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Interview- Netherlands Based Symphonic Metal Band ‘Ex Libris’ is Back with New Album ‘ANN a Progressive Metal Trilogy’. Singer Dianne Van Giersbergen (ex-Xandria) Talks About the First Album of the Trilogy and More!!

14333732_1270824899618178_3322578554832412931_nThe group formed during 2004 by classically trained soprano vocalist, Dianne van Giersbergen (ex-Xandria) and Joost van de Pas. The current members are Koen Stam (Synth & Keyboards), Bob Wijtsma (Guitars), Luuk van Gerven (Bass) and Harmen Kieboom (Drums.

IMM: Hi Dianne, you took the band off life support?

Dianne: The band was still there. Taking it off life support is a nice way to put it (laughter) it was on pause.

IMM: On the new album whose decision to come up with this theme? It starts with a condensed version of Henry wooing her. He wanted an annulment from his forced marriage to Kathryn of Aragon of Spain who was married to his brother Arthur. He wanted a divorce yet the Pope denied his request and left the Catholic Church and formed his religion, the Anglican.


Dianne: Let’s take a few steps back there. When we were sitting around the table how we can put out new music while I was still with Xandria and a busy tour schedule. How can we make this happen? We came up with the idea of doing one album with different releases. Then we thought this will be the third album and this will be the topic so we decided that there will be three releases and three songs. With the release of Medea was such a success for us a composers meaning that we found for us that it works to have a story in place divided into chapters or scenes. And we were looking for other famous women and for me, women are easier to portray than men (laughter). It would be cool to tie in each chapter into a different character. I am not sure how we came up with different Ann’s through history. Me as well as Bob the guitar player were a big fan of the television series The Tudors. Ann Boleyn on the five wives of Henry VIII spoke to me the most has the most character. Which I was looking for in a role to portray and I like her journey through her to meeting Henry and what happens afterward within her that made her change.

IMM: The second part is about her pregnancy is during her pregnancies; he wanted a boy though never had one just a girl and the miscarriage. He was mad at not having a male heir. Discuss that part.

Dianne: (Laughter). It’s a major theme and her miscarriage of his son and actually at the time she is pregnant with this child after three months. Henry is already to be wooing his next wife and of course, Ann knows and that is her last opportunity. When she has the miscarriage and finds out it was a boy is like a strike three and you’re out.

 Ann was ahead of her time and people in those days during those times, especially men were not used to women speaking her mind and having a clear focus that she had. She was seen as a sorceress or a witch that the people were so uncomfortable with it and pushed her away and push Henry away from her.

IMM: And the third part is known to be the first wife England’s King Henry VIII to be beheaded on false allegations of her having an affair he was told by those who didn’t like her.

Dianne: I felt after the heaviness of the miscarriage we have to a little in-between after going through another straight bombastic song would’ve been too much. So we gave her a moment to herself, picturing her while she was locked in the Tower of London. Going over her life to find what happen and to find peace though she obviously can’t. Then she looks out the window seeing people at the marketplace. I think many of us can relate when you have gone through something you will respect much more of it of the blissful message you had before.  When you see things, you learn things that can’t be undone. That is the acoustic intro and the complete bombastic that happens afterward of her taking her first steps out of the Tower of London through the crowd than to the scaffold where she is beheaded. For me this was, I really, really liked crawling into her skin and I tried to do it in a method action way, where I feel the emotions I think sparked in the speech I have. When I think of that and clearly think of that it in the studio I needed a moment afterward to calm down and to get my heart rate down. As soon as you are allowing fear in your body, for study work, and using it for speech or singing, its great bit can take you over if you know what I mean. The results are wonderful when I listen to it, it grabs me by the throat again and I was the doing it (laughter).


IMM: When did the band starting writing the songs for this album and what will the next two albums be about?

Dianne: On this chapter, I am not sure when we started but after the brainstorm, I mentioned earlier. As for chapter two, we are writing songs right now. What is cool about this is we are doing each process separately, first writing, then rehearsing, production, pre-production and then releasing the next chapter. After chapter two is released then we will start writing chapter three. We do this to keep our focus and a lot of history to dive into. Not only for me story wise but also music-wise because we want to implement a lot of musical history in there as well keep things authentic even though they are translated into modern instruments. You need so much research if you do different layers of research next to one another; I think we can have as much focus as we want.

IMM:  Since Ann is dead how can you write more music about her for the next two albums?

Dianne: It will be a different Ann for Chapter two and three.

IMM: So they will be different Ann’s married to Henry?

Dianne: No, no

IMM: Oh I see what you are doing! You’re doing a big old bait and switch.

Dianne: (Laughter). Yeah! Not only story wise but also music wise. The music is all progressive sounds. And for the next chapter, I won’t reveal what it is that we are going to venture into a completely different sound that fits the next chapter much, much better.

IMM: I see the big tease here.

Dianne: Yes of course, and is up to you to guess who the next two Ann’s are.  Like who is behind door number two. And we are moving out of England.

IMM: For this release, you have three songs. Three with vocals, three with instruments and three that are audiobook which is different when I first saw that and listening to that. I said Dianne can be a good narrator for books, mediation and voice-over work.

Dianne: (Laughter). You have a job let me know. I had a lot of fun doing it.  I must say, I agree and has become much, much more an audiobook than commentator track. After I finished it I was like this is cool! I really like doing this and I love listening to audio books myself.

IMM: Was it your idea to do an audiobook version on to this and everyone got involved with that? You have to admit it is different and usually, you don’t get that on an album.

Dianne: Yeah, it kind of evolved. And you do so much research and obviously, you mention so much more than we can put into the song. And if you put so much detail it won’t be clear anymore on what you are speaking about. I wanted to draw the listener farther into the story by doing the audiobook. Because sometimes lyrics can be a bit vague or scratch wise but doing this really painted the scenery by where she is, who she is talking with, who is coming into the room, out of the room. Stuff like this.

IMM: The reason to go through the crowdfunding? Are talks currently to sign to a label and/or distribution?

Dianne:  Well, first of we are not signed to a label, of course, the question always suggested that. And you left to do a crowdfunding. For us, the cool thing is the crowdfunding is the pre-sale of the album and what I love about that is to cut out the parties that are normally in between so the fans are directly supporting the band and percentages going to A,B,C, D and so on. And if you get the record deal than the funds must be recouped, so it is one big loan and to be recouped with interest and how can you do this? By sales and a lot of touring and the band needs funds to exist. It makes it so corporate and I want it to be about music.

IMM: Maybe you can start your own record label?

Dianne: That would be an idea indeed but for now I am happy with the crowdfunding and how it has worked out and have given us a really cool base to introduce these three chapters. And who knows what will happen after that but for now I want to go back to the essence of music which creating music for me to enjoy it. Because I am enjoying it, the people can enjoy it and not because there is a system in place and we need money. And we have fans that need music and have to buy music because other people need money. Just cut out the whole money thing. It is there only for pre-sale and things cost money but not to give to third parties.

IMM: The music quality is there. You put the time into the music, into the compositions, into the arraignments to where you are not playing the same basic three notes which the fans appreciate. The business side helps get more exposure.

Dianne: That may be true but at this point, we want to keep the focus on writing music and later on that might be the time to invite other people, also whom you are going into an agreement with or start working with. You need some research because you need people who believe in what you are creating, they believe in your vision instead of believing in your worth and what they can get out of it.

IMM: The quality of the music is there and there is a fan base here for that music. There always has been.

Dianne: Thank you for saying that the quality of the music is there. That is nice to hear.

IMM: I think you are starting a trend adding audio books to the albums.

Dianne: (Laughter). I am convinced myself of it and for all albums to come now. For me it is important to focus on the future and if new opportunities arise I will be open to them.

IMM: Will there be any shows for the band?

Dianne: We have yet to look into it. The important thing to say is we chose quality over quantity. And if we did shows we would play songs from Medea.  

IMM:  It always good and fun talking to you.



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