American songwriter Chelsea Wolfe is discovering heavier aspects of her sound and the truth is, it fits her damn well. After previous release Abyss, when she moved away from the civilization and balancing her mind in silence, she managed to even furhter strengthen her feelings on the latest release Hiss Spun. The mood of the album was affected by winter climate and unique production of Kurt Ballou. During our interview we covered other crucial personal collaborations, magic values of Prague and many more.
When we were talking together last time about album Abyss, you mentioned you rented a house in the mountains to write in peace and run away from busy city noise, which is very unpleasant for many of us. Did you continue in such environment also for Hiss Spun?
Yes, in fact I moved further from civilization into the woods of Northern California. I feel lucky to be at a point where I don’t require living in a city. I don’t want to live in a city ever again.
What state of mind inspired you during writing of the new album? Was it escaping from reality into various mind places (including darker ones) or actually fighting reality, which can be really dark itself?
I worked on it a lot while I was in-between houses and staying with family. I didn’t have much space to myself so I set up a little bedroom studio and was writing in headphones a lot. It reminded me of being a teenager and using music to escape your surroundings, so I wanted to write some escapist songs.
I must honestly say your new album is amazing. I love its sound, arrangements and creative ideas. I believe internal difficulties move us forward, but Hiss Spun sounds very mature. Do you feel as a more balanced person now?
Thank you. I think writing this album helped balance me. I was writing a lot about my own struggles with anxiety, addiction and ill-health so it became a catalyst to want to rise above some of that and become stronger than the songs.
I don’t want to live in a city ever again
Give us please an idea how did the songwriting with Ben Chisholm, look this time?
We wrote a lot together in a live setting with drummer Jess Gowrie, so a lot of the ideas came about during jams. Typically there would be more isolation and sending ideas back and forth, but for this album we were in the same room together for a lot of the writing sessions, then I’d slip away and work on lyrics for hours alone.
I was really happy to see you recorded your new album with Kurt Ballou. I am a huge fan of Russian Circles and I love their latest release Guidance the most from their discography. They sound so raw, natural and I have the same feeling with Hiss Spun. Do you have the same feeling? Plus, I believe winter weather had some effect on you too…
Yes, it was one of the reasons I wanted to record with Kurt. I was already a fan of his style and loved how Guidance sounded as well. Recording at Kurt’s studio in the dead of winter I’m sure had an impact. The record to me sounds cold, with moments also reflecting the warm interior. I wanted the guitar tones to feel metallic, almost like a motorcycle engine.
Within sound, I also do enjoy album sounding very compact as a whole. They are number of great moments, but no individual hits which stand out. I do appreciate, when I do enjoy album as one organism for the whole time and not aiming for a single hit. Do you have the same feeling?
I never aim to just have a hit – or maybe it’s that I can’t write hits, haha! It’s not my style I guess. Sometimes when something is too perfect I’ll fuck it up on purpose. But I treat each song as an important piece of the album as a whole, yes.
Within guests you also brought Aaron Turner, who fitted well on track Vex and enhanced the overall mood of the song. Under what circumstances did you decide guest male growl would be the right choice?
I didn’t think of it in terms of gender. To me Aaron’s voice is very earthy and grounded, and I thought that could be an interesting feel contrasted with an abstract song such as Vex.
From another point of view, you were guest on Myrkur’s new album on two songs. What sort of the relationship did you manage to build and how did a cooperation on Mareridt look like? I’m glad to see your meeting was productive. When we spoke the last time at Brutal Assault and I made a comparison with Myrkur, you said: “Yeah, I know her. Actually, we are meeting tomorrow at Way Out West festival in Göteborg. Like, meeting for the first time in person.”
If I’m honest when she asked me to collaborate on some songs for her new album, I was interested but when the time came, I was so deep into writing my own album that I wasn’t sure I had anything to give. She already had a lot of ideas so I helped guide things here and there and gave some harmonies and vocals parts, but most of it was her. The song Funeral started as an acoustic song and became something heavier in the studio when she met with Randall, but I secretly always liked the acoustic version better so I was happy to do that session in the hotel room when we were both playing Psycho Fest recently – she just posted the video yesterday.
Over the past few years, I came across number of people who discovered your music through hearing a Feral Love song on Game of Thrones series trailer. How did it come to this and do you feel your fan base has risen through this trailer? I must say, with all respect, the age spectrum during your last show in Prague was nicely broad. Same goes for your amazing show in Hellfest few weeks ago.
Someone at my label had sent them the demo version of Feral Love during GOT season 3 and when it came time for season 4 the finished version of that song was going on Pain is Beauty and they wanted to use it for the trailer. As a big fan of the show of course I was overjoyed. It helped more people find out about me for sure, but it’s not like my career suddenly skyrocketed. It’s still been a long, slow journey. But I definitely feel lucky to have my music be used in cool TV shows and film trailers. I’m not really played on the radio so that is my version.
Sometimes ordinary moments can be strangely magic
Few weeks ago I was helping some of my friends on the show of Guns N’ Roses in Prague as a roadie. I came across guys from Nomads of Prague being there as a technical support for one the support bands. They had few small boxes there with “Chelsea Wolfe” tape over them. Could you mention some interesting story from your experiences with them? Possibly explaining this part from the press release for Hiss Spun: “…The rumble of street construction at a tour stop in Prague…”
Because our tour manager Matyas, and our gear company is based there, we end up spending extra time in Prague on European tours, and happily as it’s one of our favourite cities! Matyas has been a force of light for this band, we love him. Ben and I take field recordings on the road a lot, and end up using them in our songs. When we were walking to the music store in Prague, Ben recorded the sounds of construction happening along the way, and just sounds of daily life. Sometimes ordinary moments can be strangely magic.
Is there any gear update you would like to mention for the readers?
I’m playing a 1979 Gibson 335 that I love, and the Earthquaker Devices Acapulco is a new favourite on my board.
Thank you and I am looking forward seeing you again in Czech Republic. Dan