Ahead of the recent Delain gig in Manchester, we had the chance to have a quick chat with keyboard player Martijn Westerholt ahead of the show.
Not only was this the second gig of the new tour, but it was also the day of release for their Apocalypse And Chill album. Yes, we reviewed that too – read it here. What better way to start off by getting Martijn to sign a copy of the album (actually the first of the new pieces of vinyl he’s signed) before chatting around a couple of things in Delain world.
ATB: So how is Manchester for you?
Martijn: I don’t know enough about the town, but it’s always great to play here and the UK in general. I remember supporting Within Temptation here so this is the second time here I think. This is a good venue though and it’s important that we can give people what they come for and if you’re limited by space and you can’t do the sort of things you want to entertain then that’s frustrating.
ATB: The link with Within Temptation has always been a good one and I’ve noticed when you play with them, the fans are pretty split between whose T shirt they wear!
Martijn: I consider Within Temptation as family, of course Sharon and Robert are family and I wish them nothing but the very best. And of course it’s my old band!
ATB: So how was the opening night in Birmingham?
It’s also kind of magic when you see songs that you’ve recorded and written coming to life on stage.
ATB: When’s the best time to catch you on tour then?
Martijn: Not the first show! Maybe the last show when the machinery is completely developed. The first and last show for any band is the difference. The first is always very hectic and stressful. We may have done all the rehearsals but there’s nothing like the real deal.
The last dates are always good – it’s after a tour that you feel ready to wind down. But they say for each week you tour you should have one day off. So for a five week tour then you’d need about a week to recuperate.
ATB: So when it comes to putting together things for a new tour do any of the new songs automatically jump out for inclusion in the set?
Martijn: Well, when we write music we never ever think about limiting ourselves for live performance, so that’s the first thing. Is it’s going to be a problem, we’ll see what comes but we’ll let our creativity do what it wants to do. And then when the songs are ready, some work well on an album and not so well live and vice versa. It’s a completely different animal. An example is our song Don’t Let Go which was a bonus track on one of our albums and it’s not such a strong album track but live I think it’s one of the strongest songs we have.
The other way round, some songs are fantastic on the records and live it’s just not the same.
ATB: One of the new songs that stands out for me is that Masters Of Destiny from the new album which stands out immediately as a masterpiece. Do you have the same feeling about it?
Martijn: It’s in the set! I always make the setlist and try and make things flow and not be erratic and also a mixture. When I place myself in the crowds position I want to hear some songs I know but it’s also nice to hear something new so you have to make a mixture of that. So tonight we will be playing eight songs from the new album but it also means we have about eleven or twelve older songs.
The funny thing is that what pleases the audience most is what pleases me the most because the energy of the crowd is what makes me enjoy the experience of playing live and making music. I don’t see it as a sacrifice to play a particular song over and over again.
ATB: Just looking at the album cover, I immediately thought of Supertramp’s Crisis? What Crisis? with the guy on the deckchair amidst the general devastation…very similar to the glamorous figure doing similar on your album cover.
Martijn: I know Supertramp but don’t recall the cover …. (he has a quick look online but the Ritz wi-fi isn’t co-operating!)
ATB: It’s something a bit different from the last couple of albums which have a very stylish, almost Art Deco feel…
Martijn: Yes! Some people were very surprised, some were horrified as well, but the thing is that we’re not here to shock people on purpose but I do like it when you have art work that on the one hand people hate and the other people love! I’d rather have the extreme and I have to admit it’s not my favourite, but Charlotte (Wessels) chooses the artwork although we’re all involved. What I do like about it is that it completely reflects what the album is about; it reflects the al bum and it’s something that people notice!
ATB: So what were you trying to say with that message?
Martijn: It’s really the contrast that you see when you turn on the TV – You see Australia in flames and then you turn to Instagram and see people with awesome pictures of their garden or themselves. The perfect life. The same world but such a contrast. It’s what comes across on the album in the music and in the lyrics. We are a band of contrast with the heavy guitars but with some pop and synth elements so it all comes back to that.
We actually had a big discussion with the record label who didn’t like the cover. Their thought was that this is a product and the packaging should reflect the product, but we wanted to be consistent with what the story is about and it’s not just a bout what you buy in the store.
ATB: You also have a few orchestral versions of tracks on the album which prompts the thought about whether you see yourselves at some stage doing an album or some shows with a full orchestra?
Martijn: You know, I LOVE orchestras in metal. And I don’t care how many bands have done it. Live I would love to do it but I know it’s now not considered that special because so many bands have done it. To me that does give an element of cliché which I don’t really like. Besides it’s very expensive and people have to pay a lot of money for tickets! When it comes to the records and recording, samples are now so insanely good now that the orchestra just isn’t needed. I work with a very good orchestral arranger from Finland. I come up with rough orchestral arrangements, send it to him and he adds the details and sends it back to me. Then I tweak it and so it goes on. And that works for us.
ATB: Tell me about collaborators as that’s a strong feature of Delain music and you have Yannis Papadopoulos on the new record. How do these collaborations come about?
Martijn: You might see somebody in your network and you like their voice; often there’s a chance to see them or ask them when you’re on tour but with Yannis, I was in touch with one of his songwriters. We were playing a Spanish festival last year and also recording during that period so I asked him! My son who’s seven loves his band, Beast In Black, and I combined it with a holiday in Spain so I just asked him.
We had three songs which we gave him and let him choose which one. But it’s very much in the DNA of Delain to have guest musicians.
ATB: So who’s on your fantasy list?
Martijn: You know, Bruce Dickinson would be pretty cool. I love Sting but that would never happen. Freddie Mercury would have been awesome but … and Dio I would have loved as well. I just like to work with guests as it always gives a surprising result and it never disappoints.
And with the 15 minute slot up we just had the chance to say how delighted we were to see that the band had filmed their Burning Bridges video in an old stomping ground of Snowdonia.
Martijn: It’s a wonderful part of the world. We always work with a UK video company (they are here tonight actually to see the show for the first time live) and yes, it was a lot of fun and a lot of sheep droppings….
Our thanks to Valeria at Duff PR for setting us up to chat with Martijn and to the man himself for the generosity with his time before an important gig.
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