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Gathering Interview

Gathering Interview
Anneke van Giersbergen - Lead Singer of The Gathering
By Sam Grant

Interview Info

Sam:  Souvenirs is your sixth studio album. How happy are you with it?

Anneke:  Very happy and proud. We took a long time writing and recording it. We took about three years, which is a ridiculously long time, but we needed the time to develop the songs and let them ripen like good wine. Our former album, If_Then_Else, was a good album and it had some nice and special songs on it and some beautiful songs on it, but we felt that it didn’t really have the time that it needed to fully develop and to be all that it could be. Then we were fulfilling the contract with our old record company, then we were kind of free, so we thought whatever we do, we are going to take the time for this new album because we have some good ideas, but we need to make them as good as we can, writing and recording them and mixing them, and so we did.

Sam:  Since leaving Century Media, have you musically been given more freedom to move? Did you feel you were kind of restrained by them?

Anneke:  Well, we always did exactly what we wanted, writing our stuff, but the difference with now is that there’s nobody else giving their tips and pointers and advice on how we don’t want it anyway!

Sam:  Were you pressed by them to make music that was more sellable?

Anneke:  Of course, any record company will try to make their bands try to make the music that sells a lot and we are not really thinking about that because we write exactly what we feel like writing, which produces very honest and pure music, which will sell itself in the end, and if not, then not, you know, there’s no other way - but I think because it’s so honest and pure and I think good anyway, it maybe won’t sell millions, but it will sell enough to keep our heads above water and of course when we are selling this album and this music we will do that as best as we can, and we’ve made good pictures and a single and have done our best, but we never let the music suffer.

Sam:  Do you think on first hearing it people will be surprised by the tone because it’s slightly different and it will take more time to get into? 

Anneke:  Maybe. We hear a lot of people say, “I’ve listened to it five times and now I get it”, but I love that fact that people take those five times to listen to it. That’s very very positive, I think. All good things take time. When you listen to it five times and you get into it, it will last longer.

Sam:  Absolutely true. I find that music that is instantly likeable, which is instantly digestible, has a very short shelf-life, doesn’t it?

Anneke:  Maybe, I think so. I sometimes buy some kind of new soul music like Kelis….it’s good marvellous music, but after a while it’s too neat, you know….it’s too produced. What you can thoroughly enjoy and what really brings up emotions is just different kinds of music, which is layered, and which on the fifth time you hear something new – a crackle in the voice, a squeak in the guitar. I like that stuff.

Sam:  What’s the future for Psychonaut, then?

Anneke:  Well, now we’re going to definitely focus on The Gathering, of course, because we’re just kind of starting up and we need to make some experience and some money and stuff like that to get back on track, but we’re rolling now, so it’s going very good, and maybe in the future to release some new young talent, but of course we need experience and money to put into that, so I’m talking years with that because we’re just going to nice and easy make our own records, do some stuff and get this thing on a roll. We don’t really know whether it’s going to work yet, because it’s going really good and it’s selling, and we’re out of our costs, but we need to get some steps ahead.

Sam:  The best track on the album for me at the moment is A Life All Mine…

Anneke:  Right!

Sam:  Do you like that one, then?

Anneke:  Yes, love it!  It’s one of my favourites…

Sam:  Why did you choose Trickster G in particular to duet with on it?

Anneke:  Hans, our drummer, had contact with him and at one point we were labelmates. He just asked him whether he wanted to participate in one of our songs because we are all big, big Ulver fans and we love his stuff and his voice. And we said ‘maybe you’d want to sing something with us’ and he said yes. That’s how easy it was. So we’re quite proud of that. Unfortunately we never met because he lives in Norway and we sent him tracks on the CD. He just made some stuff and we wrote the lyrics together on email, so he recorded it in Norway and sent it back to us…

Sam:  So you didn’t actually meet up as such?

Anneke:  No. It was all through CDs and mail and email and by phone – I talked to him a lot on the phone…that was really a cool cooperation, so we’re quite proud of that.

Sam:  When How To Measure A Planet came out, you called the style of the album ‘triprock’, which I always thought of as rock music with a few breakbeats in it. I find the sound of Souvenirs is quite different to that – it’s more atmospheric. Are we still in triprock, or have we moved on slightly?

Anneke:  I don’t know, it’s difficult to categorise, I think that triprock is still doing its job as a category name, because the music is trippy, you can really dive into it – go on a trip, but it’s also trippy groovewise and rhythmwise, and rock is still rock because there’s still guitars and drums on it. So I think it’s an accurate name, if you want to have a name for this type of music, which is quite difficult because there are so many things wondering about in our music. So what the hell do you call it?! It gets quite difficult.

Sam:  Yes, the line gets blurred between genres, doesn’t it.

Anneke:  Yes it does, there are a lot of genres in it. But it’s good to not be able to categorise it.

Sam:  You’re still being interviewed by a lot of Metal magazines. Do think that’s because some people are secretly hoping you’ll go back to producing stuff like on Mandylion?

Anneke:  Right…I dunno, I dunno…….I know that there’s a lot of links, well, one big link still with our music and metal music and Gothic music and those kinds of styles. We’re doing pretty well still in those scenes, but we’re also doing well in the Alternative and maybe even mainstream scene, but the dark side of our music and the melodic side of our music is quite linking to the metal-orientated genre and of course metal is a very broad genre: you can do a lot in one scene and there are a lot of people that just went with the flow of what we’re doing, and they like Mandylion, but they also like the new stuff, but obviously there are some people who think it’s a total betrayal. There are always people that just don’t get it.

Sam:  Well, you can’t please all the people all the time.

Anneke:  Yes, but we please a lot!

Sam:  You do, that’s true! What has been the reaction of Metal fans to Souvenirs?

Anneke:  Overall, quite good. The Metal press and the Metal people we really like because this one is also a little bit more dark than the last one or How To Measure A Planet, so there are a lot of people who enjoy this one as well because of the darkness or maybe the melancholic side.

Sam:  Has anyone said anything negative about it?

Anneke:  Wooooo…..I have to think, but that’s a good thing!…..well, there are a few  people who say, “I just don’t get it!” That’s not necessarily negative, though.

Sam:  Do you think people have to ‘get’ music, though?

Anneke:  Yeah, sometimes you just have to pick it up in order to get out of it what’s yours, and of course there’s a lot of music that you don’t like, but that’s another thing. To ‘get’ it you need to take a little bit of time for it.

Sam:  Well, hopefully, by making your sound progress, you’re making people think outside the box.

Anneke:  I hope so!

Sam:  Well, you’ve done that with me, anyway.

Anneke:  Ah cool…that’s so cool!

Sam:  A lot of people have said your music is quite cinematic. I can’t see the comparison. Can you explain why people are saying that?

Anneke:  Well, I believe that we can make beautiful film music and maybe because the songs are a little bit spread and have longer periods without vocals or the vocals are a bit wavy or something, you can kind of imagine a movie with that. I hear it a lot and it’s a dream of ours to make film music one day.

Sam:  With orchestras and stuff like that?

Anneke:  Maybe even that, maybe for a nice bigger independent movie, just to make the music for that. Like Air did, for instance, with Virgin Suicides. I don’t know if you know that…

Sam:  I know it very well because one of my girlfriends loved that album. Loved the film as well. I always thought it was a little morbid.

Anneke:  It is! It’s just a weird picture….but it’s a perfect get-together between beautiful pop music and movies.

Sam:  Now…I want to talk to you about your singing. Was there a particular moment when you discovered you could sing?

Anneke:  There was a period when I realised I wanted to be doing that and that was when I was taking vocal lessons. I started taking vocal lessons when the music teacher in my school when I was 13 said, “You can sing a little bit better than the rest. Why don’t you just go out and take vocal lessons?” And then I did, because I had no idea, but also because I thought it might be fun and after a few years I realised I was kind of better than the rest and had talent for it and I went on doing these things for serious but before that time I was always dancing and singing and doing these singing and dancing contests, but when I was 13 my musical teacher pushed me a little bit in that direction, for which I’m quite grateful. He doesn’t really recognise me anymore. Sometimes I see him on the street and I say. “Hi, it’s Anneke!” and he’s like , “Sorry, I have no idea who you are!” It’s a funny thing because he’s the one that knew there was something more there.

Sam:  Sometimes you need other people to recognise that you’ve got talent.

Anneke:  Exactly. When you’re 13, what do you know, you know.

Sam:  What got you interested in Metal in the first place?

Anneke:  I have no idea…..we are in this Metal world, but we never thought of ourselves as a metal band, really. Of course we knew what was going on there, and I used to listen a lot to poppy metal like Slayer, Metallica, stuff like that I liked a lot. I know the guys are really very much into Rush. This was the kind of thing that bound us, to make music together, but we also listened to a lot of classical music and pop music. Now classical music has a lot to do with metal music. Now there is a very big link.

Sam:  Do you feel sorry then for Gothic Metal bands – mentioning no names – that have not evolved at all in their sound from album to album?

Anneke:  Not really, because I think there’s room for any kind of style of music. If bands are comfortable with what they’re doing for many years in a row, for the same sounds and the same songs, they should go ahead and do that because in the end that’s also the power of music, that you can really please a lot of people with the same sound, because it’s soothing, you know. New sounds you have to get into and it takes a little bit more effort. It’s whatever, as a musician and a listener, you choose to do.

Sam:  Now you’re going to be playing in Glastonbury at the end of June. You’re going to be playing alongside a lot of big and even legendary bands. How do you feel about it? Are you excited? Apprehensive?

Anneke:  It’s very cool. Because in Holland we’re still a little bit busy with the bigger festivals, but then we hear we’re in Glastonbury and it’s like, “Oh, my goodness!” You can see it on the BBC….

Sam:  Well this is the thing, come the end of June I’ll turn on my TV and you might be there…

Anneke:  I don’t know if we’re going to be broadcast because obviously we’re not going to be on the big stage in the evening, but they broadcast a lot, so hopefully we can get some airplay.

Sam:  How did you manage to get the slot?

Anneke:  We have a very good booker, you know? We have a very good booker who managed to do some really good things for us in the past. He’s an English booker – he comes from London – so maybe he had some connections for us to get through. I don’t know exactly how it went, but he did his best, obviously.

Sam:  It’s tricky getting to Glastonbury. Not an easy thing at all. You have to be the best of the best to get there.

Anneke:  It’s a big, big honour. We’re going to do our best.

Sam:  I’m sure you’ll do brilliantly. You know Radiohead are going to be there?

Anneke:  I’m sorry? Radiohead? Really? Wow! I have to admit that I haven’t really looked at the playlist yet…

Sam:  They’re a band whose sound is evolving all the time…

Anneke:  True, they’ve made some weird jumps in their career and the consequence is you like some albums better than the others, but you have such an amount of respect that you keep buying everything. It’s great music, it’s really lovely.

Sam:  Therefore what bands, do you think, have helped The Gathering’s sound to progress from Mandylion through to Planet through to Souvenirs?

Anneke:  Right, musically, definitely bands like Radiohead, Massive Attack, those darker pop music bands, and then you have this whole Norweigian scene with Motorpsycho and those kinds of things, and then you have your old classics, Beatles and such, that you keep playing and they keep inspiring you to make new music and then for your lyrics and the rest of your musical evolution you watch movies and you meet people, you live your life and there’s infinite choice and inspiration.

Sam:  Everything can influence you, but you won’t necessarily notice it…

Anneke:  Even when you look outside and see the sun, you can have a new idea…

Sam:  So, what are your plans for the rest of the year, then?

Anneke:  Playing, playing, playing. Touring and doing promotion, then after this year we’re going to think about writing some new tunes, of course we already have some new ideas, but we just put them on the shelf because it’s too much now.

Sam:  It’s hard to stop writing music, isn’t it.

Anneke:  But that’s cool, because ideas pop up every now and then, then you record them badly and put them on the shelf, but we don’t want to talk about it or do anything with it just yet because we’re so into this thing right now of Souvenirs. We’re going to promote this one to the fullest and then see what happens next.

Sam:  My final question for you – at this stage of your career, if you could choose one album, what album would you choose to represent The Gathering?

Anneke:  Wow…the latest. And I have to say How To Measure A Planet is another favourite of ours, because it kind of went into a nice, newer direction, a modern direction, which we really loved, and we loved the time we spent recording it and there are a few different kinds of songs on it, so that’s a good representative, but I think the new one is the best.