Interview with Martijn Westerholt of DELAIN
Antihero Magazine‘s Niwy Kováčová recently had the opportunity to chat with DELAIN keyboardist and founding member, Martijn Westerholt, about the upcoming album, Moonbathers, and much more!
Yes, absolutely. It’s coming out at the end of this month and for us it was really a puzzle to make this album because we had a lot of requests for playing live. We don’t want to rush an album, we always want to take a good care making one. So it has been quite a challenge. I’m really happy with how it worked out and I hope people will like it. It’s exciting.
What was the recording of the album like? What’s the creative process in the band generally, how did it go this time since you were so busy with touring?
Most of time until now me, Charlotte and Guus are writing all the music. Guus is not in the live band, but he is part of the band regarding writing from the beginning. Now, slowly, there’s more influence beginning to pour form other band members which I really love, that they are involved as well. I hope we can make it grow in the future.
Normally you write in one go, you record in one go, you mix in one go. That’s the traditional way of the doing it. The modern way of doing it, you do it song by song. We didn’t do it song by song, but we chopped he process into three pieces to be able to tour in between and be flexible, also in the process itself. You can see what you made and you can tweak on it when it’s done already and that was very inspiring. So for the future I think we would do that again and preferably song after song. It’s really easy to listen back to what you made a couple months back and you are not done with the record yet, so you can still go back and change or add stuff. And indeed the practical reason is that we managed to tour a lot and do the writing of the album at the same time.
Did you do a lot of changes on the songs you recorded before?
Yeah, we did that. I remember we had our second session when we recorded and mixed in January and then we went on tour with Nightwish in America and Canada. There we reevaluated the songs and after we were back we did change a couple things, some fills for example or structure. And then we took that with us to the last mixing session which was at the end of May and we completed the album.
You also produced this album as well as the last one, The Human Contradiction, and you mentioned that you liked the production on the last album so you kept some things similar. This really resonates throughout the album. Were there any parts that you deliberately made different than before?
Well in terms of mixing and mastering not, but of course we did some things different in the guitar recording, we spent a little more time on the guitar equipment for example. We also took a bit more time in tweaking and the mixing process. That’s kind of refinement of what we did in The Human Contradiction. But we were working with the same people. We mix in Sweden, with Fredman, consisting out of two people Henrik and Fredrik and we mastered in New York with Ted Jensen. And this is the same team as with Contradiction.
What is your favorite song on the album?
For me personally it’s “Hands of Gold” which is the first track. Because it’s heavy, it’s fast, you don’t have a lot of those fast songs and I love the orchestral elements and how it turned out. Sometimes orchestral elements can make a song softer and in this case it did not. And I think it’s a very happy marriage in the music, the orchestrals and the guitars. I like that song very much.
You featured Alissa on this record, it was the “Hands of Gold” song. She also appeared on the previous album. What was working with her like, how did she end up working with you guys once again?
We bump into each other a lot when we play live and we see each other in America or in Europe so we have a lot of contact. And both Charlotte and Alissa are vegan. So for example when Alissa is touring in Netherlands, than Charlotte drops by and brings some nice vegan food and the other way around – when we are playing in Canada, where Alissa’s from, then she drops by and brings Charlotte some nice vegan food. These are some nice details of how that contact goes. This song was craving some really tough growls. And we were really happy with the result of Alissa’s contribution in our previous record on the song “The Tragedy of the Commons.” So it was very easy and organic process to ask her again. Most of the time it’s not very time consuming – you send something over internet, she records it in her place and sends it back and then you tweak it if it’s needed. And because we already worked together we knew what to expect.
How did you come up with idea to do Queen’s “Scandal” cover?
Well that’s actually a good question. When I was a teenager in the beginning of the nineties, I listened to Queen a lot. And I discovered this song and it’s not a very well-known Queen song. But I really loved the vibe and I love the song. Then I lost touch with it and I rediscovered it couple years back and I thought this really has a Delain vibe to it. It’s really compatible and I was really curious how it would sound. Normally I would never ever try to cover a Queen track. I think that’s kind of committing a suicide, because Freddie Mercury is just not out of this world. But in this case because not a lot of people know the song, I did dare to do it. We have an English manager, we asked her to contact the Queen management and ask for permission to cover the song. And so she emailed them and she also got in touch with Brian May at the same time. The management was like “Yeah well, send it over and we will take a look at it,” and that’s something you don’t want to hear. Because if you spend a lot of time, effort, energy and money and then they say “Yeah it’s very nice but let’s not do it, bye,” that would be terrible. But what happened is we very quickly got an email from Brian May. And he said “I checked out the band and I really like them. So you already have my permission upfront. I don’t need to hear it, I believe this will be good, so you have my blessing.” If the songwriter of that song gives you his blessing, than management can only follow, of course. And that was fantastic. So we made that song and we put it on the album.
You are going on European tour in October & November. What can your fans look forward to?
The biggest headline tour we ever did. We want to make something really big out of it and create some magic for the fans and together with the fans and I’m really looking forward to that. We will play a lot of songs of the new record, at least seven. So that’s a lot out of ten-eleven songs. I hope people will like that.
You also played quite a few festivals this summer, some are yet to come. What do you personally prefer? Festival or a club show or how would you compare the two?
Oh that’s difficult. I think what makes it good is to have both. It sounds very political, but it’s really true. Because the great thing about the festival is you got this mass of a crowd and you have to win them over. With club shows it’s more intimate, which has its charm. But the people already bought the ticket to see YOU. So it’s less of a challenge to win them over. Also you can make a party out of it, because the people come for you. It both has its charm, I like both. I wouldn’t want to do only festivals or only club shows the whole year. I think the combination is perfect.
2016 is quite a busy year for Delain. Apart from releasing the EP, you’re also touring a lot, now you have album coming out, it also marks 10 years of Delain music and you have remaster of Lucidity coming out in October. How do you feel about it? How do you look at the beginnings of the band now?
I could never have imagined where we would stand right now. At first my initial personal goal was just to make a record to prove myself I can make a record out of Within Temptation. Then the whole thing kept on developing and went out of control in a good way. And now it’s my job. So I consider myself a lucky bastard, I love my job – it’s the best job in the world. This year is crazy so far, it’s the busiest year in our entire career. A lot of good stuff is happening and I’m really happy with that.
Any special memories or highlights that stand out during those last ten years?
There are so many highlights it’s very difficult to choose one. I remember the first album when I listened to it when it was done which was a magical moment. Also I’m a big Nightwish fan so it was such a pleasure to go on tour with those guys. Touring with my old band Within Temptation, doing big festivals like Graspop, Download, also playing Masters of Rock for example. Having a really cool band, group of people all working together I think we got the strongest set of people right now.
Among other plans you have a Paradiso birthday bash in December when are you celebrating those ten years. You are making a live DVD out of it. What will it be like? When can we expect the DVD to come out?
We are aiming to make this the biggest show so far. We want to celebrate the last ten years, we invited a lot of guests who participated on our records and also old band members. There will be special effects, we will play songs we don’t play a lot. It’s almost sold out I think we have hundred tickets left. And it’s a magical venue. It was originally a church, so the atmosphere there is really special. I hope we can catch it all on the DVD and we will release it in summer 2017. What makes it really cool is that we made it together with fans, we are doing it through crowdfunding platform, thanks to our fans we can do that. And that’s fantastic.
So how do you look like at the difference between working under the label and the crowdfunding?
Financially it’s not a big difference because the label has actually that much trust and faith in us and they just give us a bag of money so to say and we make an album. And we do it the way we like it. But what I really like about the crowdfunding campaign is that the fans are involved so directly. That makes it different and special. They can buy silly and special stuff on this crowdfunding campaign which is fun, too. Like go bowling with us, we love bowling. Charlotte and others are big whiskey lovers, I’m a whiskey barbarian and I put it into Coca-Cola. But others really like it so they will do a tasting with fans who like Delain and also whiskey. These kind of things are really nice. So that’s different.
On more personal note, what are your biggest musical influences, any favorite bands or musicians?
When I started listening to music in the eighties, when I was a really small kid, I think I became musically aware with the Final Countdown from Europe. It’s my first song I remember on the radio. Then I went on to listening to Toto and Queen, Genesis. Then the harder stuff came like Pantera, Paradise Lost, Dream Theater and then I discovered Nightwish. I also like movie scores very much, Hans Zimmer, that kind of stuff. Abba, I think they are great songwriters. At the moment I’m listening to I See Stars, The Birthday Massacre. Rammstein is also a very important one, that’s also why we worked with a Rammstein producer and his team in 2011 on We Are the Others. So there’s a lot of different music I listen to.
Your brother is also a musician, is it something that has been always present in your family? Were you raised in such an environment?
I was playing in bands since I was a teenager and he was and of course he was older, so at certain point he was also functioning on a higher level and he introduced me into that. And I am grateful for that until this day. In our family it was very much stimulated to play an instrument. For me it was a piano and I got two brothers, they both play guitar and of course Rob still is. It always has been part of our family. My parents actually don’t play an instrument themselves, that’s really funny and their musical range is pretty limited, they listen to classical music and opera and Abba and that’s about it. So it’s not that I’m raised musically by my parents, I’m more raised musically by my brothers.
I’ve heard you like computer games. What is your favorite?
Last years I don’t dare to play anymore because it’s so time consuming. I can’t afford that. But the last game I played was Empire Total War. I love the strategy kind of games and also the command & conquer games, do shooters now and then. I like stuff like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, I bet I will love the latest Doom. I don’t dare to play World of Warcraft, I don’t dare to touch it, because if I do I would lose a lot of time on it.
Maybe you could play while on tour.
Well, somehow it doesn’t happen. I don’t know why. The last time I played was the Empire Total War and Otto did as well and it’s good that you mentioned this, I really have to install a new game for our next upcoming tour. Because it’s really fun.
Anything special you would like to say to your fans?
Yes, actually. I’m so grateful to our fans, because of their support we can do this. So they’re kind of my boss, so to say. I think it’s really special. There are not a lot of genres where fan bases are so loyal and I really appreciate that. I really want to stick around for the next forty years or so until I retire or something.