Interview by Tony CannellaOn October 11th, the legendary Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation wrapped up their wildly successful North American tour in Worcester, Mass. It was my first time seeing WT live and although I had seen the DVDs I had no idea what was in store for me. To put it simply, the band blew the doors off the Worcester Palladium. Prior to Within Temptation taking the stage that night, I had the huge honor of interviewing front woman Sharon den Adel. With “Hydra” being their most successful album worldwide and a new DVD on the horizon, there was much to talk about. Here is what she had to say… This is the last date of the U.S. tour. How has it gone?
We’ve had a great time. We’ve always had a great response from the audience. Most shows were sold out or almost sold out, so we are really feeling good about this tour and really happy that we did it again and that we came back. It was a warm welcome.Your latest album “Hydra” has been out for a few months. How has the reaction been from the fans and media?
Very good, I must say. Especially the metal audience really liked it a lot and also the press really liked it a lot actually.“Hydra” is a very diverse record. You have a few guests on the album, the most surprising of which is the rapper Xzibit on the track “And We Run”. How did you get the idea to do that?
Well, the thing was that we had the idea that we could maybe combine our music with rap because we had the example of course with Aerosmith and Run DMC, of course there have been many bands that did it as well but as an example they were the first, and I think it was groundbreaking at the time. And also we never thought that we could mix this type of music with our kind of music because we’re not like Aerosmith, we have a different sound, we’re very European sounding of course with the orchestrals and stuff, we just sound differently. To make that combination with our kind of music – which doesn’t have any blues, but really sounding very European – with rap, is something that we were thinking “is that possible even?” and people were saying that “you shouldn’t do that because you’re crazy if you’re going to do that, because people are going to hate you because it’s so different, and people aren’t going to understand it.” And we said, “Well, that’s interesting, let’s do it!” (laughs)And now we go to the other end of the musical spectrum with Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum on the song “Whole World is Watching”. How did that collaboration come about?
The thing is, that typically is not a Within Temptation song, and it is a very singer/songwriter kind of song. It reminded us somehow of Soul Asylum and we felt like if we’re going to put it on the album he needs to sing it. It was a very difficult quest to find him and after four months we did, it was a long time because it was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. We really doubted if we should put it on the album; we liked it, but it was so different and it felt like it only makes sense if he sings it. We found Piotr (Rogucki) in the meantime from Poland, who also did an amazing job on this song, but we still wanted to have Dave Pirner also because that was who we had in mind. Both did a great job and we put both on the album.What are the lyrics to “Whole World is Watching” about?
It’s about learning from setbacks and recovering from it and getting to a better place. We actually felt that this was totally a song for people who are in sports. You know like, you have a certain goal, you wanted to go to the Olympics but you had some injury or something and you couldn’t get there, and you know a lot of people are supporting you and everybody’s living with you to that moment that you really do go to the Olympics or you do go to this special thing that you’ve been working hard for, it doesn’t have to be the Olympics, it can be anything, but you feel that so many people know your story and you feel like, “wow!” You really, really want this person to be happy because he deserves it after all the things he went through or she went through.Tarja Turunen also performs a duet with you on the track “Paradise (What About Us?)”. How did that come about?
I had written a song, but actually wanted to throw it in the waste bin because it was first a ballad kind of thing and we couldn’t make it up-tempo; in the beginning it felt too poppy. I thought this is not going to work, Robert said, “No, I believe in this song”, than he wrote this riff on it and I thought, this is really cool actually, then we made it more up-tempo then it became, okay, this is really epic, it became one of the best epic songs we’ve ever written, so we liked it and everyone said, “You know what? What if we ask Tarja to sing on this one?” Let’s ask her! We’ve never met before, so we didn’t know what to expect, we know the band of course that she was in, Nightwish, we knew her from that, but we never met really, not for a good conversation, we didn’t know what kind of person she was and she turned out to be a really nice person.
And lyrically what is “Paradise” about?
The thing is everybody has a different idea about what paradise is. For me, it can be paradise just to have a relaxed morning, my cup of coffee, a piece of chocolate and a book and read it for a few hours, have peace of mind, you know. Other people can be like, “I really want to go on this holiday”. Maybe just what you want in life. Some people are just happy with a 9-5 job and some people are really ambitious and want to have a creative job or financial job, they have certain ambitions. That’s paradise. But people are always judging each other and everybody has so many opinions. Everybody has their own paradise and we shouldn’t judge that much, but just be happy with what we have, it might not be much but, you know, it’s what we fight for because it’s our way of paradise.Where does the title “Hydra” come from?
Well, it has two meanings actually, both are metaphorical. A hydra in Greek mythology, like if you cut one head off a serpent, two grow back on. The thing is, it stands for us musically, because every time people say, “What are they gonna do next? They can’t do better than this album or they can’t do anything new again because they did already so many different things”. And we come up with something new again. It’s not because we want to, but it’s just how progress goes sometimes. The thing with Xzibit is like a new head on the hydra. It’s not that we want to be different every time, that’s what comes out in being creative.And the band has definitely evolved over the years.
Yeah, that’s what we’re always hoping for. Another thing that lyrically it means for us, face your fears and embrace your demons, that’s sort of what hydra is. We’ve come to terms with certain subjects that we have written about throughout the years, but this time from a more positive perspective. The beauty of certain things is that it is contemporary, but also on the other hand that’s why you have to enjoy it now.You also have a new DVD coming out in November, I think, right?
Yeah, November/December, I think.What can you tell us about that?
It’s called “Let Us Burn” and it has two recordings on it. It was actually going to be the “Hydra” DVD from Amsterdam we recorded, it’s just a club show, it’s very nice but it’s just a club show. Then we had a special extra, we had “Elements” which was a 15-year anniversary arena show with an orchestra and choirs. The thing was that we felt really bad that we had this really spectacular material we didn’t use because there were only a few “Elements” songs on it, so we thought we have to do both, it deserves to get more attention. So we threw everything away. We had the “Hydra” already and we loved it, but now we wanted to have “Elements” that was just an equal part, so we made a double DVD with a CD.What are Within Temptation’s plans following the final date of this North American tour?
Well, we go to Japan next week; this is our last show here. Then we have several things going on next year in Europe and also The Netherlands, we have a theater tour for almost two months. And then we have festivals and sometime next year maybe we’ll come back to America and do the southern states.I have one final question. Do you have any messages for the fans to wrap this up?
We’ve been on the road for a long, long time, like it was a few years back that we were celebrating our 15th anniversary as Within Temptation, but we’ve been on the road longer than that actually, also almost with the same people in the band. We really appreciate it that people still turn up to our shows and are so loyal. We wouldn’t be here without them so we’re thankful that they show up every time.
Sharon Den Adel’s photo by Paul Harries
Within Temptation’s photo by Patrick Ullaeus