Prior to their recent gig in a storm battered London, we were lucky enough to grab a chat with Delain founding member, keyboardist and album producer; Martijn Westerholt. Read his thoughts on the current album; ‘Apocalypse & Chill’, as well as some background on what it took to create the epic choir sound on the album, and the special bond between Delain and their fans.
‘Apocalypse & Chill’ is Delain’s sixth studio album, as an old hand at this, do you still get nervous in the run up to an album’s release?
Well, I’m not nervous, but certainly excited, and very curious about how people respond to what we’ve made. You’re in your own bubble and you never know about what people will think about it, so yeah, it’s an exciting time!
We live in a time when in the run up to an album’s release, bands have to put out teasers in the shape of new videos etc. I’m curious to get an artist’s point of view, but do you miss the days before streaming, social media and YouTube, when you had to wait until the day of release to go out and actually buy a new album?
Absolutely yes! Because it has something to do with experiencing an artist and their music. I remember seeing my brother in the ‘80’s buying the latest Iron Maiden album, and him going to his room and being in there the entire afternoon and going through all the artwork on the vinyl while he was listening to the record. Nowadays, it’s so much faster, and it’s like if you get a snack to eat or if you have dinner. It’s not all bad, there are some advantages, but yes, that is one of the things I do miss.
For me it was picking up Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ and saying to my family “I’ll see you in two hours, let me know when dinner is ready”!
Ah! That’s history! That’s fantastic!
Back to ‘Apocalypse & Chill’, would you agree that it’s perhaps the most diverse Delain album to date?
Yes. It’s funny because an artist will never say, this album is good but the previous one was better, you’ll never hear an artist say that. Ha! But, seriously I’m very happy with this album and I do think it’s diverse because we go through a lot of corners of the spectrum, all the Delain DNA is there but I think there is more intensity, in all the softness but also the heaviness.
When it is heavy, the album is very heavy, ‘Legions Of The Lost’ for instance has a lot going on in it.
Yes, we have a lot of intensity, more intensity in the riffing, more intensity in the orchestrals, in the electric elements, and of course also Charlotte’s vocals.
‘Vengeance’ is another banger, it’s both heavy and intense, but at the same time; very catchy. And you have Yannis from Beast In Black appearing?
Thank you, we’re really happy with that song, and Yannis certainly contributes a fresh element in there. I think his voice blends really well with Charlotte’s and it just works.
The flip-side to all the intense heaviness, is something as stripped back and gorgeous like ‘Ghost House Heart’, a genuine stop what you’re doing and pay attention moment.
Thank you, that’s what we tried to achieve, it’s funny because we recorded the video in Liverpool and it was really nice to be there.
It was recorded in Woolton Hall, famously haunted I believe?
I also heard that from Charlotte! I stayed downstairs on the ground floor, I wasn’t going upstairs! It was December and it was dark, and it had this Victorian vibe to it, I really liked it.
You mentioned earlier that you felt that the orchestral elements are much stronger on this album, but the choir especially sounds massive!
We used real choirs for the first time, we have layered a little bit in the past, with real vocals, Charlotte did a couple of things, but never with a real choir. Most of the time I write for the choirs through my music software, nowadays you can also program the software to say what you want it to say, that happened for instance on ‘Masters Of Destiny’, But later on in the process I gave that material to Charlotte and she wrote lyrics for it, and we gave that to our orchestral arranger in Finland and he just tweaked that, sent it back, and he did the same things with the choirs. So it’s way more intense, and full and it adds to the drama and I really like how that worked out.
The second time that I listened to the album, it was at night through a decent pair of cans, and the choirs were incredible.
Excellent! There were only eight people, four ladies, four guys and that is layered multiple times to make it sound bigger. They are incredible vocalists.
The album title and sleeve is sadly quite prophetic given the recent devastating fires in Australia..
Yeah, but you also see it with constant fires in California, we live in interesting times sad to say..
You should have tried living in Britain the last few months! Interesting to say the least!
Haha! Yes I can imagine that with Brexit and everything!
Hopefully we can go a year without having another election or a vote!
You’re Scottish right? Didn’t the vast majority of Scotland want to remain in the European Union?
Correct yes, Scotland and Northern Ireland both did, yes, as well as London I believe?
How long has the union between the countries been in place for? Is it about 300 years or so?
(quickly searches on Wikipedia)…yes, 1707 I believe?!
The album comes out just as the tour is building, are you mindful of that when approaching what songs you play live?
We are playing a lot from it actually, I don’t think that we have ever played as many new songs immediately as we are now. We play I think eight new songs live? We play ‘Ghost House Heart’, ‘Combustion’, ‘One Second’, ‘Masters Of Destiny’, ‘Burning Bridges’, ‘We Had Everything’, ‘Creatures’ and I think that’s kind of it? Oh, ‘Let’s Dance’ as well! Our tour manager has just said…. “you forgot ‘Let’s Dance!”
That shows great confidence in the new material to drop it into the set when most people might not be totally familiar with it yet?
True, as an artist you also have to be aware that audiences like to hear songs that they know. But we play around nineteen songs or so, so we have the luxury of putting them in and making a nice balance in the setlist, and so far it works. It also helps that a couple of songs have already been released as videos earlier.
On the subject of audiences, would you say that it’s harder to find an audience when you are initially starting out, or harder to retain that audience once you have them?
I think that we are very spoiled because we have a very, very loyal fan base. I think it’s unique and so for us it’s not difficult to retain them, as long as you realise and appreciate the people that support you and I think that is key to retaining an audience. We played Manchester two days ago and for me it was the best show that I’ve ever done in my life. We had fans from all over the UK, we had fans from Scotland to Plymouth, and everywhere in between. Also people from outside the UK, and you see a lot of familiar faces as well, but still there are one thousand people in the venue checking out the new material and I think that’s magical.
Yourself and Charlotte have worked together for 15 years now I think, is there an understanding between you both that is almost telepathic?
It’s a unique co-operation, the majority of the music is written as a trio, along with Guus Eikens , he’s not in the live band but he’s been with us since the beginning, and I know him from my time in Within Temptation. We know each other so well that when we sit down to write, we know that something will come out. We have a lot of confidence as a group of songwriters, and I’m very proud of the co-operation. And now we also have Timo contributing to the writing process. He started first doing more arranging with the guitars, but this time he also contributed material like ‘One Second’, vocals as well, his contribution has intensified significantly with this album.
Any Summer festivals planned?
Yeah, we will do a couple of festivals, I don’t think that we have anything in the UK though? We are doing a lot on the continent, Hellfest I think? Metalfest in the Czech Republic…
You can do the Czech Republic for the price of one day at Download Festival!
Haha! I like the festivals over there!
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Arejay Hale from Halestorm, and he said that bands produce albums for free and tour on the back of the album to make a living. If that’s the case then it must be a hard one to take when venues insist on a cut of the merchandise sales?
I think it’s stealing. We don’t ask the venue to hand over part of their income from the bar, and it’s our fans being in their venue. I think that merchandise commission is wrong and it’s stealing. We take the risk in buying the merchandise and developing it, and the fans are at the venue to support the band so the venue should simply get money for renting out their establishment. That’s what they should get paid for, but that’s how this all works, people look for where money is made and they want a piece of the pie. It’s a very grey area. Sometimes in America you have to pay commission of 25% and that’s ridiculous.
Yes. I do understand that venues are having a difficult time, but you see that some organisations have this power and they use that to their advantage.
So basically you have no choice?
Yes. I think it was Metallica who when they played the UK and were faced with paying huge commission, said…well we’ll open up an establishment of our own and sell it outwith the venues, and then the venues said..well in that case we’ll drop the percentage down. But that’s the benefit of being of that stature. They can make a fist and make the venues be reasonable.
Last question, any surprises planned for the album release gig in Utrecht on the 14th? What can you tell us?!
Yeah I don’t care, I can tell you! Yannis will come and play ‘Vengeance’ with us and we also have some other guests, so it’s going to be a big party.
One of those nights when you don’t mind so much someone in the audience recording on their phone!
Yes! Haha! That will happen for sure! But tonight we are going to have a party in London and hopefully people will be able to make it despite the storm! If people are stuck in London they can come out and see a concert!
Just one of the joys of living on an island I suppose!
True! But in the Netherlands it’s just the same situation!
Apocalypse & Chill after all!
Yes! Very apt!
Interview – Dave
Cover image on header – Tim Tronckoe