What a wonderful thing to have the chance to spend some time talking with such a talented, beautiful and sensitive iconic metal girl like Charlotte Wessels, vocalist of Delain. She is really one of a kind, very unique and precious pearl of today's symphonic metal scenario. Let's find out what she revealed us during a break of their summer festivals tour, in this delightful chat we had on the phone, while she was home, sitting on the couch, petting her cats.
Interview by Margherita Realmonte (MEG)
LFdM: Hi Charlotte, I'm very happy and proud to welcome you to Les Fleurs Du Mal Webzine. Thanx a lot for spending your time with us. If I am not wrong this 2016 means a decade of Delain: it is 10 years since Lucidity came out. It's been a pretty long ride already. What can you tell us about these years, how would you possibly sum it up in few words?
CW: Wow! It's hard to sum it up in just a couple of words, it's been a wonderful ride. We had also pretty tough times, but I can be very proud for the level we are now. It is useful to look back and see all the things you've been going through to reach the point where you are now, how much hard work and hard periods we faced...yes, I can say I am definitely really satisfied nowadays
LFdM: Do you plan some other special surprises for your long time fans for this anniversary, I mean, apart from the EP Lunar Prelude?
CW: Yeah, of course, we're planning a very special event. We have a 10 years annivarsary show coming up on the 10th of December. The money raised will go to the Sophie Lancaster foundation. But I prefer not to talk about this that much right now...
LFdM: I imagine, you don't want to spoil this special event in advance. What a great idea! It sounds better than any Greatest Hits collection!
CW: Yeah, we always prefer to create something new, not to give some old stuff, you know...there could also be a DVD one day, who knows...
LFdM: And what a better way to celebrate a special event than an upcoming new album? Would you please introduce Moonbathers to our readers? Why this title?
CW: If people enjoy human contradictions they will enjoy this album as well. Writing songs, for me, is always a matter of balancing dark and bright sides. I tried to find some metaphore to express this and then this title came up to my mind. For me the moon is the icon of light into the darkness. Of course it has many kind of romantic references, you know, instead of Sunbathers I preferred Moonbathers, for those who find themselves more comfortable in the darkness, since this image is much more evocative and closer to our style and sound, which is typical Delain, since we worked with the same producers and sound engeneers. Concerning the lyrics I think it is a very varying album. I mean, if we consider each song individually, we can see they go in different directions stylistically speaking. There are tracks that are loud and others that are louder, but there are also more sensitive ones...it's an album for everybody.
LFdM: I had the chance to see the beautiful cover artwork on Facebook as soon as you posted it and I loved it at first sight. Can you tell us something about it?
CW: Oh, yes, we worked with the same guy for years, the designer of Lunar Prelude and other albums, the neo Victorian illustrator Glenn Arthur. It was a long and pretty hard process. He had to mix our tips both with exsisting and with new material, so it was a challenging task for sure! We had to chose among many proposals and this one was the best, at the end, closer to our original idea.
LFdM: I had the chance to give a quick prelistening to Moonbathers and it sounds really great, but I already have my fave songs, so I am curious about the tracks you find more meaningful or about the ones you like the most for some reasons?
CW: Thank you very much. No, there's no song in particular coming through my mind right now, but if you have some questions about some tracks you can ask.
LFdM: Well I was wondering whose idea was to cover Scandal by The Queen? Why did you chose that song?
CW: Oh, well, it was mine. Yeah, I am pretty masochist in this sense. You know, there are some who think that you should never pick your finger over a giant, but I wanted to give it a try. Besides, it's not even one of their most famous songs. I didn't want to completely change it but it had to show our sign somehow, so I decided to sing it on a higher register and a bit faster too, which was a very very challenging choice, since Freddie is such an amazing singer. In the end it was a very funny process, we had to make the song our own but at the same time we didn't want to show disrespect, by changing it too much. The funny detail is that, you know, there are lots of bands covering songs without asking, but we did and we had the exclusive permission from Brian May himself! A kind of blessing.
LFdM: Wow! How cool is that?!? It came out a really good job, by the way! What can you tell us about Danse Macabre? I like that track a lot, since it makes come to my mind the medioeval iconography about the myth of Life and Death, dancing together. Which was your source of inspiraton?
CW: Thank you very much. Yeah, the medioeval art and poetry were sources of inspiration, of course. This song basically is about a woman who is in love with death, there's a film script about it too. The lyrics are about procrastinating a date that will naturally come, in a sort of desire and fear kind of feeling, like “not yet, wait for another day...” but at the same time there's also this will to meet death...
LFdM: What can you tell me about The Glory And The Scum? Where did you find inspiration for it?
CW: It is a song about the coexistence of a bright and a dark side in all of us as human beings. The inspiration came from a book by Steven Pinker “The Better Angels Of Our Nature” which is about the history of violence in the world. It is a book that I got from a friend in a moment I was feeling really really down, basically because of all the shit happening in the world, you know, especially in Europe recently, not that the place where shit happens has much relevance, but I was really affected by that, I had friends involved and I was feeling very depressed, down and confused, but I didn't want to admit it too loud, since it would have meant giving those idiots too much importance for their acts of extreme violence. Luckily this friend of mine gave me this book and I think I really needed to read it in that specific moment of my life. It states that we are in facts living in one of the most peaceful eras, historically speaking. So this song came out of those feelings and from a XVII th's century philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who said that we as humans are both the glory and the scum of the universe.
LFdM: Wow! Pretty deep thoughts. What about the metaphore of the butterfly in the songs Chrysalis and The Monarch?
CW: As I already said, as a lyricist, no matter how dark is the place the song comes from there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel. In Chrysalis- The Last Breath there is none. It's a pretty depressing song, I couldn't see hope at the end of it, it didn't fit right both with the lyrics and with the general feelings of the song in its structure, so I kind of broke my own rules when it comes to that and I needed to make peace with that, to find a resolution for that, so The Monarch followed. We were at the end of the recording process and these lyrics I wrote as a poem came out, we all liked the humming chorus and so we wanted to include this song at least as a bonus track, but in the end it was chosen to be the last one of the album and I was so happy for that!
LFdM: Hope restored! Happy ending then. I wonder if there's still any other song you would love to cover...
CW: I'd like to sing something by Radiohead or Nick Cave, who have been my main sources of inspiration, but I still don't know if their songs are fit for our sound and style, even if we rearrange them...it's hard to imagine what the result would be, but I'd be very honoured to have this chance. At the moment they are songs that I sing while riding my bicycle, oh my God, that's the most Dutch thing I ever said (laughs) but it was just to give you an idea, or under the shower...
LFdM: Who knows, in some side projects, one day...
CW: Well, yeah maybe, but I have no plans at the moment
LFdM: I am also curious to know if you are planning to shoot some other videos from this album, apart from Suckerpunch...
CW: Yes we are!
CW: Make a bet, what do you think it will be?
LFdM: If I had to chose I would bet on The Glory And The Scum, or Hands Of Glory...
CW: The Glory And The Scum is definitely our focus track right now and there's another one that I won't tell, but you are close, you're definitely on the right track! Hands Of Glory was one we considered too, but you'll see pretty soon.
LFdM: Ok, you don't want to ruin the surprise, I see. How is it being a woman in such a testosteronic world as metal? In a music field which is not pop, I mean...
CW: Well, you know, recently there's also more estrogen in this field, I have always been able to deal with guys and girls as well, I don't think gender is a way to define people skills, it's more about character, to me.
LFdM: I see, but did you ever find it kind of stressfull, or hader for you as a woman to see your work and talent recognized?
CW: Oh, well, I think there's sexism of course, but like there's everywhere, not necessarily in a larger amount in this field, I mean. In general I think women have to speak three times louder than men to get listened to, but I don't find it to be a specific feature to the metal world or the music world in general.
LFdM: In your band you are not the only girl, since 2014 there's Merel too. How is your relationship with her and the other members of the band? Are you like friends hanging out also when the spotlights are over or when the tour ends you go each one their separate ways until the next album?
CW: When we didn't tour as extensively as we do now, we used to hang out together a lot, we went to the cinema, stuff like that, you know... but recently I think I see my band mates more than I see my fiancée. (laughs) We spend a lot of time together touring and playing, so when we have a bit of time off, we try to spend it with our onwn families and sometimes, even then I try things like whisky tasting with the guys, We are whisky's aficionados and we attended whisky tasting courses too, so if we weren't on each other's laps all the time already we would always try to find a way to meet. Our friendship is on this kind of level.
LFdM: Aweee! It's so nice to listen to something like this, indeed! Now I am curious to know how does the songwriting process work in your band at this point?
CW: I have to say that everybody's contribution is precious, everybody is free to add their ideas. In general the main arrangements are written by Martijn and the lyrics by me, we work together until the basic structure of the song is done, the main melodies are there and then the others propose suggestions and changings.
LFdM: Is there a band or singer you would love to work with, in studio or on stage?
CW: Yeah, the same of the covers! (laughs)
LFdM: So I bet you will answer the same again if I ask you what kind of music do you usually listen to...
CW: Yeah! Exactly! (laughs) sorry. Well, I listen to all kind of music to be honest. When I'm on tour I use to listen to alternative music or even pop music, but when I am home and I am not surrounded by loud metal all the day, I listen to my metal records.
LFdM: Talking about live acts, are you planning an extensive tour throughout Europe?
CW: Yes, definitely
LFdM: What about some other gigs in Italy? I know you played here some months ago, any new dates in our Country?
CW: Actually we have no gig scheduled in Italy for this leg of the tour so far. Sorry. I really hope we could make it there I have many pleasant memories about our gig there.
LFdM: We hope to have the chance to see you live again here one day. What do you think of your Italian audience, of our country more in general? Did you have the chance to visit some place in particular?
CW: The audience was really amazing, we loved it. I love Italian food and your art in general. I had the chance to spend a little bit of time in Florence for my artistic studies and I absolutely loved that time. I'm also thinking that weve been working with a lot of Italian people recently...
LFdM: Great! Italy can be a really cool place for holidays too...
CW: For sure!
CW: That's a million dollars question. Well playing festivals is always a challenge and a great chance to reach new people, there's a lot of adrenaline, since the audience is often pretty huge, so it gives very chilling feelings and I am usually pretty nervous. but also headlining acts are great! It's a great satisfaction when you see people coming to your own shows just for you, it's amazing, very intimate. Both are charming chances for different reasons. I know it could look like a kind of politically correct answer, but it is the truth.
LFdM: For exampe, during festivals do you have the chance to listen to any other artists in the bill, before or after your own performance?
CW: Yeah! It happens not so frequently, but for examole on Download festival we had a lot of time to watch other bands on stage, since we were there since friday and we had to play on sunday. We saw Korns, oh my God! They are amazing and also Juliette And The Licks, really really cool stuff indeed. She is a true performer, she can sing really well an also dance, she's a complete artist, I enjoyed these shows a lot.
LFdM: What do you think about social media?
CW: I think they can be very useful for the band, it's really nice to have such direct contact with the audience, such a prompt kind of feedback. I really like that, but of course there's also the negative side of the medal, for example once I received hate messages and death threats because I performed without a bra and the clothes showed the sign of my boobs. What a horrible crime I committed!
LFdM: Oh My! That's incredible!
CW: Yeah! That's totally ridiculous, but you know you have to deal with the bad and the good side of the things, so in general I love social media, because they give a band the chance to get closer with the fans and that's very important, in my opinion.
LFdM: If you weren't a singer, what would you have done for a living?
CW: You mean if I wasn't a singer at all or in Delain? I would have written songs for other singers to perform and if music alltogether is out of the question I would have written novels, or scripts for the cinema or TV fictions. I also love painting, so...
CW: Yes, definitely!
LFdM: What would you say as a kind of advice or suggestion to young people, especially girls, trying to make their love and passion for music their job?
CW: I would just say believe in yourselves and be absolutely dedicated. Take all the chances to do all the music that comes to your mind and never give up. Grab all the chances that you can grab, as I did when I was jut 15, when I was part ot at least 2 choirs and 3 bands, or as I did 10 years ago with Delain and we all know how that collabiration ended...so, if you want music to be your job, be focussed and try to make as many experiences as you possibly can, they are never enough.
LFdM: Better self taught music or school music?
CW: I'd say both, from my own experience. I had music lessons as a teenager and I learnt a lot from that, but then I experienced on my own. At the moment, after 10 years of Delain I feel like I might need to take some other lessons again, I shold train to expand what I can do with my voice more seriously.
LFdM: Wow! Listening to you makes me think about all those kids trying to become somebody just by participating to talent shows. I think they are pretty deceitful and they make young people think it's a lot easier than it really is to achieve some meaningful goals in the show biz in general. Do you second this? What is your opinion about talent shows?
CW: Well...I think that true artists would never take part to this kind of stuff, they would never play their own songs in a contest like Idols or similar shows. I think it's just for those who wanna be a voice and a face, not real artists.
LFdM: But then I think to Adam Lambert who is the singer in The Queen now and start to believe that maybe these shows can really find out talented people...
CW: Yeah, that's an example, there's always the exception, but I think that a talent like Adam Lambert would have found his way out in any case, even without Idols. For this reason I would never say that nothing good could come out of this kind of shows. But, as an artist, I personally wouldn't like to take part to someone else's game, you know...
LFdM: Yeah, I can imagine. Now I am over with the questions and with the time! It was such a pleasant chat that I completely got lost. Thanks a lot Charlotte, you've been very kind and we can't wait to see you performing live again here in Italy. Have a great day!
CW: You too! Thank you very very much, it was my pleasure! Bye bye!