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Interview with Bill Leeb of Delerium - conducted by telepone - 6/27/97

Jester: How has the new album done? Have you had a positive response so far?

Bill: The sales have already exceeded the previous album within the first four weeks. This album will easily be our best album to date.

Jester: Is there a video for the 'Euphoria (Firefly)' single?

Bill: Yes, it has been playing on MuchMusic here in regular rotation for the last four to five weeks. It is also playing on MTV Europe, VIA, and everywhere but MTV in the United States. We seem to just not exist there for some reason, but we have just broken into the Top-40 in Canada.

Jester: Does that make you happy to finally be recognized for all your years of hard work?

Bill: Not really. It's really hard to scale all of it. I make music mostly because I like it and not for the fame. In some ways, the kind of music that we have been doing has been rejected for years by the media and placed in a specific category, it never had a chance to really grow. Now that techno has come along, which is just the modern equivalent to disco and house music, it looks to be just another fad. It seems to be just a shadow of the original electronic music scene with all of it's performance art and experimental visuals.

The good thing about being underground is that you never become over exposed and only really achieve cult status. You can always go out tomorrow and start a new project and nobody is going to frown upon it because they have come to expect a certain sound from us. So we've always been able to leave ourselves in a position that if we don't please our fans, it won't finish us. I think that is the best thing about being so underground.

Now that Delerium has done so well, I think people have come to expect it to sound a certain way and if we change it, it could cause problems. However it all comes down to timing and luck. Personally, I don't think that it has much to do with the quality of the music, at least looking at the current trend of popular music. Yet, it is interesting to be suddenly added to Top-40 while working on the new Front Line Assembly material which will never see that kind of popularity. So I think we are in a rather unique position with our hands in both buckets, and perhaps this is the best place to be. We can be a real chameleon and constantly change, which kind of gives us longevity.

Jester: The last two Delerium albums were very different from the previous body of work, with the most noticeable difference being the addition of vocalists. Why did you decide to finally add vocals to Delerium?

Bill: We have always thought that if we had a really good vocalist it would elevate our music to the next level. It's taken us all these years to develop our craft of being song-smiths. Everything finally just fell together, with our song writing skills and a label like Nettwerk who was really behind the project had access to all of these females on their rosters who ended up effectively being at our disposal. We could pick and choose without dealing with legal issues.

The whole thing was a famine to feast story. Being on the same label as the vocalist, it mdae obtaining permission extremely easy. Before, if you were trying to get permission to use the vocals of an artist on another label it would always get tied down in politics. It was sheer luck, timing and the right label to merit having a really good singer on the new material. If you think about how many different elements you need to happen perfectly just to have a moderately successful record, you can never pinpoint it to just one single thing. Then you have to have a label who promotes you as well.

Jester: Why did you move from Dossier to Nettwerk?

Bill: Dossier Records was really just one guy with an answering machine in Germany. It was such a small underground label that from day one I was only doing single album deals with them. I think for half of the albums there wasn't even a contract. So instead of waiting around for major label interest we released stuff through Dossier to stay afloat. Even with Front Line Assembly, we've never had big label deals or management, and Delerium was the same way for years. We always sort of winged it, and built our own tours to survive. So Dossier was a friend, a handshake, and access to funds to cover us until the next album.

Jester: I noticed that most of your back catalogue was reissued on Cleopatra Records. Did you retain the rights to all those albums?

Bill: No, we just kind of worked out a deal to re-release those albums for really cheap. So, some sort of arrangement was made that I really had nothing to do with.

Jester: On the last two albums, you use more natural samples like a live Choir. What motivated you to start sampling real instruments instead of crating your own sounds?

Bill: For this record we had some choir samples that didn't really sound as good as when we hired a real choir and monks to sing inside of a real church. There is also the originality factor to consider as well. I think we just wanted to make a truly organic album to differentiate us from all the current buzz of electronic bands. Even though the whole record was assembled with technology, most of the percussion, all the wind instruments, the choir, and Spanish guitars were created by another human being and played live. I think this record is just as organic as if you were to have played it all on real instruments with the sole exception of it probably sounding better this way. As a result, when you listen to this record it comes off as more than just an ambient techno album.

I think we've gone from one extreme to another, from using totally artificial sounds to using natural sounds in their original context and I think a lot of people enjoy this new sound. Personally I find that the frailness of a loan instrument can sometimes be more powerful than a whole barrage of instruments.

Jester: It definitely carries a great deal more emotion.

Bill: Exactly. We really wanted to make "Karma" a very emotionally mature record with feelings. We definitely wanted to avoid sounding trendy. I think some of the vocal performances on the album add a lot to elevate the record to a whole new level. There are just so many new elements on this record than we have ever used before.

Jester: The diversity of using several vocalists also helps break down the album even further into a variety of different interpretations.

Bill: That was really what I wanted to strive for. I was hoping that we could get three or four really good vocalists performing on it just so that it doesn't end up sounding like one band. Personally I feel that the vocal styles between Lisa Gerrard and Camille Henderson are so different that it is that much more interesting to listen to the record.

Jester: Did all of the vocalists write their own lyrics?

Bill: Yes.

Jester: What is your opinion of the Rabbit in the Moon remixes on the 'Euphoria (Firefly)' single?

Bill: I don't know how in-tune you are with the DJ Mario crowd. There is like a whole establishment of DJ's that is like NXNW, with 10,000 DJ's that perform every year. All of the DJ's spend all this time talking about who they have mixed and what music they are working on. I don't know that crowd very well myself but apparently Rabbit in the Moon is pretty popular in it.

I think when you go to a club now, that type of music is what is being played and what the patrons want to hear. Personally, when I heard those mixes I didn't think that there was much going on in them. They were all very repetitive and much too long. Yet if you go to a club, in a big room, and the track comes on, it still has a very definitive sound.

The problem with music that we have done in the past is that it has always been too busy with too much going on. That kind of music is great when you are listening to it with a good pair of stereo headphones on because you can differentiate between all the different effects. But when you are in a club with a big PA, anything more than drums and bass just gets lost. So if you are looking from that perspective, those remixes sound great in a club forum.

Jester: Do you see Synaethesia as a continuation of the sound and style you used on your older Delerium material?

Bill: Yes. It is definitely more of late night noodling at home like some of the older Delerium. When I work on that material I don't really ever focus on writing a cohesive song and it just sort of happens. Early Delerium to me was always inspired by German bands like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze. They were a bit self indulgent at times and went on for long periods of time making music with their modular synths and I've always kind of liked that. So between lunch and dinner I run downstairs, turn on a bunch of machines and just let them run when I've got nothing else to do at home.

I know you probably shouldn't release everything you write but people seem to really like it. It is a real low cost project and I actually made royalties off of the project. I never make royalties off Front Line Assembly. So I guess there is something to be said for that as well.

Jester: How did you first get involved with music?

Bill: First and foremost I was always a fan. Music didn't really interest me until I heard Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and other German artists. Yet it wasn't really until the whole Industrial phenomena occurred that it really clicked. Bands like Wired, Killing Joke, Fad Gadget, Liaison, were bands who really got me interested in listening to music. Then I met Kevin Crompton, and I started playing him stuff like Throbbing Gristle and Nocturnal Emissions.

After that we both sort of went off the deep end. We thought it was so militant and against the grain and at that time, this type of music simply had never been done before. Even the whole Neubauten and Test Dept. performance factor was brand new.

So Skinny Puppy started and I happened to be at there at the right time and ended up touring with them and writing some bass lines on the first few records. It was just that simple. I just happened to have a friend who was talented and involved with a band and I was just the guy who was there who could help out. At the time I had a another job career which I quit to work with Skinny Puppy.

It was definitely never planned. I never once said that I wanted to be a musician. I never practiced until I become good enough. Instead I woke up one day on stage and realized that I had no idea how to tune the keyboard that I was playing. That's the way it always seems to happen to me.

Like I said before, I think it had a lot to do with being a fan. While other artists have a tendency to not listen to music similar to their own, I still do. True, I don't listen to my own material, I know it so well that there is little point. I'd rather play something new that might inspire me.

That's why I left Skinny Puppy. For the most part it was just the two of them working on music and I realized that if I really wanted to push myself I needed to start something on my own. At least in those days you could buy a 4 track, and release something on cassette and it would sell rather well.

Unfortunately now, we are back into the rock area, where you have to get a manager, tour, make a video, and an album. If it works great, if not the band breaks up and they are $250,000 in the hole looking for a new career. For some reason record sales seem to be the critical factor these days. It is no longer about the music but about how many albums you sell.

Jester: What would you consider your favorite Delerium track?

Bill: I would probably consider 'Flowers Become Screens' still as my favorite track. I think it is perhaps a perfect pop song. I think that if Nettwerk wasn't in a state of transition at the time of it's release, and they had pushed it really hard, that it would have done amazingly well. That track is probably the most obvious as well.

Jester: Is there anything you would like to add in conclusion?

Bill: The next single will be 'Duende' They are going down next week to shoot the video in Mexico. I think this video will be really cool because they will be shooting in a lot of natural locations as well as temples. It will be more of a world beat type video and I am curious to see how it will turn out.

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