June 2, 2017 Interview – Anneke van Giersbergen
If you do not take a chance, how will you know what may have been? The internal battle we all face, the unknown is terrifying. Coming to a crossroad in her life, talented Singer-Songwriter Anneke van Giersbergen made a brave decision to exit acclaimed Alternative Metal act The Gathering back in 2007 after over a decade as their vocalist. Now, years later, Giersbergen finds herself reaping the benefits of her decision, spreading her wings, collaborating with everyone from Devin Townsend to Moonspell as well as building a diverse solo career. Showing there are more than one side to her creative pallet, Giersbergen has dabbled in various genres, but in recent times, has found inspiration in her shiny new band, Vuur. A Heavy Metal band through and through, Giersbergen sat down to talk her incredible journey through music, the years of The Gathering, the development of Vuur, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Over the last two plus decades, you have built an astounding career in Rock and Metal from your tenure in The Gathering to your solo career to various collaborations with others. First, tell us, what has this incredible ride been like for you?
Anneke van Giersbergen – Actually, sometimes I look back and I really enjoy thinking about what I’ve done so far. It’s never been the same and it inspires me so much. Every time you work with somebody new you get new inspiration, you get new ideas for new songs and new ways of doing something that you love, and I just love every minute. The time that I was in The Gathering, which was like 13 years, was also a ride. There was so much happening and we always tried to reinvent ourselves as a person and as a band. Now ten years of going solo, I am always trying something new, it just really keeps me going.
CrypticRock.com – Definitely. As mentioned, you spent nearly fifteen years as a part of The Gathering and you were a vital part of the band’s unique sound and style. Upon exiting the band in 2007 to embark on a solo career, was it a difficult decision? Do you look back on your time in The Gathering fondly?
Anneke van Giersbergen – Yes, and yes. I was in The Gathering most of my young adult life; I joined when I was about 19. Most of what I learned, I learned while I was in The Gathering. I had this very clear feeling in my heart like I should go out on my own, but I knew if I was going to quit The Gathering, it would never be the same. Leaving the band was really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I knew it was going to make myself happy just spreading my wings and doing more of what I love.
It was super hard to do because I knew it was going to be a rough period after breaking up after so many years. That’s not fun. Now it’s so many years later, everyone’s found their place, and now it’s alright. Now I can look back with a lot of love. I still play The Gathering songs with the band and solo, and I always talk about the band as well. There’s not a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t say anything about The Gathering. Every day I’m reminded of such a fantastic period of my life. It’s great.
CrypticRock.com – Many would say your voice and the music of The Gathering helped re-shape the way people look at a Metal band with a lead female vocalist. That said, you are not limited to Metal as heard on your solo albums. How important is it for you to have the ability for diversity as an artist?
Anneke van Giersbergen – It sounds a little empty, but I mean it with all my heart; I am really blessed to have the ability to do all these different things. I love all different kinds of music and I love listening to it. I’m really happy that I’m able to sing it and that people actually are interested in me singing those different genres outside of Metal.
The funny thing, people don’t understand when they’re not into Metal music – and I always try to explain it- but a very nice and important thing about Metal is that Metal people are actually super open-minded. So, if I do a solo acoustic show and I sing Abba songs or something else, people really enjoy it because they know it’s true. They know it’s honest music, it’s true to the heart, and honest coming from me. They appreciate whatever I do and that’s so nice because I have an audience which is so open-minded and they allow me to do really whatever I want to do. A few years back I made a theater play for children; there were metalheads in the audience and people of 70 years old; grandmas with their grandkids came to see me. There are always metalheads in the audience and that’s fantastic!
CrypticRock.com – That is very cool and, as you said, it really is a blessing to have that ability and freedom to know that you will not alienate your fan base. They will be open to it. Giving you a heavier outlet in 2016, you announced the development of your new band Vuur. How did this band come to be for you?
Anneke van Giersbergen – As you know, I did a tour with The Gentle Storm, and the The Gentle Storm is actually me and Arjen Lucassen. So we did this project and it was heavier than my normal band stuff, so we needed new guys to be in that band and to go on tour, because you know Arjen was not touring, and I said, “I want to take this on the road.” We searched for a band and we kind of did a fast job, like, “This guy, this guy, and this guy” sort of thing. Some of the guys, of course, played on some Ayreon albums and The Gentle Storm album. They said, “Yeah, sure let’s go on the road.” Then we found out that this is a fantastic live band!
So, halfway down the road with The Gentle Storm shows, I thought, “I’m going to continue this.” I was already writing some new heavier songs for myself and Arjen was writing for his solo stuff as well. I was writing something new, so I said to Arjen, “I’m going to take this live band with me.” So I asked everybody, “I’m going to continue not as Gentle Storm, but in something heavy, would you like to join me?” Everyone said yeah.
So in a way it’s the same band as The Gentle Storm, but on the other hand, it’s new music and they’re more a part of it than before, so they’re all on the album. This band has a band name because we just belong together and are supposed to be a band. So now we made this huge album and I have to say that it’s heavy but it’s also everything. It’s Metal and it’s Prog and it’s Metallica Metal. It’s at times very eclectic and it’s very high energy. It has killer solo work on every song. Every time I hear it I can’t believe how good it is. I’m really happy with it!
CrypticRock.com – That is very exciting to hear. The band has an incredible lineup of musicians and it is perhaps the heaviest thing you have done with a band since your earlier years with The Gathering. Sometimes when you take a break from something and then come back to it there is sort of a refreshing quality to it. How do you feel about doing something heavy like this again?
Anneke van Giersbergen – I think you’re quite right. For some reason, I never really thought about stepping in or out of a certain scene. It’s just something that comes out that needs to come out, and I make an album of it. To be honest, I never really felt like I left because I’m always working with people like Devin Townsend and the Moonspell guys, so I’m always here and there in the Metal scene. That in mind, I never got around to making my own Metal album since, I suppose, The Gathering. Also, in The Gentle Storm, it was like my first more heavy stuff, but it’s also folky and it’s also a lot of other things. Yes, it’s heavier than I’ve done on my own so far.
With The Gentle Storm, and with this live band, they are so true Metal. I just really felt like I have to make one of these Metal albums myself, and I just finally got around to making it because I just found the right guys. I wanted to do this on my own, so I wrote these songs myself together with Joost van den Broek and that feels really good. Now the Folk element is also gone so it’s much darker Metal only there’s more beauty because there’s a lot of melody and it’s exactly what I want. I said if I’m going to do this, it’s going to be totally uncompromised. I’m going to write my lyrics how I want them, I’m going to do all the vocal melodies, I want to have a big mess of guitar solos.
There’s always been a producer saying to me, “Go a little less heavy on the bass guitar, it’s not going to make it on the radio,” and there’s always record companies, always managers, and there’s always producers talking to me about the music. Nevertheless, I always make albums and there’s always albums and they’re always what I want, but this time I didn’t want anybody saying, “You can’t do this because somebody else might not like it,” and so I didn’t. I didn’t listen to anybody and I just made this. It’s completely and 100% honest.
CrypticRock.com – That is really inspiring to hear that. Fans will get to finally hear this come the fall of 2017. To match the album, you will in fact be on various festivals in Europe this summer and touring Europe with Epica in the fall. How exciting is it for you to bring this music to the people?
Anneke van Giersbergen – Very exciting because we’re now in the process of mixing the album, so it’s not even done. We just had our first rehearsal altogether. We already have those tours lined up and we’re working on a lot more for 2018, so there’s already back and forths about the rest of 2018. It’s always a strange feeling to not have your set ready and you’ve already planned so much. It continues to be luxurious for a musician to have so many cool things lined up.
We’re obviously very happy that our friends from Epica are taking us along because they’re doing great tours. To be on one of those awesome European tours as a supporting act, it’s fantastic. We can attract a bigger, cool crowd if we have the chance to tour our music and we can on a bigger tour. I’m thrilled!
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic, spreading the word of the band is clearly the objective right now. With that the objective, could we expect to see you returning to North America sooner than later?
Anneke van Giersbergen – There’s always a possibility, but it’s always also very logistically challenging to come to North America. The main thing is that visas and traveling cost a lot and America is so fantastic, so it’s so big! In Europe you can hop in and out of the country and it’s fine. You take a bus, you drive, and in a few hours you’re in the next country. North America is huge and there’s a lot of traveling, that’s expensive.
For a band, if you’re not huge, that proves difficult. The technical thing is what’s keeping us away for a longer time. We were always busy looking for opportunities to come back. Maybe that means if I have to go on my own to do acoustic stuff and do interviews to get everyone ready for the band, then I will do it. Or we can tour with another band, then we will do it. I get a lot of mail and comments from American people asking, “Why do you never come to America?” It’s that, technical and money.
CrypticRock.com – That is very understandable. It is very expensive to come to North America, let alone bring equipment for a whole band. It is a very big thing. As we mentioned earlier, you have collaborated with quite a few people; Within Temptation, Moonspell, Anathema, Devin Townsend. You really have broad experience with other people beyond working with The Gathering and your band now. What do you take away from all of these different experiences and collaborations that you have done?
Anneke van Giersbergen – Aside from the fact that it’s super fun to work with all of those people, they really teach me a lot. I’ve learned a lot about music, singing, performing, recording, and about life from all those guys. Devin and Arjen both taught me a lot about myself and my singing voice. They make me do a lot that I didn’t know I could.
That feeling is wonderful when you try something that works and if you do something or come up with something, you record it and it works. If something becomes successful at any rate and something that people enjoy, that’s the best feeling in the world. It keeps me growing and moving. The one reason I do this is the love for creating and playing music.
CrypticRock.com – If we are open and allow other people to influence us and teach us things it is fantastic. You have really taken a lot from other people you work judging by what you are saying. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror and Science-Fiction films. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, what are some of your favorites?
Anneke van Giersbergen – That’s a good question, because recently I was watching Romeo & Juliet (2013) on Netflix with my son. My son is 12 and he’s really good with the English language, but this Old English, he said was so boring. So we got to talking about movies and different kinds of movies and then I told him, I like many styles of movies, but I never watch Horror movies.
I never watch them because they freak me out so much and it startles you all the time. It takes a lot of energy to watch a film like that. So one of the few genres I cannot watch is Horror, movies just freak me out. I’m more into comedies and stuff like that. Sci-Fi though, I like a bit more. The guys in The Gathering love Sci-Fi movies so I saw a lot when I was in The Gathering. My brother is a super geek, so I grew up with a lot of Sci-Fi, but Horror, oh no!
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) The genre definitely is not for everyone. That is very nice that you get to share movies with your son.
Anneke van Giersbergen – Oh, it’s great. It’s also cool how you can see this new generation grow up watching old movies that we loved as kids with a different eye than you do. It’s super cool to see this development in teens these days. Some movies, for instance, he finds so slow because he’s so used to huge hoops, everything going fast. That makes us look with different eyes and we learn new things with our kids. I like to see life through his eyes every once in awhile.