CHELSEA WOLFE IS A SINGER AND SONGWRITER WHO GETS HER WAY IN THE AMERICAN POST-WITCH UNDERGROUND SCENE, DISCOVERING HERSELF AS MUSE AND PRIESTESS. HER MUSIC IS A MIX OF CONTRASTS, LIGHT AND DARKNESS, BRING ENERGY OF GROWTH AND TRANSFORMATION
Your latest album is called “Pain Is Beauty”. What ’s your relationship with pain and how it affects your creative process?
I believe that pain can influence art but that art does not need it to survive. For this title, I was thinking about the obstacles of life, how any living species fights to survive but inevitably encounters unexpected hardships and pain. And just like a forest fire clears the forest floor to create room for new growth, these hard times in our lives can teach us lessons and we can fight and overcome and come out on the other side with a new strength and a more beautiful perspective.
“Pain Is Beauty” it’s more electronic. How did your sound evolved in your last album?
Around the time when I was writing “Apokalypsis”, I wanted to add an electronic element to my band. At that time I was on a tour and met Ben Chisholm in another band we played with – he was really into synths and making electronic beats. He joined my band after that and we found that we could write well together. We started writing electronic songs and originally thought we would have a side project, but then I realized I didn’t want to put limits on the “Chelsea Wolfe” project so we started incorporating some of these electronic songs into the band set and found that it was really fun to play, this new sound. When I started to put together “Pain is Beauty” I knew I wanted to have some of those electronic songs on there, and then we also wrote some new ones for the album.
Where have you recorded your first album?
My first album, “The Grime and the Glow” was written after I took about a year break from music because I wasn’t happy with the songs I was making in my early 20’s. I needed to find my way again. Luckily, a friend of mine who is a performance artist invited me on a European tour with him and some other artists in 2009. I would perform an acoustic set at the end of each night with them after they performed, in different spaces – old factories, converted churches and so on. Hearing my voice in these different spaces with their unique sounds inspired me. After I returned to California, I recorded “The Grime and the Glow” with the idea of location and space in mind. I went back to my roots and made it on my old Tascam 8-track. I took it around with me to different places and recorded one-take songs, some of them alone, some with friends. It was a pure experience and releasing that album was a new beginning, and actually the real beginning for me and my music.
Your second album, released in 2011, is titled Apokalypsis which means “lift the veil”. What did you find when you saw that face?
Apokalypsis has multiple meanings, which is why I was attracted to this word as a title. The first meaning which I loved most was “revelation,” which I understood as “epiphany.” I felt inspired by the moment of epiphany; the moment of realization and understanding and enlightenment; the moment right as the meteor hits. The second meaning was “end of an era” which I also loved because I was exploring the ends of things. And “lifting of the veil” was appropriate because I used to wear an actual veil onstage and after I released Apokalyspsis I removed the veil onstage and haven’t worn it since. I may wear one again, but it was symbolic of me trying to be braver and connect with the audience instead of trying to be invisible.
Which are the dark places of your music and your soul?
Contrast between all things has always inspired me and been a part of my life. Dark and light, beautiful and ugly, and so on. I am not a depressed person but I desire truth and seeking truth doesn’t always bring easy or happy things. The world is a fucked-up place, and for every lovely thing there is a horrible thing existing or happening at the same time. It’s reality and I recognize it fully. It’s sometimes hard not to let myself get too dark because of this macro and micro view of life’s reality. I sometimes feel I can do nothing for this world and then I feel pointless and then it’s a spiral into sadness, but I try to be strong and to channel it into music at least; into something creative and thoughtful and to share it with others.
What is the light that brightens the darkness of your inner world?
Nature, family, love, goodness. Those things balance out the dark parts.
Landscapes that inspire you?
I love so many landscapes – open spaces, dense forests, seas and fjords. The desert is magical and harsh – everything there has learned defenses; everything there is sharp. The forest smells so good.. the forest is mossy and full of life and energy. The water is my favorite place – I love to swim, to feel weightless and strong in the water.
What is love? And beauty for you?
Beauty is peace, strength. Love is pure.
Do you have an icon for your music and lyrics?
Are you asking if I have any musical idols or someone I look up to? There are many – the first voices I looked up to when I was young were male voices. I have a lower voice and could sing in their range. Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant – those were the first voices to inspire me.
Do you have a writer that inspire your dark thoughts?
Books often inspire me. I am not attracted to the world of dark. Visually, I am inspired by gothic fashion, black, yes, but also I am attracted to modern designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Maison Martin Margiela, Rick Owens. My favorite writer is D.H. Lawrence, who writes with a realistic perspective on family and nature. Mostly I love the descriptive way he writes about nature and how it can teach us about humanity. It’s beautiful.
What are your emotions when you listen for the first time to your work?
It depends – if I like a song I feel the epiphany feeling – like some subject I was exploring finally makes sense. Or, if I don’t like a song or something I’ve made it’s a little frustrating, but I am ok with throwing a song away. Try again tomorrow.
How would you describe your work?
As I’ve said a lot in this interview – reality music. But also I am inspired by so many things.. I am also inspired by the spiritual realm, mystical things and surreality. I mix it all together. Sometimes I call my music bipolar because of all the contrast, and because of the fact that I cannot stay within one genre. I don’t want to – I want to experiment within many sounds.
What’s your ideal day?
I recently moved out of Los Angeles into the mountains. It’s very quiet and secluded and I have my studio there. I am working on a new album so right now my ideal day is to wake up early, spend some time hiking while it’s still foggy, work on music all day, then do something different like work on a strange art project or some photos, and finally at night read a book or watch some good movie before sleeping and dreaming.