Interview with Martijn Westerholt
November 1, 2017 – Koko, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Graham Hilling
We sat down with keyboardist and founding member of DELAIN, Martijn Westerholt prior to the band’s sold out show at Koko in London last week. Read on to find out about Martijn’s ideal day on the road, reflections on his time in Within Temptation, work on the upcoming Delain album and more!
How are you today? Have you had the chance to check out anything of London?
I am doing good thanks. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so I went to Kings Cross Station [laughs]. I’ve been to the Warner Brothers Studios before actually, it’s really cool.
First off, can you explain the name for this tour, Danse Macabre?
We named it that because we wanted kind of a nice theme and vibe. It also reflects the time of the year with Halloween and all that, so we thought the song [“Danse Macabre”] would be nice to build the tour around. It fit well.
You sold out almost every show on your Danse Macabre tour, why do you think the demand for seeing you guys play with Marco Hietala is so high?
I don’t know, and the good thing is that I at first was wondering whether people would come out to see us or Marco, but it turns out that he is just the cherry on the pie – but he’s not the pie. So it’s a really nice marriage. Last year we also played the Koko and we nearly sold it out, I think there were about 20 tickets left, and tonight we did sell it out. It feels fantastic, it’s the biggest compliment you can give a band. It’s just that combination, and we almost never played with Marco in Europe, only about 2-3 times I think. We really like him, he’s a good friend of mine and also musically there’s a great connection.
You played some festivals this summer, what was your personal favourite to play?
I think the one with Marco in Czech Republic actually [Masters of Rock]. The crowd there is always amazing, so I think that one.
Going back to the very roots of Delain, how did you assemble what ended up becoming up becoming today’s band?
That’s a very long story [laughs]. Delain started as a project with me and Charlotte, and we had some guests… one of them was Marco. Then Roadrunner asked if we could support the album release with some shows, and I thought “yeah, sure, that sounds like fun” and we assembled a band. The three members who joined then was with us for about 3-4 years, and the drummer for example is still a good friend of mine. Sometimes people make the choice to go a different path in life, and just live a normal, civilian career. Then we got in touch with Timo [Somers] who is a musician and totally committed to making music, and therefor there was far more flexibility. So it kind of developed slowly in to what it is today. Now we’re here.
How would you say your time in Delain differs from your time with Within Temptation?
First of all, I was 17-21 when I was in Within Temptation so I was still really young [laughs]. Within Temptation is Robert [Westerholt] and Sharon’s [den Adel] band, and for me it was about getting the experience of making music on this level. Delain is mine and Charlotte’s band, so that already makes a difference. But the culture within the bands also is different, it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. We just make what we like to make, my taste is a bit different from my brother’s, who makes the bulk of Within Temptation’s music with Sharon, so I think that’s the main difference.
You just released your first live DVD, A Decade of Delain, congratulations. You had a special cinema screening of the DVD in Holland yesterday, what was that like for you guys?
I was there to see it on the big screen, but had to go afterwards to prep for the show. We actually had cameras and taped the whole show from yesterday [Utrecht] so perhaps we will make another DVD or put it as bonus content on our album, we don’t know yet. So there was a lot of preparation for yesterday’s show, meaning I didn’t get to see the whole live DVD. But there were a lot of fans coming out for that, and it was kind of like a celebration of our first DVD finally being out. I did say hi to a lot of fans, and it was good fun.
When you’re out touring, what does an ideal day on the road look like for you?
Uh, that’s difficult. A day like today, we’re in London, I love London – I could take a stroll in the morning, and we have a sold out show in a beautiful venue in the evening. And Camden is really great as well, so I think a day like today. And no, I don’t say that every day [laughs].
You’re one of few metal bands with their own brand of whiskey, how did the idea for that come along?
Well, I myself am a ‘whiskey barbarian’ actually, I would pour very expensive whiskey in a glass with Coke and still enjoy it. Charlotte and Otto [Schimmelpenninck van der Oije] are big whiskey lovers, and there were also some fans who are in the industry. This is really just a hobby, we don’t earn money on this which is totally fine, because it’s really cool to just have a whiskey that suits the taste of Otto and Charlotte. It was amazing, because it sold out in 30 minutes when we released it.
Do you plan on making more of that in the future?
I think so, because there’s so much demand for it. Also since there’s not any money in it for us, just the hobby element, it seems likely. Some of the fans we have in the industry can offer special whiskey, which we can then give back to our fans.
You have a young son at home, what’s it like for you to be away from him on tour?
We just FaceTimed actually, that’s a coincidence. This is a really short tour, and he actually came to our show yesterday in the Netherlands. I put him on the drumkit in this huge 2000-capacity venue and he just loves it, he kept going “more songs!” during soundcheck. But of course, otherwise I really miss him. But that’s the thing, there are some blessings and some curses with this job, but generally it goes really well.
What’s the biggest positive and the biggest negative about being in Delain?
I feel spoiled and privileged to be able to have this as my job, the fans are the reason for this. I am grateful for it every day, and I love travelling and making something beautiful out of the means we have. The bad thing is that it’s so much work; sometimes it’s craziness. You don’t get rich from doing this, which for me is totally no issue, I don’t really care about money as long as I can pay my bills and all that. If you want to earn a lot of money, you shouldn’t be in this business. On the other hand, I make my living out of this, which is something so few people can say. But it’s a lot of work and sometimes it’s really stressful, and it’s physically heavy.
This is the last show with your drummer Ruben, right?
Yes, finally we got rid of him [laughs]!
Is there a sense of bitter sweetness about it?
Yes, he chose to pursue studies again, and that’s totally fine. That’s life, and there are no bad feelings about that at all. We part ways on very good terms, looking back at our time together with a smile. Tonight’s going to be special and we will tease him a little bit, he doesn’t like attention that much so we will make sure he gets a lot of it [laughs].
Your album release cycle seems to be around one every two years. Is there ongoing work on a new Delain album?
Well, I’ve written some concepts, but this time around I promised myself that we should give ourselves a little more time, because of stress and deadlines and all that. We’ll take the time that is needed… we always do that, but then we stress to get it finished, but now we’ll take it a bit more easy. I also think it’s good to give it more time to keep it more exclusive as well, we also have a different approach on how to do the production. We will record song by song instead of doing everything in one go. It should be special.
When working on writing music, where do you get inspiration from? Do you actively seek it out, or does it just sort of appear out of the blue?
It depends, sometimes we think about something, sometimes it just comes to us. Sometimes I’ll hear some music and go “this is so cool, but I would do this and this and that”. I always have to be in a good mood, everything has to be okay. A lot of people like to get inspiration from misery… not me [laughs].
Anything you would like to add in the end?
Thank you very much for your interest and questions, it was a pleasure.
Thank you very much for your time, and good luck with the show!