Radio Metal : DELAIN has been around for a few years now, but there are still people in France who don’t know you. Could you introduce the band and its members for us?

Charlotte Wessels (chant) : DELAIN is a band from Holland. Right now there are five members: our keyboard player, who started the band, Martijn Westerholt; our guitarist, Ronald Landa; our bassist, Rob van der Loo, and our drummer, Sander Zoer. And there’s me, the singer, Charlotte Wessels! And we’re playing today in Paris, which is really cool!

Can you tell us more about your own musical background? Do you play an instrument? Have you ever taken singing lessons, or is it a gift?

It started when I learned to play the clarinet, which is not the most handy instrument if you want to sing, because singing and playing clarinet at the same time is humanly impossible! I quit after a while, but I kept playing in a jazz band. I also started singing there, that’s where I took jazz singing lessons. I really liked it, but I was told I should try classical lessons, because it would fit my voice better. So I did, but I didn’t like it at all! Of course it’s very good for the technique, and I think that every singer who takes him- or herself seriously should take a few lessons to learn the tricks. But my teacher had a few pupils, and after a few years with her, everybody sounded the same. It sounded beautiful, but I didn’t like the fact that everyone sounded the same. I decided to quit, and I haven’t had any lessons for quite some time now. I’ve been singing with a band on a regular basis, and it’s been so busy with DELAIN… I’m thinking of taking vocal coaching, though, see some guy who could teach me things to keep my voice in condition if I sing everyday for months on end on tour.

The promo tour for your latest album, April Rain, started in March. How is it going so far?

It’s going very well. Today will really be the cream on the cake! It’s the last day, and it’s Paris, and we have a great experience with Paris. We hope it’s going to be just as good as every time before. We’ve had shows from the end of March, with a few days off back home. We’ve toured with KAMELOT with a support band, and then we’ve done our own headliner tour, in smaller venues. We’ve been to places we’d never been before, like Milan or Austria. It was very cool to see so many people there, cause we’ve never ever played there. It was nice.

Speaking about KAMELOT, how did you come to be their support act?

The label was looking for a support act, and they offered us to do it. It seemed like a good combination. We did a couple of shows with them in Holland, a little European tour, and it was really nice. It’s not really the type of music that we make, but I think that the fact that our music is different is a part of what made it work. We got a good response from their audience.

(Charlotte) : « In France, people are just happy that you’re here. If you do a gig in Holland or in Germany, people are standing there, waiting, and after a few songs, it’s like: « Yeah, you kind of rock! » And at the end you have them. When we were at the Boule Noire, I remember our tour manager walked up on stage to fix a light, and he got so much applause, while he’s not even in the band!« 

After your concert at La Boule Noire in Paris last year, I remember reading in your tour diary that you’d found the audience completely crazy.

Crazy in a good way!

A lot of metal bands tend to say that. What’s so special about France?!

In France, people are just happy that you’re here. If you do a gig in Holland or in Germany, people are standing there, waiting, and after a few songs, it’s like: « Yeah, you kind of rock! » And at the end you have them. When we were at the Boule Noire, I remember our tour manager walked up on stage to fix a light, and he got so much applause, while he’s not even in the band! It’s amazing, people are so thankful. I really like it a lot.

Tonight, the opening act for the show will be a French symphonic band called WHYZDOM. How did you come to know them?

Via our management. We have a very strict management, and they check all the support acts that we get offered. WHYZDOM passed the test! I’m really happy that they’ll be supporting us tonight. Their singer’s looking very beautiful right now! [Note: Telya, WHYZDOM’s singer, was having her hair and make-up done in the room at the same moment.]

There were many, many guests on your first album, Liv Kristine (LEAVE’S EYES), Sharon den Adel (WITHIN TEMPTATION) or Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH), to name but a few. On the new album, there are fewer guests, and you are the only female singer. Is it because DELAIN is now a more established band and can affort to have less famous guests?

It was actually a very deliberate choice. After ‘Lucidity’ we got a band together, to be able to play, and the band worked very well for us. We’ve been touring with them for three years, we’re really close. When we started working on the second album, it felt only natural that they were going to be on it. It would have felt strange to invite guests musicians while we had such great musicians in our band. That’s why we chose to have only a few, in the end. There was even a point when we thought we should have no guests. But then we thought that some parts would sound really good with Marco’s voice. Then again, commercially, it was not even a good thing to ask him, because we already had him. But we loved his voice so much that we asked him again. I’m happy we did, because he gave the songs exactly what they were missing. The other guest is Maria Ahn, the cello player. We didn’t even know her, I wouldn’t say we’d never heard of her, but it was close! We were looking for someone to play cello parts, and our co-producer, Oliver Philips, told us that, if we wanted to have a top-notch cello player, someone who could really add something to the music, we should ask her. Since we trust him very much, we did, and we were very satisfied with the result. It was really worthwhile.

Would you consider having a concert with all the guests you had on the first album? You would sing « The Gathering » with Marco, for example…

We already had one gig with everybody except Marco. He wanted to come, but he couldn’t make it. But we had this one special gig with Sharon, Ad [Sluijter, ex-EPICA] and Liv Kristine, all the people from the first album. So yeah, we’ve considered it.

Is DELAIN a full-time job, or do you have the time to do something else on the side? Do you study?

I do study, but not very intensively. Martijn is the only one who can afford to have DELAIN as a full-time job. I study part-time, and the other band members have little jobs to get food on the table.

How do you compose an album? Is it a group task, or is it the work of only one person in the band, Martijn, for example?

It’s a group task, but everybody works individually. Martijn does the most, even though the other band members have the opportunity to come up with music and ask him if this would be good material for the album. Sometimes Martijn says yes, and sometimes it’s no! In the end, we all work on our own at home. For example, Martijn can send me something and say: « Hey Charlotte, can you think of a vocal line or lyrics for this one? » Actually, for this album, it worked the other way round for three songs: I had lyrics and vocal lines, and I submitted them first to Guus Eikens, who also worked on « Lucidity » with « The Gathering ». Both Martijn and I do a lot of writing with him. In the end, we all work on songs together, but people do what they do best. For example, if you’re good at guitar riffs, you’ll have to think about a guitar riff for this one song. In my case, it’s lyrics. It all comes together in the end.

When it comes to writing lyrics, what are your own influences?

Basic, everyday life in general. I know a lot of bands in the genre have fantasy elements, but I don’t like that very much. It’s better to write about things you’ve experienced one day or another in your life. People sometimes ask me: « When are you going to write about wizards? » And I say: « The day I meet one! » So it’s everyday life, and sometimes also my studies. For example, on this album you have « Virtue And Vice », which contains the seven sins and the seven virtues, something I had to study for Roman mythology. I thought it was very interesting. A lot of people know about the concept, because they’ve seen the movie « 7even ». I get to read so much interesting literature that it slips into the lyrics sometimes.

Like several Dutch bands, you’re cooperating with the brand Jagermeister. Can you tell us more about this cooperation? What is its goal?

Jagermeister wants something, and we want something. They want to put themselves on the market as a brand that supports bands. As a beginning band, we can use every support that we can get. They make T-shirts for us, and we can sell them. They can also do a photoshoot with us and put it in a few magazines. We get to be in the magazine, and they get their name with that of the band. It’s good publicity, it’s good for both parties. And I actually like Jagermeister, so I thought it was a good idea from the beginning!

April Rain is going to be released in the US in June. Congratulations! Was Lucidity ever released there?

No, it wasn’t. It was of course available on the Internet, but it hasn’t been released there.

What do you expect from this breakthrough in the US?
I’m very curious. I’ve heard a lot of people from the US ask where they could get the album. There are so many people asking for it that I hope it will open doors for us. Northern America is not the place where most bands go to in the very early stages of their career, so it would be really cool if we could do it. But the most important is that people can get the album. It’s not even that we want to make a breakthrough and be famous there, it’s just silly and unprofessional if people want to get your album and cannot buy it.

April Rain entered the charts at #96 in Germany, at #91 in Switzerland, but it’s #19 in Japan! How do you explain such a paradox? Don’t you think it’s weird that a European band should be more successful in the Far East than on its own continent?

There are a lot of bands in this genre on our continent, there’s a lot to offer. We also have a different scene: in Japan, the scene is more alternative, bands like us can get publicity in mainstream more easily. In Holland, it’s practically impossible. Our video gets shown on TV, but radios will ask to do an unplugged version of the song. But we’re not an unplugged band, we’re a rock band! It’s very complicated. Germany has a better market than Holland for this. Actually, Holland is probably the shittiest market for our music!

Well, try selling an album in France!

Yesterday I was walking on the Champs Elysees, past the Virgin Megastore, and they had April Rain on the stand where you can listen to it. It was so cool!

That’s amazing, because France is not a good market for metal, so good for you! For the last question of the interview, I usually ask people if they’ve already started working on their new album, but it would be a bit premature to ask you this question. Instead, can you tell us what you expect for the future of DELAIN – for the next few years?

Our goal with this album is to tour as much as possible outside of Holland, see where we can go. Maybe it will be just Europe, but who knows… People alway say South America is great. Apart from touring, we are also going to start writing for the new album the day we get home – which is tomorrow! We were in such a good vibe when we were writing for April Rain. At the beginning it was kind of hard, because Martijn still makes all the decisions, and everybody has to find their places. But the cooperation was so good that I’m really looking forward to writing again. That’s what we’ll do!

Interview conducted April 29th, 2009
Site Delain : www.delain.nl

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