Catching up... finally... with Charlotte Wessels @ P60 Concert Hall, Netherlands
Backstage interview with Delain
Since its inception over a decade ago, the Dutch symphonic metal band, Delain, has been an ever growing presence in the music world. While remaining true to their original sound, the band has progressively evolved in a heavier and darker direction with each album they released. It has been a year since the release of their stunning fourth studio album, “The Human Contradiction”, and Delain are still on a heavy touring schedule promoting the release.
Delain is fronted by the talented and charismatic, Charlotte Wessels. When I first began my career in music journalism two years ago, Charlotte was supposed to be my first official interview when Delain was touring North America in support of Kamelot. Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts (mostly mine), the interview wasn’t able to happen. A second attempt was made last year when Delain was touring North America with Sonata Artica. But, again, schedule conflicts arose. The stars finally aligned on Friday the 13th of March this year when I made the trip to Amstelveen in the Netherlands to catch Delain on their headlining European tour… no schedule conflicts… the interview was on!
I had met Charlotte as a fan on three of their previous tours and she was always gracious and friendly. As I was led upstairs at the P60 concert hall, I wondered if she would remember me, as she meets a large number of fans on each and every tour. I only had to wait about fifteen seconds before she emerged with a big smile on her face and she gave me a big hug! Remember me she did, and what followed was a great interview that was well worth the two year wait! Here is how it went:
Hello Charlotte! How are you doing today?
Charlotte: Good. Good. Yeah we just arrived… we had a bit of a delay, but nothing very much Friday the 13th… yet.
Are you guys superstitious about that over here too?
Charlotte: Yeah well, it’s a thing, but it’s not… I don’t know anybody who takes extra care… (laughs)
(Laughs) Ok… Well Thank you so much for chatting with us today! You look a bit different from last time I saw you… your hair is no longer red… and you now have some new jewelry? (Charlotte’s hair is a dark brown on top fading to a dark blonde on the bottom. She also has a septal piercing instead of the side nose ring.)
Charlotte: Yeah, I got it last Saturday… and you know, I’ve had piercings before… I had one here when I was in my teens..and another place on my nose… and I thought I knew… you know, piercing pain? But this thing right here is really something different.
Hurts a lot more?
Charlotte: Hurts like hell!
So are you letting the side one close up?
Charlotte: No… I am keeping it open and I might do something little there… or maybe if I get bored of this one in a few years… I’ll take that one.
Did you get bored with the red hair?
Charlotte: Basically, I change my hair color every few weeks and, so far, it has been different shades of red. But this is kind of the first time that I tried something else. Well it was kind of red, but it just washes out to blond every time so…
What is your natural color?
Charlotte: Uh… I don’t know… (laughs)
(laughing) You don’t remember?
Charlotte: I’ve been dying my hair since I was 11… so…
Ok… So, if I have the dates correct, 2015 marks your 10th anniversary with Delain. Congratulations on your first decade!
Charlotte: Thank you very much! Thank you! Yeah I remember it was 2005 that I met Martijn (Westerholt) and we signed a deal with Roadrunner. We’ve been talking about it… like, what are going to do, and we think that we are going to plan a celebration. It’s kind of hard to mark the start of a band like it is at the moment. So we thought we’d make some kind of celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the release [of our first album].
That’s usually a big year for a band. It means you’re here for the long run.
Now, when you guys started, Delain was considered more of a musical “project” than a band, but it quickly seemed to evolve into a touring band… and here you are, 10 years later, touring the world, what happened?… what went into that decision to change it from a project to a….
Charlotte: Just life basically, because… the whole reason why it used to be a project was basically Martijn’s health… that was the reason he had to quit Within Temptation. He’d been basically sitting at home for a very long time… and in his good moments he would write music… and then at one point that’s enough music for a record. But he had to quit his previous band because he couldn’t make the live gigs anymore… you know, since it was too exhausting. That’s why we never thought that this would be a live band… because of those health issues holding that back. But in between the time we started working on the project and the time the album was released his situation improved greatly. So when we had the record, and we were so happy about the record… yeah, it was just some itch, you know, like can’t we figure out a way to perform this live as well? And when we did that, that was going well and then touring starts happening, and then long touring starts happening, and now I think we’re doing like 100 shows a year, so (laughs)… yeah… it just evolved naturally.
For the past year, you’ve touring the world in support of your most recent studio album, “The Human Contradiction”. How do you feel the album has been received?
Charlotte: Very well…very well… It’s very interesting to us because the album before that, “We Are The Others”… we spent so much time on that… of course we had some bad luck as well.. .we had some delays, we had some legal issues… but with this album… I don’t think we ever made an album in such a short time. We really wanted to have the timing right and have it released when we did the tour with Within Temptation, because, of course, that’s a great chance to get the new music out. But we had to record it in a very short time, and at some points we had to make decisions which… at that point I was really very nervous… like, Ok, but are we making this decision because it’s the right decision, or are we making this decision now because we’re in a hurry?… like creative decisions. But we did it all very instinctively and, for me, the biggest confirmation and reward of this album is the fact that we instinctively made an album in a very short time. We didn’t second guess anything that we were doing, and people ended up really, really liking it. So, yeah, I regard the success of this record as kind of a confirmation that our natural instincts when it comes to the songwriting and stuff, that it’s ok. It’s cool to rewrite songs and it usually makes them better, but…yeah, for me it’s a very nice confirmation that you don’t have to second guess everything, you know?
I thought it was a phenomenal album. I mean, everyone’s got a different opinion, but I think it’s your best one to date…
It seems like a much darker album, especially the first song, “Here Come The Vultures”. What is the inspiration behind that song? It’s a very interesting song to listen to… there’s gotta be a story there somewhere…
Charlotte: There is, but the lyrics to this song are very fragmented… It’s because the origin is very fragmented too. I don’t sleep a lot on tour… right now it’s going much better… but I usually don’t sleep a lot on tour and I would keep a notebook under my pillow… I always do on tour. Sometimes, when I woke up in the middle of the night… I would get very weird dreams and I’d write a lot of stuff down. “Here Come The Vultures”… it’s very dark… there’s some stuff in there which I can really relate to, and there’s some other stuff in there which I just thought “Oh my God, this sounds so cool with the rest of the words and this is so… Basically it’s like a collection of fragments from those tour bus nights… dreams… things…
(laughing) Well..it turned out really well!
Charlotte: I really like it …and one nice detail was that the day that we worked on it… like the beginning melody… I had that in my head for a very long time and when I took it into the writing room… the day that we wrote on it all together for the first time, when it was like “Ok, this could actually be a song for the record”..that was on Halloween night! I think that kind of fits with the atmosphere of the song! There are always, when you work together on songs… there are always several origin stories, because you have the idea, that spark, you know…the coming together of all the elements and… yeah, (laughs) I really kind of like that… for this song… that it happened on Halloween, because it sounds like it could be the soundtrack for a scary movie, you know.
Yeah, absolutely! Are you going play that live?
Charlotte: Yeah, we do…we play it live..we adjust it, we adjust some of it when we play it live, but I think we’ll play it tonight…
Oh. Great!… thank you!! Now you’ve had some shifting personnel in the past year or so. Your drummer, Sander Zoer, has stepped back from touring with the band and you’re now touring with Rubin Isreal. I’ve seen Ruben on both of your recent North American tours. He’s very entertaining on stage, I love him. He’s very animated and he seems to be a great fit with the band. Now, most of your fans assume that he is Sander’s replacement, but you’ve said some things in recent interviews that suggest this may not be the case. Can you shed some light on this…?
Charlotte: Yeah..he definitely stepped into Sanders place… the thing is that, with Sander… there was some reluctance stepping back because everything was going really well… He just had some very good opportunities with his work, he’s got 2 kids, and it was too much basically… but that doesn’t mean that he will… you know… he might be involved when we go and write the new record… or in the production somewhere. I can imagine that, if for one reason or another, Ruben could not make it that he would be just as happy to take the drum chair again so… it’s more like… you know, for us it feels different. We’ve had some previous changes where it really was: “Ok I’m out, bye!” For us this feels so different. We know that we’re not the only ones who get attached to people in the band… we know that people who come to see like 10, or 50, or 100 Delain shows… they get attached to those people, too. For us, saying this with Sander… well, like it’s not like it’s the end of a chapter, you know, he’s still involved. We still hang out and drink beer (laughs), but, yeah… When it goes as smoothly as in this case… We want people to know. It’s never nice..band changes.. even if the replacement is, the perfect replacement. It’s just always you have a team and then there is, you know, switches, and um…yeah. So, basically, we just want to share our feelings and also our intentions with the [fans].
Fans got another scare last year when your bass player Otto was injured in an unfortunate incident with a confetti cannon…. But he seems to have fully recovered, yes?
Charlotte: (Puts her head in her hands and shakes her head)… Umm….well I think…. I think he is still wearing more baggy pants than he used to….
(laughing) That’s not gonna make some of your female fans happy….
Charlotte: No… It was… a serious injury… His testicle actually ruptured and there were three quarters of a liter of blood removed. But, uh, everything is recovering like it should and I think there are no long term consequences.
Do you want me to leave this question out? It’s just the way you put your head down…
Charlotte: No… it’s just… I feel… I feel some pain just talking about it, because…
I know…your fans did too! That’s not an injury you can read about and not go: “Oh My God”.
Charlotte: But you don’t have to leave that out because I think the golden lining of the whole story is the fact that he continued to play…
Yeah, I know he finished the show…
Charlotte: Exactly. And after the show he told us… like, before the encores… and we were like “Ok, so we skip the encores then, right?” and he was like “Yeah let’s just do it and do 2 instead of 3”! You know, he’s such as trooper, I think most people would have been in the fetal position… at the moment of impact… but yeah, I think that its utterly cool that he actually finished the show, so…
There was a lot of internet buzz about that… They say any publicity is good publicity, but there’s gotta be a better way to get publicity!
That’s absolutely right! You don’t get to choose what you get your moments of fame for. Actually, in Holland, we were in the biggest newspaper… we were on the news shows… we were on all the late night entertainment shows… So yeah, we were all over the place, or he was all over the place. But… that must be weird everybody talking about your man parts.
Delain has been on a very heavy touring schedule for what seems like a few years now. You’re a very fun and energetic band live. You’ve released live tracks on most of your studio albums, and for me personally, I listen to those a lot more than the studio versions because they have that energetic vibe you remember from your shows and it just kind of really brings it all back. Now, a lot of bands that have been around as long as Delain have released live DVDs. Any chance of that occurring? Maybe with your 10th anniversary…
Charlotte: Yeah that would maybe be something… a lot of people ask for it, I know a lot of people really like it, I know that the market’s really bad for it…
Charlotte: Yeah… or so I’ve heard. I know for myself that I get more enthusiastic about making new music than making a video of… a live performance of old music. So my first instinct… if I had to choose what I would put my time and effort into, I’d rather work on a new album than on a live DVD. But, I know a lot of people would really like it… the really diehard fans, and I’d make the effort for them you know… and it would be nice to go all out for one gig. But I’d be nervous about the cameras failing or things going wrong at that gig.
I do know some bands that have tried to do that and they put a lot of money into it then something fails… and there wasn’t enough quality there for the DVD.
Charlotte: I remember back when I was 13… or 14, I went to a Within Temptation gig and they were shooting that show for a DVD. At the end of the show they came back on stage and they said “I’m sorry, but something went wrong and we’re now going to play 60% of the gig again”. We were all like “Yay a double show” (laughs). I remember at that point that I thought “Oh this is super fun”, and I didn’t think for a moment that the people on stage could be super upset or worried about what was happening. But now that I look back on things like that, when you’re in a band yourself and you’re and considering doing stuff like that, it’s like..”Ohh”, or when you see a band and you see that they’re having technical issues onstage that make them sound really bad and you hear all the people around you saying: “Oh they suck!” and you think “No….they are trying, you know, someone’s fucking up over there (gesturing to an imaginary soundboard).” It’s really strange how you view those things completely different if you’ve been in that situation.
…if you’ve been in the trenches, yes..
Charlotte: Yeah, but to come back to your question, live DVDs … it never really was something on my mind, but we are starting to consider it… yeah.
Most of your recent tours have been confined to Europe and North America. Will South America, Asia, or Australia be seeing Delain live anytime in the near future?
Charlotte: We’ve done Japan, which was really nice.
Was that recent?
Charlotte: Two years ago I think? Two or three years ago… yeah I think it was something like that… and that was really cool! Australia we’ve never done… I’m hoping we can make that happen… it’s like… so big and there are so few places that actually have the market there to play… so we’ve got to get a very good deal to be able to afford to go there. But it would be really cool… Because it’s just one of those places…
I know you have a lot of fans there.
Charlotte: Yeah? I really hope we can make that happen. We also have to go back to South America soon… yeah.
You’ve been showing a lot of love for North America recently. You opened for Kamelot in 2013, Sonata Artica last year, and you’re opening for Nightwish this year. We love to see that because… you know… it’s a long flight to Europe… to come over here and see you play! (laughs).
Charlotte: (Laughing) We know now how long of a flight it is!
Any chance you’re building up for a North American headlining tour?
Charlotte: Yeah. Yeah, I mean that is the goal you know, with the support there… you’re trying to get people to like you… and hopefully enough to at some point do a headlining tour. We’ve been told that it takes five, or even more, support tours through America to be able to do your own headline tour. Maybe we can take like a small detour after Nightwish… I mean, it seems to me like such a good combination of bands that maybe that will help… but yeah, I’m absolutely hoping that we can do that in the future. We are doing a couple of headline shows in the middle. We’re doing one in Montreal this time… we’ve done one in Las Vegas… and we’ve done one in… Denver?… if I remember correctly… was it Denver?
I remember Vegas… I wasn’t there, but… Speaking of Nightwish, you’ve done duets with their bass player, Marco, on almost every Delain album. Now, that obviously has your fans talking… A lot of fans are hoping for a live duet or two on the upcoming tour. Any chance of that happening? I know it’s not as easy as it sounds like it would be because they’re all concerned with their own show…
Charlotte: Exactly, exactly. Umm we’ll try to make it happen and I know Marco is also up for it. I don’t think it’s going to be every show… but for a couple of shows…
So I have to hit a bunch of shows is what you’re telling me? (laughs)
Charlotte: Yes, yes…your best bet is to go to [several] shows… (laughs)
Do you ever have any free time when you’re touring, or is it all running from one gig to the next? What do you like to do when free time presents itself?
Charlotte: Its mostly running from one gig to the next. If we have some free time then… if it’s a little bit of free time, then usually we try to find a place to either work out or swim… or just relax a bit. If we have more free time we usually go bowling (laughs)… and if we have even more free time, we’ll [do something more interesting]. For example, we pick the routing of the bus and if we know, for example, that if we spend an extra hour we can go through a very nice place, like nature or something… then we’ll do that and then you will at least have the feeling of seeing something on your trip. It really depends where you are. On the European tour we had some days off. We had one day off in Poland and we actually went to Auschwitz, which was very very heavy… but I think it was an important experience…
If you have time, and you may not, there’s a Holocaust museum in DC, which is your last show of the North American tour… I think… its… you leave there felling drained… it’s just…
Charlotte: Yeah, exactly. You’re really emotionally drained. It presses on the soul in a way… like you’ve read about it already and you know what happened… but if you’re there it’s…
….it makes it real.
Charlotte: Yes. But yeah… we try to see what we can see and do what we can do… a lot actually is geared towards just keeping ourselves healthy on tour…
Yeah that’s important…
Charlotte: Yeah… and then spend the next day drinking to wash it all away (laughs)
(Laughs) yeah, it’s a balance..help the body, wreck the body…
Charlotte: It is a balance… yeah, exactly!
Has there been any time on your hectic tour schedule to think about the next album? Has there been any writing going on?
Charlotte: Yes. We are writing already… we’ve got some songs, we’ve got some concepts. We’ve started, and it’s looking good.
Any word on what to expect? Or is it too early to say?
Charlotte: It’s too early…too early. I do know that we really like the whole production of the last album, so we’ll probably do something comparable. Other than that, it’s really too early to say. We have a lot of ideas now, but maybe of those ideas… some happen, some don’t… so… yeah.
What type of music do you listen to when you’re not playing with Delain? If I were to grab your iPod right now, what would I find on there?
Charlotte: Very different things… my favorite band ever is Radiohead… I really like Bjork, I really like the Foo Fighters… I like a lot of old/new metal bands…like System of a Down. I’ve recently been to an In This Moment concert, like 2 weeks ago, I really dig that too..
Yeah, I’m shooting them next month… it’s quite a visual show…
Charlotte: It’s so entertaining…its really, really entertaining… I really enjoyed it. But, yeah… there’s lots of different things actually… and it also kind of depends. If I’m home then I listen to a lot of metal, and if I’m on tour I listen to a lot of mellow stuff, because then you’re listening to metal the entire day, and then if you go lie in your bunk I want something soothing and relaxing to listen to, so…
To come down?
Charlotte: Exactly. Exactly… but… yeah and then at home it’s completely different. A lot of different stuff. And I got my old record player to work again, so now I’m back listening to Deep Purple, Mike Oldfield, and Led Zeppelin.
I have to ask about your tattoo… you have a beautiful peacock feather on your arm. Now, I just noticed it this past year. Is it new, or was it hiding under the sleeves you wore on the previous tour?
Charlotte: I think I have it for two years now… one or two years… January of last year I got it. It’s a little more than a year that I have it.
Is there any special significance to it?
Charlotte: Yeah… but not something I’d like to share to be honest… (laughing)
Ok… ok that’s fine…
Charlotte: (Laughing) I can share this one… because I have another one… its really recent.. and this is…
On the middle finger of your right hand?
Charlotte: On the middle finger of my right hand… this is two stripes and in Mayan that represents 10… for my 10 year anniversary with my boyfriend.
Charlotte: Its very romantic…yes! The idea is that every 5 years… because this stripe represents 5… so every 5 years I get an extra one. And if we grow old together I will have a black hand… that’s the idea!
Well hopefully that’s the case!!
Charlotte: I hope so!
Well, Charlotte, I’m really looking forward seeing you perform tonight. I’m also looking forward to seeing your opening band, Kingfisher Sky. I’ve never seen them live before. Now, if memory serves me, I think Ivar and Martijn were together in another band once, back in another century…
Charlotte: Yes, yes definitely… this one band called Within Temptation… or something like that. (laughs)
(Laughing) Yeah, something like that…
Thank you again for chatting with us today. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans before we leave you?
Charlotte: Well, just mainly thank them very much for supporting us by going to the shows, buying the album… or if they cannot do both… just telling their friends… it means a lot to us and it makes it possible for us to do what we like to do the most… so just a thank you and I hope to see you all soon.