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MARTIJN WESTERHOLT Dives Into the Collapse & Rebirth Of DELAIN: "In Hindsight, The Cracks Were Always There"

"We had very good moments together. We did really cool things together and I'm so grateful for it. And of course there are things I was totally upset about."

Photo by Andrea Falaschi

The symphonic metal landscape was shaken to its core in the winter of 2021 when four fifths of Delain shockingly exited the band, leaving only founding member, keyboardist and creative mind behind the project Martijn Westerholt (ex-Within Temptation) remaining.

The immediate future of Delain was put in a state of flux, with Westerholt himself commenting that Delain would continue as more of a studio project featuring guest collaborators, before an about-face saw the reemergence of former band members guitarist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer, with new members vocalist Diana Leah and bassist Ludovico Cioffi, alongside the announcement of a brand new record through Napalm Records, the prophetically titled Dark Waters.

"I think [there are] healthy nerves, but also a lot of excitement as well. And it's just been one hell of a journey, really. Yeah, it really makes you feel alive, let's say that," Westerholt shared in a sit-down with Metal Injection days before the release of Delain's seventh studio album.

"Last year I was really nervous with the release of our first single in the summer. Man, it was like one of the most nerve wracking moments of my career because, indeed, we had a split. And of course the complete band broke up, and then I had to think after we broke up like okay, is this the end? Are we going to continue? If so, how are we going to continue? And then you're at that moment that you release your first single with a new vocalist. Man, that's quite a moment.

"And Delain really had a very loyal fan base and still has a very loyal fan base. And you know, that's the biggest challenge, to convince those people. And you will never convince everybody, and with a vocal change that always happens. But I really feel spoiled and blessed with all the responses and I'm so happy."

Rewinding to the period surrounding the release of Delain's final album with longtime vocalist Charlotte Wessels, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, guitarist Timo Somers, and drummer Joey de Boer, and Westerholt admits that warning signs to the impending implosion of the Dutch symphonic outfit existed well in advance of the shocking announcement in February of 2021.

"In hindsight, the cracks were always there. But at that moment I was completely surprised. I was completely surprised that I got into burnout. I was completely surprised when the three guys approached me telling me what they wanted to do and where they wanted to take the band. I was surprised with what Charlotte's position on it was. I was surprised by it all. And indeed, I'm not going to say they're bad, I'm good, because I don't believe in that. Everybody has their own perspective. And if somebody's such a jerk, how can you work with somebody for such a long time then, you know? Everybody has their own perspective.

"We had very good moments together. We did really cool things together and I'm so grateful for it. And of course there are things I was totally upset about. You know, I'm not going to play, how do you say, the good political story here. It was not a nice breakup at all, and it really pains me and of course the fans all speculate about what happens then and they have their ideas about it.

"And one of the biggest misconceptions was that I would have fired everybody because I wanted control back. Well, first of all, I didn't fire anybody. And second of all, when it came to the music, there was never a question who did what. So there were no cracks there. It was just, you know, accumulating, and it came to a big explosion, followed by a nice dessert, which is COVID [laughs]."

Calling the period the "most difficult time of his life," Westerholt thought long and hard on the future of the project, insisting that the "DNA of Delain" needed to remain intact in order for any forward momentum to occur.

"When we had to split I had to think, okay, first of all, is this the end or not? That's question one I had to answer to myself. And then I was thinking okay, if I'm going to continue with Delain then there needs to be enough DNA present, Delain DNA. If there's not enough Delain DNA present it doesn't make sense to continue the name.

"So I thought okay, the writing team is still in place. I write the music with Guus, my writing partner since day one. So that's there. The production team is still there, and I always stayed in touch with Sander and Ronald throughout the years.

"You know, they left because of what always happens with musicians when they're around 30 years old, like do I want kids? Do I want a normal job? Those kinds of things. It's always kind of a crossroads. So they went the other way, but we always stayed in touch. And at this time, you know, we're further down the road and they settled. They have kids and the kids are grown up. Not entirely … like they're ten, but they're not babies anymore. So I talked to them and at first I thought there's no way that I can make this into a band again, because if you want to have a band then everything needs to fit. And how big is the chance that you're going to find that for a second time?

"So I think if I want to continue, the only way is as a project. I have the writing team. I'm blessed with a lot of friends who are musicians from bands in the scene, so I'm blessed with their support. I was really supported by a lot of friends/musicians. And so that was my first idea. Also, our previous bass player, Rob [van de Loo] – who's now the Epica bass player, was on board – so I thought for the project it's perfect. But then to my surprise the guys, Sander and Ronald, said 'why don't we continue as a band? We want to play live' and it really surprised me.

"So I started thinking about that because I thought it wouldn't fit their lives. But who am I to tell them what fits their lives if they say it fits their lives. So I had to think for myself. You know, I got into burnout and if I want to continue then this needs to be in a healthy pace. So in the end, I had to conclude, yeah, we have a shot here. Let's try and make this a band again, so that's what we did. And we started searching for the new members."

Armed with the idea to carry on Delain as a recording/touring entity, Westerholt next set out to lock down a successor to Wessels on vocals, though he admits he grappled with the idea of recruiting a male vocalist before chance, or fate, intervened.

"To be very honest, I didn't even know if I wanted to continue with a male or a female vocalist, because I had thought how cool would it be if there's this guy who can do everything, and people will never, ever expect that. And how are you going to compare that to the past? But then I just didn't know. I had to find the right person. And so what I did is I asked friends, colleagues and talked to them about it as well. And I also looked on YouTube channels from people who do covers and I stumbled upon Diana's YouTube channel…

"There were covers on there from Within Temptation, Nightwish, also pop music, a lot of different stuff and I was really, really impressed with the quality of what she did. So I wrote down her name and I thought I should contact her one day. Within a week of me writing down her name I saw a comment from her on our Instagram channel on a post where she said 'Hey, if you ever need a vocalist you can ask me.' I felt like jeez, is this a sign or what?

"So I contacted her and it was a really nice chat and I sent her some songs, some Delain songs and also some new stuff. And when it comes to the Delain songs, I was really mean and sent her the most difficult stuff we had because I really wanted to hear, and she sent it back in a day. So I felt like jeez that's really fast, like Good Lord, that's really fast.

"So I started listening and it knocked me off my chair. I thought this is so insanely good and it's so insanely fitting as well. So I invited her over to come to the Netherlands to meet with Ronald and Sander as well. And we played some acoustic songs together and it came so easy it was ridiculous, like utterly ridiculous. And now we're here. You need to have a little bit of luck. And I think I had the luck of three lifetimes."

Dark Waters, featuring special guests Rob van der Loo (Epica), Marko Hietala (ex-Nightwish), Paolo Ribaldini and Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation) is available worldwide on February 10th. Catch Delain on their European tour dates beginning this April!

4/14 NL – Tilburg / 013
4/15 NL – Haarlem / Patronaat
4/21 UK – Manchester / Academy 2
4/22 UK – London / O2 Islington Academy
4/24 LU – Luxembourg / Rockhal
4/24 FR – Paris / Le Trabendo
4/27 CH – Zurich / Komplex 457
4/28 DE – Munich / Backstage Halle
4/29 DE – Stuttgart / Im Wizemann Club
4/30 DE – Berlin / Hole44
5/2 DE – Hamburg / Knust
5/3 DE – Essen / Turock

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