The Gathering interview

Originally published in ‘zine issue #35, 2006

The Gathering band logo

Marjolein Kooijman is the latest member of The Gathering, a band out of The Netherlands who has been tearing shit up the world over with their live shows and albums that have gone from gothic death metal styles to semi-acoustic approaches over the years. One one of the stops on their East Coast trek in advance of their new album, Home, bassist Marjolein brings us up to speed on the band’s activities. Taryn Wilkinson contributed to the interview.

On their brief tour of the Americas in March, after hitting South America for a short time, The Gathering played in Mexico before moving on to the famous South By Southwest musical extravaganza in Texas (“That’s turned out pretty nice, actually”) and up the aforementioned East Coast, finally for two shows in Canada.

Their show in Virginia where we talked with Marjolein happened after the band drove 30 hours straight, starting at 5 a.m. the previous morning.

“North America is still, I think, something we have to, you know, discover, how you say it? It’s really first promotion and it’s pretty heavy also because of the long distances, and in Europe we know we can get a good, how do you say, a fee, so we go rent a big nightliner, and here it’s not …” Marjolein searches for the words in English. “It’s different. There’s so many bands. Everyone wants to play. I heard that some bands even pay money to the venue just to play, and in Europe it’s the other way around. You don’t have to pay; you get a little money.”

The venue for the Virginia show is one where the pay-to-play practice is common, and on this show, as is often the case, the bill featured a large number of bands.

“They should change it, you know? Two support acts is more, far more, than enough, and here sometimes you have five, four bands. ‘Cause I think we’re gonna play a shorter set, because of, we know people are full. You can’t get their attention.”

Marjolein Kooijman

Independent of the planned cutting of the set, the band doesn’t like to feature just their latest release live.

“No, we do everything. This time, it’s …” pauses Marjolein, “we know there’s some people that really like the old stuff, from Mandylion. But of course, that’s a long time ago, so we like to play the new things, of course,” she continues, “and of course songs from the DVD [the award-winning A Sound Relief], but we don’t really think about promoting that thing especially. We just wanna make a nice show with a good dynamic thing. And of course, sometimes we think about it, but there’s also a CD out from Century––Century Mercury––Century Media,” Marjolein laughs, trying to remember the name of the label, “with the B-Sides [Accessories], and we could some stuff which is on that, but…”

Continuing on the subject of set lists, Marjolein talks of the song selection on the A Sound Relief DVD.

“We had the Sleepy Buildings tour, which is acoustic, and it went very good, and we said, ‘OK, we wanna put this on a DVD, but maybe a little more electric songs,’ and the idea is to make another DVD which is the opposite … Like, this one is the more quiet, acoustic––it’s not really acoustic, but semi-acoustic songs, of The Gathering, and maybe next year, or whenever we
all know the time is right, we wanna record another DVD with more heavy songs.”

The Gathering put their decision-making process into Home as well.

“I dunno how to describe it,” begins Marjoelin. “It’s not like changing directions back, but we thought Souvenirs [the last album], especially all the others, because I was not in the concert, when I hear them talking about it, it’s really like,‘Oh, there’s so much thought about it, you know? We have this idea and every time we wanted to make it perfect, more perfect, more perfect.’ And when you do that, then in a certain moment you don’t know what you’re doing anymore. So they sometimes felt they lost that [original seed] of the idea, and they were busy too far, too long, and too deep on little things. And I really love that album with all that, so layered.

“But this time they said like, ‘Okay, we don’t wanna work on the album for a year. Let’s take one month, and we put our ideas in it, and we make the best out of it, and then that’s it. That’s most pure.’ We put on a [pad of paper], we wrote down all kinds of words, and the word ‘pure’ was the most important one. Every time it came up, like, ‘Okay, what’s this song about with the lyrics, put in they mind, and okay, what you want to play them? You wanna play it loud or you wanna play it softly?’ Really, we were talking about all things together, and to me, it really opened my mind, because I never had done recording session, and this guy, our producer, Attie Bauw, he’s really great. He’s really inspiring to talk with him. And it’s not like, we sometimes say, ‘Oh, that death band is like competition of music making. They only want to make complex things, you know?’ This is really, cut it all
away, and keep the raw form like how it is. So there’s some guitar ideas on the album, which was said on the DVD [in the interview extras], like we want a bit more guitars on it and not only keyboards and the guitar in the back. But it has all things: it has some Souvenirs kind of songs, and it also has songs that remind you of Mandylion times, maybe. It has everything. Like, Anneke [van Giersbergen, vocals] said it’s a wild bouquet of flowers. It has a lot. If you listen to it, you really have to listen to it a couple of times. ‘Cause the first time, even for me, was like ‘Wow! I don’t know what to think.’ It has to grow.”

The Gathering performing live

Again in the A Sound Relief interviews, the band noted that in South America their fame level is comparable to The Beatles’ stature.

“It’s bizarre. I heard the record sales were like really low, so the booker said, ‘Well, you don’t have to go there, because you know, you don’t sell anything over there.’ Somehow on our guestbook and on the forum there’s a lot of Español,” she laughs, “so when we were in here in 2004, someone rang and was like, ‘Oh, the CD show is sold out.’ We were like, ‘Huh?’ The CD was the first time that we went there. And they booked another date because the fly tickets were like, we had one day off and then go home. So we did two shows and they were both sold out. Three hundred people screaming.

“I was so surprised because my bass amp, I couldn’t hear anything. They were screaming, they were screaming; I said, ‘Oh, maybe it’s still on standby.’ You know, you have the power and the standby. So I went to the back to check and it was on. But then I saw Anneke and René doing this [performing as loud as they can], and like, ‘Oh, okay, I can do this.’ They were screaming so loud, it was crazy. Also, last time that we play a sad song like ‘Saturnine,’ and normally you get really into the lyrics and the feel of the song and you feel so [heartfelt], but then I was looking around; everyone was screaming loud with the lyrics. I couldn’t help but smile … it was really funny. The people over there are so passionate, and also very nice. It’s crazy. We love to go back.”

Marjolein describes how she came to be in the band.

“Well, I live in Oss, and they all used to live in Oss, and the rehearsal room’s there, and there’s some cafés there where they played in the beginning. So I could see them a lot of times and I really liked the show. I was always amazed, especially Anneke: a little girl, she opens her voice, her mouth; its like ‘Wow!’

She continues, “One of my best friends from high school, she dated René for a while, and René, he knew I played guitar and I worked in a musical instrument store. And so he said, ‘Yeah, come along and then you can pass the guitars along when I have to change one, or maybe change the strings.’ So I knew them a little bit, but I was very excited at that time that I could go see the bus of The Gathering and do the strings. That was pretty nice.

“So yeah, when I was interviewing René for my school about a assignment about major labels and very small independent labels, when it was done, he was like, ‘Ah, I have a question for you,’ and he started so seriously; I was a bit surprised, like, ‘Oh, maybe it’s about his girl we both knew, like ex-girlfriend, or I don’t know.’ But then he said, like, ‘Hugo, he wants to quit the band,’ and I was really like, ‘Oh my god, what are you gonna do?’ Said, ‘Yeah, maybe you wanna try.’ I was really like [in disbelief]. So the train back home, I called my parents, like, ‘Oh, you never believe it! By next Friday I’ll be rehearsing with The Gathering, and if they don’t want me, I don’t care! I just rehearse with The Gathering. That’s great.’ But it went really good, and here I am.”

And the band is just as strong for it.

Check up on the band’s activities at Home will be released in mid-April on Sanctuary and The End in the States. ■

Photos: Marjolein Kooijman after our interview; The Gathering playing that night


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