Questions by Ed MacLaren
Collected by Edoardo FiumiDutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen is never one to rest on her musical laurels. Since leaving The Gathering in 2007, she has been tearing up recording studios on three continents releasing a string of successful albums with Agua de Annique and as a solo artist – not to mention the lengthy list of incredibly diverse musical collaborations. The constant recording and touring to an ever expanding audience around the world is great news for her fans, and thankfully it shows no signs of slowing down. One of the truly unique voices in music, van Giersbergen is looking to break out big with her new album, “Drive”. A heavy power pop album brimming with hooks, riffs and stellar vocals, “Drive” achieves the perfect balance with her metal roots and her ever-expanding musical palette. Femme Metal got a chance to talk to the groundbreaking singer during sound check on her most recent swing through Italy. Congratulations on the early success of “Drive”! It’s a perfect album for blasting on the stereo while driving 150 mph down the highway with the windows down. Did you have a specific vision for how you wanted this album to turn out?
Yes, I wanted it to be up tempo and really energetic and rocky. Because we were touring for the previous album “Everything is Changing”, I felt like up tempo and a live sound and we did that.“Drive” is awesome power-pop, a fun, happy and more joyful sounding release than last year’s heavier, darker – but equally as satisfying – “Everything is Changing”. What was your mood when you started writing the new album?
Well, I felt very good being on tour. And you see new people every time and you see beautiful places. And it inspires you, you know, so I was inspired to make an up-tempo record.Do you think that “Drive” is the album that shows the closest reflection of your actual personality?
Yes, I think so. It’s happy and energetic and positive. There’s positive lyrics and positive attitude so yeah, I would say so.“We Live On” is arguably the perfect Anneke van Giersbergen song. It’s inspirational and melodic with a heavy bite to it. Not to mention the chorus lets you rip it up vocally. Is there a moment when you’re writing and recording a song that you think, “Now THIS is good stuff!”?
Yeah! You can feel it when you’re writing, “Oh this is going to be good!” But I only want to release good songs so all the songs that I felt were not yet super good, I left. I didn’t put them on the album.You don’t seem to want to stand still musically from album to album. Have you found a musical “sweet spot” yet or is making new music still a constant journey of new ideas?
I think so yeah. It keeps you fresh as an artist and I like new things and I like always different kinds of music so I try to always combine it into the album.Your singing on “Drive” is like listening to a vocalist master class. Are you happy with how your voice is maturing?
I’m happy I still have a voice! And it’s still maturing as I get older. And I’m happy that it changes for the better.“My Mother Said” along with “My Boy” and “Yalin” are some of your most personal songs in your catalogue. How have your lyrical inspirations evolved over the years?
Very much. People around me, my family of course and my friends and my band all inspire me.Rob Snijders’ drumming is one of my highlights of “Drive”. How important is his contribution to your music – as your husband as well as a musical collaborator?
Very important, yes! We do everything together. He has a very good brain and he thinks about things a lot and I do things so it’s a good combination.There is a line in “Slow Me Down” from “Everything is Changing” about the best is yet to come and a song on “Drive” called “The Best is Yet to Come”. Is that the way you look at life and your music?
Yes, very much. I like to look into the future and when I make something I always think next year I will be better. I always make the best that I can right now but I always think the best is yet to come.
You created a fantastic photo book to coincide with the release of “Drive”. What was the inspiration for creating this type of tie-in to the album? (It’s at the top of my Christmas list this year!)
I just wanted to make something else other than an album, just to create. I know a very good photographer, Raymond van Olphen, and he helped me. He followed us around for half a year. He made very, very good pictures and there’s all the lyrics in it from this album and also more text including an interview. I’m so proud because it’s my first book!It’s only been a year since “Everything is Changing” was released and you just finished touring to support it. Why release another album and get back on the road so soon?
I’m already writing for a new album! I always have ideas so when I tour for an album I always start writing for the new one. So that’s why there’s not such a big space in between.You have one of the most unique and celebrated voices in music – you’ve proven that you can sing equally well in almost any genre. Is there any other type of music you still interested in tackling that would take you out of your comfort zone and stretch you vocally?
I always like a challenge so if something comes along… Like in Holland I do a children’s play in a theater with children’s music and I act a little bit. That’s very challenging because I never did that before. So I did that and I leaned a lot from it.You spent well over a decade with The Gathering. What was the one thing you learned from The Gathering that served you best as a solo artist?
Well, I learned everything! Like touring, recording, writing, how to be in a band and how to grow up in the music business. So I’m very proud of my Gathering past.Your fanbase is amazing. In addition to all your new fans, you haven’t made a proper metal album for 15 years but the metal community still has a strong reverence for you – no one has ever accused you of selling out. What does that say about your audience or more importantly your impact on them as a musician?
It’s peculiar because I like lots of styles of music. And still in the metal scene, the rock scene, the prog metal scene, people really like what I do. And people know that its music so it doesn’t matter if sometimes it’s a ballad or a bit pop oriented. Of course, a metal heart is always beating in the songs and there’s always a bit of darkness in there. So people still like it and I’m so happy with that!Your resume of collaborations over the last few years is mind boggling. Napalm Death, Moonspell, Ayreon, John Wetton, Drive By Wire, Lorrainville to name a few – not to mention your regular collaborations with Devin Townsend and Danny Cavanagh. What attracts you to working with such a diverse range of artists?
I learn a lot. And I like it because I like those guys. Devin Townsend – he’s my hero. I’m just proud to work with him. And I learn a lot about performing, about writing, about singing, about composing. I love it! Everything I take from these people I put in my own album because it’s very inspiring.You’ve also had some very unique collaborations recently with modern electronic artists like Henry Saiz, DJ Hidden and Tronik. Have you thought about releasing a full album of electronic music?
Actually no, but I love the elements of electronics. I love searching for sounds but it’s always to make a mood. It’s never only about the electronics. Never say never, but I wouldn’t make an electronic album only.Your recent signing with Inside Out Records was a win/win situation for both you and the label. What are your hopes for this partnership?
It’s great to be signed to them because they are a label that is honest and they love the music. There are so many great artists on there like Devin, like Pain of Salvation – all those guys. So I’m really proud to be in their hands and we can really work for the future together.How much touring are you planning for “Drive”? Your shows in Chicago this year were fantastic and I’m sure your North American fans are hoping for a proper tour.
We’re going to tour all year for “Drive” and we’re working on a USA tour as well.You and Devin Townsend seem to have a unique musical relationship and work so well together. Now that you’re on the same label, have you thought about an extended tour together? Fans would probably have a fit if that dream tour ever happened!
Yeah, I think so! There’s no plans yet, of course Devin is super busy – he’s always doing something. But whenever he asks me to participate in anything then I will! I love touring with him and singing with him.Thanking for taking the time to talk with Femme Metal Webzine! Do you have a message for your fans and our readers?
Thanks very much! I love being in Italy. The people are very, very nice! Your musical taste, your cultural taste, your foods, and your climate – everything is great here. I love touring here and I hope to build my audience a little bit more and come back every year.