Charlotte Wessels (Delain)
Interview with Charlotte Wessels from Delain
by Sam Murphy at 30 December 2016, 2:00 AM
Metal Temple recently had a chance to talk to Charlotte Wessels of DELAIN via Skype, to talk about their new album “Moonbathers”, upcoming projects, Charlottes’ start in the world of metal, and even what she likes to do in her very small amount of downtime. DELAIN have recently celebrated their tenth anniversary with a massive show at Paradiso, and it seems that their star is constantly rising.
Thanks for doing this, I know you’re busy and everything but this is great that you’re able to take the time.
Well thanks a lot! We’re kind of decompressing right now after the European tour getting ready for some important shows to come, so it’s kind of like the silence before the storm right now.
So what have you got coming up after this tour has just finished?
On the tenth of December we have our 10th anniversary gig in Paradiso for which we are recording a DVD, which is… very exciting, and equally nerve wracking. So that’s what we are trying to prepare for now.
So about “Moonbathers”, how would you say it differs from what you’ve done In the past, especially compared to “The Human Contradiction”?
I think the main difference has been in our approach to the song writing and recording which had its effect on the outcome as well. Some things were kept similar; I think we were very happy with the production value of “The Human Contradiction”. Really liked the mix, really liked the master. We’ve kind of been working with this classical arranger, which worked fantastically. We planned to keep that the same, we worked with the same guy. But when it came to writing and recording the songs themselves, we’ve had such hectic years that we didn’t really have the time to take the traditional few months off to write and record everything in one sitting, and we chose to, instead, kind of chop up the entire process into different blocks, so that we could really allow the tracks the time and attention that they needed. I do think that it also had an effect on the tracks themselves because if I look at this album, I’d probably say that it’s the most varied that we’ve done. Like the heavy songs are heavier and the ballads are more sensitive, and then there’s like really rock anthem kind of tracks like “Fire with Fire”, so I think that the fact that we recorded it like different times, different places, rather than in one go caused more variations in the songs. I think that’s the biggest change from our latest release probably.
So how long did that actually take you to get through recording that entire thing?
(laughs) Well, since it’s been really fragmented this time, it’s really hard to tell how much time we’ve spent in total. Because it’s kind of moments, on and off, like we had our Tuesday and Thursday nights we’d usually sit down together for a couple hours but then there was also a writing week where we wrote a couple of songs. Um, the work we will do individually. It’s really hard to tell how much time it takes to write an album. It is quite a while in the end.
So this is the second time you’ve worked with Alissa from ARCH ENEMY, you’ve obviously worked with Marco from NIGHTWISH before. Are there any other guest that you’re sort of wanting to have in the future?
Well you know, with ever year that we spend in music, I think that we, ya’know, we get to meet new people and get to see more new really exciting artists, that would be really nice to work with. I think that it’s one of the most wonderful things that we get to get friendships all over the world, through touring and doing festivals. So there are definitely people on the wish list, but for me, I’m mainly very proud of all the people that we’ve had on our albums and the amazing artists that we’ve got to work with already. Yeah.
So what I guess inspired you to get in to what you’re doing? Especially with metal, is there something in particular that made you want to get in to it?
I think that I kind of grew in to the genre very naturally, of course, I’ve always had a sense of drama that I’ve always liked in music, and metal seems to fit that particularly well, I think that there’s a lot of drama allowed, and this is something that I really like. My musical style, like what I listen to, is actually really varied and it’s not even leaning the most towards metal. But when it comes to performing, it just has something special to me that I really, really enjoy. When I met Martijn back when I was, let’s say sixteen or seventeen, I was in a lot of different musical projects, so to speak, like I was in a classical orchestra playing the clarinet, I was in, in my High school we had a big band that was…I would say it was a little bit more serious than most high school bands, like we toured, we went abroad, we did a lot of shows in front of really big audiences. So I was In the big band as well, I was in two bands that I started with friends, and then at one point, when I really got in to metal, because those were all like we preferred to play loud obviously, but it was still a bit more like indie rock kind of genre. I think at one point, my singing instructor told me, like back then I was doing light music and was bringing her nothing but Kate Bush, and more dramatic singing styles. Like she told me that if you really want to learn, then perhaps you should take classical singing lessons. So I did and I was trained to sing, like a soprano, and do everything properly and this was at the time that this whole “beauty and the beast” grunt with angelic vocals was very hip and happening in the metal world, and I think that I did one or two performances just singing classical arias and I had a bunch of requests straight away from local metal bands asking me, “hey do you want to be the high-pitched singing girl in our band?”, and that’s how I got in to ELYSIUM, which was a metal band, like really goth metal, and from there I just realised that I really liked that, so kind of naturally, all of the projects I got in to after that were all in the metal genre. But I do think that a lot was sparked by me trying classical vocal lessons, even though I never continued them or finished them. I think it was a matter of doing the right thing at the right time because that was really popular back then, and I don’t even consider myself a soprano; it’s all too much shape for me with the really high pitched singing, and when it comes to my preferred vocal style, which is as close to speech as possible, because it feels more like telling a story. I like telling a story rather than doing all this virtuoso…shit (laughs)
Well yeah that absolutely works for the band. So there wasn’t really a specific musician that you looked up to that made you want to do that as well?
Oooh (laughs). Coincidentally enough, one of the bands that I was going to a lot of concerts of was “WITHIN TEMPTATION”, so imagine my surprise when at one point, their keyboardist, showed up at the door and says “hey I’ve got a project, want to work on this?” and I was like “uh du-DUH!”, so that was definitely a very happy coincidence.
Is there anything in particular you can tell me about your song writing process? As far as I understand, you handle the lyrics and Martijn handles most of the music. What’s the communication like between you when it comes to writing a new song?
Well how it usually happens, with the music, it’s basically the three of us. It’s Martijn, myself, and Guus Eikens; we sit down together and we write all of the songs together. Sometimes it comes from an idea that one of us already has, and in my case, it will usually be the vocal melodies with some chords, and in Martijns case, it will be more keys based, and in Guus’s case, it will be more guitar based because he’s a guitarist, and a combination of us coming from those three sides is working very well because it compliments each other very well. Ya’know, we’ve got the guitar, the vocal, and the keyboard all represented there. So usually we start with the three of us, and work with the song until we feel like we’ve got a basic structure that really works. Like we’ve got all the melodies down, we’ve got verse, chorus, and bridge. So we really feel confident that the song has got everything it needs to work as a song, and that’s where it opens up to a broader process where the guitarists start to refine the guitar parts, and the programmed drums get replaced by real drums, and this is where it starts to grow and starts to breathe. Martijn works on the arrangements, and I start working on, because usually I work with dummy lyrics to start with, and then I replace them with actual lyrics. But it’s not like the lyrics are the only thing I work on, when it comes to the songs themselves, we always write them as the three of us.
So I guess there would always be things that inspire your songs, like with “We Are The Others”, it was the death of Sophie Lancaster, and on the latest album “Turn The Lights Out” is supposedly inspired by Neil Gaimans, “Sandman”?
Are there other events and issues, and I guess things that you’re passionate about that inspire your songs?
Yeah! I read a lot, and I tend to get really inspired by things that I read. I’m kind of missing my studies, like I graduated…three years ago now? 2 years ago! Yeah! And I was reading a lot of very interesting material for those studies so, now I have to create my own library, so to speak, so I do get inspired by books a lot like in the case of “Turn The Lights Out” it’s the character of Death by Neil Gaiman that I thought was really interesting. It’s so different from all of the other cultural representations of death, like for once it’s not like this Grim Reaper kind of thing.
Instead it’s a creepy little gothic girl?
Yes exactly! And there have been different things inspiring me, like “Hands Of Gold” has a part of Oscar Wilde poetry in it, “Glory and the Scum” was basically inspired by the current cultural climate which is something to cry about, and then a book that I read, which is called “The Better Angels Of Our Nature”, which is basically, well it’s a history of violence of mankind, and it’s conclusion is basically that we are living in one of the least violent times ever, and that’s a trend that is still increasing, which is something that I really needed to read in this time, cause the world sucks. Then there has been a film script that inspired both “Chrysalis: (The Last Breath)” and “Danse Macabre”, it was a friend of ours who writes film scripts, and he had this one script where I could relate to a character so much and we felt challenged to write songs that worked with the script. So there are different things, and I really liked how certain elements worked themselves in to the album. I think that there is a reason that certain things from books and from films, from art for that matter, stay with you, like the reason that something sticks with me out of a book is usually because it hooks in to your own experience and it gives you a new angle. This is why I think that art is so important. It gives you another angle to think about it. There are certain things in life which are so sad or complex that it’s hard to talk about them, or get through them, and just to find a creative angle to describe it, or a creative angle to work with, it can really relieve some of the pressure that’s connected to the topic. That way for me, being a musician has been super beneficial for myself as well, simply because, ya’know, I think it’s the most clichéd thing to say but it’s a wonderful way to make sense of the things around you.
Clichéd, but yeah it works.
Ya’know things are clichéd for a reason!
So talking about Sandman and all of the books you read and everything, what do you generally like to do outside of music in your small amount of downtime?
So yeah a lot of reading, but that’s not really, it’s not usually what I do because I don’t sleep on the tour bus. I don’t sleep when it’s driving, which is a real handicap for a touring musician, but I decided a long time ago that I’m not even going to try to sleep because it’s just frustrating, so I just read. So I read a lot of books on tour. Other down time, I like to do, uhhh, basic white girl; I like to do yoga. I like art, I like writing, I like reading, it’s all not very exciting, but it works for me.
So going back to before when we talked about people you’ve worked with In the past, and people you’d like to work with, sorta noticed that Alissa works a lot with other bands as a guest vocalist, Elize Ryd has done the same, Marco Hietala as well, and I mean you have, as well, with the side project PHANTASMA. Do you see yourself getting in to another project like that, or are we going to see another PHANTASMA album?
I’m not excluding the possibility of that ever happening, because I really liked to do it. It was really cool to do. Like we were just talking about how I really like to read and with whatever I get passionate about, like I cannot just consume it, I need to do it as well. So it was something that I really wanted to do was to write a story, and I would certainly like to do that again, but of course I’ve gotten requests like from the label “Is there going to be something new soon?”, and if I think about how long it took from the first moment I was asked to come up with the story for the project, I think it took me months before I even knew what the story was going to be about, and then it took me like a year to write it, and the music part was actually quite easy, because I’ve been trained to do that by now. The song writing was actually the easy part. If I think about someone saying “ok there needs to be a new album of that in X amount of time” I just get really stressed out because we’re doing so well with DELAIN now, we’re so ambitious, and there is so little down time, that everything I do right now is recreational. I couldn’t really handle the stress of now committing to a huge project like that again, and if out of all of the things I do recreationally for the moment, if at one point comes another thing, that would be wonderful, but that’s not the reason I’m doing it right now; I’m just trying to keep it as stress-free as possible.
Charlotte finished up by saying, in the future, DELAIN would love to perform in places like Australia and New Zealand. Stating that the fact that they have had the opportunity to perform in USA and Japan, gives her hope that they can go to the smaller places that they want to visit. She also said that, for anyone hoping to break in to the music industry, “don’t limit yourself by doing one thing musically. Surround yourself with music” and that you never know what it is that will give you the chance you want.