May 23, 2024

Interview with Bill Leeb Of Delerium: ‘Delerium Is A Healing Process, A Perfect Escape From The Aggression In The World’

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Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber have been working together since the late 80s. They got international recognition in the EBM scene with Front Line Assembly. Next to other side-projects they also worked together as Delerium. The first album bring us back to 1988. I remember “Faces, Forms, And Illusions” as a kind of Industrial-Ambient work which also was the band’s main source of inspiration for the next few years. “Semantic Spaces” (1994) and “Karma” (1997) both revealed a different sound becoming more Downtempo-like while driven by sensual, female vocals. “Silence” became a word-wide famous hit while Delerium never stopped releasing new works in a similar style. They this year strike back with “Signs” (Metropolis Records) which is the duo’s first album in seven years. Sensual, mysterious and refined Ambient-Electronics featuring a few new potential hits. I asked a few questions to Bill Leeb.

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: “Signs” is your first new Delerium album in seven years. Why did it take so long to release a new opus and what was the spark to start writing “Signs”?

Bill: We were taking a little breather from Delerium when the complications of Covid extended the giant gap between releases. What ultimately made a difference is that Rhys moved back to Vancouver, Canada, so with him being close by, we were able to start working again. Being in the same room creating together is what provided the spark that we needed.

Q: What are these “Signs” all about and how did you transpose it into songs?

Bill: Well, the title of the album alludes to the sign of the times. So much has happened in the world since we released the last Delerium album “Mythologie” in 2016. Yet with “Signs” the title came last. When we were on tour Front Line Assembly, we were talking about titles for the album, our guitarist Tim Skold threw the title at us and Rhys and I both liked it so it stuck. We gave Tim Skold an actual credit for the title on the album.

Q: What have been the different stages in writing, recording and production of “Signs” you’d to go through? And what have been the main challenges and difficulties you encountered?

Bill: When Rhys moved back to Vancouver (about 40 minutes from my house), it was great to be able to get together in a room and start writing. After 35 years of doing Delerium, that is still the best way. Ideas came up and we were able to the kick them around and work on them with consistency.

It is always a challenge to find the right people to work with. Many artists are working on their own bands and projects, collaborating is a different game these days and many are doing their own thing. I think we found the right balance. Rhys had worked with Kanga in the past, some of the other great vocalists on “Signs,” we’ve worked with before including Emily Haines (from Metric), Mimi Page and Phidel.

Q: That brings me to ask if you handle specific criteria to work with vocalists? And what’s their real input and impact in the lyrical themes and singing?

Bill: I think the thing that differentiates FLA from Delerium is that when we write the music, we think in terms of what voice would work on this or that song. The singers themselves write the lyrics, the magical part is that the instrumental music often drives the vocalists to lean heavily on atmospheric vocals and that is what Delerium is all about. It is collaboration in the truest sense. Mimi Page, contributes in a different way as she often presents song ideas as well.

In general, we always know when we hear something if it is going to work. This is the zone and kind of environment we like Delerium to work in. On “Signs” we found that perfect balance with all of the songs and the singers.

Q: I’m always wondering if you handle specific criteria and/or references when you’re composing your music? Are you perfectionists?

Bill: I definitely hear music and voices that influence the compositions. In the past, I’ve heard singers that I myself have contacted to collaborate on songs.

As for being a perfectionist? When we write something and it’s done, later, I always think I could have done that better or change that. Music is never ending, like painting. Even when it’s done, I think at the end of the day you have to know when to walk away and let other people hear it and hope for the best.

Q: Did you both need a special and/or different mindset when working on Delerium than on one of your other music projects like Frontline Assembly for example? How does it happen?

Bill: That’s really easy, most artists, painters or musicians have two sides. I find when tour with FLA, afterwards, we want to turn off that side of ourselves and become someone else for a while. Delerium is a healing process, a perfect escape from the aggression in the world. Delerium opens the door for us to diversity and brings us to the Trance, Ambient side of things and remix possibilities. That Dance world has created a whole new platform for us to exist on that is very separate from the world of Industrial music. It’s like a great escape.

Q: What does the front cover of “Signs” stand for and how important is the artwork -especially in times people are more into streaming than physical productions?

Bill: Dave McKean created the artwork for “Signs.” We’ve been working with him since the Front Line Assembly album “Millennium“ In 1994. Dave’s first Delerium-album cover was “Mythologie” in 2016 and it blew us away, so it was a no brainer for us to have him do this cover. Dave is somewhat like the singers in Delerium, he collaborates with us. We give him the title, send him some songs to listen to and he sends us image ideas. It is a real collaboration, he then sends us art and it ends up being the ideal cover. Dave does his artwork from scratch. It’s not an AI thing, it is real voices with real art. The bird on the cover of “Signs,” is like a phoenix rising in the face of the way things are in the world these days.

Q: Early Delerium-albums were remastered and re-released in 2022. There’s a gap of nearly thirty five years between your debut album “Faces, Forms, And Illusions” and “Signs” but is there still a deeper sound-connection between both periods? How do you perceive this impressive evolution?

Bill: Well, I wanted to give a shout out to the late Dave Heckman for rereleasing these on Metropolis and presenting them exactly as an artist would want. As far as the evolution of Delerium from those early years, many things came into play. During the first album I was still in Skinny Puppy, so it was really a side project. I was bouncing off things like Ofra Haza, The Orb and even Pink Floyd. I started experimenting with ideas, much of it was organic and made by hand, perhaps using some cassette recorders for sampling. We’ve evolved so much with technology, it was a natural evolution for Delerium.

“Semantic Spaces” in 1994, was the first time we would write songs like that and brought in Kristy Thirsk to sing. We received legitimate radio play and it was quite an evolution from our earlier material. We were able to bridge the two parts later with monks, angelic voices and classical influences with “Silence”, featuring Sarah McLachlan, and evolved even further. Now, with “Signs” it has quickly become one my personal favorite Delerium albums. And the flow continues even after 35 years. If it all ended today with this album I’d be ok with it, full circle, old meets new, keeping all of the elements and the sincerity of the project intact.

Q: What are the plans for Delerium in the next few months?

Bill: As of now, the album is only a few weeks old and we have just released the video with Kanga. We are working on another video, this time for “Coast To Coast” featuring Phildel. Then looking at possible remixes. There’s a lot to work with.

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Inferno Sound Diaries
I have been working for over 30 years with Side-line as the main reviewer. My taste is eclectic, uncoventional and I prefer to look for the pearls, even if the bands are completely unknown, thus staying loyal to the Side-Line philosophy of nurturing new talents.

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