Actually we go a long way back because the guys in the band started The Gathering in Ď98 which is 13 years ago. They started with doom, punk, metal kind of rock music with growling vocals and female background vocals and keyboards. It was quite successful with the first demo already. It was quite successful in the underground but then the singer left the band and they had another singer which had the normal vocals. Normal vocals for a guy. They made a second album and it didnít really quite work out and then with the third album I joined the band which was nine years ago. We made Mandylion and we made seven albums so far. Our sound progressed a little from the heavy doom sound to a more dark book music sound maybe. A bit like film music. Stuff like that. Itís kind of atmospheric rock still but itís not very heavy anymore in sound. In intensity it is heavy but not in sound.
Basically you went from the cookie monster vocals to melodic vocals.
The bandís had female vocalists all along.
Yeah, indeed. They started out with male vocals but always had female background vocals. Which they were one of the first to do that. In those times it was not done. Even a female in your band but nowadays obviously itís very hip. But then it was something quite new.
Music always has been a bit male dominated.
Indeed. You can say that again.
We can break away from all that, damn it.
I think so.
You basically experiment with your sound a lot which I think is a cool thing to do so it doesnít get so stale.
Yeah, indeed but it keeps us up to what weíre doing because there are a lot of people who like a certain album. They say why change so much but I donít think we change that much. Every year we look for a new sound or a better way to sing or a better way to play instruments or new ways of recording. New techniques because for us it makes us make new music. Obviously our first album with me, Mandylion, sold the most records of every album we ever made and itís quite easy for people to say oh why not make a second one but it was so special that you cannot make it again. We have to renew our things every year. It keeps it exciting.
You have your own label.
Yes, true. We started a few years back already with the label but now we fulfilled our contract with our old record company and we flirted with the idea to just put out every new album we have out on our own little label because we need to put out the first two albums without me. We earned the rights back from another record company and we just put them out for fun because people still wanted them. So we flirted with the idea to just do everything ourselves and we actually did and it works. We brought out an EP, Black Light District, and a full length album which is called Souvenirs and we have our little office here. Itís going really well but itís a tough job on the side.
Do you feel that you have more freedom in what youíre able to do?
For sure. We have creative freedom. We always had creative freedom but now the difference is, thereís nobody breathing down your neck and saying ďoh, this sells. You have to do this because it sells.Ē We had to always say that we wanted to do it the other way to have more integrity in the music. To be honest and real and pure. But thatís not selling and it only sells a few copies but weíre happy with that.
Iíve talked with a number of musicians about record labels. You were talking about how you finally got the copyrights for your material. How exactly does that work when youíre making an album for a label. Do they own the rights to all the material?
Yeah, it depends on what kind of a contract you sign. We for instance, signed as a personal record deal. All of the band signs their names and you sign away the rights to your songs. Forever and ever they have the rights to your music. You can put it out again or make a remix of it but they have the rights so they earn the first money and then they pay you royalties and stuff like that. You also have these deals which are called license deals and you only sell your rights away for five years or so and then you get them back. There is an infinite choice of deals you can make. With our old label we signed away all our rights. With our new music, itís all ours. I feel very good. Theyíre your babies.
And you actually own them.
Yeah, exactly. What the old record company can do is make a DVD or a single or they can do whatever they please with these songs. They can make booklets with the CD and everything and you donít have jack shit to say about it. Sometimes that feels pretty weird.
I think a lot of it is because the music industry has become more of a business instead of music oriented.
I think so, yeah. I think maybe itís been like that all the time but nowadays there are more and more markets. Thereís so much going on. Thereís not only underground, thereís mainstream. Thereís a huge mainstream and the underground is not maybe underground anymore. Everything goes up and down like waves. Something that may have been underground last year is totally mainstream this year and itís pretty weird because itís going very fast. You have to keep your head above water.
I think a lot of underground stuff has gone on the Internet and is reaching more people now than it used to. Thatís cool.
Yeah, it is cool. I think it is. 10 years ago it was just tape trading. You made a demo and put 100 out and then people made copies and made copies and then a few thousand people knew your music because of tape trading. Like cassette tapes. It moves so fast. Now you can put your music on the Internet and everybody can find it if they want to. I think itís a good thing. A bad thing about it is that people then burn your CD and donít pay for it but thatís another story. I think the Internet is a very good thing.
Thereís always a down side to everything no matter what. Tell me about your latest release, Souvenirs.
Well, we took a ridiculously amount of time writing it and recording it. We took three years or so which for us is quite a long time. We worked with a new producer and we worked in several studios. We wanted to make a special album. We had to take time choosing the songs and then developing the songs and then write it, rewrite it, rewrite it, and re-record it. Then you find out new ways of singing and ways of writing lyrics. All that stuff to get up to a higher level took some time. That means that eventually we made a very, very good album if I can say so myself. Weíre quite proud of it but it was a hell of a job. Now itís out and we toured with it and that went very, very well. Now thereís a live album coming up so weíre actually working on a tour for that one. Weíre still promoting Souvenirs and playing for it, but weíre moving on as well but weíre quite proud of Souvenirs. Itís a hell of an album.
I love the album and it sounds like you put a lot of time and effort into it. I donít see how you can get quality work any other way.
True. Itís blood, sweat, and tears. You canít do it halfway to make something good.
The live album youíre working on is Sleepy Buildings. Howís that coming along?
Itís one that weíre making for the old record company still so itís kind of a last gig. They wanted a best of album and we thought it might be a bit boring. We thought maybe we could make something special like semi-acoustic. We took songs from the very first album, Always, which is with the other singers as well until If Then Else which is six albums and we took the best songs of them and totally rewrote them. Some songs stayed in the same atmosphere and sometimes changed ridiculously. We all put it in a nice semi-acoustic jacket. We recorded them in two shows in Nijmegen, the place where we live in Holland. People came from all over the place to watch it and then we made a CD out of those two shows and itís coming out the end of January. Then we start touring and we might come to the USA for it. Thatís kind of special.
That would be great. Itís always wonderful to have foreign bands come here.
I think so. We came to the U.S. in Ď99 and it was so cool. It was so nice. We traveled from West to East in three weeks and it was a hell of a travel but it was really, really nice because the American Gathering audience are really, really cool. Theyíre very much into the music with their hearts. We had a great time so we hope to come back soon.
You have a new bassist in the band who happens to be a lady.
Exactly. Our old bass player had enough actually. For a period he really didnít have the heart to play music anymore and then now he has a beautiful little baby. Then he just decided to do his work at home and just decided to leave. Then we had to find another bass player and we came across this young lady. She comes from Oss which is a town that most of us come from. We knew her already a bit and we let her audition. She was so good that we didnít look any further because sheís very good and very nice and quite good-looking. There you go.
The guys in the audience will appreciate that.
Itís all new dynamics with two girls in the band. For nine years there has been one girl and four guys which is okay of course. I liked the attention. Itís a whole new thing now. I think itís a very fresh, new wind blowing through the band.
You are going to be involved in a Dead Can Dance tribute.
Yes, we were asked to participate in a song for this tribute in which a lot of cool names are participating. We already recorded a cover years ago from Dead Can Dance which is very popular amongst The Gathering fans. Only you cannot get it anymore because itís not printed anymore because it was on a B-side of a single. We decided to re-release it on this Dead Can Dance compilation. Weíre quite happy about that. As I hear, there are a lot of people curious about it so thatís cool.
You also did vocals on a track on an album for a band called Lawn.
Itís a bit of a smaller band in Holland. They come from the North of Holland. They make very good rock music and I participated in one song with them which is very nice.
Youíre also putting out an EP called Monsters.
ďMonstersĒ is our second single actually from Souvenirs. The first single is ďYou Learn About ItĒ and the second single is ďMonstersĒ and we turned it into a small EP actually because it had five remixes from dance remixes to rock remixes. It has 30 minutes of live footage for your CD-Rom player from our last tour with a band called Pale Forest which is a great band from Norway. We put a lot of stuff on there for the people.
When does it come out?
Itís actually out but I donít know if itís in stores in America. I think so. Otherwise you can always order it via The End Records or on an Internet shop. There are ways to get it.
Many, many ways. Youíve done a lot of extensive touring. Are you touring right now or taking a break?
At this time weíve stopped touring for Souvenirs and we do an occasional show but at this moment we are in our office everyday working on our record company and preparing the new live CD and to get our record company off the ground. Get it more rolling until the end of the year and then in January we start prepping for the live CD. Get things rolling for touring. At the end of January start touring with the live CD.
Your label is called Psychonaut Records. Are you basically going to use that for your band or are you thinking about signing other bands to it in the future?
We are thinking about signing other things but as of now we have to get rolling first anyway and itís pretty hard to keep ahead financially as it is. Maybe once we get rolling and we have a little bit of capital, weíd like to maybe stick that into new, young good talent. That would be a good idea only I donít know in which time period or in which size itís going to happen.
Perhaps sometime in the future.
Well, maybe within the year. I donít know. It depends on how our records are selling a little bit and how much experience because we just started this thing full time and we have to learn so much.
You did a video clip for ďMonstersĒ which was created by a visual arts student in Brazil.
Heís a student from Brazil and he made a very good video for ďMonstersĒ. Itís a little bit like these Tool videos. They make these weird, dark things and he was in that atmosphere. We asked him via email if he would like to do something for us and then he made something. We never knew what it was until he sent it to us. We were very, very pleasantly surprised with this outcome. ďMonstersĒ is not really a hit single so we put it out and we tried to get our video played on the television but itís not very easy for bands like us. Itís airing here and there but eventually it will end up in a compilation DVD. Something cool for him to really present his art because thatís what it is.