Delerium began as the joint venture of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, who divided their time between several projects together, including Front Line Assembly, a group that became very popular on the industrial music scene. Leeb was born in Austria but makes his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and got his start under the pseudonym Wilhelm Schroeder in a band called Skinny Puppy. He left in 1986 to team with Michael Balch to form Front Line Assembly. They were soon joined by Rhys Fulber, who was only a sporadic contributor at first. Their early efforts were released on cassette tapes, some of which have subsequently been rereleased as Total Terror 1 & II.
Although those early works met with little success, they did attract the notice of three recording labels. In only a 90-day period, the band released three recordings: The Initial Command, State of Mind, and Corrosion. These works received a much wider distribution than their previous recordings, and they established Front Line Assembly as a force to be reckoned with on the industrial music scene. By 1989 the group had achieved international popularity and went on a world tour to promote their album Gashed Senses and Crossfire.
During the same year Leeb and Fulber began work on several side projects. Leeb joined Marc Verhaeghen in a combo they called Noise Unit whose first collaborative effort, Grinding into Emptiness, was followed by several more albums. The most successful of the side projects, however, was the Leeb and Fulber collaboration Delerium. Atmospheric and moody, and often compared to movie music, this combo’s first effort was Faces, Forms and Illusions’, ten albums later Leeb and Fulber had their first hit singles. The two continued to perform as Front Line Assembly (without Balch by 1990), and in 1992, started a new collaboration called Intermix. Under this name they released the self-titled Intermix, followed by Phaze Two and Primative Futures.
The duo reached a milestone in 1992 with their Front Line Assembly release Tactical Neural Implant, widely considered not only one of their finest efforts, but a groundbreaking work in the industrial music genre. As All Music Guide’s Theo Kavadias put it, “Front Line Assembly… has done much to help define what the genre is about. Tactical Neural Implant is one of the releases which has contributed most to this claim….”
Change has always marked Leeb and Fulber’s efforts. Not content to find a single sound that works and play endless variations on it, as many other successful bands do, the two experimented with different instruments, switching from a purely electronic sound in 1994 to one dominated by metal guitars on their Front Line Assembly release Millenium. They left many of their confused fans behind, but undaunted, continued to explore. It was the Delerium project, though, that launched the pair from obscurity to mainstream chartbusting success. Their stated goal for Delerium was to bring experimental music to the mainstream. Quite a challenge for a pair never known for their commercial sensibilities. “From the word Skinny Puppy on,” Leeb told the Toronto Sun, “we’ve never been conventional and we’ve never really know what we were doing.”
Their first Delerium album, Faces, Forms and Illusions, was released in 1988. Some compared it to horror movie music because its multilayered electronic sounds and droning voices evoked dark places. Another album, Spheres, was inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film about a space mission gone horribly wrong. Spheres includes sound clips from the film and accurately captures the sense of utter aloneness and helplessness experienced by the astronauts of the film who are stranded in space aboard a crippled spaceship.
In 1994 their Semantic Spaces release featured angelic, ethereal vocals by Kristy Thirsk. It was a success, with more than 70,000 copies sold around the world. In fact, this new sound brought Leeb and Fulber into the realm of pop electronica, landing them on the pop charts for the first time (Canadian top 40), with the songs “Flowers Become Screens” and “Incantation” receiving extensive play on the radio.
Leeb and Fulber returned to Front Line Assembly with their 1995 release Hard Wired. Continuing in the vein of Tactical Neural Implant, this new CD continued their guitar explorations and added influences from all of
Members include Rhys Fulber (left group, 1996), synthesizers, samplers; Bill Leeb, vocals, synthesizers.
Group formed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1987; released debut album Faces, Forms and Illusions on the Cleopatra label, 1988; released seven more albums on the Cleopatra and Dossier labels over the next six years before joining the Nettwerk label for Semantic Spaces, 1994; Karma, 1997; and Poem, 2000.
Awards: Juno Award (Canada), Best Dance Recording for “Euphoria (Rabbit in the Moon Mix),” 1998; Juno Award, Best Dance Recording for “Silence,” 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Nettwerk Productions, 1650 W. 2nd Ave., Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6J 4R3, website: http://www.nettweb.com.
their other ventures, including Delerium. After touring in Europe in the fall of 1995, the duo released their first concert CD.
Three years later, recording again as Delerium, the duo released Karma. This album continued in the same vein as Semantic Spaces and was an even bigger popular success. Kirsty Thirsk was joined by popular singer Sarah McLachlan. Getting McLachlan was a coup for Leeb and Fulber. “She was busy trying to do her own record,” Leeb told the Toronto Sun. “Then at the last minute of the last hour of the last day of recording, she showed up and did a really great job.” The track that showcased McLachlan, and for which she wrote the lyrics, was called “Silence,” and it became Delerium’s biggest hit to date; it received airplay around the world and landed on the British, Belgium, Australian, and Irish charts. “By getting singers on there,” said Leeb in the Toronto Sun, “the record couldn’t just be passed off as another self-indulgent ambient-techno record.”
In a departure for a group known for sampling prerecorded sounds, Leeb and Fulber also hired a choir for tracks featuring Gregorian chants. “It’s still cheaper to pay a choir, rent a church, drag the equipment down there, transcribe the words to Latin and record it,” Leeb explained to D-Drop magazine. “It comes out to be half the price of clearing a 12-second sample, which I find totally bizarre.” Karma sold more than 200,000 copies in the United States, 250,000 in Britain, and even more in Canada. The group scored another success when a cut from the album was selected by Air Canada for their lineup of in-flight music.
Leeb and Fulber parted ways after this effort, however. Fulber, always most interested in finding new sounds, wanted to continue his explorations, while Leeb, excited by the direction Delerium had taken, stayed on with the “band,” releasing the album Poem in 2000. This was the third Delerium CD under the Nettwerk label, and for this one, Leeb brought in more singers, including Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None the Richer), Kirsty Hawkshaw, Joanna Stevens, Jenifer McLaren, and, for the first time, a male voice, that of Matthew Sweet.
Faces, Forms and Illusions, Cleopatra, 1988.
Morpheus, Cleopatra, 1989.
Spiritual Archives, Dossier, 1990.
Syrophenikon, Dossier, 1990.
Stone Tower, Dossier and Cleopatra, 1991.
Semantic Spaces, Nettwerk Productions, 1994.
Spheres, Volume 1, Dossier, 1994.
Spheres, Volume 2, Dossier, 1994.
Karma, Nettwerk Productions, 1997.
Poem, Nettwerk Productions, 2000.
Billboard, December 9, 2000; March 17, 2001.
D-Drop, May 26, 1997.
Toronto Sun, May 3, 1997.
“Delerium,” Musicfolio.com, http://www.musicfolio.com (January 27, 2002).
“Delerium,” Nettwerk Productions, http://www.nettweb.com (January 27, 2002).
“Delerium,” “Front Line Assembly,” “Intermix,” and “Tactical Neural Implant,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 2, 2002).
“Front Line Assembly,” Metropolis Records, http://www.metropolis-records.com (January 27, 2002).
—Michael P. Belfiore