Chelsea Wolfe has been called a lot of things from “goth-folk,” “doom-folk” and “drone-pop,” yet she although she has been known to embrace the dark side, she refuses to be typecast as a modern day Siouxsie Sioux. After composing her first two albums on her mother’s classical guitar resulting in brooding cinema score flared compositions, Wolfe has taken a new step with her new fourth album Pain is Beauty (due 9/3). By incorporating a more electronic direction while still maintaining an essence of the surreal and otherworldly, Wolfe has moved beyond the dark ambient to lush textures to something that will appeal to Portishead fans without alienating her folk side.
As an artist who once performed with a black veil over her face due to severe stage fright, Wolfe has now done quite a few tours and is now gearing up for a lengthy U.S.run in support of Pain is Beauty. Last week we had a chance to chat with Wolfe via email…
Pain is Beauty is said to be a love letter to nature and reexamining the truth of the past and present. What inspired you to dive into this realm, while musically going in a more electronic direction? I imagine you get a lot of inspiration from painting, film and photography. How does the visual translate to the musical for you?
Music is something visual for me. I imagine music in shapes and colors, especially when I’m in the mixing process, bringing all the recorded elements together in a certain way, like a painting. I love film and would say it’s one of my biggest inspirations. If I’m ever feeling uninspired I go to the movies. Albums come together for me through concept, theme and mood. I’ll start writing songs that live in the same family of ideas, so then it doesn’t matter if they’re electronic, rock, acoustic, it’s ok for them to be different in sound or genre
You once referred to yourself as a musical outcast. Do you see Pain is Beauty as anyway allowing Chelsea Wolfe to become less of an outcast and something less “underground?”
I don’t know, I don’t think about things that way. My idea of “making it” as a musician is probably very different than most people. I want to always be able to make music, and to be able to create community. I am grateful to have any opportunity to do that, at any size.
You released an acoustic album prior called Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs. Did you take anything musically from that experience in terms of consciously trying to make a collection of songs less murky? What songs on do you feel best exemplify this?
A lot of those songs were old, some were new. I brought them together on Unknown Rooms and yes, maybe it was good for me to do something with less effects on my vocals, using my voice as a voice and not just an instrument which I sometimes do. I also played with different voices on this new album, trying something in a whisper range then something louder, almost out of breath.
Pain is Beauty definitely is a haunting title for this album. How did you decide on going with that as the title?
I like titles that sum things up and for me “pain is beauty” took all the elemental themes on the album and tied them together.
Can you share what your collaborators Ben Chisholm , Kevin Dockter, and Dylan Fujioka bring to your songs and with helping to build the complete picture?
They’ve been with me for a while now and we’ve built a live sound together. Ben is my main collaborator and co-producer. In the past I always wrote alone but on many of the songs on Pain is Beauty we worked together. I love the strange sounds Kevin comes up with and the energy Dylan brings on the drums.
You have an extensive tour coming up- How has touring and performing most changed for you in recent years? Now that you’ve been done a couple go-arounds, some things must come a little easier right?
I’ve done two U.S .tours now.. one with Russian Circles which was sort of me just beginning to understand what touring even is, then our first headlining tour in January for the acoustic album. That was a new challenge because it was stripped-down to me and an acoustic guitar, minimal synth and violin. But I really loved that tour and found it helped me to really connect to the audience in a new way. Every tour is a challenge in its own way and has beautiful moments and rough moments.
Who have you been listening to a lot lately and is there anyone that you recently discovered that you wish you had heard earlier in your musical career to perhaps give your earlier years a different start of fee?
I wish I had gone to shows when I was younger because it would have been easier to understand what a live show is like rather than just finding out for myself by being onstage. I was introduced to Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin when I was a kid and those were some good musical intros I think. Lately I have been listening to Screature, True Widow, Wardruna and Queens of the Stone Age.
Chelsea Wolfe — 2013 Tour Dates
9/03 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
9/04 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
9/06 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk
9/07 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
9/08 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
9/09 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
9/10 – Chapel Hill @ Local 506
9/11 – Washington DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
9/13 – NYC, New York @ Bowery Ballroom
9/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
9/15 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
9/17 – Toronto, ONT @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
9/19 – Pontiac, MI @ The Pike Room at Crofoot Ballroom
9/20 – Lexington, KY @ Boomslang Festival
9/21 – Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
9/22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
9/24 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/25 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
9/27 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9/28 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
9/30 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall