9th May 2014
Interview by Victoria Fenbane
Photography by Ashlinn Nash
Metal Rules caught up with Dianne van Giersbergen and other members of symphonic metal act Xandria while they were in the UK for two gigs as part of their Sacrificium tour. Dianne reveals how she joined the band, describes her research into the fusion of metal and classical music and the band later joined to explain the direction the band is taking and how this influenced the structure of the new album.
It’s nice to meet you.
Dianne: Good to meet you too
What is the story with you joining Xandria? Did you have to audition like previous vocalists?
Dianne: Well wouldn’t say ‘audition’. Xandria had already entered the studios when Manuella decided to leave the band. Which of course is a problem, because you don’t have a singer any more! They were recording at Soundblade studios in the Netherlands and the producer there, Joost van den Broek, he knew me from my other band Ex Libris, and well he thought I may be a good match and introduced me to the band. Told them to look me up. They were quite interested and looked me up as he suggested and they gave me a call, well emailed to be more precise, asking if I would be interested in seeing if it worked out. So we had a rehearsal to see if we connected on a musical level and personal level and well as you can see today I guess we did!
I read an interview with you from a few years ago, where you said you did not have the time to be in another band beside Ex Libris. What has changed?
Dianne: Well maybe I said that when I was still studying. I’ve finished.
What were you studying?
Dianne: I did the Bachelor course in classical music and after that I did the Master course, double maters in classical music crossover with metal music. I did an extra minor in music economy. So that’s why I said I can’t do two bands and study.
It’s early days for you in Xandria but how do you feel the fans are accepting you?
Dianne: Well I couldn’t have asked for a better response from the fans. Everyone has been so nice and so welcoming. Yeah of course people miss Manuela that’s perfectly fine, she is a very good singer, I love her voice. I love her voice on ‘Neverworlds End’. So I can totally understand that people will miss he,r but at the same time she decided to leave and I am here to keep our dream alive, so everyone’s very understanding and like I said, they all welcome me into the band.
As you are classically trained do you think you have brought more of a classical influence to the latest album ‘Sacrificium’ or was it going that way anyway?
Dianne: Well when I joined the songs were already written and the only changes I was able to make was to dot a few ‘i’s and vocal lines, so that they suited my voice better. Fit my timbre. I wouldn’t say that I added another layer of classical music, I think that was already there. Maybe I use my voice help it to surface maybe in a different way. I wouldn’t say ‘better’, I’m quite allergic to words like ‘better’ or ‘worse’. Maybe I let it surface in a different way.
When performing the old Xandria songs do you adapt them to your more operatic style?
Dianne: It depends which songs you mean. If you mean the Lisa songs they were of course written a bit more to the popular side of vocal style, I tend to blend what she did with the songs but also with of course my voice, because it is my voice and I’m not someone else. I didn’t study seven years to copy anyone. I just want to sing with my own voice but within the right texture of the song.
I will be interested to hear.
We have only one old song. it’s a very beautify one [they played ‘Ravenheart’]. Well yes of course we will promote the new album.
Gerit (drummer): We were not sure how to do it, how to fix it. On one hand we want to promote the new album and completely new line up and then we said okay this is another band than the band which recorded ‘Ravenheart’ or ‘Salome’. It’s not that we don’t like this music any more, it’s just because putting a song like ‘Sisters of the Light’ in between ‘Sacrificium’ and ‘Soulcrusher’ would be funny.
So when you are performing the old Xandria songs do you find it difficult?
Dianne: No, I love singing them. They are really soothing for my voice! ‘Neverworlds End’ and ‘Sacrificium’ is more of a challenge. So I really have to work and then having an old song in the set is really like relaxing for a moment and going with the flow.
So it’s a break?
Dianne: A vocal break yes
Steven (Wussow – Bass): That kind of goes for all of us by the way. The new material is way more challenging also for us as instrumentalists and that is also where we wanted to go, because this is even more fun for us t0 play and explore our limits playing-wise. Last days before the tour I met Gerit in the rehearsal room, he was practicing and I said ‘Still practicing? Good luck!’ [Everybody laughs] Yes that’s what I did. It was exactly how I felt at the time. This is way more challenging for us now and we have fun the way it is, and it’s nice to meet this challenge and of course on the other side it’s really fun to play the old stuff. It’s relaxing and a fun way to meet up with the past.
What’s your favourite pre-‘Neverworlds End’ Xandria song?
Dianne: It’s always a difficult one to answer which one is your favourite because if you perform you must like every song otherwise you wouldn’t perform them, and each song has an aspect which is favourite to you. So I cannot choose one over another, but I like playing ‘Save My Life’ because it is really good interaction with the audience. There are so may Xandria classics which are really nice. It’s like asking a mother which one is your favourite child .
Steven: But now it’s kind of asking the stepmother! The evil, evil stepmother!
Dianne: So singer number five…
Steven: That’s what she said!
Marco: Six actually. If you go way back.
Gerit: I don’t wanna know!
You’ve taken all the songs on as your own?
Dianne: Yeah, well you must make them a little bit to your own voice. As I said, otherwise it will just be copying.
Have you run through quite a lot of the back catalogue ?
Dianne: Only a little bit because Xandria has been moving into a different and new direction. A more developed direction ever since ‘Neverworld’s End’ and I think for future this is also the direction which we will be exploring. So the back catalogue, yes it is there to play with and not to renew I guess.
So you have a classically trained background of course. Do you find that because you work with metal bands that it gets frowned upon sometimes from the classical community?
Dianne: Well not frowned upon but they are a little bit, how do you say this? They are holding back a little bit. But the other way around, no. I find that metal musicians are very interested in classical music. I think it’s more the image and and then then the music, and the image might scare them away from getting to know the background. But actually I have quite some teachers who when they listen to the albums said ‘Oh it’s actually pretty good!’ So it’s just about giving the other party a chance but that’s not only classical music and metal music, that’s worldwide.
Metal is similar to classical music in terms of complexity and sounds
Dianne: Of course, that’s why it works so good.
I’m interested in your masters thesis on the combination of the two styles of music.
Dianne: Well I did it from the vocal aspect. I’ve researched what the protocols are. So what you do on stage and off-stage. How do you interact with the audience, how you do this in a classical manner, in the crossover with metal what is accepted, what not.
Do you still work with classical music?
Dianne: Well if I have the time. I do have a classical duo, but at the moment everything’s on hold because we’re so busy with Xandria and when I do have the time I have my other band Ex Libris which we have a few concerts with. I’m more a day to day person. I’ll do whatever comes not wherever but what I like to do and when my schedule says I can do that.
Which is more fun to do, metal or classical?
Dianne: Oh both! It’s again if I had to choose, if I could choose one that was more fun then I wouldn’t be in the other one.
Do you find it hard to maintain your voice on tour?
Dianne: I can say it is a challenge.
Why did you start the album with a 10 minute song of the kind usually reserved for the end of an album?
Gerit: Why not?
Marco: Well it’s only a side effect but it comes also to the point of the reasons, but it’s not the main reason but one is of course to also show from the very first song, from the very first note that this is not a cello pop metal album. It’s really something to dive deep into. You have to listen to it more than once to really get in, we wanted to show this from the start.
I have been listening to it for a week and still haven’t quite got into it yet.
Marco: For us too!
Gerit: To be honest it’s really some kind of statement. Cos many people were questioning the line-up changes and the whole Xandria style change and thought we were now going back maybe, and what are we are gonna do, and this is a statement. This is Xandria 2014 here is what we do, we don’t do anything else, fuck off, here we are!
Dianne: You should write our new bio!
Marco: He just did! It’s really to say with other words it’s a bit like asking the love it or hate it question from the very first beginning. We like the idea of being a bit like polarizing because that is what the album is about. To go to extremes sometimes.
Thank you for a great interview!