What to do, then, with all this bleakness constantly lurking in the outskirts of our collective unconscious?
A true mystic can take even the darkest of human plotlines and shine the impenetrable light of our higher spiritual destiny on them, illuminating the hidden beauty in the seemingly most hopeless of scenarios. Which is where an artist like Chelsea Wolfe excels. She manages to take the unrelenting horror of her apocalyptic dreams and effectively channels it towards transcendent catharsis. I caught up with the enchanting Miss Wolfe recently by e-mail to chat about how exactly she pulls this off so effectively as well as her admiration of Ayn Rand, amongst other things. Read on, true believers.
You’ve been largely inspired by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged which I find kind of fascinating. That work has recently been closely associated with the Tea Party’s slash-social-program insanity despite the fact that Rand herself was decidedly anti-Ronald Reagan (and Jesus for that matter). I’ve personally never read any of her works except maybe some excerpts in a philosophy class in college so you’ll have to help me out. What would you say it is about her writing that inspires darkly beautiful music in you and selfish asshole psychosis in others?
I think politicians have taken her theories of objectivism and twisted them for their own interest or benefit, just like they do with anything. I am not one of those people who typically looks into the author or painter; I just know what I like and enjoy the book or the painting. Sometimes you learn more about the artist and fall in love, like John Waters, for example. But with people like Ayn Rand or Burzum, I appreciate their work separate from what they may stand for. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, to me, have a grand vision and idealism that I relate to. She really predicted what society and the workplace would become as well. We exist in a world where extraordinary people are oppressed by systems or a shitty boss with a power trip. The worker-drones are afraid to speak up or do something special for fear that they’ll be called out or fired. Even the sound-ray weapon, Project X, I think there is something like this in existence now.
MORE INFO ABOUT AYN RAND AND OBJECTIVISM >
I’ve made what most people consider fairly dark music, writing, art, etc. for years and as I’ve gotten older and more mentally stable/less of an alcoholic mess, I’ve consciously tried to veer into more uplifting territory. No matter what I try though, it always comes out on the slightly menacing side which perplexed me a bit. On that note, you put forth a fairly black magicky witchcraft kind of vibe with what you do in both look and sound. Where do you think this darkness stems from, if you could put your finger on it?
I wouldn’t consider it black magic or witchcraft, although there is an aesthetic there I can appreciate — that sort of ’60s and ’70s horror movie vibe, I love that. The long white dresses and veils and black flowers; I’m into it. But I’m also into a myriad of other things, from minimalism to flamboyancy, hence my affinities for Maison Martin Margiela and John Waters, respectively. My main inspiration and content source for my music though is the state of the world, on a micro and macro level. If we really open our eyes, we’ll notice poverty cycles, human trafficking, boredom, anger, forgotten humans, animals slaughtered inhumanely in droves, genetically modified monster food, lack of education, nature being destroyed, lethargy, etc., all around us. I’m not saying that’s all there is to life, and that’s why I usually contrast the dark side with something light, whether it’s the vocal melody or a hopeful feeling to the song, but often there is no hope and that’s the frustration that drives many of my songs.
Chelsea Wolfe – “Movie Screen”
I’ve heard you have a lot of intense apocalyptic dreams which largely inspired your last album Apokalypsis. I never gave much thought to the topic until last year when I started receiving invoked transmissions that seemingly want me to think there’s going to be some kind of mass population reduction on our horizon. I’d never taken any of this stuff seriously, 2012 or any of it, until that started happening. I still don’t, but if something did go down, I guess it wouldn’t surprise me and I’d know it was for the greater long-term good. What have you been picking up on? Anything particularly weird or profound? Do you have any sense that, with your music and lyrics, you are preparing yourself for future tribulations? Or are they simply expressions of present situations?
I don’t personally believe that dreams are predictions, but I do know they can provide insight into something that’s already swirling around in your head. I’ve dreamt of nuclear warfare a lot since I was a child, and I’ve dreamt of all of humanity enslaved in rows of chains. I suppose either of those could come true but I’m not particularly stressed about it. Natural disasters and the effect that they have on populations really interests me, and it’s very sad. It’s something that’s inspiring some songs for my new album, especially the earthquake [and] tsunami in Japan. It’s crazy how in this modern age we can watch so much first-hand video footage of these events. It connects me to it in a more intimate way, so I can consider one singular person and how it must feel to lose a loved one to the wave.
You mention that the cover of Apokalypsis symbolically represents a moment of epiphany. Are there any transformative moments of epiphany, in your life as a creative individual, that you would be willing to share with us?
I have pretty bad memory problems, so I lose moments, and think of things on a gradual scale. I’m at a good point in my life and career where I am comfortable with my art and can look back to see the gradual growth that brought me here, but it’s hard for me to remember specific moments or epiphanies. I just know that I used to be almost unable to be onstage or show my music to people without running away. My favorite epiphanies, though, are when you read or watch something, like from Carl Sagan or Werner Herzog or Bill Hicks, and the way they phrase or present something makes so much sense to you, it’s like you’re suddenly filled with white light. It’s the whited-out eyes, it’s meant to represent the moment before the meteor hits. My favorite cinematic epiphany is the end of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia – perfect.
CHELSEA WOLFE INTERVIEW CONTINUED BELOW
Lars Von Trier – Melancholia Theatrical Trailer
You’re a fairly hermitic person by your own description. With that in mind, how did you get into the music business which usually involves a non-stop diet of constant social networking? How do you rectify these roles as a creator/marketer and has it been difficult for you to do things like general publicity functions and odd e-mail interviews with Occult authors (like this one)?
I grew up in a small town in Northern California where it’s easy to take your time, work and hone your sound, but eventually I knew I had to force myself to leave because I am not a very outgoing person and needed to be in a place where I would naturally be exposed to more people interested in art and music. But being an artist in the online era is hard to reconcile. Whenever I go on tour I always want to delete my online presence because I realize firsthand how too-personal it can become. I love my fans so I am happy to be able to connect with them online as well as in person, but sometimes people take liberties when they meet you in person and get really physical with you, wanting to touch you and kiss you, and it’s very sweet and most all of them are so lovely so I don’t mean to sound like a dick here, but that’s just when it gets weird for me because I am such a private person. As for publicity and interviews, being a musician is my job and I love my job so I do what I have to do to get the word out there, and I think it’s better in most cases to have a first-hand account from the artist rather than letting press assume things out of random information they find.
You have a song on your new disc called “Demons.” Do you ever feel any sort of possession encounter or feel like your spirit has been taken over by an outside force while performing or during the writing process? Or have you perhaps experienced any eerily synchronous events fall into place just a little too conveniently ?
Being a religious person during my formative years, that sort of Biblical King James language had permeated my way of thinking, language and the processing of my experiences. Along with memory problems I also struggle with some issues of paranoia, so like, when I’m singing about demons I’m not speaking of literal Biblical demons but actual people; that blurred line between the physical and spiritual, between real and unreal.
You are now working on a new record as well as an acoustic album. What draws you to making an acoustic album? Do you have any concerns regarding the stigmas that some singer-songwriters’ acoustic releases have?
I’m taking care to release the acoustic album as a collection of songs rather than my actual next album. I have so many unreleased acoustic or a cappella songs from over the years that have sort of circulated on YouTube or old compilations and I get a lot of requests for these recordings so upon hearing the idea of an acoustic album from my new label Sargent House, I decided to put together a collection of them. Some will be original recordings and some new songs and recordings too. But I’m most excited about my next full-length, which will most likely be released in early 2013.
After the last album, you’ve mentioned that your upcoming work may shine more light on your personal life. Are there any themes or musical directions you are looking forward to exploring at this point, or any details you might be able to share with us about the next record?
Yes, I think I’ve touched on a few things throughout this interview, including memory, sleep issues, as well as the senses – my experience with migraines and hyperosmia, love, and adoration of the natural world. In my opinion it’s a folk record, but it has elements of rock n’ roll and electronic sounds as well, which I can never fully get away from. Maybe when my hair turns gray someday I’ll make a true folk album.
Chelsea Wolfe – “Mer” Music Video
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANNA DOBOS