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Interview: Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering, Vuur, The Gentle Storm) reflects on first 25 years of her career

Posted by on November 7, 2018

Anneke van Giersbergen, the multitalented musician is preparing to celebrate 25 years of her career.  Her path began back in 1994 when she instantly blossomed from becoming the lead singer for the band The Gathering. Over the last 25 years, the Dutch musician has worked with The Gathering from 1994’s Mandylion up until 2006’s Home, created a successful solo career as well as launching other projects including her latest endeavor Vuur, and collaborated with multiple artists such as Arjen Lucassen (The Gentle Storm/Ayreon), Devin Townsend, Amorphis, etc. The list goes on as Giersbergen has plenty to celebrate, which we will see on her upcoming live album Symphonized that will be released on November 16th via Inside Out Music (pre-order here). Additionally, the artist has recently unveiled her first-ever song in Dutch as a solo artist with the track “Zo Lief.” Giersbergen has expressed the track is about hanging on and letting go, and it will be featured in her as mentioned above live album. We recently spoke to Giersbergen about her impressive career, Symphonized, looking back at The Sirens project, starting over, and more.

How is the process for Symphonized going?
Today, I was thinking, I get lot of attention for this album. It surprises me. I really like it. So many interviews with people are kinda anticipating. So, I’m truly happy that this can take off and I’m proud to have been able to work with such a big orchestra to make an album and everything. So, yeah. All good.

Your career is always evolving in new creative avenues and you definitely left a legendary landmark for yourself. With that being said, looking back on your career, how has the road been like for you?
Obviously, every road has its ups and downs, but in general, I would say that I am really blessed with a really nice career. And your life and your career is just like a train of decisions. And sometimes you make good ones, and sometimes you make really bad ones, but overall, when I left The Gathering, which is kind of half of this 25 years, right? I saw everything. I done everything. I learned a lot. I started my solo career and it’s really nice to work with different people. It’s very inspired to just grow as an artist and as a person and singer. So, yeah, I am still growing. I’m ready for the next 25 years.

Is there anything that you wish you could have done differently or a project you wish you didn’t turn down?
You never know, right? I think I didn’t do many projects that I regret because you learn even from experiences that you don’t expect or are more negative than you thought it would be. I never had a huge flunk or a huge setback or nothing like that. The only thing is, sometimes I think about, I formed this band, The Sirens. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. I did that with Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslåtten. It was a few years ago. I thought it would be cool to make a project with the first three ladies of metal. Kari was in The 3rd And The Mortal, a doom band. Everybody really liked this. It was incredible. And I thought if I do that, that must be a hit, right? And it didn’t. And it wasn’t. I’m not sure why but I thought it was a genius idea. We were a live project and we toured a bunch. I thought it was really cool because we had this huge setlist of six bands. And then it didn’t really turn out to be a success. I did not expect it. So, I dismantled and moved on, which is fine. I can’t say I truly regret it.

That would have been something I would have looked forward to listen to.
It was a truly cool thing, with the two singers.

You have collaborated with many artists, including Arjen (Lucassen). Do you have anything in the works with him … plans to create another The Gentle Storm album?
Yep. We might. When we formed The Gentle Storm group, we really could have gave it a name because we believed in it and we believed that it’s a thing that can come back whenever we feel like, in between our own albums just to get together and make something really beautiful. That’s actually a project that we may call that successful. And I expected it to be anyway. It’s also because working with Arjen and he writes this fantastic music and I was just so happy that he said yes to my question, let’s do something together. When we finished The Gentle Storm album we did a few tours. We toured for two years. We already had ideas immediately for the next album and for a story and everything. So, we might just get together. But now he’s back … he’s working basically with Ayreon things and I am quite busy writing songs doing my thing but you never know. I would like it.

How do you balance your time between each project and maybe leaving time for sleep?
I will sleep when I’m dead. And same thing with eating. We have a kid. He is 13 years old now. And so we have a family. We have the work going on. I think it’s the same with every family with working parents. It’s a lot. You try to combine it. You try to do … in every area you try to do the best you can. And in every area you fail all the time. I love it. I love the family. I love the music and I love singing. So, sometimes when it gets difficult. Like you said, no sleep. You tend to get sometimes a little bit somber but it doesn’t last very long because I’m really happy to do this. I love singing. I think also a happy mother is a good mother. We kind of try to combine the family with the music. It’s working out all right.

How has the overall response been with VUUR so far?
So far, pretty good. It’s I think now two years ago that we started up with nothing. We didn’t have a name. We didn’t have a band. We didn’t have music and we got it all together in a year’s time. We toured for a year. And it’s something that exists now and I’m really proud of it and the band … the guys are fantastic. We will tour some South America shows next year and some other shows. So, yeah, we’re rolling.

Speaking of shows, I know you booked a show for New York City next year with Delain and Amorphis. Can you share how that one came together and which project you plan on bringing to the stage?
Yeah, actually this is one of those shows that just kind of leaked out or got published but it is part of a tour and I’m not sure lately where we will be going but I will join Delain and Amorphis on their North American tour and just by myself. So I will be playing solely acoustic and I might sing songs with the other bands. I’m not sure. It’s supposed to be an extended tour and a little bit of a lengthy tour. I hope it all comes together because it’s been one million years ago since I’ve toured the US. I’d love to go back.

​Yes you definitely have a decent amount of people who are dying to see you here.
Yes and I love it. So I will work very hard on coming back.

Do you have any other big plans in the works for next year?
Anneke:​Yes I’m writing of songs. I’m also doing … just to celebrate this 25 years of being in music, I’m doing lots of solo acoustic shows in Holland where I perform other songs from 25 years just on the acoustic guitar. I will do some loose touring with VURR and just by myself. And I’m writing, perhaps maybe for a solo acoustic album just like a soft album because I never … and I tour a lot on my own but I never made an album to go with that. So I might do that because I have a lot of ideas. I write a lot of lyrics and so yeah, that is kind of roughly what I’m going to do next year.

Between all of your works that you’ve done … from The Gathering, The Gentle Storm, Vuur, your solo career … is there any album that was the most challenging for you to create?
You know when I left The Gathering, people were quite skeptical. First of all, they didn’t like me going away and then they were skeptical about me being on my own and make quality music and surviving. The first album after … my first solo album that got a lot of attention and it sold pretty well because people were curious, whether they liked my decision or not. And then the next two albums … really the next three albums actually was also a little bit less metal, a little bit different. And I had to really fight, which I didn’t mind. I like a good challenge. I had to really prove myself to people, like I will be here, be here to stay. I’ll make music. I’ll do well. And after maybe four or five years I noticed that people were … you know, and I gained a new audience as well as Gathering fans who kind of started getting faith in me and kind of liked what I was doing. So then it all got better but I to  kind of had to work really hard for five years to gain trust.

Rebuild your career, starting over.
Yeah, because sometimes people say it’s easy because you have already a name and that’s true. I had some kind of base. But sometimes you have to prove yourself even more when you are not new. I like the challenge and I always felt I’m gonna be alright. Just keep pressing on, right?

Speaking of challenges, which is unfortunate to see happen in 2018. What do you say about those who are against female singers in heavy music?
Yeah, there are people against me and I don’t know why but I think if you’re musical tastes is with male singers or masculine music, keep masculinity in metal, then I think it’s just a matter of taste. Of course, everybody is entitled to. I’m happy that there are a lot of people who are a fan of metal and all the different genres and subgenres of metal. And one of the sub genres, and there are a few, there’s females involved and there are a lot of people who are totally into that. And of course there are people who don’t like it. But, you know I was curious sometimes I speak to people. They come to the concert and I talk to them. And they say, you know what, I don’t really like female vocalists but I do like yours. And then I always ask, so then it’s not true what you said because you never liked, whatever the sound, until now. But people put a sticker on us … female … male. It’s just strange. It’s just we’re all humans.  We have a different style in our voices and I suppose it’s just a matter of taste.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add or say?
I’m all about focusing on the live album which is coming out 16th of November but as always the pre order is already on my website. I hope everybody will check it out.

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