Progression is inevitable. As we get older we progress and change as a
result of our experiences, our thoughts, and our goals. Much is the same
with the music of the Gathering. Starting out as a unique death metal
act, change and progression was a major part of each successive album.
>From the addition of the talented Anneke to the slow transformation into
their patented "trip rock" sound, one couldn't tell the albums 'Always'
and 'Souvenirs' were written by the same creative forces. Metal Update
had a chat with vocalist Anneke about their own record label, their new
bassist, and their ever changing sound.
METAL UPDATE: First of all, I must compliment you on your performance in
Cambridge, MA at the Middle East a couple months back.
ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN: All right. You were there?
MU: Yes I was, and I was really blown away. I had no idea it was going
to sound that good live. A lot of people I know acted the same way. We
were just all floored completely. You've really come a long way with
your sound and it's presented very well in the live setting. How was
that brief tour overall? I know there were some problems with a show in
Canada and the whole Brooklyn deal.
AVG: Yeah, that was kind of linked. To start off with your two part
question, the tour in America was really nice because we were there last
in 1999. We did a tour from west to east and that was really amazing as
well, but we had to start an audience there. Sometimes there was 20
people, sometimes there was 100, sometimes more. And it was already good
because people in America are really into our music. The people who knew
we were coming were really into it and we loved it. It was really nice.
So when we came back there was more people everywhere, and we were
really delighted that people were so respectful and so nice about our
music and we had a really, really good feeling overall. And yeah, shit
happens. Shit happened in Canada this time. Every 400 hundred shows we
have a cancellation because things are really bad. But it happened in
Canada and it's just a very bad venue with an even crazier owner that
didn't give us any equipment to play on. Things went from bad to worse.
And we actually wanted to play two shows there, because this one show in
Brooklyn, NY . . . what was the name of the club?
MU: That was L'amours.
AVG: Ah, L'amours! Yes. That didn't go through so we did a second show
in Canada, but that was so bad that we didn't do a second show. That's
all there was to it. We kind of blew it up a little bit on the internet,
but it's just a bad venue. There are more bad venues in the world.
AVG: It was quite funny. We got some publicity out of it.
MU: What inspired the launching of Psychonaut Records?
AVG: Well, we spent a lot of time with the record company, on a
different label, on Century Media. I don't know. It always kind of
collides, business and creativity. We just wanted to bring them closer
together. And we decided when we fulfilled the contract - now with
'Sleepy Buildings' - but before then we started thinking, "How can we do
this? How can we make our business better and not dance to the greater .
. . dance like puppets, like marionettes." That's what it became, which
is totally logical because any good business wants to make money. It
always collides. And that's a very logical thing. We just didn't want it
anymore. We spoke even to major labels. We speak to them all the time
because they want us as well. And we speak to independents. They always
have a catch, and we don't like that. We just want to make our music and
be honest and pure about it. It's a tough thing to do because obviously
we don't have all the power and we certainly don't have all the wisdom.
We just try and it kind of works out because people are interested and
they make an effort to find out what we are up to. It goes really well
so we are very happy about it. It's just hard work. It's OK. It feels
good. And it feels good not to dance to the big people.
MU: Is 'Sleepy Buildings' your last release for Century Media?
AVG: Yes. Negotiations for that one lasted so long that we started our
own record label in that period. So we released already two things on
MU: Yeah, I was wondering how you were able to pull that off.
AVG: Right. (laughs) We just did it, actually. And then we finished
negotiations with Century Media and we came to this very lovely special
idea to wrap it up.
MU: It definitely worked out well. Sometimes live recordings can be
kinda blah, but you guys did something special obviously.
AVG: We had to because I know that not all live shows or live albums or
even best of albums, because that was the initial idea, can be blah. But
this is a very good connection between those two things. People of
Century Media who worked with us to release this, they worked really
hard and they really like it. So we have a very good vibe as well going
on work-wise, but as well the audience really likes it. I'm happy.
MU: Definitely. I think the fans are too.
MU: Do any of you have jobs besides Psychonaut Records and the band?
MU: You're making a living off of it?
AVG: Normally we do. Every once in a while we have to get jobs because
it may be a bad year, once every so many years. During the recordings of
the albums 'Souvenirs' and 'Black Light District' we had a bit of a bad
year. We had to get jobs. Starting up Psychonaut Records we put all the
money we had into it. Normally we live off of it. It's not a big living,
but it's just good.
MU: Was the semi-acoustic performance of 'Sleepy Buildings' done with
the intentions of releasing it as an album?
AVG: Yes. Actually when we were negotiating with Century Media about the
last album, we had this idea for a long time, making old songs into new
songs. Stripping them down. So, these ideas came together when we wanted
to do this last album. So that was really the intention to make it. And
then we rewrote these songs and then we recorded them in these live
shows and put them on an album.
MU: Why did you only perform the older material?
AVG: Because it's a Century Media release so we only had Century Media
songs, which is from six albums. It is a lot of albums, but 'Black Light
District' and 'Souvenirs' are from Psychonaut so we didn't put them on
the Century Media album. Actually it's kind of a business thing.
MU: I know all about it. (laughter) I know the deal. They own theirs,
you own yours.
AVG: It's so complicated, the thing is emotion-wise it's a new era for
us to make music on our own label. It gets new ideas and it gets new
feelings and it gets new moods, so it's very logical to end an era with
this album and start a new one with 'Black Light District' and
MU: OK. Now did you feel the need to reconstruct those songs to fit with
your current sound?
AVG: Not really. I think that's automatically what you do because the
songs we make now are because we live now. The things that we rewrite
now are because we have the feelings and emotions that we have right now
because we are in a time zone. That makes it all very logical. We don't
really think about making stuff sound like the 80's because we're not in
the 80's. So for us, we don't really think about that stuff, we just
MU: How much rearranging was involved to perform the tracks in this
AVG: We had a long list of songs because Century Media made a list of
favorites and we did as well. So we had a long list and we didn't have a
lot of time to rewrite and record these things because there was a
deadline. If we didn't have the deadline, we probably would have taken a
much longer time to rewrite the songs. But we didn't have so much time.
I think this may be better because it's more spontaneous now. We started
playing all these songs in the rehearsal room from the big list, and
some songs we didn't feel anything about it. It just didn't work in a
different way. And some songs within five minutes time we had a good
idea about it and the way we should write it, rewrite it, or the way it
should go. So that made it very spontaneous because we didn't mess our
heads up with a song. For instance, like "Strange Machines" because that
was a hit and so you should put it on the album. We tried it and it
didn't really work out so gone with it. We threw it away. Next song. And
it becomes better because it's more spontaneous. And the best songs,
MU: Your sound has clearly evolved since you joined the band and
recorded 'Mandylion'. What triggered the evolution into the trip rock
sound you have now?
AVG: Good question. I think the only answer is that we're not busy with
that, with these matters. We just make our music and it's a natural
evolution from being in that period of time and listening to different
kinds of music, you make that kind of music. And when you grow older and
you see a lot of things, you hear a lot of things, there's so much more
influence that you make a new album every year and you make a slightly
different album every year because your time is different. Your way of
experiences is different. Your way of playing live and recording is
different. Also your influences are way different. And your perspective
and everything has to do with your music. It's a reflection of what you
think and do and feel.
MU: What are your current influences?
AVG: What we really like nowadays is the contemporary dark pop music
like Radiohead and Massive Attack and Obo. There's a lot of these really
good English bands that we like, so we get a lot of inspiration from
that. Apart from that, we kind of like to listen to classical music and
I think we'll always listen to the Beatles and Pink Floyd. There's also
the electronic feel like Moby, Fatboy Slim that we kind of listen to, so
there's a broad spectrum.
MU: What one album have you been listening to the most lately?
AVG: There's one album that I personally really, really love and that is
the album of Damien Rice. Have you heard of him?
MU: No, I've never heard of him.
AVG: OK. You have to buy it live because it's really beautiful. His
name is Damien Rice and he made an album called 'O'. He's a
singer/songwriter but he has a band, and he works on his album, works
with strings and it's really heartfelt. He's from Ireland and everything
he does is straight from his heart. It's beautiful stuff. I listen to
them actually all the time.
MU: We'll have to try to check that out. What triggered the departure of
longtime bassist Hugo?
AVG: He really didn't feel like making music anymore on this level with
this band in this industry. He kind of got a bit fed up with everything,
which is maybe also a logical thing after 15 years with the same band.
On top of that, he's got little baby girl together with his wife,
Suzanne. That kind of triggered him. I think that pushed him over to the
decision to split. In the band, you are busy with it every day, the
whole day. You have to be really careful deciding your personal life,
the band and stuff like that. He just didn't want to make the effort
anymore. So, we're just a logical group. We parted with him on good
terms, and it's all right. But we had to find a new bass player of
course. It was quite difficult because Hugo was a very good one.
MU: So who is this new bassist?
AVG: Well, she is called Marjolein and she is very young. She's 23 and
she's really good, so we're very lucky we found her in our own hometown,
where most of us come from. She's a friend of a friend, and we knew she
was making music, and we knew she was studying guitar. But we didn't
know much about her other than she's a really nice person. So for some
reason we asked her to audition four songs with us. And she wanted to
and she came and played four songs really well. So we asked her the same
night. She was the first audition actually. So we were very, very lucky
because we wanted to continue and we wanted to make new songs, where we
had a tour coming up and everything. So we were quite happy with her.
She's great. She's doing a great job and she really looks good on stage
so we're quite happy.
MU: Definitely. So she is working out well?
MU: Now how long have you been playing guitar in the band?
AVG: Well, off and on actually always. The thing is sometimes we don't
play songs I play guitar on, but I have to say that I'm playing more and
more now. Especially after Jelmer left, which is already a few years
ago, of course. Sometimes I do some second things when I write songs for
the band on guitar, so it's logical that I play some guitar. I just kind
of fill things up.
MU: So you do help in the songwriting?
AVG: Yeah. It's very much divided. We all write music together.
MU: What do you think the future Gathering material is going to sound
AVG: I'd have to say we have lots of ideas, but we haven't assembled
them yet. I think it's going to be as pure as 'Sleepy Buildings'. Make
it as empty and pure as we can make it, because 'Souvenirs' was an album
that was full of stuff - sounds and production and layers. There was a
lot of stuff happening, which is great. We really feel like it's the
best thing that we ever did, but you cannot top it. You have to go into
another direction to make something new again. Otherwise it will always
become the 'Souvenirs Part II' which is not that good. More guitars, but
it's going to be more upbeat than 'Sleepy Buildings' because that's just
a bit more soft album, kinda a semi-acoustic one. But we're gonna
definitely go back to rock.
MU: It seems to me like you guys have never done a full US tour. Have
they always been kind of short?
AVG: We did one in '99, which lasted for 3 weeks. We drove from West to
East. We drove all the way. But because your country is so immensely
huge, it's very difficult to tour in, unless you fly or have a tour bus.
But we try. We want to come back actually this year and do better
logistically and try to play some more.
MU: Have you had any other offers to come here, besides the two times?
AVG: The years before we had some good offers, but again it was kind of
difficult to plan a tour because we're not huge but we're not small
either. Sometimes when you are in between you have nice crowds but it's
also more expensive to play in smaller venues of course. So it's always
been a business/logistical thing. We're getting better and better there
and we have more and more contacts and I hope we can come more often
because we really like it.
MU: I think it would help you out if you were able to do a full US tour.
It seems like it went over really well.
AVG: Yeah, it was. It was great. That was really an audience that we
liked. And also with a bigger band and gain some audience as well. That
would be cool, you know? But it was special and everybody came to see
the Gathering. It's always special wherever you play. But a country as
big as America, it's always good to play in front of a few hundred
people because it's very tough out there.
MU: If you could open for any band, who do you think would be the most
beneficial for you?
AVG: We've been trying Radiohead for years.
MU: That's a tough one. That would be good though.
AVG: Yeah, I think that would be a good crowd for us.
AVG: We've been trying Radiohead for years.
MU: What are some future plans for the band?
AVG: This year it's going to be a lot of playing. We're doing some
festivals and we're doing a lot of Dutch shows as well. We hope to tour
some more - hopefully America and then in Europe some more. In between,
we're going to write our new stuff and we're working on a DVD as well,
because we've taped the tours we've been on so far this year. So we're
going to release a DVD sometime this year I hope. So that's quite busy,
and then next year I hope we're going to work on the new album. You
never know but that's kind of the plan.
Interview: Scott McCooe [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ email@example.com ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]