Interview by Miriam C. and Michelle Henriquez
Californian singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe during her career was able, album by album, to spellbound her audiences and gain critical acclaim among the specialized press. On occasion for her sixth full-length “Hiss Spun” released by Sargent House last year and her upcoming American tour in September, we got the chance to speak with Chelsea herself about the general thematics of the lyrics and her overall musical evolution.
Hello Chelsea, welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine. So, your sixth album “Hiss Spun” was released back in June 2017, what you can recall about its comprehensive production?
The catalyst for this album was the reunion of my friend and drummer Jess Gowrie and I. We used to have a rock band together and when I left to pursue this project, we didn’t speak for 7 years. When we reunited as friends again 2 years and a half ago, it was clear our musical chemistry was not finished either, and we started writing songs together that eventually became “Hiss Spun”.
In the “Hiss Spun” press release, you candidly state that this album helped you out facing “the tumult of the outside world by exploring the complexities of one’s inner unrest”. In which way and in this particular case, how music helped you heal?
Last year, I moved back to Northern California near where I grew up, after 8 years living in Los Angeles. I was spending more time with family and old friends, hanging out in old haunts, and I had to face a lot of memories and things from my past I’d been avoiding for a long time. Naturally, I started putting a lot of that into new songs. I felt there was much that I was expressing that many people could relate to (especially women), and so I did so in my own way.
How Henry Miller’s writing influenced you during the whole album process?
It wasn’t really an inspiration at first – I actually discovered that quote after I finished and felt connected to it, like “Yes, he understands!” so I sent it to Brian Cook who was writing my album bio and he included it.
I think that “Hiss Spun” got more upbeat and heavier, in my opinion, if compared to the previous albums: you aren’t new for breaking the musical boundaries and I think nobody has ever used the term “doom rock” for describing an album but it’s the more suitable one. Personally speaking which are the differences that you can find between “Hiss Spun” and your previous album “Abyss”?
For me, this album is much more inspired by the late 90’s/early 2000’s rock and trip-hop that was important for my musical development back in my early 20’s like Deftones, Soundgarden, NIN, Tricky but I’m always inspired by bands like Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Swans, Sunn O))) so even my rock album has some doom in it as well I think. “Hiss Spun” is much more of a band album than “Abyss” was because many of the songs grew out of jams that Ben, Jess and I had.
Recently the Danish post-black metal singer-songwriter Myrkur published her new album “Mareridt” (review here) which it sees you as guest-star in the song “Funeral”. What are your feelings about this experience? Considering the different musical background, how you did manage to approach Myrkur’s music?
Myrkur reached out to me about collaborating and I was intrigued so I said yes. I was in the midst of working on my own album so I wasn’t sure I had much to offer, but fortunately, she had a lot of great ideas and songs to work with already so I added some guitar and vocal parts to them. I think she’s a really talented person.
“Vex”and “Offering” were premiered respectively onto YouTube, what insight you can share about these songs?
“Vex” (listen here) has some feeling of exasperation, like when someone won’t leave you alone and you’re just trying to live your life, it’s like “fuck off!” I used the analogy of deep sea creatures who feed on the shit of the fish/whales/sharks that swim above them to describe this person. But I was also into the fact that there is a mysterious low hum in the deep sea every day when all these creatures come to feed. I love those beautiful and strange parts of nature. “Offering” (listen here) is also inspired by nature in a way as it’s about the Salton Sea, even if that sea is actually kind of a man-made creation. It was a resort spot that eventually was abandoned as the sea grew too salty and the fish started to die, creating a rotten stench. I’ve been there and it’s all-encompassing, but the sea is still very beautiful. I thought about the Salton Sea like a character of a woman – the world wanted too much from her and she couldn’t give it to them so she turned into something dark.
Looking out to the cover art, it seems that, besides music, art is your natural dimension too. I was curious to learn: how “Hiss Spun” cover was conceived?
I had been talking back and forth with graphic artist John Crawford and I had told him I wanted something to represent this feeling of messiness, but finding strength through accepting the mess of yourself. He mentioned that he noticed I’d used hair a lot in my artwork before, and we settled on that as a perfect representation of this freeing mess. So, working with artist/photographer Bill Crisafi, we spelled words out in hair, and Ashley Rose made me a dress out of hair. I knew Bill had a small attic space and I asked if he’d be willing to paint it all white to represent a sort of clinical feeling. I wanted the contrast of the dark hair with the empty space. Some of that inspiration came from when I was a child and was taken to a sleep center because of my extreme insomnia and night terrors. I was put into a small white room and had to try to fall asleep in a hospital bed with sensors hooked all over my head and chest to monitor and figure out what was wrong with me.
So, Chelsea, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again and lots of love!
Thank you so much for talking with me and for reading! Much love to you.
Photos by Bill Crisafi
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