Following After Forever's highly successful and widely rated set at this year's Bloodstock Metal Festival 2005, RoomThirteen caught up with guitarist and male vocalist Sander Gommans (SG) who let us know about touring, festivals and their new album!

R13: So first off, how do you feel your set went? I believe it's your first UK one?
SG: It was our first UK gig of course, so you never know what to expect. Sometimes an audience can react totally euphoric like the South American countries and sometimes the audience can really not react all at festivals. This one was cool, you could see that many people even though no albums are available yet were really interested in the music and you could see that many people were into the music; The UK could be an important market for us.

R13: You mentioned playing South America, how was your recent tour there?
SG: I think that was the best experience ever because the South American audience is the most grateful audience, they give everything, they live for the music, So if you play there when you see the reactions its impossible to say, you can't describe that. I think it was very good for the band because we came out of a pretty dark period and there were some things wrong. Of course our drummer had cancer, two friends got cancer and one of them died so it was a pretty dark time but I think that the South America tour was really one of the first highlights for us.
R13: Would you consider them the best shows you have played to date then?
SG: I think so, I think on the South American tour we always got everything and when the audience is like that you are able to give something more back that you cannot expect to give every time, it gives an energy that you rarely have.

R13: How do festivals like this compare to normal gigs for you?
SG: It depends, in a normal show all the focus is on After Forever so you can do exactly what you want, have the sound you want and all the fans that come for you but I think you also learn a lot from a festival through all the other bands you get to hear, the other music and see the way other bands deal with problems and of course lots of the crowd will have come for other bands so you have to impress them. So I think you should do both.

R13: Is meeting fans of the band important to you?
SG: For every band the fans are the most important things but I also admit that sometimes the fans are the hardest people to satisfy! They are really into the band but they don't understand the process the band has to go through in the writing process. So when the new albums appear all the fans expect something totally different
R13: They just expect the same album as the last?
SG: Exactly, and that's very hard so the disappointment can often lead to reactions that are maybe a little bit displaced but later on they accept and understand the decisions the band make. Of course this all doesn't happen a lot. A real fan is a gift for the band but also a challenge!
R13: Have you ever had any weird, or obsessive fans that you've met?
SG: I think every band has those sorts of fans. It's hard to find the border between being nice to the fans, having a relationship with the fans and keeping that distance as well. Most of our fans realise we have our own life and they have their own life and we appreciate that.

R13: You mentioned earlier the dark period you were in, did this affect the music on the new album?
SG: Actually, no. The album is in a pretty good mood; it has a great contrast between very dark pieces or very positive pieces. I think the real effect was felt during the recording because then we had some things happening that really affected the way it was recorded, but not the way they were written. I think that was very good.
R13: You think it helped the band?
SG: I'm sure it did, because music is an emotion and this made the emotion feel even larger. I think we put the negative things in, in a positive way on the new album. I'm actually very proud of the band, that we were able to do that

R13: Is the UK somewhere you will be focusing on for the promotion of the new album then or will you still mostly be working in continental Europe?
SG: Well, firstly we make the albums for ourselves, which means of course we want to sell them but it's always up to the record company to decide what to do with it. This album is being released through our old record label, Transmission, and after that we'll see what we do. Right now, distribution isn't so good but Transmission is making good efforts into making that better so we have to wait for that I think. It's not really up to us but we would really like to have a little tour here, but first we need to see what distribution is like.
R13: You'd certainly be welcome back, you have a whole UK fan club being set up over here so we'd certainly like to see another tour.
SG: We will come back, with all our efforts I am sure we will come back even if distribution is still not so good we will do it for the fans.

R13: One thing I've heard is Floor Jansen's ambition to write a musical, is there anything more you know about that? It's not the most common thing for a lead singer in a metal band to be doing.
SG: I think Floor is somebody who has more talents and is really into music and also has the right kind of voice for that, so it would be nice if we could do some sort of metal opera or something like that but a bit different.
R13: Not in the usual cheesy fantasy style then?
SG: Exactly, we all like fantasy but not especially in music! We would definitely like to do something like that and she has already written some of the music and the vocals to that but these are future plans of course.

R13: Your new album is titled 'Remagine', is there any significance to the sound? Are you trying to re-invent yourselves at all?
SG: Well, actually, I could make up something about that but what it is basically is, is 'Remagine' has to do with some of the lyrics. Sometimes you have your dream of your life that predates something in your life, sometimes you remember some stuff, but all the things you dream of, they are what your life means and what you make of your life.
R13: Like your ambitions?
SG: Exactly, and that's in many of the lyrics.

R13: When it came to the new album how did you break up the different parts of songwriting as a band?
SG: When it comes to the music most of the time I have an idea and all the time I know exactly what the song should be about, musically. This time I worked every song out with Joost, our keyboard player, so we wrote everything from the beginning to end and Floor wrote all her lyrics and then when we had the songs totally ready we started rehearsing them with the whole band. So this time is was a very easy writing process, a very nice process and it was very natural.

R13: Your last album 'Invisible Circles' was a concept album, would you ever do anything like this again?
SG: I think so but as many people know 'Invisible Circles' was a very heavy album and a very dark album and it wasn't easy. Its not an easy album at all, very progressive and you have to really be into the lyrics, into the music to be able to appreciate that. I think as a band you are able to make this once or twice but not really that often. You have to be in the right mood for that and in the right time for it. After the 'Invisible Circles' album we felt free because it was the thing we really wanted to do at the time and then we could go on and do something else, make new songs. We'll release maybe three more albums then who knows, we could do Invisible Circles Part II or something like that, not know but who knows what will happen!

R13: In 'Invisible Circles' lots of the album's artwork and especially the diary entries included were quite tied into the music and the plot. How much say and interaction did the band have with that side of the album?
SG: We all have a say in that. In the music, in the art, everything artistically we are the guys who decide what happens. So during 'Invisible Circles' we really wanted to have everything tied into the music.

R13: On the last album you started using a lot more clean male vocals, is this something we will be seeing more of on the new album as well?
SG: No, actually not. The new album has three songs that have the vocals of Bas our other guitar player and we really see this as a positive but you shouldn't do it all the time, its just an addition and I think it's good to do because not many bands do it like that.
R13: Rather than just Female and Growls or Female and Clean?
SG: Exactly, so we have that and we use it but not everywhere because that makes it less special.

R13: Like most other European metal bands you write your lyrics in English, do you ever find this at all difficult?
SG: On the first two albums, especially the first one, what we wrote was not really English! Too many difficult words, too many strange sentences! You have to learn the language the right way but you also have to learn not to use it that extensively, an English person doesn't speak with all English words all the time! It is hard but I think when you are in a band you'll obviously get in touch with a lot of English people which helps you to learn how to actually speak the language and our lyrics are always checked now by Amanda Somerville who works in the studio and will change anything wrong.

R13: You mentioned the progressive side to your music earlier, unlike other female fronted bands of the moment who've taken the gothic route you seem to have not, was this an intentional thing?
SG: Yes, I think so. I think After Forever isn't really a gothic band at all, the music isn't gothic really, Floor sings in many different ways, especially on the new album, not always operatic but also in a metal way, in a pop way and many different ways.
R13: You aim to be more varied than just another gothic styled band?
SG: I think so, that's what we want. We all don't listen to gothic music; we were never really into gothic music even though we started as a little bit of a gothic band.
R13: What do you think of other Dutch bands like Epica then?
SG: It's a tricky thing... Well, if that's the music they like then you have to appreciate that... I don't have to like it to appreciate it.

R13: Thank you a lot for the interview, Sander.
SG: Thank you too and also a big thank you to our fans in the UK!