Interview: Martijn of Delain
Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
The day after they released Apocalypse & Chill, Delain played The Anson Rooms at Bristol University. Before the band hit the stage with a stunning set, I was lucky enough to catch a word with Martijn Westholdt, founder member, main writer and keyboard player with the band.
The Razor's Edge: You are on night three of four on your tour of England. How’s it been going?
Martijn: Yes, brilliant, the UK is always a lot of fun
The Razor's Edge: Four dates in the UK? How did that come about?
Martijn: Well it was meant as part of our European tour in November, but we separated it… and I’m happy we did. We can focus on it a little bit more.
[We later discovered that Martijn isn’t a huge fan of touring and so this was obviously a good move for him]
The Razor’s Edge: You’ve managed to time it to coincide with the album release so that’s worked well for you
Martijn: Yes, absolutely.
The Razor's Edge: The new album, I’ve heard and reviewed it this week and I have to say congratulations. It’s a really strong album. I was reading some online reviews this morning and they all seem to concur with my view that it’s your strongest album so far
Martijn: Thanks. That’s great to hear. Of course, artists would neve say, yeah, this is a good album but the previous one was stronger! But of course, I am happy to hear that
The Razor's Edge: In terms of the recording process and how you got through it, was that relatively smooth?
Martijn: Yes, it was. This is my sixth album so far, and my job is to be the producer. And my idea this time was not to do everything in one go. Normally you write and then you record and then you mix but this time we wrote a couple of songs, recorded those and mixed them. Then went back and recorded new songs and the pleasure with that way is that you can easily go back to the previous songs if you listen to it a couple of times and feel that there is something missing and you can adjust it. Normally when you mix things it’s the end of the line so this way you can change things and it’s cool.
The Razor's Edge: The sound on the album is heavier than previously, whilst still retaining the Delain melodies. Was this intentional to be heavier?
Martijn: Every record I say, okay, this time it must be heavier. The word I use for Apocalypse & Chill is intensity, because all the elements we use are on there, there’s just more of it. More orchestral, more guitar riffs, and that contributes to that experience.
The Razor's Edge: One of the things that every interviewer has asked you about is that you have Yannis [Papadopoulos] from Beast in Black on the album. I know everyone asks it but I’m going to ask it anyway. How did you get him on board?
Martijn: Well, a couple of years ago we toured with Sabaton in Greece and we met Yannis and Charlotte and Yannis stayed in touch and I stayed in touch with Anton [Kabanen] who was in Battle Beast and he is the main song writer of Beast in Black, and it’s such a small world that you keep meeting people. So, I went hiking in Finland with Tuomas [Holopainen] from Nightwish who is a friend of mine and after the hike we met with their manager and he played an album over and over again, and I heard it seven times and that was Beast in Black. I thought that guys voice is insane and so it was on my radar and we played a festival in Spain and Beast in Black was there as well and I got in touch. We were busy with our recordings and I had three songs that I thought might fit so we gave him the three songs and asked him if there was one song he would like to sing and he chose ‘Vengeance’.
The Razor's Edge: The album as far as I can see references challenges that the world is facing. Is that something that you and the band feel strongly about, the whole climate emergency?
[At this point there appeared a slight air of resignation on Martijn’s face; clearly another question asked a thousand times already]
Martijn: I feel climate change and global warming is real. The thing with this is that when you turn on your TV, you literally see the world burning. You see Australia burning, you see California in flames and then on the other hand you have social media where everyone has perfect lives and make perfect pictures and it’s the same world so it’s fascinating. It’s not even judging what we do, we kind of observe.
The Razor's Edge: As a band being conscious of this, using it for some of your subject matter, are there things that you can do on tour to make small changes?
Martijn: Well, none of us are sacred you know, our job from a global point of view is very polluting. All the travelling, we had a Mexican festival offer one show, so you fly all the way to Mexico. So, it is a factor in whether we do it or not. It’s not the only reason but it is a factor.
The Razor's Edge: Do you feel any pressure on you to get these messages across?
Martijn: No, Charlotte writes the lyrics and it’s just things that interests her. How it works is that when a couple of songs are ready then she pinpoints if there is a thread in the theme and this is what happened here, it’s something which interests her. It’s funny because I am interested in history and politics but in music, I don’t necessarily do that and Charlotte is a bit more in that direction and that’s fine, we are a partnership.
The Razor's Edge: You’ve been together for over 15 years as a band. How has it changed for you in terms of recording, touring and the whole industry?
Martijn: A lot. Social media has become way more important, the connection to your fans is way easier, shorter; on the other hand, it is more difficult financially. I like playing live, but I do not like the intensity of it. I would much rather not have to do it but you have to do it to earn your money. I would much rather not do it at all; I’d like to play 30 shows a year and that would be it and now we play, 60, 70 80 shows a year. I will change that; I’m not going to keep doing that. That is something I do not like. And you see that the market is crowded with shows because everybody does it and for me it is only part of the fun. The best part is creating music, writing it, producing it.
The Razor's Edge: It’s a necessary evil then?
Martijn: Yes, but if it’s not too much I really enjoy it, like these shows in the UK, I thoroughly enjoy them but not if I had to do it for the entire year.
The Razor's Edge: So, what else do you have in store?
Martijn: We finish in London tomorrow night, then we have one date in Holland and then a few in Norway in March and then the festival season starts
The Razor's Edge: Will you be picking up on European festivals?
Martijn: Yes, we will do some festivals and we are busy planning what to do in the last quarter of the year. There are plans.
The Razor's Edge: How difficult is it to agree on the plans?
Martijn: I go over them with Charlotte, because we are the company and then we go to the guys and check which ones they are happy to do.
The Razor's Edge: My final question is a bit different. When you are bored on the bus, have you ever tried to work out how many words you can make out of the full name of your bass player [In case you didn’t know it’s Otto Aseueer Jacob Baron Schimmelpennick Van der Oije]?
Martijn: Hahahaha!! That’s a very good question. Of course, dirty words preferably. Hahaha! It’s always a pain booking flights and he changed his passport because he has a title in his name, Baron, he left that out. His dad did not like it.
On that point, with much laughter, we closed the interview and wished Martijn and the band a great gig. It turned out to be exactly that.