Anneke van Giersbergen | website | facebook | twitter |
By: Raymond Westland
Former The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen is one the most versatile and dynamic singers in rock and metal today. Besides having her own solo career she’s involved in many different projects and collaborations. Echoes and Dust caught up with her about her latest project with Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One), entitled The Gentle Storm.
(((o))): You worked a lot with Devin Townsend the last few years and you did some guest vocals on some tracks by Novembers Doom and Moonspell. However, The Diary (read our review here) is your first true metal release since The Gathering’s Mandylion. How does it feel to get to your metal roots so to speak?
Anneke: Funny that you mention it, because it’s actually true. The Diary is the first complete metal album on which I handled all the lead vocals since my days with The Gathering. It feels really good to make a heavy record again. I love working with people like Devin and the bands you’ve mentioned. It gives me a lot of energy and it’s a part of my musical heritage. However, when I write my own music it’s never that heavy or profound. So when Arjen Lucassen approached me to do The Gentle Storm together it did cross my mind that the material I sung on was the heaviest music I recorded in years. It feels really good (laughs).
(((o))): You have a long working relationship with Arjen Lucassen dating back to recording of Ayreon’s The Electric Castle in 1998. How do you complement each other’s creativity?
Anneke: What I really like about working with Arjen is his impeccable sense and feel for melody, regardless whether it’s heavy metal, folk or his more proggy type of music. It’s really inspiring for a vocalist like me to sing over his melody lines. All the vocalists he worked with in the past say the same thing. It doesn’t matter how complex or intricate the music gets, it never gets in the way of a great melody. That’s the thing that sets Arjen apart and that’s why I love working with him.
(((o))): The material on The Diary is really written with your vocals in mind and all the songs are arranged in such a way so your vocals take centre stage. Was it a daunting task for you really step up and claim that space?
Anneke: In all honesty it’s a blessing for me as a singer. Sometimes it’s really difficult for me to add something to a song when it’s incredibly layered or when there’s a lot going on arrangement-wise. Having said that there’s still a lot going on music-wise, especially on Gentle. There are forty different instruments used during the recording for instance. The material is really diverse and almost a musical treasure chest. Yet the emphasis is still very music on the leading melody lines that carry the whole story behind The Diary.
(((o))): How did the idea emerge to actually record a double record with one metal orientated record and one disc with the emphasis on more prog/folk inspired arrangements? What kind of feedback have you received so far on the double album?
Anneke: A lot of people have different opinions. Some people who normally listen to metal like the folk songs better and some other people prefer the heavy versions. I really enjoy reading all those different reactions on the album. The idea behind recording a folk and a heavy metal record was conceived in the early stages of the project. Arjen already wrote some songs and he asked his fans what they wanted to hear. Some wanted to hear some heavy songs while others preferred something a little more lighthearted, so he decided to write a bunch of songs which would work in a heavy version, but also in a more folk version. This was long before I got involved with The Gentle Storm. I actually contacted him for something totally different, but it wasn’t long before he asked me to do this project together, which would turn into The Gentle Storm. We developed the storyline together and we took it from there. Both Storm and Gentle were recorded at the same time, yet both records are so different in terms of atmosphere and arrangement-wise.
(((o))): Last month you shot a video clip for ‘Heart Of Amsterdam’ in Amsterdam itself. It was quite an adventure to say the least. Can you elaborate, please?
Anneke: We really had a lot of fun shooting the video clip. I had this idea to rent this completely over the top type of dress and basically just walk around and see how people would react to it. The week prior to the shooting the weather was really dreary, but on the day itself we had some hours of sunshine and we managed to capture the beauty and the magic of that moment. That really shows in the video clip itself. I received some really positive feedback about walking in that dress and wearing this over the top wig. A lot of tourists thought that I was part of the city promotion for Amsterdam (laughs).
(((o))): The Gentle Storm is actually Arjen’s brainchild, but he isn’t a part of the live band, besides some occasional performances. Isn’t that a bit weird?
Anneke: Everyone involved with The Gentle Storm knows about Arjen’s reluctance to go out on tour. He doesn’t like the touring lifestyle and he prefers staying at home writing and recording in his studio. It’s actually a miracle that he was willing to participate in some acoustic shows we did last month. Early on in the project I told him that I was really interested in taking The Gentle Storm on the road. When it comes it touring Arjen and me are polar opposites, because I love being on the road (laughs). He gave me his blessing and he was involved in picking the right musicians for the live band. He still keeps tabs on what’s going on, but besides that he isn’t really involved with touring and live performances.
(((o))): You got a thriving solo career going on, so to which extent is The Gentle Storm a long term commitment for you as an artist?
Anneke: We’re really proud of The Diary and that’s why Arjen and I treated the whole thing as a band thing instead of just another project if you will. The Gentle Storm is really an entity of its own. Arjen and myself form the nucleus with the live band backing us up. Up until this point the feedback has been incredible, so there’s a real interest in what’s going on. There are some ideas already floating around for a possible follow-up record. However Arjen and I have our solo career going on as well, so we might as well work on some other projects as well before we revisit The Gentle Storm again. As for me The Dairy certainly isn’t the end of The Gentle Storm, but just the beginning (laughs).
(((o))): Some months ago you shared the stage again with your old band mates from The Gathering. How was the whole experience for you?
Anneke: It was really great! It was ages ago since the last time we shared the stage together and I didn’t have much contact with some of the other members from The Gathering. We really had this cool reunion thing going on. It was a great celebration of 25 years of The Gathering and all the experiences and memories we shared together. It was a one off thing, because we didn’t want to confuse the fans. All in all, it was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed being a part of it.
(((o))): Would you ever consider working with your former The Gathering colleagues again, be it in a project or under a different moniker?
Anneke: Never say never, but in all honesty I really don’t know. I love collaborating with other bands and artists on a project type of basis. I’m still in touch with most members within The Gathering and there’s still a great vibe when we’re together, so I wouldn’t rule it out. As most people know the band is on an extended break for the time being. For the record, there aren’t any concrete plans to do any sort of collaboration (laughs).
(((o))): Finally, you worked together with many different artists and bands. How did this influence your own musical development as an artist and musician?
Anneke: I find collaborating with other artists to be very inspiring and liberating. I love doing things with metal bands, but I also got a ton of different things besides that as well. By the time I start working on my own music all those different influences manifest themselves in my own music. There are pop oriented songs, some ballad oriented material, but some metal inspired tracks on my solo albums as well. It’s just comes naturally to me and it’s just the way I like to express myself as an artist and musician. Each solo record has its own distinct atmosphere and that’s something that is really dear to me. Having fun while writing and recording music is the most important thing for me as an artist.