12.8.11

Interview: Chelsea Wolfe

In the final moments of last year Pendu Sound dropped Chelsea Wolfe's The Grime and the Glow on the world, a record that ultimately made me regret posting my favorite albums list before the year had officially ended. Now, less than a year later, Wolfe is set to release her follow up, Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced "apokalypsis," the word is Greek for both apocalypse and revelation). The record is an obvious progression of the sound that was established with her first release that leaves me in even more of a beautiful daze after listening. Chelsea is wrapping up her tour in Europe (tour dates over here) at the moment, but I recently got the chance to shoot her a few questions about recording music as a child, current influences, doom-folk and more.

MP3: Chelsea Wolfe - Movie Screen

So you're in Germany right now. Is this your first time traveling Europe? What about playing shows there?
Actually just stopped in Hamburg to sleep after a long day of driving. It's a good halfway point between Gothenburg and Paris. I've been over here a few times, and in March I came to France for a tour. This was my first time to Sweden and Norway, though. I really loved it and want to come back for more shows.

Read the full interview after the jump.

I read another interview recently with Papermag where you mention that it took a long time for you to consider yourself a musician. When that finally happened for you was it like something clicked? Did you feel pressure to start creating more?
I wasn't happy with the music I was making when I was younger, but something inside forced me to keep trying and pushing forward. I had to step back for a while though, to find my own voice and to learn to listen to my instincts. After that time I made the album The Grime and the Glow and was able to take music more seriously and admit that it was something I wanted to do full-time. I like pressure and deadlines and projects, so anything like that is a good thing for me!

I believe on the first album it was mostly you, and then on Ἀποκάλυψις you had other people. Was that tough to get your head around, as far as expressing what you wanted to create to them?
On the first album it was myself and a few collaborators. I took my 8-track around to different spaces with different friends and worked on songs or recorded something on the spot. After that album, my live band came together and over time we started playing a certain group of songs at shows.. those songs became Ἀποκάλυψις. It is always a challenge for me to communicate in spoken words how I want something to sound, but luckily I've been able to work with some really talented and dedicated musicians who are patient with me and take time with me to work out the songs. I decided to record the album with my band members over 5 days. We went into the studio prepared and got most of the songs done there..then added a few more songs later.

I assume you tour with a band at this point as well. With that assumption, did you start out playing shows with a band or was there a point live where it was just you? Do you get a sense of relief having the rest of the band up there with you?
It depends.. I have a full band that I prefer to play live shows with, but, for example, on this current tour, I couldn't afford to fly the whole band over so I decided on a simple setup with just Ben (who plays synths in my band) and I, with backing beats, midi keyboard, and my guitar. Having the band onstage with me makes more sense for my sound and vision right now.. We can create an energy and atmosphere together that is so different to sing with than pre-recorded sounds. I'm doing my best with this minimal setup though. I have a show in New York next week on my way home from Europe and I hope that will be my last "solo" show for a while.

I've seen the term "doom-folk" used to describe your music a bit. Is that a term you use to describe your music as well?
It's a term I've used also. I have folk roots but I don't use it in such a traditional way. I've always been interested in the reality of things.. A lot of my songs have a sense of doom and idealism and reality. Someone called it dark-folk and I changed it to "doom" to capture a grander sense of the feeling. But there is also hope and light injected into many of the songs as well. I thrive on contrast - dark and light, doom and hope, ugliness and beauty.

I've heard a lot of great things from various people about your voice live being pretty amazing. I know you didn't have lessons, so I was wondering if you're voice is something you've worked on a lot, or if it is more of a natural thing for you.
I started singing when I was really young.. writing and recording songs from age 9 onward.. I guess I've just had a lot of years of singing.. so it's more of a natural thing. I would like to take lessons though!

Do you still have tapes from when you were a kid just starting to record songs for yourself? Do you ever go back and listen to those, and if so what kind of thoughts do those recordings inspire for you?
I do. I would record in my dad's home studio and a few years ago he made me a tape with all those old songs on there. I listened to it with some friends and had a good laugh of course. It sounds like Bonnie Raitt mixed up with Aaliyah. And I was so serious, even then. I tried to write love and heartbreak songs before I knew what that meant, and even changed "The Neverending Story" theme song to "Neverending Love".. always had this tendency to cover songs in a slightly twisted way.

I'm sure you get asked about influences a lot, but I know that influences constantly evolve as well, so I was wondering who/what some of your more recent influences have been?
Right now I'm listening to Black Sabbath, Gorgoroth, The Boswell Sisters, Neil Young, Wardruna, Zomby, and the soundtrack The Chemical Brothers did for that rad movie Hanna. So.. all over the place really.. I also love the music David Lynch has been making recently. Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch are my favorite filmmakers. The combination of Ingmar's realistic, stark, beautiful approach to portraying life and David Lynch's dark surrealism and gentle-heartedness resonates a perfect match in my own soul. Just finished watching the Twin Peaks tv series on Netflix instant, along with millions of other people.

At this point I feel like you're certainly getting a pretty large amount of attention as a music artist. Does it get overwhelming for you? How do you deal with that to keep moving ahead?
You think so? I could take much more, haha. I am grateful as an artist to have more chances to be heard.. and I appreciate when people feel a connection with the music and vocalize that.

Finally, how many people make some sort of joke referring to your name and being raised by wolves?
Normally people just ask if it's a stage name, which it isn't. I do appreciate good stage names/band names though and think that certain projects need them. I haven't gotten the "raised by wolves" joke yet, maybe because I'm shy and that probably comes across as well-mannered. But I'm also a Scorpio and my astrologically-inclined friends tell me that being a Scorpio means that I'm calm on the outside and raging on the inside. Sounds about right.


You can pre-order Ἀποκάλυψις now via Pendu Sound, with an August 23 release date.

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