Featured

Charlotte Wessels: Interview

Charlotte Wessels has released her first set of music as a solo artist. Tales From Six Feet Under has been compiled after she released a song a month, and continues to do so, on her Patreon page. You can read our review of the album here.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Charlotte Wessels to talk about her new compilation, using Patreon, inspirations outside of metal and the possibility of playing Delain songs live again.

Charlotte Wessels1_photo credit_Charlotte Wessels.jpg
Charlotte Wessels.

Congratulations on the compilation.

You’ve put these songs together and released them through Patreon every month – have any of the songs taken a long time to see the light of day?

I’m still going with it too!

The ones I did at the beginning had been around for a while. They were songs that I hadn’t finished and was going to release them through Patreon. For example, I had the first round of verse/chorus/riff but there are a lot of songs that I started a long time ago but only finished them now as I have a place for them now.

Do you like that you have more freedom to do what you like now? You are working as your own boss!

Yeah…and there is multiple reasons too. It’s the fact that I am working alone now; I can work from A-Z and follow your own creative instincts. I’m old and wise enough to know that it is both a blessing but if you work in a great team you can end up with something that is greater than the sum of the parts. I’m very aware of the different sides you can take to that.

Another way that this has given freedom is that I am working on a month to month basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love albums and I love working on a longer project with a larger arc but something that is really fun about doing these songs is that every one of them can be uncompromised. Rather than thinking about how it will sound on a record with a particular theme…I can just think, what are my feelings with this song? Where is it taking me? What kind of arrangement does it need? What kind of approach do I want to take?

They’re very much a reflection on you. Like you say, it could be a curse working on your own, not having that person to immediately bounce an idea off?

Yeah. It’s teaching me a lot. I used to be a person that would start a lot of things but not necessarily finish them because I can be quite a perfectionist. So when you work with other people, that’s an encouraging process that gets things done but I’m very glad that I am at a point where I can count on myself and step over those insecurities. It’s one thing that has been the most rewarding doing the song a month; learning to step over that fear of your own criticism. That’s been very valuable to me.

Is interaction with fans better through Patreon rather than say, Facebook or Twitter?

I think that they are completely different, but it depends on how you want to use Patreon. I think that the beauty of Patreon is that you have the freedom to decide what kind of community you want to build, what you are going to do and what level of communication you want to offer. For me, I have had lots of opportunities to have a tight knit community. I’ve been doing the hangouts now and there is a Discord server that is not only allowing people to communicate with me, but with each other. That’s all a lot of fun to me.

You are going to your audience directly, too. There is no middleman and that is very beneficial.

For people to support you that way means that they are completely devoted to helping with your journey. They are not fair weather fans. You must get lots of positivity?

Yes. It’s really lovely. The subscription platform is different. I like social media, to an extent. But it’s easy for people to follow you because they don’t like you. With Patreon, everyone is there because they want to be there.

Good for cutting out the negativity, I guess?

Absolutely. It also makes you see criticism in a different light. I’ve done some songs that are within the symphonic metal realm that people would expect from me, but when I started it was intended as a side project to Delain and I wasn’t going to put songs on Patreon that I would save for Delain. In the beginning, I was only doing things that people were not used to from me. There were certain tracks where people say that it wasn’t their favourite but they would appreciate why I had done a certain thing a certain way. That’s very different.

There is plenty of genre hopping on the collection. Afkicken is a brilliant song; I really like the fact that it is something you wouldn’t expect. It has some serious Goldfrapp vibes. Can you tell us a bit more about that particular song?

Afkicken is loosely translated as ‘kicking the habit.’ If you were talking about it in Dutch you would be talking about getting clean from some kind of drugs or alcohol. The way that I’ve worked it into the lyrics is more symbolic. Lyrically, the protagonist of the song, the narrator, is speaking from the point of view of being institutionalised for killing a loved one. That’s where that one is coming from and I’m planning on making a video to go with it to give a visual world to it and show that she is trying to convince the listener that she had a good reason to do what she did. Any healthy listener would say that that makes her crazy but in the video I am planning to add a twist to it that I have had in my mind for a while to show that she is right.

Sounds very interesting!

Charlotte Wessels in her studio; Six Feet Under.
Picture: Otto Schimmelpenninck ven der Oije

It takes a lot to make that change; it would have been easy to churn out symphonic metal tracks.

I’m only realising now that it would have been a lot more convenient that way!

The upside to that is that those kinds of songs are not bare necessities for me. For example, If you look at Spotify, I don’t think I’ll be getting on any of those editors playlists. I would probably have a good chance if I were to do metal tracks because they’d just think, ‘Oh it’s the girl from Delain.’ But if I bring my songs to an indie playlist, they’d be saying ‘Charlotte who?’ It’s definitely not the easy route.

That’s bold though. And whilst you’re making music for people on Patreon, you have to enjoy it yourself.

Definitely, and also, the thing that I have in mind is that it is so easy to get distracted by numbers and statistics and streams. The Patreon is the basis of what I am doing now. That also makes it easier to take risks like this, because I have a strong basis. If people pick up the compilation then great; if it gets lots of bad reviews or it flops, I’ll be upset, but it’s not the base of what I am doing. The Patreon and direct connection to the people is the basis.

I should calculate how many streams on Spotify you’d need in a month to account for one Patreon subscription in a month. I think you would need a lot of streams to get that three Euros.

It’s so unfair to smaller artists and people like you who are trying to tread their own path.

That’s true. But when I started off this project I always said I would put music on streaming platforms because even though I try to make the Patreon as accessible as possible, I don’t want my music to be only there for those who can afford it.  I want it to be accessible for free as well.

But for three Euros you can get a subscription. That’s a lot of money to give to an artist, and I if you want to take that next step there is material on Patreon that isn’t on streaming platforms.

You have the one collaboration on the album with Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy. How was it working with her and how did that come about?

We’re friends. We keep in touch. We had worked a couple of times together with Delain. She has a Patreon of her own which is very active. It is one of the ones I follow. She shares a lot of poetry, art, songs and photography on there; it’s highly recommended. She hosts her official fan club there.

At one point we were both invited to speak at a livestream hosted by Patreon letting different artists speak about their work on the platform. We figured that if we were visiting each other’s show or playing each other’s city we would probably try and do something together. So we just thought that in these pandemic times, why not try and do something this way?

We had two weeks and we figured we’d make a song happen…and we did! It’s one of the things that I’m really excited about with this digital age! You can be super spontaneous with the Patreon. I was so glad that she was on board with me having it as part of this release. There is a video on Patreon and it’s a really cool collaboration.

We Are The Others was a huge song for Delain and it continues to be a song for the maligned in society. Do you have any other songs/plans in keeping raising awareness for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation? Superhuman and Soft Revolution feel a little like they’re in the same vein with their message.

In my mind, it is still very much connected to Delain and several projects that we have done. We Are The Others was always tied to that but I feel it would be weird to turn away from that because I am not in Delain anymore. When it comes to the subject matter itself, it will always be something that I am passionate and vocal about. When it comes to the foundation, Delain fans have run auctions and things like that. I would happily get involved with things like that again if the opportunity was there.

It is such a great foundation and everything that Sophie’s family do is always well respected in amongst the metal community.

Are there any particular artists that you look to for inspiration outside of the metal community?

Definitely; I’ve always listened to more than metal. There is a lot of heavy music but that is because I favour music that has a bit of darkness and dramatic elements to them. There are plenty of artists that don’t qualify though. I love a lot of pop acts like Florence & The Machine or Marina. My favourite band ever is Radiohead. I’m very excited about the forthcoming Kid A Mnesia set. Amnesiac was the first record of theirs that I ever listened to. I know that OK Computer is one of the best records in the world, but Amnesiac is the one that holds my heart. I love Nick Cave too. That shows in what I do.

If you’re looking for the darkness…there is none better than Nick Cave!

Cover of Tales From Six Feet Under by Maartin Donders.

Are there plans to take these songs on the road and tour?

Yes! But I am very aware that people are planning so far ahead…I don’t have a plan yet and I don’t have it setup yet. If I was to plan it now I would probably have to plan it so far ahead. For people hoping to see it live; the good news is that you will…the bad news is that it will be a while.

When you perform live will you still perform Delain songs?

You’re the first person to ask me that in a while. Last time I said…NO! Ha! No…I’m joking. Even then I said that I am hoping to do it at some point. I’ve seen it when other people do it; like when Anneke van Giersbergen performs songs from The Gathering; it is always an electric moment. Right now, I still feel that that is an open wound. It wouldn’t be fun for me. But as I said, it will be a while before I am onstage so who knows what time will do to that? I do hope to get to that point where it’s that part in the set where I can do that. 

I understand that. But as you say, you have confidence in your own material and that should come first; but if you reach that time healed point you could play some Delain songs. Maybe you could reinterpret some of the songs, or choose to play songs that you didn’t perform live that often?

 That is also an opportunity. There have also been songs in the past where I really, really wanted a song on the album, and it made it…but we never played it live! That’s something to think about.

 Who did the album artwork for Tales From Six Feet Under? It has a real 60’s/70’s retro vibe.

It was Maartin Donders. He’s a Dutch illustrator working from France. I don’t know where I first saw his work but I loved it and I really like the style of those 60’s/70’s gig posters; I see that a lot in his work. So, I gave him a couple of elements of what I wanted in there and I’m really happy with what he did. He’s actually making some more designs for future merch things as well.

It reminded me a little of some Blues Pills artwork.

 Absolutely.

The album is out via Napalm Records; is that correct?

The vinyl is out on Napalm. It’s only a production and distribution deal that I have for the vinyl I’m very lucky because as you know they also put up these interviews and they’re supporting beyond the very small deal that they have with me. They’re a fantastic team and I am glad they have teamed up with me again.

I am doing the digital release myself.

Our thanks goes to Charlotte for her time. Tales From Six Feet Under is a great document of an artist stretching out on her own and not being confined to genre.

Be sure to check out Charlotte’s Patreon (here) if you like what you hear; it’s vital to support independent artists if you can. You can read our review of the album here.

Charlotte Wessels: Website / Patreon / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Tik Tok / YouTube

You can follow At The Barrier on Twitter here, and like us on Facebook here. We really appreciate your support.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.