels, we give a short introduction. As long as the audience has an interpretation it is good enough for us: it is their interpretation of our ideas. When they feel or see the message, we do hope that it changes people. Changing people with your art is one of the best things that can happen.”

“What is the best statement piracy has shown the world?”

“That if you feel treated wrong by the rulers, you have to show resistance. With this resistance, you can change the power balance totally. During the 18th century, around 3000 pirates where active in the Caribbean. The most famous one, Blackbeard, has conquered over 300 ships in 2 years. As long as you fight for your rights, anything is possible.”

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“During your authentic performances, your costumes have an authentic look as well.”

“We keep an eye open in for example second hand stores, we never buy anything new! In our group, Peter is the ‘Head of aesthetics’, our final check: he knows exactly how and why pirates looked like they did. It is always a mix between pirate fantasy (how people expect pirates to look) and historically correct. We do have a look at paintings, where we always search for new details. For us it is amazing to visit the Netherlands. During the period we talk about, you were the best ship builders, sailors and sea traders! We have been to the Scheepsvaartmuseum, where we had so much fun and inspiration. We even received our money back, because in the eyes of the manager we were the main attraction that day!”

“So you were visiting a museum which perfectly fits your theme, but you are also playing at re-enactment festivals. How is it to see the audience dressed in pirate clothes?”

“That is absolutely wonderful, because then you know you are playing for a home crowd. From that moment we know that we are playing the game together with the audience. From that point it does not matter if they are grown up’s, which is our main audience, or children. In Scandinavian countries, people are expected to grow up and are hardly wearing costumes. Here in the Netherlands, people feel more freedom to dress themselves in the way they want to.”

“How do you prepare yourself before you go on stage?”

“Our preparation starts during our travels. We mostly travel by plane, and during the flight and the waiting we discuss what needs to be discussed. Because it would take a lot of space in our luggage, we always travel in our stage gear. We have noticed that people are always happy to see pirates and read about them, because they are the Robin Hoods of the sea. The fascination of pirates and the historical background will never leave in our opinion.”

“With this, and the other interviews, I am trying to find a definition of creativity. Pirates: what is your definition of creativity?”


“For me, creativity is something that pops up (in the way I think) and has to go out! It doesn’t matter if I am writing, signing or designing clothes: it comes naturally as an idea and with my creativity I am able to transform it to something real. So, to conclude, creativity for me is both a state of mind and a need.”

Magda “Märlprim” Andersson


“For me, creativity is about fears and tears: this group allows me to make mistakes, and also learn how to grow. By learning, doing and growing, your creativity can be activated, whenever you are frightened or not.”

Björn “Bellows” Malmros


“Being creative for me is redefining art. In a safe and comfortable place where you are allowed to experiment and make failures. Because sometimes being creative, is failing hundred times before you do it right.”

Jens Tzan “Wan Chou” Choong


“For me, creativity is about crossing borders and reaching new ground. It is also about getting inspired by other people that are creative, which can help you to cross the borders to go further. Society creates so many borders (visible or not), and being creative is to deny or not even noticing those borders.”

Frida “Freebird” Granström


“Creativity to me is this band: a creative output of ideas and souls, mixed in this group. Creativity is making something out of nothing and being able to see things from different angles. For example, you can analyse it with our music, our performance, our clothes, but also everything together. The creativity I am showing in this group is layered, and good creativity is always consisting of multiple layers. That’s what makes creativity and studying it so difficult.”

Peter “Blackpowder Pete” Mollwing

Text ©: Mike Warrink / Capturing Creativity

Photography ©: Henk Warrink / NCO Photography



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