Charlotte Wessels of Delain Talks Metal, Cover Songs, Politics And More In San Francisco
Johanna Charlotte Wessels (born 13 May 1987) is a Dutch singer-songwriter who was born in Zwolle, Netherlands. Best known as the lead vocalist for the Dutch symphonic metal band Delain. She is also in the symphonic rock musical group called Phantasma. Iron Serbian had the pleasure of sit down chat with Charlotte at the Social Hall in San Francisco, prior to her storming the stage, following fellow headbangers Hammerfall. Transcribed courtesy of Tina Mattis.
On getting into metal.
I first got into metal in my hometown in Zwolle. We had quite a good metal scene there and a solid amount of metal bands that quickly became my favorite. I’ve never been very discriminatory against any kind of music type. I like a lot of different types of music. I used to be in a big band as well, when I was a teenager…so we would play jazz and blues and funk and that kind of stuff and I was in a symphonic orchestra playing the clarinet. So, yeah there were definitely a lot of types of music that I was in to. But, I always had a preference for music that was very dramatic and of course you can find dramatic music in most genres But…um…yeah metal and symphonic metal have a real, real sense of drama that I was drawn to from an early age. So, I guess that’s how I got into metal.
On hooking up with Alissa White-Gluz ex The Agonist, current Arch Enemy vocalist.
We actually met one of the first times that we were in the United States when we toured with Kamelot and she joined Kamelot on that tour and then we met and we kinda stayed in touch and at one point we were writing a song for our previous album, “The Evil Contradiction.” And, it had this sick grunt part, and we thought of her immediately…um and well…the way it goes these days is usually we record apart from each other in studios around the world. So, I’ve been recording some parts on the last album at home, like it’s getting more and more easy to actually do that yourself. So, what happens is I usually make a dummy track and I send over the dummy track – But, especially…like what one of the fun things about working with guest musicians is to see what they are going to do creatively with that track…So, it’s always finding a balance of giving people something to hold on to, like these are the lyrics, this is the dummy track, this is kind of what we want you to do. But, if you want to let go of that, go ahead…you know. So, that’s kind of like how we do it. And we’ve been very happy with what she came up with so far…Yeah. I’m very impressed with how she can switch from the very harsh vocals to….She’s done “Hands of Gold” with us at our 10 year anniversary and the way she just switches from her harsh vocals to like operatic vocals, it’s very impressive, absolutely.
On choosing songs to cover.
Well, in general, I mean when picking covers like there’s a million to choose from. This track was (Delain keyboardist) Martijn Westerholt’s idea and I kinda went into kicking and screaming in the beginning because this is like, Queen…you know, you don’t cover Queen – He was kinda hesitant himself at first. I think one of the things that made us go for it, is the fact that first of all it’s not one of their best known tracks…Like we’ve seen reviews where people have said like they’ve got a nice 80’s vibe going on in that song, it’s not one of their best known tracks, I kinda think that helps and also we got , we got the explicit blessing from Brian May to cover he song prior to him hearing anything.
Our manager had some lines to him and she said, “This is Delain, they’re planning on doing a cover, is that alright? Do we have to send it to you?” And, he was like I checked out their stuff, it was really cool, let them go ahead. So that was, of course, a huge compliment and also gave me the confidence to go for it.
On musicians who share their political opinions.
I don’t mind. Of course, people have different views on this, like, you know, you’re doing music not politics etc. but I’m a firm believer that the personal is political, like you do political acts in everything that you do even if it’s in the products you buy or you know, so I would think it’s merely impossible to write personal music and not say anything that could be considered political…So, no I don’t mind. There is bands that I like which I don’t share their political views but it only goes to a certain level. If people really hold beliefs that I think that area atrocious then it becomes hard to see separate from the music so I will then probably start to dislike it…Um, but I don’t even thinks that a bad thing, I think it’s a good thing that people are able to voice their opinions whether I agree with them or not and the only risk – there’s of course, always the risk that people don’t agree with you but I also think if you have a platform and so many people listen
to you and fucked up shit happens that it’s kinda weird not to say things about it. So, it’s always a fine, fine balance to where you want to be in that spectrum. I usually kinda hold back on it cause I don’t want to be just another person shouting their opinion into the air because you have quite a lot of those already but you know if there’s something that I feel really passionate about and I find a good creative way or a nice metaphor or a way to voice that into the music I definitely will.
On reading reviews and metal news/gossip sites.
Ah yeah, I do…yeah, I kind of…read reviews because when we do a good show or a when we do a bad show, I kind of…and…I see a review of that one coming by I’m like curious to see how it was for the audience. As far as, gossip sites, sometimes, sometimes I do read them because sometimes the comments are just so hilarious, I once made a collection about the most offensive things that were said about me on one of the larger gossip sites. One of the metal gossip sites and there…it was just obnoxious really – At one point it becomes hilarious, like I don’t let it get to me. I just save in my vault of…If anyone says sexism doesn’t exist in the metal world, I go like well here you go.
Delian’s co-headlining tour with Hammerfall wraps up on May 18 in Atlanta, Georgia. This trek marks Delian’s first run of U.S. dates in support of its new album, “Moonbathers”, which was released last August.