Dutch symphonic metal outfit Delain is about to release their fourth album, entitled “The Human Contradiction”. It may very well be their finest effort to date. Thisisnotascene had the pleasure of doing an interview with the ever charming Charlotte Wessels. A plethora of different subject were discussed and that’s why this interview is divided in two parts. In part 1 the new album is discussed in length and how Charlotte goes about writing lyrics. In the second part of the interview the focus is more on her personal influences and her desire to branch out to other musical genres as well.
Delain is currently touring with Within Temptation. How are things going so far?
Pretty good, actually. The timing of this tour couldn’t have been better, because it’s just before the release date of our new album. The entire setup is just perfect. The people that are into Within Temptation are generally receptive to our music as well. We’ve toured with them before and another fact is that Martijn (Westerholt – keyboards) shares a bit of history with them, because he used to be a member of Within Temptation. If our previous experiences touring with Within Temptation are anything to go by, it will be a great ride and we’re going to play in some awesome venues. I may be able to scratch a couple of names off my bucket list of places to play.
Thematically “The Human Contradiction” is linked to “We Are The Others”. Can you explain the link, please?
That’s true and it may need a bit of explanation. The lyrics on our upcoming record expend on the theme of “otherness”, which was introduced on “We Are The Others”, our previous album. “The Human Contradiction” is a title taken from Octavia E. Butler’s trilogy called “Lilith’s Brood”. It’s a post apocalyptic story which explains why humanity as a species didn’t last because of the conflicting qualities of intelligence and hierarchy. Intelligence versus hierarchy, that’s the human contradiction.
As we became more successful as a species we started to pick random qualities in others to justify and measure one’s position on this socially constructed ladder. This allows the construction of dualisms between male and female, nature versus economic exploitation so on and so forth. It’s pretty philosophical, but you’ll see it happening all around you in everyday life. It’s a broadening of themes on “We Are The Others”, namely the whole “us versus them” attitude. It’s something I’ve explored through my music and lyrics and also through my study. It’s becoming a recurring theme in Delain’s music.
It certainly fits the dark and heavy character of the music on “The Human Contradiction”. Is there any specific reason why the music turned out that way?
That’s a really good question and I’ve heard more people say that “The Human Contradiction” is our heaviest album to date. Every Time when we set out to create a record it turns out to be heavier than the previous one. I really don’t know what it is. What I do know is that we made the conscious effort not to second guess everything and let things take their course during the writing process. This time around we also did pretty much everything ourselves with almost no involvement from people outside the band. This created the atmosphere to let the music come out the way it did.
So it wasn’t some kind of an outlet or reflection to negative experiences that happened in say your private life or pressure from the record company for instance?
No, not at all. It happened during our previous albums as well. In a way every form of artistic expression is a form of catharsis. During my study I took a couple of courses and during one those lectures on of my teachers said that artistic expression is a way to overcome the state of melancholia by the means of symbolic expansion. This really spoke to me because I always have the urge to create music when my mind is troubled so to speak. When I’m happy I love to go out and eat ice cream and when I feel sad or troubled I like to write lyrics and music. It’s the way how things work for me, so in that way music is a creative outlet for me.
Speaking of which, how do you go about things when you’re writing lyrics?
That’s different from song to song. I always keep a notebook with me, so when I come up with a significant line I write it down. However, combining this with music differs every time. Sometimes when I receive an instrumental song from the guys I see if I can match it with something that I’ve written previously and work that way. On other occasions I already have some words in my mind often combined with a certain melody line. I try to figure out which chords fit and go back to the writing room and give it back to Guus Eijkens and Martijn to expend on. After hearing a certainly melody line the lyrics writes themselves sometimes and on other occasions it’s really a struggle to make things fit. I wish I had one method that guarantees success, but it never stops surprising me how things come out eventually.
Your lyrics do have a certain poetic quality to them. Would you consider a career as a writer besides Delain of something you like to after the band has run its course?
Come on, you know we’ll never quit Delain! However, writing is something I really enjoy doing, you know? During school we had to write fictitious stories and that was always something on my A-list. I haven’t written any fiction in a very long time, but in my studies I always managed to get good grade when I turned in a thesis or a paper because of the quality of my writing. Being in a band like Delain doesn’t always allow me to do proper research, so when I turned my paper I always got comments from my teachers saying “you passed this assignment because you’ve written it so nicely, but next time do you research”. It saved me on a couple of occasions. I love writing and it may be something I’ll look into at some point in the future. For now it’s a pleasant daydream.
Let’s get back to “The Human Contradiction” again. You mentioned that it was a deliberate choice to kind of keep things within the band. Why?
It was a reaction to what happened during the recording process of our last record. There many many people involved and most of those experiences were very positive, including working with Jacob Hellner, Fredrik Thormander and Anders Wikstrom. We learned so many things from them and we benefit from those experiences to this very day. At the time we’re also involuntary involved with three (!) different record labels and we had a bumpy working relationship with our previous management. There were so many people involved and they all had different opinions on how the whole operation should be managed. A
s we a band we clung on to our own artistic vision, so during that time we’re more busy with dealing with all the business and politics going on, than to actually create music. So yes, choosing not to let any third parties in on the creative and production process of “The Human Contradiction” was very much a reaction of what happened to us previously. That’s not to say that we won’t let anybody in next time around, but for this album it was the right thing to do.
You, Martijn Westerholt and Guus Eijkens are very much the creative backbone of Delain. At what point become the other band members involved?
What we basically do is that Guus, Martijn and I stick together in the writing room and work on the basic structure and arrangements for a song. When we’re happy with the results that far we open the process up for the other members to contribute. We all start to work on a more individual basis on add all our flavours to said song.
It’s basically you and Martijn that give Delain its distinct sound and texture. Would the band sound change that much if other guitarists and drummers get involved?
It’s not much of an ego and we do have other players involved in the songwriting process. Sometimes we write songs with Timo (Somers – guitarist) and in the past we worked with external people as well. Sometimes those songs end up on the record Accidentally, on our current album only songs that Guus, Martijn and I wrote made the cut. When the three of us writes songs together it automatically sounds like Delain. It’s a very easy process.
On our previous album we were very curious what other people could do with our sound, so we invited a couple of external songwriters and see what we could do with their material. We received tons of offers, but we didn’t like anything. After working with the producers trio on “We Are The Others” for weeks, if not months, two of them came up with a song which they said it would be suitable for Delain. We really liked the chorus and we kept that part, but otherwise the song was completely overhauled. It’s actually a track called ‘Babylon’ on our previous record. The difference was that these guys have worked with us for a long time so they understand what makes a good Delain song. It’s not like that we have this need to be in total control of the songwriting process and that we initiate all the ideas. We’re always very curious what others may bring in, but it takes time to make things your own.
To Be Continued!