Recently, Charlotte Wessels released her new album, titled Tales From Six Feet Under. DutchMetalManiac’s Glenn van der Heijden already reviewed it here, now he also interviewed Charlotte.
First of all, congratulations on the beautiful album, Tales From Six Feet Under.
Thank you, I am glad you like it.
How are you feeling, now that the album is released?
It’s different. I thought at first that it wouldn’t be this intense due to the fact that the songs were already on Patreon, but it’s different to release them outside of the platform. The reviews are coming in as well and it gets attention. It’s a bit of a thing. And it’s very exciting. It definitely has made an impact. It is a little sad that the vinyl is being delayed, because I am only doing the digital version and the vinyl version of course and the vinyl is delayed so I don’t have a physical product in my hands, to me it always makes it a little bit more real when I do.
I can imagine that. I myself am a big supporter of physical media. Not that I have anything against digital media, but it’s always nice to have something in your hands if you ask me, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s a shame that the vinyl is delayed, but nevertheless there is a fantastic album if I may say so.
Ah, thank you.
It’s quite diverse is it? Because many people may know you from Delain where you were the front lady for 16 years, am I correct that it’s 16 years?
Front lady for 16 years and involved from the beginning, and this album feels very personal. When I listen to the tracks, they really hit home for me, so to speak.
Yes, well, that’s really nice to hear. It is indeed quite different. That is partly because of the way that the album is set up. You see, first and foremost it’s a compilation album of songs that were written apart from each other. They are not written to fit together on an album and because of that the album has become quite an eclectic whole. And where it all comes from? It comes from my Patreon page and my Patreon page was born out of the desire to create a place for the songs that I wrote of which I knew that they were never going to be part of a Delain album. So, the Patreon was already there before Delain collapsed.
I was aware of that, yes.
Exactly. And the album of course is a compilation of that. Because the moment that I thought I wanted a vinyl was when my Patreon page existed for one year, so I only chose songs from that first year on Patreon. And yes, for the better part of that year I was still in Delain and I thought that Delain would also be my future as well so I didn’t feel like it was necessary to release songs that were similar to Delain because I thought, I already have that. You know what I mean?
Yes, I totally understand that, and if I might be so bold, looking at the creativity of the songs, I think that it would be an incredible shame if, regardless of what would have happened with Delain, the people didn’t get to hear this.
That’s really nice to hear. The idea was to have it exist next to each other. That is also the reason why I chose for Patreon as a platform which is very flexible and a place where I have total control over the content rather than for instance with a side project where you have to commit to other people as well. That seemed hard to combine with being in the band. But anyway, even though the choice for Patreon was partly because I thought it was easier to combine with the band, now that that’s not a factor anymore, I am still really happy with being there because it’s a super nice platform and it works really well. For me at least.
Sounds to me like you’re happy with it? Also, with the freedom of choice and versatility of the platform, I hear you say.
Yes. Of course, you have a certain commitment, but that is the commitment you’ve made yourself to the people that support you there. So, I am now saying I’ll do a song every month, but that’s something I came up with myself and if I want to change that at a certain point, I only need to explain that to them.
Yes exactly. I have heard you say in earlier interviews that the contact that you have with the Patreon members feels different than with the fans that, I don’t know, for example, listen to Spotify or who come to visit your shows, it’s a whole different ballpark so to speak.
Well, I find it really personal when people come to your shows as well, but it is indeed different than when people are scrolling through your Instagram or on social media. You see, there are a lot of different reasons as to why people follow people on social media, it can be because they like that person, but it can also be because they think it’s entertaining, but they actually don’t really like it. On social media it is really easy to be very negative about something. It is really easy to be behind some sort of anonymous profile and say that kind of stuff and when you’re in a Patreon, everybody that is there actively chose to be there. It is really some sort of community. That really makes it a better environment to be in. But it also means that if I do something and people say like: “oh, that is not my favorite” you know, that, for me feels really different from the random comments you’ll get on social media. Generally, it’s a little more constructive, or something like, it is not really my thing but keep up the good work and I’m curious what it will be next month.
Are the Patreon members sometimes literally involved in the creation of a song or how must I see that?
It is quite limited. For example, I occasionally have a demo of which I think, oh, this is nice and then I will send it so that people can see what I am working on but I haven’t yet, and that is what you see other people who are on Patreon do, like for example been given a sentence of which I then go and create a song about or something like that. That I haven’t done yet. But that, for me really is because the Patreon was a reaction to me always having to write in a team and having to, of course, consider what other people bring to the table and Patreon was a place where I could do it totally by myself and I liked that, but yes, in the future I might involve the Patreon members a bit more in the creative process, but I feel like in the end, the songs themselves need to remain something that’s authentically from myself.
I understand that, it’s because those ideas needed to come out, then you need to stick to the plan of some sort. Can I say it like that?
Yes absolutely. And then it doesn’t make sense to immediately ask other people for ideas. Because I already have so much ideas and they need to come out first.
Exactly. Like you said earlier, the album is a bit eclectic, it has lots of different styles because you have to make a selection based on the first year of Patreon. Was it hard to make that selection? Did it take you a while?
No not really. I definitely have my favorites and I also held a poll on the Patreon page which had all the songs for people to vote on which they really wanted the world to hear.
Was there a consensus on Patreon? What did people really want to hear?
Well, some people said, I would really keep it to myself. For example, they thought that the cover wasn’t such a good idea, but that would be two people from the thousand people on my Patreon you know? There were some different opinions but generally the favorites were the same.
Okay, I have to say that I really liked the cover.
To me it gives some sort of connection. At one point I thought to myself, it is your first solo thing that is coming out and I myself have a close connection to gothic really and I was like, I don’t have anything that is comparable to Delain on there. But I really wanted to have that connection present as well. The cover was already finished then, but I thought that it would make a nice bridge between what was already on there and my gothic background.
It’s funny you say so, I believe I mentioned that in the review.
Oh, well look at that.
I thought so too, however, I thought that your signature sound in your vocals was really recognizable as well. I really thought like, yes, I am listening to something from Charlotte Wessels. I really felt the connection. But I don’t know about anyone else of course. I really didn’t think the album was that far away from what we knew from you, although there were obviously a lot of styles in there so there might have been one or two songs of which I thought, well, I don’t know about that one. But when I listened to those more often, I thought, well maybe it is quite nice. To me, every song sounded like a surprise during the first listening session.
Good to hear. That’s really nice.
And maybe that’s the reason why I like the album so much. Soft Revolution is really a favorite of mine. Is it also a favorite of yours?
Yes, it is also one of my favorites.
I thought that it’s a really strong song and it resonates with the times we are living in, intentional or not, it really speaks to me.
That’s nice to hear.
And then there is also the lovely duet with Alissa White-Gluz, a bit quieter song.
Yes, it is really nice how that came to pass. She is on Patreon too and at some point we were both invited to their talkshow, they have their own talkshow which is called The Show Up, where they give creators the opportunity to tell something about the content they make and things like that and there was an episode about rock music and we were both invited for the same episode and we really thought like, look, we obviously worked together often within the context of Delain, we are friends, so we thought normally we would do something together when we’re on the same festival or in the same city, but that was, of course you know, pandemic, digital, can’t we come up with something anyway? And then we had two weeks before the event and we worked really hard and by the time the talkshow was there we had a song and a video. That, to me, was also a sign of how cool and spontaneous you can be on a platform like that. Also, while using the latest technical possibilities from nowadays.
Yeah sure, because you already mentioned social media and that it also has a bit of a shadow site to it, but Patreon is also a sort of social media, being a lot more individual and direct way of communicating, like you said, they really want to be there and they want to listen to you only.
If I can make a side note to that, it really depends on the way you look at it and how you set up your page. Patreon can be a lot of different things for different people. Looking to myself, I do share some things that people also share on social media, like making of, or pictures, that sort of stuff, the behind-the-scenes stuff, some people do that and then it indeed looks like you’re scrolling through their social media, but there are also people that, well, I really see it like more of a platform for my music, a format so to speak. So, I see it differently, but I do understand where you’re coming from, because you do see it often being used in that way.
That is really nice to hear you say that, because to me the music seems to be the most important thing, the creative ideas.
Yes, and I made a conscious choice the moment that I thought, I have a lot of songs, what am I going to do with them and I liked Patreon. I could’ve made the choice to try and get some advancement at a record label, record an album and maybe do Patreon beside that, like maybe something comes out of that but I really thought to myself like, no, I want to start a Patreon and it has to be my full income. Not only my personal income, but also my work budget and to make music strictly with the possibilities of that platform and nothing else and it has to be the only place where that music exists and maybe after that I would make selections to release in different ways, because I think that’s important. Because that’s the thought that comes immediately after that, that when you do everything behind a pay wall, then you become the kind of musician whose music is only available for people that can afford it, I didn’t want that. So, I immediately thought, it has to be available for free somewhere eventually, but the core place has to be Patreon.
So, in essence you are saying that some part of the music should be available for everyone and that always has to be like that?
Yes, and that is really a balance that you have to find because I think it’s important that there is an undisputable value to the Patreon page, which is really the music itself and that really was a conscious choice, but like I said, I didn’t want to enable some form of classicism by saying sorry, but only people that can afford three euros a month can listen to my songs. There must be enough exclusivity that makes it worth to come to the Patreon while at the same time there must be some music available for free. I am really looking for that balance.
And this is the balance?
Well, if you look at the Patreon right now, I am already working on song of the month number 18. Besides that, there were a couple of bonus tracks, a couple of covers, let’s say that there are currently 25 songs on that Patreon page and now, after a year, 10 of those songs have been released outside of Patreon, then people still have a lot of reasons to come to the page. Then I can still say, did you like that? There is a lot more where that came from on the Patreon. But people that don’t want that still have a full album and maybe there will be a second album next year with my favorite songs of year two, you know?
So, you are not ruling that out?
No, I am not ruling that out.
I think it’s really nice that you chose to release the album only on vinyl and on digital and not for example also a CD. It makes it a lot more exclusive when you order the vinyl or something, I don’t know.
Well, I am really glad to hear that, because people are asking me 10 times a day why there is no CD release.
Yes, I saw that on Facebook, it is full of those comments. Where is that CD? While I thought to myself, good job Charlotte, by only doing the vinyl. Yes, I am really happy with that.
Good to hear that, that goes for me too. I did consider, maybe I’m still going to do that, to put a downloadable CD on Patreon with downloadable CD artwork so that people can burn their own CD and print their own artwork and then voila! Haha!
That is an idea, right? And then those people are happy too.
Well, I have to say, I have listened to the album quite a lot. Not only because I had to review it, but also because I liked it so much.
Ah, that’s nice!
And you see, and I know this might be hard for you to say right now, but my head immediately goes to live shows or some ideas related to that. Are there any ideas or have you thought about that, about bringing this music live in the first place, or how you would want to do that?
I am thinking about that right now, although I must say I could’ve started with that earlier and that would’ve maybe even been a wise decision, but I wasn’t completely there yet mentally. The whole split with Delain has really been quite a long-drawn process and has made a lot of impact. So, I thought for a very long time like, you know what, Covid is here, shows aren’t happening, I am focusing on these songs first and in the meantime, I’ll recharge my batteries.
I can totally understand that.
But now I am like, I want to continue with this and that eventually I want to be on that podium again. A couple of months back I did some live-stream shows in which I heavily relied on the digital side of the music, but I did do that together with Timo Somers, who was Delain’s guitarist.
I saw that.
I liked that so much that I thought, yes of course I must do live performances, so right now I am thinking about how to do that and with whom and when and where. I really liked those shows and to do it like that, but I would like it more if there were real drums behind me. Because, what I have done now is, there are of course some organic sounding drums on the album which I made very lo-fi for those live shows to make it sound like more of an electronic beat, making it sound less shitty when coming out of a laptop, so I did change the set list to make it fit that way. And I did like it and I do think it’s cool. I even put a small EP with those arrangements on Patreon, however, it doesn’t have the same impact when performing on stage compared to when there is a whole band behind you.
I find that really nice to hear. I might be a little old-fashioned in that regard, but real drums feel a lot more impactful. With all due respect of course.
No, absolutely. I understand that and I completely agree with you. That is also the reason why we have to choose. So that if you do it electronically, then it has to sound electronic, I think. It would work with some of the songs, you know, you can always put on a laptop and play a background track from there, that’s not the problem. But if you want it to sound more organically, then you need people with you and at this time I wrote a lot of songs where an organic sound is present and I wouldn’t put those songs in a more electric form to fit an electric set. That might be fun at an occasion, but at some point, I would want a full set.
And what about the guitar solo from Soft Revolution, that was bizarre, so good! Very nice!
That solo makes you cry for joy, doesn’t it?
I really enjoyed our conversation. I really hope that people are going to listen to Tales From Six Feet Under and I hope this interview helps with that, because I would want to encourage everyone to go and listen to it. Already there are songs that are never going to leave my head. I really mean it.
That is really nice to hear. Thank you very much for the interview. I liked our conversation as well, thank you for covering the album on DutchMetalManiac. Let’s indeed hope it helps.
Here you can also read our earlier interview with Charlotte about Phantasma.