DPRP's Menno von Brucken Fock speaks with Martijn Westerholt from Delain on 26th March 2009 in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
Delain started as a project from former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, brother of Robert Westerholt (Within Temptation). Because of his illness (Pfeiffer) he had to leave Within Temptation and after his recovery, he started to find a way to record the music he had been writing. Finally it came to a demo called Amenity in 2002, but then it seemed a dead end. Martijn didn’t give up and after a extensive search for a good singer he eventually found Charlotte Wessels, living in the same street where his parents are still having their home. She used to sing in a band called To Elyseum. Through his acquaintances via his former band and a little help from brother Robert, Martijn knew a lot of musicians who were willing to help and soon he found first class musicians like Marco Hietala from Nightwish on bass & vocals, guitarist Ad Sluijter (ex-Epica), drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek (God Dethroned) and vocalists Liv Kristine (Leaves’Eyes), George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) and Sharon den Adel (Within Tempation). Roadrunner Records turned out to be the record label of choice and the production of the debut album Lucidity was in the capable hands of Oliver Phillipps of Everon fame and engineered by Christian Moos (also from Everon). The album was well received and there was a demand for taking the project on the road. Martijn succeeded in forming a real band with the addition of Rob van der Loo (ex-Sun Caged) a fabulous bass-player, Ronald Landa as guitarist and Sander Zoer as drummer. Extensive touring by the band in 2006, 2007 and 2008 followed and in between writing and recording for the new album. Recently the successor of Lucidity has been released: April Rain. The album is DPRP recommended and again produced by Oliver Phillipps, mixed by Jacob Hansen and mastered by no one less than EROC. Although Charlotte was present but very busy preparing her hair for the show and Rob en Ronald hopped in, Martijn did most of the talking…..
MENNO: Martijn, to start off - why did you choose the band-name to be “DELAIN”?
MARTIJN: It comes out of a novel by Stephen King called “Eyes of the Dragon” (1987). I’m not much of a reader you know, but this book really grabbed me by the throat. Somewhere in the book I saw the name “Delain”, and I grew very fond of that name. No particular meaning or hidden messages, I just liked the name so much that I decided it should be the name of my band.
MENNO: Can you tell us something about your musical background and education and how your ‘heroes’ were when you were a kid?
MARTIJN: I really grew up with music so to speak. But since my two elder brothers started to play guitar, I decided it had to be another instrument. I chose piano and altogether I’ve had lessons on piano and keyboards for about 12 years. My influences come from a wide variety of rockstars: Jimi Hendrix and Genesis, in the eighties mainly acts like the Police (but don’t tell anyone). Marillion and of course Dream Theater. My biggest all time hero is Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish and in spite of what people might say, I can live with both incarnations of Nightwish, also because I’m not that big a fan of operatic voices but with Tarja, things were different: I am a huge admirer of Nightwish but as said, I like the current line up with Anette too. What touches me is foremost the song-structures Holopainen comes up with, really amazing!
MENNO: You were still around when Within Temptation had a major breakthrough with “Mother Earth”? I noticed that René Merkelbach was credited for keyboards as well. Weren’t there discussions to hire a temporary replacement until you would have been recovered from your illness (Pfeiffer’s disease?).
MARTIJN: I had my part in accomplishing Within Temptation’s success, no one will dispute that. I co-wrote songs on “Enter” and “The Dance” but during the process of writing and recording “Mother Earth” I was already very ill and to be honest, at that point I was through with the whole lot: I was feeling so miserable and week, nothing band or music related seemed to be appealing at the time. So, no, there was no question about finding a temporary replacement: the band knew I wasn’t to come back. I didn’t expect the disease to keep me in its grasp that long however: I still am not recovered fully and I have to be very careful with what I eat, drink and with the amounts of energy I’m using up. The upcoming tour through Europe in a nightliner will be a testcase or me and I hope I’ll pull through.
MENNO: Did you actually have plans for what became to be Delain during your illness? Did you write any songs in that period?
MARTIJN: I was absolutely sure I wanted to write music and to record if possible, but at the time the things I had in mind were meant to be a project. And yes, I did write a number of tunes even when I was feeling lousy most of the time: it really isn’t fun to feel tired all day! At some point in time I almost gave up but then I found Charlotte. The demo’s I made with her had a great response and we had offers from several record companies. Because of their distribution network and huge experience in promoting bands we chose Roadrunner Records. Due to the success of “Lucidity” my original plans had to be adjusted; there was such a demand to take “Lucidity” on the road, that I became convinced there had to be a real band.
MENNO: How did you manage to get all those guests involved on “Lucidity”? From the people you worked with on the first album, only singer Charlotte Wessels is left…
MARTIJN: Well, because of my years in Within Temptation I had a lot of connections, so asking Sharon to participate wasn’t too hard (laughs). During the tours I met Ewo, Nightwish’s manager and through him I got the opportunity to ask Marko Hietala to play bass on the album. Finding the right band members was not that easy because I am very picky …(smiles).They had to be good players, they had to be committed to Delain and they had to accept, I would be the one in charge. I don’t believe in democracy when it comes to defining your own music. Not that I’m a dictator of some sort and certainly I have an open mind for good ideas. I am more than willing to use them but in the end there must be only one making the final decisions, it doesn’t work for me any other way. The easiest one to find was Rob (van der Loo, bass). He volunteered for the job by contacting me on his own initiative. I was a bit surprised, because I knew of his background in progressive rock band “Sun Caged”, but he convinced me that his only aim was to be involved in a live band again, be around nice people and not necessarily to be playing the top notch far more difficult prog-metal.
MENNO: Talking about Marko Hietala: it must have struck him that Delain’s music is in the same genre as his own band Nighwish. Didn’t he make any argument about that?
MARTIJN: No, not at all. He liked the songs so much, that he offered me to throw in his amazing vocals as a sort of a bonus: awesome, don’t you think? Yeah, that worked out just fine and when I asked him to be a guest on “April Rain” again, he agreed to participate immediately.
MENNO: Your debut “Lucidity” has been received very well by the press. It also scored a “DPRP recommended” on our site, as did “April Rain” by the way. Did the overall sales meet your expectations and where has the album been selling well so far?
MARTIJN: I didn’t know Lucidity AND “April Rain” were DPRP recommended: thank you! “Lucidity” did very well indeed, it sold somewhere around 35.000 – 40.000 copies, not bad at all for a debut! (grinning intensely). The album sold well in several countries throughout Europe, also a bit in Japan. You would have expected that potentially South America could have been a good market but the situation there is extremely difficult: many illegal copies and downloads and most people don’t have much to spend while cd’s are quite expensive in those countries. Musically, Delain (just as WT or Nightwish) writes and plays pop-songs: only we perform them in a heavy (metal) way with some classical arrangements and orchestrations, but basically it’s the old principle of verse, chorus and again verse ...
MENNO: Lucidity was engineered by Christian Moos and produced by Oliver Phillipps, both of Everon. Did you know Everon’s music and how did you decide to choose them for the production?
MARTIJN: I never knew who they were until someone recommended them strongly. I didn’t know of the band Everon either because I’m not so much into progressive rock music the last decade (sorry!!). Oliver is a very determined guy and a perfectionist. Both Christian and he are great guys to work with but I didn’t always agree with them about the sound so that’s why I used Moos as engineer. Oliver and I were in contact on a regular basis, sending files to each other. He proved to be a great vocal coach for Charlotte and he’s a superb arranger. I owe him a lot for helping me with the orchestrations. Due to our mutual understanding and respect, Oliver worked with us on the “April Rain” album as well. However, I’ve had a bigger share in the production and the mixing, that’s why I’m credited as co-producer.
MENNO: Would you say the music industry has changed in the last 10 years? What do you think of the future, will there be only downloads?
MARTIJN: It cannot be denied there has been a huge change in the whole music industry. Personally I’m not tempted to be downloading music all day but I guess the youngsters of today are doing it all the time. This means we have a different assignment: we have to have a good promoting team behind us and we have to offer a good show and a good package. That’s why a good record company like Roadrunner is of such an importance to bands like us. In my opinion there are a lot of fans who not only like the music but at the same time they want to have something valuable in their hands: these are the people we must be aiming at. They are not merely music lovers but also collectors. That is one of the reasons we are selling the digipak/limited edition tonight with a t-shirt at the price of the regular CD! We are trying hard to work on our live performance and we keep arranging and changing little details every day!
MENNO: As you mentioned several times to the press already, “April Rain” is no longer a project but much more a ‘band album’ ?
MARTIJN: That is correct. From the early start of songwriting Charlotte and I have been working together closely and other members of the band have been given the opportunity to contribute both in writing as well as arranging the songs. The song On The Other Side is based on an idea from Charlotte and Start Swimming has been co-written by Rob.
(Charlotte is in the same room preparing her hair for the show and is listening during the whole interview).
MENNO: Where did the inspiration for that song “On The Other Side” come from?
CHARLOTTE: My mother has been very, very ill and at some point we had reason to believe she might not overcome her disease. In that period I wrote this song with the help of our good friend Guus Eijskens. This song is of great emotional value to me and I really consider it to be ‘my baby’. Fortunately my mother recovered miraculously and so it feels even better now!
MENNO: Now you mention the name of Guus Eijskens: he gets credits for co-writing several songs and he also wrote for Orphanage and Within Temptation?
(Martijn takes over again).
MARTIJN: Yes, we go a long way back together. He is a good friend and I consider him to be the sixth member of the band. He is a truly good songwriter and a very pleasant guy to work with (Charlotte confirms this statement by nodding her head with a lovely smile). He doesn’t dig gigs and touring anymore but in this way he is of great importance to us. He feels appreciated and gets a chance to allow his creativity to flow whenever he chooses so we are both benefiting from this situation.
MENNO: How long did it actually take to write and record “April Rain”? Did the whole band go to Germany?
MARTIJN: We started writing last summer and finished mixing around the beginning of February so I’d say just about eight months. Most of the recordings were done here but the arrangements and vocal harmonies were done with Oliver. So mainly Charlotte and me were in the studio with Oliver. I’ve told you what kind of a perfectionist Oliver is: well he’s met his equal in Charlotte! She insisted on doing all harmonies and background vocals herself, every single note!
MENNO: In my opinion Charlotte sings with more self-confidence compared to her vocal performance on “Lucidity”.
MARTIJN: Yes I agree. There are two or rather three reasons for this. In the first place Charlotte had to sing the songs that were already written and most of the time arranged too. Secondly, she was ill during the recordings for “Lucidity”. The strange coincidence was, she turned out to have Pfeiffer’s disease! You can imagine how I felt when I heard about this: as if history was to repeat itself and some strange fate was prone to ‘get me’. Luckily for me Charlotte did an outstanding job in spite of her illness and lucky for her she managed to get rid of the disease within half a year. The second reason is on “April Rain” she was involved during the whole process, she had her say in how she would sing the songs and as you know, she even got to songwriting herself.
MENNO: As you probably know, After Forever has disbanded: what was your reaction when this news broke?
MARTIJN: As a ‘competitive artist’ I should say: good, one competitor less. However this is absolutely not the way I felt. Not only because After Forever played a different kind of music, a lot heavier in my opinion, but I respected and loved that band. I’m sure all band members will find their own way in the music business. I believe Sander Gommans has released an album recently, but I haven’t heard it yet. Supposed to be very, very heavy! Maybe he has put all his frustrations and anger in that record?
MENNO: How is the tour with Kamelot moving along and what are the plans for the future? Maybe live recordings for a DVD?
MARTIJN: Touring with Kamelot is fun, great musicians and nice guys especially Roy (Khan). It’ll soon be over and then it’s Delain on their own. We’re really looking forward to promote our new album in countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria. After that probably a number ofshows in Holland again and then obviously working on the third album! Surely no DVD at this point. We have yet a long way to go to be able to do a DVD that will sell! Recording a good DVD takes a lot of preparation and it costs a great deal of money too, maybe in the future bu not this tour.
MENNO: Martijn, thank you very much for this chat, best of luck in Europe and lots of success with “April Rain”!
MARTIJN: Thank you Menno, it was nice talking to you and we’re really excited about “April Rain”: so far the sales are far beyond our expectations: rumour goes the album entered some alternative chart straight on number one!
NOTE FROM MENNO: My apologies to Delain, but this interview should have been recorded but due to my lack of technical know how I’ve missed a button, so this interview has been written on the basis of my memory alone… Martijn gave me more details than I could remember.
Interview & Live Photographs by
Menno von Brucken Fock
Gallery Live Images taken on 26th March 2009 at Gigant, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands