I had the pleasure of attending your Roadburn shows the past years; first as a guest at Converge’s ‘Blood Moon’ set, then a year later with your own band, both on the main stage. Could you look back on those shows and tell me how your experienced them?
Doing the 'Blood Moon' project was really interesting, to step into another band’s world and reinterpret their songs with them. I was really nervous to be out of my element and playing alongside musicians I admire, but it was a really positive experience and I made friends with some great people because of it.
Somehow, Roadburn seems vital for your momentum here in Europe. Could you reflect on that?
Roadburn crew and audience have definitely been incredibly supportive of us, and helped us find community amongst other bands that don’t fit into one particular genre category, but are carving our own paths. I agree that the love from Roadburn has helped us overall in Europe, yes.
One thing that really stood out during this year’s show, was how great the drums sounded since you brought Jess Gowrie into the band. She’s stunning! I read in several interviews that you reconnected with here after quite a few years. Was this what ultimately led to the decision to bring her into the band, or was it the other way around?
Jess Gowrie and I had a rock band in Sacramento around ten or so years ago. She showed me a lot of great heavy music, and also helped me become a good front person. After seven years of separation, we reunited and soon after starting writing songs together again. I essentially started a side project to do that, but after we wrote a few songs, and had Troy and Ben as part of the project, it became clear that this should be the next Chelsea Wolfe record, so we could play the songs live and do more with them.
It seems that Ben Chisholm has been instrumental to your sound on the more recent albums. Could you explain what it is he brings into the band?
Ben co-produces a lot of the songs with me, and he wrote a lot of guitar parts for this album. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and over the years I’ve gotten comfortable with writing songs with him. We’ll go back and forth on stuff and we bounce off of each others’ ideas really easily. He’s also turned me on to a lot of great artists and he brings a different set of influences to the table for this music.
After ‘Pain Is Beauty’, and especially after the whole Game Of Thrones trailer thing, it seemed that the mainstream was slowly getting ready for you. Then you released ‘Abyss’, which is pretty damn harsh, and now it turns out that ‘Hiss Spun’ goes even beyond that in terms of sheer ferocity. How did that happen?
I’m just following my musical instincts.
How was ‘Hiss Spun’ recorded? Do you go into the studio with completed songs or are they developed in the studio?
Once I get in the studio, I’ve already done one-two years of writing, recording and editing on the songs. I do my best when I’m in my own space, with a sense of freedom to really be myself, but then once I’m in the studio, I am more utilitarian and I try to stay on top of every little sound so nothing gets left behind, and to capture all the little ghost sounds in the electricity. Things develop in the studio, naturally, with new gear, a new set of ears (Kurt Ballou), and then there’s this weight of knowing that everything is more permanent now, so I’m trying to put everything I have into these takes.
There seems to be quite a bit of spite, anger, and various other strong emotions in the lyrics of the album. How do relive that, and/or get into the right vibe when tracking vocals in the studio?
I was trying to track vocals whenever the mood hit, so I wasn’t just doing them all at once at the end. On a couple of tracks, I ended up using the demo vocals.
Troy van Leeuwen and Aaron Turner contribute to the album. How did they get involved, how much freedom did they get, and what did they eventually bring to the songs they are featured on?
Troy was on the first few songs for this album, with the side project I mentioned earlier. When I asked about making the songs the next Chelsea Wolfe album, he was on board and so I kept sending him songs. He had creative freedom but allowed me to guide things a bit on 16 Psyche. Really though I was just listening to his playing and letting him know when something was really hitting me in the gut, which was a lot! I sent Aaron 'Vex' without my vocal parts, even though they had already been recorded. When he sent his vocal part and I played it with mine, I felt like it lined up just how it was meant to be.
Your music has quite the eclectic edge to it. It always makes me wonder what your influences are. Could you shed some light on them? I guess the Nick Cave cover you did is telling?
My influences cover a wide range. My parents exposed me to Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone. When I got older I was really into R&B, trip-hop and rock. In my twenties I found Townes Van Zandt and was hooked, and my love for Ozzy Osbourne grew. Wardruna is one of my favorite current bands. Nick Cave, Swans.. they’re something to aspire to. While we were writing 'Hiss Spun', Jess and I were listening to so much late 90’s/early 2000’s rock n roll like Deftones, Soundgarden, NIN.. I went and saw Lindsey Buckingham play live - it felt full circle as his voice and guitar playing were the first I really connected to as a young kid.
Until ‘Hiss Spun’, your live sound has always been quite a bit harsher than on record. This album definitely matches the live sound. On stage, I occasionally got reminded of Swans, because of the sheer ferocity you can bring to the table. How do you manage to get so hard-hitting?
Jess brings a lot of power to the table, and sometimes you gotta turn up your amp to hear yourself over her drums!
Speaking of live shows, what are the plans in terms of touring. Crucially, when can we expect to see you in Europe again?
I’m working on some stuff in Europe for the end of Summer and more in the Fall/Winter.
Apart from that, are there any other plans for the foreseeable future?
There are already so many ideas for the next record swimming around my head, and also many one-off projects to finish this winter, so I am trying to take a couple months off to focus on those things before the touring begins again in 2018.