THE GATHERING are well known for being a major player in the female-fronted underground metal movement. They paved the way for bands such as LACUNA COIL by carving out a niche for female vocals in a testosterone-heavy genre. Despite that, the band’s most shining characteristic is their ability to evolve with each release and maintain that unique sense of atmosphere and emotion. Souvenirs, their first independent record, explores new musical territory and features a notable collaboration with ULVER mastermind Trickster G. APESHIT got in touch with keyboardist Frank Boeijen about the band’s musical and personal progression as well as their newfound independence.
APESHIT: THE GATHERING have been around a long time now, from the early death metal days, to the recruiting of vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen, to the creative explorations beyond metal. Looking back upon your lengthy career, what are some of your biggest achievements?
FRANK: One of our biggest achievement is that we, nowadays, have total freedom in making music. Of course we had that from the beginning, but now we feel that we are totally free artistically, because we’ve gotten rid of all possible boundaries. A more concrete achievement was playing on the Glastonbury Festival in England this year.
APESHIT: THE GATHERING was one the first underground metal bands to have a prominent female vocalist. Now the scene has many more female-fronted bands. Do you feel like THE GATHERING put female-fronted metal/rock on the map?
FRANK: In a way yes. We were quite early with that. But if you look beyond the metal/rock scene we were far from the first. If you listen to artists like DEAD CAN DANCE, COCKTEAU TWINS, (gothic/wave scene) or the PIXIES (indie), they were really ahead of time!
APESHIT: Many of these other female-fronted bands carry the image of selling sex, but you guys have never used that as a marketing ploy/selling point. What do you guys think about this?
FRANK: Of course we respect how other bands market themselves (if it is done tastefully), but we are musicians, not models or sex symbols or any other kind of image people want to see in us. For us the music is what counts.
APESHIT: The band’s sound has always been heavily guitar based. Souvenirs sees you guys moving away from the heavy guitars. While the atmospheric elements are still intact, why the change in the role of the guitar?
We simply don’t like the simple guitar wall any more. That sound has been around for ages already now. We want to be heavy in a different way…more in a sense of emotion and lyrics-wise. That is why I do believe Souvenirs is a very heavy record indeed…only not the conservative way of being heavy.
APESHIT: Can you explain, the best you can, THE GATHERING’s musical progression? Where do you draw your influences upon these days? Have there been any non-music related things that may have inspired you guys to grow as musicians?
FRANK: All of us are very much influenced by things in life. A lot of the band members, including myself, had troubles with relationships. We also had some problems with our former record company, which were sometimes not so easy to handle. All these disappointments we mirror in our music, I think. And that is a good thing when the most beautiful pieces of art are born out of misery.
APESHIT: The collaboration with Garm, “A Life All Mine,” is quite a special track. Garm’s voice works very well with Anneke’s. How did this collaboration come about? What was it like to work with Garm, an artist who is known for creating some very eclectic music? Was the song something the band wrote knowing it would be a collaboration piece or did you come up with that with Garm? Can you also give us the general idea behind the lyrics of the song?
FRANK: Well we first discovered his ULVER album Perdition City and were totally blown away by it. Hans, our drummer, just contacted him by email and asked him if he would like to do a duet with Anneke. He turned out to be a big THE GATHERING fan, so he was glad to do the duet. After I sent him a CD-R with the song on it (rough version) he sent it back with a separate vocal track on it. Later on we finished it in the studio in Amsterdam. We actually never met him…we only kept in touch by email and snail mail. Regarding the lyrics, I believe you can go anywhere with the lyrics, but it is generally about love and individualism…those two always colliding.
APESHIT: Do you envision collaborating with other artists more in the future? Are there any other particular artists you would like to work with?
FRANK: Yes, I would like that very much in the future. It opens up a lot of new inspirations. I would love to work with Kristin Fjellseth. She is lead singer of the Norwegian band PALE FOREST. Also other members of PALE FOREST are very good musicians and I would enjoy working with them as well.
APESHIT: You’ve had some label troubles in the past. Now you guys are releasing music through your own Psychonaut Records. How has that experience been? Do you guys plan on releasing other bands through Psychonaut as well?
FRANK: It’s a lot of work and it’s difficult to keep our heads above the water these days, but I think all very small independent labels have a difficult time right now. It feels good to have it all in our own hands, although it is hard work. We are not planning to release any other bands in the near future.
APESHIT: You guys haven’t been on any major tours lately, right? Considering your rather eclectic brand of music, do you find it difficult touring with metal bands? Are there any bands (metal or non-metal) you’d like to hit the road with?
FRANK: No major tours lately? I believe so! We did 65 gigs in three months time. We played in 18 different countries on our last European tour. We would love to tour with RADIOHEAD, but I am afraid that is a dream which may never come true. We are not really interested in touring with metal bands these days.
APESHIT: So what’s next for THE GATHERING? Do you have any potential touring plans for the near future (particularly a U.S. tour)? How about more music or a DVD (authorized of course)?
FRANK: We are working right now on a semi-acoustic live gig, which will be recorded end of August in Holland. It will be special because we’ll be playing some very old material in a complete new arrangement. This CD will be only audio so no DVD. We will also be doing do some more festival shows in Europe this summer. We hope to play in the US again someday!