Interview by Connie Bach
What is the expression people have? Where they feel they’ve heard a song before, and it has a flavour all its own. While some elements are reminiscent of Tarja, others stand out as different from all others. Being both familiar and fresh shows quite a bit of talent.
Hi, Dianne. What’s going on with Ex Libris at the moment?
We’re very busy planning new gigs, writing songs for the new “Medea” album and rehearsing the songs we’ve already completed. We’ve set ourselves a deadline at which all of the writing should be finished but there’s still loads to be done. We want the music on our new album to be a challenge for us as musicians, an inspiration for the listeners and a feast for the crowd. The “Amygdala” album already gave us a great start but there’s more to come in the epic album that “Medea” will be.
I looked up the Latin translation, recognizing Ex Libris as a Latin phrase. It translates to “from the books”. How does the actual meaning relate to the band’s choice of name?
Yes, if you translate the word Ex Libris you will find that it means “from the books” but an Ex Libris is also an object (like a seal, stamp or a brand) which is used to indicate ownership of products of a guild. You could say that by naming the band Ex Libris we would like to brand our products as our own.
If you envision the future, what would be the dream venue for Ex Libris? What other bands would appear in the same show?
I don’t think that there is one dream venue for us. There are too many awesome stages, concert-halls and festivals where we wish to perform one day. This also goes for the bands with whom we would like to share the stage but we surely wouldn’t say no to performing with Opeth, Devin Townsend, UnExpect or Freak Kitchen.
If the members of Ex Libris could all agree on three influential artists, who would they be? Why?
We all have very different backgrounds and our taste in (metal) music is not always identical either. For example: the bands I would often listen to when I was 16 years old were Skunk Anansie, Nightwish and Muse. For me all three singers of these bands were a great inspiration for the vocal styles and techniques I now use with Ex Libris. Peter tells me that he was influenced especially by Symphony X and the older music of Stratovarius and Metallica. And Paul says: “It’s impossible to name just three bands. Let alone name three bands only within the metal genre. As I was thinking about this question my music player randomly picked Coldplay, Nevermore and Toxic!”. With Ex Libris we compose music that has a good feel for us, without thinking about bands it may sound like. It is as Paul also said: “It’s up to the listeners to decide which other bands come close”.Out of all the awesome tracks on “Amygdala”, why did Ex Libris decide to contribute “Destined” to Femme Metal’s upcoming release?
I really like the feel of the song: it’s fast-paced yet eerie. Sometimes it is hard to do both. Ex Libris pulls it off quite well. Thanks, I like the song very much myself. It’s a funny piece of music that could resemble a strong ballad when looking at the lyric vocal lines but doesn’t reveal itself like that because of the guys playing fast riffs and solos. It’s a song with two faces that really connects with the lyrics and amplifies them. The lyrics to “Destined” are written by our drummer Joost van de Pas and tell us about the inner struggle to overcome grief and move on to better times.
If there is one track in particular that has a personal story behind it, what is that song and what is the story behind it?
All the songs on the “Amygdala” album represent a different aspect of me growing up and reaching adulthood. The lyrics on the album are about problems I have been dealing with, thoughts I had and statements I wanted to make.
“Dawn Of Sugars”, the first song on the album, is about me becoming an individual. Getting rid of all the ideas that are pressed upon you by the government, religion and others. In the song I also try to encourage other people to start thinking for themselves and dare to be different.
“Love Is thy Sin”, is my “sorry for dumping you” song in which I try to explain to my former girlfriend that she and I were not able to survive together. The lyrics say that it would have been better for us to never have loved each other so that I didn’t have to hurt her by breaking up.
“Breathe With Me”, the third song on the album, is about a power play between two people who feel attracted to one another and the emotions you feel when someone is yearning for your body.
The songs “Sail…”, “… Out to Farewell” and “Death Becomes Us All” are combined into one epic and resemble the end of my 3.5 year relationship with our drummer Joost van de Pas.
In the song “Sail…” a fisherman’s wife watches her husband set out to sea, knowing that this is their goodbye. “… Out to Farewell” tells the tale of death who’s coming to get the fisherman. During these two songs you’ll hear the fisherman (spoken by Koen) writing his goodbyes in a letter to his wife. “Death Becomes Us All” is an instrumental song which is the closing piece of the epic. The last song on the album “The Day Our Paths End” is about me becoming an atheist.
“Amygdala” is an intriguing album name. How does the name represent the collective strength of all the songs together?
The Amygdala are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain. They perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. Since every song on our debut album is a memory or emotion set to music, we could not think of a better name.
Turning to your own personal career, tell me a little about your background as a vocalist.
Well, I had my first singing lesson when I was four years old – a birthday present from my parents, who had noticed my interest in music and singing. At the age of 7 I sang my first solo with the Concordia Fanfare during a Christmas concert. Over time I was taught by several teachers and joined various choirs. When I was 17 I sang at a prom concert with the Gildenbonds Harmonie Orchestra where I met conductor and vocal coach Sef Pijpers senior who offered to help me enter the auditions at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, School of Music in Arnhem where I was accepted. During my bachelor years at ArtEz I was taught by soprano Elena Vink, did a short internship at the Nationale Reisopera and received master classes from Barbara Hannigan, Barbara Schlick, Claudia Patacca, Lodewijk Meeuwsen, Riekje Bakker en Felix Schonenbaum. After completing the bachelor programme I auditioned for the master programme and was accepted. Currently I am in the second year of the master program where I specialize in classical music written between 1850 and today. I receive my singing lessons from Elena Vink, Wiebke Goetjes and Constantin Nica. Apart from this I also take composition classes, write poetry for other composers and I’m chairman of the New Artez Student Association, a group of master students who organize interdisciplinary classical music concerts. I hope to sing my final exam in June 2011.
Opera and metal contrast very well. Is this where you saw yourself in the long-run?
I don’t know. I’ve always known that my future lies in music but which direction my path will take I don’t know yet. For now I am very happy with the way my career and Ex Libris can develop side by side. I love both and need both musical styles to complete me as a singer.
I firmly believe that mastering different styles of music enriches you as a musician.
What do you want to achieve in the future, as a metal vocalist?
Mastering many more different styles of singing but always with a healthy voice. I wish to be an inspiration to many young singers out there and want to let them know that you can sing (almost) anything as long as you keep your voice in good condition and be aware of the fact that a good voice comes with a good support of breath.
Part of the beauty of the metal genre is that bands and fans are so connected, so genuine. So what would all of the members of Ex Libris like to tell your followers?
It’s so very true that metal fans are deeply connected to the music! I’ve done concerts in many different music genres but never were the people in the audience more devoted to the music than those I’ve greeted at an Ex Libris concert. It really is the biggest thrill ever when the audience is right there in the music with you! This being said I can only say that we would like to invite all our fans and followers to visit our concerts, experience our music and propose a toast to metal with us.