Charlotte Wessels, Delain’s vocalist, is passionate about art in all its forms and loves to create above all else – whether it is music, lyrics or visual work. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that she should appear less than enthusiastic when asked if Delain will soon release a live album, especially since so many videos can be found on YouTube nowadays. As it turns out, she’s much more excited when she describes the way Delain turned their way of composing upside down for their new record, We Are The Others – which will finally be released on June 4th, after heaps of difficulties related to the selling of Roadrunner Records to Warner –, the way the artwork and the lyrics of the album were created, or her new photography project.
The creation process is so captivating that it’s bound to elude the listener, who only ever discovers an album from the emerged surface. For an artist, on the other hand, this process is never-ending and represents an entire life’s soundtrack.
Radio Metal : You’re here in Paris to talk about your new album and your upcoming concert in May. Do you do that in every country Delain is going to visit, or is France merely lucky once again?
Charlotte Wessels (vocals) : France is usually one of the countries that we go to for some extensive interviews and promotion before the tours. We don’t do all the countries, but we definitely go to France and some other countries. This time, it was really lucky, because I was just happening to drop by in Paris today! Very lucky coincidence.
Your guitar player Timo Somers will not join you on this tour. He will be replaced by current Doro and former After Forever guitarist Bas Maas. What brought about this situation?
Timo is really busy with a lot of musical projects. When he auditioned for the position of guitarist for Delain, we already knew that music was really in his blood. He has so many projects going on, and he was really busy. We were wondering how we could think of a solution that would provide everybody space. We were actually thinking about having two guitarists joining us when Bas Maas came along. There were enthusiastic about the possibility of filling the job together. It’s not really a thing that you would automatically go for, but when we saw the option of having these two very talented guitarists who were willing to take the responsibility, we thought it might be a very good idea. We’re curious to see how it turns out and to have Bas on stage with us for the first time.
Your previous tour ended in May last year – in Paris, actually –, you’ll soon be back on the roads, and in the meantime, you’ve managed to record an album. Do you guys ever stop? Does the band suffer from some kind of artistic bulimia?
That’s really not the case, to be honest. If you think of it that way, that we stopped touring, recorded an album and now we’re touring again, it seems everything is going really fast. But to be honest, the last tour was already meant to be a promo tour for the new album. Actually, I prefer the way you put it! If you put it the other way, you could say we’ve had a pretty big delay, but we’ve had some circumstances, considering the problems with the label. I think everybody’s already heard about that on the net. But now we’re really happy to have the album done and fixed.
How did the composition process go this time? Are you still behind the lyrics?
I’m behind the lyrics, but also more behind the music and the songs. The story used to be that Martijn wrote most of the stuff, and I wrote most of the lyrics. Jos also sometimes joined in on some songs, on the previous records. This time, we really tried as much as possible to write from scratch, all three of us. We’d sit together in a room and see what kind of songs we were in the mood for. Apart from that, a lot of people have been influencing the songs on this record. When the songs were kind of finished, we went to Sweden and we did rewriting session with the Tripod team, our producers. So they also kind of put their stamps on the music. That’s kind of how it went: we started writing songs in a small circle, and then we did rewriting sessions with Tripod in Sweden. Then we recorded the bunch!
Your new single, “We Are The Others”, was inspired by the hate crime against a British girl called Sophie Lancaster in 2007. She was killed because she was a Goth. You seem particularly touched by this subject. Is it important for you to talk about the right to be different?
It’s very important. The case of Sophie was extremely tragic, and I guess everybody has heard about it on the news. There was an animation video made in her honor a year after her death. I guess anyone who has seen it cannot be anything but extremely touched. To me, it’s a very special subject. I started gender studies a while ago, which is about the way differences in human beings can chance cultural or political processes. It also has a lot to do with prejudice. Growing up dressing alternative, or listening to alternative music… You already know there’s a lot of prejudice against that. But I don’t want to make it a subject only about subcultures. It’s also about sex, ethnicity and sexual preferences – all those things that need a bit more acceptance.
These past few years, we’ve heard many metal bands start talking about the state of the world, the financial crisis, environmental issues, ecology, etc. Those were the main themes of many albums in 2011. Is it something you also tackle on this album?
Environmental issues, not so much. It’s something I care about, but not something I draw lyrical inspiration from. Not yet, let’s say. The main influence on most songs for this album was the whole thinking about difference and acceptance. Inter-human actions, so to speak.
Unfortunately, we haven’t heard the album yet, but there were a couple of extracts in various videos you posted on line, especially in the tour trailer. These tracks sound particularly heavy, and some of the titles are quite aggressive: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “Where Is The Blood”, etc. Does this album mark a change of direction for Delain?
These questions are very difficult to answer for me. Usually, it’s more the public than ourselves that decides whether or not it’s going in a certain direction. What I can say is that, lyrically, I’ve been trying not to avoid anything, like aggressive things or lyrics that I would normally think should be a bit more subtle. I’ve been looking for the limits, like: “How far can you express yourself without crossing certain borders?” Musically, you mentioned it was quite heavy. I think it has to do with… I mean, there are very different songs on the record. Some songs are actually much more poppy, and others are more heavy. It really goes in a lot of directions. But I feel that it does portray one identity. I think we also owe that to Tripod, our production team, and Jacob Hellner, who’s worked with Rammstein and Apocalyptica. He’s worked very much with the band, on just the groove of the band. When you listen to this album, there’s a little less orchestration going on. It’s a little bit more straightforward, with drums and guitars, more in your face. This is what I really like about it, and what I think makes even the poppier songs still more intense, in a way. Everything is real and right there.
You’ve already played a couple of songs on stage. Have you received some comments regarding this evolution? What do the fans have to say? Aren’t you afraid they will be a little lost?
I think the responses to the couple of songs that we’ve played have been very good. We’ve played one track called “Get The Hell Out Of Me”, which was very popular right away. People started jumping and clapping without even knowing the song, so it went really well. You already mentioned “We Are The Others” as a single, but since the album was delayed a bit, we’re probably going to throw in another single. That’s probably going to be “Get The Devil Out Of Me”. This is one that people will no doubt hear very soon. So I think people have responded to it very well. How they’ll respond to the album as a whole is unpredictable. But I like it! (laughs) So I can only assume others will like it too! I don’t know why they wouldn’t!
Maybe because the change seems to be very important – compared to Lucidity, at least, perhaps not to April Rain…
I can imagine. In a band, you feel like you naturally evolve to a certain state, because there are years that you just spend writing songs. Of course, the audience doesn’t see the whole process. They see one spot of the process, which is called Lucidity, one spot called April Rain, and then We Are The Others. They don’t get to know what happened in between, and how some choices don’t come from a sudden desire to do something else, but were naturally created.
The artwork of the album is very original, very art nouveau. You don’t see that often on a metal album. What was the idea, the concept behind this artwork?
The concept wasn’t so much behind the artwork itself as it was behind the artist. The artwork was made by Glenn Arthur, a California-based artist. He works a lot with the art nouveau imagery, as you said, mixed with steampunk images as well. I’ve been following his work for a very long time, I really love it. I think what he’s doing in visual art is similar to what we’re doing in music: it’s kind of dark, but then again, it has this really aesthetic aspect to it. I’ve been writing blogs about him, and at some point we got in touch. He asked me: “Is you cover of ‘Small Town Boy’ available on iTunes? Because I really like it”. And I was like: “Oh my God, he likes it!!!” And I thought we had to do something with him. As for the concept behind the artwork itself, I gave him the lyrics, and that’s where he drew his inspiration from. That’s how that went. I’m so proud he did the artwork. There are going to be little surprises, because he’s also made extra sketches for the booklet. It’s really nice.
You’ve already mentioned the problems you’ve had regarding the release of the album. For those who don’t know about it, can you tell us why the release has been postponed?
It had to do with the fact that Roadrunner, where we were signed, got sold to Warner. We always had very good work relationships with the label, and we were really satisfied. But then we moved to Warner. Of course, they didn’t sign us, and they were just not 100% behind the album. The former boss of Roadrunner has a company in Holland, called CNR Music. So in Holland, we are going to publish the album there. The funny thing is that the album has been licensed out to some Roadrunner countries. In the end, we’re back with the same people, which is really nice! But now it’s under a new name. We’re really happy we could find a solution. Off the record, the release date is not out yet, this information is all very new, and we will announce the release date on Monday. So if you put it out there, please don’t do it before Monday! (laughs) We’re really happy, because a lot of people were really worried, and they were making petitions. We’re so thankful for that. It was a very stressful situation for us, but we saw all the fans responding to it. Now we’re just happy we’ve found a solution. (Note: the release date has since been announced; We Are The Others will be out on June 1st for Benelux and Germany, and on June 4th for the UK and France.)
We Are The Others is Delain’s third studio album. It was probably too early before to talk about a live album, but are you starting to think about it now?
(long hesitation) It’s not the first thing on my mind. We’ve recorded some live tracks and mixed them properly, so we’ve actually got some decent quality live songs ready. Maybe one day we’ll do it, and of course, it will be great to have it. But I just really like to create new music more. These days, you can see every live gig on YouTube. I can imagine it would be nice to have something, because I like listening to live tracks of other bands, but to me, it’s not the most exciting thing. I’m more thinking about album number four already!
You’re taking part in a very interesting artistic project with Wendy van den Bogert, a Dutch photographer and designer, who’s made several photoshoots for Delain. It’s actually a photo project, for which you’re looking for models. Can you tell us more about that?
No! (laughs) No, really, it’s a project in the same vein as what I told you about earlier: diversity. The photoshoot will probably take place in April, so it will be out there very soon. But I don’t want to talk about what exactly is going to be in it. It’s a new direction for me, I haven’t been actively creating visual art, so it’s really new. Wendy and I found each other because we both wanted to take on some artistic, visual project. We really found each other in this idea. And now we already have six projects on the shelves that we really want to do! You’ll see about that when it’s done, but for now, I’ll keep it for myself! (laughs)
I’ll follow your blog to see the developments! Very last question: you recently graduated in art studies – congratulations! Art in all its forms is obviously very important to you. Could you imagine yourself evolving in a type of art other than music, being a painter, for example?
Taking on the project with Wendy is actually the first step into a new direction, to see what I could do in the visual department. I love writing, painting, drawing, photography… So yes, I could, but I don’t know if it’s in my destiny! (laughs)
Interview conducted on march, 24th, 2012 in Paris
Transcription : Saff’
Introduction : Metal’O Phil
Delain’s website : www.delain.nl
Album : We Are The Others, out on june, 4th, 2012.
This post is also available in: French