It’s been 6 years since she left the Gathering to focus on her solo career. She managed to stay in the spotlight by making interesting records to say the least, even though she turned into a more pop-ish direction. Her collaborations with famous artists such as Arjen Lucassen and Devin Townsend cannot be ignored and even though she is a mother she still has a lot of music left to offer. Anneke van Giersbergen kindly spoke with us for a lot of interesting things, including her new album, her life, her return to Greece and of course the Gathering.
So, Anneke, summer is now over. Did you have enough time to rest and spend it with the family?
We never really had a vacation, but we had time to do things like go to the movies. That was very nice. We had a very crappy summer, except for the last two weeks when a heat wave hit us. So it was a quite interesting summer weather-wise.
You have a new record out, called "Drive". It’s a really up-tempo album with both heavy and radio friendly songs. It seems like you never seem to lack inspiration. What was the thing that drove you this time?
Indeed. It’s true, I never have problems writing. Sometimes I have too many ideas and I don’t know which way to go, because I write ballads, I write heavy songs. You can all hear it in one album. But I really felt this time I wanted to make something really up-tempo and spicy, with good, positive energy. I always try to improve my singing as well as my song-writing. And I’m so proud that it turned out the way it did. Arno Krabman, the producer on the new album, helped me so much with the song-writing and other stuff. I’m extremely happy with this album.
It’s true, as you already said, there is a certain positive feeling in most of the songs on the new album. How do you decide which to include and which to leave out?
You kind of know by heart instantly if a song will turn out as good as the other one. There are some songs that aren’t that good, but do something to you and have really personal lyrics, that it’s so sad to leave your “baby” behind. (laughs) I wanted to make a short album with 10 songs, one ballad, all super super good, you know.
Is there a theme behind the title or the songs?
I think the overall theme is just life, the way we live it and how I see it. I am always thinking of how do I live my life, if I am doing a good job at it. I always want to grow. A lot of the lyrics deal with that, like "Shooting For The Stars", "The Best Is Yet To Come" and "We Live On". It’s a very personal theme.
Three songs have stuck in my mind from "Drive" and I would like you to give me some inside info on them. The first one is "Treat Me Like A Lady".
The lyrics on that are kind of fictional. The song deals with respect for one another but also from a guy to a girl. We’ve all been through this, not being treated the way you’re supposed to. It’s a really up-tempo song and I can’t wait to play this live.
The second is "My Mother Said", one of the most emotional songs I’ve heard lately.
It’s almost an exact conversation I had with my parents like 20 years ago. When you’re young you do stupid things and you end up talking to your parents about it. And that was a defining moment for me in my life. So 20 years later I still think about that conversation. Now I am a mother myself so I wrote a song about it.
And the last one is "Mental Jungle", a very different song from you. It’s very oriental.
It’s true. I wrote this song with my guitar player. A Turkish friend of mine, Hayko Cepkin, sings on that song. Me and Hayko go back a few years, we worked together in Turkey and Holland. He is a great singer and I really thought it would be perfect for him to sing it. And I think he did a great job.
Indeed. What are your plans right now? Are you going to release a new video, apart from the video of "Drive"?
Yes, there is a new video for a song coming really soon. And after that we will start touring. That’s about the basic plan. We’ll be coming to Greece as well.
That was my next question. (laughs)
Of course, and I am really happy because you know I love Greece.
That’s great. So everybody is happy.
Once again, you use your beautiful face for the album cover. What is the most original thing you’ve heard about your looks?
You know people either love it or hate it because it’s very colorful and being in rock and metal scene, where everyone likes black. (laughs) But everyone is open minded when it comes to me and my music. I wanted the cover and the pictures to have the same energy as the music. They have to fit together, you know. Luckily, most people like it. It really stands out, blue background, red hair, white face.
Are there any new artists that stand out?
It’s difficult to choose. There are so many good new artists. Actually there is a new band named The Charm The Fury. It’s a dutch band and their singer, Caroline, is really awesome.
If you say so, I have to check them out. (laughs) How would you describe yourself with your co-workers during the writing process ? You seem so kind and easy-going that I wouldn’t imagine you being bossy for example.
I don’t think I’m bossy. (laughs) I believe it’s important to collect a group of people around me that are willing to work hard, on good spirits. Yeah, I can be grumpy some times, of course. I don’t like people who complain all the time about everything. When you’re a musician it’s like working the long hours and sometimes you have to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to catch a plane. And if people cannot stand it, then they shouldn’t do this profession. I always try to find people in the band, but also around the band, who just really love what they do.
I believe one of the most important things is to fit with each other.
Exactly. It’s a weird profession, so we have to do the best that we can.
You’ve collaborated with many artists in the past like Devin Townsend, Daniel Cavanaugh and Arjen Lucassen. Which one was the most memorable?
I love all of them, they are all my friends. I really love the one with Devin Townsend. He is not only a great musician but also a very nice person to work with. He works really hard. We all did, to make such wonderful music. I love working with him because he is very funny, very sweet, and very very intelligent. I learn a lot from him about music, life.
So it’s always a give and take in a collaboration.
If I may suggest one with Serj Tankian. It would be great to see two of my favorite singers working together. Have you thought about that?
I love him too. I think that he is a fantastic vocalist. That could work. Totally!
It’s been many years that you’ve been making music now. Do you believe that “The Best Is Yet To Come” or have you reached your peak sometime in the past?
That’s a very good question. When I was with the Gathering we were at one time very very popular. We managed to get really successful and I’ve learnt so much from it. Now as a solo artist, I had to start all over again almost from the beginning. It’s not easy, people are very skeptical , so you have to work hard to gain the interest from the listener. Now I am very much at a level that I want to be. I’m playing all over the place, I make records, I do exactly what I love to do. I always think the best is yet to come, you can move on and be better at what you do. Get the most out of life. I will always think like this until the day I die. I’m forty years old and I think life is at its best, because you’re not insecure like when you were eighteen, you know. You’re ok with yourself. And there is still so much to see and to do, and I always think, tomorrow I’ll be better.
Why did you end Agua De Annique?
It was just a name. I noticed it was complicating people. When I left the Gathering to become a solo artist, I realized I had a band name. It was not the best decision, and it was a name no one understood. So after a few albums I dropped it and now it’s clearer.
Someone would say that being a mother would stall your music career. On the contrary, you seem to be more productive now. How do you manage to do that?
Since I am a mum, I have to look at time management. When I was 21 in the Gathering all I had to do was to be in the band and sing and all that. Now you have the family, you have the music and so many things to take care of. You work in a different way than before, but every working mother has the same problems. Apart from the fact that we work at strange hours, you know. It’s very nice when I can combine it, and my son can come on tour with me.
How old is he now?
He is eight.
Wow! Time passes very quickly.
I know it! He is a big boy now. (laughs)
Comparing yourself now and back in 1997, what are the differences for you as a person?
I am comfortable with myself and with my life. And when you are very young everything you do, everything you say has a big question mark above it.
There are more questions than answers at that age.
Exactly. Now I have enough answers to get by and be happy. So I would say I am much happier now, even though I was always a happy kid. It’s just sometimes I didn’t understand life. And this makes good lyrics, you know.
So happiness is what inspires you now to write songs?
I suppose so. I know people say that you have to be unhappy to write good music but I disagree. You see the new album is euphoric, and people who want the same thing will get something out of it.
I remember when I was talking with Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost, he told me that he has to be ok to write music. When he is sad he is not in the mood to write songs, he doesn’t want to do anything. So, was it always your dream to become a singer?
Yes, since I was really young I wanted to become something that had to do with art or music. When I was thirteen, I think, I knew for sure I wanted to be a musician.
You fulfilled your dream then?
Yes and I always knew in my heart I would get there.
Have you ever thought or been asked to play in a movie ? You’re very photogenic.
Oh thank you! I would like to one day. I am very interested to learn how that world works.
That would be interesting. I remember the first time I saw you, it was your final gig with the Gathering in Greece. It was really emotional, because there were many rumors that you would leave the band. It is one of the top concerts I’ve attended. Do you remember that particular gig?
Yes, of course.
Do you ever miss those days?
I don’t like to look back a lot because I tend to look forward. If I look back to those days, there is a lot of pride and happiness. I learned how to live my life, all about my music and everything. Of course I miss the guys.
Do you keep contact?
Yeah, a little bit. That’s really nice.
Is there any possibility of a reunion?
No, not yet. Don’t need the money. (laughs)
That’s a straight answer. (laughs) So in order to end the interview, feel free to send a message to your fans in Greece.
I am really hoping that everyone comes to the show and checks the new album, because it’s working really good.
Thank you very much, Anneke. See you soon.
It’s been a pleasure.