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Interview with Xandria
10 February 2016
German Symphonic Metal band Xandria released an EP earlier this year called 'Fire and Ashes'. Of the 7 tracks on it, three are original compositions, two are remakes of fan favourites ('Ravenheart' and 'Now and Forever') and two are covers, namely 'Don't Say a Word' by Sonata Arctica and 'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)' by Meat Loaf. Roland Oei talked with vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen before the bands recent London show to find out more about the EP, Dianne's classical vocal training and her side businesses of being a vocal coach and jewellery maker.
In the press you are described as a symphonic metal band. What other genres of music do you feel are encompassed in Xandria's music?
I think you can find some power metal influences and classical influences are there. They were there before but now with me in the band they stand out even more. I find it a difficult question to answer because personally I never listen to music like that.
Did you listen to the band before you joined it?
I did and I loved their music. It reminded me of Nightwish and I am a big fan of older Nightwish.
What makes Xandria stand out from Nightwish and other similar bands?
I don't think Xandria stands out from Nightwish. Nightwish are really masters in what they do. They really know how to handle the genre and having people compare us to Nightwish can only be a compliment. I just see it as a musical genre and there are those in the genre and Nightwish is at the top. I would rather not compare bands because then you have to say one is better than the other and I don't believe in that. Bands and people are just different.
You are classically trained vocally and you have a couple of degrees in music. How has that influenced your input into Xandria?
I studied a classical music Batchelors degree for four years and then I went on to do a Masters degree and I made that all about researching how vocal cross over in metal music and classical music is done. So how do you do this from the vocal point of view and composition wise and what is the protocol of both worlds and how to combine that.
So what is the answer to that?
Well basically I think the most simple answer is to not use too much vibrato. Of course it has to be in there, the classical audience is used to that and it is the first thing that stands out in a metal audience listening to a classical voice. Of course it has to be there because if I didn't use that then it wouldn't be my voice anymore but I keep an eye not to overuse it.
You also sing in Ex Libris. What is the music like in that band?
Well it is progressive music so the starting point is completely different and I think for Xandria there is a vision and a format in mind and for Ex Libris the music really starts with five musicians coming together and sharing their talent and capabilities and influences and then throwing that together and hey there is a song.
You were involved with Xandria on the latest EP and the album before. How much were you involved with the writing of them?
Well way more with the EP because when I joined Xandria the album was 99% finished so there wasn't much work for me to do except for maybe dotting some i's and make my voice stand out just a little bit more. The EP was a combined writing of Marco and Joost and for some songs I also came along, especially for the ballad. That is really my thing and it is based on a classical aria. It was a question of going back and forth and we got the basics set up and the rest of the band gets involved and gets to share their opinions so that was for the three original songs and then for the two remakes it was also Marco and Joost and vocally we changed some things arrangement wise but we were very loyal to the original songs except for my part. The production is much better and another big difference is I sing the songs. The originals were done by Lisa 10 years ago and I think for the fans these are the biggest differences, the production and my voice. I changed the bridge to Ravenheart but that is because I have a different style of voice and I think the new bridge fits my voice better but it is only a minor thing.
Why did you choose to cover Sonata Arctica and Meat Loaf on the EP?
We were approached to do a cover on an album that was totally devoted to Sonata Arctica and we chose this song because when we toured with them in America it was at the ending of their set and for us this was always a party time because we would always join the crowd and go to the merch so we have very fond memories of this song and the Meat Loaf one, we discovered very early on when I joined the band that all five of us are very big Meat Loaf fans and then it was just about choosing which Meat Loaf song.
When is the next full length album due?
We are thinking about that and we already have many ideas for songs but there is nothing I can say on that at the moment.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Well we can talk about my jewellery. I make jewellery and I give vocal lessons. People that want lessons can find me at www.diannevangiersbergen.com and I don't do Skype lessons because I think as a teacher and vocal coach you need to be there to really know and feel what is going on. You cannot be responsible for someone else's voice if you are not in a room with them and the jewellery is my side business. I make jewellery out of bass guitar strings. I design them and make them myself. I handcraft them. It is perfect material because it is strong and it is coated so there is no rusting. You can find me at facebook.com/preciousmetaljewelry. Every few days I post a photo of new jewellery and whoever wants it has to post sold fast and then you can send me a private message and we get started from there.