Interview with Delain frontwoman Charlotte Wessels
It’s a sunny spring afternoon as Delain’s spectacular, fiery haired frontwoman Charlotte Wessels sips contentedly from her glass of wine. Her day has been heavily filled with consecutive interviews (and wine) but she shows no sign of slowing down and she’s smiles ahoy as we explore all things recent in the world of Delain. Perhaps the most prevalent thing to consider with Delain recent release ‘We are the Others’ is the strong references to the Sophie Lancaster case. The song was inspired by these tragic events and has thus generated some non-music related attention towards the band, but perhaps more importantly, it has pointed some well deserved attention towards the problem of hate crimes aimed at punks, goths and emos. Delain are by no means a politically motivated band, but this offers a stark reminder that rock music can be a tool used for good, as well as mosh pits. I think both are of equal importance, but nevertheless – right on, Delain!
HMA: Tell us about ‘We are the Others’. Has this album fulfilled your creative ambitions?
Delain: Yes it was an album which was terribly difficult to make actually. Not so much creatively but because we’ve been going from label to label and management to management like within the process of the writing phase of that album and then the recording phase of that album there were a lot of people involved and there were a lot of opinions involved. But it was very difficult because there were so many opinions especially with the record label. Roadrunner was sold to Warner and so suddenly we were on Warner. We didn’t know the guys at Warner and they didn’t choose us so we didn’t choose them, so it was an awkward situation.
HMA: How so?
Delain: They wanted certain stuff that we sometimes wanted and sometimes didn’t want and we are too stubborn to compromise, so it was difficult in that way. But in the end, I’m very satisfied about the album. Because of all the label stuff I still think it might have had a larger potential if it was marketed right with the label, but yes I’ve been very happy. I love the songs on that record and actually we had to do some songs again for our current album ‘Interlude’ so I’m very happy that we are together. I’m also very happy about what they did in terms of the title track ‘We are the Others’ and the social community feel that started around that, that was actually something that I was hoping for but I didn’t know if it was going to happen and when we were recording the video for it and all these people showed up because they wanted to be a part of it and all these people were showing their support through Facebook and everything… and yeah these days that actually means something so it was really cool.
HMA: So it’s a good record to be involved in with its allusions to the Sophie Lancaster case.
HMA: Do you think more positive things could come of this?
Delain: Well yes, maybe not specifically from one show but in general, when you look at what the Sophie Lancaster foundation has done, after this tragic and horrible incident. Just recently, I think a few weeks ago, the Manchester Police agreed to record every violent crime against Goths and Punks and Emos and Metalheads as hate crimes.
HMA: Yeah there’s a new law that’s actually been passed which puts it into the same category as racist attacks, yeah.
Delain: I know there’s been a lot of criticism against it because of course there is somewhere in the back of my mind a feeling like ‘okay so now because of the way people dress or because of the way or the music they listen to we’re put into categories’, but it’s not like that because I’ve been following similar incidents ever since the Sophie Lancaster case happened and especially since we’ve had this song about it I wanted to stay involved with what happened. There have been so many of these incidents of violence, especially in the UK, I don’t know why but especially in the UK against Metalheads and Goths and stuff and I think if you want to do something about a problem, then the first thing you have to do is acknowledge the problem and give it a name. So it’s not like putting these people in a category together, it’s recording a problem so that something can be done with it so that also the police can be trained to know how to deal with stuff. Back when I met Stacey for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation for the first time to tell them about the song we’d written, I remember that we’d been talking for hours in this coffee place and she told me that they were working on this two years ago or something so it was really cool to see that they achieved this and that people are taking steps. If any person thinks twice because of a song or because of whatever, that’s good, but actually on this general level, police policy that they’re taking a step to acknowledge a problem I think that is great and that is an acknowledgement towards Sophie’s family and all the people that… I can’t think of the words for that kind of stuff, I can’t even imagine what it must be like.
HMA: Do you feel like you’re partly responsible for generating such a response to an incident that it has these new laws being put into place?
Delain: No, no I don’t think, no I wouldn’t ever take credit for that but at one point Stacey told me when the single was just released and we told her it was about Sophie and stuff, she said, “We’ve got a lot of new people visiting our website” so maybe the only thing that we’ve done is directing a few people to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation – that did all the work.
HMA: Do you feel this might inspire you to write songs about other political or social situations?
Delain: I do have a lot of things that I see working their way into new lyrics, although I always feel in the first place we’re a band – we do music and we don’t to politics. But I’m also a General Studies student and one of the first things I have learnt is the personal is political. So everything you put out there is political in a way and within the band I really think with the steps that we take, or the steps that I take within the band, I do think about this. Everything I think might not be significant might be political in a way. For example, I got the promo photos for a certain photo shoot and I saw that they photoshopped my legs to be half the size of what they actually are! I just thought “Hey this is not going to happen because this is projecting an image on how you’re supposed to look, and I don’t want to be part of that circus.” That is a personal thing which is very political because if you put that out there, you are contributing to the idea that you should look like this in order to be an artist or whatever. So I do feel that indirectly a lot of my choices also within the band are very political and there are a lot of lyrics from the new album that are very political. With Sophie Lancaster it was a big step and I don’t know if we will do that kind of thing very soon again directly because this was a specific person, an actual person with an actual family and friends still grieving for her. To write something about a person instead of a concept is different because a concept you can always explain in abstract terms but a person you cannot explain in abstract terms. And I know that I’ve re-written the lyrics for ‘We are the Others’ like 12 times, you want to do them justice and I thought it was difficult and when you do something like this, no matter how close it is to your heart, some people interpret it as you doing something to get attention for yourself.
HMA: We there any negative reactions to ‘We are the Others’ in this sense?
Delain: I must admit with this song we had some comments on the video and on the sound saying some horrible things and this was the first time that I was actually hurt by internet comments. Because if a person says, “Ah you’re ugly, you can’t sing” and I’m like, “Well I can sing, well you get that many people to pay for a ticket to see you.” Or if they say “you’re ugly” I think “well whatever.” But this was actually something where I thought
“this is ugly, this is going too far”, so I don’t know on a concrete level we’ll do something very similar to this.
HMA: Okay, in your video for ‘We are the Others’ we’d like to know what the walls and your dress are about, obviously it’s A4 sheets of paper but why, what’s the concept behind that?
Delain: The idea was I had this dress with these papers, with these words, words that signified a certain identity, qualities or something. So for example we’d say Goth and then Goth was cast away but it’s still the same person underneath. Visually we came to a dead spot there because it didn’t really work with the letters, we didn’t find a good way in which we could incorporate that but then, I have to say it was actually the director of this video that came up with this idea, this idea was that there were random people holding up the pieces of paper with the words on them. So we liked that idea so much and liked the paper behind us that we thought we’d keep it there, also because all the people in the video are holding up their paper showing that there is still a link, there is still a theme.
HMA: Alright and what about your album cover as well, it’s got quite an intriguing bird / iPod, I was looking at it earlier and I thought ‘yeah that kind of looks like a flying iPod of some sort?
Delain: It’s an ‘iBird’!
HMA: An iBird, yeah, where can I get one of those?
Delain: I don’t know, they contacted Apple to see if they wanted to manufacture some but they were not interested yet.
HMA: What about the album cover anyway? What’s your influence on that and I gather you worked with Glenn Arthur?
Delain: Basically I have been a big fan of Glenn Arthur for quite some time and as we were thinking about album covers I showed his work to the band and they really liked it and we looked at what kind of style would be fitting so we contacted him and asked him whether he’d be interested and he was. So that was very cool. Actually I’ve been blogging about his artwork and I contacted him just saying “Can I use your pictures for my blog? Is there a copyright thingy?” At one point he said, “I really like your cover of ‘Small Town Boy’” and then I thought “Ooh he likes something of mine! I should ask him to do our cover.’ So basically what happened in the creative process of getting this album together is that I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed with what he would come up with so I basically just gave him the album title and I gave him the lyrics to ‘We are the Others’ and I told him what it was about and then he came up with the sketch and the concept and the iBird. I always feel silly explaining, I like people to have their own interpretation but, about the iBird he said, “Do you know this girl feels different but she gets her strength from the music and since in this kind of subculture often music is a signifier for the subculture. I really like his idea of him making the music in the iBird. You can also see on the cover that the side where the bird is there is a rose and that rose is like beautiful and the other rose on the other side, the side of the music is like withered and stuff so there is this symbolism.
HMA: The human psyche with the positive and negative sides of every person?
Delain: Yes exactly.
HMA: And do you think a lot of that is strongly influenced by music in general?
Delain: I know for me it is, I know if I really, really have a bad day or even if I don’t have a bad day but I just have things piling up and I get sad for whatever reason, there are certain songs that I can listen to and there is certain music and it will either lift me up or make me even more depressed but in that kind of way that you can drown in it for a moment and have it be super intense and then when the music is gone you can function again. I don’t know if it’s bullshit or?
HMA: No it makes sense, it makes a lot of sense. Okay so moving on to your upcoming tour with ‘Within Temptation’ I gather you guys are strongly affiliated…
Delain: Yes, even by family bonds because of course Martijn, our keyboard player, his brother, Robert, who is the guitar player still is a big part of the band and Sharon is his sister in law.
HMA: I gather you’re supporting them. What sorts of treats do you have in store the audience?
Delain: I don’t know yet, okay so it’s next year and we’ve got so many things that we still have to plan before that. Actually I know of course that we’re going to do our show together and we’re going to do some special stuff but to be honest I am not sure yet and even if I was I don’t know if I would tell right now!
HMA: I gather you guys have a sort of jam thing going on?
Delain: ‘Within Temptation’ guested on our album and we’ve Sharon joining us on stage a couple of times, this is actually going to happen again at Metal Female Voices Fest. Sharon will join us on stage and do something. But as for the track I’m not sure yet what exactly is going to happen.
HMA: Is it more of a freestyle thing, like when it feels right you’ll just decide to do something?
Delain: Usually, apart from the one time shows it usually goes that way. I remember when we were on tour, this is a couple of years ago, we were doing a tour with Sonata Artica and the singer Tony got this throat problem and then he said one night, “Can you maybe sing this song because I have a sore throat and I need some voice rest?” And then I did and we ended up doing that song together every night just because it was fun. Sometimes these things just happen but at the same time you can never guarantee that they will happen, so it’s… yeah, a spontaneous thing and it’s often cool to keep it spontaneous.
HMA: And you think the audience appreciate that as well because you can feel that it’s not planned when it comes out?
Delain: Yes, but I was so nervous back then. I remember when I was 14 and me and my friends would all sit at the attic of this friend’s house who had really cool parents where we could sit and drink in the attic and we were all listening to Sonata Artica and we would be so emotional about it and they were really like these puberty anthems of mine and then we went on tour with them and he asked me can you maybe sing one of our songs or rehearse the lyrics and I was like, “Yeah just tell me what song”. But I was so fucking nervous it was [blows through lips] yeah… special, it’s special and it’s more special for the audience if it’s special for the artist as well.
HMA: Thanks for talking to us Charlotte.
Delain: Have a lovely weekend, see you later, cheers.
Interview by Chris Hind and Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2013 © Heavy Music Artwork.