Soprano Diana van Giersbergen does not sit still. Seven months later, the second part of the metal trilogy «ANN» was released, this time dedicated to Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova. In anticipation of the release of the new part, MetalGossip spoke with the singer. About creating a new part, inspiration and many other things, read in our interview.
MG: Hello, Dianne! Nice to talk with you again! Even though we have talked not so long ago, please tell what happened during this time?
Dianne: Hello! Well last time we spoke, we spoke about «Chapter I», which was all about story of Anne Boleyn. And now we finished «Chapter II», which is about Anastasia Romanova and it might be a familiar name for you. And for it might be fun as well, because I have different prononciation. I don’t how do you say it?
MG: Anastasía Románova
Dianne: Yeah, that’s a little bit more different, but I’m afraid I cannot do like that. (laughing)
MG: Russian is quite tricky language.
Dianne: I think it’s fearful to hear, but I can’t understand a word of it!
MG: It is one of the most difficult languages in the world.
Dianne: Yeah, it truly is!… But the story is such a beautiful one. And I really hope that
you’ll like it as well. I do hope that also music kind of reminds you of Russia, because we tried to make it as majestic, as bombastic as we see your country.
MG: What was the inspiration for this chapter? Why did you choose actually late princess Anastasia Romanova?
Dianne: Well. Of course, as you may know, we will do three chapters about three different women, that were fold “Ann” in someway. And actually it was our keyboard player Koen Stam who recommended, that we should dive into Romanov history and he came up with Anastasia. And when I read about her I thought this would be a brilliant idea, because it’s such a sad story. And I thought for those who do not even know about it, don’t know about she existed and what became of her, should really learn about her. It was the great way to pay respect for her.
MG: «Chapter II” feels very Russian in atmosphere way. How did you created such atmosphere? Did you listen to Russian classical/ traditional music for inspiration?
Dianne: Of course! You know, I am classically trained singer, so had a lot of experience of singing Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. And I listened again those arias and also their symphonies. And a lot of ideas are featured now in the songs that are based on those symphonies. For example, the second song has a 2/2 beat, which really you can hear a lot in Russian classical music.
MG: This time Ural Cossack Choir participated in the recording. How did you come up with the idea to invite them?
Dianne: We wanted to give this chapter some form of authenticity. And we also included balalaika. We thought it would be nice addition. But of course with this chapter, which is symphonic one, we thought how could we make this big? How could we make this grand? And our guitar player Bob came up that we should invite the Ural Cossack Choir. He knows few people who sing in the choir actually. And they featured in “Fargo” series and they sounded amazing! I was so happy when they agreed. Because now the chapter is lifted to a completely different level.
MG: Are you afraid of the criticism from historians, who might say, that you didn’t develop themes of Anne Boleyn or Anastasia Romanova well enough?
Dianne: Oh! I haven’t heard that yet. I’m not really afraid. I did a lot of research. And of course the stories, the emotions in the stories are my interpretations. But the facts I checked.
MG: Were you nervous before the release of Chapter I? Because it was released after quite big pause.
Dianne: It is of course. I was a little bit busy with German band in between (laughing). Simply there was no time to release new music with Ex Libris. But before I quitted Xandria, Ex Libris and I have already started up again and planning to do three releases, that together will form a metal trilogy. And of course, when I quitted, I had a lot more time for Ex Libris. And I’ve already known, that it will be different from Xandria. I would be a lie, if I say, that I wasn’t nervous about how new music will be received. But on the other hand I also knew, that this is completely me and this is where I feel like a fish in water. And even when people don’t like it that’s ok, because it is their opinion.
MG: As I remember, the third chapter will be released later this year. Do you plan to make a compilation of all three chapters in one box set for example?
Dianne: Oh for sure! Yes! But first we want to sell out all the different chapters. But when they will be sold out (they are all limited), I think we will do a box compilation.
MG: Many fans are interested if are you planning any tour after release of third part?
Dianne: Maybe “tour” is the word that’s too big. But we do want to go live for sure. I think that first show will definitely be in Netherlands. But who knows how after it will be. But I would love to perform this chapter in Russia.
MG: Many fans are waiting you in Russia, as well as in Ukraine.
Dianne: Oh is that true? That sounds really great! If we will receive a nice invitation from promoters, I’m sure that we will come.
MG: Your album themes (Medea, Anna Boleyn, Anastasia Romanova) are focused on mostly tragic-fated women. Why is it important to you to tell their stories through music?
Dianne: I’ve been asked this question before: “Why do you always choose women, who died”? It kind of turns out to be my thing. I love the drama behind it. I guess I’m just better in singing about sad story, rather than happy one. I think sad emotions are heavier, than happy ones. Which doesn’t mean, that I don’t want to be happy myself. But love to portraying the sad songs.
MG: Do you consider making a concept album about antagonist woman, for example Erzébet Bathory?
Dianne: Well, could be. I haven’t thought about it, but there is a good idea!
MG: You are working on some project with Irene Jansen. Can you tell us about it a little bit?
Dianne: It is not musical project. (I guess a lot of people would love that). But it is not. It is project not only with Irene and me but also with Floor Jansen and Alissa from Arch Enemy and a lot more women. It is called Secret Sari. We all took a picture with the saris that were created by little girls from India. And because of them creating these saris and earning money with that, they don’t have to go in to prostitution or faced another fate, that would be horrible. So it gives them the fair chance and a fair life.
MG: Tell us about that special acoustic gig for crowdfunders. How was it?
Dianne: We haven’t done the show yet. We had to postpone it. Because we were so busy with this new chapter. But I promise you, that as soon, as this chapter will release be out, it will happen. Bob and I soon will start rehearsing and we gonna plan the acoustic concert really soon.
MG: Are there any new songs that you want to perform during this gig?
Dianne: Yeah. We should definitely play a few songs from “Ann”.
MG: And what about covers?
Dianne: Yes. Concert is for those who participated in the crowdfunding and could suggest the song. And took a lot of song from those suggestions. For example, song that I always wanted to sing is “Sleeping Sun” by Nightwish. It is so gorgeous!
MG: You had a special perk as vocal masterclass. Tell us about it.
Dianne: I think five girls participated in it. Some of them took masterclass via Skype, some of them for real and it was really nice. I heard a lot of different voices and different levels in singing. And I enjoyed each and everyone of these masterclasses. It is so nice to work with such ambitious girls.
MG: Speaking about singing, last time we spoke about actual care for your voice. And this time I want to ask have you ever sung sick? And if yes, how did you make it work without much damage?
Dianne: Everyone who does intensive tours gets sick. There is no way. Because it is really most of the time is unhealthy for your voice and you need to care about it. For example Epica cares about their singer, they really take her in mind how many shows they plan and so on. So yes, I’ve sung sick. To be honest it feels horrible, because it feels like you are on stage naked. That is what voice feels like. It is surviving.
MG: Are you planning to make a full music video?
Dianne: There would be so great. We are actually looking into it and we taking some steps. But, you know, we don’t have label, we don’t have anything or any party to help us, so we have to do everything by ourselves. So we are looking into it, but it takes a lot of time to organize such a thing.
MG: You proved that there is life after a famous band. How did you manage not to lose a spirit and desire to continue music?
Dianne: There is a really good, but hard question. I don’t know how I managed, to be honest. I’ve never been a quitter, so I don’t easily give up. But sometimes… Of course I’m still sad about it, because this was not at all the way I wanted to go. And I still love the music a lot and I am really sad that I don’t get to sing that songs anymore. That I don’t see fans around the world. Not in the same frequency anyway. I think just, you know, keeping your head up high, looking towards in future. I still think, that everything I did is great and I still really appreciate that a lot. But also I know that there is no use to linger in the past and to cry over things that now have been. I’ve tried my best to make things work. But you cannot change a stubborn person, that’s why I had to go on.
MG: Just remember, that we are here for you and we love you.
Dianne: That is so sweet! And this is what I need to hear from time to time. Because, believe me, no one can be positive 100 percent of the time.
MG: You have launched your website. What about an online store for you jewelry?
Dianne: Oh God, yes I really have to do that. It’s just simply time. Ex Libris doesn’t have label, don’t have publisher, manager or booking agent. So I need to do everything myself. And I really happy that now I have my website and Ex Libris has good functional site. Building a shop for my jewelry it is a whole different thing. Because I have so many creations. It is a major project, but I will do it. But first Ex Libris.
MG: And last, but not least couple of words to your Russian fans.
Dianne: First of all, I miss you a lot. I would love to visit Russia and party again, but this time with Ex Libris. Because, I think, I want to tell the story, that you all know, but I want to tell it my way.
MG: So thank you very much for this wonderful interview!
Dianne: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me!