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The Gathering Special
by Remco Schoenmakers and Remco Nonhebel


The Gathering must be one of Hollands hardest working bands. They now exist for 12.5 years, and to celebrate that fact they bring out Black Light District, a mini album with a large multimedia section on it. During these twelve-and-a-halve years they have produced 6 full length studio albums, an "early years" album, a live album, a couple of EP's and even a hit single (Strange Machines). Apart from that they have played numerous live concerts, the biggest one probably being Dynamo Open Air for a crowd of over 60,000. Now, they have turned their backs to record companies and started their own, so they have full freedom in creating the music they like. Time for DPRP to join in with the celebrations and review the new mini-album, attend a concert and have an exclusive interview with lead singer Anneke van Giersbergen.


Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Record Label:Psychonaut Records
Catalogue #:PSYN0003 MCD
Year of Release:2002
Info:The Gathering
Samples:The Gathering

Tracklist: Black Light District (16:22), Debris (4:35), Broken Glass [Piano version] (3:32)

As can be read in the interview below, The Gathering have evolved in 12.5 years from a (death) metal group to a progressive rock band, even though they do not use that term themselves to describe their music. They coined the phrase "trip-rock" for their musical style and indeed this does describe the title track Black Light District very well. The lonely piano melody that starts the track is slowly joined by more instruments, including a very distorted guitar and the spoken vocals of Sarah Jezebel Deva and, quite in the background, the singing vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen. After six minutes into the track this melody suddenly makes place for a very hypnotising fast part, very Porcupine Tree like. Indeed many movements reminded me strongly of that band. Slowly the track becomes more and more psychedelic, with clear hints of early Pink Floyd (parts of the structure of this movement reminded me of Interstellar Overdrive and A Saucerful of Secrets). Twelve minutes into the track Anneke comes on for the first time with actual lead vocals. This last movement is almost a new track, were it not for the fact that the piano melody of the intro reoccurs in a mildly different variation. All in all a very impressive track that can compete with any track on How To Measure A Planet.
Debris is totally different: staccato distorted guitar, many breaks and with a main riff on electronic bass. Quite a curious track, a blend between rock, metal, pop and electronic music. The mini album ends with Broken Glass. The track consists of only a piano hitting chords and Anneke stretching her voice to its limits. It will however make a reappearance on the full length album in a completely different arrangement (hence the "piano version" remark). But I quite like it this way.
Then of course there are the movies and multimedia section. I am personally not too fond of these gimmicks, I'd prefer an extra track of music. But it was nice to see the band at work in the studio, experimenting, working and having fun. In this way we do get a glimpse of the forthcoming album as well!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

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On a day with typical Dutch weather, my colleague (and big time The Gathering fan) Remco Nonhebel and I went to Nijmegen, to the office of Psychonaut Records, The Gathering's own label, to have an interview with Anneke Giersbergen. We started talking about past, present and future of The Gathering, and had a very pleasant chat indeed.

DPRP: The Gathering started out as, let's say, a Death Metal band. When you, Anneke joined the band, this style was quite radically changed. Was that your personal influence that caused this change?

Anneke: Well, the style was already a bit broader than just death metal, even with Bart grunting on Always... Subsequently The Gathering recorded an album (Almost A Dance) with Niels, who had a Mike Patton like sound, but the vocals didn't really match the music, so Niels left. The Gathering was then searching for a new vocalist, but continued to write music. Through a common friend I got in contact with the band and it just worked.

DPRP: So then you were lead singer of The Gathering. Did you have a vocal education before that?

Anneke: Well, 16 years of singing lessons, also classical, but I quitted lessons a couple of years ago. I wanted to go to the "Conservatorium" but then The Gathering came along. At that point, I thought I could as well learn the trade in practice. The music for Mandylion was already almost finished when I joined, only the vocal lines needed to be written. I had great joy in doing that and thought, well let's just skip the Conservatorium. This way you learn all facets of music, including the business side.

DPRP: Talking about the early years, you have recently released Downfall, The Early Years. Is there still a market for that?

Anneke:: It goes OK. Always and Almost A Dance have been re-released a couple of times now, and these still sell a couple of thousands. People either want to complete the oeuvre, or they really like the old stuff and collect it. There is also still a demand for demos from that period.

DPRP: Looking at styles, people often see you as the ones who paved the way for bands like Within Temptation or After Forever. Do you see that this way too?

Anneke: I don't know.... I can see where it comes from, we were among the first in The Netherlands or even Europe who combined heavy music with relaxed female vocals. But it was never conceptualised that way, we just threw it all together and it worked and was new. But don't forget that Within Temptation are also already 12 years working, they exist almost as long as we do. At a certain time there was just an underground genre arising with female vocals. Currently it is very hot, Within Temptation is doing really well, but we sort of drifted away from that style. We found new music, new people, new inspiration, even though the record company asked us to make a second Mandylion, which is still our best sold record.

DPRP: But do you want to do that? I mean you are not Mike Oldfield...

Anneke: Well if your as big as Mike Oldfield, you can get away with that, but... well maybe we would have been even bigger but is that what we want? Mandylion is really something special, you cannot do that a second time. We can still hear some flaws on it, but...

DPRP: Well, there are bands that rerecord their success album.

Anneke: Yeah, there was talk about rerecording Strange Machines (our "hit single"), but no. It would be repeating ourselves and it was a great time.

DPRP: Today somebody asked me about the style of The Gathering. How would you describe your current style?

Anneke: Hans, our drummer had a nice name for it. He calls it Trip-Rock. It contains a lot of atmosphere and lots of melody. Maybe it's melodic rock or heavy pop.

DPRP: Looking at Black Light District, the new album, it also contains some psychedelic influences. It has some Pink Floyd influences, but even more obvious is Porcupine Tree.

Anneke Yes, and Godspeed You Black Emperor, which especially Hans listens to a lot recently.

DPRP: You were quite a festival band, but recently it seems to have calmed down. Did I miss anything?

Anneke We were at some European festivals. We are with a big promoter, Mojo, and they could put you on Pinkpop every year, but we don't need that every year. I believe that we are better in venues or at festivals in tents rather then open air. We have to create an intimate atmosphere.

DPRP: But it must give quite a kick seeing so many people in front of you.

Anneke Yeah, I remember in 1996 on Dynamo, when we played a crowd of 60,000 people, during the Strange Machines period. It was really cool. But in venues we really blossom. It's not our goal to become really big, and we have very little airplay on radio or tv. Our goal is just play, play and play. Basically everywhere we play, the venues are full, so I'm quite pleased with the way it goes.

DPRP: Your albums all have one particular overall sound on them. Do you compose deliberately on that, or is it something that just happens.

Anneke: There is indeed such a thing as a The Gathering sound. It is something that evolves, we all influence each other and we hear new music all the time. But whether we make free-style jazz or heavy metal, you always hear that it's René on guitar and Hans on drums and me on vocals. When we play together we have a certain atmosphere, a feel, a kind of honesty in our play.


DPRP: But on one record you have one feel. You never suddenly play a really uplifting song.

Anneke: No, we sometimes make them, but after playing them for a while they become really boring, and don't make it to the album. We create moods. If_then_else for instance is more of a collection of different tracks and in my opinion is one of the lesser The Gathering albums. It was mixed too quickly, recorded too hastily. It didn't have time to mature. This was partly due to the record company and partly due to ourselves. We wanted to get the last album of our contract out of the way. They pressured us to make a certain kind of music. After Mandylion they sort of let us down a bit, even though we were one of the biggest bands on the label. But now we took a lot of time for the new record and the EP.

DPRP: How far are you with the new album then?

Anneke: It should be finished in about a month [so about at the time you read this, RS]. In October it will be mastered.

DPRP:Does it have a title already?

Anneke: No! That is one of the most difficult things there is. Basically the day the album is going to be pressed is the moment we come up with a title ;-). It's more that there are no opinions about a title within the band that that there are strong feelings about titles. Often we take the title of the best track or the best sounding title of a track as the album's title. Sometimes one of us says: I may have a title, but I'm afraid to tell... Then he writes it on a piece of paper and lets us read it and we say...neeehh [laughter]. Most of the time the boys come up with the titles. I'm the kind of person that is inclined to take the first line of the chorus as a title, but they believe a title should be all-saying. So our Frank, our keyboard player comes up with How To Measure A Planet, which is a brilliant title. But then, keyboard players are a funny breed...[laughs]. But it captures the mood of the album perfectly, even though we often write about the darker sides of life. We write about them, and by writing and playing we are able to let go, so we end up being happy people again. And we hope the same happens with our audience.

DPRP: Indeed one can hear this on The Black Light District and the second track Debris. But I had difficulty interpreting the third track on the EP, Broken Glass.

Anneke: Yes, I can imagine that. It's a bit of a vague track, a feel-good track even though it is played in a fragile way. So one could think it's a sad song, but the lyrics...are mere fractions of's quite metaphorical and positive. The version of Broken Glass that will end up on the forthcoming album will be much heavier, maybe the music will explain the lyrics more clearly in that version. I get a lot of questions about its theme, but on the other hand, everybody can make up his own mind on it, it's funny to see all kind of theories coming up about them.

DPRP: Is the Black Light District a taste of what is to come for the "big" album?

Anneke: In a sense yes, as they are written at the same time. But, these three tracks did not fit the mood of the rest of the tracks, so that's why we decided to bring them out separately. Something like Debris is too spiky for the other tracks on the new album, but it is still worthwhile to bring out, with some video tracks and the other two tracks.

DPRP: In these videos we see you guys experiment a lot in the studio. Is that the way you compose, by sitting in the studio and experiment, or does one of you enter the studio with a ready-made song?

Anneke: Well, somewhere in between. We write tracks in our practice room, or at home in a group, and practice them as an entire song with the whole band. Next we go to the studio and try to reproduce them. But what happens then is that we get more and more ideas which we bring in. We dump it all on tape and start mixing, in which process a lot gets thrown away. Maybe you saw in the videos that I walked around the studio with a tank microphone around my neck, we taped that for hours, but nothing of that will end up on the album. But a track is never finished. We decide that a track is finished after the mixing. A song should speak for itself, it will evolve automatically. Sometimes René comes to the studio with a very heavy track and we start playing heavy guitar heavy drums, fearsome end up as Emity or Marooned. Both started out as really heavy tracks, but after a week you realize it doesn't work. So you strip it down to only René's riff, and ask Frank to play something over it, something with bells or something, and suddenly it acquires feeling. René is very good at melodies, so that stays good, even if you were to play them on bagpipes...

DPRP: But if you start cutting-and-pasting, don't you consider the fact that you won't be able to play that live?

Anneke: No, not really. If it's really difficult to play them live, well don't play them live! The same is true for duets. On the new album we have a duet with Trickster G of Ulver. There is no way you can do that live when the guy is not around. But a track like Debris you can strip down to a live version and you just sample the most clearly heard sounds.

DPRP: Now you have your own label, and you have had some time to start it up. Do you have the feeling you're all up and running with Psychonaut?

Anneke: Yes, even though it is a tremendous amount of work and quite a responsibility. The Gathering is already a firm for a couple of years. So we already had some experience in business for the last couple of years. At a certain point we had collected a couple of good people and management around us, so we have support. I myself am not a business woman, so you need to hire people who do that kind of stuff for you so we can concentrate on making music. The label is a kind of appendix of The Gathering so we are not going to sign other bands at this point in time. It's important that the band can work well, so that's why we have this construction, and we can support ourselves. It is an enormous amount of work, seven days a week, but we can all make a living of The Gathering and that's superb.

DPRP:With the forthcoming album, are you going to do all marketing, distribution etc. yourselves then?

Anneke: No, fortunately not. We are going to sign with a big record company who is going to do that for us. We have negotiated a lot last year, and the album will be available worldwide.

DPRP: Do you have any plans for a tour connected to the new album?

Anneke: Yes, we are going to play a lot in Holland in October, in smaller venues. After the album is out, we are going to tour in Europe to return to Holland in the bigger venues, because we believe it is important to play a lot again in Holland.

DPRP: January is a bit strange moment to release a record, one would expect maybe a release just before Christmas ?

Anneke: Well you have a point there, but as it turns out "our" kind of music is not sold a lot around that time, it's more the "Best of" albums that are popular then. So in fact it does not matter to much when you release it. Around January, the venues reopen, around summer you cannot play in halls, but then you have the festivals....we believe we are better in venues. Maybe we will release a single before the album. We never really did that, and maybe we'll give it a try. But it is difficult to pick the right track for a single. We want to make that something special.

DPRP: Talking about special things, how about a DVD?

Anneke: We are considering recording a concert for DVD. We have a very good lighting guy, and are able to produce a good atmosphere in a hall, we might want to try to capture that on DVD. I mean it is the medium of the future, even I own one !

DPRP: Something completely different. A lot of sympho fans will know you from the Ayreon album Into The Electric Castle. Did you do a lot of these side-projects?

Anneke: Not really. no. I am too busy with the band normally. It was very nice to work with Arjan, who is a very passionate man. He locks himself up and creates an album. It is quite healthy to work with someone else for a change. The band is very close, I see them more then my own boyfriend! Well almost...I am asked more often, but don't do that a lot. But it was nice to be on the same record as someone like Fish. I listened to the record in its entirety lately again, and it is remarkable how he manages to get all these characters together. But it is not really my "thing". I asked Arjan if I could do the softer tracks, I am not into that really bombastic thing.

DPRP: How do you see The Gathering in ten years time ?

Anneke: Basically the same as it is now. Playing, touring, recording albums....I'm not much of a business women, but maybe if the record company grows we can have some people working for us, and give young promising bands an honest deal. But that's not yet relevant.

DPRP: How about you touring outside Holland?

Anneke: We played from Mexico to Finland to Belarus. Somehow, we don't seem to catch on in the East. Even though we produce Special Edition albums for the Japanese market, we don't really sell well there. They appear to be more into metal bands with high pitched male voices, like Elegy for instance. Germany is in contrast with that. One can tour forever there. They have lots of medium large venues, and the Germans are like a sponge, they really absorb all new music. I love playing over there.

DPRP: How about being a support act of a really large band.

Anneke: The problem is that it is very expensive. We had the option to tour with Type-O-Negative in their glory days, which would have cost us lots of money, even though their manager loved our music and had dropped the price already, and our record company did not want to finance that. It is a shame that they did not want to pay that. As for our own support acts, we would like to have bands that are melodic, so they create some atmosphere already. Unfortunately, venue owners often book us with metal acts, so the audience is already tired when we enter the stage.

DPRP: Thank you Anneke for your time, and good luck with the tour and the album!

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The Gathering are:
Frank Boeijen (keyboards & programming), René Rutten (guitars), Hugo Prinsen Geerligs (bass), Anneke van Giersbergen (lead vocals), Hans Rutten (drums & percussion)

Almost A Dance
Almost A Dance
Nighttime Birds
Nighttime Birds
How to Measure a Planet?
How to Measure a Planet?
Superheat - a live album
Superheat - a live album
Downfall - the early years
Downfall - the early years
Black Light District
Black Light District

  The Gathering at DPRP:
Review How To Measure A Planet?

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© October 2002 - Dutch Progressive Rock Page