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Delain - Interview @ Havana Café (Toulouse, FR) - 01.04.2009

We met with Martijn just before Delain's 7th concert in France, this time supporting Kamelot. We talked a lot about the release of their second album April Rain. He answered some questions about the writing process and the structure of the songs. Martijn also explained to us that they were working on a tour in France as well as on a special show in the Netherlands.

Martijn Westerholt (Delain)
Metal-Ways: With your new album April Rain, you just entered the Dutch alternative charts as number one. How do you feel about that?

Martijn: Proud! That’s really cool, I didn’t expect that. It’s an honour. People like the CD obviously. I didn’t aim for something like that. I always hoped that it would be received well, but entering at number one in alternative charts is really cool. We’re also number 14 at normal albums charts so it’s really cool for a second CD. With the first CD, we entered 22. The line is up!

M-W: How did people react to the album?
People are a little bit surprised, especially people who knew Lucidity, because they were wondering if we could stand up to the expectations of the first album, because of course we didn’t had the help of guest musicians this time. I have to be honest, I have to say that I didn’t had any doubts about it whatsoever because we wrote our music already anyway and I know the capabilities of the band. For me it was only an improvement in the way of working, we know the weaknesses and strong points of all band members. I’m really satisfied with the response so far, also with the press, I think our lowest rate I saw was a 6, and it was really an exception. The most is really well, so I’m really satisfied for that.

M-W: This time, you recorded with the regular musicians of Delain, not with guest musicians like you did for Lucidity, so was it easier?

Yes it was easier. It was different. The good thing about working with guest musicians is that you get a very fresh approach and it’s also very surprising which is kind of cool, but the difference with working with band members is that you know exactly everybody’s specialty, everybody’s strong points. Therefore you can really plan it; you can use everybody’s good points and make the best album you can get. It’s easier. In the end the process went so fast that we barely had time to think about guests. It was really an easy and satisfying process also for the band members of course because they had time and space to give inputs.

M-W: Yet, there is someone that worked with you on the first album and that also worked with you on the second one: Guus Eikens. Can you describe your relationship with him?

I regard him actually as the sixth band member, a little bit, unofficially that is of course, because he’s very much involved in the writing process. I write with him, Charlotte writes with him, we write together the three of us. He has a very big influence on the album and as you might know I already know him from my Within Temptation period: we played together and he was the main song writer of Orphanage. I was listening to that a lot, I loved that, so it’s really great that I can work with him myself and it’s actually the same with the first album, only maybe a little more developed even. It’s a very nice experience.

M-W: You shot the video clip of April Rain in Serbia with a green screen. It was the first time that you worked like this, so how was it?

It was fun but it was strange, because you have to imagine you’re in a surrounding you don’t see, you only see green. But it is also nice to be in another country with the whole group without having to play. You’re in another kind of setting... About the shoot itself it was also very educational, because you have to watch your moves and make it look cool. It was very nice to do it, but it’s hard work!

M-W: Did you see the images that were going to replace the green screen before shooting the video clip?

We saw a demo of it, and of course we got the script. We received scripts from several companies and then we chose the one we liked best and we could make adaptations to that.
And when we arrived at the scene, they showed us the bridge and the environment already. And it looked already very promising. And then we did the shoot with us. And it took something like two weeks to incorporate it. It’s a different approach than with Frozen for example.

M-W: Are you happy with the result?

I am happy. I have to say that it’s a little bit too dark to my taste. But all things considered, I’m really satisfied.

M-W: When you composed Lucidity, it was supposed to be a project only, it wasn’t made to be played on stage with a band. In which way the composition process was different with April Rain?

When I was writing, I wasn’t consciously thinking about live. It was unconscious. I just write and I see something in front of me. It wasn’t like "ok, we’re going to play live, so we have to do it like that!" But first of all, I felt the need to write a little bit more faster songs. In the past I was very doomy orientated, slow songs... Besides that, already from Lucidity on, I had the wish to write songs that are a bit more guitars orientated, with more heavy riffs for example. And this also works live very well of course because you can pump up the audience much more when it’s faster. So it’s a combination of things. We’re now experiencing how it works live and we’re very satisfied with it. It gives a lot of contrasts, even more if you play some songs from Lucidity and some songs from April Rain. It’s a nice mixture. I also have to say that we have to get into the songs more. With the songs from Lucidity, every movement you made comes into place very easily. It’s automatic. With April Rain, it’s not yet like that, it’s developing. So it’s a little bit too early to compare it like that because it’s not the same situation. But neglecting this thing, I would say yes, it already works better. For example I noticed it with Go Away: it’s frequently a party when we play that song.

M-W: But the old songs you’re still playing, for example A Day For Ghosts or The Gathering, they are also very heavy, and they’re working pretty well on stage, so it’s difficult to compete with them...

That’s true. But you’re also naming exactly the songs that are the heaviest songs. If you take Silhouette Of A Dancer or No Compliance for example, it’s much softer. I think that if you can combine those songs with new songs, you get a good mixture.

M-W: I can imagine that you’re really excited about playing the new songs, do you also still appreciate playing the "old" ones?

Absolutely. Not only I noticed that, but I also feel it from the audience. We still enjoy that very much. We absolutely don’t have a feeling like "Oh we have to play these old songs again... well they want it, so let’s do it..." absolutely not. I think it’s really refreshing to get combinations between the old and the new ones so you can get the best of the old and the best of the new ones. You get a strong set!

M-W: For some of the songs, the intro is very heavy, and then when Charlotte starts singing, there is sort of a break. Was this contrast a deliberate choice?

Yes, absolutely. It’s always like an obsession to get a contrast because if you do not do that, it’s getting flat. And now you get more of a bang every time, because when you get to the first chorus, it pumps up much more than if you have a first verse which has a lot of guitars in it. So it’s good that it drops a little bit. But it’s also a dilemma because it shouldn’t flatten too much... It should not bore. This is difficult. But you can already get it better if you have faster songs, if it’s not slow. It’s more active, even if you don’t have guitars in it. Then you can give it a boost with the guitars and the chorus.
It’s also because of the way we write: we write in a pop structure, first verse, chorus, second verse... It’s different from classical compositions like Epica or After Forever for example. That’s a deliberate choice.

M-W: Is it something that might evolve in the future?

I cannot see into the future, but at the moment I prefer that. And I think it’s also recognizable for us. It’s one of the Delain aspects. We also have a lot of backing vocals. You can recognize that it’s Delain, even if it’s another album.

M-W: Marco Hietala is singing on two songs of the album, and when you’re playing the songs live, this is Charlotte who sings those parts. So, why not Ronald?

Actually, the songs were first written with Charlotte on it. And what’s really unique when you’re working with Marco is that he can sing in the same register of a woman, which is not very common. So it’s very easy because you don’t have to rewrite vocal lines. And with Nothing Left for example, I was really doubting to use Marco’s or Charlotte’s vocals because Charlotte’s lines were really beautiful, really "kill your darling situation" (?!). Therefore it’s very easy to let Charlotte sing it, but I can imagine that for people it’s strange because they are getting used to Marco and Charlotte is really different. But the problem is that Ronald is also a very different singer than Marco. So you don’t get the same result.
Another thing is that we’re just beginning to discover the vocal potential and the qualities of Ronald. What he did on Invidia was not planned. It was an experiment and it turned out really well. So I’m sure we’re gonna experiment much more with it in the future, cause the guy can really sing! I think he’s like rough diamond and he has to develop his voice. But we’re just discovering that.

M-W: There is one song that you didn’t play at the release party: Start Swimming. Why is that?

Because it’s very difficult: you need both an acoustic and an electric guitar and we have only one guitar player, so he has to sweat a lot to make it work. And we already play it in the past [at the special concert in Zwolle], and it was difficult to play it, so we thought that there are other songs which have more priority at the moment. But we like the song a lot, so sure we’re going to play it again!

M-W: April Rain is all about contrast, is it also what you wanted to express with the artwork?

Yes, you can see the black and the white ink clouds, which is a big contrast. Besides that, it was very important for us to put the band on the cover and to put Charlotte on the cover as our front lady. And this is also a very tricky and a very dangerous risk. But we just thought it was a good idea. Actually, we also experimented with only ink clouds on the cover, also in several colors, with a more abstract feel. But in the end, this came out.

M-W: Is there already something official about a tour in France?

We want it. Actually we wanted to do that in April, but, with the release, there was not enough time to plan that. So we do one show in Paris of course, and we want to come back with this album for some more gigs in France, perhaps in Autumn. It’s important for us, because, as I told you in the past, the shows we did here were the best shows we had. It felt the best!

M-W: And are you also planning some special gigs?

Actually yesterday, I received an email from the guy we organized the special gig in the Broerenkerk with. We were thinking about another special gig. But this is just really premature. So we’re thinking about it. And if we’re going to do something, it should be totally refreshing and not the same thing again.
It’s also still my wish to have Marco sometime. I know their tour will stop somewhere this year so perhaps there are possibilities...

M-W: To conclude, what are the "old" and the new songs you like the most?

It actually shifted a lot. I’ve had a lot of favorites in the last two years. I think that right now, from Lucidity, I like The Gathering a lot. It’s a strong song. And besides that... it’s difficult... Sever perhaps, I like a lot as well.
And for the new album Virtue And Vice. I love that song. Actually this song was written last and was really on the edge of getting on the album or not because there was no time anymore. And I love the result very much. And besides that, let me see... Control The Storm. I love Marco’s vocals, and the song in general as well.
Martijn Westerholt (Delain)

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