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Ethereal singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe is known for her haunting and ritualistic music, deeply personal lyrics and astounding live performances, which leave her audiences spellbound. We were curious about the day-to-day life of the queen of darkness and wondered if she ever needs to fight boredom
Questions sent by email by Brenda Bosma. Photos shot by Isolde Woudstra
‘Boredom is the root of all evil’
For this issue we’re interested in the boring and unsexy times of a touring/recording musician such as yourself. Would you care to tell about your dullest moments?
‘Well, I don’t mind going from one city to the next; one hotel, be it uninspiring, to the next. It becomes an interesting routine and I like meeting new people and getting accustomed to new surroundings every day. The one thing that can get dull is the long drives. Sometimes you’re driving through the Swiss Alps and it’s totally breathtaking and inspiring, but some days you’re driving through the hottest, emptiest wasteland and your mind starts to slip a little.’
Boredom always contains an awareness of being trapped; most of the time it is seen as a nuisance. Are there rituals or tricks you use to alter that state of mind – the mind being of course an excellent servant?
‘I don’t think I get bored so much as claustrophobic. I don’t usually feel bored, and when I do it feels like something is wrong. Boredom is the root of all evil. I try not to let myself get bored. On tour I like to watch movies until my laptop dies and then I’ll read books until my eyes hurt. I like to visit places that interest me, like the Margiela store in Belgium or Richard Serra pieces all around the world. It’s my goal to see as many as possible in person.’
Your music has a comforting, trance-like appeal to it. Do you consider making music a way to fight boredom?
‘I’ve always made music, since I was a child. For me, it’s not something I do when I’m bored, it’s just something I do… for my life, as an outlet. I’ve become more interested in physical things as I’ve gotten older. I like repetitive things like chopping wood. Recently I started boxing training. For me it’s meditative.’
Do you establish some sort of connection with your audience?
‘Being onstage and being a performer is not something that came easy for me. I never imagined myself to be someone who would be in front of others. But as I started releasing records I realised it was something I had to do, it was my job. At first I was very shy about it and would wear a veil, but over time I started to understand the importance of connecting with people and what it meant to my music. Now I am better about making eye contact and talking to people at the shows and hearing what the songs mean to them.’
Are there people you feel in turn inspired and comforted by?
‘There are usually records or artists that I stick to for a while. Wardruna, The Knife, Selda Bagcan, Queens of the Stone Age. Sometimes it’s just one song that I’ll listen to over and over. I don’t listen to music constantly, mostly when I’m driving or running.’
In the past you wore a veil onstage to cover your face – presumably for concentration and comfort reasons. The veil issue always comes up in interviews. Do you get bored with questions about that?
‘No, I get it. Honestly, it’s weird to imagine that I ever wore a veil.’
You seem to also have unveiled your voice a bit more. On the latest two albums it is more put in the open space, less unshaded. Was that trying something new?
‘It’s something I do back and forth. I think of the voice as another instrument and it’s fun to run that instrument through electricity, through pedals and amps and make it fucked-up or strange. But sometimes it works best when you can hear every curve of the human voice in full clarity.’
What’s the appeal of ‘Flatlands’ over more exciting hills? What are some of the thoughts you had when writing this song?
‘I’ve always been drawn to desolate, powerful landscapes. Something reflected in it that I understand about solitude and loneliness.’
Do you have any inspiring plans for today?
‘I’m getting a new tattoo and working on a new song!’
You can catch Chelsea Wolfe’s enchanting doom folk at Tivoli’s Spiegelbar in Utrecht on 13 May. She’ll be joined by Spilt Milk, who take their Funeral Blues procession to Utrecht three days after their EP Release Party at De Nieuwe Anita, Amsterdam.