A new album by Dutch atmospheric rock outfit The Gathering is always something to look forward to. “Disclosure”, the band’s latest album can easily rival with Ulver’s “War Of The Roses” and Anathema’s “Weather Systems”. I had the pleasure of having a friendly chat with keyboardist Frank Boeijen. He was more than happy to give his insights on the new album, the D.I.Y work ethic of the band, the remarkable reunion with the old “Always”-line up and the value of total artistic freedom…
“Disclosure”, the new album, is way more about atmosphere and experimentation than the previous album. How come?
It was a conscious decision. Our previous album was more of a rock orientated and guitar driven affair. Combining guitars with lots of electronic effects is more our niche, so it felt right to make an album that’s more in line with our older albums, like Home and Souvenirs. That’s really who we are as a band. This time around we took our time to add more layers to our music and to tinker around with all sorts of weird effects. Experimenting with weird effects and noises is another hallmark of The Gathering. I think Disclosure is a dreamy character to it and it really takes time for the listener before the essence of our music is revealed. This album offers a form of escapism against the relentless pace of modern society.
Another positive element is that Silje Wergeland found her stride within the musical frame of The Gathering. Her vocal lines are truly a stunning addition to the music.
Absolutely! That’s one of the benefits we had with taking the time with our music. We had the chance to really work out the details of our new songs and involve Silje way more in the overall creative process. That’s why her vocal lines are way better integrated with the rest of the music.She also wrote most the lyrics and they’re very personal. It revolves around the different sorts of relationships she had with people and the negative side of that. She went through a really difficult period and that’s why her lyrics tend be rather dark. I also wrote some lyrics on a song called “Meltdown” and I also did the male vocals on that song. It’s done in a kind call and answer fashion.
The song title “Heroes For Ghosts” comes from a line from Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”. Is this just a coincidence?
I think so, because Silje isn’t really into Pink Floyd. She wrote the lyrics for that song, so by the time we realised it’s also a line from “Wish You Were Here” it was already too late. I think it’s an appropriate title for that song and I don’t think Gilmour and Co don’t have the exclusive rights to use those three words. I do like Pink Floyd a lot by the way. I’m not a big thing of their albums, but they went through different musical stages. The albums they made with Syd Barrett are vastly different than “Animals” or “Wish You Were Here”. I kind of lost interest in them after Roger Waters left the band, but they’re still a great source of inspiration to me.
What can you tell us about the recording process of “Disclosure”?
We really like to experiment in the studio. We had this uptempo song, but for some reason it didn’t really work for us. Pro-Tools has this option in where you can replay certain songs parts at half speed. We did that a couple of times and suddenly everything came together. It resulted into a song called “Paralysed” on the new album. This experiment also gave us us tons of inspiration for the rest of the songs.
In pop music it’s very common to use autotune to correct any mistakes. I think it makes things sound very lifeless, with Rihanna being a very sad example. How does this work for The Gathering?
I think that those autotuned vocals are a part of a certain style of pop music in this day and age. If it works for the particular type of music Rihanna makes, why not use it? As far as The Gathering is concerned we prefer to stay in the moment and record the vocals on the spot. If there are little mistakes, but a certain mood is perfectly captured on that particular take, we simply keep it. It makes our music more raw and spontaneous.
Did your attitude towards recording changed over the years?
Certainly, I’m far less worried about little mistakes during the recording. That was something I was really anxious about in my younger years. If there’s a little mistake in a take, but it feels good, simply run with it. You can try recapture that feeling time and time again, but that’s rather pointless. Writing and arranging songs within The Gathering is very much a group effort, so when the rest of the guys aren’t happy with an idea I brought in, I’m perfectly fine with that. With modern recording equipment the possibilities are endless, so we can always tweak an idea in such a way it will fit the music after all. As a band we always strive for a certain amount of authenticity.
Recently you took part in the reunion of the “Always”- era line of The Gathering. How was that like and how was it to revisit those old songs again?
It was really fun! It was great to reconnect with some of the old band members again. It almost felt like stepping into a time machine and went back to 1992. I still vividly remember that after band practise we went out or it was straight back to homework and study again. When we practised with the old line-up we felt that spark again, but I don’t think it would be possible for us to make another doom/death metal album like “Always”. Our music taste has evolved way too much over the years to make that happen. There are still four or five shows scheduled and once they’re done it’s time to focus on the current incarnation of The Gathering and promote “Disclosure” properly.
It seems rather schizophrenic to me to be a part of two different versions of The Gathering and to play songs which are completely different from what the bands stands for today with also a new album looming on the horizon.
To some extent it certainly is and I guess the timing is rather awkward with the new The Gathering album coming in September. However, the whole “Always”-reunion thing is only temporarily and when the shows in September are done it will be the end of it. After that my focus will be on the current version of The Gathering and on our new album of course.
Let’s focus on the business side. The Gathering has it own imprint in the form of Psychonaut Records. With the current decline of the music industry, do you think it’s been a smart choice to release music via your own label?
I think so, because labels focus on their best selling artists and bands nowadays and even the bigger music labels are struggling with the current situation.Having our own label gives us gives us complete artistic freedom. It enables us to release the music we want to and especially when we want to. We work together with several distribution partners, including Suburban Records in the Netherlands. The Gathering is a big name within the rock and metal community, so that provides us with the means of doing things independently. Another added bonus is that we can spend more time and resources on creating better artwork and release our music on different formats. This is something our fans really appreciate. Even if we receive a very favourable record deal from a big music label, we would turn that down, we simply love the freedom we have to do whatever we want creatively.
Some years ago I did an interview with drummer Fred Rutten and one of the things he said that artistic freedom and evolving is way more important for The Gathering than any form of commercial success. What’s your take on this?
I fully agree with him. We stayed loyal to our own musical vision what The Gathering should be and that we don’t make any musical compromises in favour of commercial success has earned us a lot of respect and we’ve gained a very loyal fanbase over the years. Because we do everything ourselves it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes I wish things were different, but at the end of the day our D.I.Y approach is very gratifying, just because of all the hard work and the time we’ve invested into our band and our music.
Time for the final question. What’s in store for you and The Gathering for the rest of the year?
Like I mentioned previously, there are four or five shows with the “Always”- era line-up and early next year we’re going to tour in The Netherlands and Germany to promote our new record. It’s still too early to say anything definitive, but further details regarding that will be revealed in the coming months.