DATE OF INTERVIEW:
ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN
11th September 2013
With hair as progressive as her music, globally adored singer-songwriter Anneke van Giersbergen is back with a new look, new album and new deal with legendary prog label Inside Out. Aptly entitled 'Drive', it showcases an overtly rockier side to her versatile musical persona in what's undoubtedly her most relentlessly up-tempo and upbeat collection of tracks to date. A sole ballad features and certain songs are flavoured with an underlying melancholy, although it's generally buoyant sonic vibes all the way through. A hard-hitting and melodically infectious beast, 'Drive' is chock-full of anthemically-charged gems that sees the talented Dutch lady burst onto Inside Out's roster of esteemed artists with unmitigated gusto. During a half hour chat, Anneke spoke to Metal Discovery about the making of the new album, its accompanying photo book, 'The Road to Drive', busking, flamingos, cruises, guilty pleasures and, of course, her progressive hair...
METAL DISCOVERY: I have to say, first off, huge congratulations on the new album, ‘Drive’, it’s amazing stuff… as usual.
ANNEKE: Thank you, that’s wonderful.
(Anneke on the up-tempo, upbeat nature of her new album, 'Drive')
"...I’m a sucker for ballads and I love to sing them. I have tons of those on the shelf because they’re easy to write but, for this album... I really wanted to make an up-tempo, energetic album which would make me happy and, so, I made one."
Anneke van Giersbergen - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Raymond van Olphen
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: It says in the press blurb that you collaborated with Arno Krabman and recorded at his Graveland Studio. So were the songs actually co-written with Arno?
ANNEKE: Not all the songs but I did write some songs with him and he produced the whole album as well.
MD: How was your working relationship with him in terms of the writing – did he help you develop ideas or did you both write stuff and merge ideas?
ANNEKE: I think both. I had some songs already written, also with other people, and as he produced the album he took a good look at all the songs and made them ten times better than they were. I’m very, very happy with Arno because, you know, his vision, his creativity, and his energy was fantastic for this album. So, in terms of the songs, he took a look at them and some songs were already finished but, sometimes, we took a bridge out and wrote a new one in the studio or we changed some things in the order of the song… stuff like that but, also, he came up with some song ideas and then I started working on them and then we finished the song together. So he was totally into the album.
MD: Marvellous. You recorded it with a live band – your touring band, in fact… is that right?
MD: So did you feel the up-tempo, upbeat nature of the tracks needed that kind of raw, organic approach to get across that rockier dynamic?
ANNEKE: Yes, exactly. You know, live, it’s going so well with these guys. These guys have been with me now for a year or two, I would say, and they are such a nice group of people and so talented, and our live shows have got better and better. And I thought, I have to have this energy on the album and you can’t do it with only one producer, or only you writing the songs, or only some other blokes playing randomly. It works a lot of the time, actually, because my album, ‘Everything is Changing’, I wrote and recorded with the producer, Daniel… ah, it’s getting late, my brain is melting…!
ANNEKE: …Daniel Cardoso and that works because there’s a very specific atmosphere there because it’s only two, or a few more people here and there. So that works but, this time, I really wanted an album that has a lot of energy and up-tempo songs… like, good energy, crystal clear… and I needed the guys to do it. So we had a very, very nice time in the studio, everybody was very inspired and we got along very much with Arno, all of us. And, so, we had a good team and you’re kind of rolling. It was such a nice way of working. I know, from experience, that sometimes, when you have the whole band in the studio, things can take a long, long time because everybody has an opinion and everybody has tons of ideas, which is great but it takes a long, long time, and I don’t have the concentration for it. So we all knew what to do and we just had a nice time, and everybody was just really inspired so, when things are flowing, it doesn’t take such a long time to lay a track down. And, so, a nice experience.
MD: One of the best experiences you’ve ever had in a studio, would you say?
ANNEKE: I would say so, yes! [laughs]
MD: It’s got to be the most relentlessly up-tempo album you’ve ever done – ‘My Mother Said’ is the only real break in pace - so was it a conscious decision to avoid down-tempo ballad numbers this time around?
ANNEKE: Yes, because I’m actually… and I would say a lot of artists would feel that way, that it’s easier to write a ballad than an up-tempo song. And I, for one, I’m a sucker for ballads and I love to sing them. I have tons of those on the shelf... [laughs]... because they’re easy to write but, for this album, when I finished ‘Everything is Changing’… whenever I finish an album anyway, I immediately have a lot of ideas for the new one… you have a feeling, like a specific feeling, about the next one. So I really wanted to make an up-tempo, energetic album which would make me happy and, so, I made one. I’m extremely happy with the result and, because I can’t do it alone, I needed Arno to make it happen – in sound, in songwriting, and especially production. We searched for really good, heavy sounds so we got a production which was really cool and heavy, and the songs are very happy and positive.
MD: One of the things I noticed about the album is that the songs sound maybe heavier than they actually are because of the production… there’s a really beefy sound to the guitars. And, although it’s incredibly well produced, there’s still a raw, live edge to the sound so there’s a nice balance between those two things.
ANNEKE: Yeah, that’s cool. And I really wanted ten songs and no skippers… you know, you can make a full album of one and a half hours and have lots of skipping material, but I wanted a good, solid, no-nonsense, transparent, energetic, euphoric, positive album!
MD: Definitely, from start to finish!
MD: Every track’s great but I’m really loving ‘Mental Jungle’ which I think’s a really intriguing track. The male vocals on there with those kind of Eastern melodies – who’s that singing on there with you?
ANNEKE: That’s actually my good friend Hayko Cepkin and he’s a Turkish singer. I’ve worked with him in the past, in Turkey, and he sang with me in Holland. And I think he’s a fantastic vocalist. I love this Oriental atmosphere and I was actually writing this song with our guitar player, Punto, and this theme kind of came up and I thought, immediately, this is the perfect song for Hayko to sing on. I asked him and he did. I said, “you should sing like those priests in the church before the service starts, you can hear it on the streets of Istanbul, and can you do something like that and make some Turkish lyrics?” And he did an extremely good job on it so it’s one of my favourites because of him.
MD: Yeah, it’s a great, great track. I’m also loving ‘My Mother Said’ which is a really beautiful piece of songwriting… I’m guessing that’s quite a personal song for you?
ANNEKE: Yeah, very… actually, this is almost exactly a conversation I had with my mum and, later on, with my dad as well about twenty years ago. And, of course, when you’re young, you’re into all kinds of bullshit and you end up talking to your parents about it and, twenty years later, I’m a mum myself and I understand my mother better…
ANNEKE: But this conversation was a very important moment in my life… but, only now… I can remember this for so long, this conversation, but, only now, I’m just writing a song about it because now, like I said, I’m a mother myself; things get into perspective and, so, it’s a super personal song. So, yeah, it’s also one of my favourites and it breaks the record…
MD: Yeah, because it’s kind of mid-way through. You had ‘My Boy’ on the last one and, now, ‘My Mother…’ so will there be a ‘My Husband’ on the next one?
MD: Like a trilogy of…
ANNEKE: Yeah, yeah, that’s true! [laughs] Actually, I should! That’s so funny, I never realised it!
ANNEKE: I have to now!
MD: I noticed there’s a photo book available too to accompany the album with a very cunning title, ‘The Road to Drive’… how did that idea come about?
ANNEKE: Actually, I had an idea for something to accompany the CD and, normally, you then think about a DVD but I think I also need more material to make a good DVD. Then I thought, why not one of those coffee table books, and you can look at plenty of pictures and you can read some stuff, and all the lyrics from the album are in there. And, so, I asked Raymond van Olphen, a Dutch photographer to follow me around for half a year. So he did, and we were on tour together, and he was in the studio and he took pictures of random stuff. And he’s really, really good – one of the best in Holland. So there are some really, really nice pictures in there and it’s a huge book, actually. It’s a big, big thing and it’s one of those things you can take a look at and read all about touring and being in the studio, and the way I see things and feel about things. It’s like a nice document.
MD: It’s nice to have something in that more traditional format as well, rather than something digital; a lot of bands would go down the easier route of doing that, so it’s nice to see…
ANNEKE: Yeah, because I will tell you… I went to the printers the day it got printed and, of course, this is my first book that I’ve ever released so, for me, everything’s really new, so I wanted to be there when it got printed. And, like you said, when you see a picture, it’s so different when you see it on the screen… and then, when you hold it in your hands, like the sheets, it’s such a difference and I understand, even more now, the value of a book, and something to hold, and something to go through with your hand. Actually, I was almost more proud of the book than of the album!
ANNEKE: You know, it’s a new experience for me and, at the printers, the boss of the printing company was a bit surprised because I was like a kid running around, getting enthusiastic…
ANNEKE: I’m so happy we did it and it turned out awesomely beautiful.
MD: That’s fantastic. Have you got a ton of pre-orders for the book as well?
ANNEKE: Yes, it’s going well. I’m so happy it’s going well because, you know what, it’s also a huge investment –much more than an album, actually. An album is much cheaper to print. So I’m so happy that people are interested. If it will cover the cost then I will be happy! [laughs]
MD: You’re signed to Inside Out now which is quite a legendary label in the prog scene, so did you hunt out a deal or did they come knocking on your door?
ANNEKE: A little bit of both, actually. I felt with this album, when we were making it, I felt very confident to search for a worldwide record deal because, up until now, I’ve been doing everything myself and releasing under my own label name, together with my husband Rob. I’m released in the Benelux with a big label but, outside, we’ve been doing everything ourselves, and a few distribution deals here and there, you know how it goes. And I thought, well, this album needs more attention because I think it can take it so we spread the word that we were in search of and, actually, they came up with a very, very nice offer. They had really great ideas about the release, and about the album and they’re very interested. And, I’m happy to say, we got some great attention from record companies but they felt right. It’s so important that they understand who you are and how it works and who your audience is, and I’m sure they know and they understand. I mean, talking to you now, at this moment, this is their work, right?! So I’m very happy I get good attention.