||CHARLOTTE WESSELS: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT DELAIN
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
The lead vocalist of Gothic Metal outfit Delain has been a busy bee these past few years. Within the space of three years for example the band has unleashed three albums.
In 2012 there was the excellent 'We Are The Others', followed in 2013 by 'Interlude' and this year we all get to wrap our ears around 'The Human Contradiction'. Not only has Charlotte been indulging in lung-busting activities with Delain but she's also been hard at work with gender studies! I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.
I discovered when I was researching for the interview how 'The Human Contradiction' was a theme based on a trilogy written by Octavia E Butler who is a US female author. The name of the trilogy is 'Lilith's Brood' and I asked Charlotte to elaborate on this topic.
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Charlotte: "For the last couple of years I've been intrigued by the concept of otherness and how people relate to that, whether that is otherness between human beings or non-human life, or how we qualify other human life and how we relate to it. So this has been on my mind both artistically and academically for the last couple of years.
"It was very much present in my studies that I followed also, and I've just graduated for my masters of gender studies. Actually one of the books that we had to read surprisingly for this gender studies is the first part of this trilogy which is called 'Dawn'.
"In this trilogy the concept of the human contradiction is introduced and it's a post-apocalypse story. So basically humanity destroy themselves and it explains how this happens. Because of this contradiction, human beings are both intelligent and hierarchic and the more successful intelligent lifeforms were not hierarchic. This quality makes for this 'us versus the other' mentality and it makes for a ranking life on the basis of characteristics that are very random.
"This is a very self-destructive attitude and in the book it was very explicit. But in reality I read this concept of the human contradiction and I could tie it to so much of the things that I saw around me, that this is the perfect album title because it ties together so much."
I reached out for clarification whether this theme of the human contradiction ran through all of the songs.
Charlotte: "Not all of the songs, but quite a lot of the songs. Just to name a few, 'Army Of Dolls' is really about objectification of people in general and objectification of women and this kind of standard you're supposed to follow to be considered beautiful or even normal; which is a very real thing especially in the entertainment industry. Then if we move to another song, there is 'Your Body Is A Battleground' which is actually about the industry that makes money from convincing people that their bodies aren't functioning as they should or aren't normal or aren't healthy. We owe a lot to medicine but there's a certain corner there that is really terrifying.
"There's also some songs that are about our attitudes toward non-human nature like the song 'Tell Me, Mechanist' which is very much about animals and 'The Tragedy Of The Commons' is about resources – How we basically de-value all the non-human life to resources for our human endeavours. So there's a lot there in all of the songs. Even a song like 'My Masquerade' which is basically a very happy party song can be brought back to these kind of topics.
"Not all of them are, like it's not a concept album, but this theme runs like a thread through the songs. Actually the first single 'Stardust' is directly inspired by the first book of this trilogy called 'Dawn'. There's a lot of references here and there for those who are willing to pick them out."
Noting how the keyboardist Martijn Westerholt was in the producer's chair for 'The Human Contradiction', I wondered how that influenced the dynamics when making the album.
Charlotte: "It was kind of a response to the process we had to 'We Are The Others'. For the record, our first two albums were produced by Martijn as well so we were kind of used to this situation already. But with 'We Are The Others' there were so many people involved from outside of the band; we were in a bit of a label dance before that record was released.
"So we had three different record companies and the people in there with their opinions which came to pass during the writing and producing of this album. We had three producers which actually did tremendous jobs, like some of the parts like having so many people involved were completely amazing. Like the fact we could do the album in Sweden with these fantastic producers, this was really cool.
"But in general the feeling we had after 'We Are The Others' was all these people, all these opinions, and we're very stubborn as writers and as a band, and it just took us a lot of energy back then. I mean we wouldn't have let those opinions change us, but it took a lot of energy to do our own thing so this time we wanted to basically keep it to ourselves a bit and have matters in our own hands and Martijn produce again was a natural decision coming from that attitude."
If you check out the inlay cards to their albums you'll notice famous names making appearances, like Burton C Bell (Fear Factory), Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and several others. Why do they have guests on their albums?
Charlotte: "It is really in the nature of the band you know; when we did our first record it was never intended to be a regular band but we were basically making this project. After that on 'April Rain' we were really the stage of we shouldn't include so many guest vocals because now we are a band and not a project anymore, we really felt that we had to establish ourselves as a band independently so we chose not to do so much.
"Still we asked Marco because we love his voice so much, and also from that perspective for that record, we are going to do what we want you know. Since Marco has been an integral part of our first two albums, we were writing some songs and we were immediately thinking about him. And at one point it passed our thoughts that we just said - yes it would be unoriginal to have him guest on our record for a third time; and we thought screw unoriginal! It's going to sound awesome!"
After checking out the track-list of the deluxe version of 'The Human Contradiction' I asked Charlotte about the bonus tracks 'Don't Let Go' and 'Scarlet'.
Charlotte: "Well actually, 'Don't Let Go' wasn't written once the normal album version was finished, but 'Scarlet' is a ballad and we've been trying to finish it to include it on the record, but we just couldn't solve the puzzle in time before we had to hand everything in for the mix. We already kind of gave up on it, but we felt really bad about it and then we learned about the opportunity of the bonus disc, so we can finish it after all."
I was intrigued with the way Delain tackled the subject matter of Sophie Lancaster which inspired some of the themes behind 'We Are The Others'. Sophie was killed by bullies in her local town as she attempted to protect her boyfriend. They were being attacked merely because they wore the clothes representing a scene they felt they belonged to. Looking Gothic they attracted attention and were persecuted for it.
I asked Charlotte how that had touched a nerve and wondered if she had ever been bullied when she was younger.
Charlotte: "No, not so much bullied; I cannot say that because I don't want to be offending people who have actually been bullied. I mostly made it difficult for myself, in puberty I was quite horrible! This is a tough question. I think I basically made it hard for myself. I was rather a big child so I was teased and I know what it is like. I don't know exactly where this comes from, in general, I think music is that part where you can make your emotions larger than life and I'm very much for being positive.
"But like with everybody has multiple sides, so do I and sometimes I'm depressed as shit! Probably everybody is once in a while. I think music is just good to vent at, but still even in the most depressing songs, and I can tell you already that 'Scarlet' is one of the most depressing songs ever, but I still want there to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't like music to be something that brings you down basically. "
In the aftermath of this conversation with Charlotte, I was left with the feeling that she has plenty of energy and interest for the world around us, and is also brutally honest. Hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did participating in it.