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Metal Maven Podcast Transcript: Episode 2

The Power of Sharing Knowledge with Isaac Delahaye


Welcome to the Metal Maven Podcast, where we explore and discover the process and passions of artists in the metal music and art community.

Metal Maven: I’d like to welcome our second guest to Metal Maven Podcast, Isaac Delahaye. He’s currently the lead guitarist in Epica and has been an active guitarist for around 15 years. He’s also played for MaYaN and God Dethroned. He has an exciting new offering to share with the metal community called College of Metal, an online platform providing practical and in-depth lessons from professional metal musicians and industry leaders. Welcome, Isaac. How are you?

Isaac Delahaye: Doing really good. How about you?

Metal Maven: I’m doing great. I am ready for a nap, but I’m here with you right now. It’s weird – you’re just waking up and I’m about ready to go to bed, but this is how we have to do this thing.

Isaac Delahaye: Exactly. You’re the first one I talk to and probably for you, I’m the last one to talk to.

Metal Maven: I know. Hey, I’m fine with that. As long as you are.

Isaac Delahaye: Just got some coffee and I’m good to go.

Metal Maven: You know what? I wish, but I’d never get to sleep. So let’s talk a little bit more about College of Metal. In your launch video, you mentioned teaching guitar for 20 years. How did that begin for you and eventually lead to the present moment, opening your online school? What was that journey like?

Isaac Delahaye: Well, I started teaching, I think, around the age of maybe 16. It was back in high school when one of the teachers there was teaching cords to a couple of students after school hours. And since his students became better, he couldn’t handle it himself anymore. So he needed someone who could teach those students a little more than he could because that was just limited to strumming and a couple of cords. So that’s when he asked me to do the more advanced students. So I started teaching, two hours – that was weekly – at high school for peers. And that was good fun. And then soon after that, I also started teaching electric guitar at the youth department in my hometown, part of the cultural education of the city, so to speak, that were pretty much just private lessons, one-on-one.

And in the meantime, went to College of Music. And then after that, I started the Pop Rock departments for two different music academies here in Belgium. And that was kind of new because in Belgium – you can play either classical guitar, which I did from seven until 17, or you could play jazz, like pop and rock – that never really was an option. And so I started two of those departments and still was doing private lessons. And now I started this online thing because I thought either I pick up private lessons again or I target the more international or wider audience, and I chose the latter. So that’s been the journey from just teaching my friends at school, so to speak, to trying to teach the world.

Metal Maven: Nice! So this concept of College of Metal, was it something that you had thought about for a while or was it a moment of inspiration and you got to work really quick? I mean, you’ve been teaching for a long time, so it just seemed like a natural next step.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, it wasn’t something that I planned very long in advance. As you might have noticed, Epica isn’t touring at the moment, so I have some time on my hands. And I thought this is the right time to, if I wanted to, do something on the side – or just like Mark has MaYaN or Simone is doing photography, or everyone has his side project or things you’d still want to do next to the band. And usually, there’s not a lot of time to do that. But, I started thinking and also picking up a couple of really awesome books, which you know, reading those books led to the thought of creating College of Metal. And just quickly referring to the books, one of them, it’s “The Four Hour Work Week” of Tim Ferriss, which was great because this guy is just living his dream, so to speak, which is a couple of hours work.

But obviously, it’s not that simple, so he’s explaining everything in that book, but the principles behind it are very, very cool. But there’s also a lot of books like “The 80/20 Principle” or “The Magic of Thinking Big” and stuff like that, you know? So I was just on this reading trip, so to speak. And one book led to the other, and one thought to the other. So that’s when I started to create College of Metal because let’s say that I picked up private lessons. Then from the time, or from the moment, Epica would do something again, I would have to stop doing that. So that led me to the idea of doing it online. 

And then I thought the same thing – if I want to create lessons, you know that feeling with a podcast if you need to create a new episode, you need time for that. So the same thing – if Epica would go on full power again, I wouldn’t have time. So that’s when I thought, “Well, why don’t I talk to the people I know in the industry?” I happen to know a lot of professional musicians because I’ve been in this job, so to speak, for a couple of years. So, you know, that’s how the whole idea started. And it happened once I got the initial idea, it started growing automatically and that kind of told me that it was a good idea because if not, it would just die and nothing would have happened. So that’s how it started.

Metal Maven: So it’s just maximizing your time and using the contacts that you’ve already had, just staying in that flow. How long did everything take to put together? I mean, you can be specific too, maybe it’s the Epica Bundle.

Isaac Delahaye: Obviously, everything was already recorded as songs. So I just had to transcribe all the guitar tabs that took me, let’s say for every song it’s around – oh, another very cool book, which I have to mention first is, “Build Your Business In 90 Minutes A Day.” And that was the first book, it was very small, that I actually picked up starting to read again when I had some time. And this was basically also talking about the 80/20 principle and said that if you just focus on your business for 90 minutes a day, even if you don’t have a business and you start thinking about it for 90 minutes a day, then you’ll see tremendous change. So I thought, you know, I’ll give it a try. And actually, it’s in bits of 90 minutes that I built College of Metal.

So I would pretty much just write a whole song or a guitar tab in 90 minutes. So if you only have a limited set of time, that’s the purpose and principle, then you, you’re like, the shorter you make your deadline, the more focused you’re gonna work. And that’s exactly what I did. So, let’s say preparing the actual lessons – because it’s one thing to play a song, but it’s a whole other thing to explain it actually. So I had to write it out. It’s like, just go through the songs and what is the stuff that people should have to watch out for or you know, any particular things in a song. So that took a while, let’s say for every song, one day. And then I recorded it in November, went to record the actual videos, and then it got edited, which that took the longest time. So the whole process I would say was – October, November, December – let’s say four months, which is a long time in my head.

Metal Maven: It’s broken up into just small bits a day.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I wanted to concentrate on other things too because this was the time where I finally wasn’t on the road, right? So if I would just be in my home studio all day and forget about friends and family, that wouldn’t be the best business to start with, right? So I really wanted to try out the concept of that 90 minutes a day and just, you know, focused attention. And it really worked. If I knew this back when I started playing guitar, I probably would have paid a lot more attention to that.

Metal Maven: Everything is the right timing. This is just the time you were meant to launch this project.

Growing up, there was no such thing as the Internet. You were discussing that I think, in your introductory video, and I know you have a Bachelor of Music and you’ve obviously learned from a higher education, but before that when you were starting out – Baby Delahaye – how did you self teach and enrich yourself with the knowledge to play guitar?

Isaac Delahaye: Well, Baby Delahaye, he started playing guitar when he was seven – classical guitar. As I said, it was either classical guitar, or then jazz guitar would be from the moment you’re around 18 years old. So I only had one option and I hated it because, maybe you know that, I wanted to be a drummer.

Metal Maven: You wanted to at least be a musician. You weren’t forced into this at all?

Isaac Delahaye: Well, I was actually. I wanted to be a drummer because I was forced to go to music academy. And that sounds very harsh, but it wasn’t like that, you know, as me and my siblings, we had to go obviously to school. But then also, we had to go to art classes too. We had to do sports, and we had to go to music academy. It was like our parents, were pushing our cultural development I guess.

Metal Maven: Yeah. That’s a good thing though. They’re just making you well-rounded and opening you up to new experiences. They’d say you’re better for it.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah. So, you know, we had to go to music academy, the first years only. More theory, obviously you first need to read the notes or be able to read the notes before you start an instrument. So the first year is only starting to read notes and rhythm. And then at the end of the year, I had to pick the instrument I wanted. So I went back to my dad. I said, “I want to play drums.” And he said, “No way,” because I wasn’t the only one at home – it was a busy, crowded house already. And I guess he didn’t want that noise or whatnot. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll go back, I’ll get back to them and I’ll choose trumpet or something – like blow the trumpet all day long and he can regret that decision.” But for some reason, I ended up playing guitar – probably because a lot of my friends were doing the same thing.

So yeah, that’s how I picked up classical guitar. Didn’t really like it up until a point where, my teacher said, “You know, you don’t really practice but you’re still a little better than average. So what if we just make a deal and you start practicing a little more and you’ll see that you eventually will get really good and maybe you can have a career or something like that.” And this is actually the point in time – I must have been around 13, 14, something like that – where I really started to like playing guitar. And as you said, there was no Internet, so I had this teacher and I was playing classical and by the time I was 11, got my first electric guitar and I didn’t really touch it the first couple of years because the neck was a lot thinner compared to a classical guitar and I had to play with a guitar pick, whereas classical guitar, it’s using the right-hand fingers, so I couldn’t really play a lot and I have a small hand which didn’t sound the way I wanted because I wanted it to sound like Pantera, but I couldn’t do it.

But slowly, and that’s around the time I was maybe 14,  I started picking up sheet music, like the books. There was a local music store and they had some books from like Steve Vai or Dream Theater, stuff like that, and I picked it up and tried to understand what the hell it was they were doing, but I couldn’t make much sense out of it. So I just would noodle around and try to come up with something that was close enough. And then, soon after that, I would start my own band with a couple of guys at school. And that’s where things started because we had to learn how to make a song and make it interesting and have to sound like, I don’t know, Pantera, Machine Head, or Metallica. So that’s where it took off. And then it was just trial and error and just look at the peers, what are they doing? Maybe they have a VHS.

Metal Maven: Yeah, I was wondering if you ever watched VHS of live shows or something to see if you could kind of – it’s probably not even good enough to see the hands. But I mean, at least it was something.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, try to get more information, right? And if you compare it to these days as a kid, it must be both really easy but also really overwhelming because there’s so much out there now. So that’s also what I refer to in my launching video. There’s overabundance and that’s what I hear a lot of times that people have a hard time still with this flow of information. It’s still apparently difficult to know what to play, you know? But a lot of it, back in the days for me, was also like, just listen to the album. Listen, listen, listen to that one riff and try to figure it out yourself because that wasn’t on sheet music. That obviously Dream Theater, Steve Vai, Satriani – they all have their sheet music because it’s very technical and very challenging. So everyone wants to be like them, but your average band didn’t have sheet music and it still is like that I think. And that’s part of the reason why I created College of Metal. The average band doesn’t really have a sheet music publishing dealer, you know?

Metal Maven: Let’s get into the schools of learning that you provide in College of Metal. You have one side that’s Music and the other is for Business. In your experience, do most bands starting out generally have the music side mostly under control? Probably not completely. With your inside knowledge, and what you encounter through touring with support acts, who are new blood in the business, what are metal bands starting out usually lacking and how does your program help guide them down a successful path?

Isaac Delahaye: Well that’s a good question, and it’s not easy to answer. Like you said, let’s say that you have a band which is supporting. They just came around the corner, they’ve got the support slot of bigger bands. So supposedly, their music is okay – they just need to grow their audience and their capacity to invest because eventually, if you want it or not, your band will be a business. You’re not going to tour the world for fun only, you need to get some return on investment, so to speak. So I guess the biggest problem there is because – we’ve toured a lot in the US and usually, and especially back in the days when I was playing with God Dethroned – it’s a tough jungle. You had to go from point A to B, which in the US is a lot, the distances are much bigger than point A to B in Europe for instance, because Paris and Brussels in Europe – it’s really close, but in the US, if you go from one big city to the other, you can travel for a day easily. So you need a lot of money for gas. That’s sometimes already tough. I’ve seen bands, really good bands, who had a hard time to find that money to go from A to B. So what I’m not saying is that, with College of Metal in the Business department, which I’ll start soon, once you listen or learn from that, that all your problems will be gone. They won’t because you need that kind of faith, right? You need to mature. But either way. So that’s how it is. But I can point out things and, there’s a lot that could be wrong. So that’s why it’s really hard to point out a specific thing. But, either the production side isn’t what they’re focusing on, so they have their act together but it looks silly, or, you know, our gear. I’ve seen a lot of bands that didn’t really take care for their gear and therefore, in the middle of the set, would just shut off or stuff would happen.

And it happens with me from time to time. You know, that’s what happens if you tour. But if you take care of it and you have good gear and you just pay attention to stuff like that, if you just cut the chances of that happening, then that’s a better thing. Especially if you’re not known. Because if my string, if my amp dies for a second, people would even cheer for it, right? Like, “Haha, Isaac’s amp died,” whereas if it happens with a support band, it’s like, “Oh my God, they’re so unprofessional.” You know the difference, or see the difference there? So, yeah, that’s just a couple of things I can think of now.

Metal Maven: I know the question may be too specific, but are you going to try to continue adding videos to the Business side that would be for bands at various stages and different situations they may be in?

Isaac Delahaye: Well, yeah. So for instance, what I’ve planned now as a first – so the business side will be like this. I want to talk to the insiders – like managers, bookers, maybe people from labels – but I want to see it from the perspective of that starting band, and you know, what is a starting band? Because you could also say that maybe Epica is still a starting band compared to being Metallica, right? So I guess everyone can take something out of those things. Soon I’ll be talking to Daniel and he’s the manager for Epica and I will look at it, or ask questions from that starting band perspective. So I’ll also send out the newsletter – I’ll send out this question like, “What do you want to ask the Epica manager? Is there anything you have problems with?” And we can discuss that. So that’s the plan and hopefully, that will help people out there. So yeah, it’s like seeing from that perspective as a starting band. But you know, you can be playing for 15 years and still think that there is a lot of stuff you have to make better or stuff you need to put your hands on, right?

Metal Maven: Yeah. Let me see how I want to form this question now that we’ve discussed the industry lessons. I mean, are you going to try to have more technical versus industry lessons – you know, keep it balanced – or do you feel like more technical videos and lessons are your meat and potatoes of College of Metal?

Isaac Delahaye: Well, it’s kind of go with the flow, right? I just started this so obviously, I have a whole big plan in my head, but you know reality and you know how it’s never the way it’s in your head. So I know kind of the direction, but what I don’t want is that this would be for – if it’s too technical, it’s not what my plan is, right? I don’t want it to be for people who are really, really, really, really good only. So that’s also like if you would have a look at how the Epica lessons are, I mean, Epica is not Dream Theater or like this technical or are Steve Vai stuff, it’s not like that, you know, it’s just a metal band with riffs.

And then sometimes there’s a guitar solo or more technical parts, but it’s a blend of everything. And if you just take out the guitar part, then it’s not that technical most of the times. So that’s the approach: we learn songs and we learn how to play them, and you also learn that the song isn’t a solo from start to finish, which is hard if you’re a beginner. I had the same thing. I thought it was, you know, the newest Steve Vai. I was sitting in my room and [guitar sounds] – so that was good fun. But then if you start a band, you figure out, “Damn, I also need riffs and I need other stuff as well.” So that can be tough. Either way, the plan is not to only bring show-offs, like, “Let’s see what I can do, or look at what I can play, and try this,” – that’s not the plan. It’s really like, “Oh, you like this music? Well, I’ll bring the guitar player and I’ll put a camera in front of him and let him show you how it’s done (or her).”

Metal Maven: It has to be fun as well.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, exactly. You know, like I said, I had as a kid – I bought these books from the technical guys and if that’s your starting points, well then, good luck. Yeah, that’s not the approach. But obviously, if the band – like I can imagine that even if I say, “Oh, the stuff Epica is playing, is not technical,” I can imagine for some people, they think, “Well, I think it’s really challenging,” but you know, if I show you this is the difficult part, that’s why I play it this way, or I use this different technique, you know, most guitar players would play it like this, but I changed things around and blah, blah, blah. You know, if I just shove some sheet music under your nose and like, “Good luck,” that’s a different thing, right? So that’s the approach. And also, as I said with the business stuff, the same thing. I could obviously go into a lot of details there, but you know, it’s just like, “Hey guys, this is happening, this is your problem. And maybe you need to look at it from this perspective and see for yourself. And if you like it, you can still discover more,” and it’s sort of that area.

Metal Maven: Well, it’s also good that you’re going to ask your potential subscribers, “What do you want to learn from me?” I think that’s what a teacher should do as well. It’s not just saying, “This is what I’m showing you,” but saying, “Hey, what would you like to learn from me? What can I provide you?”

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, exactly. Because I was a beginner once, but at some level, I’m still a beginner, but you know, it’s been a while that I’ve played in a band which didn’t sell anything and, and you know, really starting from scratch. So, I don’t know if the world changed in the meantime. So I think, “Why would I decide what’s good for a band to know?” And that’s why I want to ask them.

Metal Maven: It’s also less stressful. You don’t have to think of this stuff – you’re going to ask them and they’ll let you know what they need.

Isaac Delahaye: Exactly. I mean the same with the lessons I did. You know, I just asked them, “Which are the songs you want me to cover?” And not that this was absolute power or something because I had a couple of ideas, but then I saw that certain songs were chosen very often, which weren’t on my list. So I changed the list because I’m not doing it for me. You know, I know how to play the song and know how to do it. It’s for the other people, right? What I also did was just look online, like on YouTube, which Epica songs are covered most and then usually if you listen to them, they’re – well sorry to say – but they’re full of mistakes. So that’s how I ended up doing a couple of other songs.

Metal Maven: So do you plan to incorporate various instruments, including voice, as well into potential lessons?

Isaac Delahaye: As long as I don’t have to do it! The plan now is obviously to get the whole thing started – and it just started with one guitar course for Epica. So the plan is to have multiple guitar courses for multiple metal bands, and I’m working on that. Once that is established, then I could go with it – exactly – you know, I could go ask drummers or bass players, singers. So that’s the big plan indeed, but I think first, I need to kind of start with the whole guitar department – that’s closer to my home. Eventually, it will happen, yes.

Metal Maven: This feels like a passion project for you. It’s everything you wanted for your younger self. And now, as a successful and seasoned musician, you can provide tons of professional experience with the click of a button. Thinking of your past self, how does it feel having brought College of Metal into the world?

Isaac Delahaye: It’s a privilege because as a kid, as I said, you know, you start out, being 14 maybe, and the mountain you look up to just seems so steep and high. You know, it’s like, “How in the hell will I get there?” And then, oddly enough, now I can tell that I climbed the mountain so to speak, you know. I still remember going to a Pantera show back in 2000 and that was in Ancienne Belgique, a venue in Brussels. And I remember being there and like, “Wow, that was just a great show!” And finally, I saw like – this is really the band which shaped me as a kid and as a musician. And then years later, I played there myself, like sold out shows and eating backstage in the same room they probably were eating, you know, stuff like that.

Metal Maven: I know, everyone thinks it’s so glamorous backstage, and it’s really chilled out.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, it’s a cool venue, you know. But back then I thought, you know, they’re getting – and they probably were because they were way more rock and roll than I am – but, they were probably getting wasted there, and maybe smoking some pot. It’s like you said, I pretty much lived a dream if you can use that expression, right? So, I’m just really happy that – and I thought, you know, this is the time exactly. Like if you say it’s passion, well, it’s like, okay, I can just pick up teaching again because I like passing it on. But why do it to one individual at a time? Why not just – and why do it just by myself? Why not just ask all my colleague professional musician friends to help, you know? And that was what struck me the most. That when I had the idea. I thought, “Oh, this is a good idea.” And then I thought, “Okay, well if I just Google it, I’ll find out that this already exists in multiple forms.” And to my big surprise, it didn’t – I thought it was really strange that no one ever thought of doing that. If it, ends up the way it’s in my head, like how I see it, then it will be very helpful for people who want to become metal musicians or just, you know, get the right information because it’s so hard to get useful information in that big, online bullshit jungle.

Sometimes if I’m looking for a certain technique of a certain guitar player, like I hear something – lately I just wanted to find out some Eric Johnson stuff. He’s not a metal guitar player, but you know, like rock. And I wanted to find out something about his playing. And then I went online and I had to struggle myself. I went through so many tutorials, which were pointless or absolutely wrong. And that’s been, you know – I’ve had a lot of times and I even have the sheet music from back when I was around 15 from the G3 show he did with Steve Vai and Satriani – I have the sheet music. So what I did, and because nowadays you can just slow down the video. So I just watched his live video, slowed it down, look at what his fingers were doing and listen to the sound in the meantime, you know, because the quality from back in the days was, it was not that good. So then I had a look at that official sheet music book and it was full of mistakes. And so you see I paid – I looked it up the other day – I paid around 35 for that book and it’s full of mistakes and that’s not the only book that has it. So again, that’s why I think it’s really valuable if the composer or performer – if the musician is in front of the camera showing them to you because every time, again, it’s the best thing. If I want to learn something new and if I find the actual person who’s playing it, teaching it, can be online on YouTube or anywhere, you know, that’s always the best thing.

Metal Maven: And you have quality control too because everything youre going to be putting out is actually correct. Its a worthy investment versus what you ended up having to pay for when you were younger and it wasnt even right.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, and don’t get me wrong, maybe not every musician is the best teacher. So to actually, like I said before, to actually talk about it and explain it – it’s not easy, but you get a part of the character of this person. You get part of the reason why he or she is doing it this way. And I think that is as important as actually, “This is how you played riff A and this is how you do.” You know, you couldn’t figure that out when it gets hard to us, as long as you see the person do it and explain a little about it. And it doesn’t need to be the best teacher in the world because just turn that principle around. If you have the best teacher in the world, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the greatest musician in the world, right?

Metal Maven: You have to put your investment in, as well and your time and passion.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, exactly. And that’s what such a lesson is capturing. Not in essence, but it’s there, you know? If I’m telling you, “Well, try this, try that.” It’s my character, I guess, speaking or trying to help you.

Metal Maven: Well, I think it’s a really innovative way of teaching people, and it works perfectly with how you live your daily life. I mean, it’s not like you have to be in one specific place to teach people. You can be on the other side of the world and still be able to help other people learn how to play music, which is amazing.

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, exactly.

Metal Maven: My last question, I don’t know if you have the answer to this yet, but do you have a sneak peek that you could provide of any future musicians that you’re thinking about asking to offer lessons?

Isaac Delahaye: Yeah, I do have the answer, but…

Metal Maven: You can’t say it yet?

Isaac Delahaye: The thing is, I’m talking to a couple of guitar players already, professional ones who are in big bands, but the thing is, I’m not going to announce them yet because there’s copyrights, publishing, and all that. So there’s some legal stuff – and I don’t want to mention a name and then can’t figure that out, or it doesn’t work out and then people are disappointed or something. But you know, I just suggest that people subscribe to the newsletter or follow me on the social media channels and whenever something comes up then I will let you know.

Metal Maven: And definitely, on my site, I’ll make sure that I feature all these links, and all your wonderful books that you’ve been reading that have helped you along the way. I’ll have all of those on metalmavenpodcast.com for everybody to take a look through and learn a little bit more about College of Metal.

Isaac Delahaye: Sure, thank you very much.

Metal Maven: You’re welcome. Thanks for joining me today Isaac. I really appreciate you taking time out of your morning for me.

Isaac Delahaye: No worries.

Metal Maven: I appreciate it so much.

Isaac Delahaye: My pleasure. It was a pleasure really to talk to you. Good to hear you, again.

Metal Maven: I know – it’s been far too long, so I’m glad we could catch up.

For more information on College of Metal, and to purchase lessons, visit collegeofmetal.com. Be sure to sign up for Isaac’s newsletter to receive updates on new content and special offers.

Visit metalmavenpodcast.com for links to Isaac’s profiles, College of Metal videos, and read the full transcript of this interview. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to subscribe to Metal Maven Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and Google Play.