The year 2021 couldn’t have been more desastrous for DELAIN founder Martijn Westerholt when his whole band turned their back on him and left him standing alone. But even with a burnout lurking, he knew that giving up was not an option, so he decided to continue as a project. Until his former band mates guitarist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer joined him again. Suddenly, DELAIN was a band once more and with the addition of bassist Ludovico Cioffi and new singer Diana Leah the line-up was complete. The first single “The Quest And The Curse” plus a couple of try-out concerts marked the definite return of DELAIN. A new album “Dark Waters” has just been released and the “Dark Waters Over Europe 2023” tour will start in April, so time for a conservation with Romanian born Diana Leah.
INTERVIEW BY: HENK VAN NIEUWENHOVEN
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Diana. Can you tell us something more about your background, both personal and musical?
I started studying my voice when I was 17 years old. Like every singer, I’ve had different phases in my life. I like to merge into things because I like to be versatile. I started with rock music, that was always my thing when I was a teenager – punk rock at first, then I got into heavier metal and metalcore, then I merged into symphonic metal and that was my thing. I liked everything about it, the singing, the instrumental parts, everything, it just clicked with me and my style. And then eventually I switched to dance music because I loved music in general – since I was a little girl, I would sing to anything – and a friend of mine was doing that type of music. Like dance and trance music. He suggested me to another friend of his, we reached out to each other and he said “you can try to sing on this and see if you like it”. And I loved it because trance music also has this magical vibe and a lot of strings, it’s really cool. So I said you know what? I’ll just do this. I’ll do it as, like, a solo thing on my own and not try to find bands, because it’s really tiring to find the right people sometimes and manage everybody. I did that and it was actually pretty good. I had a few releases on cool radio shows, like Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trade radio show, and even if you search now my name on Spotify, all those songs pop up. If you search for me, I’m definitely more known in that area – dance and trance music – but my heart has always been in rock and metal music. In fact, I went back to my roots and started doing covers on my YouTube channel of symphonic metal bands like Within Temptation and Nightwish. Just for fun, really, I wanted to incorporate that part of music in my life again because I needed it.
I was at the concert in Hedon, Zwolle (The Netherlands) on November 4th, 2022 and very surprised how well you already fitted in with the band. Was that an easy process for both you and DELAIN?
To be honest yes it was fairly easy and I think one of the reasons is the fact that we all get along really well as human beings in the first place. That plays a huge role for me in feeling at ease when I’m on stage, just knowing that I’m part of a family and that the guys are my friends and then band mates.
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but your voice sounds at some points very similar to that of Charlotte Wessels (which can be best heard on your audition video). Was that a criterion for Martijn or just a nice bonus?
The comparison is a bit tricky because I am singing the same melodies with the same vocal range as Charlotte, so of course people are so used to hearing them sung by her that they will hear her voice in every note. But what I am doing is just singing the songs the way they’re supposed to, technically, and the way were meant to be sung when they were written. It would be weird to sing those songs with a operatic voice, falsetto or another singing style. I don’t like when singers do that, if a melody was written in powerful chest voice sometimes they change it to head/operatic voice and it kinda ruins the vibe of the song so I like to remain true to the original version. So I think once Martijn heard my audition he thought that my voice was very fitting and able to sing the entire DELAIN catalogue and that’s a cool bonus to have especially for live shows!
The title of the new album “Dark Waters” refers to the difficult times that DELAIN and especially Martijn (who almost suffered from a burnout) has gone through after the departure of the complete band. He first wanted to continue as a project, but with the return of Ronald Landa and Sander Zoer he changed his mind. And now that Ludovico Cioffi and yourself have completed the line-up, DELAIN is, thank God, a band again! Have you been aware of what was going on, especially on the social media?
Yes, I read the band members statements about the split but nothing other than that. Then later on I watched a couple of interviews that Martijn did.
The first acquaintance with you as the new DELAIN vocalist was the single/video “The Quest And The Curse”. The piano version of that song is very beautiful and shows your abilities as a singer. Which one do you prefer, the piano version or the one on “Dark Waters”?
Thank you! I like both for different reasons but I prefer the original version with all the instruments because it’ s more cinematic, powerful and epic.
The second single/video with you was “Beneath”. How was it for you to shoot two videos with a band that has been around for twenty years and already know all the tricks of the trade?
It was such a fun experience. We worked with a video company (Video Ink) that DELAIN has worked with previously. We shot the videos for both “Beneath” and “The Quest And The Curse” in Italy in a beautiful villa near Rimini and in an old Italian village, and some scenes were done in Amsterdam in a green screen room. It was really cool for me to work with a video company for the first time. One of my passions besides music is photography, so I loved to see how they worked with the lighting, with planning all the scenes and then shooting.
So I think once Martijn heard my audition he thought that my voice was very fitting and able to sing the entire DELAIN catalogue and that’s a cool bonus to have especially for live shows!”
– DIANA LEAH –
Right from kick-off, on opener “Hideaway Paradise”, you can hear that typical DELAIN sound with Martijn’s omnipresent keyboards, Ronald’s heavy guitar riffs and of course the much needed support by Ludovico and a hard-hitting Sander. Do you feel that you had any influence on that sound or was everything already prepared for you, the vocal lines, the lyrics, etcetera?
When I joined the band there were songs written already and we finished the rest of it together. I definitely had an influence on the sound because I’m new, my voice has it’s own sound so that’s inevitably an element that adds freshness to the album. When it comes to lyrics, I wrote the lyrics for “Moth To A Flame” and “Tainted Hearts”. For “Tainted Hearts” I also wrote the vocal melody and I wrote melodies on “Invictus” as well and the vocals on the intro of “Hideaway Paradise”.
“Moth To A Flame”, the third single and video from “Dark Waters”, sounds like it was written for a purpose by Martijn. It is very radio-friendly and has a high sing-along content. Since you wrote the lyrics for this one, who else than you can tell us better what “Moth To A Flame” is about?
When I recorded “Dark Waters’’ I was experiencing different things in my life that I channelled through my voice into the songs and one of the songs I’m most proud of is “Moth To A Flame’’, because the lyrics came to me so easily and it felt good to put into words all those feelings I was experiencing in my personal life. That song is about being addicted/attached to a person or a situation that you know is not good for you but you keep going back to it to relive that excitement and pain, just like a drug. At one point you need to “grab the scissors’’ and cut yourself away from that situation or person to be able to heal and move on with your life.
There are a few special guests that can be heard on the new album. Paolo Ribaldini shares the vocals with you on three songs and on “Invictus” we also hear Marko Hietala (ex-Nightwish). How was it to work with them and did you actually meet them in the studio or were the vocal parts recorded separately?
Yeah, it’s awesome to have all this variety and amazing talent on the album. When it comes to the vocal recordings, we all recorded separately. For the first recordings I went to the Netherlands in two different studios, then the last songs I recorded them in Italy. We didn’t really work together in the same room. The recordings with Marko were made in Spain, Martijn flew there and recorded the vocals with Marko so I haven’t met him yet. I did meet Paolo of course because we played a few show together in the Netherlands.
Besides “Dark Waters”, do you have any favorite DELAIN albums and specific songs that you enjoy most to sing live?
My favorite DELAIN albums are “Apocalypse & Chill’’ and “Moonbathers’’. I don’t really have any Diana Leah favorite songs to sing live because most of the songs I released are dance/trance… recording them feels good, but I don’t get excited as much as I do with rock/metal songs when it comes to performing live. I do have DELAIN favorites to sing live like “April Rain’’, “The Hurricane’’, “Queen Of Shadow’’ and “We Are The Others’’.
On April 14th, 2023 a European tour will start and DELAIN will also play at the Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium and Wacken Open Air in Germany, two of Europe’s biggest festivals. It will be the baptism of fire for you as it comes to very large crowds. What are you looking forward to the most?
I’ve never been to these festivals before. We played a festival last year in Switzerland (Riverside Festival) and it was such an incredible experience, we all had so much fun. I’m looking forward to play the new songs at a festival and see how people react and it would be really cool to also meet some bands that I like, like Enter Shikari or In Flames. Overall, I just want to have a good time!