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Interview : Charlotte Wessels From Delain

Delain celebrate their 10th anniversary with a massive homecoming show at the world famous Paradiso in Amsterdam on December 10th. With special guests planned for the evening, it surely will be a momentous occasion, vocalist and lyricist Charlotte Wessels spoke to me about the upcoming event.

We have to start with congratulations on reaching the milestone of the tenth anniversary of Delain!

“Thank you very much, we’re pretty excited about it! Starting out, we honestly didn’t expect to be going for such a long time. I’m very happy that we are still here, and can’t wait for the next ten!”

The Delain homecoming gig at The Paradiso will be very special, and not just as you are filming it for a future DVD release. Have the nerves kicked in yet?

“I’m already half excited and have scared shitless! I think that it’s the fact that it’s being recorded for a DVD that makes it more nerve-racking, but still, I’m very excited”

How big will the guest list be that night ?  

Yeah. Actually, a lot of my family are like, “you know what, I’m buying tickets!”, they were afraid that it would be so full that they weren’t going to get in. This is the one that I get so many requests for”

There are several special guests planned for the night, one of which, I believe, is Burton C Bell, who will perform ‘Where Is The Blood’ with the band. Is this the first time that he has performed with you?

“That’s correct yeah. We’ve performed it a few times as a band, but we’ve never performed it with Burton, I’m really excited about it, as it’s a fun song to perform”

The Delain live DVD has been funded through pledge music, which lets the fans feel like they are contributing to something special. Some of the rewards are incredible… a whiskey tasting session, in particular!   

“I guess that was the whole idea. We wanted to create a project with the fans because, in the end, the people who support us are the reason that we’ve lasted ten years. We wanted to do something that made everyone feel close and involved. It’s also a way for us to offer things that are not just mass produced, like the whiskey tasting session, and the bowling with the band!”

When I saw those two rewards, I had a chuckle. Both are brilliant!

“Yeah, Otto [Schimmelpenninck van der Oije – Delain bassist] and I are quite passionate about Scottish single malt, so we thought that is something that we could share”

Laphroaig is your tipple of choice, I believe?

“It’s the one that sparked my interest in whiskey. I actually proposed to my boyfriend, my then boyfriend, with a bottle of ten year old Laphroaig! There’s a lot of sentiment with the whiskey, and it’s nice to share your passion with others”

Debut album ‘Lucidity’ was released in 2006, but I would imagine that the songs were with you for an even longer time?

“I think when I started, when Martijn [Westerholt – Delain keyboardist] invited me along to write for the songs, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen. I think that I was 16 or 17? The main reason that I remember is when we signed the contract with Roadrunner. I wasn’t allowed to sign my contract, as I was under 18, so my parents had to sign it for me. The release of ‘Lucidity’ was the moment when we thought that perhaps we could make it as a band”

When I was 16 or 17, I was out being a stereotypical teenager. You were preparing to write and record your first album!

“It was kind of natural for me. At that time, I was in two metal bands. I was in a classical orchestra, a choir, and in high school, a jazz band. When people ask me for advice on starting out, I always tell them – do as much music as you can. I was doing all these things, and enjoying them all. Once you do so many projects it’s easier to get involved, and some things will pass, but some things will stick, and ten years later you’ll be celebrating your tenth anniversary at The Paradiso!”

The recent run of shows with Evergrey and Kobra And The Lotus seemed like a perfect line up… seemed to be great camaraderie between the three bands. I saw members of Evergrey and KATL watching your set from the back of the crowd.

“Yeah, exactly. We were all watching each other’s sets. It was a lot of fun. I was kind of sad, because it was a really weird tour for me. There were only three or four days when I wasn’t either having a cold or the flu. I wish I could have done more partying with the bands, and I felt like I was really boring, but I had to be responsible!”

I suppose, being the vocalist, you have to look after your voice while all the others get to have fun!

“God, sometimes I hate it! Sometimes I think if only I played keyboards or guitar or something that doesn’t sound out of tune if you have one too many! But the fact that I feel bad that the tour is over proves how good the vibe was”

The band were on fire during the live show I caught, especially guitarists Timo and Merel, who seemed to have developed a great chemistry.

“Definitely. I am so happy that we have double guitar power now, and the chemistry between Merel and Timo on stage is fantastic. Merel is all smiles all of the time, and it’s very nice as a band that if you are having an off day, you look over at Merel and she gives you an extra kick of energy. It’s wonderful, the energy onstage now. We actually have had to tell ourselves at one point – we’re having so much fun together but let’s not forget the audience!”

Another milestone for Delain is that the video for ‘Suckerpunch’, sitting at 1.4 million hits. That’s not bad considering there aren’t any cats doing anything cute in it, or any furry rodents waterskiing!

“That’s really special, but I think that for our next video, if we have cats, then that will be the one!”

Of the many tracks that Delain played live from current album ‘Moonbathers’, my favourite was ‘The Hurricane’. Songs are open to individual interpretation, but to me, that’s a good old fashioned love song.

“It’s my favourite to perform live. It is actually a love song, I heard someone say that is like a spiritual follow up of ‘Control The Storm’ on the ‘April Rain’ album. Completely unintentionally, I might add, but I think it is. It speaks about the same things. I think the nice thing about this one is it’s kind of like the conclusion. In relationships people will inevitably fight and ‘The Hurricane’ is about not giving up on it”

Does being the lyricist for Delain bring more pressure?

“No, I kind of like it. Also,, there is a certain interest from the rest of the band about the lyrics but I always get uncomfortable when I feel like I can’t work autonomously. The music is always team work, and I am a team player (laughs), but I also like the part where I can do what I want and how I want, and for me, it’s nice to have that with the lyrics. It doesn’t bring me any pressure, it’s the opposite. It’s more like a release of pressure”

Today’s current climate, worldwide, must give you so much subject matter?

“Oh god! Oh god, yes!, I wish it didn’t, to be honest, I’d rather having boring CDs and a world that’s in a better place!”

You close your set with ‘We Are The Others’, perhaps the Delain song that resonates the most with the band’s fanbase. You must be incredibly proud of the song? (The song deals with the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation can be reached here)

“I am, absolutely. I’m so grateful when people tell me that song did something for them. It’s probably the song that I’m most proud of. Not even because it’s the best or whatever, but because of what it’s done with people. I take great sense of pride in that. I feel really humbled whenever people tell me the experiences they’ve had. There are so many things that can make you feel marginalised, of less value, or just “different” from the rest. There’s lots of people that feel that, and if we are talking about the current climate globally, it’s my concern that people who feel this way will feel it worse in the years to come. That’s something that makes me incredibly sad, so I always sing that one louder!”

Looking at your Spotify playlist, there is a great variety in there, lots of metal in amongst Nick Cave, Tori Amos, and also Kate Bush. Have you seen the new Kate Bush video for ‘And Dream Of Sheep’? It’s fantastic.

“I’m sure it is. I don’t think that she’s done something that I haven’t thought was fantastic!”

She filmed the video in a huge water tank at Pinewood Studios. After spending so long in the water she actually contracted hypothermia!

“I remember last year, I was in a mountain lake somewhere for a video shoot. I wanted an Ophelia kind of shot, and I had a burning fever and I was like – well I’m already way too hot, so I might as well get in the water… but all for the arts, right!”

Was this for the Phantasma project?

“Yes, it was for the ‘Deviant Hearts’ album.”

With so much going on with Delain, is there a chance of a ‘Phantasma’ follow up later on down the road? It is a stunning album.

“I’d never exclude the possibility, but if look at the process of ‘Deviant Hearts’, then it was a lot of work. I was asked to come up with a story, and that took me months, and then it took another year for me to write the story, this was an album where writing the music felt like a breeze! All the things around it, like the novella, was what took the time. Writing a book involves so much work, even if it’s small. I didn’t want to commit to something in say two years time, because of the ambition we have in our own individual bands… but I’m not saying no!”

‘Deviant Hearts’ was another album that you were involved in where the cover artwork was stunning. Current Delain album ‘Moonbathers’ being another. The packaging seems so important to you.

“Thank you very much. I’m very passionate about all of the art on our albums. I love visual art, so the album sleeve is very important. The comeback of vinyl is one of my favourite things, as it allows the artwork to really shine. The ‘Moonbathers’ white vinyl is soooooo cool!”

So what’s the plan for Christmas and the holiday period? Feet up?

“Well, yeah. I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, but the days between Christmas and New Year, I’ll be doing a series of Lemmy memorial gigs!”

Sounds fantastic!

“I will be! Belting out some Motörhead songs, and I’m really excited about it. It’s a few club shows in Holland, and we’re doing some old Motörhead songs with a whole bunch of Dutch artists from the rock and metal scene. Men and women alike, as Lemmy would have liked it that way!”

What have you been practising?

(Sings)”It’s still a surprise!!…I’ll tell you one, it’s actually….(I’m sworn to secrecy and a gentleman never tells)…Lemmy was a very clever and compelling lyricist and I’m really looking forward to singing it”

Lemmy was the first rock star that I ever met, way back in the early 80’s, and to a 13 year old kid, he just seemed so big, and looked like a mountain!

“He was so cool. I remember when I first met him, I was 19 I think? We were performing at a festival and Motörhead were headlining… so we’re playing, for me, not the best gig ever, and our bassist back then nods to the side of the stage, and I see Lemmy watching the entire show. I get so nervous, and I’m thinking that I need to be super cool when I walk past him when we finish, so he’s like “Good show, dude”, and I’m like, “Heh! heh! heh!”, the worst girl giggle ever! Ten minutes later, and I’m approached by one of the Motörhead crew, and he speaks the legendary words to me… ”Lemmy wants you in his dressing room”… so, of course, I know his reputation, but I have to go! He’s in there with a Motörhead girlie on his arm, and he gives me the best pep talk ever, telling me how much he likes female fronted metal, and he was asking loads of questions about the band. His pep talk was much needed at that point, and he was such a gentleman, and I really cherish that moment. I did meet him a couple of times later after that, and I’m not sure he remembered our first meeting at all! I’m like “hey remember me?” and he was like “sure, love”. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t, as I was so happy that I got to meet him. So I will be belting out Motörhead songs with confidence!”

That’s a brilliant story! Everyone remembers Lemmy with such fondness. Thanks for your time, Charlotte.

“Thanks. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Take care”

You too. Have a great Christmas!

Interview: Dave Stott

  

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