Delain is currently on the road with Nightwish and Sabaton, continuing to support their breakout fourth album The Human Contradiction. We’ve had the chance to speak with singer Charlotte Wessels a couple of times in the past, and she graciously joined us again on the first night of the tour, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, to talk about the response to The Human Contradiction, the band’s plans for new music, and other projects that have taken place during the past year.
We are one year removed from the release of The Human Contradiction. It seems like it’s been a wild year on the road for you.
It has been!
What can you tell us about the experience you all have had with this album?
It was just amazing! Looking back on this year with The Human Contradiction, of course, we kicked it off with a great tour with Within Temptation through Europe. We’ve been in the US with Sonata Arctica, and touring Europe again with Sabaton. That was actually not too long ago, and we had a great time with them, so it’s nice to see our friends again on tour right now. I think the album has opened a lot of doors for us. We’ve been touring a lot, we’ve gotten a really good response, and we’re enjoying ourselves hugely!
The good response is evident everywhere, even here in the States. The last time I saw an opening band at this venue get the same level of reaction that you got from a crowd, it was when Chimaira opened for Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage on a tour in 2007. To equal that is very impressive.
I don’t know how this place usually is, so if you say it was good, I’m very happy with that!
The road has had its share of ups and downs this past year. As I understand, Otto [Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, Delain’s bassist] had a medical incident during the winter. What was it like dealing with that?
Well, for anyone that didn’t hear it, we were in the UK, and we have these confetti shooters, which we use during almost all of our headlining shows. It went right for six years, but this time, Otto stepped in front of the shooter, and it hit him, and it actually ruptured his left testicle. Obviously, that was a very nasty experience. The silver lining of the entire story is the fact that he finished the show, which is basically the most metal thing ever! I guess that’s also why a lot of the media picked up on it. It’s like, “You’ve got a new album out? Meh! Shot off your bassist’s balls? Yeah, we’re in!” [laughs] Everybody wanted to hear about it. It was the craziest week. On Dutch television, all the late night shows that had NEVER talked about us before, they were all over it. It was kind of weird, because it was nice to get all this publicity, but it was too bad we had to get it with this! You know, you don’t get to choose what you get your 15 minutes of fame for. So we got to top it off with news of the new record, because you don’t want [an incident like] that to be the most well-known thing about you!
The good publicity is one positive thing to come out of the story, I guess!
Yeah, and the fact that Otto didn’t suffer any lasting damage. We didn’t know in the beginning. He didn’t even mind [the news stories], and he could laugh about it. But I got very annoyed the next day, when people were laughing about it because it’s such a “funny” story. I get why they laughed about it, and I giggle about it too, because it’s like “Haha balls!”, but at that moment, you don’t even know. It could have had real life effects, you know?
Fortunately, the upsides of the tour have outweighed the downsides.
I’ve seen a lot of videos from your headlining shows in Europe, and one of the things I saw was you performing growling vocals live for the song “The Tragedy of the Commons”, alongside Otto. When did that become part of your repertoire?
It was something that I was very interested in trying for a long time. I never grunted in music, but I noticed over the years that my stage presentation got a little bit more aggressive, so there was a lot of screaming in between songs. The “show me your hands” thing became louder and louder and louder, until I realized that I was screaming for a big part of the show, and I had never learned how to do that properly at any of my singing lessons. If I do this for six weeks in a row, I don’t want to lose my voice. So that was actually the reason why I started looking into screams and grunts and how to do them properly without damaging your vocal chords. I thought that a nice bonus would be using it musically, but that was not really on my mind until we thought of putting “The Tragedy of the Commons” in the setlist. The thing is, the scream that Alissa [White-Gluz, Arch Enemy vocalist] did – I really love her guest performance there. It was such an awesome collaboration just to put that in there. I really loved it.
It fits perfectly into the song, too!
Yeah it does! But the lines of the screams, they overlap. So you can do this in a studio, but if you want to do this live, you have nowhere to breathe. So Otto, who usually does all of our grunt parts – and he does them very well – at one point, he sent an email saying, “I’m preparing the grunt parts for ‘The Tragedy of the Commons,’ but this is impossible!” And since I’d been practicing for awhile on the screams, I said, “We could give it a try.”
It worked out very well in the videos I saw.
Yeah, and I really like doing it too.
Do you think it might show up on any of Delain’s new music?
Yeah, who knows? At the very least, if we have a lot of grunts, then we have another person in the band that can cover it. You’ve got this whole palette of sounds that your body can make.
You mentioned Alissa’s guest part on that song, and you’ve always had a fair number of guest performers on your albums over the years. One of them has been Marco Hietala from Nightwish, who you’re on tour with now. Was there any consideration of bringing him in for a song on this tour?
Yes, definitely! He also likes to do that, but it probably won’t be every show. It brings the element of surprise into it as well. People will guess if he’ll be on stage tonight with us or not. But I definitely think it’s going to happen on some nights of this tour. It’s too good of a combination to not do that during this tour.
Do you have any ideas of who you might have as a guest performer in the future, or any dream performers that you’d want to have as a guest on a future album?
There’s quite a lot of them that I would really like. At this point, we’re actually working on our new album, and I feel that if I say the names that I want for the album, I’m jinxing it. So I can either lie or not say anything, so I won’t say anything. [laughs]
That’s fair, and it actually takes us into the next question very well. How are things going with the new album? Do you know when we might see it released?
Next year, 2016. I don’t know exactly when yet.
Do you have a lot of material put together, or are you still in the writing stage?
We’re in the writing stage. I think we have six or seven songs, and then a lot of ideas that will lead to songs.
That’s good! We’re looking forward to hearing it! Switching gears here, one of the things outside of Delain that I saw was that you took part in a Dutch music project that brought a lot of Dutch musicians together to re-record the song “The Power of Love” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for charity purposes. How did that come together?
Well, it’s kind of two stories coming together. One is that the Netherlands is a very small country, and we’ve got a lot of metal and loud rock bands in the Netherlands. And the thing is, wherever we go, wherever we tour, people ask about the scene in the Netherlands and what it’s like to be in the Netherlands with this vibrant metal scene. And we’re all like, “You don’t really notice it.” It’s not like they play it on the radio. But we’ve got a very strong network of bands and people that all know each other, but you still don’t really see it in mainstream media. Most people in Holland wouldn’t realize that, in the rest of the world, it’s kind of a special thing that so many of these bands come from the Netherlands. So that’s one thing that’s kind of always there. Then, the other thing, and I guess this is the most important thing because it’s what sparked us to get all these people together, is that once a year, the biggest radio station in the Netherlands has a week where DJ’s go into a glass house, they don’t eat anything, and they collect money for good causes. They make it something special to watch, but the way it works is that you can request a song and say, “I will pay this much money to hear that song.” So we all thought, “We will give them a nice song to request.” This was initiated by Joost van den Broek and Valerio Recenti from the band My Propane, and they asked all these people to get together to do a cover of “The Power of Love”. All the proceeds went to victims of sexual abuse in conflict territories, and I think that it raised 10,000 Euros, this song alone. So I think that it was a big success, both in contributing to this big charity project that we have in the Netherlands every year, and also to have all these people from the metal scene come together to create a song that even people from outside the metal world, who don’t even know about this radio station or this charity event, can enjoy and possibly donate. It was a really fun project.
It looked like it from the videos that I saw online. There were a lot of videos circulating from the recording and from the live performance. How did it work putting it all together for a live show?
Well, I was not involved in the organization of that. Joost and Valerio organized all the get togethers, and they have everyone over at their studio. They were real troopers for getting all of this done. I don’t want to take too much credit, because I just had to show up and sing my songs, which I was very happy to. But they did all the hard work.
I read that there may be future collaborations similar to that one planned. Do you have any idea if or when that might happen again?
I don’t have any idea if there are concrete plans, but like I mentioned before, Holland is a small country, and collaborations like this just happen.
So while you’re on tour these next six weeks, what will you be doing during your time off stage? I know you’ve mentioned in our past conversations that you’re a very avid reader.
Well, we have a lot to do in our off hours when we actually can write, since we’re working on our new music. We’ve got some gear with us, just little portable studio stuff. I actually just got a Zoom Recorder, and it’s the handiest thing ever. It’s let me record so easily – I just put on my headphones and go. So we’ve got some gear and we’re trying to write for the new record. In my off moments, I’m always either writing or reading. I also write regular words, not just music. But for reading, I have The Catcher in the Rye, which I’ve never read. I’m about 50 pages in, and I’m intrigued by the language. The other one I have with me is a Richard Dawkins book.
So the goal while you’re on tour is to try and get a bit more writing done so that when you get back to Europe, you can start recording?
Well, we’ve got some festivals coming up as well, but in the summer, we’ll do the rest of the writing, and then we’ll start going into the studio. We’ve never really gotten into writing on tour, but since we’re the first support, it means we get onto the stage last and we’re done first. So that should leave us some time before and after the shows to do some stuff.
Finally, do you have any words or messages for the fans that are getting ready to see you live and hear new Delain next year?
Well, I just want to say thank you to everyone that is supporting us! I really hope to meet a lot of people on the road, and even if they can’t come to this tour, just to see them somewhere in the future. It will be great!