An Afternoon Chat with Charlotte Wessels; the Voice of Delain
It’s always a good day when I get to interview Charlotte Wessels of Delain… because I always know I’ll get a big hug and a genuine smile… as well as a great conversation. It had been about eight months since I last interviewed Charlotte, and, although it was a great interview… there were several things I’d asked her about that she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer and I was hoping to get the answers I was seeking this time around. I caught up with Charlotte at La Laiterie in Strasbourg, France, just before Delain’s headlining show at that venue. I got my hug and my smile… and we settled in for a chat about Delain’s first decade, the current tour, the new band member, the new album, Sucker Punches, and other things. Here is how it went:
This is Joe Prostredny with Afternoiz and I’m here in France with Charlotte Wessels of the phenomenal symphonic metal band Delain! How are you doing today Charlotte?
I’m doing fine, thank you so much!
You’re now in the midst of a European headlining tour! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today! How has the tour been going so far?
It’s been really, really good. We just finished the UK stretch of the tour and we had three out of four shows sold out…
Tomorrow is sold out too… in Paris!
Tomorrow is sold out too! So we’re having a full house on a lot of these gigs and we’re having great audience response. We’re playing a new song from our album which will come out in 2016. We’ve been changing our set list like almost every day because I know that a lot of people come to multiple shows as well. Yeah, we’ve been having a really good time!
So, it’s been about 8 months since our last chat and there were several questions that you didn’t answer either because you didn’t know the answer or you couldn’t tell me yet. But we’re going to circle back to at least a couple of those. First up, really exciting news! You finally announced that Delain is now a family of six! You’ve officially added Merel Bechtold as Delain’s new guitarist and you’re now a two guitar band!
When I asked you that question eight months ago… if that was going to become official you told me yes, but swore me to secrecy and I told nobody…
(Laughs) OK, good!
…so we didn’t put it in the interview. But it sounded like you were going to announce it maybe in April. What took so long?
Well the thing is we had quite some tours yet… Merel is a very busy girl… when we planned that this was going to be a thing. There were quite some tours yet where she had prior engagements and we thought we are going to announce at the point that she is definitely with us on all these tours. For example, two weeks ago we were in South America and then we were still with one guitarist so we thought it might be strange to announce she is now a full time member and then go on tour without her. But, yeah, we thought let’s announce it in front of the first tour where she fully joins as well.
Well, I, for one, am very excited because I don’t care what you call it, all this is basically rock! And with hard rock music, the more guitars the better!
The more guitars the better, yeah, for sure!
Now, previously, even back when she was touring with you a lot, when you came to North America, Merel didn’t come. Is she going to be coming now?
Ok, good! Because we want to see her over there! Speaking of North America, and this is something I keep asking you and I’m probably going to get exactly the same answer, but will we be seeing you headlining over there? I keep getting the same answer from you and Martijn and you always say: “After four or five support tours”. It’s always the same answer and if I’m counting… right early 2016 is number four, right?
So this means…..?
Are we going to see a headlining tour?
We’re planning, we’re planning, yes.
Great!… because we really, really want to see you headline over there! And also in recent big news, you’ve announced another of your “special shows” called “Sucker Punch” in January at the Patronaat in Haarlem. How much can you tell us about that show right now?
Well, we always do like one big special show at the moment that we kind of close off our tour for one album and are usually kind of in the studio for the new one. We like to see it as a kind of celebration of the old and also introduce some of the new like we’ve been doing on this tour but a little bit more. So it will be a show in the same vein as “My Masquerade” was last year, or we’ve had “November Rain” shows in the past. It will be something like that. We try to make something special out of it; we play some new tracks, we spend extra effort on the décor and everything. We invite some guests. And we generally just have a really nice time during these shows, so we thought we’d do that again.
The names of these shows always have some meaning. “November Rain” was kind of obvious. “My Masquerade” was the name of a song from an upcoming album at the time. Now… “Sucker Punch”… the term, implies like a shock or a surprise, you were expecting one thing and then get another. Is that what fans are going to see from the new album maybe, or is that just the name of a song on the new album?
It is the name of a song on the new album and it is the name of a song that I think that will see its debut on that very night. I am happy you asked this question and didn’t refer to the movie because I know that the movie is kind of a cult thing in the genre too. I was really hesitant like, can I even use the word because that movie was there.
Well the word itself isn’t copyrighted… it’s usually a boxing term… where you fake with one hand and hit with the other… hence the surprise of it…
Yeah, exactly… but yeah, it’s the title of a song, so…
We were talking a little bit about the upcoming album in the last interview, and, you did say that you guys were working on it but it was really too early to say anything because it was just in the very embryonic stages. I assume you could tell me more now… but will you tell me more now?
We’ve been writing quite some songs… we have a lot of songs in the very near finished stages at this point. You know even when we’re playing the songs now you notice, for example, …oh, maybe there is a little part missing. Once you start, instead of writing behind your computer, once you start playing it with the band you kind of notice what it still needs. But yeah, we’ve got quite some songs and I think that in the production of everything it will resemble “The Human Contradiction” because we’re really pleased with the overall sound and the mix and the master was really good. So I think we’re going for a similar kind of approach there. Martijn will be producing again. We also we had a fantastic orchestral arranger on “The Human Contradiction” and we’re going to put him to work on the next album.
Well all your albums have been good but the last one was my favorite so far. They all just seem to be getting better and better. You’re setting the bar really, really high, so we’re expecting this next one to be better still!
Well we’re trying! (Laughs) I think that should say something. If you really like “The Human Contradiction” then I think the next one will in your avenue as well.
Is there an expected release date yet or is that too early to say?
I think halfway into 2016.
Well at one point you said more near the end, so that’s a little bit better! Now, getting away from Delain for a minute… you’ve also been a very busy girl. You’re working on a different project, “Phantasma”. What can you tell us about that?
It’s a side project I’ve been working on with Georg [Neuhauser] and Oliver [Philipps] who I both know from working with Oliver for a very long time and [Georg’s band] Serenity more briefly during a guest appearance on one of their records. It’s a concept record. I was invited to create the actual concept and I’ve actually written a short book, a novella, and the album follows the story from the book.
What’s the name of the book?
The book’s called “The Deviant Hearts”. It’s rather a fantasy-ish. I really like this because it’s coming out November 20th and I have no idea what people are going to think because it’s the first time I’ve ever published any fiction.
Well, if you look online everybody’s very excited. There is constant, constant talk.
I know, so this is really cool! And it was really cool because I thought in the end I was only probably going to do lyrics and a book but in the end I wrote a bunch of songs as well. It turned out to be a really creatively satisfying process. And I’m really wondering how it’s going to do (laughs).
If it’s like everything else you do, I think it’s going to be great!
Well thanks a lot!
Is it going to stay in the project phase or is this something that will ever be a live performance?
I think it will be. We’ve discussed it but with both Georg and myself having really busy main bands and very high ambitions there, we were thinking we might be doing some shows, maybe like a big theater show or something but no real touring because it would simply not really fit the calendar (laughs).
Well looking back on the past few years, you really haven’t left a lot of time for other things.
No, exactly! Yeah, well you know I’ve studied, so… (Laughs).
Kind of getting back to that, you’ve still got a lot of touring coming up. What is happening for Delain after the European tour?
After the European tour we are really diving into the album process. We’ve got to finish some songs we’ve been working on. We are now starting up the process with the artwork and we’re going to be doing photo shoots in December and we’ve got a lot of preparing to do for the special show we’ve got coming up. In 2016 it will be a very special year because it will be our ten year anniversary in music! We are planning to celebrate it appropriately. We’ve got some plans but I cannot say too much about it.
Arrgh, that’s the same answer you gave me eight months ago because we talked about this then!
There will be definitely be a special show for sure. So that’s at least a little bit more. And we’re planning some stuff ahead of that, some steps towards that as well. So as far as not saying anything, yeah, it will be really exciting!
I hope I can make it whenever it’s going to be! I assume it will be over here [Europe]?
It’s a little bit of a trip, but as you know me, I get over here sometimes. But you’ve got some touring in North America in the early part of 2016 as well. You’re on the “70,000 Tons of Metal” cruise. It’s not your first time there; how was that because I’m doing press for that for the first time. I’ll be there and I’ll see you there but I’ve never done press for anything that big. I’m wondering if I should be overwhelmed or not!
It’s amazing! I think it’s one of the most special kind of festivals that I’ve ever been to. Imagine being on an enormous boat with only metal heads, it’s quite luxurious. And the free food!
And the bars don’t close!
And the bars don’t close. And you’ll find yourself hanging in the pool with a cocktail watching the loudest music ever on the pool stage. It is generally really relaxed and a very friendly atmosphere. I remember the crew telling me that we were a lot better behaved than the sixty-plus [bands] they usually get on the boat! (Laughs).
Well… metal at this point, it’s from here to here, there’s all different extremes. There’s extreme black metal and there’s some of that on board and then there’s symphonic and lighter metal and everything in between.
It’s a mix and that’s really cool. And one thing I like about it too is that people have asked me isn’t it weird being on the boat and in the pool surrounded by the audience all the time. You must imagine if you have a gig, for example, and you want to take some photos and autographs with people afterwards and it’s very busy it can become like signing things in a row and no real contact. I never mind going out because I think it’s fun to meet people but when it’s really busy you don’t really feel like you’re meeting people, you just feel like you’re signing stuff.
It was like that the first time I ever saw you in Europe, you were opening for band at Heineken Music Hall and after the show you were mobbed. You were up against a wall and couldn’t breathe, there were hundreds of people and I got up to you eventually but you were just like …. (makes a quick signing motion)
(laughs) And this is the part that I know that some people try to avoid; everybody knows the band’s here now but will be gone in thirty minutes so I have to get whatever I want, my chat or my photo…
…a piece of your hair…
(laughs) Yeah!… and I have to get it now. But on the boat you’re there for a week so you’ll be just hanging at the pool and every once in a while you can actually have a chat with people because you kind of have all the time in the world and it’s just really nice.
So the bands just stay on the boat the whole time? I didn’t know if they flew in or flew out…?
Yeah we stay on the boat the whole time. Well maybe some do, but I wouldn’t know. But yeah we stay on the boat and I’ve had some very good times just hanging with people. There’s these Jacuzzi’s at the front of the stage as well and I remember being with a bunch of Delain fans actually (I found out as I was hanging there)… and we just spent hours with a few buckets of Corona’s in the Jacuzzi’s and it was just really, really nice.
The last time I saw you on a headlining tour, you performed “Tragedy of the Commons”, I think you’re performing that on this tour as well, or no?
We have been. I’m not sure if we’ll do it tonight.
Well, that was very early on and you weren’t performing that song very much and when you started playing it everybody’s going “who was doing the growls?” and everybody said Otto probably because he growls, and then everyone was shocked, because… you did it!
Yeah, well we did them together.
Yes, and that kind of really blew everyone away! Are you still doing that when you play that song?
Usually I am. I’m not doing them on this tour because we do sixteen shows in eighteen days which is a lot. I have just recently learned to master the grunt. The thing with the grunt is, if I mess it up, if I do it wrong, it can be really damaging to the voice. You should really only do these things intensively when you know how to do them. So for me to do them every night on such an intensive tour I thought maybe rather not. But for the future my plan is just to keep practicing and once I feel like I’ve got it down and I’m not making mistakes anymore I can do it on tours as well. So for now I was just doing it when we were doing support tours when we just have to sing for a half an hour or when we do festivals and you have the day off afterwards, this is all fine. So for now I thought I’d rather be, I think people would rather have me sing and not do that part than having me do that and not sing because I lost my voice (laughs).
Fair enough! Will we hear you do it on the new album?
Yes!… with you doing it…
So many people are asking that… I don’t know, maybe… maybe if it becomes “me”, so to speak, then it could be, yes. Although usually on albums we have everybody do what they’re best at and I can imagine that there are still a lot of guests we could invite that would be better at grunts than I am.
As you’ve done in the past.
As we’ve done in the past… So…
(Laughing) Maybe! I don’t know?… this is the best answer!
Well, Charlotte, it’s unfortunately time to end our little chat. I’m really looking forward to seeing you perform again tonight! Thank you again for talking with us today. Do you have any final words for your fans?
As ever, I just want to thank everybody for checking the music out and coming to the gigs or buying the music or telling your friends about it or whatever because that’s what makes it possible for us to do what we do and we appreciate it loads!
Well, we love what you do!
Dank je wel!