After Forever had impressed me from the moment I first heard the album “Invisible Circles” and while the release was in fact their third, I did what I could to find their back catalog until the band signed onto the Nuclear Blast Records artist roster in the middle of 2006. Towards the end of that year, the band was touring the US for the first time ever as the special guest support of Overkill and when they stopped in NYC we found a nice space in the backstage area of B.B. King Blues Club to talk to the groups incredible vocalist, the beautiful Floor Jansen. Scroll past the logo below to enjoy our entire discussion.
Floor Jansen is the bombastic vocal force that leads the band After Forever into the hearts of Melodic Metal fans around the world. 2007 found the band signing to Nuclear Blast Records and releasing a self titled album that was one of the most exciting releases of the year. We caught up with Floor when the band was making their debut appearance as direct support of legendary Thrashers Overkill. We secured some space in the backstage area of B.B. King Blues Club and aimed at covering a wide number of topics based on the many experiences and challenges that Floor and company had faced as performers. Below is the transcription of our entire conversation.
PiercingMetal: Hails to you Floor, so I am guessing it’s safe to say that you are happy to finally be bringing After Forever and their music to the fans in the USA. How would you say that the tour is coming along so far and what was the Prog Power show like? How has the reaction from the audience been for After Forever on the whole?
Floor: Well ProgPower was what we started out with which was like the first real show here in the states and to immediately be headlining a festival was like huge. It was really, really fun and people were really into it and really knew our band and that was really surprising for us to see how many people actually already knew us. There were so many old albums that we were signing even though they had never been released here and I guess we kept on running into that during this tour that a lot of people did know us. It’s still a relatively small crowd of course so I think for the next time we would definitely benefit more if we could be a support act for an even bigger band or similar genres but yeah it’s cool to see how many people from all kinds of different styles really like our music.
PiercingMetal: There are still probably quite a few people who were unaware of After Forever before the Nuclear Blast Records signing, so while I congratulate you on this achievement with this fine label who I am a fan of I am interested in finding out how this came to pass in the first place.
Floor: Well I guess that it started around the time that we started announcing that we were going to record our last album with Transmission Records and after that we got a lot of interest from all kinds of record companies and I am talking about in Europe. So we ended up signing with Nuclear Blast Europe which we thought was fitting the best to our situation and then we did the South by Southwest Festival in the States in Austin Texas and this is a festival that allows a lot of the industry people to see the band and for the bands to meet the industry people and that’s where we met Nuclear Blast US. And since we were already working with Nuclear Blast Europe and had been in touch with them we were also wondering if they would be a good party for us to work with here in the States. So we ended up working with them.
PiercingMetal: It’s pretty interesting to find that both of the Dutch bands from Transmission Records are now on Nuclear Blast Records (I am speaking of Epica for those who are unaware).
Floor: Yeah that’s what we thought too.
PiercingMetal: So while the band seeks to become more of a household name in areas like this, until that happens you want to appeal to a specific existing fan base. So who in Floor Jansen’s mind should be listening to After Forever and you cannot say “everybody”.
Floor: Well, everybody (laughs) but I am serious about that – everybody. We attract people that listen to Pop music; we attract people who listen to very Progressive Metal, to Classical Music, and even to Black and Death Metal. These are the people who like out music so maybe a Jazz fan would really like it or someone who only likes growls and really testosterone led male dominated Metal but I think a lot of people should give it a try because there is more in there than most people think. That’s why I don’t want to be put into one little corner too much by saying it’s that, or that, or that because that only limits the people that you can reach if you do that. Just in the fact that we’re playing with a band like Overkill tonight and last time we did it their audience really seemed to like us so you never know what’s going to happen up front. Last night we played with Mushroomhead and I had never heard of them before and their audience in the beginning was like “ugh there’s a girl singing, my god, fuck off” (Floor delivers her best ignorant Metal fan voice as she tells this to me). They were even counting down the numbers on our set list and wondering when we were going to fuck up yet in the end they did like it so it’s good to reach those kinds of people because otherwise they would have never bought a CD.
PiercingMetal: What would you say went into the creative process for the new album, the self-titled “After Forever”?
Floor: OK, well, I guess in the beginning, the very, very beginning we wanted to have all kinds of things in it and we had things that we didn’t want in it. We had people we wanted to make happy and felt that they would probably want this or that and then it only limited us. It didn’t really get much in the way of creativity going until the moment that we dropped that idea – then it came. And this is from Joost and Sanders because they are the main songwriters for the instrumental parts. They write about 90% of the form of the song and shape how it’s going to be with the melody for the guitar and the keyboards. Then they record that with some basic ideas for drum and bass and with that I start making my vocal lines. Then when I have that I will write my lyrics and record that and we send it to the rest of the band and we all start working them out until it’s 100% done.
PiercingMetal: Well I like what I have heard on the CD very much and sadly I did not get to hear “Remagine”, the album that preceded this one because it was quite impossible to find. However, what I do know from the listening to After Forever on the whole is that it is very different from the CD I last heard which is “Invisible Circles”. What went into your saying, “ok, we don’t just want to do storytelling” and while I am not certain your answer was in the previous question was it easy to switch from this idea of one full tale as opposed to individual tunes.
Floor: Well, you know that while “Invisible Circles” is a story, it’ not an epic one and the concept behind the story is not epic at all. Yet it was a concept and the only one that we ever did which was one story. So it was more like the other way around with this change. It was our third album and all of them “Prison Of Desire”, “Decipher” and “Exordium”, an EP, are not concept albums and there is a little bit of “Invisible Circles” in our new album it’s just not entirely the same. In terms of the progressive sound, I think that “Invisible Circles” was our most progressive album and stuff like this comes back in songs like “Dream Flight” and the other more progressive sounding songs. Elements are in there, but they are not the exact same thing.
PiercingMetal: Would you say now that having tried both kinds of things you would prefer to do yet another concept record or continue along the separate tracks type of release.
Floor: It depends because right now we are not really focusing on new work we are really focusing on getting this one properly promoted so I can’t really say.
PiercingMetal: I have to say that my favorites from the new release are the ones we are finding getting some heavy rotation on either the Internet radio and other online things and I am speaking of “Equally Destructive” and of course “Energize Me”. These are really among the catchiest on the album, or at least the ones that first hit you like that when you listen to it. What tunes from this new album are you most proud of and connected to this what would you say are the most fun for you to perform live as a singer?
Floor: Well, of both I can say that I have no favorite because to me those songs are all my babies. They all have my equal input of creativity and some have more personal things to it and are more challenging than others but I never can say that this is my favorite or that one is. I think one of the most challenging songs as to both write and record as it is to play is “Dreamflight” and a very fun one is “Equally Destructive” since it’s a very up tempo song that is easy to pick up for people who do not know the song. From the minute it starts the people are paying more attention to it than to some others and we notice that, so it makes it an extra special live song to play. It’s all based on the people’s reactions so that’s how I would best answer that one.
PiercingMetal: How did you like having the guest stars of Jeff Waters and Doro Pesch being involved in the project and whose idea was this?
Floor: Well in both cases it’s a huge honor to have such Metal icons on your album and both ideas came from Sander. Sander was in touch with Jeff Waters already for awhile and this is because he is a huge Annihilator fan and Jeff happened to see our show one day in Berlin and they stayed in touch after that. We want to emphasize the Metal side of our band and that’s why we wanted people from the Metal scene, from the real heavy scene and also a female who’s not into all this lyrical stuff. Doro is one of the first ladies in Metal but then again its more in a Heavy Metal eighties sound and nowadays its more with the whole growth of the genre that is more into the lyrical stuff. It’s a different kind of singing with different sounds so we thought it was kind of cool to just cross over and so did Doro so we got in touch with her through Bas (the other guitar player) and that’s how it came to be.
PiercingMetal: It might be a silly question, but do you prefer just recording or doing the actual touring.
Floor: I don’t think you can compare these things because for me they are just both so different and each has their good sides and challenges as well as their downsides. In the studio you can really be a perfectionist on everything which after awhile can be nerve wracking because you don’t know which one is actually perfect anymore. Getting the chance to hear back what you have just done is really, really extraordinary. Live, the energy that is present live makes me just love to sing live. I love performing and being onstage and when it comes to that I feel like a true performer and get to feel that side of me is just amazing.
PiercingMetal: I had asked that because there are some artists that you meet who say that they would just rather record and release album after album.
Floor: Yes, Sander is like that, our guitar player is definitely like that but if I had to choose between those two I would go for the live side. However I love recording as well because you can do so much more. It’s such a different side of this profession.
PiercingMetal: Reviewing your back catalog of material. There was some great stuff released but with Transmission Records gone would it be safe to assume that your old recordings are in the same boat at the folks in Epica as just impossible to get back?
Floor: Yeah we are both in the same awkward position with our former record company owner. He had sold all his stuff to his wife and it’s really, really amazing because he is playing very dirty games. I don’t understand why there is no law in Holland protecting us from this and we have spent thousands and thousands of euros to try and get our rights back and fighting for these rights in general. He is the owner of the masters but he went bankrupt so he needs money, and we want to buy our rights back so we can get him money. Yet he keeps doing very weird and very sneaky things which leave us unable to do a DVD which is something that is very high on our priority list. The fans from all over the world have been asking for this for years and we simply cant because this guy is holding us back. So Epica has similar situations going on with this and they actually finished a DVD.
PiercingMetal: Mark had mentioned this to me when we talked during their visit here several weeks ago.
Floor: This guy has been boycotting us in the past already and doing many other things that almost ruined us. He has partially ruined us right now because our reputation in some countries is really bad because of him and we come back to these places and find this happening. He has really done a lot of damage to us.
PiercingMetal: Let’s just hope that everything he has done comes back around and hits him as well.
Floor: My hope is that this guy gets what he deserves because he has really been making our life Hell for some time.
PiercingMetal: It’s amazing to hear about pitfalls like these and it often comes as a surprise to those people who think that being a professional musician is just a lot of sitting back going hahahaha; life is so grand and easy.
Floor: Oh hell no It’s really hard work believe me it’s a lot of hard work.
PiercingMetal: Speaking of Epica; there are no issues between the bands as I understand which is good. Do you think we shall see some touring combination or perhaps even cross-networking on some recordings?
Floor: There are no issues between us as bands. Sander actually sang on the new Epica album so that’s a crossover thing. There is Epica and there is After Forever and that’s it. Two different bands and they do what we did five, six, seven years ago and there is nothing more to it. It’s different.
PiercingMetal: Let’s talk a little about some of the other stuff that you do in life. You have a vocal studio where you teach. Tell me what made you start doing this, and if you can indulge us what can you offer as guidance to those students from abroad who cannot attend and might really want to learn from your expertise. See I am going to butter you up a little after the difficult questions.
Floor: Thank you (laughs) – well you know I have studied for many years and I learned a lot about vocal techniques and making a living from a band is almost impossible in Holland. I think there is only a few countries on this planet that support bands more than Holland does so I need another financial input. That is actually the main reason why I started giving singing lessons and it was from this that I found out that I really enjoy working with people who are motivated and want to learn. You don’t have to have the biggest talent in the world and you do not have to know anything about singing. People ask me “do you also work with beginners” and I tend to like that better because then I can teach them right from scratch how it is done and seeing them grow is something that is really rewarding. I have always been a very driven and self-motivated student myself so I have a hard time with people who just come every once in awhile and didn’t do anything in between sessions. I am like why did you even make the effort to take the trip because getting to me is not easy. I don’t live in the middle of the country, and it’s expensive. Singing lessons are always expensive and even I am not so expensive compared to others but I do prefer working with the student who is more motivated and for me it all starts with that. You do need to have some form of talent if you really want to do something with it – you need some amount of talent. However if you just want to do it to enjoy yourself you really don’t need anything more than the will to do it and to enjoy singing. That sometimes is more important than the actual thing that comes out. That is something I would like to say to everybody who sings that is more important than what you do. Also you should not think too much of yourself because you have to work for it as it doesn’t come to you by not doing anything.
PiercingMetal: Do you find teaching what you do easy or hard?
Floor: This depends on my student actually. If I have someone who like I said, is motivated and makes progress – I find it easy to teach. If I have to teach someone who is not that motivated or is not making any progress then I cant put my finger on how to teach another way because it’s me that is not making the progress. I mean it as it’s a little bit of both because if my student is actually doing the exercises and there is no progress than it’s me. It means I have to change the exercises and this is because there is not only one way to learn how to sing, there are many different ways. Each body is different so each individual responds differently to the different exercises. If the person works on it and nothing comes of it I have to change it. Of course if the exercise works and the student is just not doing anything with it then its like “wow, how do I fill an hour with someone who is not doing anything”. That I find really hard and really de-motivating and I keep looking at my watch to see how much more time I have to sit here and listen to it because you know my motivation is really high. It always has been and I have always expected this of myself so I need a little of this back. Of course it’s hard not to project your own motivations onto your students but if someone is standing in front of my nose and really doing it then I am like “yeah!”
PiercingMetal: Now outside of After Forever and really making sure that this new album is on everybody’s mind and the most important part of the tour I understand that you are doing the new Ayreon recording as well. Do you think we will ever see him coming over here?
Floor: Gosh I dunno, because Arjen is someone who has done way more live stuff than you realize and when I met him about seven years ago he was not doing anything live. His thought was that he didn’t like playing live and he only wanted to record. He is one of those people that we discussed before but then again he did put together the Star One show and then he started his Stream Of Passion stuff and I am not sure you know those things.
PiercingMetal: I do in fact know them both.
Floor: So yes, he did that but maybe since then his point of view on doing stuff live has changed. The hard thing about any music made by Ayreon is that there are all these singers involved and if you want to do this live properly, you have to have a lot of people there at the same time. Everybody has their own schedule and everybody has their own project so for Star One it was already not really possible so it was amazing that so many people got to be there at the same time.
PiercingMetal: Your sister was involved in that performance as well.
Floor: Yes my sister was singing live too because on the album I had done all those harmonies and of course I couldn’t do that by myself so we were looking for someone who I could sound as good with and also look nice with because I am really tall. If I stand next to a small woman it would look weird, and I wouldn’t like that and most important was the ability to be able to practice together and if she lived on the other side of the planet I would never be able to practice. My sister only lives a few kilometers away and all of these things worked to her advantage. She actually had no experience so Arjen wasn’t so sure about it until he heard us and was like ok yes we can do this. My sister did an amazing job in my opinion for someone who just walked in there and did it.
PiercingMetal: Now outside further from the musical stuff, what else are the things that Floor Jansen likes to do?
Floor: I like to go horseback riding, that’s one of my biggest passions. Of course I haven’t done it in over a year because I just haven’t got the time to do it. I really do enjoy working with a horse that is trained because I am a little bit trained myself. I am not that much of course but it allows me to work on myself better by riding it. Not just riding horses in some type of riding school but I just don’t have the time for that right now. I do miss it.
PiercingMetal: Who does Floor Jansen listen to for inspiration?
Floor: I don’t listen for inspiration I listen because I like music. That forms my source for inspiration and everything I listen to becomes inspiration. Also the things that I don’t like just to know that I don’t like that.
PiercingMetal: So you consciously find something that you don’t like to listen to?
Floor: Well sometimes, and this happened to me yesterday and some people might hate me for this but I was listening to Jimi Hendrix because I wanted to give it another try but it was just not my music and he was a great musician who was simply phenomenal and he did so many things for music but to listen to it for me is like “my God this is not it”.
PiercingMetal: I was expecting you to say something more along the lines of Bon Jovi.
Floor: No I like Bon Jovi and I think he is an amazing vocalist and all the hair stuff that he had in the eighties when I was still a little kid, I mean not my music exactly but the way he sings is really cool. I listen to a lot of different styles of music and a lot of different styles of Metal. It’s very Metal dominated still but I do listen to a lot of different things. This is also because Metal in the vocal sense is not always the most interesting genre to listen to. It’s getting better, especially in the area of female fronted things but my style is not really represented yet.
PiercingMetal: You’ve actually led into my next question which is with After Forever being around for a couple of years now what is your view on the current Metal scene. I guess we can extend this into what you have experienced abroad and what you have observed so far in the States.
Floor: Well in the states and in Europe it is really different and I can’t really say too much of the states yet. However I know this is probably going to change quick because I understand there is a big wave of European Metal that has been coming over here, and this is not only in the female-fronted bands but all different types because there has been a big demand for it. I feel this is the other way around in Europe because over there we are interested in the American bands especially when that Nu-Metal wave was coming out. Now that Nu-Metal has kind of died out it will be time for something new to rise up. If there is one thing that I don’t like about Metal it is all these bands that keep repeating themselves or other bands. Do something new.
PiercingMetal: I’m glad that a number of them went away.
Floor: Yeah but this is not just in Nu-Metal, this is in a lot of styles and I feel that now there is a revival of very Extreme Metal and I mean much heavier than before. Bands like Chimaira and Machinehead, who while I don’t consider being Extreme, did seem to come back stronger than before and this is also part of a big revival of older bands that are back together again all of a sudden. Its good that Metal is in constant movement and female fronted Metal when we came up there was no real scene for and now there is one and it is still growing and moving and fortunately changing. Like I said before there are bands that start doing a little bit of what some other bands are doing. We had this happen to us with other bands doing things that we did which on one side is cool seeing them copy you but on the other hand since they are only copying you, the feeling is hey why don’t you come up with your own kind of music. I do see a difference in that happening now with bands that are doing something different and that helps keep the scene alive because if there was one big scene with all the bands doing the same thing then it would dry out. This way it will survive.
PiercingMetal: I was starting to wonder recently if the Dutch were trying to take New York back because recently we had Epica here, and then we had Within Temptation and now we have After Forever. So what are your thoughts on all of these bands from Holland who were never really able to get over here all now arriving at pretty much the same time?
Floor: Well you know that’s the reason we all are from Holland or my idea at least. Once there is one band doing good and being successful in a certain market there is an interest. If you are a booking agent and you have a band like that who has been successful you are going to want another band like that for the next time because you had success with them. Record companies see the success of Within Temptation and say “hey it would be interesting for us to have a female fronted band like that too”. That’s how it just grows and with the interest in this kind of female fronted band it is why a lot of the bands in Holland got the opportunity to eventually become something. In other countries this might not have happened because there wasn’t the same interest or the same market for it and over here with the success of a band like Evanescence and then Lacuna Coil crossing the ocean and being successful there became a stronger interest in female fronted Metal. Not necessarily European but Nightwish was here before and they were successful and a band like Within Temptation sees this happening and says ok lets take that step. In Europe they are a big band and they also have the money to make such a step and that makes it a little easier for bands like us to follow along. I pretty much think this is how it goes and how it works.
PiercingMetal: What do you want to happen now, going forward with After Forever and the new label, the new music and the new territories?
Floor: Well, I want to show what kind of band we are and not be labeled as we have so often been labeled as Gothic Metal like we had been in Holland and other parts of Europe. Here we are very often considered Progressive or just Melodic and we are able to play for a lot of different kinds of audiences. That is something I would like to hold onto and I think for us a very wise next step would be to jump on board with an even bigger band and be the support slot for a band that has an audience that is similar to ours.
PiercingMetal: Who would be the best band to tour with?
Floor: I would love to jump on board with Symphony X because I think that would be a really great opening spot for us. Especially since they are considered Progressive so much. Kamelot would work and maybe even Within Temptation. We wanted to go with Nightwish, but they didn’t want to have a female fronted band in the opening slot. Maybe even Sonata Arctica. So stuff like that and at least bands that can draw some people.
PiercingMetal: Closing words for those who want to be like Floor Jansen? Especially those girls who want to sing and might be out in the audience. Or perhaps even the guys who have the high enough voice to be like Floor Jansen.
Floor: (laughing) If you sing and if you have the ambition the most important thing is that you enjoy what you do and that you study for it. This doesn’t happen overnight. You have to have a talent and I am very happy to have been born with that but next to that I really did study to get where I am today. If you want that, you have to work for it.
PiercingMetal: What’s the set going to look like for the show?
Floor: It’s going to be a mixture of things but since we are only playing for fifty minutes it is going to be very dominated by our new album but we will also throw in some older stuff.
PiercingMetal: Final thoughts on the whole thing.
Floor: Thank you very much for supporting us. It has been amazing to see all the people who have really took the trouble to get our music from Europe into the states. We think that is so cool. We love to see these people at the show, its really great for us to experience. I hope we can reach even more people in the future and make even bigger parties of the shows.
After Forever went on to deliver a power packed set of material which was loaded to the hilt with the new albums incredible tracks. While only performing a fifty minute set there wasn’t a person in the audience who would forget them and based on the reaction they got the bands return would be something that all could look forward to. I can hardly wait.
Editor’s Note: It was around the beginning of 2008 that the band announced that they would be going on a one year hiatus as they had been in action since 1995 but as 2009 dawned upon us the revisiting of the group’s activity came to an abrupt end as they disbanded much to the dismay of many Melodic Progressive Metal fans. They shall be missed.
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/afterforever