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  INTERVIEW WITH ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN OF THE GENTLE STORM


Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland


anneke

The Gentle Storm project was put together by Ayreon founder Arjen Lucassen and legendary Dutch songstress Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering and much more besides. The debut album 'The Diary' was released in March. MetalTalk got to speak to Anneke before The Gentle Storm set in Bristol during their short UK tour with Delain.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me before your show. It’s been more than six months since ‘The Diary’ was released. Are you happy with the response the album has received?

“Yes yes yes! You know when you work with Arjen there will be some level of quality. You also know there is a certain level of attention on everything he does so that made me want to make something REALLY good with him because it counts, you know. People look forward to whatever he is putting out and I was very proud, and still am very proud of the album and how well it has done.

”I never had any expectations because that’s just a guess but I am happy with how much people like it. I like it so much myself too because we put so much into it so I am extremely happy, yes.”

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It’s a concept album. When you were putting the live shows together did you consider performing it as a concept album, you know playing the album all the way through in one go?

“No, not really. From the start in my own solo career I was ready to do something more heavy and I did that with Arjen and The Gentle Storm. I was also ready to do something more heavy live after a period of doing a lot of different things I felt a need to do something more heavy. You know heavy is a simple word for it but I hope you know what I mean.

“From the beginning I knew that Arjen wasn’t going to tour with me with the full electric band so I immediately thought I want to make an Anneke show with the emphasis on the Gentle Storm songs but to also do some Gathering songs, some Devin Townsend songs, some of my own songs. So from the beginning it was going to be a heavy Anneke show but it’s called Anneke presents The Gentle Storm of course. Again I’m having a band name which is a bit confusing sometimes to people but I do treat it as a solo effort.”

You’ve got a fantastic band that you’ve put together for the shows and having seen you in action with them a few times you really come across as a band. I saw you at FemME Metal in Eindhoven recently and many people said to me afterwards that they thought your show was the best performance of the weekend.

“Really? That’s great. That show felt really good, I mean particularly that show. We have a shorter set as it is a festival so you do your best songs and apparently we got it right on the night.”

You are a very, very busy woman with so many things on the go but you have made a big commitment to tour with The Gentle Storm album and spent a lot of time doing it. Did you decide to do that early on?

“Yes because these songs, they have to be played live and also because like I told you I was ready for a more heavy set and this was just perfect to combine with some other songs from the past. Of course Arjen was happy about it too as he almost never sees something of his live because he never tours himself. It was nice that The Gentle Storm gets a second life live and it keeps the album alive, so it was logical to me.”

Have you spoken to Arjen about doing a follow up. A second Gentle Storm album?

“Yes, immediately we did. We have some ideas for a new album but we also knew that I want to make a new solo album first and he’s writing for a new album of his own. I don’t know if it’s going to be an Ayreon album or a solo album or whatever. So there will be one or two other albums in between but I suppose we gave this a band name so it’s a thing we can continue.

“We have some ideas for a follow up either with the same people from the story or a what happened next or whatever so we can do lots of things in the future with The Gentle Storm.”

On this tour with Delain you have a shorter time slot of forty to fifty minutes. How do you decide which songs to keep in the set and which ones have to go?

“It’s awful because we have so many darlings! A set of fifty to sixty minutes, that’s great for me as for my feeling, we can put in the best songs we have with this band and include a long Ayreon song like ‘Isis And Osiris’, but when it’s forty to fifty minutes we have to skip that kind of long song and we have to choose what has to go. I hate it. “

Do you always cut the quieter ones out? Like ‘The Moment’?

“In the festivals you normally have to really go in there and hit the audience with what you have. Maybe not always as we did some prog festivals where you play a little bit more Ayreon . I have so many songs we can play and that’s a luxury because we can play a prog festival, a Metal festival, a female fronted festival, people like The Gathering as well. So we can pick and choose which is actually a luxury.

“But now with forty minutes it’s tough as I want to do two Gathering songs as people know me from this band of which I’m really proud and I love these songs so I definitely want to play those and a Devin Townsend song and they all kind of get in front of my own solo songs which are from another part of me. ‘Witnesses’ is a solo song which is in there now and there are some more songs I can choose from but it still needs to be The Gentle Storm.”

anneke

You have Marcela Bovio from Stream Of Passion singing with you in the band and there seems to be a terrific chemistry between you when you sing together. Did you work with her before you invited her to be part of The Gentle Storm?

“No, not really. With Arjen and his connection to them and I wanted Johan for the band and then I thought I have lots of second harmonies so I thought what if I ask Marcela to play live with me? Truly I wouldn’t ask just any singer to back me up or to sing with me on stage because they have to be really good. I think the quality of the vocals, and of course all the players but especially the vocals have to be the best it can be whatever that is.

“To my feeling she is such a good singer in her own right that it’s such a luxurious thing to have her help me on stage. She is always spot on, always has such a good feeling for the song and has such a good voice. Even if she is ill or has a cold or whatever she never misses a note or if she’s tired you can see she’s tired but she works so hard. Sometimes she is tired because she has done a show with her band before ours and she is still really good.

“I wouldn’t have wanted the vocals to be less than they are and I know a lot of singers and I know not all of them are this accurate and well pitched. She’s a great lady as well, she’s friendly, smart, a lot of fun, so I’m extremely happy to have her. It gives us an extra touch too when she comes to the front and we make a point of the two of us singing together. I think that’s something special.

You mentioned earlier that you are working on a new solo album and I have seen you drop some hints on social media. Can you give us some idea what it is going to be like?

“I’m still in the writing phase but I’m making my heaviest solo album yet.”

Something very different to ‘Drive’?

“‘Drive’ was heavy but had some pop elements, sort of short songs, straightforward and to the point. When I finished ‘Drive’, the day after I finished it I felt that was it out of my system and I’ll never do this again. I don’t know. If I listen to it I really like it because I wanted to make exactly that thing and I did it and I love it but then for some reason it was out of my system. It has to do mainly with age that some things are happy, happy, happy and it doesn’t fit me anymore.

“So we do some things live sometimes like ‘Mental Jungle’ which is a bit more dark. I let go of that kind of feeling then and this album will be much more interesting, much more proggy, much more heavy, much more dark, more melancholic, all those elements will have to be there. I’m writing stuff with multiple people, a few very interesting people that you all know...”

But we can’t know yet?

“No(laughs), because it’s still very early but I’m writing and it’s going to be heavy, proggy, have long songs, there’s no limits on this. There are a few things I want to do but there is no limit on other things as it should be adventurous. I learned from Arjen to be adventurous.”

Final question. What is coming next from the busiest woman in rock and metal?

“After this tour I’m mixing a classical album I did with an Icelandic group called Arstidir. We did a lot of classical songs which you all know and we moulded them into beautiful soft melodic songs. I think it’s never been done before this way, we really moulded them into such beauty, Arstidir do them so beautifully and so softly like with ‘Danny Boy’ the old folk song. I’m doing it in five languages, Icelandic, German, French, Dutch and English.

That’s just showing off....

“yes I know! (laughs)”

I’m just jealous, I can barely do English!

“So that is being mixed and should come out in January and in March we are doing a theatre tour in Holland of twenty shows and then that’s that and I will still be working on my new album which will be recorded in summer. We will do some Gentle Storm stuff in between and then The Gentle Storm will be done although I will include some songs in my new solo set.

Thanks for your time and good luck with everything you have going on. I look forward to hearing it all.


Click here for MetalTalk's live review of The Gentle Storm at The Marble Factory, Bristol

03.11.15















 


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