“I am completely fine with the [label] ‘symphonic metal’.”
MR’s Sophie Maughan chats with Charlotte Wessels of DELAIN.
Hi Charlotte. Thank you for taking the time to chat to Midlands Rocks.
2013 was a huge year for Delain. Festivals, a new album and a full blown tour of the US for the very first time supporting Kamelot. I also read that you guys are friends so that must have been an amazing opportunity on so many levels?
We have shared the stage with Kamelot before and they’re great folks to be on tour with! To go on our first ever US tour with them was a great experience and we are very happy that we will be returning to the USA already this fall.
What was the general response like from the American fans? Were they more / less positive than the fans over here in Europe?
The responses were great. You never know exactly if people are going to even know you when you join a band as a support to a place where you have never toured before. For all we knew no one ever heard of us! Fortunately this was not the case and we were really excited to see venues packed with people singing along to our songs. So we found out on this tour that, yes, we do have a following in the US and also, yes, they are awesome!
Were there any particular highlights of those shows?
Montreal was one of the highlights for me. Just a great venue with great people having the very best time!
Do Delain have any pre-gig rituals or superstitions – for example is there anyone who always wears the same pair of socks or pants? You can tell us, we promise we won’t tell anybody…
Well, now that you mention it, I’ve been wearing the same black Replay boots on stage for the eight years that we’ve been performing live now. I have traded them every now and then for something different, only to come back to my lucky Replay boots again.
Did you get a chance to join Kamelot on stage to play Sacrimony at all? I have always loved that song but have never heard it sung in a live capacity.
I did a few times, it was awesome!
That tour was in the autumn / fall and you were also invited to play at the Metal Female Voices festival in Belgium in the October alongside Lacuna Coil, Anneke van Giersbergen and Sharon den Adel to name but a few. You’ve played that particular festival five times in total. That’s incredible. It must surely feel like a home away from home now?
It does! Still it is always a special occasion as so many people from the genre come together at this festival. It is always a pleasure meeting up with everybody again.
Did Delain play a full set together at the festival and did you get the chance to duet separately with any of the artists performing?
We did, we had both Georg Neuhauser guesting with us and also Sharon den Adel, it was one of my favourite gigs last year. Also I performed the day before our own gig with Eve’s Apple, and I performed with Serenity on the same day as well.
Are there any plans to return this year if the invitation is extended?
No current plans but like I said it’s always a pleasure to play there.
Did you always the plan to release Interlude after We Are The Others? Was it ever going to be your third full album or was it more of a concept record / opportunity to share previously unheard material with the fans?
It was more the latter. We had a lot of material that we really liked but had not released so far and at one point we realized that it was more then enough to give that material a record of its own! I do consider it different from a classical studio album as a studio album usually represents a certain time and place in a bands career, whereas the songs on Interlude were written and recorded during different times, in different places, so it functions more as a collage.
There are several covers on the Interlude album including The Cranberries and Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’. I’m actually a big fan of Paradise Lost’s version so it was really interesting to hear it sang by a female this time around. Are there any artists you would like to cover (or indeed work with) in the future?
I’d have to go for Nick Cave, with or without Bad Seeds.
Which leads us to your new record The Human Contradiction which is due to drop in April. Very exciting! How was the writing process this time around and do you enjoy being in the studio?
We took a very inward turn and relied more heavily then ever on the efforts of the Delain writing team (Martijn, myself and our long time musical partner Guus Eikens), with Martijn back in the producer seat, and basically not involving any third parties until we really had to. It allowed for a creatively free process, which was enjoyable, even considering the crazy time pressure.
In terms of the lyrical content, is it always a joint effort or is there primarily one individual who takes the reins for this task?
That’s my turf (smiles)! I have always considered writing lyrics a very rewarding process and I am happy to have a free hand in it within Delain.
Your inspiration for ‘We Are The Others’ came after hearing about the case of Sophie Lancaster (N.B a young teen who was senselessly killed back in 2007 just because she dressed in a certain way) and how important it is to accept people for who they are. Are there any other important messages or significant topics highlighted in any of the new songs?
In a way the songs on our upcoming record continue on the topic of “otherness” which was initially introduced on our previous album We Are The Others. The title The Human Contradiction is taken from Octavia E. Butlers trilogy Lilith’s Brood. A post-apocalypse story, in which the fact that humanity did not last is explained by our two most contradictory qualities; the fact that we are as a species both intelligent and hierarchic.
This human contradiction causes an ‘us versus the others’ mentality; an attitude which makes humans randomly select qualities in others and use those qualities to rank them higher or lower on the constructed ladder. This allows for the creation of dualisms; of man and woman, black and white, human and non-human, nature and culture… Basically it is an attitude, which in the book – as well as one could argue, in reality – proves to be most self-destructive.
In that way, The Human Contradiction presents a broadening and deepening of the lyrical concept of our previous record We Are The Others: ‘otherness’ and how people relate to this, is a topic that I have been obsessing over both artistically and academically for the last couple of years and it has become a recurrent theme in Delain’s lyrics. Whether it is otherness within our species, so towards people who are perceived as ‘different’ by other people (which was ‘We Are The Others’ main focus) or in our attitudes towards nonhuman ‘others’, which is the lyrical addition made by our new record.
This will be Delain’s fourth full-length album and it is often natural by this point for bands to start moving away from their “classic” sound. In the past, you guys have been classed as ‘Symphonic Metal’ when the subject of genres is discussed in magazines and the like. Would you agree that this is an accurate and true description of the band’s music?
I feel that this album, while keeping true to our more recent sound, actually returns to the vibe we created on our earlier work in more then one way. The elaborate orchestral arrangements, the return of prominent grunts, and the return of guest artist like George Oosthoek point in this direction. As for the label, I am completely fine with ‘symphonic metal’. I am in general not really bothered by whatever label people use to describe our music.
Generally speaking, no one record is ever the same but the artist will always include at least one defining feature on a new song, for example guitar solos or dual vocals. Will the fans recognise The Human Contradiction as a Delain album or are they in for a surprise or two with this new material?
They will definitely recognise this as a Delain album but of course we have tried to stay innovative and include some musical twists we haven’t tried before.
You’ve collaborated with a whole host of diverse artists from Burton C Bell (Fear Factory) to Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes). Are there any guest musicians on this album – the rumour is that Marco Hietala from Nightwish makes an appearance?
The rumour is true! Marco is guesting again on the song ‘Your Body is a Battleground’ and ‘Sing to Me’. We absolutely love his contributions. But he is not the only one. We also did a collaboration for the song ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ with Alissa White-Gluz, and George Oosthoek, who has been our go to guy for grunts over the years and was already guesting on our first album Lucidity, performed on the song ‘Tell Me, Mechanist’. They all did amazing jobs!
Visually, the new album artwork is quite stunning. Can you give us any insight into the concept behind it and who was responsible for creating it?
I had quite a mile-long wish list for the album artwork and I have to give all credits to both the photographer Sandra Ludewig and the graphic designers at Das Buro for creating one striking visual image out of all that. About the concept, I wanted the image to represent several things. First of all the cosmic theme to give credit to the amazing work of fiction that this album borrows its title from. Second I wanted one of the dualisms caused by ‘the human contradiction’ represented in the artwork. We chose to go with the human/non-human duality, that one can see in the human hair on the left versus the branches on the right. The very symbol that is added beneath the album title is kind of similar to a yin/yang sign in a way, representing dualism in a symbolic form. I could go on, but yes, there is a lot there.
I’m sure that the fans here in the Midlands are going to be thrilled that Delain will be playing a show in Birmingham this April. I understand that you guys will be playing five UK shows opening for Within Temptation – are you looking forward to it?
Definitely! It is a pleasure to join Within Temptation on tour and the venues we’ll play are amazing. Hugely looking forward to it.
No one can deny that you’ve had some amazing success as a band so far but is there still a certain amount of pressure on you to be supporting such a high profile band like Within Temptation? They’ve been doing unbelievably well over the past couple of years.
There is always pressure to do well, and perform our best, and supporting Within Temptation is a great opportunity indeed. We know that their audience has responded extremely well to us in the past however, so if that experience is anything to go by, we are up for a great tour!
Can we expect a setlist of purely new songs on the UK dates or will there be some Delain classics thrown into the mix from previous releases too?
We always try to make a good mix of old and new material.
Finally, can you tell us something nobody knows about either yourself or the band? We do like to give our readers here at Midlands Rocks something a bit different.
We, as a band, are the only ones who know about and acknowledge a fifth season. It is called “Rhinger” and while nobody knows exactly when it takes place, we are sure that there will soon be scientific evidence for its existence.
Thank you so much Charlotte and the best of luck with the new album and the forthcoming tour. We are sure it will be a massive success and look forward to seeing Delain play Birmingham in April.