The Song that Angels Sing: An Interview with Delain


Although founded in 2002, Delain only released their first official album, Lucidity, in 2006, taking the charts of their native Holland by storm. Since then the band has shown great versatility, never afraid of trying new things, even if it means risking alienating some fans.

As part of our coverage of the Dokk’em 2013 Festival, we met with Charlotte Wessels, singer of the Dutch band Delain, right after they performed in front of a soaking wet audience. Yes, it’s the Netherlands, it rained.

You can watch the video here or at the bottom of the page.

“Right now we are really free to let whatever happens, happen”

Metal Blast: So, how is the experience to be playing here today at Dokk’em 2013?
Charlotte: It’s good to play at Dokk’em. We were a little bit unfortunate with the weather, but, you know, when playing a festival in Dutch summer, we know what to expect – rain. [laughs]

MB: Are you doing a series of festivals right now in the summer or this is the only one?
Charlotte: Yeah, we’ve done one yesterday, Lorelei in Germany and we’ve just played at FortaRock in Holland as well, which is a really cool big, new festival. We’re doing some festivals here and there, one in Sweden for example, before we go on tour with Kamelot in September in the USA.

MB: The Netherlands is well-known for several “female-fronted” gothic metal bands such as Within Temptation, Stream of Passion, Epica, etc. What do you think sets Delain apart from them?
Charlotte: I think it is partly our history and partly the way we write our songs, which is in a more pop-structured manner. We’ve got a lot of things which are typical for Delain for me to think that sets us apart, like the contrast between verses and the choruses and for me it’s also, emotionally, the things we put into the lyrics. It is hard for us to answer this question because we put a lot of ourselves into it and that what makes us unique.

MB: When it comes to the style of Delain, I would say that in the beginning you were more gothic and symphonic metal and it has little by little changed in, as you said, pop elements and rock elements. Was there a conscious desire to perhaps attract a wider audience or was it simply the way in which the music naturally evolved?
Charlotte: In the writing process itself, at the very beginning when you just trying to be creative and grasp the ideas that are coming to you, there was never a deciding moment to go in a certain direction, because songs work the best if they are something that comes from within, from our hearts, so in that case we always just let our creativity and feelings guide us. Basically, our music just naturally evolved and then, of course, when you are in a studio, you start picking sounds and you pick something that fits to it, which can make the change look bigger than it was at the beginning of the writing phase. However, I know that in a lot of the songs that we are writing we are going back to orchestra bits, so we just go back and forth and we don’t want to be limited by styles. We simply try to be as free as possible and let the inspiration guide us through the writing process.

MB: You mentioned that you are working on a new album. Recently you released “Interlude”, which is a compilation of new tracks, covers and some live versions as well. Is it an introduction of what the new album is going to be or was it simply B sides?
Charlotte: It was more reflecting on the past couple of years than looking forward to the next. That’s am also really happy we released these songs now, because we had a lot of songs piling up over the most recent years of our career, as well as cover and live songs; we also had the new tracks which were actually written during the “We are the others” writing sessions. So, at one point we felt that we had so much material that deserved its own record. Of course, we could have decided to put it all together in a new record, but when we plan a new record we always like to start from scratch, so it was really good to have this record where we could put all of this material that we couldn’t put in the album, but to which we had become really accustomed, giving it its own place.

MB: You said that it reflects the years past. Is it in the sense of style of Delain or simply that it chronologically happened?
Charlotte: Chronologically, yes. I think that style-wise is too early say what is going on now. I would like to reflect on the material that we are writing now but we are still in the phase of collecting every idea that comes to us, so it makes it really hard.

MB: You mentioned that you are recording this album now; is there anything you can tell us about it?
Charlotte: We started the writing phase because we want to come with the new album pretty fast. We are going on tour in September with Kamelot, then with Within Temptation in January, so we have so much cool stuff coming up that we want to be as creative and productive as possible right now. Next week we are going back to the studio to continue writing and collecting songs, so all I can say right now is that we are really free to let whatever happens happen, we are just open to everything, which is cool.

MB: You closed the set now with “We are the others”, which is the homonymous track from your last studio album. You mentioned that when you heard about Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend’s murder that it really affected you in a very powerful way. For instance, you made a video showing a lot of your fans showing what made them “unique” or “special”. Do you usually encounter kids or fans that mentioned that go through things like that?
Charlotte: Before, not so much. Actually, after the song was released, people noted that you are open to these kinds of stories and a lot of fans approached us and mentioned what happened to them; It also speaks about people from different walks of life. A few days ago it was a National Autism day and some people posted about that on our website, because they felt that the song also refers to them being “others” in a way. It can refer to so many different things and feelings but, yeah, after the song was released we got a massive response.

MB: I know that in the UK it has been happening more and more, so that now it is considered a hate crime to target people of “alternative” groups-
Charlotte: Yes, it exactly what Sophie Lancaster Foundation achieved…

MB: Yeah, they managed to do that. In the Netherlands is this also a phenomenon, because I have encountered people from, for instance, the “industrial” scene and they mentioned that a lot of times they get insulted or spat on in the streets, so I don’t know how common it is.
Charlotte: I used to say that it didn’t happen as much in Holland and I never encountered it as such, but now that you mention it, two weeks ago now there was a girl who was beaten unconscious because she was, you know, a “dirty Goth”. So, I don’t know what this says about any development and I don’t know if this is an isolated incident or whether it happens more often and I don’t dare to say anything about that. But, apparently it is a reason for people everywhere to act this way.

MB: I was quite surprised when I met people at festivals and they tell me that someone calls them “whore” because she was wearing a Victorian dress, which is not even that elaborate…
Charlotte: [laughs] Yes, Victorian dresses are not elaborate, exactly…

MB: They are not known for how revealing they are, yet, they get spat on or beaten up. It is really mind-boggling that someone will actually beat the crap out of someone because they don’t like the way they’re dressed. It is just incredible that that thing can happen.
Charlotte: It is very much relatable to any kind of violence towards “others”. I think it’s partly fear.

MB: In May you returned from your second tour in South America. How do you experience the fans in Latin America as opposed to the European ones?
Charlotte: They are crazy! And it is crazy in a good way. It’s very interesting because once you go there, all of a sudden, you are far away from home, wouldn’t probably be there otherwise. and people respond to you differently because you are exotic, coming all the way from Holland. It is heartwarming really; we had people from Argentina crying in the front row (in a good way)… I think Brazil must be one of our favorite places to play and we know, from our online presence, that we have a really big fan-base there as well. It would be great to go to Chile as well because we know that we got some support there too.

MB: I think when it comes to South America it mostly has to do with market forces, because there is a certain scarcity of these types of bands. If you live in South America you don’t get to go as often and never know if it’s going to happen again, while if you live in Germany or the Netherlands you do get these tours quite often.
Charlotte: It’s exactly that, because when we go to Berlin, they have bands playing every night and a great variety of bands to choose from. But when we go to South America, people are grateful for you being there. It is difficult business-wise, because a lot of things are much more complicated, but when you ask about the fans specifically – the fans are really great.

MB: How do you feel about being labeled as a “female-fronted” metal band? I talked about this with other bands such as Stream of Passion and Arch Enemy, for instance, because some people say, and to a certain degree I agree with it, that it puts an emphasis on the fact that you are a woman as opposed to your music and all of those bands, Nightwish, Arch Enemy, Stream of Passion, belong to different genres of metal and yet – female-fronted band!
Charlotte: It’s the age-old question. Personally, I don’t really like the label; I don’t mind it because I know that a lot of people, even though it’s not the same genre, just love this loud music with female vocals, so for them it is a kind of a label which tells them “I am probably going to like that”. Of course, people like to put labels and it serves purpose in a way because it makes it clear what you are about, but I do feel that a band is not defined just by the person who is singing, let alone by the gender of the person who is singing.

MB: Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy always says – We are not a female-fronted band. We are a death metal band. Period. So it does seem weird, especially with some festivals in the UK and Belgium…
Charlotte: Metal Female Voices Fest.

MB: That sounds weird. I mean, you wouldn’t have a festival made exclusively for male-fronted bands. But not in the way that you are discriminating men, on the contrary, it is highlighting the fact that you are a woman as…
Charlotte: It’s a kind of positive discrimination in a way.

MB: I wouldn’t know. I think it sort of cheapens the band in a way by saying – we are categorizing it because she is a woman and not because it is a great band.
Charlotte: I understand and I agree with you. It is just I don’t feel necessarily offended by the term, I mean, you do have a point; it is strange to define a band by the gender of one person in the band, because it doesn’t say anything about how the music sounds. Arch Enemy is the best example for that, because the first time I listened to it I wasn’t sure if it was a man or a woman, so I totally agree with you.

MB: In the case of Arch Enemy it is also very interesting that when they hired Angela they released samples of the new singer’s voice; they didn’t say who she was. So, a lot of people said it was very cool and after that they said she is a woman, because they were afraid people would say – hey, it’s good, for a woman.
Charlotte: It is kind of bad that they didn’t say that it was a woman because they feared that people would not like it if they knew that it was a woman; I mean, it is bad that they have to do that, NOT mention that she is a woman.

MB: I would say that it responds to the fact that they didn’t want people to judge the singer on the fact that she is a woman.
Charlotte: But what if it was a black guy and they didn’t mention he was a black guy? Everyone would be so offended…

MB: It depends. When they simply don’t want to show who the singer is…
Charlotte: Because they are afraid that they won’t like it…

MB: I really don’t think that will happen…
Charlotte: Because that is bad and they will not do that, of course. However, doing that to a woman is just as bad. It’s sexism.

MB: Right, but they did it in order to prevent pre-judgment from the fans.
Charlotte:I know, I’m not saying that they are sexists, just that they are responding to-

MB: Right, to the sexism… it’s sort of giving credit to the sexism in the audience.
Charlotte: Exactly

MB: Well Charlotte, it has been great. Thank you for your time!
Charlotte: Thank you!


Thumbnail Photo by Markus Felix

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