Chelsea Wolfe

on black sides, underground music and movies played in slow-motion.

We catched up with the Californian musician before one of her gigs of the European tour and talked with her about black sides, underground music and movies played in slow-motion.

Sometimes you’ve been associated with the new wave of “obscure” girls; like the post-punk scene of the 80’s with Siouxsie, Nina Hagen etc. Do you feel related in some way with the present Goth/postpunk musical scene?
Not really, to be honest. I’ve kind of always felt like…not like an outsider in a negative sense, but like I don’t really fit in as much. Most of the people I usually get compared to don’t even play guitar which is kind of strange to me because most of my music is really like rock n’ roll or folk-music-based which… yeah alot of the people I get to compared to it’s more electronic and stuff like that which is fine…I know that they’re all really talented and stuff but yeah, I associate myself more with rock n’ roll; classic artists like Nick Cave and Patti Smith. Those are the kinds of people I want to be like.

Many musicians that play “dark” music, say that they actually live a “bright” dailylife. What about your “black” side, if it exists.
I mean, I’m really bothered by the dark state of the world and that’s kind of why I end up writing alot of dark music. So, I think that’s something that I do struggle with daily; just kind of understanding the world and reconciling with it and just being frustrated with the way things are and you know, whether it’s something in my own life or something across the world that I hear about. But I definitely try to live a simple, happy life and I don’t consider myself a depressed person at all or anything like that; I try to be positive.

Your music seems to be instinctive, impulsive. Is the creation process behind it that way or is it more reasoned and thougthful?
I think it’s definitely a combination of the two. I mean, my inital instinct to write music is what drives me to write music; it’s that sort of intrinsic…just sort of like a primal thing. It’s inside me and I have to get it out and I have to play music and I have to sing. But when it comes to sort of refining the songs it’s more of like a…what’s the right word for it…I don’t know. I pour over the lyrics and I rewrite things and I edit things and it’s that sort of process. So, I think it’s a combination of just getting it all out and being really primal and instinctual and then going back and being more intellectual about it.

Someone said about your last album “apokalypsis” –if you don’t feel the shivers, it means that you’re already dead- and that’s a good definition for me.
Is it correct for you to relate the terms shivers and dead to your work?
I don’t think of it as something scary; if that’s what they meant by “getting the shivers.” But it is a very emotional record, I think and it has alot of sort of driving forces that can hopefully be sort of like a trance in a way; just alot of repitition and things like that and then there’s some moments in there that are very emotional like screams and things like that so I can understand someone considering it to give them the shivers, I guess.

Your first album had a lo-fi attitude. Your last work was a production that sounded more clear. In your future do you think you’ll go on this way?
Yeah, I think it kind of depends on my mood at a certain time. Like the first album, I definitely made deliberately like that because I had just gotten my old 8track recorder back and I wanted to sort of capture that because it was always something that I had always used to record demos and things like that and I wanted to capture that tape-hiss and the dirtyness. Then on the second album, I really wanted to capture the live sound which was more cleaner and more sparkling, you know what I mean; less grimey. And I think for the next album it will probably be more clean because I’m trying to put the vocals up front more and be braver with that and not use so many effects and things like that so it will probably be a bit cleaner. But I imagine I’ll go back to some dirty stuff as I get older again because that’s like my first love.

What are the cultural influences behind your music? In particular the cinema, since your songs sometimes remind me of the atmospheres of some psychological movies…
Yeah, definitely. I mean, one of my favorites is Lars von Trier and I definitely think that there’s a strong psychological aspect to his films. That combined with the visuals and that slow-motion and the intensity of it. That kind of stuff really inspires me. He’s one of my favorite film makers. Ingmar Bergman as well…that sort of slow-moving, sometimes boring almost, just draining…but it’s just so good. He has so much content there.

Surfing on the net we found your tumblr “Tour-life blog”, and it seems that you’re quite into photography. In which way do you relate with that?
I definitely don’t consider myself a visual artist but it is something I enjoy doing anyways. The blog is more just to show people where we are and keep track of things like that. But I’m definitely interested in capturing a certain point of view and I hope to get nicer cameras along the line so I can expand that and keep taking more pictures and maybe show them someday, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Do you have a “damned” rockstar lifestyle or are you closer to the healthy tendency of many of today’s musicians?
I think alot of “rockstars” these days are pretty healthy. I may be the same way. I mean, especially on this tour, almost right away I got really bad bronchitis and I’m just now getting over it. So, I had to not drink, not smoke, eat super healthy and just make sure that I could still sing; and I’m still kind of struggling to sing fully because my coughing alot at night. Yeah, typically I’m not one to be like “Let’s go out to the bars!” you know, I’m just like, “Let’s go to the hotel, I’m exhausted.” I think sleep is important on tour because it is like a job. You need to make sure you can perform fully. Every so often you’ll find a good place to party or whatever but most of the time I try to sleep as much as possible.

What’s up next?
Next. Well, we have the rest of this tour. We’re going to Milan tomorrow. Then some dates in Germany and Scandinavia and France. And then we’ll go home and record the next album which will be sort of a mix of rock n’ roll, folk music, electronic music and just kind of combining all of the different types of genres that I play with and making an album out of them. So, that will be next.

interview: Irene Rinaldi, Marco Giuliano, Jessica De Maio
transcription: Heidi N. Forney

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