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“My new time”, a promising title for the new album of the Dutch Gothic Rockers Autumn, and they surely will leave their mark in the scene, together with their successful compatriots and genre colleagues Within Temptation and After Forever. STALKER talked with singer Nienke de Jong about the definition of success, animal rights and her new positive attitude.
How´s it going? How do you feel?
Oh, I´m just fine (laughs), a little bit tired, doing interviews all day now and you know, you want to always say the right thing, so concentrating all the time, and then getting a bit blurry in the mind, but it´s a nice to speak to all the nice people, most people are very friendly and enthusiastic.
And I´m sure you´ve a lot to say also!
Oh yes! I´m quite a talker! It´s harder to shut me up than to get me talking! (laughs)
How come you´ve canceled the interviews last week?
Ah, this Graveland studio we´ve got down here is in the middle of a building process, expanding it, and a few things went wrong; and besides that I had to do a cover photo-shoot for the Aardschok magazine, it went wrong, so I had to do it again - and that was exactly on the day of the interviews.
How did it work out at the end?
Fine! We did the cover together with Floor from After Forever, which was very nice and it looks really great, so it´s all good now!
What about your new album then, how happy are you about it?
Very excited! I am, really! And I´ve always been very excited of course, new things, new albums, new adventures, but I´ve never been as proud before, I guess.
What exactly are you so proud of?
It fits my musical tastes, and when you´re in a group with 6 people, it´s always like a group process, so you can´t always really totally satisfy yourself. There might be 9 out 10 things which are great, but there is one thing you are not satisfied with and would´ve wanted differently. But this time everything just fell into the right place and we are ALL satisfied with the end product, it´s just such a good thing, all of it: the artwork, the lyrics, the music, everything!
Why is it only with the new album that everyone is perfectly satisfied, what changed since the last record, what is so new and different now?
I think at a certain period of time, like a few years ago, it turned out that we´ve had a wrong deal for us. The label wasn´t bad, I wouldn´t say anything about them, but just the match wasn´t right, and then some people left the band, so the whole period was a bit grim. We just felt we didn´t know which direction things were going, or even end for us, pretty sad of course, so we´ve started thinking back to the basics, why we even started making music. And that was to satisfy ourselves, to do what your heart tells you to do, to satisfy your heart´s desire. Sometimes when you´re in a band and you´ve been doing it for years, with a wrong deal or people you couldn´t trust, bad things happen to everyone, and I was then thinking “what do I want from the music? What is important to me?” and there´s nothing to lose, so why not let go of all the darkness, all the negativity, let of go of expectations, of other people´s opinions - and this feeling got transformed into this new album!
So I´m guessing this explains the album´s title as well…
Oh yes, yes it does! You can say it´s pretty corny, but it´s the truth and the truth is never corny! It´s a new era for us, like breaking free, from all the habits and so on…
So is this new optimistic view and spirit for you, for Autumn as a band, or for some of you personally?
Actually it´s both. Because obviously we weren´t sure what to expect from the future and then we´ve started with the pre-production of the album, we wrote about 40 songs, and we were shopping for the new label, as they say it, nice expression (laughs), we weren´t sure of anything, and in the end it turned out really great, the record turned out perfect, so all in all, it was a new start for us! We didn´t know if we have a future at all, so we´ve thought that the most important thing is that we´ll get this album out, and if it would be the last thing which we´ll do on this earth and even if people would hate it, at least we would be able to look ourselves in the eyes and know that we´ve done what our hearts told us to!
And then according to your own standards, do you consider yourself successful?
Yes. In a personal satisfaction, which is in my opinion the most important thing, because being like us in an alternative music style, I think it was the basics of it, Rock´n´Roll, rebellion, not following the rules, because other music has all the rules and formats, and this is about doing your own thing, following your instincts and not caring what everyone thinks. And as far as that I think we´ve succeeded, we´re pure and honest! And there´re obviously a lot of people recognizing this, we´ve gained a lot of hearts, we have true and dedicated fans, people support us, they come from Spain and Italy to see us in Northern Holland, even from the States, people are so dedicated, and this gives us a lot of energy: “We´re gonna do this!!!”
Talking about the new album, who wrote lyrics and how was the writing process in general?
Well, I was really busy finishing part of the Graveland studio, where we´ve recorded the album at the end, it´s stressful, everything was happening at the same time, studio is a full-time thing and music is a full-time thing, so everyone understood that and they gave me time to finish, whilst they were writing the songs and stuff, and when I was ready, I jumped in and helped. Jens and Mats, the guitar players, have a lot of inspiration these days, so they did most of the lyrics, and I know them for years and years, we went to holidays together, we know each other´s parents, we´ve the same outlook on things, we´ve same opinions and everything, so this really helps. I was of course very devastated that I couldn´t participate as much, but there´s always a tomorrow, but the studio is also important, yet I´m sure now the future holds a lot more for us!
In that case, I mean, the fact that you know each other so well, it helps you to sing the lyrics and really understanding what the other person means and to put it into those words…
Oh yeah, so this album is the most intimate album so far, the lyrics are very personal, It´s all about things everyone can relate to, personal and relationship stuff, also pressures in everyday life that pushes you to achieve something in every aspect of your life, people feel there´re so many obligations to live up to, the world we live in is harsh! So you always feel you´ve to be slim and pretty and have a great career and great friends and perfect sex and everything, people experience all those pressures and it makes us so conscious, people are getting older and feel like they can´t live up to all this perfection. It´s so human! It´s everyday…
I really like “Forget to Remember” song…
I like it, too! It´s about breaking free, no longer doing what other people expect from you, there´s only a certain amount of how much you can satisfy other people´s expectations, and when you break free, people start noticing and they start realizing that there´s no use, it´s time to let you go. But it might be the hardest thing in life, not to live purely, but to realize what your thing is and then finding the strength to finally do it. You experience this in high school, with parents, throughout your whole life, but at the end you´re getting more mature and finally learn how to follow your own heart!
What kind of experiences did you have, which made you learn and realize what´s the right thing for you? Or have you always had the support and understanding of parents and so on?
Oh, yeah-yeah, of course! I´m quite an example of how life can be a … bitch! This doesn´t make you a person to feel sorry about, (does a sad voice) “oh look at her, she had such a hard life”, but my road has been longer, when I was younger, I´ve experienced a lot of set-backs, and it doesn´t help your self-confidence, obviously, and it takes a few years until you gain enough confidence to make your own choices, and I´ve certainly experienced that. And it´s only now that I´m starting to know what I really want and what I´m really worth, so I´m growing this life which I really want, but it took me years and years and years… I´m a pretty chap! I like that word!
Suits perfectly! But like you´ve said, about being slim and pretty, especially in the context of Dutch Metal scene, there´re quite a few female artists and you´re a part of that, too…
Yep! When we´ve started out, I was very conscious of that, and of course I was a bit younger back then, but still, one can´t deny that you don´t think about, one ALWAYS thinks about it and is comparing me to someone else or someone else to me, or whatever, but it´s just a daily fact, because there´re of course quite a few female vocalists in Holland. But then again, there´re quite many women who experience the same thing, when you walk into the magazine shop and see all those glossy pictures and images, that´s the point when you compare them to you and it´s just no use, no use!!! It takes all your valuable energy and doesn´t do any good, so of course it´s really hard not to do it, don´t compare, that´s who you are, blah-blah-blah, but of course everyone has their moments, especially once a month! But at the end you start accepting yourself. And that´s who I am, and I´ve got my strong points and my special things and I´m not perfect in this or that area, but she´s neither, so it doesn´t really matter! And it´s definitely getting easier through the years! Damn, I sound like an old fart already…
You´ve mentioned a lot of foreign fans coming to see your shows in Holland, so does this mean you´re leaving the underground scene?
Well, I would still say that we´re pretty underground, obviously our record wasn´t released in those countries before, but now we´re with a bigger label, but back then people had to find it on the internet and besides, I still consider bands like After Forever quite underground, but bands like Within Temptation is no longer underground. But we´re never on radio or TV, we aren´t mainstream, so I´d say we´re quite underground still! And it´s nice that we have this independent label, which focuses on the underground more, because it brings us quite the thing which we´ve been missing out in the previous years, and major labels don´t think about underground, they concentrate on the bigger media, television and radio, and this music doesn´t get played here, so it goes for many countries. I don´t know about your country, but for example in Germany there isn´t so much Rock on mainstream TV and radio.
But does it bother you at all? I mean, would you like to go bigger and be in the wide public media, or stay underground, or do you even think about it? Is it important?
Ahm… I think it´s used to be really important to me, because I used to be quite an insecure person, and when we´ve started getting bigger with the band, it brought me this new confidence: “People like it! This must mean they like me a little bit too, I quess…” and this made me feel much better. Now that my life is very ok, I feel ok about myself, I´m very proud of the band and extremely proud of this new record, so I got my bonus and everything that comes with it. If we´ll get some new fans and go abroad a little bit more, it would be more of a bonus, but I´m already so happy, that I feel performing live is one of the best things. I would really like to perform live more, not just in the area where the record was released, but with a bigger label now we´ve more space!
The world is yours!
Zat iz verrry-verrry trooooooo!!!!!!!!! (does a weird accent)
Are you nervous before going on stage?
Well, that depends on the audience and on the mood, sometimes I feel like I´ll piss my pants, and sometimes I just want to go home… but now I´m a little bit nervous because of the new material. It´s always like this when you´re bringing new stuff, so it is a bit of nail biting experience, but most of the time I´m like “hell-yeah, bring it on, baby!”
Good thing that you´ve so many men around, so makes you feel safer…
And I´ve thought I should do something myself about it, so I went playing in a pub nearby, every month on my own with a guitar, just to get over the stage fright thing, and do it! And I said to myself: (does a cute girl´s voice) “I can do it myself, and if I can do it myself here, I can do myself anything!”
Like a real grown-up girl!
(laughs) Exactly! And it was really cool bare-ass experience, like walking on the street naked and I was like “woooooooo-hoooooooooo!!!”
Well, great, but I think it´s different still to do a show and go home and doing many shows when you´re on the road, so how do you get along with the guys when touring?
Well… no one in the band is a real big drinker, and we´ve only got one smoker… we´re sort of very normal. I´ve had my days, I was pretty Rock´n´Roll myself, when you´re touring a lot, you can´t drink so much, so it has to be strict. Now the guys always say we´re a Coca-Cola band. We´ve a new bass player willing and able to drink a lot, so he brought us Rock´n´Roll back! When we tour, the opening act always ask us for beer, because everyone knows we don´t drink much. It´s ok, we aren´t in our teens anymore, we´re more laid-back, no more “drink every night, screw everyone we meet, trash the bar…”. Everyone´s been there already; when a band gets signed and they start touring, they´re all slim pretty boys, but after a year they´re so fat and it´s beer to blame! And then you think: “that´s what music does to you?!” If you take it seriously, you don´t just go around wasted - it´s disrespectful and arrogant towards your audience, so you should value your fans a bit more also. I appreciate the most those, who are wild Rock´n´Roll off stage, but on stage they do their job seriously and with respect.
Back in your Rock´n´Roll wilderness, what funny or silly have you done?
Wo-ho-ho, maybe you don´t want to know!
Ho-ho, maybe I do!
Oh yeah… yeah… a few weeks ago there was an MTV party, I work for MTV, it was in a new building. Of course the booze was for free, so I got really drunk and there was this guy, “I´ve heard that you´re in a band, I´ve been watching you for quite a while, you´ve got a great personality and I like the way you look and bla-bla-bla” and I was like “man, some drunk lunatic, he probably just wants to get into my…” you know... and I said “Excuse me sir, I don´t know what you´re talking about, so, bye-bye!” I was so rude to him and then someone came to explain that this guy is really big and important and he could really boost our career, and I was like… oops! But then again, silly things happen! You meet with other bands and drink, so it happens… I´m no saint!
How did you then celebrate the new album´s release?
We had a show, invited some people, who are important to us, drank some… The main point for us is that we as a band have survived everything and this record actually came out!
But you could get a new tattoo or something…
Yes! But I need some money first! They´re expensive…
What and where do you want to get?
Well, I´ve one on my arm already, I got it when I was 17 and my parents weren´t too excited about it… well, obviously it´s still there, but after the years it´s a bit blurry. It wasn´t well done in a first pace, so I want a new one to cover the old one, old-school style, more colors and more cheerful. When I was in my teens, I was always depressed, listening to dark music, black clothes, and a bit down, but all of that has changed and now I´m wearing colors and I´m happy and cheerful. So now I want to add even more colors and get this new tattoo, when I´ll get the money. And now that I´ve my own recording studio, it´s a huge investment, so it´s hard, for a woman, you know… every woman wants to show off every now and then (laughs)
You´re so optimistic and joyful person, is there something that makes your really angry?
(in a very serious voice) Yes, the way people aren´t kind enough towards animals and the way the animals are treated, and if a person is capable of treating an animal badly, you cannot be a good person, I think. Because I feel that the way people handle animals and pets shows a lot about their personality and about their country, too! And if you´re good to your animals, you´re good to your people, very simple.
Is that also the reason why you´re a vegetarian?
Well, I don´t like the taste of meat, and it´s not healthy these days anyway because of the bio-industry. I wouldn´t agitate anyone not to eat meat, but I suggest eating it less. This whole situation with the animals makes me really sad, and I know we can´t change anything by thinking about it, but being conscious and by doing some little things, even if just around you, this helps! And a single person can´t change the world, but a few people put together can do, and like Ghandi would´ve said, or Mother Theresa, many good things in the world wouldn´t have happened and changed! And it´s a silly thing not to try, because even if a little thing changes towards the best, even if just near you, it´s already something! So this one thing really occupies me and to me it seems that many people aren´t interested… it´s such a pity.
Are you supporting some organizations, or what´s your input?
I am supporting some good causes, nature and animals and one of those groups. We people tend to think that animals are below us and do whatever we want with them, because they´re not intelligent. Yet no animal on the whole planet is as stupid as a human being, because no animal would ever destroy its own inhabitance! And that´s exactly what WE are doing, no animal would ever do it, because it IS the most stupid thing to do! So who is the stupid one here at the end?! And I´ve adopted a dog from Southern Europe, in those countries people are very brutal to animals and people from the North tend to be very offended by that. We have those organizations to help those poor animals, and so I adopted a dog from Spain, it was from a place where they kill all those dogs, so I saved her, and now she´s my best friend. It really hurts me that they did the most awful things to her and she still trusts me and gives me so much love, it´s so amazing!
So we can proudly refer to Autumn is environmental-friendly Metal!
I wish you much luck with the new album, so that you´ll get the tattoo you want!
Definitely, thanks a lot! Author: Marina Sidyakina, transl. K. Weber, photos: Rudy de Doncker Date: 2007-05-08