Interview by Robin Stryker
It was my profound pleasure to interview Charlotte Wessels and Martijn Westerholt, the vocalist and founder/keyboardist of Dutch symphonic metal band, Delain. Happily for me, the band was in my hometown of Atlanta for their U.S. debut at ProgPower USA. After fortifying ourselves with some Italian food, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Charlotte and Martijn, of course, did all the work – even taking turns later in the night interviewing each other, whilst I sat back and giggled. (I swear it was their idea). Read on to find out what happens when band members, who are good friends in real life and extremely funny in person, get to turn the microphone on each other.
Hello Charlotte and Martijn! Last time Femme Metal talked with Delain in late 2009, you had recently headlined at Metal Female Voices Festival and were starting your tour with Sonata Arctica. Since then, you have released “April Rain” in the U.K., done headlining tours and have just performed at Wacken Open Air. How was Wacken?
Charlotte: It was awesome. Yeah, it was really great. We played at the Party Stage and there were lots of people there all cheering.
Martijn: And it was a PARTY! We were very surprised the party stage was called the “Party Stage”. It was amazing.
And that was just one of a lot of festivals that Delain was at this year, right?
Charlotte: We also did Sonisphere in the UK, which was REALLY amazing. I guess that was one of my favourites as well, next to Wacken.
Martijn: Mine too, absolutely.
Now, having sampled festivals all over the world, what has been the one where you thought everything just came together – the fans were on, the equipment was working, everything was perfect?
Martijn: We never had that. (laughs)
Charlotte: No, we’re still waiting for it. I mean, it’s taking FOREVER.
Martijn: (laughs) I’m just kidding, of course.
Charlotte: I guess Lowlands in 2009, which was really awesome. It’s a Dutch festival and I’ve been going there every since my parents allowed me to go to festivals, basically. Then, finally to be up on the stage there. And it was a good show, too!
Martijn: It was a really big festival with something like more than 50.000 people.
Charlotte: I think even 60.000.
Martijn: I think it’s one of the biggest in Holland. So, everything went perfect, and it was a really, really good show.
I understand that after ProgPower, Delain will make its first appearance in Mexico and Brazil. Do you have anything special planned for those shows?Charlotte: The fact that we will be there is kind of special. The special thing for us about Brazil and Mexico is that they were one of the first countries who had a really loyal and active fan-base. A few of the first fan-sites that popped up were the South American ones. And then you hear all the stories from other bands that it is crazy and wild over there. So I think we are as much looking forward to how they are going to be, as they are looking forward to how we are going to be. Martijn: Yeah, absolutely! And of course, you’re going to hear Charlotte talking Portuguese and Spanish. Charlotte, have you memorized some phrases and basic greetings? Charlotte: I actually contacted some fans … like “Oh, it would be so nice if I could say something!” … and sent them some stuff that I would like to say. I’m going to practice with them. I’m always trying to do that. And if I don’t get to memorize it, then I’ll just secretly write it on my hand. (Oh no, I’m telling my secret!) Martijn, how about you, or are you going to phone it in? Martijn: Yeah well, I don’t look forward to it. I think it is an average tour. Charlotte: Just another day at the office for Martijn. Martijn: But TOTALLY the other way around. It’s already great tour right now. We didn’t even play yet and it is already great being here in the States. I’m really looking forward to South America. As Charlotte said, we heard a lot of positive, crazy stuff from other bands there. And it is also always a really good sign if you have already developed a fan base and you didn’t even release anything yet or play there. So they deserve having us there, and we are really looking forward to it.
You’ve got very little time between ProgPower and Mexico, but have five days between Mexico and Brazil. Have you pencilled in some fun while you are there, maybe some sightseeing?Charlotte: We’ve had a lot of fun today! Martijn: We’re taking the car from Mexico City to São Paulo, so we needed five days. (laughs) No, we’re not. We have a couple of days off and we are going to do some sightseeing in Brazil. Charlotte: Destroying some more pools on the way over there. Martijn: Yeah, exactly! Charlotte: We’ll enjoy ourselves. I was really interested to read on Delain’s website that October 29th is actually the last show in Holland before the new album. Where are you on the new album? Charlotte: We are writing it. We have some songs and ideas for songs and we are hoping to get into the studio and get on going with it really quickly. Martijn: When we are back from this tour, actually the biggest part of the writing starts then. Then we really are planning to do a lot of stuff. Charlotte: We are going to lock ourselves in together. Is that what it takes when you are writing? To just step out of your lives and hunker down to write? Charlotte: If you have unlimited time, I don’t think you would need it. But at this point, we want something to happen fast. So, it is just making the circumstances to write more optimal.
Martijn: And it is also very easy if you sit together, to develop the style you want to do. Because you always want to innovate a little bit. When you are on your own, you cannot do that. So you need to be together for that. We have a lot of activities normally … without writing even … so it’s very important to really focus on it and don’t have any distractions. So we hired a small farm house in Holland and we are going to write and hope something good comes out of that. Charlotte, when you first started with Delain, a lot of the material for “Lucidity” was already written and you were doing vocal lines. And then in “April Rain”, it was much more collaborative. Now that you have worked together on two albums and know each other’s style, what is the process like? Charlotte: Actually, a lot of parts stay the same but some things change as well. I guess we are still working the same way. It is just that you get together earlier in the process, which makes it easier to respond to each other. At least for me, I like it better. I mean, the filling in the gaps on “Lucidity” was really cool but it’s richer to be there from the beginning and see how everything develops. Martijn: But also from my side, it is better. Because if somebody is really into it, this music is like transporting your emotions … it’s like transporting feelings and atmosphere. And if you are totally into it, then it benefits, of course, the music. Charlotte: And you also see that it kind of gets together in an earlier stage. Where sometimes there would be a song and there would be a lyrical interpretation of that song. And I think those became closer to each other. You know? Martijn: But also the other way around, especially with the songs I write. If Charlotte writes something with Guus, then I only hear it almost at the end. Charlotte: That’s true, yeah.
Martijn: Which I think we have to look into, if that is the most efficient way. But that is something for the future. Also still, the way of working is still moving. And that is good, because we are still exploring.
Your bass player, Otto der Oije, is a VERY recent addition to Delain. Would you tell us a little about him?
Charlotte: He was with us for the first time at the headline tour in the U.K. earlier this year.
Martijn: This felt like … I don’t know if it is also an American saying, “a lot of the lottery”. Something like that. What is the American saying?
Charlotte: Luck of the draw, that’s it.
Martijn: Exactly. It’s really great … really, really great with him.
Martijn: Because you achieve it yourself. But you also achieve it because of the people who visit you and who buy your stuff. They also achieve it for you, and that is very important to keep in mind.
Speaking of that, you spend A LOT of time on social media … you tweet, you write tour blogs, you’re taking pictures and posting them. “Here is where we are, here is what we’re doing, here is my kitty, here is what is going on in my life”. How do you keep that up when you are on the road, recording, writing music and living your lives?
Martijn: It is especially because of Charlotte, I think.
Charlotte: Actually, I went into the whole thing kicking and screaming, when they said, “Now you also have to do Twitter”. Of course, I liked the social networks and everything that is on there and it offers a lot of possibilities. But it wasn’t until the Twitter thing that I actually got really ADDICTED. But, it’s actually the most short and effective and fun way to get in touch with the people who like to follow you. Because, even if you are on MySpace and want to answer everybody, you can’t. With Twitter, it’s just 140 signs and you have a really short connection to everybody. It works, you know? You see that people actually FOLLOW you and you get kind of a gratitude for letting people know what you are doing.
Martijn: It gives energy.
Charlotte: That makes me feel happy. It’s like kind of a confirmation that what you’re doing is cool. I mean, of course, you don’t need other people to say that, but the fact that they do is fun! My parents ask me when I’m on tour, “You’re going to tweet a lot, right? We want to know what you are doing”. Sometimes my parents are like, “Hey, I read on Twitter that you are eating healthy foods”.
Martijn: It is also a blessing because I’m SO bad, I suck so much with this stuff. I want to get to answer but I sound so bad. It’s also a guy thing … I have a feeling that girls are better at this kind of stuff. Set aside that. I don’t want to blame it on the general male side and have to blame it on myself.
Charlotte: Actually, I never heard the thing that girls are more computer nerds than guys. I never heard that one before. (laughs)
Martijn: Not really computer nerds. I mean like being thoughtful about having good contacts. That’s what I mean. It’s good that Charlotte does that.
I’m curious about the extent to which the art history degree Charlotte is studying now colours your lyrics writing? The lyrics in “April Rain” have a very strong visual element.
Charlotte: When “Lucidity” was recorded, I wasn’t at university yet and was 17. So that wasn’t like an influence back then. The lyrics for “The Gathering” were written by Guus and there were some songs written by another guy who had some really poetic stuff on there, which was really cool. I kind of needed a dictionary for some it, though. They are not my words but I was in a band with him before and he really influenced me in the way you look at lyrics. Still, it is a very different kind of lyrics than ones that I would write.
Martijn: But also very complicated words sometimes.
Charlotte: They were REALLY good-sounding and with a really good metronome to it. They were really well thought over and excellent. But it is still different when it’s your own thoughts put to words. And from that, I think it has changed much from “Lucidity” to “April Rain”. I guess those are a little bit more personal. But on the other hand, when you are talking about really regular things — like things that happen to you in day-to-day life — it is interesting to put them in a different kind of form. If you look at the art history study, it helps to have a different way to say something. Like if you are looking at “Virtue and Vice”, it is about the virtues and the vices. You are talking about wanting to be something better and reaching out to them and saying, “I wish I was more like this virtue, or I wish I didn’t have so much of that vice in me”. It is just a more interesting way to say actually the things that I guess everyone thinks about every once in a while. So you keep them lyrically interesting but still comprehensible.
I’m feeling kind of lazy. So Charlotte, why don’t you ask Martijn some questions. And Martijn, what would you like to ask Charlotte? The ruder, the better actually … please do my job for me. J
Charlotte: (laughs) Martijn, what have you got in your suitcase right now at this tour that you are really ashamed about?
Martijn: That’s a good one! So, whatever I answer will be bad. I’m a totally boring guy if I have nothing and that’s not good. OR I have something really strange, which is also not good. So, I’m screwed both ways. Let me think, what do I have in my suitcase that I’m afraid might be found and am ashamed about?!? I think I’m a boring guy.
Martijn: No, actually.
Charlotte: Ah right, it’s the first day of tour.
Martijn: I think I wipe my ass very well. You asked for it!!!
That is SO being published.
Martijn: No no no no, don’t publish that! Don’t put that on the record … “wipes his ass very well”. No, I really, honestly, cannot think of anything. Actually because my bag was stuffed with a lot of equipment.
Charlotte: That is true. We didn’t get to take a lot with us, so we didn’t get a chance.
Martijn: I have a book of Napoleon and some history. I’m a real history addict, so I know exactly who is there on the walls. (Points to pictures of monarchs and military figures in the restaurant.) But anyway, to answer your question, I’m boring.
Martijn, what embarrassing questions might you have for Charlotte?
Martijn: Actually, I’m even meaner. I want to know …
Charlotte: He’s going to ask something that he already knows, that is really embarrassing. And then he is going to ask it anyway.
Martijn: No no no. What question would you REALLY hate to get in an interview … where you think, “Oh no, not THAT question!”
Charlotte: “What’s your favourite colour?”
Martijn: That’s a little bit disappointing.
Charlotte: I was just trying to keep it safe.
Martijn: Yeah, because she had her period back then, and she was very annoyed. This kind of stuff.
Charlotte: Exactly, exactly. Probably those kind of things. Or people who ONLY ask things that are in our biography at the website. Because then you just know, you didn’t do your homework. That too.
Martijn: Okay, your turn I guess. If you have another.
Charlotte: My all-time favourite question, which I was asked once by a Japanese guy, and it is the weirdest question I ever got. If you were a fish, then what kind of fish would you want to be? They actually asked me this. I was like, “Salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna …?”
Martijn: I would like to be a dolphin.
That’s not a fish, dude.
Martijn: That’s true, that’s true. It’s a mammal.
Charlotte: A starfish is cute, like a little starfish.
Martijn: A brown starfish. No, I’m more into lobsters, but that’s not a fish either.
Charlotte: Man, know your animals!
Charlotte: What about the Nemo fish. The Nemo fish is cute.
Martijn: That is gay. I think I would like to be a …
Charlotte: … you’d be an eel.
Martijn: An eel, yeah! Or a herring.
Last question and then “goodbyes” to all.
Martijn: What do you like about the lyrics of “The Gathering”? (sinister laugh)
Charlotte: I like the fact that no one until today has really figured out what it is about. Yeah, that is what I like most about it, I guess. And the lyrical theme is quite cool.
(Martijn continues laughing)
Charlotte: Asshole. (laughs)
Do you have any last profound and deep words for your friends, admirers and would-be stalkers at Femme Metal?
Charlotte: Please stalk us. We need the attention, especially Martijn.
Martijn: Don’t read this interview more than once.
Actually, read it again but backwards. It’s much more profound.
Charlotte: Yeah, there are hidden messages!
Many thanks to Charlotte, Martijn and Delain’s tour manager Rik for being charming dinner companions and utterly gracious throughout. Our thanks also to Dave at EarsplitPR for arranging the interview.