With the recent release of ‘Apokalypsis’ on Pendu Sound, Chelsea Wolfe is gaining much deserved recognition for her grande, jolting ghostly vocals and distorted ethereal sounds. She talks to us about the process of creating ‘Apokalypsis’, the on location shoot and concept behind the video for ‘Mer’ and her love for Lars Von Trier and Ingmar Bergman films
How much input did you have into the visual aspect of the video for ‘Mer’ it’s beautiful, where are the locations the shoot takes place on? The director, Zev Deans, he had control over the visuals of the video.. I gave him a small idea to go with, the scene in The Little Mermaid when we see the creatures stuck to the sea-floor in Ursela’s cave.. a sort of terrifying fate. So it had some elements of the deep sea, and teeth and snakes and monolithic rocks on the ocean. We had some troubles shooting in LA without a permit, of course, so one of the girls in the video, my friend Angel, took us to some beach caves she knew of in a more secluded area. We had to crawl through some narrow halls of rocks and be out of the cove before high tide came. Zev brought in elements of 60’s and 70’s cult horror films, with the group of nun-like women dancing around me. It was also a sort of visual tribute to the end of The Seventh Seal, when the characters dance across the hill hand-in-hand.
I’m sure as you created the material yourself, you’ll disagree but when I first heard some of your tracks it sounds like what a fashion designer/artist Aoi Kotsuhiroi’s work looks like. Do you think it’s important to have a prominent connection between sound and visual aesthetic? I had to look up the name, but I recognize some of the (Aoi Kotsuhiroi’s) work, I mean, I’ve seen it online before. Really rad, the twisted shapes and sort of primal feel. It’s sometimes hard to fully interpret things in a visual way, mainly because of budget constraints and working with different people and different ideas. I definitely have an affinity for connecting music and fashion. And I feel a strong affinity for Maison Martin Margiela especially.
There’s definitely a grand, epic, ethereal tone in your work, are you into a lot of classic cinema, theatre and novels? I don’t know if they would be defined as classic, but I love a lot of D.H. Lawrence books, Celine, and Atlas Shrugged inspired me a lot for my most recent album. I do love movies as well – Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier, John Waters.
‘The Grime and the Glow’ was released in 2010 and ‘Apokalypsis’ this past august, what’s the longest you have gone without working on music, is it a constant flow of ideas? Music for me is a non-linear path, but a constant flow. I’m never not working on something, even if the process is slow at times. Sometimes I can record five songs in one night, and sometimes I’ll write one song over a period of weeks, sort of letting it run around in my head for a while until I understand it.
Do you find it hard to realize exactly what you had in your head, or do you like to let things evolve as creation continues? I think things evolve as they are happening, in a good way. The way things are in my mind, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t sound so good in the real world. Songs from the subconscious are always my favorite lyrically, and then other songs I’ll spend time listening to over and over to see what they need musically. I like secret sounds, that I may not notice on the first listen, or maybe it’s my favorite part of a song and it only happens once.
How many people do you usually perform with onstage live? There are four of us. Kevin Dockter plays guitar, he creates wild sounds and he builds his own pedals. Dylan Fujioka plays drums, he is a powerful force in this band. Ben Chisholm holds the high and low notes, playing the Juno and bass. Ben is a wizard. I sing and play guitar.
With the release of ‘Apokalypsis’, are you happy with the final piece and how long has it taken you to get here and how many people roughly have contributed? The album was fully conceived and recorded over a year before it was actually released. That’s something a lot of musicians have to deal with, and it can be frustrating in different ways, but of course I’m just happy it got a proper release in the end and it’s available for people to hear. My live band incarnation at the time recorded on it with me. Kevin and Ben, and also friends Drew Walker on drums and Addison Quarles on bass. The five of us recorded most of the songs over a week in the studio and then added on a few more songs later to complete a full length. Of course this album means a lot to me, thematically.
Personally as an individual do you like to listen to music, which has a constant running theme and tone, or do you like a collective of different sounds and lyrics on an album? O, it depends I suppose. I don’t listen to a lot of music.. I really liked the album Wardruna made, and this album is very consistent in feel I think, but still a good variation throughout.. It depends, for my own music, I jump around from folk songs to electronic to rock n roll, so I have a hard time making an album that is just one kind of song. Apokalypsis was built around themes and concepts so I wanted to keep it at a certain mood, but my next album is going to be more open in that way.
When do you think you will next be touring the UK or have you already this past summer? We should be over this spring.
Von Von Lamunu