After being spellbound by her latest album “Everything is Changing,” ThisIsNotAScene’s Catherine spoke to Anneke van Giersbergen about her new album, life as a solo artist and why her heart belongs to the metal scene.
How’s 2012 been for you so far? You’ve certainly been busy!
It’s been going really well! I’m so happy because I really like the album. We’ve just been on tour, and I’ve been away to Switzerland with Danny Cavanagh as well, which was nice. But now we’re home and I’ve actually started writing for the new album this week. I have a lot of ideas and I like working on songs, so if ever I have a day off and I’m home alone, that’s what I do.
Your new album is called ‘Everything is Changing’. What does this name mean for you?
Well, that in my own life everything is changing – I have a kid of seven, and in this day and age kids are growing up so fast, it’s amazing to watch. Every day he changes. So in music and in my own life, but also in the environment and in politics, everything’s going crazy. How are we supposed to grow old in a world that’s spinning so fast? I’m always busy with that stuff. So I wrote a bunch of songs about it.
This is your fifth solo album and the first where you’re just Anneke van Giersbergen, no ‘…and Agua de Annique’. What does dropping the band name symbolise?
It’s funny because when I left the Gathering, the first thing I did was come up with a band name. I think I was just used to being in a band, even though I am a solo artist. So I came up with this difficult band name, Agua de Annique, and nobody understood it! It didn’t really mean anything, I just liked the sound of it and it had my name in it a little bit… It sounded nice, but it was actually making things more difficult for me because people didn’t always realise I was behind it. So I figured as I was going more on my own two feet, why not just drop the band name? And I thought nothing of it. It’s just a name. But the reality of it is that it feels much more that I am on my own. It’s my name: it’s who I am, it’s the way I was born – and it’s my music, my decisions, my path. It had more of an impact on me than I was expecting.
Do you feel like more like ‘you’ on this album or are you still experimenting with your sound?
There’s always a little bit of experimenting involved… but I have to say, nothing is by coincidence…in dropping the band name and finding Daniel Cardoso. I had a very clear idea after ‘In Your Room’ of where I wanted to go with the music, and I wanted it more heavy, with all the things I like in one album. ‘Cause I’ve made a ballad album, a rock album, a pop album…it was time to combine these things and make it one thing, my ‘niche’. And I couldn’t write it myself, I’m not skilled enough on the guitar or piano to make these riffs. So Daniel was sent from heaven! I feel very much at home with this sound.
How important is it to you to still be involved in the metal scene, even though you’ve somewhat moved away from metal in your own music?
I really love the scene, I love the music… the people in the metal scene are very united. It’s a broad scene and it’s got even broader with women in it. And though I do really like radio gigs and the pop scene and silly stuff, I’m always coming back to metal. When I left the Gathering a lot of people were asking me to work with them so instantly I worked with Moonspell, Anathema, Devin Townsend…even though I’d known them for so many years I only just got to work with them. I like heavy stuff combined with beautiful things, the way Within Temptation and Devin do it…combine heaviness and darkness with light and positivity and good lyrics. It’s a good scene.
What has your experience of being a woman in the metal scene been? I feel like some people think they know what they’re going to get when they see a female singer on stage.
I know what you mean! It’s funny because we were in the cradle of this scene, the ‘female fronted heavy music’ scene. The nice thing is that when the Gathering were looking for a singer after Nils left, they just wanted a good singer and it happened to be that I was a girl – but that’s it. Then all of a sudden this scene was there that was inspired by us. It changed with the Gathering and I’m very proud of that. There are a few other bands in this cradle, like Nightwish and Within Temptation, but also before the Gathering there was Paradise Lost … I’m proud to be in this scene and acknowledged. But also, I don’t feel like I’m ‘the female in the female fronted band’. I’m just a singer! I remember my very first Gathering gig and it was full of guys in black leather jackets and they were frowning…but by the end they were like “hmm!” (appreciative noise)
“Can we rock out to this when there’s a girl on stage…?”
I am probably one of the first generation of females in this scene, but nowadays girls listen to such goddamn heavy music, you know? When I was a kid heavy music was Metallica and Slayer, which are almost like pop music now. Things are getting heavier by the minute. Sometimes I take a step back and go, Holy shit! Things evolve rapidly. I like change and the fact it’s going so fast, only I wonder how to keep up. But it’s good, I like the creativity of it.
How did your friendship with Danny Cavanagh come about?
Well, we’ve known each other for about 15 years and we always said when we met each other at festivals that we should do something together, and it never happened. Then in 2007 we met and said we really should do something together! So we did, and it evolved into making a live album and now every half a year or so we go somewhere in the world and play together for a few days. It’s all about fun, and music, and going and doing the acoustic thing…
And you’re on the next Devin Townsend album too, ‘Epicloud’. What’s he like to work with?
I love working with Devin. He’s a great guy and very genius when it comes to his music, very serious…but very funny as well. Epicloud is shockingly beautiful. When I heard the songs and when I was singing it in the studio, I was shocked by how heavy it was, and how intense, but also how beautiful. I said to him, I hear West Side Story in your music! This melodramatic, emotional sound, but so super heavy. There are only a few people who can do that. So I’m very proud to be on it and very humbled. He had some additional songs I worked on as well. He does exactly what I like in music: combining heavy stuff with beautiful things. And he doesn’t do anything a little bit, he never sits on his ass, you know? It’s gonna be one hell of a record. I’m very happy to be on that.
You always seem to include a couple of old Gathering songs in your live set. How does it feel to play those songs? Do they mean the same to you now?
To a song always sticks a feeling, a scent, a memory, an emotion… Each song has its own history. When I play Gathering songs I pick the ones that are fun and that the audience like, because I very much enjoy that the audience knows the songs and sings along, it’s really cool. Plus of course it’s good memories and I love the songs…but I don’t want to play too many because of course I’ve turned in another direction. I know some solo artists do a lot of old songs because the audience like them, and I do want to indulge the audience but there’s always a bit of balancing with these things.
So what’s next for you?
The rest of the year is going to be a lot of playing, we have a lot of weekend gigs abroad, some Dutch shows, some festivals, so that’s all cool…and then I’m writing as well. I have three or four writing partners now who I’m writing with. I want to kind of continue what I’m doing with ‘Everything Is Changing’ but I do have some new ideas about production as well. I have lots of songs already! I’m just making some lyrics at the moment, thinking what I should write about. The agenda is pretty full. And we’re having a vacation, which we never do – that’s a new concept for us. We travel a lot, but we never do nothing. On the last tour Rob and Finn were with me, so I had no reason to go home! Why would I need to?!