Anneke van Giersbergen – Energy through Melody

Sunday, 18th November 2018

One name that seems to come up as being perpetually busy in the metal scene is that of Anneke van Giersbergen. Whether it’s through a variety of her own material that goes between solo work or bands The Gentle Storm and VUUR (not to mention her previous work in The Gathering), or through participation with other established musicians like Devin Townsend or Arjen Lucassen, as well as numerous guest spots, it seems she always has at least a few things floating in the horizon. Recently passing the celebratory milestone of 25 years, van Giersbergen performed two career-spanning sets with Residentie Orkest, which has been recently released for the rest of the world to enjoy. We grabbed a quick chat with van Giersbergen herself to talk about the release of Symphonized, as well as digging into some moments from her career and her inspirations.

Dead Rhetoric: What did you enjoy best when looking back at these re-interpreted songs from that night? What are the strong points?

Anneke van Giersbergen: What I really like about it is that there are already a lot of bands that have worked with an orchestra, but in this case, I didn’t have my band to do this. Normally when you do this with the band, the songs have the same structure and arrangements but in the background there is this huge orchestra playing. The songs really light up and they become wonderful, but in this case, the songs didn’t have the support of the band so they had to be arranged for only a classical orchestra. So the drums and electric guitar had to be replaced by other instruments. There were two arrangers, and they took on those 13 songs for the live show – the arrangements became so beautiful. The songs got new life. I think that’s one of the most special things about it.

Dead Rhetoric: How much energy was put into making a career-spanning setlist with tracks from several different bands?

van Giersbergen: That was the thing, because in a 25 year career, there’s a huge number of songs to choose from. I was in close contact with the creative director of the Residentie Orkest and I told him I wanted to do an anthology-like show with songs from my career. I sent him a Spotify list of everything I would love to sing with an orchestra. I had him filter out the songs – he doesn’t know all my songs, and he has a fresh ear. Plus he has a good ear for what would be beautiful to arrange for an orchestra. So he did the filtering for that. I had a few favorites that I definitely wanted to do, like “Travel” from The Gathering, and a few others, but he kind of picked the rest.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the best way to experience an album like this? I sat at down and listened to the whole thing at once a few times. To me, it didn’t seem like the type of thing you just listen to a song or two. What are your thoughts?

van Giersbergen: That’s cool to hear, because everyone has their own personal experience with music, and certain albums are taken in through different ways. I just talked to someone else who said it was better to listen in the dark. The orchestra arrangements has so much going on, and it’s really cool to dive into it. We are in a scene that I love so much – people are very much into the sound, the music, the orchestration, the lyrics. People in prog and metal music really enjoy music. They are just nice songs [on the album] as well. You can just listen when you are on a bicycle and they will still stand up as a nice song to hear, I hope. It’s a personal thing how you listen to music. I love listening to music in the car when I am alone. There’s no way you can get out and do something else, you just really focus on the road and the music.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had opportunities to work with a lot of different high-caliber musicians as a guest vocalist, what do you take away from those experiences?

van Giersbergen: For the experiences, just to grow as a musician, as a singer, a writer, a performer, but also as a human being. I learn so much from working with different people in different genres. With the orchestra now, or just with two people making music, or with people like Devin Townsend! That experience alone is worth an entire lifetime. I think that personal growth and evolution, and making something nice and positive – that’s the only thing I want.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that being in a number of different bands with individual sounds has inspired the music that you continue to make?

van Giersbergen: Definitely. I think sometimes you have a project and you do something really different, and one might think ‘how can you ever connect these things’ with say, metal music. Like the solo/acoustic music for instance. But in the end, it’s all the same thing. It’s all energy through melody. It doesn’t really matter how, it’s just what you want to express. Sometimes you want to express energy that is anger, or sometimes you are hurt, and that’s perfect for a metal song. Or a solo/acoustic song, in a very silent song. Everything has to do with each other – it’s one big ball of creative musical energy. From there, you write your own song. Working with Devin, or Arjen Lucassen, is very important to me. Somehow, when I write my own songs, there’s always something off of those two guys for instance. I think you can hear it, especially the Devin stuff. When I was writing for VUUR I let Devin hear my demos and I found myself apologizing and saying, “I’m sorry, you can hear it’s inspired by you” or “I’m sorry, this is my little Devin choir going on here” [laughs] and he was like, “It’s no problem.” I was happy he liked it.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that being in the music industry for almost 25 years has changed you as a person? Or has it?

van Giersbergen: Being a professional musician for 25 years is something you never know could happen when you are 18-19 years old. You just make music, and your life is just a train of decisions. At one point you are in The Gathering, at one point you are starting a solo career. You never know what is going to happen. I’ve been making music for a long time, doing what I love most in the world. I’m pretty happy with that. It’s good to stand still and reflect a little bit. After 25 years you also realize you are getting older. I want to learn how to get older; I want to learn how to create music and learn to live life as a person this age. I’m 45 and sometimes I don’t even know how to feel 45 [laughs]. I try to just do stuff that suits me and fits my spirit or character, and do it well. Just press on right? For the next 25 years [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: What do you look back on most fondly with your time in The Gathering?

van Giersbergen: I was in The Gathering for 13 years, and the years that I was a young adult. I was kind of a child when I got into the band. I learned so much when I started my solo career. That fact is what I’m happiest with. I saw everything, I did everything, I made stupid decisions, we made beautiful music. The things that happen in your personal life – Finn [her son] is now 13 years old. Things change all the time! To be able to put it in music – the music of The Gathering is really special, not because I am in it but the boys still make wonderful, rich, melodic, unique music. I’m just proud to have been part of it.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s next down the road with anything you are involved in, musically?

van Giersbergen: I’m doing the live album, and I will be working with this orchestra in the next year, with a few other orchestras really. When you work with one orchestra, other orchestras start asking you for things, which is cool. To celebrate my 25 years, I’m doing a long acoustic, seated tour in Holland – like 45 shows. I’m doing all acoustic stuff from a lot of different songs in the last 25 years. I might put that on an album too. I’m writing new songs for a solo/acoustic album, and for VUUR as well, which might be a little bit later. We are doing shows with VUUR in South America and some stuff here and there. I’m pretty busy!

Photo by Dani Silvia

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