Anneke van Giersbergen already has a great musical career. Of course, it all started with The Gathering, she worked with Devin Townsend, Ayreon, Danny Cavanagh and formed The Gentle Storm with Arjen Lucassen, besides various solo albums. Now, she formed a new band, Vuur, in which she presents her progressive metal side. On October 20th, Vuur’s debut In This Moment We Are Free – Cities will see its release. DutchMetalManiac’s Glenn van der Heijden, who reviewed the album here, and Tim van Velthuysen met Anneke and spoke with her about Vuur, the album and freedom amongst other things.
Congratulations on your new album and band. You played a couple of shows in Drachten and at Dynamo Metalfest, how were the reactions of the audience?
I do look back at those shows very good, because we thought we are going to do a try-out show in a small venue so we could make some mistakes and learn. Then it was sold-out very quickly, so we put it in the big room, which was also sold out superfast. There were many people coming to our very first show ever, so we were very nervous, because now it must be a very good show. We pulled it off and after it we did some festivals, also in some other countries. Festival audience is also a bit different because they don’t necessarily come for you and you have all new, long, complicated songs, but everybody reacted very well.
So, you didn’t anticipate that big reaction?
No, we knew we made a good album, but you’ll never know how people will react.
The writing process of In This Moment We Are Free – Cities included seven people, how did it go?
I started writing with Joost van den Broek, who also produced the album. Every Tuesday for a year I was going to the studio, besides writing everywhere I was going. In the end, when the songs were finished, the band came and we recorded the songs. They add a lot of personality and are great players. For example, when I think that Ed Warby, the drummer, can do nice things at some moments, he would do it much cooler.
Because you know him?
Yeah, but still they do things more amazing than you thought they would.
Was choosing Joost van den Broek a no-brainer for you?
Yeah, we played together in The Gentle Storm, where he was doing keyboards. He isn’t a tour animal, so he wanted to go back to the studio, so I asked, whether or not he would produce a new metal album when I would form a band and he said yes.
All tracks are named after a city you’ve been, was it difficult to choose the cities?
Yeah, there are so many cities to choose from. I already got a lot of angry messages from people who said I didn’t include their city. So maybe I am going to make Cities Part 2. You have your favorite places to go, I wanted some European, some South-American cities.
Your album is a lot about freedom, it’s a very central theme, what is your message about freedom and how does it relate to Vuur’s lyrics? What is freedom for you?
That’s a good question, because freedom is for everybody something else. If you live in a country which is in war, it means something entirely different than, for example, for me when I live in Holland, a peaceful country at the moment. So, we have the opportunity to be free as an artist, in your mind, to express. If I express something in my music, I feel the responsibility for it to be important, because there are people listening to it. I should have a message. My message is always positivity, I am a firm believer in it.
With the past years with terrorism do you think that sort of freedom is threatened at the moment in the world?
I think in Paris, or everywhere where are bombings, terrorist attacks or any kind of conflict, there is also always a kind of undercurrent flow of people who come together and help each other out. Those new communities formed all over the place where something is happening. We always focus on the bad things in the media, why can’t it be like “this bad thing happened, but then this happened”? People are coming together and help each other out. You see it now with Donald Trump, the worst possible president you can have, but still there are people who think if the government is not helping me anymore, we will do it ourselves. That’s positive. I don’t understand why bad things are happening, but I do understand that also very good things are happening.
It’s a great album, how are you going to surpass that on a new album?
I don’t know! I am happy you like it, I put everything I had in it. I think that’s exactly what I need to do next time. To have good focus, make it together and make something real honest, because that’s how it is.
You were waiting to do this, but you didn’t have the musicians for it. Now you have, is it everything you hoped for?
Yeah, even more. The guys in the band are really fantastic, they all have been in other bands, we have some all-star band. The latest recruitment is guitarist Jord Otto, he is a really good solo-player. I feel like every element is in order. There’s nobody missing, we can do what we like, because we have great musicians.
Is there a democracy?
No, not really. Everything is my idea; however, the band is pushed forward due to the characterizing. I didn’t want it to be me and a bunch of guys, but everyone has their own fingerprint in it.
Can you tell us something about the beautiful album cover?
The whole album has to do with freedom, duality, darkness and light. I wanted to have the artwork represent that, so the guy is made out of stone and is carrying this heavy city on his head, but there is also green and light. I wanted to make a balance between darkness and light.
Again, the positivity which is important.
Yeah, maybe we should all embrace the darkness in ourselves, but also the light. It’s too much this or that sometimes.
The media is like that, right? Social media also adds a darker side to it.
Yeah, but there are also people on social media who, for example, put cat movies on it, that’s good. The normal media have the tendency to represent only bad things.
You are going to tour with Epica and Myrath, looking forward to that?
Yes, I think the three bands together make a good diverse musical evening, we are going to play a lot of Vuur stuff of course, but also some Devin Townsend and Gentle Storm.
So Vuur is your dream come true?
To be honest, yes, and that’s why I wanted to stay. So, I gave the band a name, it’s a train that is now running.
Earlier you already tried giving your own band a name with Agua De Annique, but that kind of failed.
Vuur is much clearer. The difference is when I just left The Gathering I came up with a band name, but nobody knew it was me. Now it makes sense.
Aren’t you going to miss all the other, non-heavy stuff, you did?
I am not stopping with that, the only thing I did was giving Vuur a band name, so all the heavy things will be under Vuur’s name, with hopefully the same people. Everything else I would do under my own name, so it’s just a bit more clarity and it won’t be all at the same time.
So, you will stay a workaholic?
Yes, I like singing and working. I am happy that I have so much work.
In December you have the headline shows, can you tell us something about it?
On 10 December we are in Utrecht and we do three shows in Paris, Vosselaar and London. So, four headline shows with Scar Symmetry and My Propane, Jord’s band. We are going to do a lot of Vuur stuff, but also some old stuff, it will be big shows. Utrecht will be the only Dutch show for the moment we are going to do and then we will tour in 2018 and of course then we will also come back with Dutch club shows.
Do you have anything to add for our readers?
The most important thing is that we are happy to tour. Tomorrow the video for My Champion – Berlin will be online, which is exiting.
How was creating that music video?
Cool, actually there is a great story especially for people being Dutch. The lights in the video are the lights of Bløf. I worked together with Bløf for their new album, Aan, which is a great album. When I was with them on their live show, the lights on stage were really nice. I told the guy who would made our video, who also worked with Bløf and we could hire them. So, we have their lights on our video. We made a cage out of light, it’s a performance video, because I wanted to let people see the band.
Because Vuur is your dream come true, is there something you are scared of?
This is a period between making the album and releasing it, so now there is this vacuum. You are waiting for the album to come out, nobody has heard it and you don’t know how people are going to react.
I talked to Arjen (Ayreon) a while back and he was really scared for The Source coming out, I couldn’t believe it. Is it also like that for you?
Most artists are really happy with their new album and think it’s all that it could be and then it’s done and there is this vacuum comes and you get really scared. There’s always a wave of fear, a moment of doubt.
Are you always yourself or do you put on some mask at some moments?
I am always myself, when I put on a mask which I sometimes tried, I always failed. Honesty is the best thing, real honest people like Devin Townsend or Arjen Lucassen make, in my opinion the best music possible. It also brings fear, awkwardness but it beats wearing a mask at all times. When I try, I always feel uncomfortable.
Even in those countries in South-America where you practically need bodyguards to escort you?
Yeah, but it’s awkward, strange because I feel I am just Annie!
You still have angry The Gathering fans, right?
Yeah, it’s ten years ago. It’s not that bad anymore, but I got a lot of angry messages. Now the bodyguards only need to maintain the positive fans.
Thanks for your answers!
You can also check two parts of Promoting Bands in which Tim van Velthuysen wrote about VUUR here and here, as well as an interview with Anneke van Giersbergen by Glenn van der Heijden here. Joost van der Leij also wrote an live review about Dynamo Metalfest with VUUR in its lineup here.
Combined profile for Glenn van der Heijden and Tim van Velthuysen