Anneke van Giersbergen is no stranger to this site. She is best known for her vocal performances with The Gathering, Ayreon, the Devin Townsend Project, and The Gentle Storm, just to name a few! Since this summer she has been unveiling her new band, VUUR a progressive metal outfit. Since their debut album, In This Moment We Are Free – Cities, comes out soon, Anneke granted us a phone interview from her home in the Netherlands.
Hi, how are you doing?
I’m fantastic, I’m speaking to Anneke van Giersbergen!
I know. Awesome.
Totally, and you get to speak to Vincent Parkkonen himself.
Ah, my dream just came true! [laughter]
So the new band: VUUR. By the way am I saying that right? Is it with a v or f sound?
It’s VUUR [a husk f-sound]
Right, like how Dutch people say Vincent van Gogh. It has to hurt.
Yeah exactly. It’s a difficult pronunciation. I realize that.
Okay, so for my first question: Finnish people love to hear about Finland so I have to ask about your performance at Tuska this summer. You hadn’t released any material yet but the crowd was really into it.
That’s true! It was a really big thing because that was the first gig we did outside of a tryout gig in Holland. At Tuska we just threw ourselves on the stage with these really, really intricate songs nobody ever heard. We don’t have fireworks, backing-tracks, or anything like that. It was really down-to-earth. We just played the songs as best as we could. We had no idea how people were going to react! And they were… so awesome! It was fantastic to do a couple of summer shows just to say “hi” and let everybody know that we are here. Now we’re going to tour once the album is out. We’ll work some more on the show and it will be better.
You did do a couple of The Gathering songs there too…
Yeah, I always do. You can’t really tour with just one album, so we got to do some of the songs we really wanted to do and we also do some The Gathering, Devin Townsend, and The Gentle Storm.
Awesome. I have one last question about Tuska, because it fascinates me. You came on with VUUR, then you did an acoustic show, and then also came on with Devin Townsend Project. That’s 3 gigs in one day!
That was… an interesting day [laughs]. I also did like ten interviews that day. Then really early in the morning we had to leave because of another festival or something. I do like those kinds of days though. Just rush rush rush and do everything that a human can possibly do in a day, in 24 hours. It feels like I got everything out of Helsinki, you know?
Before I get to the new band, I have to ask since it was such a big event: Ayreon Universe! This massive ensemble! What was it like putting something like that on?
It was epic, I can tell you that! Arjen [Lucassen] never really comes out. but when he does, something really, really amazing happens. You know the band was basically the VUUR band. They did an excellent job and they had more band members from the Ayreon Universe too. There were sixteen singers. It was really great to play with these other people and all these fantastic singers.
Oh VUUR made up a bunch of the band? I knew Ed Warby and you had been on Ayreon before but the others have also participated?
Yeah, our bass player Johan [van Stratum] has done some Ayreon stuff. He used to be on Star One. And Joost [van den Broek]! He produced our album for VUUR and helped put it all together. He plays keyboards and is always working with Ayreon.
So a lot of Ayreon performers have defected into the new group?
Cool! VUUR seems to be some of the heaviest and proggiest stuff you’ve done so far. In recent years you’ve been doing a lot of acoustic stuff and those solo albums were perhaps a bit poppier. Was it an intentional decision to go back to heavier music?
In the last 10 years of my solo career, I did a lot of different stuff because I could! I had the freedom to do it. I collaborated with a lot of different people from a lot of different genres. They taught me so much! I grew to be a better singer, song-writer, everything.
You know, I’ve always been in the metal world. I’ve worked with Arjen, Devin Townsend, all the guys. I hadn’t made a really heavy album until The Gentle Storm and this new album. It’s not that I didn’t want to but the stars were never aligned. I never had the right musicians or a good producer for metal around me. It just never happened. I worked with the live bands we threw together for The Gentle Storm and I just realized they were really good metal and prog musicians. So I decided to take the chance to make a heavy album.
Okay, you got to play guitar with them too?
Yeah, but not on the album, only live. It’s an extra element for the live shows. We have two fantastic guitarists so they did all the guitars for the album.
I get that. The new album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. I understand it’s kind of a love letter to the places that inspire you?
That’s a good way of putting it. That’s awesome, well said. I think you just answered your own question. Next! [laughter] It’s true. I’m very inspired by travelling. I’m always writing and I thought it might be a good idea to write about a lot of these places that I would go to. Every song has its own sound, its own vibe. I’ve had this idea for a long time but it really fit best with heavy music.
I found myself wondering if the cities theme would maybe continue on later albums?
I am afraid I may have to make a part 2. There are so many places and you have to make a choice, you know? You can’t put seventy-two songs on an album.
And one of them is Helsinki?
Yeah there’s one on the new album. It’s one of the best songs on the album, man! Check it out, I hope you like it.
I’ve seen you play with lots of groups and sometimes by yourself. Your on stage banter is always great and when you get hecklers, I feel you deal with them in the best ways. Do any weird heckles come to mind?
Not really. Sometimes you have these crowds that are a bit loud. Sometimes you get some wise-ass who shouts or whatever. I’m not really shocked by that. In the past you’d get these guys who would come on stage and try to touch you or whatever. In recent years the crowds have been a bit older, a bit calmer. I haven’t really had any trouble.
I quite vividly remember this one acoustic show you did and you were taking requests. So this loudmouth insisted on yelling “bring me more beer!” and you just roller your eyes like “Uh, okay sir”
Oh, I remember! That was in Helsinki, right? Nos-something?
Yeah, Nosturi in Helsinki
Yeah! And he was like that the whole evening, right? Sometimes you get guys like that. If it’s like a quick thing you can just make a joke and move on. The risk is that if they get the attention they’ll just keep doing it for the rest of the night. Sometimes you just need to ignore them.
Well, I think you handled that pretty well.
Okay, that’s it for my questions. You are an inspiration to us all and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you guys again soon.
Oh thank you. We’ll be sure to come to Helsinki and Finland again soon.
In This Moment We Are Free – Cities comes out October 20th, 2017. We’ll be sure to check it out. Good bye!