INTERVIEW: Martijn Westerholt – Delain

DELAIN have had a stellar year. Releasing their fifth studio record, Moonbathers, to rave reviews from press and fans alike the band have been enjoying an incredibly successful headlining tour of Europe. This will culminate in a special show in Amsterdam to celebrate their anniversary milestone. Before a show in Manchester (read our review here) we caught up with Martijn Westerholt, one of the founding members of the band, to talk about how 2016 have fared for the band alongside reflecting on his career with DELAIN and some of his stand-out moments.

So you are approaching the latter end of your headlining tour of Europe, how has it been for DELAIN?

Martijn: It’s been a good tour! There’s been a good vibe, we’ve had really good attendance and good ticket sales so business wise it’s good. The vibe has been good, I think we have the strongest band set up ever so yeah, really good. It’s a lot of work though, it’s a long tour so everybody is beginning to feel tired but everybody is doing great.

So what is easier, are the first shows the easiest or the last shows of a tour?

Martijn: It depends on how you look at it. Physically, the first ones are the easiest but with the first shows you need to tweak your whole machine, your live production. You need to tweak your setlist, you need to tweak your equipment, and in that regard it is in hard work. When you are in a rhythm or a flow, it becomes more easy. Physically however, sleeping on a tour bus, I always compare it to camping! But that’s okay, we’re musicians and we’re used to it, but you do notice at the end of a tour after five or six weeks, you really begin to feel it.

So in terms of the setlist that you have been playing on the tour, what sort of set can fans expect? Is it mostly your new record or is it a nice mix?

Martijn: It’s a nice mix, however we’ve never played this many new songs like we have been now. I think we’re playing seven or eight new songs off our album, that’s a lot. But for the rest, we want to have songs that represent all our albums and talking about tweaking the setlist, you always want to have it flow.

So how have the new songs gone down with the fans across the tour?

Martijn: Really good! I think it’s the best album perceived live ever for us! I’m really happy with that as you never know with that.

And moving on to Moonbathers, it’s been out for a couple of months now, how have you found the overall reception for that record?

Martijn: Really good, it got really good responses and I hear from a lot of people that they think it’s the best album ever from us so that’s always nice to hear. People accept it, it’s not for me to say if it’s successful, it’s for the people to decide if it’s okay or not. I’m really happy with that.

I really think with Moonbathers that it is a clear example of the style DELAIN have. How has the sound of the band evolved over the years? What record would you say is the best example to show what your band is about?

Martijn: That’s a good one! Because indeed you have to develop your own sound to mature in that regard. I think I always search for a sound that is really metal but I also want a lot of contrast in it. I think the last two albums are really good examples, starting with The Human Contradiction where we had the specific sound but of course some elements were there already, like Charlotte‘s voice is a very distinctive character, that’s good because you need to develop your own identity. I want people to recognise us and go “hey that’s DELAIN” when they hear our songs. That’s important, you have to develop your identity and I think we matured, it’s always a challenge to renew yourselves, refresh, but on the other hand keep your distinctive identity. It’s always a tension there and I’m really happy how we’ve turned out now, I think there are some exciting new things in there but still recognisable as being us.

This year has been huge for DELAIN with the whole ten year anniversary. How has 2016 fared for DELAIN as a band in celebrating this milestone?

Martijn: It’s been crazy! So much has been going on. We released an EP in February then we went on tour with NIGHTWISH in the US, then we did the festival season. We had to mix and record the last bit of Moonbathers, we did more festivals and then we released the whole thing. Then we had to tour and we’re prepping for our anniversary show in Amsterdam in December, so there’s so much going on! It’s crazy and I’ve never been so busy but it’s great, it’s a special year for DELAIN. You really notice that.

Delain Live Manchester 2016
Delain live @ The Ritz, Manchester. Photo Credit: Laura McCarthy

With it being such a milestone, what have been some of your stand-out moments in your career with the band?

Martijn: Oh that’s always so difficult to say because the cliché is true, there are always so many moments! One of them was supporting WITHIN TEMPTATION at Wembley, especially for me with my connection to that band, the old and the new for me, a nice complete circle there. But also, every time you finish an album, it’s a milestone. I think the anniversary show will be a milestone and tonight, playing The Ritz, it’s a cool venue and it’s fantastic. It’s all thanks to the fans and they are all milestones.

And I really feel with this year, not just with it being the anniversary, but that DELAIN have stepped up to another level. So where do you see the band in the next five years?

Martijn: That’s so difficult to say of course, we’re a very ambitious band so we always try to challenge or keep doing that. But you also have to count your blessings and the level we are at now means we can, it’s my job, and that is what I wanted and I can do that now thanks to the fans. That’s for me is the most important thing and now it’s all about pushing away all limitations to try to be creative and build beautiful things, that’s what it’s about. For me it doesn’t really matter how big or how small, but the bigger it is the less limitations you have, financially etc. To make beautiful stage plans, to make beautiful shows and with the albums we can do what we want. We have a nice budget and time plans so I hope for us it will get bigger and we can do cool stuff. New stuff and try to be original!

With symphonic metal it always described as being quite a huge sound, especially for live. With that, and new bands coming through, do you think it is becoming more difficult for emerging bands to make a name?

Martijn: Yeah it has been already for years, I think we grew against the whole current, because I think the scene really stagnated and I think we are a big exception. I think the key for that is to do your own thing, don’t look at what other bands do, do your own thing and be creative with that. It’s all about having a connection with the fans, together you have to create magic and experience, we need the audience for that, they need us for that. If you keep that in mind constantly, constantly challenge yourself, be critical in what you can do better without counting your blessings, I think you are on your way. I think it works because we are growing and the scene is not.

So would you say the most important thing for you, as a musician, is to have that connection with fans?

Martijn: Definitely. And stay at your own identity, your own core. Do things you like to do, it doesn’t matter if other people say “oh other bands did or do not do it”, I don’t care about that, I do my own thing.

And really just to close off, you have the rest of this tour and the special anniversary show. Looking ahead into 2017, what plans do DELAIN have in store?

Martijn: Well we are starting to write for our new album. When we release a master, an album, our minds immediately go to the next one. We will release a DVD of the anniversary show, and we will do touring. We will do another European tour, we are going to the US to do a co-headline tour with HAMMERFALL, so we will be playing. And we’ll be writing, but a little bit easier than this year and I really need that!

Well, brilliant, best of luck for the rest of the tour and your future plans!

Martijn: Thank you so much!

Moonbathers is out now via Napalm Records.

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