Interview with The Gathering’s Frank Boeijen

Ahead of The Gathering’s upcoming live shows in November as a twenty fifth anniversary celebration, keyboardist Frank Boeijin took the time to speak to Swirls of Noise about the band’s history, his favourite songs, the upcoming shows, the success in South America and more. Enjoy:

Hi Frank and many thanks for taking the time to speak to Swirls of Noise.

Hi there! My pleasure! 

First off, The Gathering announced in January that they would be going on a hiatus and that Marjolein would be leaving the band. After 25 years, what led to the decision to take the time out?

We have been rehearsing, performing, composing, producing and recording music for almost 25 years in a row now. It just feels good to have nothing on the agenda for a change. Besides that, it will also fresh up our inspiration and urgency to make music. Not sure for how long this break will be (could be half a year or maybe 4 years, we just dont know yet), but it feels good at this point in our lives.

Back in June you announced that you’ll be reforming to play two 25th anniversary shows on the same day, featuring all the former members (besides Martine) who’ve previously played with The Gathering. How long were you planning this for before it was announced, and how did such a momentous occasion come about?

Of course we knew the 25th anniversary date was coming (autumn 1989). We first wanted to just rent a venue and start a party and invite all old former bandmembers, but then we thought why not ask everybody who was in the band to play some songs and make a live gig out of it.
Well, one thing led to another and before we knew it we had 2 sold out shows.

The 1992 era lineup reformed back in 2012 as the 20th anniversary of the Always…album for a handful of shows. How difficult was it revisiting material from so long ago, and when will you start rehearsing for this round of reunion shows?

The Gathering back in 1992

Well the TG92 shows were a one off thing in 2012, there are no plans that we are going to play more shows. But this entire line up will be at the 25th anniversary so we definitely play some Always.. songs for sure. It was very fun to revisit these songs, its like stepping into a time machine. The minute we started playing in the rehearsal room it almost felt we were back there… We used all the old gear as much as possible to create the same sound. It worked out pretty well!

People are coming from all around the world for these shows, did you envisage such a reaction when you announced the shows?

To be honest, not at all. Its been a while ago with some line up changes and of course we thought that some people might get excited, but not that many.. especially because its been a while.

One thing that has made a lot of people excited has been the return of the previous iconic vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen. After she left the band in 2007 have you been following the music she’s been creating herself, and vice versa?

Anneke Van Giersbergen fronted The Gathering from 1994 to 2007

I listened to some of her songs online, but never to entire albums. Its quite different compared with what we are doing nowadays. I don’t know if Anneke kept track our music during the years.

With both shows being sold out and some fans unable to attend, will either of the shows be recorded as a live album or a DVD?

We will record the audio, we will see what we might do with it in the future. But there will be no DVD recordings.

With eleven full length albums, as well as the return of former members to the lineup for the show, how do you go about choosing the perfect setlist from so many songs?

That is indeed a big puzzle. Of course we already started to rehearse some songs and there will be some surprises. The things is that you cannot take account of every aspect: our favourites, amount of songs from one particularly album, audience favourites, are songs re-visited good enough. etc etc..there are so many factors. At some point you have to make some compromises, but of course we will make the set as interesting as possible!

The classic How To Measure a Planet and If_Then_Else lineup of the band rehearsing for the upcoming shows

The Gathering have always been a band that has changed their sound from one album to the next, while always containing that same penchant for atmosphere, with the latest album Afterwords taking on a more post-rock and electronic feel to it than ever before. What drives the desire for constant innovation and changing the sound from one album to the next?

I don’t know exactly where it comes from, I guess its in our musical genes to always improve and develop our sound and song writing competence. Actually we never say to each other: ‘ok, and now we are going to sound totally different’. it just happens during the process. Like you said, it is always containing the same penchant for atmosphere, this makes our circle round I guess. The music speaks a certain mood and certain emotional backlight, which can be played with many many sounds and recording methods. Every TG album has this particularly recognizable mood, (we will not make funk-metal or  folk-punk all of a sudden)
but we always like to experiment with sounds and a way of translating these moods.

Following on from that, the fifth album How to measure a planet? marked the start of a fractured relationship with Century Media when you moved away from the highly profitable gothic metal sound, and eventually the band left the label and released material on their own label Psychonaut records, sticking to what you wanted to create at the expense of making it big like other of the female fronted metal bands. Looking back how proud are you that you’ve always done things on your own terms?

With CM we felt pigeon-holed, and categorized with bands we didn’t felt any connection. Thats why we felt the urge to release albums on our own label.
I am not sure if we made it big, when we stayed at CM, its difficult to say that in hindsight. I also have to say that CM was of course also very important for our career. Of course, they made quite some money with us, but they also made sure people could buy our albums everywhere, and we were very visible in different kinds of media. I am proud of our own label, and the releases we did on Psychonaut, but its also hard work with loads of trial and errors, its a business which many people think a bit to heroic about.

When you left the label, the musical landscape was starting to change in the beginning of the 2000’s with the rise of digital media and music piracy. In the 2010’s there’s the problem of streaming services which pay the artists a pittance if anything, what are your thoughts on these challenges in the 21st century?

The landscape changed indeed a lot. The techniques available nowadays make it possible that everybody can create a complete album in their bedroom. There is of course loads of crap or releases not of my interest available, but that is not any different from the pre-internet days. Streaming sites like Spotify and such, make it  possible to listen and skip tons of artists without spending too much money. of course their royalty payments are a joke, like you said, but they make you visible in a way which is very good for beginning bands and artists. I also like a lot initiatives like: Bandcamp and Soundcloud, where you can make your own music store and take control of things yourself. An advantage which I wish we where having when we started the band back in 1992.

Another challenge to the band was Anneke leaving in 2007. Despite the fact that you’ve delivered some of the best work to date in Disclosure and Afterwords featuring the beautiful voice of Silje, some of the fans of the band stopped following you to some extent after her departure. How frustrating was this, given that the band was always bigger than one individual member?

We didn’t feel frustrated, it was more a feeling of disappointment, because some fans lost interest. Of course Anneke was very important for the band and for us it was a big deal when she decided to leave. Its just very difficult to fill these shoes for a new singer (no matter how good she is). But I am glad we decided to go on and found Silje. She is an excellent singer and performer. I guess it just takes time for people to realize this.

Silje Wergeland has fronted the band since 2009, releasing three albums The West Pole, Disclosure and Afterwords in that time

While the record labels in Europe seemed to lose interest with the band during the switch from the gothic metal of Nighttime Birds to the more atmospheric trip-hop of HTMAP? and I_T_E, The Gathering became huge in South America. How do you think that came about?

Well these records where of course released by Century media, so there where no labels interested because they heard that we were not available.

I dont know exactly why South America where suddenly very into us. I guess it grew also with the years. Maybe the gothic atmospherical approach fits the fans in SA. I remember things went better and better, when we did our very first gig in Mexico City back in 1998. It also helped that our video for “Liberty Bell” was on heavy rotation in music television in the Santiago’s Underground train stations.

The Gathering’s live album/DVD A Noise Severe was recorded in Chile, Santiago in front of a passionate crowd

Do you have a particular favourite song or album that you’ve recorded with The Gathering?

Every albums has its special songs for me. For example: Travel, Amity, Broken Glass, and from the more later albums: No Bird Call, and Heroes For Ghosts are very special for me.

What can you tell us about your best and worst live experiences with The Gathering?

I think best was the Dynamo Open Air gig  (Eindhoven The Netherlands) shared with the very first time we played in Santiago, Chile.
Worst was some gig in the South of Holland where people were standing with their backs to us and chatting about what was on telly the night before.. 

Do you know yet how long The Gathering’s hiatus will go on for, or will you just decide to pick it back up again when you all feel that spark again?

No, we decided that we will not create a time frame for our pause. It feels good to have nothing on the agenda for a while, it will generate more inspiration on the long term, I believe. Not sure how long it will take, can be 6 months or even years.

The band haven’t played in the UK since 2003. Do you envisage The Gathering returning after the hiatus?

Yes, if a booker or programmer wants us there we will.

With the eras of the band with both Bart Smits and Anneke Van Giersbergen a collection of demos and b-sides was released. Is there anything from the archives with Silje that could see the light of day?

For the already released albums we recorded of course loads of demos and rough ideas, so there is plenty of material. But we have to see in which context such is good enough to be released. We don’t have any plans for this yet.

The band has collaborated with artists such as Ulver’s Garm and Stream of Passion’s Marcela Bovio in the past. If you could choose someone else to collaborate with on future material with The Gathering, who would you like to work with?

No nobody particularly. But we would love to work more with guest musicians who control the art of playing non electrical instruments (like instruments from a classical orchestra, or ethnical instruments). 

Are there any up and coming artists that you’ve been enjoying recently?

Actually,I have been listening again to a lot to classical music lately (totally in love with impressionists like Debussy, Ravel, Gustav Holst etc.) but also modern classical music like Arvo Pärt, Glass, and David Lang. Also some really good new electronic stuff like: Lorn, Oneohtrix Point Never, AFK Twigs. Im a bit behind on new bands, but I like the band Suuns from canada a lot. 

You yourself have just released your second solo EP as Grimm Limbo, and it sounds completely different to your work with The Gathering, being much more based in electronic music. What can you tell us about your own influences for that project?

My goal with Grimm Limbo was to create music which is and listenable in your living room, and suitable for the dance floor. All this with a glance of gloomy dark atmosphere. Of course as a keyboard player, I was always interested in electronic music, and I listened to it a lot already as a teenager (Jean Michel Jarre, the Art of Noise, Depeche Mode etc), so I guess it was already there for a long time. In those days there was no possibility to create anything decent from out of your own bedroom (there where no computers, let alone things like affordable music production sequencers). So when this was possible at some point I decided to start this solo project. 

Head Room I // EP cover art

Grimm Limbo’s new EP Head room

And finally thanks again for talking to SoN. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I wish you luck with this great blog! Its so cool to see that you are trying to reach people who are into new music which cannot be found very easily on the internet or elsewhere. Thanks for the interview!
The Gathering will be playing two sold out shows on November 9th at the Doornroosje venue in their home town of Nijmegen.

Find The gathering on facebook here

Listen to and download the new Grimm Limbo EP at name your price:

Watch the video for Echoes Keep Growing from the band’s latest album Afterwords below (and read the review here)


One thought on “Interview with The Gathering’s Frank Boeijen

  1. Pingback: ‘The Gathering – 25 years of Diving into the Unknown anniversary show’ at Doornroosje, Nijmegen | swirls of noise

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