Interview by Tony CannellaThe Dutch band Delain have been on tour with Sonata Arctica and Xandria supporting their killer new album “The Human Contradiction”. I recently had a chance to sit down with vocalist Charlotte Wessels. She went in depth with the new album, tour and lyrics among other things. One thing I came away with after our conversation is that Charlotte is not only super talented but she is extremely intelligent. Read on… Thank you for taking the time to talk to us again. How have things been going so far with the tour with Sonata Arctica and Xandria?
It’s been going great. This is the 4th date of the tour, so we’re really getting into it. It’s a really cool package, so I’m very happy so far.Your new album “The Human Contradiction” is out now. How would you describe it and what are the differences between this one and the last one “We Are The Others”.
I think if you would have to kind of label this album, I think that it is a combination of the more poppy, catchy sound that we had on “We Are the Others”, but then it actually re-introduces some elements that we’ve had on our records, like with our first record, so for example we have songs featuring very prominent grunts again, we’ve got big orchestral parts. I would describe it as a mix of old and more recent Delain. I’ve heard people say that it is heavier. I have always aimed for a heavy record, so I don’t know exactly how one gets to be so much heavier than the other one. I think that this one is a little bit darker.Where does the title “The Human Contradiction” come from?
The title “The Human Contradiction” was taken from one of my favorite books, it’s a trilogy by Octavia Butler, it’s called “Lilith’s Brood” and it’s the first book of the trilogy. It explains the fact that humans are both intelligent and a hierarchy and this is actually kind of a toxic combination because humans are intelligent and serve those hierarchy instincts and this is exactly the kind of behavior that allows for systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, species-ism, etc. to exist. It makes us pick these qualities in others and use those to qualify people and rank people and put them higher or lower on the social ladder – not only people, but also non-human entities. Basically I really liked the metaphor of the human contradiction, because you actually see it around you in daily life as well. In that way we are kind of broadening of the topics we were dealing with on our previous record where it was mainly about ‘otherness’ of human beings. On “The Human Contradiction” there are also songs about species-ism for example – “Tell Me Mechanist”. It takes this idea of otherness again from different angles, and it’s not like it’s really a concept record but there is kind of a thread going through the songs.I wanted to ask you about some individual songs. “Your Body is a Battleground” for instance. Lyrically it’s pretty easy to follow along with the lyrics, but…
You’d think, still a lot of people got offended for reasons that I still don’t totally get.Really? How did you decide write those lyrics based on the different drugs and chemicals people put into their bodies?
I’m kind of fearful of the power that industries who work with people’s health because there is so much money involved in these industries. I have a lot of faith in humanity but I still don’t think that these industries can be unaffected by the amount of money that is at play, and I do think that it kind of has the power to manipulate what would we qualify as good, or wrong, or healthy, or bad. In that way I’m kind of fearful of the normalizing effect that this can have on society. This song is not only about the industry of medicine, but also the food industry and the cosmetic industry. The song is very much a one sided account because I was kind of frustrated about this at the moment of writing because I saw something really upsetting also happening to someone close to me that was very much related to this. I also had like an infection of the lungs, I had medicine and without them probably 300 years ago I would have been dead, so I owe a lot to medicine as well – this is something that of course I didn’t say in the song, a lot of people think I should have.And of course you had Marco Hietala from Nightwish sing on the song with you.
Yes!Was this song written with him in mind?
The thing is, whenever we kind of envision male vocals we automatically think of his vocals, because he has been such a prominent part of our sound in the past. So yeah, I think we heard him singing there from pretty early on.
Another one of my favorites is “Here Come the Vultures”. What can you tell us about that one?
Mine too, actually. Well, the song has been called “Halloween” for a very long time, because we actually wrote it on Halloween and I kind of still like that idea because it has this kind of creepy feel about it. I usually sleep really badly on tour buses and I get these really creepy nightmares and this song sounding as creepy as it did, I thought ‘okay, maybe I should put them somewhere’. A lot of people ask me what it is about and there is actually a lot about the music industry as well because there is a lot being exposed and kind of prone to criticism, but in general it’s just basically fucked up stuff that I dream about when I can’t sleep on the tour bus (laughs). So I thought it was only fitting to finish a song that was written on Halloween with such a creepy vibeAnother favorite is “Tell Me, Mechanist”. What can you tell us about that one?
I think this is a really cool one as it is the song that features the most grunts since our first album “Lucidity” and I’m really happy that it does. We asked George Oosthoek who had been grunting on our first record to also do the grunts on this one, so it is a very nice reunion. This is the one that is very much about species-ism. It’s actually about a conversation between two philosophers. It was a philosopher who basically stated that every person and every being and every animal we work like machines and that was actually pretty smart because that was kind of an early step in discovering atoms and stuff. The implications of the idea that we’re all merely machines was that animals would be equal to man, of course since they were really happy about using animals for testing and opening up while they were still alive, it would be more convenient if animals were not exactly like humans, because that would make it very unethical, so that’s when he said that ‘we are all machines, but humans are the only ones with a god given soul’, that basically gives us permission to do anything they wanted with anything that is not a human. “Tell Me, Mechanist” that phrase – originally is actually “Answer Me, Mechanist” was a response by another philosopher who said, ‘there are people who open up this dog and they see in this dog exactly the same things and springs of feeling that they see in themselves, answer me, mechanist, did nature arrange all the springs of feeling in order for you not to feel’, and I thought that was so poetic and beautiful that I thought okay this is going in the song. The thing is it is quite interesting, because a lot of people still use these same arguments right now to justify killing animals. I don’t really care if people choose to eat meat – I myself wear leather – but it’s kind of ignorant to say ‘it’s okay to eat that animal, they don’t feel pain’, well it’s been proven hundreds of years ago that animals have emotions, they have social lives, they have tool use, they have intelligence and they feel pain. It feels kind of silly to me to base your moral decisions on the grounds of that.Another guest that you have on the album is Alissa from Arch Enemy. How did that collaboration come about and did you always have her in mind to appear on the record?
Actually last year, around this time we were in the U.S. as well, on tour with Kamelot and Alissa was with them. Basically we spent a month on the road with her watching her do her thing every night and it was quite impossible to not want her on the album after that. So we asked her if she wanted to collaborate and she was happy to. I’m really happy with the results. I think “The Tragedy of the Commons” is probably one of my other favorites on the record.You have a video out for the track “Stardust”. It’s a cool looking video. Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the concept and are you guys happy with it?
It’s not my favorite video. I like it. I like the sparkly-ness of it. We were working with the same company that made the video for “Frozen” which was our very first video. We were very happy with that video, so we wanted to give them carte blanche for “Stardust”. There is kind of a lyrical concept behind the song, but then again it’s so complicated and everybody just hears “Stardust” anyway. It’s kind of obvious that they went with that whole theme. I kind of liked how it turned out, but to be honest the end is a bit out there for my tastes.I honestly believe that “The Human Contradiction” is your best album. How has it been received by the fans and media?
I think that we can be really happy with the responses. It’s funny because for everybody else you make a record and in the process of making the record, we are so close to the record and then it gets released and you kind of let it go. We went on tour so quickly after releasing this album that the things I normally do – like google everyday for reviews and stuff – I didn’t do so much this time because we were directly on the road. But I think the responses that I have seen were very positive. The responses to the songs when we play them live are very positive. Even though I haven’t been keeping track with it as frantically as I’ve done with other records, I must say that I think we can be satisfied with the results.This is your second extensive tour of the U.S. What are your impressions of North America?
I really like coming back to all the places because we are playing a lot of venues that we played last year as well. It’s been a year but every time that we come back to the gig and to the venue it kind of feels like it was yesterday that we were there. It’s kind of cool because even though it’s such a big country, it’s like ‘I know a street here, I know that street there, I know that Walmart’ and then you know every Walmart so that’s kind of nice. It is interesting how different the culture is. We were watching TV and just watching TV for us was so strange. It’s cool. I really like it and I really like how everybody is super friendly.What are your plans beyond this North American tour?
Well, we’ve got our touring schedule full until mid 2015 and we’re writing new songs in the meantime already, so we’re preparing for our next record. So yeah, we’re keeping busy.We’ve come to the end of this interview. Do you have any final messages for the fans to wrap this up?
I would like to thank them very for their support and I hope to meet them on the road one day. I really hope they enjoy our new record.
Photos by Sandra Ludewig