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Press Access \ ::. Interview with Hans Rutten     

I guess everybody out there has a few albums which made such a lasting impression on him or her that it will accompany you for maybe the rest of your life. One of these albums for me personally is the absolute classic the Gathering debut, Always.... I still remember as if it was yesterday the day I picked the album up in the recordstore and wondered if this was the same band I had heard on the radio, as the cover didn't look very 'metal' at all, heh heh! I guess it's no secret to anyone who knows me a bit personally or who has been reading this little magazine throughout the years, that I simply adore and worship this band. For many years now, there have been so many little things that I wanted to know about their demo - and the Always... - period, it's just that I didn't know very well when to ask these questions I had. With the recent re-release of Always... on CD and on vinyl [together with the classic cult demo Moonlight Archer] as well as the release of Downfall - The Early Years, the time was more than right and better than ever before! So, I got in touch once more with drummer Hans Rutten who was very willing to give in-depth and detailed answers about everything I always wanted to know but was afraid to ask ... ;-)

According to the biography, the Gathering got formed in October 1989. But who was it actually who really got the idea to form the band and how did the other members get in the picture?

That was me actually, I got the idea together with a friend, Marin, who never joined the band. We wanted to start a band together, we were both studying in Deventer and we shared a room together. In the end, Marin got settled in Deventer and he didn't feel like coming to Oss each weekend to rehearse. I really wanted to get something going. René already played guitar at that time in a band called Cromlech together with Bart and someone else on drums and another guitarist. They were playing a kind of punk rock, a bit in the vein of The Ramones. I talked to René and Bart about it, we already knew each other from our social life in Oss. Oss is a rather small city actually. We all wanted to do something in the vein of Celtic Frost since we all liked the Into The Pandemonium album. So, we thought about recording a demo or something, it was pure a kind of project we planned. We just wanted to have some fun with it, that's how it started.

And how did Jelmer, Hugo and Frank get in the picture?

Hugo was in the same class at school as Bart, so Bart brought Hugo one day as we were still looking for a bassplayer. So Hugo joined, he just had a bass for one month at that time but he was welcome since we were all beginners at that time. Next was Jelmer, Hugo brought Jelmer as they were living very close to each other. If I'm not mistaken they were also both taking lessons at the same music school. Then we just needed a second guitarist, more a kind of a solo-guitarist as René was more playing riffs and so Jelmer joined. A couple of months later I got a copy of the Nocturnus demo through a friend. We liked that demo very much but we wanted to use those keyboards in a more Celtic Frost kind of way. The keyboards should create a certain atmosphere instead of those weird sounds Nocturnus had and so Frank joined also.

Were you actually big metal fans at that time?

Nobody in the band ever was a 'metal only' fan, but we all had our 'metal periods' so to speak. Hugo for example was very much into grindcore at that time with bands like Carcass. Carcass has always been a band that he appreciated but on the other hand, he never got enthusiastic for a band like Napalm Death for example. Later on, he said that it was more to sort of 'rebel' against his parents. Jelmer was very much into the English crust scene, a band he really loved was Axegrinder, I don't think anyone will still remember that band these days. Frank was actually never a metal fan, there were some bands and albums that he sort of appreciated, like for example Into The Pandemonium of Celtic Frost or Paradise Lost's Gothic later on, but he was never for 100% into metal. René and I, we both had a period where you could say that we were metal fans. It started in 1983 / 1984 with Iron Maiden, Saxon, that kind of bands. I still listen to those albums sometimes, but more from a nostalgic point of view. I also really liked the first Angel Dust album, Into The Dark Past as well as the first Helloween albums. We all loved Voivod, Voivod was a very important band for us [aaaah, excellent musical taste - S.W.]. Bands like Kreator or Destruction on the other hand were never that much my cup of tea.

Did you do a lot of tape-trading at that time and did you also visit metal gigs?

Oh yes, we went to see a lot of bands from the Dutch scene like for example Thanatos, Mandatory, Vigilante and Deadhead. There was such an interesting underground scene at that time as there were so many new things happening all the time. Of course, we also went to see a lot of bigger concerts in Tilburg, for example King Diamond, Helloween, Agent Steel or Overkill. Jewel was also a special band for us because one of their members was living in the same street as René and me. As a kid, we thought he had such a good life. We often saw him in the street, my mother knew him also pretty good and so he often came by for a cup of coffee or something. He had a lot of tattoos and always told these cool tour-stories, we really looked up to him. So, you could say that he sort of 'inspired' us to start a band of our own.

The bandname the Gathering, I always heard that it was taken from the movie Highlander, is that right?

That's correct. A friend of us came up with that name after we had seen the movie Highlander together. The name stuck with us and so we decided to name the band that way. We watched a shitload of science fiction movies in those days [rires].

Are there actually still any recordings existing from before the An Imaginary Symphony rehearsal?

We still have a lot of recordings of rehearsals which date from even before An Imaginary Symphony. Hugo has a sort of database with hours and hours of material that we recorded in those days. We still have plenty of really old material lying around.

But you never send those recordings out?

No, already our demos don't have a really good sound-quality and those rehearsals sound even worse.

How often and where did you rehearse in those days?

We rehearsed once a week, each sunday morning, as we always went out together on saturday. We rented a rehearsalroom in the country, there were several rehearsalrooms there, and we rehearsed there every sunday. We often had a serious hangover from the day before [rires], but we were very enthusiastic. I remember that it was very cold there in the winter. I can still see René riding on his bike, with his guitar-amplifier in a kind of lorry that you could attach to your bike [rires].

What was actually the very first the Gathering song ever written?

That was Anthology In Black, that was the first song we ever wrote, it also ended up on our rehearsal, so you can also hear it on the Downfall CD.

Did you ever play any other covers next to Celtic Frost's Dethroned Emperor?

I searched for our recording of Dethroned Emperor as we also wanted to put that track on the Downfall CD, but we couldn't find it anymore. But we fooled around with more covers, we also covered for example the Rush song Subdivisons. It's pretty hilarious actually, a band which just started tries to play a song of one of the most technical bands there is [rires]. And then with Bart on vocals, you can really imagine how the result was I guess [rires], Bart doesn't sound exactly like Geddy Lee. We also covered Possessed, that was a song from the album Beyond The Gates, I believe it was called Dog Fight. One more band we covered once was Carnivore, that was a song of their Retaliation album called Five Billion Dead or something. Lyrically seen, Carnivore was about the most wrong band one could chose to cover, musically they were really good though. We had a sort of love-hate relationship with that band. Carnivore was actually more for the fun of playing the song in our rehearsal room, we never considered to put that on an official release or something.

The rehearsal An Imaginary Symphony got recorded on the 18th October 1990 with the help of Johan and Ralph. Who were those two people?

Johan was just a friend of us who knew something about how to handle technical equipment. We rented a recorder for one day and we hung up microphones in our rehearsalroom everywhere as nobody really had done something like a decent recording before. Ralph was the driver who drove with us to Deventer to get the recorder, so he helped us that way.

Where did you record An Imaginary Symphony and do you still have any memories of the recordings themselves?

We recorded An Imaginary Symphony in our rehearsalroom live. We just played the songs until we had a version which we thought was somehow more or less 'good'. If I remember right we recorded An Imaginary Symphony in two weekends, we did the same thing later on with Moonlight Archer.

Can you actually go a little bit more into detail about the songs that ended up on An Imaginary Symphony?

Well, Bart wrote all the lyrics of our songs in those days. I just wrote the lyrics to one song of An Imaginary Symphony, that was Another Day. That's the only song I ever wrote lyrics to and it talks about an astronaut dying in space. Bart most of the time wrote about experiences he made at school, what he saw happening around him. I remember that Bart once had a fight with some other students at school. He was very angry about this and that fight inspired him to write the lyrics of Subzero. Bart really was a sort of poet I'd say, he was way ahead of his time as he wrote the lyrics in a way that we, the others who were like 16 or 17 years old at that time, hardly understood.

In those days, you should have also written a song called Organorama which was a kind of protest song against Organon, a factory in Oss where Jelmer's father worked. Why did that track never end up on any demo or rehearsal?

I guess Hugo must still have this song somewhere on tape, I still know the melody and I can immediately whistle it if you want me to. Organorama was a very poppy song, very melodic and we never really recorded that one because it didn't suit the other songs. We have written more songs that we never released or recorded decently because they were too different, I remember one of them was called Arial Window. Some ideas we had were better, we recorded the song Always... for example because we wanted to have such a song on our album and because it suited the record.

The cover of An Imaginary Symphony was a kind of figure where you could see 2 people sort of 'rotate' into each other, like the ying-yang symbol. Did you design that cover yourselves or did you take it from somewhere?

Bart saw that drawing in a technical book from Eastern-Europe that he had. He liked the picture, he showed it to us and we thought it would suit the recordings well, so we used it as the cover.

An Imaginary Symphony was now recorded. I guess you sent that tape now to all kinds of magazines?

Well, we had keyboards which was absolutely not done at that time, so the more conservative and die-hard underground zines had a diversed opinion about it, but all in all it was still really OK. I can remember almost only good and positive reactions, with as an absolute highlight the review we got in Aardschok magazine at that time. I think Wim Baelus wrote that review.

I'm not 100% sure but I think it was Anthony Van den Berg.

Could be also. Anyway, both the rehearsal and the demo got received very well there and we were very proud of that.

You sent a really nice promo-picture together with An Imaginary Symphony. Do you remember where that picture was taken?

We took that picture at a lake in our neighbourhood. My cousin had a very good camera and she took a few pictures at that time. Those were the very first pictures we ever took as a band.

I guess by sending out that rehearsal, you got your first real contacts in the metal scene. Which bands or persons were about the first you had contact with?

I wrote already with a lot of people at that time, for example the drummer of Agathocles, Burt. I also wrote with a lot of Norvegian Black Metal bands who all really appreciated what we were doing. I can't remember any names or bands, I just still know that one of them was playing in Nocturnal Rites. Later on, I found out that even the members of Mayhem got hold of our recordings through tape-trading and thought it was cool. I had contacts all over the world, I really enjoyed that.

How did you actually get in touch with Wim Baelus, through Aardschok?

I always loved the pieces he wrote in Aardschok, if you still read them today, they're really classic. They were so great and original, he must have put a lot of time in that. To my opinion, Wim is one of the best journalists that Aardschok has ever had. He was always very positive, sometimes maybe a bit too positive [rires], but he was really like a breath of fresh air. I was a sort of fan of his work, I sent him a copy of our rehearsal and that's how we got in touch with him.

Is it actually true that Wim also designed the original the Gathering logo?

No, Bart designed the logo. Wim just sent us a picture that he had found somewhere and that he thought that suited our music. On that picture, you could see 2 balls or planets floating between mountains, a bit in the vein of Second Sunrise. We used that picture on the cover of our demo, but that's all.

On the 25th January 1991, you played your very first gig in De Meule in the city Heesch together with Deadhead and Invocator. How were you able to play together with those 2 more or less bigger bands at that time?

We just got booked. It was really easy to play as a support for a bigger band in those days, there was so much going on. I think we got even payed something like 100 NLG [around €45] for that gig. We just thought it was great and an honour to be able to play a gig together with Deadhead which was a pretty big band at that time. We still have some pictures of that gig, I think Hans Nagtegaal has them for the moment and he will probably put them on our homepage sooner or later. I still remember we were very nervous since it was our first gig, there were quite some friends and people we knew in the hall, but I think it worked out somehow. We had to play through the backline of Deadhead, we weren't used to that. But as I said, there were quite some friends and they appreciated it and we had a beer all together afterwards. It was fun.

Almost half a year later, you recorded your first demo Moonlight Archer on the 1st April 1991 in the Caveman studio, together with a certain guy called Johan. I guess the Caveman studio was your rehersal room, right?

Yeah, we just called our rehearsalroom that way to give it something extra. We just recorded it in our rehearsalroom, the same way as we did with the rehearsal, with the same people but with a bigger recorder than on An Imaginary Symphony.

Why did you actually re-record Downfall and Second Sunrise for that release?

Well, An Imaginary Symphony was more a rehearsal and Moonlight Archer was more meant as a real demo. We wanted to send those recordings out to labels, while the rehearsal was more meant for friends and people we knew. But we got very enthousiastic reactions and all together, I think we sold about 500 copies of our demo and about 400 of our rehearsal.

Was it actually easy for you to write the 3 new tracks which ended up on Moonlight Archer?

Actually yes. We never had real problems to come up with any ideas. Frank had his own ideas, René always had many ideas and contributed a lot, Jelmer and Hugo too. We had many people in the band who wrote music and songs, which was just an advantage.

What I also always wanted to know is the following : in the beginning of Downfall you can hear a couple of people screaming and yelling through each other. There are a lot of effects on those voices, so you can't understand a thing. Who are those people and what are they actually saying there?

That part is coming from the Efteling [well-known sort of fairytale-park in the south of the Netherlands - S.W.], Frank was and still is an Efteling freak. I can't remember exactly what is said there, but I believe it's a part of Hansje & Grietje [famous fairytale - S.W.] that you can hear there, it's the part where they push the evil witch off the stairs [rires]. Frank came up with all those intros on our demos, he was always very busy with that. There's also a song with a sort of medieval part and a horse in the intro, I think that's in the beginning of Anthology In Black. We also got labelled as Efteling-metal later on, fairytale-metal, by friends and enemies and we just worked that label out on those intros so to speak. We took that even one step further later on on our album Nighttime Birds as well. As you will probbaly know, there's a fakir in the Efteling who plays on a flute and we used the melody-line he plays there later in Nighttime Birds.

When you reflect Moonlight Archer to An Imaginary Symphony, do you think you made a lot of progress there at that time?

We started to create a sort of own sound, we went more into one direction. There are songs on An Imaginary Symphony which go from punk rock to pop. On Moonlight Archer, we were more heading towards a metal direction, the heavy sort of gothic metal. We were all very impressed by Paradise Lost's album Gothic or the first Cathedral album.

Through tape-trading, I got the original recordings of Gaya's Dream, Always... and In Sickness And Health years ago which are also put on the Downfall compilation. Was it actually the intention from the very beginning to release those 3 songs as a 7" and why did that actually never happen?

We recorded those 3 tracks in the old Beaufort studios because we liked the recordings of the Delerium album Zzzoooohhh. We contacted the studio and we recorded those 3 tracks in one day, we also spent one day on the mix. We already had some contacts with several recordlabels at that time. Peaceville was somehow our favorite label, they had Paradise Lost and Axegrinder. I had sent them a demo and I still remember that I got a very nice letter from Hammy who said that the demo was about the best he had ever heard but also the worst recording he ever heard [rires]. He wanted to sign us but he asked us to make some recordings in a decent studio first so he had something he could send to his distributors. That's mainly why we went to the studio to record those three tracks.

If I'm not mistaken one of those tracks even ended up on a Peaceville sampler called Deaf Metal or something.

Yeah, that's right, it had a sort of Black Sabbath-like cover with Hammy on the front. It was the intention that the first version of In Sickness And Health would end up there, but later on the Always... version was put on it. That compilation was a bit delayed and I remember very well that Hammy wanted to have the Always... version of In Sickness And Health as that one simply sounded better.

In the end, those first versions of Gaya's Dream and Always... ended up on the 4th D.S.F.A. sampler. Did that compilation actually help you a lot in those days?

Yes, I think so. You had something on CD which was better than a tape concerning the sound-quality. We had a CD that we could sell at gigs, our name spread more and more, not only in the underground but also some journalists started to pick us up.

The autumn of 1991 was very successful. In November you opened for Samael and in December you even got the chance to support Morbid Angel in the famous hall Noorderligt (Tilburg)! How did you get the chance to open up for such big bands even though you were still 'just' a demo band?

We were in contact with Rob Trommelen who had a small booking-agency at that time, nowadays he has a large office as he's taking care for a big part of Dynamo Open Air. He had seen us play and he wanted to have us and so we opened for Samael. There were not that many people there by the way, maybe 80-100 people. Morbid Angel was something completely different as that gig was sold-out! One support band had cancelled and they needed one Dutch band to open for them and so we got the chance! I think we already had a bit of a name at that time, we had already played at the Willem II in Den Bosch, especially in the south of the Netherlands the metal fans started to know about us.

Now that you mention your gig at the Willem II, that was at the Death Metal Discovery Festival Part II together with Agathocles and Asphyx. It's also that concert that you put on the Downfall album now as a CD-ROM. Was that concert your own choice or did Hammerheart suggest to take that one?

That was our own choice. We had the recordings on VHS and we thought it was a nice gesture to the die-hard fans as it doesn't cost much extra. The recordings are quite good, we also used different cameras there, the sound is also OK. It was one of our first bigger concerts and we thought it was a good concert to add as a bonus CD.

To come back to the gig with Morbid Angel, did you stay in touch with them at that time?

No, I never had any contact with Morbid Angel, not even nowadays. I know that Trey Azagtoth is a big fan of us and that he appreciates us very much, as well as Eric Rutan. We gave him a lot of the Gathering T-shirts as he wanted to wear a fresh the Gathering T-shirt each day on the American tour. He's really a very big fan which is very cool to my opinion as Morbid Angel is such an extreme band. Morbid Angel is one of the few bands of the Death Metal scene that survived, probably because they were one of the first and one of the strongest bands. There are more musicians who really like like us, Steve Digiorgio of Sadus is also someone like that. Steve is really a friend of mine, and when he's in Holland, we always manage to see each other. He's very friendly and also a very big the Gathering fan who simply buys everything we put out.

In the end, Always... got released through Foundation 2000 instead of Peaceville. You said before that you were approached by Peaceville so why did you go for Foundation 2000 instead?

Peaceville just changed its distribution at that time and if we would have signed with them, Always... would have been released something like 9 months later. We had the songs ready and we wanted to go into the studio as soon as possible and release an album, especially since we thought that we had some very original songs. Partly that was true, on the other hand I must admit that we had listened to Gothic very carefully. I'll never tell that we were the first band who experimented with female vocals and keyboards but I do think that we were the first band who also pulled that off live. But we were ready for it, people asked for an album. Things would have lasted way too long with Peaceville and with Foundation 2000, we could immediately enter the studio so to speak and so we signed for two albums with him, also because he had Gorefest who were very successful at that time.

You told me that that contract you signed with Foundation 2000 was very bad. If you knew it was that bad, why did you then go for it anyway?

The contract was OK, he would split the money he made with it in half, 50% was for him and 50% for us. But then you also have to see this 50% which just never happened, Mark kept a lot of money he made for himself. Even after all those years I still have no concrete idea how many copies Always... has sold. I can only guess and if I make a very careful guess, I think it's about 50.000 copies but it can be much more as well.

From where did you actually know Marike Groot?

When we recorded the 3 tracks we talked about before at the Beaufort studio, there was a demo lying around there. We loved the female vocals on Gothic, we wanted to have something like that too. We just listened to that demo and we were very impressed by the female vocalist who sang on that tape which was Marike. So, we wrote her a letter and went to visit her in Hoorn as she was living at the other side of the Netherlands. She was interested to do some work in the studio with us and that's what she did on Always.... She also joined us most of the time on stage during gigs and she sang there as well.

Has she ever sung on any other album besides Always...?

No, not that I know of. She released a demo with her own band, Little Mary Big, which later turned into the band Johan, they're quite known in the Netherlands.

Are you still in touch with her nowadays?

No, the last time I saw her was in Amsterdam at the end of 1996. I know that she's living in Amsterdam, I think she studied to become an English teacher and I guess she finished those studies and maybe she works in a school now, who knows?

Do you think it's a pity that you don't see her anymore?

Yes, I always thought that Marike was a very kind and warm person. She had a very own mind and an own opinion about things which I appreciated. She was always in a good mood and nice to everybody. But there are so many nice people that I don't get to see anymore, that's life I guess.

Why did Marike actually leave the band later on and how did you get to know Martine Van Loon who replaced her?

Marike wanted to go solo. She also wanted to make other music, more country-like. She also thought that Bart was somehow a bit in her way, that's why she left after our gigs in Israel. We got to know Martine through some contacts of ours who had other contacts... Niels and Martine couldn't stand each other, so that bomb had to explode sooner or later... When I look at it now, I think it would have been better if Niels nor Martine would have joined the band after Bart left, also professionally seen, because they could really almost drink each other's blood. It was a very tough period for us at that time and so when everything was over, we decided to take a break for over one year and concentrated on writing the material for Mandylion.

How did you prepare yourselves for the recordings of Always...? I can imagine that you practised and rehearsed even more to be well-prepared, no?

Not at all, you have to know that we already played quite some gigs at that time and we just wrote new songs. I think the last new songs we wrote before the recording sessions were The Mirror Waters and King For A Day. We played the songs which ended up on Always... already many times live, they had grown already. The older they got, the better they sounded. It was just the same case with the material on Mandylion.

Was it your own choice to record Always... at the Beaufort studio's?

Yes, we were very satisfied with the recordings of the songs for the 7". We got a budget to record the album in 5 days and to mix it in 2 days, and that's what we also did.

Did everything actually go well in the studio or were there still any difficulties that you didn't reckon with?

No, we already had a little bit of experience from the recordings of the 7". We recorded all the drum- and bass-parts, the rhythm-section so to speak, in 2 days. The recording-techniques were not of the standard as they are nowadays. Everything had to be played live and sounded much more 'pure', you didn't have any computers or samples to polish mistakes, and I think you can hear that, but that's also a part of the charm of the album.

On In Sickness And Health, you used a kind of special keyboard, the so-called 'spacy FX'. That keyboard got played by Henk van Koeverden, a friend of yours you also went to school with.

That's right, he was also from Deventer where I was still studying at that time. He had very old keyboards, I saw him play with his band once, it was a sort of Hawkwind kind of music, and I thought it was great and so we asked him to play keyboards on this one song as it had a sort of 'analogue' sound. Henk also played an intro for Always... but that never ended up on the album. It's still on the mastertape but we never used that part. We were incredibly proud of the intro of The Mirror Waters, we totally loved that short piano-part and then the heavy guitars, the album had to start with that.

Did the vinyl version of Always... come out at the same time as the CD or later?

I think it was a bit later. Not many people will know this, but the track Subzero is not on the vinyl version which got released at that time, it had to be skipped and we were very astonished and disappointed by that. Mark of Foundation 2000 said that not all the songs could be put on the album, which is just bullshit. The album lasts 48 minutes, it's really no problem to press an LP of 48 minutes in good sound-quality.

What kind of feeling was it actually, to hold your first album in your hand?

That's just an incredible feeling, it's about the best feeling I ever had! And with every new album you record, this feeling is, well maybe not less but different. The first album is definitely the best feeling there is.

The story behind the cover of Always... is quite funny: apparently when you were visiting a friend, you saw a calendar of Japanese Airlines. One of the months of that calendar had a picture of a woman standing on some rocks. You liked the picture and so you took it and it became the famous Always... cover?

Yeah, we didn't have a cover for the album and the deadline was coming closer and closer. One day I was visiting this friend I mentioned earlier, Marin. He had this calendar hanging which he got from his parents. You can see easily that it's a photograph taken in Greece, and when I saw it, I saw the cover already in my mind: the logo in the upper left corner, the title on the right, it was perfect and so we went for it.

Another funny story is that the the Gathering logo got painted on the Always... cover with the famous corrector fluid, Tippex.

Yeah, Mark's girlfriend painted the logo on the cover. It's not done very well, you can see that especially on the vinyl version. There weren't any computer programs at that time to take care of something like that. She also did the layout of the inlay and the Always... title. You know, at the same time when we released our album, there was also a movie called Always directed by Steven Spielberg. Richard Dreyfuss played in that movie, it's a really bad movie by the way [rires]. And she copied the font and the way the word Always was printed on the posters of that movie. So, to cut a long story short, the Always... title on our album and on the poster of that movie looks exactly the same.

When I saw that cover for the first time, I first thought I was mistaken as it didn't look very 'metal'.

Every cover looked the same in those days, even still today and that's something that I always hated about the metal scene. Nobody wants or dares to try out something different and I think that's horrible. Especially at the end of the eighties, people were experimenting much more. Nowadays everything sounds and looks the same, every release is so 'safe'. Every band copies another band, there are no original metal bands anymore nowadays.

Have you actually ever felt 'home' in the metal scene?

Yes and no. We got appreciated which was a very nice feeling but I've always said that we make soundtracks. But with the vocals of Bart, we got labelled as a metal band and Always... was of course also metal. We felt kind of home in the metal scene in those days, especially with the Always... album, as there were many open-minded metal fans in those days.

In June 1992, you did a 5-day tour supporting Paradise Lost. I remember from letters that Bart wrote to me that he was extremely proud of that! What do you still remember about that tour?

We got the chance to tour with our favourite band and so we really wanted to do that! We could also bring the keyboards and the female vocals live on that tour as well. I still remember that for example at the gig we played in the Melkweg [Amsterdam], well, I wouldn't say that we blew Paradise Lost off stage but we could easily keep up with them. We were incredibly proud that we could play those gigs, it was THE possibility to play in front of a bigger audience as a Dutch band.

Did you get along with Paradise Lost very well? Did you have much contact with them?

No, not that much, they kept very to themselves. I still remember that I gave Nick a copy of our demo on the Paradise Lost/Cathedral tour and talked with him for a while. I think they also appreciated what we did.

Did you actually get along very well with most of the bands you had to play together with in those days? Didn't any bands envy you, was no-one really jealous since the Gathering were very successful?

No, we had good contacts with almost everybody in the Dutch scene. There was no-one jealous, at least not that I know, or maybe I never saw or realised it. Of course there were a few people who started nagging from the moment we had a bit of success but you'll always have people like that. You have those people everywhere, not just in the music scene.

In September 1992, the Dutch channel VPRO made recordings of the Gathering for their program 'Nomaden'. What kind of a program was that and what did they record and broadcast in the end?

They made a sort of video together with us for King For A Day, it was recorded in the woods. I still know very well that the people who made that video were very drunk and high [rires]. 'Nomaden' was a program where a bus drove through Holland and put a band or a cultural event in the spotlights. The result of that video was of course not that good but it helped to spread our name even more. I still think King For A Day was the best song on Always... Many people saw that program and saw that video as well, so...

In October 1992, you made recordings during 2 days at the studio Popkollektief in Oss. What did you record at that time and did you ever release these recordings?

That must have been sessions for Almost A Dance already. I can't remember which songs we recorded at that time, but I guess it must be at least Her Last Flight with Bart on vocals. We already played a couple of new songs with Bart at that time, songs like A Passage To Desire, Heartbeat Amplifier and On A Wave. I still have those recordings and now that you're asking about this, we could have put them on Downfall as well. We didn't release those recordings at that time as we thought they were not very good.

How's your contact these days with Bart?

There have been years that I didn't have any contact with Bart at all, but now with the re-release of Always... and the Downfall album, we e-mail each other on a regular basis.

In January 1993, the Gathering got interviewed for MTV's Headbanger's Ball after the gig you played in Utrecht. Was that still Vanessa Warwick?

Yeah, she asked Bart and Marike a few ordinary questions, nothing really special, but it got broadcasted on MTV, so...

Have you never thought about releasing a video with all those old recordings and maybe some old live recordings and rehearsals or whatever, maybe something in the vein of Metallica's Cliff 'Em All video? I'd love to see such a video and I don't think I would be the only one!

We have more than enough material so that's not the problem. I guess that such a tape would then only cover the first the Gathering period. Maybe that we will release something like that one day, who knows? But on the other hand, I don't think that many people are waiting for something like that. When you go to the message-board on our website, people are trading videos and recordings there all the time, maybe you can still find something there.

A couple of months later, in June to be precise, you went to Israël to play 2 gigs there with GBH.

Yeah, that was our ultimate rock 'n roll experience as we had to play in another part of the world! Before, we had just played in Belgium and the Netherlands and once in Germany and then you're suddenly on a plane to Tel Aviv! Strange enough we were really a kind of a big band there, The Mirror Waters really was a sort of 'hit' there so to speak, probably because there are also some eastern influences in that song. GBH was a punk band and we played 2 sold out shows with them in a very hot club, that was really enormous.

I have a recording of a set you played at a festival called Meulepop which took place in the middle of June. Next to a couple of songs of Always... and Anthology In Black, you also played The Sky People and A Passage To Desire which would later end up on Almost a Dance. When I listen to those versions and when I compare them to the final version on the album with Niels singing, it seems like the lyrics have been totally changed, is that right?

The lyrics are indeed completely different, Niels wrote complete new lyrics to those songs. We kept the titles of the songs, but the lyrics were changed completely.

On those recordings, you can already easily hear that Bart tries to sing in a different way. Did the other members think that his new vocal-style didn't work out, did you think that the material didn't work with his vocals or was the atmosphere within the band simply not that good anymore?

We started to get different interests, it just didn't work anymore at a certain moment. I think Bart had a bit of a problem with the new songs which sounded more happy, a song like The Sky People for example. He tried to sing on those songs but he didn't have the vocals for that kind of songs, to sing them properly. He wanted to make a more dark kind of music and at a certain moment, we decided to part ways.

In July 1993, you played at the Waldrock festival. This was the last gig with Bart as he left the band a couple of days later. It seems to me as if this departure must have come as a surprise to him. I mean, I have an interview on tape which a friend of mine did at that gig and Bart still was full of future plans and all that...

Well, I've never heard that interview but I can imagine easily that Bart still sounded very enthusiastic in that interview. He always saw the good sides in everything. When I think about it now, maybe we should have recorded with Bart, maybe not, I don't know. We just weren't satisfied at that time.

What do you actually think of the music of Wish, the band Bart started later on?

I think that Monochrome really had it's moments, the lyrics are even brilliant! A song like Monument, I think he wrote really splendid lyrics for that song! It's just that this drum-computer and the use of only bass-guitar tends to get a bit boring after a while. I think that was a pity, he could have put a bit more in there, but it's definitely a good album. I think Wish is a good band and I'm happy for Bart that he can put his energy and creativity in there.

To finish this interview, how do you look back these days at this beginning-period with the Gathering? I can't imagine totally negative otherwise you wouldn't have re-released Always... and now the early recordings on Downfall, right?

That's right, otherwise we would have never re-released them. Of course I'm still proud of those releases in a way. I listen to those recordings from a totally other perspective now as I did back then. I was incredibly proud at that time and had the feeling that we did something really special and meaningful. I look at it as a very nice memory to treasure and a beautiful birth of the band. It's more a sort of nostalgia and a kind of charm for me personally, I think. I hear how young and sort of 'hungry' we were, I hear a lot of positive things. We were very successful at that time until we released Almost A Dance and nobody liked us anymore. But hey, it's good that that happened as well, everything happened the way it should have been. It made us much wiser and it was a very good experience for us. That's also why we released this Downfall album, it's something that I enjoy having at my home as well. We had the plan for this Downfall CD already for years and I'm very happy that we finally turned it into reality. When we release something, we do it always in the first place for ourselves. If people are also interested in it and want to buy it, that's up to them.

Steven Willems
© the Gathering 1999-2007