Interview by Miriam C
Transcription by Ary R
I still don’t realize that, back almost 2 months ago, I’ve interviewed a legend. Yes, a REAL metal legend. And while writing this intro, I still don’t believe that I was in front of this Dutch artist called Anneke van Giersbergen for almost 30 minutes, chatting about her latest project called The Gentle Storm (and not only that). I’m still mesmerized at the thought that, yes, Anneke, FREAKIN’, van Giersbergen sat in front of me and replied to my questions with the elegance and sweetness who distinguish her from the maelstrom of the artists out there.Hi Anneke, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. I’m very honored to be here talking to you. First of all, how are you doing? How is this European tour treating you? How has been the show in Milan yesterday?
Absolutely great! It’s always so nice to play in Italy because people in Italy are very warm-hearted, you know this and this makes us feel very welcome. There was a lot of people, it was just so loud, people were singing along with the songs. I loved it!Well, you’re today here in Bologna with this special tour in support of this project of yours called “The Gentle Storm”. Would you mind telling us something more about this collaboration between you and Arjen (Lucassen)?
Arjen and me, as you may know, we worked already together before, so for a long time we’ve known each other, we are in touch and for some reasons, we’ve got in touch, we contacted again via email or something… and then I said: “We should do something together again!”. Arjen said: “I’m writing a few songs, maybe you can sing on them!”, and then I said: “Maybe we should do a duo album, just you and me”, and we both started collecting very good ideas so we said: “Let’s make something from the scratch, let’s start a whole new thing”. So we made this double album and then we made the band, The Gentle Storm… I have a band, it’s like a new band to play live, because it has never played live actually, so this is a miracle he’s doing this acoustic thing with me. For the Electric show he won’t be there, so this is like… yeah, a big project!How did you manage to get him into this tour?
I know, it’s really a miracle! I asked him once, I wanted to do something acoustic and I’ve thought: “If I asked Arjen for The Gentle Storm, we could be together, we could talk about it”, and of course Arjen said: “No, I get no way. Of course not!”. One day later he said: “Well, maybe just because I believe in The Gentle Storm so much, so that makes it different if I go to the road. Maybe we should do it”.So do you see this project as a music “creature”?
I think so, yeah! If we’ll be successful, if nobody dies, we have nothing new to make. If people like it, I will love it for sure.What are the feedbacks that you’re receiving from both the press and the fans?
Well, from the press it’s only people who have heard it until now, so apart from the songs that we do together on stage it’s only three Gentle Storm songs in it acoustic, so it’s so different from the metal version… but yeah, only the journalists have heard it and they were enthusiastic, so it’s very hopeful, because people know me and Arjen, but they have maybe… well, they are still surprised about what they hear on this album, because it’s something new! I’m really happy that people are happily surprised.The Gentle Storm’s debut album, “The Diary” will be released via InsideOut on March 23rd 2015 and it’ll be published as a double album separated in 2 different sections called “The Gentle” and “The Storm”. What’s the difference between each CD and what about this choice?
Well, Arjen was already working with this idea in his head to have an heavier album and a softer, a more folky album, but to make the same songs, well 10 songs and the same 10 songs are heavy and these 10 songs are also softer, so when I’ve heard it that he wanted to do that, I’ve thought that it was a really good idea because I don’t know if anybody has done it before; I mean, there are albums with some acoustic version, you know, special edition… yeah. I’ve thought it was quite unique, so I’ve thought it was great. Of course you have to make a heavy album, and then the soft album you think it’s just the guitar do the acoustic, but the softer is more melancholic, it’s a folk album, it’s very rich, there are more than 40 instruments. There are more instruments in the soft album than in the heavy album, ‘cause heavier is just the band, you have the drums, the keyboards, the vocals, the fast guitars, the orchestra! The softer album has like blues, acoustic guitars, it’s just instruments. They are all ancient, so it’s a risk because this album is very rich, it’s very… how to say? Intensive? Because so much is going on and it’s overwhelming. Of course it’s quiet.The name “The Gentle Storm” is a sort of oxymoron, or rather they are two words with an opposite meaning that clash with each other. What does this name represent for you? What do you want to express?
I love the ballads, there are 10 songs in two approaches, there are the same songs and they talk about sadness. You can be sad in a very loud way, like “Woooh. I’m sad”, and then you can be sad in a very inward way, like quiet, like inward and it’s still the same feeling but you can express both in very different ways. I think the whole album is like that: it’s the same story, the same songs, the same lyrics expressed in two different approaches and expressions. I think it’s very interesting, because I’ve got to sing on both and I love it. It’s the same voice again, I mean: when we were in the studio I’ve thought: “Okay, some parts we can keep for the other album, because they sound better on the heavier album than the softer album”. And once in the studio we’ve thought: “Okay, this chorus I can do once and I can keep it for both albums”, but I couldn’t, because they are so different approaches and it’s only performance, you know? It’s like I did both albums with everything new on vocals.So you’ve basically created two different albums!
Yeah, but keeping the same lyrics, the same melody. It’s strange, right? It was very interesting to work on. I really liked it, I really liked this challenge.
Probably it’s redundant to ask this, but would you like to delve into both the lyrical aspect and the lyrical thematic of “The Diary”?
Well, “The Diary” is of course a story and it’s about two people of the 17th century in Holland, in the Dutch Golden Age. They are lovers, the man is a sailor, he’s travelling for two and a half years and the woman is at home. They love each other and they write letters to each other, so they’ve sent letters and this is real, because in those days this really happened. They sent letters to ships. He was a sailor, so he was everywhere, and the ships would meet and he could get these letters anywhere, getting back to the ships that were going to Holland, … and then, every letter would take at least half a year to reach the other one. So you can imagine people sitting at home, longing for a man, waiting for his letters, writing letters and she was writing a diary… so the 10 songs are ten letters from him and from her. I tell the story through the letters, so I sing both his and her letters. It’s a story about love, about longing, about patience. These songs were also about Amsterdam, she’s living in Amsterdam, she walked through the city and she said: “Oh I love this city so much”, “The birds are singing” and all that.. so it’s all about Holland, about the daily life, so it’s a lot about love, about drama, about these things happening. It’s really cool!Among the countless participation that you have taken part the most fruitful was the one with Ayreon by Arjen Lucassen. Where did the wish of cooperating together with him come from?
I think this is good energy, because he was writing something and he had me in mind for it, but he didn’t call me yet because it wasn’t the right time to think about. I emailed him about something completely different, about something I saw on the Internet and then I’ve thought, while I was writing: “Oh, why don’t we do something together?” and that was the perfect timing because I’ve said: “You know what? I was thinking about you, now it’s the right moment”. And then everything was spontaneous, like “Oh, should we do that?” – “Yeah” – “Oh, we could do this, we could do that” – “Oh, ok”. Everything was really a good idea. It’s very different from when you get together with somebody and you have to struggle like “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t think it’s a good idea”. This was so natural, you know, so we’ve thought it has to be good! It’s natural.So besides the professional relationship and the friendship, we can talk about “music alchemy”…
Yeah. That’s good!Besides being involved with The Gentle Storm, you’re currently touring and promoting a brand new project called The Sirens. I know you’ve already released 2 or 3 singles now. Is there any plan to record a full length album?
I love the project, it’s really great, but it’s really a live project, so we did the three songs that we wrote, we put them on YouTube just to get some attention for the shows also. We did some tours, we went to South America and we will do a festival and that’s it actually! It’s a live project but it is so much fun.For the non-Dutch people, would you like to explain us something more about Lorrainville?
Yes, Lorrainville is a project of Dutch artists formed together. We are all from different bands, you know, from different things and from different music genres as well. There was a game on Facebook like a few years ago, maybe you have seen it, you could make your own album for free, so we chose random pictures for the front cover, a random title and a random name, or rather the band name… and then people just posted it online, saying “Oh this is my album ah ah, bla bla bla”. And then a producer did the same thing, he said “Oh, look! This is my album”, he was friend with musicians and all these people, so a few musicians started saying: “Oh you know what? I wanna be on this album”, “Oh, I can write songs for this album”. Somebody said: “Oh, I can record this album”, “I can make pictures”. In a short time everybody – included myself – I’ve said “Oh, I wanna sing in this album” and then the producer said: “Oh, but we are going to make it”, so everybody did it for free, because of course it was a fiction. There was only a picture and a title, so we had like 10 men-band, with 3 singers (2 guys and me) and it’s all bluesy-americana, blue grass, like really quiet country music. It’s really beautiful and we made a second album this year, because it worked so well. In Holland they really liked it, it’s priceless as well, because the idea was so cool. We have small crowds, we’re not huge, but it’s going really well and everybody just does it for free! It’s so much fun!We cannot forget of course your participation to the Dutch Metal For Serious Request 2014. Do you have some nice memories of the recordings to share with our readers?
Actually it was so much fun, people did all their recordings in their own studio. All the people are living abroad, we had really busy schedules, so we couldn’t come together. Only a few did it actually, but to be able to make this song and to raise money for this good cause. That was really nice and I love the song. It is so cool to be on one song with Simone (Simons, Epica), Floor (Jansen, Nightwish), Dianne (van Giersbergen, Xandria), everybody, you know, with all these great musicians. Yeah, it’s really great!We can date back to 2007, an important date for you since it marks your first solo album, “Air”. You’ve toured extensively until now. Is there any plan to record any live DVD?
No, not really. You know what, because DVD… well, they cost a lot of money, too much. I know from other artists that they don’t sell enough to then you lose money on it, they’re expensive. People want a DVD, the other ones want the Blu-Ray, and it’s less practical, because I have to make a living and I can’t lose money. On the other hand, I would love to, because I know these things, I’d love to make one, to have one, and I love DVDs from other bands, so… I should do one day, but then again… I don’t know if it should go for the blue ray or…As you know, in our “community” there’s also the crowd-funding campaign. Maybe one day you’ll be able to raise the money you’ll need…
Maybe, that’s just so nice. I think that I embraced a Kickstarter campaign, I would do it for something else, ‘cause I have so many ideas for the future, you know, for special projects, for something else… I wouldn’t like to do a Kickstarter campaign every year, and of course I have a record label behind me… but for the DVD… I don’t know. Perhaps in the future, I’m not saying no, I’m saying it’s difficult. I know that, like you said, a lot of people keep on asking for it, but then if you’ll really research it, you’ll see that it’s very expensive to make. The production is really expensive, but this is not very much related to money, that’s not romantic. I would love to make one.Well, dear Anneke. We’re at end, please feel free to I really thank you for this interview. Please be free to greet freely your fans and our readers. Thanks so much.
Wow. Grazie mille (Anneke replies in Italian, ed). Actually I’m really happy to be in Italy right now. We did three Italian shows, including this one. I just hope to come back again with the electric band, because there’s gonna be like a really epic show, ‘cause I’m doing all the heavy stuff from The Gentle Storm, Devin Townsend, The Gathering’s songs, Ayreon‘s songs, so I truly hope because I’m going to tour in the whole 2015 with The Gentle Storm and I hope to come back to Italy with the electric band. That would be super cool. Thank you.