with Charlotte Wessels
at Wembley Arena, London, UK
12th April 2014
Interview by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Inty Malcolm
Hailing not from a realm of Stephen King’s conjuring, but from the Netherlands, Delain have gone from a project built of guest musicians, to an enduring cornerstone of female-fronted symphonic metal, and well known for their live chops. In the nervous hours leading up to their Wembley Arena slot supporting the mighty Within Temptation we grab some time with frontwoman Charlotte Wessels to talk about new album THE HUMAN CONTRADICTION (It might have something to do with the fact that we really took matters into our own hands again…), industry hype ( And I really do feel that nothing is really over if there are still bands who are enjoying what they’re doing…), and the age old ‘women in metal’ subject (I think the most important thing is that actually it is not that special…)….
So Wembley Arena?
Oh my… I was kind of jumping around through the whole day cause I think it’s sold out.
I guess it’s the biggest venue in the UK that you’ve done?
Yes. It is one of the bigger venues we’ve done. There’s been festivals and stuff but yeah it’s definitely one of the biggest ones, it’s really exciting. *laughs*
Do you feel like you have to change the show up a bit as a result?
Yeah I make my movements a bit more, you know normally I’m really busy with the front couple of rows so to speak and you kind of show the emotion in your face, but that’s not enough when you’re here.
It’s a bit of a weird one today because you’ve got the football over the way.
Yeah! I went shopping this morning, one of my favourite brands in the world has a shop here in London so I went looking for it and had to travel an hour to get there – London’s bigger. But on the way back we were sharing the metro with a lot of football fans *laughs*
That’s at least something. Maybe they’ll hear some of the music as they leave and get turned onto a new genre?
What’s that? *laughs*
So it’s only a few days since your new album came out.
How does it feel to have it out there?
Very good. I’m so happy about the timing of the album and this tour, everything is set up so perfectly and it’s all very positive. Responses have been positive and we’re working our asses off now to promote the new record and I guess we’re winning some new souls on this tour.
It seems like people have responded really well to the album and the themes, and the slightly heavier side that’s come in with that. Were those all things you tried to do with the album?
As for the heavy part I think we set out with every record with the intention of looking for the heaviest riff, and the fattest sound, so I don’t know what it is exactly that made it come out different on this record than it did on the previous ones. It might have something to do with the fact that we really took matters into our own hands again, did everything ourselves, didn’t involve any third parties until we had to. Also we didn’t have the intention or the time to second guess too many things about what we were doing so I guess a lot of that heaviness comes from the creative freedom that we had by doing this ourselves. Having this man right here – indicates Martijn Westerholt – back in the producer seat and you know that just felt really good to be able to do that.
So quite natural then? As you say you weren’t second guessing yourselves.
Obviously you’re here with Within Temptation and you’ve played some other dates with them as well – how’s that gone so far?
Really well. We really notice that the audience of Within Temptation respond really well to our music. I guess it always has been the case, we’ve toured with them before and it’s always been a great experience – how much that has to do with whatever kind of family and band ties are going on you know, I don’t know if that still plays a role in that, but we do notice that their audience is very kind to us.
Do you feel that the success of bands like Within Temptation as female fronted metal has really helped open that up, not just in terms of fans, but is the wider music industry more receptive of that?
Yeah. I think they do, at least there are a lot of bands now that have proved the potential, not just artistically but also being a band that tours the world, and is financially stable and everything because I really believe that whatever kind of genre, we had a time when everybody told us that you should avoid looking goth because goth is over you know? And I really do feel that nothing is really over if there are still bands who are enjoying what they’re doing.
Inty – I think goths are a long way from over.
Me too! I think so. But it’s good to at least see that there are bands that have that kind of large success that is not only gratifying on a creative level but can be a stable job you know. It’s good for us to see that that is possible and we’ve come a long way and it’s all going very well.
It’s very positive because the industry has changed a lot, and it’s ten years for you guys next year and even in that time you’ve probably seen it change.
Yeah a lot actually, and I do think had we started like five years earlier it was a much better time for starting a band in our type of music *laughs* but we do also experience the negative points of that because when we started out, five years before that there were really bands being hyped, and we were not in that time. We were in the time of bands like us getting told that we shouldn’t look like a band like us *laughs* so yeah it’s different. And you also notice that the industry itself is kind of struggling. We noticed it really directly from Roadrunner being sold to Warner, that was the most tragic situation, I mean Roadrunner were one of the larger alternative labels, they were awesome and really great and then they were sold to Warner and there was nothing left of it, so yeah that was sad.
There’s so many great bands on their roster as well that it was quite a shock.
Yeah. I remember the headline tour that we did, that was intended to be after the release of WE ARE THE OTHERS but in the end we didn’t release the record yet back then because of all that trouble and we were on the road and a lot of the people that we worked with from Roadrunner were actually visiting us and it was so sad. It was like we were on the road as a band not having our album released because of all this shit, and people were losing their jobs because of it, and we were there like ‘good show man’ *laughs* It was kind of a down time to be honest.
But obviously it must be quite gratifying to come through that and still be as strong and successful as you guys are?
Yeah that’s lovely, and we’re with a very motivated and hard working label now, and we really feel that the success of what we’re doing is as important to them as it is to us, and it’s really gratifying to work with a company that shows so much trust in your creative product.
I guess it’s like going back to the new album THE HUMAN CONTRADICTION, you were saying how it was much more internal and you obviously had the space to do that.
Yeah. And it was also, even with WE ARE THE OTHERS, where the label was really pressing for us to work with external producers and such, we are stubborn enough as a band not to let anyone steer us away from what we really wanted to do but still you notice that a lot of energy goes into dealing with all these opinions and at one point more energy goes into politics than into the actual creative process, and this time round all the energy went into the creative process and that’s actually a good thing as we didn’t have too much time to be dealing with anything else to be honest. It was a rather quick job so to speak.
How long were you in the studio for?
Well we came back from the tour with Kamelot in September/October, so from October we worked really hard and handed in the master in January. But we didn’t spend a full time in the studio, we just really meeting up a couple of times a week, writing, writing, writing, recording and we recorded everything in separate sessions so that whilst one person was recording we could still be writing and so it was pretty quick. With Martijn back in the producers seat he didn’t have the easiest production but he managed remarkably well.
Do you think it worked in the shorter time frame because there’s more of a concept to this album?
No I don’t think that has any effect on it because the concept is very much in the lyrics and in a way some of the lyrics were actually completely rewritten after the first demo phase. What I do think helped, I think it mainly had to do with the fact that we knew we’d have this tour for example and we just wanted to have the record done before we went on tour because it’s such an amazing opportunity and you don’t want to be with one head in the studio and one head on the road, you just want to make your record and be fully emerged in the making of it and then you want to go on tour with your record. This is much better than if we were now still working on it and if I had any spare minute ‘I must finish the lyrics for this and that’, it’s not so cool.
It’s nice you can enjoy it now. As well as Europe I know you’re going back to America this year, are you looking forward to that?
Yeah a lot. I think it’s going to be great, we’re joining Sonata Arctica and some of our label mates are coming with us as well. We’ve been on tour with them before I think in 2009 in Europe, it was really cool, we did the UK back then as well so if that experience is anything to go by we’re in for a great ride.
And you’re doing a couple of headline shows as well?
Yeah Las Vegas baby! *laughs*
Talking about the success of the band and the album and everything, being a woman in a female fronted band do you feel like you’re helping open up the genre to women?
I think there have been a lot of people before who have played their parts so to speak, but I do think that it’s a positive development you know. Also the metal game is opening up to everybody basically is a good thing. There’s been a lot of talk about women in the metal industry and there’s a lot that can be said about it, but basically I think the most important thing is that actually it is not that special. I guess I understand why it is because 150 years ago women weren’t even allowed in music schools and metal wasn’t even there as a genre so of course the development is quite, and if you see that a girl like Alissa provides one of the most brutal grunts that we’ve ever had on a record then I guess that’s a good thing.
Speaking for myself, as a woman, I’ve always found metal quite inclusive and never gone to see a band and felt ‘they’re all guys and that excludes me’, it’s kind of more like ‘they’re doing that and I could do that if I wanted to’. But it’s also great to see woman going ‘I want to do that and I’m doing it’.
Yeah, I do feel sometimes. I’ve been to a lot of metal gigs, I remember a Fear Factory gig I went to last year where I was of the three women in the crowd, really, and it was like ‘Ok, interesting.’ And I remember actually last year in the US there was a black woman and she approached me and said “Thank you for ‘We Are The Others’ because I feel excluded so often in the metal world, because my friends don’t think metal is something for a black woman”, and she said that she often doesn’t feel welcome in the metal scene and I think that’s so sad.
That is really sad.
And I never considered our music gendered, or raced, or whatever but obviously there are certain stereotypes of people who listen to metal. She said that to me and I was like ‘yeah you make a good point I guess.’ I guess the genre is very, you can’t say anything about the genre in general, but she felt that way and I can kind of imagine that comes from a place of sincerity.
It’s really good that she took something positive from your music.
So we’ve talked about the tour and the album, but is there anything else exciting coming up for Delain?
Well we’ve got a crazy touring schedule that will keep us very busy this year, and we’re writing for the next album, and there’s festivals, so we’ll be keeping really busy, not even talking about the side projects some of us are working on so we’ll be busy.
Inty – Have you got some festivals lined up this summer?
Yeah, Bang Your Head was just confirmed, Summer Breeze, a lot of German festivals.
I guess festivals are quite different, as it’s one of the few times so many bands are in one place. Do you spark off people a lot and have creative conversations?
Yeah it’s always nice when you meet bands that you’re a fan of yourself and you bump into them on a festival backstage, this is where you create nice stories.
Do you ever think about guesting with others when at festivals?
We’ve done that every once in a while, we’ve also done guest things with Sharon in the past, and sometimes it happens and it;s always a nice thing. It often happens spontaneously and people think we planned it months ago, but it’s more like ‘hey do you want to join us? Yeah ok.” *laughs*
I guess there’s always been that guest aspect to the band, especially from your beginnings, and even the new album so there’s that feeling of extended family really.
It is. This is one of the things I really like about the genre is that actually a lot of people, and interviewers tell me the ‘genre is so over-saturated and stuff and isn’t there a lot of competition’, and I always feel that I’m always surprised that within a genre where you could expect so much competition because everybody is aiming at the same spots on festivals and magazines and stuff, that the sense of camaraderie is so much bigger than the sense of competition. So I do feel there is definitely a very good vibe going on between all of the bands. Just one of the examples is the song that Within Temptation did with Nightwish, everybody was always insinuating that these women would be you know rivals, and actually I don;t think they even met before they collaborated and you know. So there’s a lot less bitching than people might expect *laughs* which is good!
Thanks for your time! Enjoy the show!
I’m looking forward to it!