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23rd September 2012
It's been five years since uber-talented Dutch singer Anneke Van Giersbergen parted ways with The Gathering. During that time she's been somewhat prolific in her output and creativity, forging a successful solo career that has, thus far, seen the release of four studio albums as well as a couple of live records (one of which was with Anathema guitarist/songwriter Danny Cavanagh). Add to that list a multitude of collaborations and guest vocal spots with such esteemed bands/artists like Within Temptation, Devin Townsend and Moonspell, her current participation in a musical-based children's play, global touring and TV appearances etc, it seems this much loved musician is busier than she's ever been. And 2012 is the year she's truly flourished as a solo artist with the release of new album 'Everything Is Changing', the first to be released solely under her own name having previously used the Agua de Annique moniker ('Air') and Anneke Van Giersbergen with/& Agua de Annique ('Pure Air'; 'In Your Room'; 'Live in Europe'). A diverse collection of songs that range from the balladic to the heavy, and upbeat pop/rock to the darkly melancholic, it's been hailed worldwide by fans and critics alike as her best work to date. Over in the UK during September for a run of five headline shows, Metal Discovery hooked up with the thoroughly charming and effervescent lady in Birmingham for a half hour chat a few hours before her final date of the tour...
METAL DISCOVERY: Where did you play last night, was it Glasgow?
(Anneke Van Giersbergen on her diverse audience)
"…we had sixteen year old girls and there were seventy year old guys, and everything in-between. It’s great, so you see death metal t-shirts but also beautifully made-up teen girls with pink hair and it’s fantastic!"
Anneke Van Giersbergen in the Academy, Birmingham, UK, 23rd September 2012
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Was that good?
ANNEKE: Yeah, very much. A very, very good crowd and very nice people. I like it; it’s so different from the rest of the UK…it’s like a different language! I can’t understand a word, they’re talking so fast!
MD: I know, when I see certain Scottish people on TV, I need subtitle sometimes!
ANNEKE: Yeah, yeah, totally!
MD: So these are your first ever UK headline gigs as a solo artist…
MD: Did you have any expectations for the shows or did the tour get booked and you just came here and see what happens?
ANNEKE: Yeah, kind of that but when we were playing with Within Temptation we did a European tour but did five or six shows in the UK and we noticed that they were going very well for us. We got good attention and I was always in the crowd afterwards and we got good vibes so we thought we can maybe give it a go by ourselves because of that. Actually, we thank Within Temptation a lot for taking us along and giving us the space to do our show and to get in touch with everybody here. And, therefore, we just made a little trip around the UK now. I know I have to build up again here after the years with The Gathering but, also, it’s always a bit difficult to tour in the UK because you have such awesome stuff coming from here. I mean, The Beatles came from here so any other band…you are spoilt! You have such a good music scene and, in any scene, there’s so much good stuff coming from the UK so for an outsider to come in and play is hard. But, now that we are here, it’s fantastic because the crowd is very appreciative and very polite and nice.
MD: I saw some footage on YouTube the other day where someone had posted a video from the London gig at the Borderline and you were dancing in the crowd…
ANNEKE: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: That looked like fun…
ANNEKE: It was totally fun, yeah. London, of course, has always been our best gig with The Gathering and we get some more people so it’s always great to jump in!
MD: And join in.
ANNEKE: Yeah, I do always jump in the audience when we have small venues and it’s easy for me to get off stage. It started as a little joke….actually, I’m doing it when we play smaller venues here…so I make it personal and, yeah, I enjoy it very much.
MD: You couldn’t do that in South America!
ANNEKE: I think I would get ripped apart!
MD: They’re too enthusiastic!
ANNEKE: Yeah, one comment on that video was “please don’t ever do this in Argentina”!
MD: So, ‘Everything Is Changing’, a phenomenal album I think…
ANNEKE: Thank you very much.
MD: The press info I had through states that it takes your “talents to a higher level, both lyrically and vocally”. In what ways do you see the album as a step forward from what you’ve done before?
ANNEKE: In many ways, when I started my solo career five years ago, I went all over the place. I did a ballad album, and a rock album, and a pop album, and I was just kind of searching the grounds; like, what’s my own sound? And maybe that changes a lot, my sound, because every year is different. I’m a mother so I see my kid grow up…it changes, everything, all the time. And, in the music, everything is changing as well. So, with this album, I thought all the stuff I like, why not combine this and try to make one sound out of it – you know, pop, rock, dark stuff, happy stuff – because I like it all. I like singer/songwriter stuff but I like bands like Deftones as well…I’m a huge fan, for instance. And I thought it must be doable to combine but I couldn’t write that myself so I co-wrote. I searched for people to write this with me because I have all of these ideas but I’m not skilled enough on the guitar to make riffs or whatever. So I managed to really create whatever’s in my head and, therefore, I succeeded personally and also vocal-wise. I try to be a better singer every record and every live show I try to improve. I think it’s maybe a bit more mature and I think I’m kind of towards my own sound…although that could change next year…
MD: You could end up doing a death metal record next time!
ANNEKE: Yeah, why not!
ANNEKE: If I feel like it, yeah!
MD: Would you say the album offers a cross-section of your career to date because you have the ballad numbers on there, some melancholy, atmospheric dark stuff, the heavier stuff, some rock and pop. So were you intending to offer a cross-section of what you’ve done so far?
ANNEKE: Kind of, yeah, but I don’t want…actually, I’m confusing people a lot because they have no idea…there are groups of people who follow me. There are certain groups who like all the stuff that I like and then there’s groups of metal-heads who like the darker side and groups of pop-heads, and then there are girls who like different things about my music. So my audience is like…yesterday, we had sixteen year old girls and there were seventy year old guys, and everything in-between. It’s great, so you see death metal t-shirts but also beautifully made-up teen girls with pink hair and it’s fantastic! So maybe that’s my thing, that it’s diverse and people can come in and out as they please with every album.
MD: I guess that’s kind of job done to have an album that diverse and then attract an audience that is as diverse as the music. That must be satisfying to see.
ANNEKE: It is but I’m still confusing a lot of people! I’m already writing for the next album and it’s already going all over the place and, every time, I always think about how the hell can I put this in one album again. Sometimes I just stop writing for two weeks and say, I’ve no idea where to go with this but I’m sure I’ll find a way.
MD: The title, ‘Everything Is Changing’, is a very general statement I guess so is that supposed to be a personal thing about you as a person and your life or more about the world?
ANNEKE: Actually, both. And, also, in the music world everything is changing all the time. It’s not like the old school business as it was. Everything is constantly on the move and evolving. But my own life, like I said, I’m a mum so every year of my son’s life is totally different and so it’s mine therefore. And then, of course, the world we live in, in 2012, everything is going mad. So the environment, politics, people’s lives…and it keeps me busy; I think about that stuff a lot so I write about it as well.
MD: The album seems to get a little heavier during the second half so was the track order important to you to reflect everything’s changing in the music as well? It seems like the darker, heavier stuff is in the second half.
ANNEKE: Yeah, we start out light but it was also a natural progression to do the track list like that because it seemed to me that it...I don’t know why we came from light to dark but it seemed natural to end with a bit heavier…
MD: A bit more oomph…
ANNEKE: Yeah, exactly! [laughs]
MD: It kind of works at the end I think.
ANNEKE: I think so, yeah. It’s good for live shows too; it’s good to end heavy.
MD: Yeah, definitely. So what songs would you say you’re most proud of on the album, lyrically and musically?
MD: You can say the whole thing if you want, that’d be the easier answer!
ANNEKE: [laughs] Yeah, that’s true!
MD: My personal favourites are ‘My Boy’ and ‘Circles’; they’re the ones I seemed to connect with the most.
ANNEKE: Ah, that’s cool.
MD: Yeah, really, really nice songs.
ANNEKE: Ah cool, yeah, thanks. I think ‘Circles’ is one of my favourites as well because it’s a small song, and it’s fragile, and it’s good lyrics about friendship so I feel a lot with this song. ‘My Boy’, of course, is about my son. And I like, for instance, live, ‘1000 Miles Away From You’ because I love to sing it because it’s a bit more over the top. And songs like ‘Stay’ are nice to play because they’re kind of rocky. But all the songs have their own atmosphere.
MD: Yeah, I guess it’s hard to compare them against each other because they’re all different.