May 30, 2014 Interview – Charlotte Wessels of Delain
Music is one of the most vivid art forms of human expression, and through it, one can relay a specific message of their thoughts and ideas. Over the past decade, Dutch metal band Delain have been harnessing that passion and energy into their own unique blend of gothic, symphonic, and classic metal styling. Building a strong international following over the course of a series of powerful studio albums, Delain is now reaching new heights with their progressive conceptual new album The Human Contradiction. Recently we sat down with the band’s charismatic vocalist Charlotte Wessels for a enlightening look into the formidable years of Delain, The Human Contradiction, life prospective, music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Delain formed over a decade ago. A lot has happened over the years for Delain since then. You have released four full-length albums and toured all over including your first tour of North America in 2013. Tell me about the last decade of the band and the success you have achieved.
Charlotte Wessels – I am only starting to realize it has already been that long. I became involved in 2004, we signed a deal with Roadrunner Records in 2005, and that is when things really started rolling. A lot has happened for us and it is really strange now to remember at the very beginning, Delain was actually only meant to be a studio project and a onetime thing. I was initially only asked to write some lyrics and vocalize, not even to sing. Considering that we have completed four complete albums now and the tours, it all has went so completely out of hand, but I am so happy that it did. It is strange how things can go, but I am really happy they went out of hand like they did because I could not imagine something cooler to do.
CrypticRock.com – It is amazing how things happen like that sometimes. Now you came into the band around 2005 after your time with To Elysium. Martjin Westerholt had been part of Within Temptation prior to Delain as well. Having both had experience in other bands did you feel new life going into this new project?
Charlotte Wessels – I was pretty overwhelmed. Keep in mind, when I enjoyed To Elysium they were a performing and recording band. They were thinking of starting anew after their previous singer left the and when I joined I was around fifteen or sixteen at the time. All the other stuff I did was with bands that were really mainly hobby bands, we were playing at local venues. Not that To Elyisum was not a big deal back then, there were hundreds of people there. At the time, Within Temptation were playing in front of ten thousands of people. It was kind of different thing and I remember being very overwhelmed. My parents had to sign the contract because I was still under age. I do remember from the first years it was very cool, but I like more the situation I am in now. I am older and wiser to comprehend everything that is happening. I can take matters into my own hands with everything that is happening. It has been some time and we have been working very hard for the things we have achieved. It is really cool to have the feeling that we are doing this together.
CrypticRock.com – It helped that you started so young. Now you can enjoy it and have a better grasp of what is going on still at a very young age. The symphonic metal scene has been showered with a long list of talented female singers over the years. Metal and rock have always been dominated by men so it is nice to see more balance now. How does it feel for you as a woman to see so many female fronted rock and metal bands today?
Charlotte Wessels – It feels really good but I think it really implies to any kind of scene you think of. Even if you go to classic music, women have been allowed to sing in operas for some time, but they also have not been composing. I basically think, in general, it is something you can say about the metal and rock scene but it is also something you can say about the world. It is very cool, but I do think it still gets too fetishised too much. It is just a different genre. I do not feel like the genre is so defining for my stage persona or for the kind of music we make. It is the same kind of thing when they call our whole genre female-fronted metal. I think, musically, we have a lot more to do with a band like Kamelot for example than with Arch Enemy, but we are still put in the same category as Arch Enemy because we are both female-fronted metal bands. It is a tricky topic.
CrypticRock.com – That makes a lot of sense. It will be silly to put you in the same sentence with Arch Enemy, with all due respect to them as a band, because it is two dramatically different things.
Charlotte Wessels – Yes, but it happens all the time. Like you said, the last couple of years it has become a lot more common. You still get a lot of things like, for example, I know some festivals really focus on having women there. A lot of them still portray it as it is such a nice thing they put women in the spotlight. I think these are just successful bands. I think it is still kind of tricky the way it is talked about and the way everyone is trying to be so positive toward these topics when I think a lot of things are still sexist. This is not a popular opinion though.
CrypticRock.com – You have an extremely valid point. It should not be looked at as a novelty, it should be based on talent and not genre. Unfortunately, we are living in a world that people over-compensate to be politically correct. The band’s new album, The Human Contradiction, came out April 4th. The album is a great mix of melody and emotionally driven vocals. Tell me about the writing and recording process of the album?
Charlotte Wessels – What we basically did was we took an inward turn. We sat down with our writing team of Marjtin, myself, and Chris , the guitarist who is not in the live band but has been involved in the band a very long time. We started writing the songs, at one point we keep the songs between the three of us until we think we have the basic structure of the songs and all the ingredients. At that point when we go further into the pre-production, Marjtin took the songs home to work on the arrangements, I worked on the lyrics, we share it with the band, and everyone worked on their parts. We really did not involve anyone outside the band until very late in the process, we did this very deliberately. We also had Marjtin in the producer chair again. We took matters into our own hands again for this record. Maybe in a way that is a response to our previous studio album We Are The Others (2012) where we had loads of people involved, some which were really great, some of which were distracting from the creative process. Of course when we did have other people involved, we had some kick-ass orchestral arrangements by Mikko P. Mustonen, we had the mix done in legendary Fredman Studios, and the mastering by Ted Jensen.
CrypticRock.com – It sounded like making the record was a very exciting experience. As mentioned, the vocals are very expressive on this new album. Do you feel it is important as a musician to continue progressing and challenging yourself?
Charlotte Wessels – I do, but I know I am a singer and I should focus a little bit more on the actual singing. When I record the song I care so much more about how I tell the story and if the emotions are portrayed in the right away. I could spend that energy learning to master my instrument better or trying to be a little bit more virtuous. I am definitely very ambitious and I always try and aim higher. I am also very much able to let go of certain things I wanted for myself if the song asked for something else. I know a lot of people in the genre are very fond of the operatic vocals. I have considered maybe I should do something in that style. I have never really liked doing it and I kind of always go back to more speech type vocals, but since I have learned now to do it, I may as well do it at some point. In the end, we thought it sounded much better with these story telling lines. I think it is much more in service of the songs and the bigger picture than my personal aims. I think that collective thinking is much more important when making an album.
CrypticRock.com – What matters most is the end result of the music. Another thing which stands out about the album is the lyrical content. The band has always written beautiful lyrics but these lyrics appear to be taking matters to another level. What inspired the words to the songs?
Charlotte Wessels – It is always things that are close to me. I have never been one to write a lot about fantasy. Actually, this record is the one which comes closest to that, the title is actually taken from a science fiction book. Then again, all the actual content is very much based in reality. It is the things that I obsess about personally that usually find their way into the lyrics. For the last couple of years I have been obsessing with topics about otherness. That was introduced in our previous record for the very first time, very explicitly in the song “We Are The Others”. I have been engaging with it not only artistically but academically. A lot of songs on this new album also are about this otherness within and between human beings or between human beings and other beings. I thought the metaphor of The Human Contradiction was a really nice over-arching concept to tight all these songs together of why we response so strangely to this otherness.
The Human Contradiction is taken from this work of fiction called Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler. The Human Contradiction explains as the fact as humans we are both in fact intelligent as well as hierarchic. The latter quality is actually the problematic one because this hierarchic quality makes us rank one higher or lower than the other. More important, it makes us pick random qualities in others and uses those qualities to justify as ranking one higher or lower than others in this socially constructed ladder. It creates a lot of opposition and it is exactly this kind of construction which allows for this kind of system of oppression; sexism, racism, and even speciesism. In that way The Human Contradiction, as a metaphor, functions really well tying together all these topics of otherness and how we deal with it as human beings. That is why I shamelessly stole the title from the book, because I thought it was really well found.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting and thought provoking. These are not topics the average person touches on a regular basis.
Charlotte Wessels – You know, it depends. I can say after two years of doing gender studies you kind of do see it everywhere around you. When you turn that radar on, it is really hard not to see it everywhere. I sometimes have to tell myself not to see it everywhere and not to become cynical or pessimistic. I also think by being aware of these things you can make a move to being more positive because you are aware of these things and you are aware of your own role and privileges. For me, it has made a lot of sense to engage with these topics. I think they are highly relevant, especially in everyday life. In these times you hear so many people say sexism and racism does not exist anymore, unfortunately it is not true.
CrypticRock.com – Those are all very interesting points about the times we live in. As mentioned earlier, you made your first tour in North America with Kamelot in 2013. That had to be very exciting for yourself and the band. The tour was obviously a success as you will be returning to North America with Sonata Artica in the fall of 2014. How excited is the band to be returning to the USA again and what was your first experience like?
Charlotte Wessels – It went really well. We did not know really what to expect before we went on tour with Kamelot. You never know, when you are a supporting act, how many people who bought the tickets even know you. We had full venues singing along to our songs, for us it was really a confirmation that it made huge sense for us to explore the US. It is really nice if you want to get your foot on the ground in such a large country you have to tour, we are really happy for that. We also met some really awesome people. It is just very nice for us personally to come back and see everyone again.
CrypticRock.com – That is great and it will be great to see the band back in North America. What are some of your musical influences?
Charlotte Wessels – My parents had quite good taste in music so I had some of the classic rock influences; Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and Kate Bush. My brother really got me into metal, those were really the high days of Metallica. Actually, Toxicity (2001) by System of The Down is still one of my favorite records ever. Right now, I am really into the alternative rock scene, Radiohead is my favorite band ever. I adore Muse and Nick Cave. Then there is the corner of the great female songwriters like Tori Amos, Bjork, and Sia Furler. That pretty much covers it. I can go on for hours but I think these are the few directions which have influenced me most.
CrypticRock.com – That is a very broad dynamic taste. It is great you do not limit yourself.
Charlotte Wessels – Yes, it definitely helps me, especially when you are on tour and listening to metal all day. For me, it really feels relaxing to listen to one of these soothing pop records. For example, Sia Furler has made some wonderful records. Tori Amos recently had this record called Night of Hunters (2011). Listen to that record after a busy day and you will be in heaven. The other way around, I think it is amazing if you have a dull day at home and you crank up the metal really loud; different music for different occasions. Your life is not the same every time, your day is not the same every day. My music cannot be the same every day as well.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. My last question for you is pertaining to films. CrypticRock.com covers rock/metal and horror movies. I would like to know if you are a fan of horrors and if so what are some of your favorite?
Charlotte Wessels – Actually I am a fan. I watch my horror movies alone. There are two categories of movies I want when I am alone because no one else likes them, and they are the animation movies and horror movies. I do enjoy the more supernatural horror than the horror based on people that do terrible things to other people. I do not like it if it can actually happen. For example, like Hostel (2005), I really dislike that because I have this idea creeping in the back of the mind when you hear human trafficking you just know terrible things happen. That is not entertainment to me. Then, if it is ghosts, zombies, or whatever gross stuff; I really enjoy it because I do not believe in it. The gorier the better, as long as it is not something that could actually happen. I really liked 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007). I recently saw a really strange one. I actually read the book first, it is called John Dies In The End (2012). It was the most absurd book I ever read. I thought how could they make this into a movie, but the movie was not half as crazy as the book. I still appreciated the fact that anyone read the book and thought I am going to take the time and make a movie out of that, because it must have been very difficult (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes with horror movies, they may not be the best movies of all time, but they are entertaining. Even if they are horrible they have an enduring quality to them.
Charlotte Wessels – Exactly, the thing is, with horror movies, many try to be the most brutal. Everyone knows the most brutal scene in any movie and the thing that ruined everyone’s childhood is the scene in The Neverending Story (1984) when the horse dies. No one is ever going to make anything more tragic than that, they should just forget about it and have fun (laughs). The fact that the horse dies because it is sad, this is not stuff for children. It was terrifying.
Check out Delain on tour in North America this fall:
9/3: Teaneck, NJ @ Mexicali Live
9/4: New York, NY @ Stage 48
9/5: Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero
9/6: Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
9/8: Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
9/9: Montreal, QC @ Imperial de Quebec
9/10: Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
9/11: Toronto, ON @ MOD Club
9/13: Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage
9/14: Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
9/16: Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom
9/17: Joliet, IL @ Mojoes
9/19: Winnipeg, MB @ Park Theater
9/20: Regina, SK @ The Exchange
9/21: Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Ballroom
9/22: Calgary, AB @ The Republik
9/24: Vancouver, BC @ The Venue
9/25: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
9/26: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
9/28: San Francisco, CA @ The Grand Ballroom at the Regency
9/29: West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues
9/30: Anaheim, CA @ The Grove
10/1: Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
10/4: Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
10/5: Lawrence, KS @ Granada
10/7: El Paso, TX @ Tricky Falls
10/8: San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live
10/9: Dallas, TX @ Trees
10/10: Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
10/12: Louisville, KY @ Diamond Pub & Billiards
10/13: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
10/14: Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
10/15: Tampa, FL @ Orpheum