Chelsea Wolfe has announced new European shows around her performances at Roadburn, Hellfest, Dudefest, Smoke the Fuzz Festival, and Sideways Festival.
Tickets available HERE. A full list of dates, venues and support can be found below.
CHELSEA WOLFE - EUROPE SPRING 2017
Apr 15 Dublin, IE @ Whelans w/ WIFE
Apr 16 Glasgow, UK @ Saint Luke’s *
Apr 17 Manchester, UK @ Gorilla *
Apr 18 London, UK @ Heaven *
Apr 19 Brighton, UK @ The Haunt *
Apr 21 Tilburg, NL @ Roadburn Festival
Apr 23 Karlsruhe, DE @ Dudefest
Apr 24 Zurich, CH @ Bogen F #
Apr 26 Prague, CZ @ Futurum Music Club #
Apr 27 Berlin, DE @ Berghain #
Apr 29 Athens, GR @ Smoke The Fuzz Fest
Jun 08 Stockholm, SE @ Kraken Stockholm
Jun 10 Helsinki, FI @ Sideways Festival
Jun 12 Oslo, NO @ Blä
Jun 13 Oslo, NO @ Vigelands Mausoleum - SOLD OUT
Jun 14 Malmö, SE @ Babel
Jun 18 Clisson, FR @ Hellfest
Jun 19 Antwerp, BE @ Trix w/ Moon Duo
* w/ True Widow, King Woman
# w/ Wear Your Wounds
photo by Kristin Cofer // words by Dianca Potts
Last January, GIRLSCHOOL, an LA-based collective dedicated to supporting women in music, celebrated its inaugural music festival at Bootleg Theater. Featuring acts like Gothic Tropic and Maria Taylor, GIRLSCHOOL’s first festival confirmed that powerful things can happen when women collaborate for the greater good. This year, founder Anna Bulbrook and co-founder Jasmine Lywen-Dill hope to conjure a similar spirit of solidarity and community. “It’s my ultimate dream to have a nexus of incredible women thinkers and doers around us,” Anna says. This year’s lineup is not only intersectional but also sonically diverse. “In today’s political climate, it especially matters to have these outlets that unify and celebrate women,” Jasmine says. “I hope [we] can be a vehicle for change and for raising awareness of girl-positive organizations in the arts.” Set to kick off this Friday, GIRLSCHOOL’s weekend extravaganza is exactly what we need right now. I was lucky enough to catch up with the festival’s headliner, the forever busy and immensely talented Chelsea Wolfe. Best known for haunting dirges like “Dragged Out” and hypnotic ballads like “Mer” and “Feral Love,” Chelsea’s fusion of folklore, Jungian theory, and gothic motifs is as beautiful as it is brooding. A week before the festival, I chatted with Chelsea — who’s currently working on a new album — about the importance of taking credit for your work and why darkness isn’t always a bad thing.
Dianca Potts: What did music mean to you when you were growing up?
Chelsea Wolfe: When I was a kid, my parents divorced, and my mom was always a creative person herself, making clothes, drawing, and painting, and she’d listen to great music like Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt. On the weekends I’d go to my dad’s house, where he had a home studio for recording and practicing with the country band he had with my stepmom. Hearing them harmonize and work on Fleetwood Mac covers was my first inspiration to write my own songs.
I really connected with Lindsey Buckingham’s voice. I think I took some vocal styling from him back then that I still use today. Over the years, I’ve been drawn to singers and bands with androgynous voices — Nina Simone, Placebo, and bands who go to extremes musically, like Sunn O))) and Swans. I find some comfort in things that aren’t easy to define, maybe because I always felt like I was an in-between myself.
DP: In a feature for Under the Radar, you mentioned that in the past you haven’t given yourself enough credit for the work that you do. I feel like this is something that a lot of creatives, especially women, struggle with. What advice would you give to younger creatives who feel hesitant to celebrate their accomplishments in fear of coming off as prideful?
CW: I’m glad you’re bringing that feature up. I spent a lot of time doing a full interview about “sexism and misogyny in the music industry” and they only used that one line from it, of course. I do think there’s kind of an unspoken societal thing where we’re not supposed to talk about our accomplishments very much. I always felt like my work spoke for itself, and I wanted people to be able to relate to it in their own way, without everything being over-explained. But as I slowly gained more of an audience, someone’s gonna be offended by what you’re doing, and there was a person who tried to start a campaign against me, making false claims of what I was inspired by or what my music and videos meant. I didn’t fight back publicly because, well, I’d rather spend my time on music than Internet drama, but all my friends in real life and in the music industry who knew about this reached out to me with messages of love and support and reminders that they know I’ve always followed my own path and been true to myself. That was really heartening when I was bummed about being attacked like that. I learned that I need to take credit for my work more publicly, and be a little more outgoing with what I share about myself and my music.
My advice to younger female and nonbinary artists is this: take credit for your work, always and rigorously, otherwise some jerk might come along and try to take the credit for you, or they’ll say that a man wrote your songs for you. Fuck that. I think Grimes is a great example of someone who makes sure it’s known that her work, ideas, and production are her own. Follow her lead.
DP: Your music is often described as dark. What do you feel is the value of exploring the dark side of emotion and human experience?
CW: From a young age, I wanted to know both sides to every story. I used to have these recurring nightmares of macro and micro. I would be in a white room with an object in the middle, like a book or a telephone, and the object would grow really, really large and fill the room, smashing me against the wall, and then the object would grow small again, back and forth. It was maddening, but I think it kind of represents how I approach writing songs. I’m hyperaware of the macro, the world as a whole, and all the fucked-up things that are happening at the same time: bombings, rapes, suicides. That is all really dark stuff to write about, but it’s not like I’m making it up. At the same time, I’m also able to focus in on my own life or community and write a song that comes from there. It’s all a contrast of the hideousness of life and the beauty of life. My first album, The Grime and the Glow, was kind of the beginning of this exploration in contrasts.
DP: How did you get involved with GIRLSCHOOL?
CW: Through the Echo Society, which is a group of composers who put together this great night of original music with an orchestra and guest collaborators each year. They reached out to me to compose a piece, which I did with the help of my bandmate Ben Chisholm, since he’s a master of arranging string samples and percussive elements. Anna Bulbrook was running the Echo Society show in LA. On day one of the rehearsals, I was in the wrong place at the right time, and Anna was so kind as to relocate me to the place I was supposed to be.
On the drive there, we got to know each other a bit, and she told me about GIRLSCHOOL. I had heard of it before and was blown away to be talking with the person who started it. My drummer Jess Gowrie and I had just been talking about how inspiring it is to see women musicians onstage when you’re a young, aspiring female musician, and we were hoping that we could help do the same for the younger generation. So when Anna said there was a festival involved, I was like, “If you’d ever want my band to play, I’d be honored.”
DP: What makes organizations like GIRLSCHOOL so vital?
CW: They normalize the idea of an instrument in a young woman’s hands, or a woman being the leader of a band. And of course they encourage young people to explore music and the arts and gain confidence and self-acceptance through that. I know I grew up feeling the pressure to be society’s typical, subdued definition of “feminine,” even though I never felt that way inside, and my body type has never represented that either. It was difficult for me to assert myself as an artist when I was starting out. I’m here representing for the late bloomers. Nowadays I think a lot of younger folks are moving past all those antiquated gender restraints much quicker than I did, which is great to see.
“Sometimes it’s almost undetectable, like when you don’t even think about what a good match the music is to the film until much later, or you can’t get it out of your head after watching,” says musician Chelsea Wolfe about what makes a good movie score or soundtrack.
“I like when a film score trickles into the atmosphere of the scene,” she continues, “blending in with the droning sounds or pops and clicks of the space, and it takes a minute to realize that it’s even there. But then I also love when the music set to a scene is intentionally overwhelming or intense.”
Wolfe, whose fifth studio album “Abyss” was one of 2015’s best heavy albums, focused on her favorite movie scores for a recent episode of her monthly RBMA Radio show, “Hypnos Hour,” which airs every third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. EST. So we wanted to talk to her more about how film music has inspired her own creative vision and unique sound.
“I approach music cinematically, but without overthinking it,” Wolfe says. “Often when I’m writing a song I’ll close my eyes and just play guitar and sing, and I’m transported. There are shapes and images behind my eyes, and when I open them again I’m surprised to find the daylight still there, like coming out of a dark theater in the middle of the day.”
We also asked Wolfe to tell us about her favorite movie scores, which include work by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Coachella 2017 performer Hans Zimmer. Check out her picks below and be sure to listen to Wolfe’s RBMA Radio show each month for a deeper look into the music she loves.
1. “Romeo & Juliet” (Soundtrack: Various artists)
“I’m starting off with this one because it was also the soundtrack to my teenage years. The movie came out like a week before my 13th birthday and I had my birthday party at the theater to see it. I adored the movie and listened to the soundtrack nonstop for a long time — so many good songs on there! My favorites were Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’ and Garbage’s ’#1 Crush.’”
2. “There Will Be Blood” (Score: Jonny Greenwood)
“You can really feel Jonny Greenwood through this soundtrack. It couldn’t be more perfect for this movie. There’s nothing I can really say other than: If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it.”
3. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Score: Ernst Reijseger)
“I’m such a huge fan of Werner Herzog films and also the soundtracks. 'Encounters at the End of the World’ is another great one. Sometimes he’ll just hang on a scene and allow you to explore something visually while this perfect piece of music plays. And his voice itself is so comforting and pleasing to the ears that it becomes part of the soundtrack.”
4. “Interstellar” (Score: Hans Zimmer)
“The score Hans Zimmer created for 'Interstellar’ really made the movie. It’s so emotional and at times uncomfortable, and it pulls the story forward. I read that this project began in a very instinctual way, as the director only gave him one page of the script and asked him to write something based on that to begin with. It ended up being something really personal, which set the tone for this whole big science fiction movie. I love that kind of collaboration and trust. Also, much of it was recorded on a massive organ at a church in London, which is so cool.”
5. “The American Astronaut” (Soundtrack: The Billy Nayer Show)
“There’s a great scene in the bar bathroom when a friend of the main character sends two guys to sing a song and mess with him while he’s in the stall wondering what the hell is going on. That whole movie is pretty glorious and weird. The soundtrack is such a visceral part of it all.”
Chelsea Wolfe has announced European shows and festival appearances in April. Support from True Widow or Jacob Bannon’s (Converge) new band, Wear Your Wounds in select cities. A full list of dates below.
Tickets available HERE.
CHELSEA WOLFE EU APRIL 2017
Apr 15 - Whelans - Dublin, IE
Apr 16 - Saint Luke’s - Glasgow, UK △
Apr 17 - Gorilla - Manchester, UK △
Apr 18 - Heaven - London, UK △
Apr 19 - The Haunt - Brighton, UK △
Apr 21 - Roadburn Festival - Tilburg , NL
Apr 23 - Dudefest - Karlsruhe, DE
Apr 24 - Bogen F - Zurich, CH ▼
Apr 26 - Futurum - Prague, CZ ▼
Apr 27 - Berghain - Berlin, DE ▼
Apr 29 - Smoke The Fuzz Fest @ Piraeus 117 Academy - Athens, GR
△ with True Widow
▼ with Wear Your Wounds
Chelsea Wolfe’s “Survive” is featured in the trailer for Oscar-award winning director Ben Affleck’s “Live By Night,” who also plays the starring role. The film will be in theaters on January 13, 2017 and also stars Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Cooper.
From her modest roots in Northern California, songwriter and vocalist Chelsea Wolfe has emerged as one of the most intriguing musicians in the post-label digital music era. After laboring in an office job and learning her craft in art houses she came to public attention with the album Apokalypsis roughly five years ago. With each new release her public profile has grown. At the same time, Wolfe continues to stretch both creative and musical boundaries. Her music – crafted from stories that Wolfe finds via voracious reading – contains elements of electronica, metal, folk and industrial. While it touches many different genres her music is instantly identifiable and completely her own. Wolfe recently released Abyss and is in the midst of a touring circuit to promote the album. She talked to us about her voice, what beauty means to her and isolation.
NERO: We’re conducting this interview via an e-mail. You’ve done interviews on camera before—albeit not frequently – but do you find this method of communicating easier?
CHELSEA WOLFE: Honestly, it depends on the interviewer. Some are really good at pulling things out of you, but some expect you to provide them with a bunch of stories and rhetoric out of nowhere - basically they want you to do their job for them. Those are always the worst interviews because I’m not naturally a great public speaker, but I’ll definitely sit down and have a good conversation with someone if they’re willing and have interesting questions.
NJ: Did you enjoy your childhood in the Sacramento area, or did you always want to get away? Do you visit home often?
CW: My childhood there consists of different eras, really. The era I remember most was living in an area of town called Old Roseville with my grandmother in this big, old house covered in ivy vines, with a murky pool in the backyard like a pond. It was next to a railroad museum, across from the train tracks. I loved the sound of the trains; that constant forward-motion. We’d build our own model trains and towns out of small boxes and paint. My grandmother taught me about aromatherapy and would practice reiki on me - she taught me about energies and different realms. My mom was always an artistic person as well, and then at my dad’s house there was always music and movies. I wanted to get away when I was younger, but also always enjoy going back to Northern California. It’s truly my home.
NJ: What music grabbed you when you were a child?
CW: The first voice I remember falling in love with was Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac. My dad’s country band would cover Fleetwood Mac songs from time to time and I got into them. When I was a bit older I heard Lauryn Hill on the radio with the Fugees and was so into her voice. I loved Aaliyah, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath.
NJ: When you took your hiatus from writing music in your early 20s what were you doing? Was it difficult to walk away from music?
CW: I was just a bit lost at the time, working in an office building, trying to figure out what to do with myself. I’d made an album in 2006 that I wasn’t happy with. It felt over-produced, overly lyrical and overly personal. I knew I wanted to keep making music but also knew that that album wasn’t quite right, so that’s when I stepped back from music for a minute.
I eventually started writing again, recording songs in my bedroom. Around that time I was hanging out a lot with my good friend Steve Vanoni (a great painter and performance artist) at his art compound HorseCow. He invited me to come along on a performance art tour he was doing in Europe, to be the resident musician. So I quit the office job and went on this tour, playing a few songs at the end of each night. That was the way I found my voice again: hearing it in different situations and spaces, and learning from the freedom of the performance artists I was with.
NJ: One of the striking things about your music is how you maintain this wonderful balance between beauty (often embodied by your voice) with something dissonant and discordant. Do you think of beauty as an ideal or something that can only exist in opposition to other things? Do you think this dynamic was especially present on Abyss?
CW: I’ve always had some kind of affinity towards contrasts, macro vs. micro, since I was a kid. I even had recurring nightmares that reflected it. I can’t only imagine one side; I see the physical and the spiritual, the beautiful and the ugly. I acknowledge that for every lovely thing in the world there is something just as dreadful happening at the same time. I’m not trying to be grim, just realistic. I create music as escapism at times, but more often than not it’s just an expression of reality.
NJ: When you aren’t working on music or on the road do you enjoy time alone or isolation? What does being alone mean for you and what do you do?
CW: I move in extremes. Tour is so full of people, places, experiences, that when I get home I need the opposite - I need a quiet place to process it all and write. I’m one of those people that get really affected by other people’s energy. Honestly, I can be a bit of a wild animal when someone fucks with me - I don’t take it well, but I also don’t want to be known as someone not able to control my rage, so instead I withdraw. I moved out of Los Angeles into the mountains when I started writing my last album Abyss, and I plan to move further out soon.
NJ: When do your best musical ideas come to you? Is there a place or a routine involved? Or do they just come in their own time?
CW: They come along when they want, usually unexpected. In the past I used to stress over the dry months, when I wasn’t feeling inspired and wasn’t writing much - I’d think that I’d never write again. But now I see the pattern, and I know that the next wave is coming in its own time. Sometimes I’ll have writing sessions though, like I’ll set up a makeshift studio in a new space and see what comes. I did that for Abyss out at my manager’s big, empty barn. It was a great place to write.
NJ: How would you describe your voice to a stranger?
CW: When I was younger I thought you had to have a really technically amazing voice or musical skills to be a professional musician. It held me back for a long time. Then I realized that a lot of the artists I was into weren’t professionally trained, or maybe weren’t the “best” singers, but there was something about their voice and songwriting that people were drawn to – like Neil Young. So I thought, well, my voice is weird, but maybe some people will find something in it they like. My favorite art has always been folk art, outsider art. And that’s where I stand as well.
N: I’m wondering if there is a particularly fertile ground you mine for material for songs– do you read certain things or watch certain programs or do you just take in things as you see or hear about them?
CW: I write tributes to people, really. I had read some stuff by this poet Xu Lizhi who worked at that massive Foxconn factory in China - he killed himself because he felt so trapped there. His words and his story really moved me so I tried to imagine what his surroundings were like, the suffocating walls and assembly lines. Then I imagined that when he died his spirit was dancing around the factory, and then leaving, finally free. That became “Iron Moon.” And I wrote a song about the tsunami that happened in Japan a few years ago after watching a documentary about it with a lot of home video footage.
NJ: You’ve talked about your stage fright in the past but also mentioned that you are largely over it. What was the process like to overcome it, or was it just a case of getting accustomed to it after playing live?
CW: I’m over it in the way that I realized at a point that if I want to take this shit seriously and continue on as a musician, and if I wanted to really make a connection with people, I needed to get over my shyness and put myself out there, even when it was uncomfortable. I’m not naturally someone who wants to be the center of attention, but I’m also a tall freak who makes dramatic music so those things will always be at odds with each other.
At first I tried to disappear, wearing head to toe black, even covering my face with a veil in the style of Victorian widows in mourning - I felt it was a barrier between the audience and I, and it helped me through my earlier shows. When Apokalypsis came out, it was time to move forward from that. One of the meanings of that Greek word is “lifting of the veil,” so it was also symbolic. I played a show in New York at St. Vitus and removed the veil onstage, mid-set. Now I just try to dress in a way that makes me feel confident and I approach getting ready for a show as a sort of ritual. You have to pull yourself together in order to fall apart onstage. I always try to lose myself into the songs - that’s the best way to forget you’re in front of an audience while still giving them, and yourself, a genuine experience.
NJ: From the beginning of your career – I’m thinking of the cover of Apokalypsis – you’ve had a very distinct style and way of presenting yourself. How did you discover that or did the music in some ways dictate it?
CW: I mean, the music dictates it yes, as you’re trying to tell a story that relates the images to the music. I’ve also just experimented a lot over the years with my photographer friends. I was a sort of test dummy for my friend Kristin Cofer as we were both learning and growing as artists. I like working with friends as I can open up more and feel like I can be myself. The cover of Apokalypsis was a self-portrait that I sent to my friend Christopher Orr of the band Screature to paint on. He whited out my eyes, which represented the moment of epiphany or realization - that’s what that album was about.
For Abyss, artist Henrik Uldaalen reached out to me a year before, offering to do artwork for me if I ever needed. When it came time to choose something for the album my manager reminded me of his work and it was just so perfect, as most of the subjects he paints are floating in white space or some kind of darkness.
NJ: When you leave home and go on tour what are some things outside of the obvious like instruments that you always pack?
CW: I’ll bring a book – for this tour I have a book called The Soul of an Octopus (by Sy Montgomery). And I’ll bring a few pieces of jewelry and handmade clothes that are like talismans; good luck charms to help me feel confident for the shows. I had most of my stuff stolen on my last US tour, in Portland, so I had to start over a bit. Now I’m more minimal with what I bring along. People who steal personal things like that are the worst. My Dad was working construction for a few years when I was a kid and once his van got broken into and all his tools stolen. I remember thinking, they didn’t just steal material things, they stole his livelihood; they stole the way he can find work and provide for his family. That’s much worse that stealing from a big corporate store.
photo by Nick Fancher
Chelsea Wolfe has been winning high praise for her music since her label debut album The Grime And The Glow blended surreal goth imagery and shoe-gazing textures with angular, experimental guitar work. Her follow-up album, the stunning Apokalypsis showed that Wolfe was no one-trick pony, and since then each of her 3 further albums have developed in style and vision. Her most recent album, Abyss, is a staggering piece of art that cements the artist as a legend on the underground music scene.
Ahead of her performance at this week’s FYF festival in Los Angeles, CA, ARTISTdirect caught up with Chelsea to discuss the artists world view, her most recent project, and the half-written songs just waiting to be a next album.
Where in the world are you right now?
Prague. I fall in love with this city more and more each time. Just ended a short European tour, played a few festivals. Here’s a picture I took from my hotel window early this morning when I couldn’t sleep, and here’s a picture I took yesterday of a gravestone angel at the Vyšehrad cemetery, final resting place of Alphonse Mucha.
photo by Kristen Cofer
Tell us about your new project: Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? What’s it about? Is there candy?
CW: My latest full length album is called Abyss and I released it about a year ago. I wrote it with my bandmate Ben Chisholm and then we brought in Ezra Buchla (viola), Mike Sullivan (of Russian Circles, guitar) and Dylan Fujioka (drums) to add layers and new feelings to the songs. I spent a month in Dallas recording it with John Congleton at his studio there.
It’s about the mind as a deep abyss - dropping into your own dreams and memories, sleep paralysis, and pushing forward while someone or something tries to drag you backwards, down into a dark well. The album cover was painted by artist Henrik Uldaalen and it represents my experiences with sleep paralysis. There are THC chocolates in the candy dish over there.
How do you describe your music to new friends?
It depends on what incarnation of my band I’m touring with. Sometimes I’ll say rock n roll, sometimes folk or acoustic, sometimes experimental. “What kind of music do you play?” is most often asked by a TSA agent at airport security as they x-ray my guitar. They’ll ask, “Are you going to play a tune for us?”
Other than Chelsea Wolfe, what should your hometown be known for?
CW: Sacramento is well-known for many weird, dark, interesting bands like Deftones, The Cramps, Death Grips, Trash Talk. My favorite band is Screature and Sacramento should definitely be known for them.
Please look around you right now and please describe the first item or person you see that’s significant to you (and that your relationship with it/them).
My Starcaster on the hotel bed… It’s a hollow body Fender guitar that I was magnetically drawn to when I first saw it.
What first inspired you to pursue music? If it was a musician or a specific piece of music, please tell us all about why you find it so inspirational…
It was a combination of sounds and situation and realizing that I could put the emotions they caused into words. I started writing poems at a young age, 6 or 7, and started setting them to music by age 9.
My father had a band and a home studio. He taught me how to make beats on a Casio keyboard and record my voice and from then on I never stopped. The sounds became words and the words became songs.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you about pursuing a life in music?
After age 30, don’t drink cheap alcohol. More importantly, when you’re on stage, own the stage. Don’t hold back for anyone else’s sake. Josh Homme told me that.
What song best sums up your life right now?
What is the best reaction to your music you have experienced so far?
In Moscow a girl was yelling, “your soul is my soul” throughout the show - kind of intense, but I thought it was very poetic and genuine.
Take a moment to dream - Where do hope to be a year from now?
Working on a new album, feeling free and in the throes of it.
What’s your next step towards that dream?
Taking some time off from touring to clear my head and finish half-written songs.