Vocalist Sharon Den Adel
Interview by Lord of The Wasteland
(***Transcription by Claudia with extra questions from Mortuai; Wacken Open Air 2005 live pics by Brat)
It’s taken the band ten years but Holland’s Within Temptation is finally getting some long-overdue exposure here in North America. Their fifth album, THE HEART OF EVERYTHING, is being released domestically in July on Roadrunner Records and the band also just landed a string of dates supporting Lacuna Coil through May and June.
Speaking with vocalist Sharon Den Adel prior Within Temptation’s show in Montreal on May 13th, I got her thoughts on the band’s first trip to our shores, “The Hottest Chicks In Metal” tour, comparisons to Evanescence and the influence of Celtic music on her band.
Metal-Rules.com is based in Canada and I understand you’re currently in our neck of the woods?
Yeah, that’s true. In Montreal.
I’m in Vancouver but unfortunately, you aren’t going to make it out this way since you’re going back to Europe for a couple of weeks?
Yeah. We’re going to play some of the festivals in Europe again. We already confirmed them before we confirmed some dates for this tour, so we have to go back halfway but we’re going to be back hopefully in the future. It’s a really beautiful country.
Well, you’re joining up with the tour again on May 29th in Seattle but the tour stops in Vancouver the day before, so I’ll have missed seeing you by one day…but maybe next time.
Hopefully we’ll get a second chance (laughs).
Is this your first trip to North America?
I’ve been here before as a tourist, but I’ve never been to Canada or America with the band before. I’m looking forward to it. I’m really curious how people will react to our music. We get a lot of people on the internet leaving messages on our guestbook on our site and on MySpace. They want to see us, so we’ll see how many people will turn up tonight and for the other bands. We’re just a supporting act this time, so we’ll see if people can sing along a little bit with our songs and how much they know. I’m really curious because in Europe a lot of people sing along with our songs. I’m curious (laughs).
Well, I’m sure they’ll give you a nice warm welcome in Montreal.
I hope so (laughs)!
Montreal and Quebec City are probably the metal capitals of Canada. That’s where the big metal scene is.
Montreal and Quebec City, so I’m sure there will be a good turnout tonight.
Awesome! I’m looking forward to it. I hope it’s sold out (laughs).
“THE HOTTEST CHICKS IN METAL”
So this tour is being billed as “The Hottest Chicks in Metal” tour. There’s yourselves, Lacuna Coil and…
In This Moment and Stolen Babies.
Right. So who came up with that title, “The Hottest Chicks in Metal”?
I have no clue because I didn’t even know until we got on the airplane to America that they told me. “What’s the tour called”? “Yeah, The Hottest Chicks in Metal…okay” (laughs). I didn’t know that, but we’ve always been surprised by the names of the tours because the first tour we ever did in Europe was called “The Chainsaw Massacre Tour”. Well, that doesn’t really suit our profile (laughs) but we didn’t make that name up. Maybe the promoter of Lacuna Coil? I don’t know (laughs).
How are you balancing music with motherhood while being on the road and overseas?
Well, sometimes we take [our daughter] Eva Luna with us. That’s the way to do it otherwise you’re away from home too long and that’s not very nice, especially when they’re so small, but it’s been okay. She’s becoming a real rock and roll baby (laughs)! For the biggest part of the European tour, she’s been on the bus, so that’s pretty cool.
Excellent. Happy Mother’s Day, by the way!
Thank you very much. You too. Well, meaning like you’re a son, you know, not meaning like you’re a mother….well, you know what I mean (laughs).
I know what you mean (laughs). Within Temptation has regularly released live DVDs after the release of every album. Are there plans to do another one for the new album, THE HEART OF EVERYTHING?
I hope so, yes. I think it’s always like a nice ending of a tour. You can put all the memories of that period on a DVD for your fans but also when you are old and grey and telling your grandchildren, “That’s grandma standing on stage (laughs). We’ve been there and there” and you have proof, you know, otherwise they would never believe you (laughs). It’s like a diary for us. A book of memories. It’s very nice I think to have for ourselves, as well.
Are you shooting footage on this tour?
Of course we are. I’m hoping to…well, I’m not sure how big the part will be but that’s why I’m trying to film as much as possible of every state we go to and also from America and Canada, trying to film as much as possible. In the end you never know what’s going to be on the DVD but there should actually be a part of it on there.
THE HEART OF EVERYTHING
Your new album, THE HEART OF EVERYTHING, isn’t due out until July 24th in North America on Roadrunner Records but it’s been out in Europe since March. How has the response been over there?
The response has been very good. You never know what to expect actually when you bring out an album, especially with our band. You always try to make a different album every time. Not only song-wise, but also sound-wise and we try to do different things every time a little bit. We always try to find our boundaries and so you never know how people will respond to it. This album is for us, of course, not like a speed metal band or thrash metal band but for us, it’s a happier album than we’ve done before. Probably the happiest sound-wise and we really like that, but you never know what our fans will think of it. But the response has been very good. I think our fans really like it.
Roadrunner Canada sent me a copy for the interview. It looks like it’s the European version, though, but I’ve listened to it a few times and I noticed right away that the guitars are very prominent and with nice, heavy riffs. Was this something that you intentionally went out to do before you started writing?
Yeah, that’s something we wanted to do but it turned out little bit differently because we had some problems in the mixing period of the orchestra and the guitars. At some point, they didn’t go together like the arrangement. We were in each others’ way sometimes and because it was the first time we worked with a real orchestra—we always worked with artificial ones before on the previous albums because of budget—but this time, and for the first time, we had a budget for a big choir and a big orchestra and they were clashing at certain points with the guitars. We had to put down the guitars because it was really like our big dream to work with a real orchestra and a real choir. So that’s why the album became more orchestral than really guitar-oriented and with this album we just had a different approach of the orchestra. We tried to balance it a little bit more so that enough space for other instruments in the band and also especially for the guitars.
I also noticed that you changed things up a little bit and have done some new things with the vocals this time. There’s a harder, gruffer sound on the title track and there’s still the operatic stuff and lots of melody as well, but do you think that your still growing and improving as a singer even this far along into your career?
Yeah, I think so. It’s also trying out new things every time. I mean you always learn a lot and it’s also nice for me to challenge myself every time with something different. I really like a female vocalist who can sing really tough but I don’t have the voice for it, but I showed myself that I can do it a little bit rougher at times, more aggressive in a way and it’s a nice combination of not always singing operatic. I think it’s nice to sing normal and heavy in a way, also sometimes operatic. Otherwise, it’s always the same. It gets a little boring for myself and maybe also for the listener. I like diversity if it’s guitars or vocals. I like diversity in everything that we do actually and the rest of the band does, as well.
I watched your video last night for the new single, “Frozen.” It deals with child abuse in the family and I read that the proceeds from the single are being donated to Child Helpline International. Is this a new cause for you or is this something you have followed for some time?
Well, when we start writing a new album, you always look at dealing with different topics. It’s all in the back of your mind, more or less, and we just felt that this song was really…well, when I write lyrics, I always get inspired by the music and this song was so dramatic in a way and the topic…when you become a parent, you think more about these kinds of things. We just started to write a song about it but we never thought the song would become a single and then we had a meeting to shoot a video that fits with that and if you touch a subject like that which is so…well, it’s a very sensitive subject and you have to bring it in a very honest way. Not cheesy or anything. It should be a real honest video and then you have to do something with that. I mean that’s why we’re giving away our part of the income of the single “Frozen” to this organization.
Did they approach you to collaborate on the project or was it something that you sought out for yourself?
We approached them because if you write such a song, like I said before, you need to do something extra with it because you’re talking about a sensitive subject. That’s how we felt anyway, and that’s why we approached them. We want to donate the money of the single from this song to your organization so you can do something with it.
How did the collaboration with Keith Caputo from Life of Agony on “What Have You Done” come about?
Well, many years ago we saw him play with Life of Agony on a Dutch festival. As usual, it was raining (laughs) again in Holland and even though it was raining like hell, we didn’t want to go away from the stage because we were so captivated by his voice and the music. Sometimes you have that with certain artists, certain bands. They are so captivating when you see them live and they leave such an impression on you that you will always remember that show. Even many years after that, you still remember that special place and that moment in time. So we said to each other that if we ever had the opportunity that we would love to work with him because he has a great voice, so when we wrote this song, we remembered that. We were thinking who can we ask for this because we needed a certain kind of voice but it needed to be really, really good and heavy and energetic. Life of Agony makes a completely different kind of music, which we knew up front, of course, but he’s a very diverse singer, so we approached him and asked him if he liked the song and if he would listen to it and if he liked it if he could call us back and he did. Well, only two weeks later we were recording the song in the studio. Also, one of the things I think which was nice is that not everybody that you like in music is always a nice guy but he’s really, really a nice guy. He’s very down to earth, talking a lot about yoga and stuff like that (laughs) and it was really nice meeting him. Very, very nice person. He’s very interesting character.
THE HEART OF EVERYTHING is the first Within Temptation album that’s going to be available domestically in North America and not as an import. After so many years, why is now the time for a big push into the North American market?
Well, when we started the band, we were a “hobby” band, so we were signed up with a very small label [DSFA Records] and when we were out of that deal, we went and signed up with Gun Records in Germany and they released it for the first time in Europe so, you know…you can’t be everywhere at the same time. Promotions take so much time away, so we wanted to have enough time for our music, to write music and now we were at the right level. Roadrunner Records was the first serious record company who was interested in promoting us in the right way. I think you can sign up with any kind of record label in America if you want to, but doing it in a good way, that is a second thing. You need to have the trust that somebody will take some effort to do it in the right way instead of just putting it on the shelves but you need to have someone who really believes in you and maybe wants to look forward to your release.
Are there any plans to re-release your back catalogue in North America?
I’m not sure. I hope so because I think a lot of people that have spoken so far know all the albums and they love them as well, but it’s very expensive for them to import them, so I think it would be a good idea to do that. But time will tell. If people like THE HEART OF EVERYTHING, then maybe the back catalogue will come out, as well.
When Within Temptation first started out way back in the mid-nineties, the style of metal that you play was fairly new but there have been a lot of bands that have come out since then who play a similar style. Do you consider yourselves pioneers of the female-fronted, symphonic Gothic metal movement?
I know that we were one of the first to do what we are doing, but still every band that is even starting out today….everybody has so much their own sound. I can name so many bands that can be compared to each other but they all sound so different from each other that you can hardly even put them in one category but they’re being put in one category by the media. So, although we were one of the first, everybody had to do it on their own strengths and that’s something that makes these things very colorful because there’s so much diversity within this scene and people sound so different.
You mentioned that the media pigeon-holes a lot of female-fronted bands together. Do you think that these bands are starting to gain acceptance for their musical merits rather than the “oh, they have a female singer” novelty factor?
Well, I think that’s the first thing that people will say. Everybody gets compared to each other. It’s always the first reaction they get from a country when they go there for the first time. But our experience is that when people get to know you a little bit better, they start to see and hear the differences because the differences are there. There are more differences than the comparisons, actually, and so I think it’s just a matter of time before people will see beyond it.
Along those same lines, do you ever get concerned that the focus is put on you rather than the band as a whole? Do people see “Sharon Den Adel and those other guys” rather than “Within Temptation”?
Well, I think that it hasn’t happened that much in the past, but of course when you’re a vocalist, there will be more focus on you than the rest of the band and that’s something that I’ve asked for but it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male. Everybody gets a little more attention when you’re the vocalist of a band, so I think that’s something that goes with the territory.
But even on a bill like “The Hottest Chicks in Metal” for example, obviously the focus is on the female singers of the band rather than the band as a whole.
Yeah, but maybe again that’s why also I think that the name chosen wasn’t maybe the right choice, especially since they aren’t singer/songwriters instead of bands playing but…you know it’s a way to get people talking about it probably and it’s a way of getting attention. I don’t know… like I said, I wasn’t there when they made up the name for it but I agree with you that it’s a little bit more focused on the females than really the music or the band.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard this quite a bit in interviews coming into North America, as a lot of people are making comparisons to Evanescence. Do you hear any similarities between the two bands?
Not really…no. We are females fronting a band, of course, and it’s in certain ways theatrical but it’s more the atmosphere. Maybe a little bit the same, but it’s such a different band. They sound so American and we sound so European that I don’t think the comparison is really justified. Maybe, in a way, they needed a compliment? I don’t know. I think there are a lot of non-comparisons to be made but you know, things will happen when you come to a country for the first time. Bands also get compared to us when they come to our country or in the area where we live. When we go to Finland, we get compared to Nightwish and when we go to Italy we get compared to Lacuna Coil (laughs), so it’s different with every country where a band started for the first time or got big for the first time.
Do you find it flattering or do you find it frustrating when you’ve been around for ten years and you come to a country and you’re getting compared to a new band that may only have a couple of albums out?
Well, it depends on how people approach it, you know. You’re asking it in a very neutral way, but I know some people who are trying to get a certain reaction from you. They provoke you to say things you don’t want to say or don’t really feel but they are, just by annoying you…(pauses)…they hope that you’ll say certain things about another band and I just hope that we will be able to not do that (laughs).
2007 marks the fourth year in a row that Within Temptation has won the Dutch Export Award for “Best International-Selling Artist.” Does winning that kind of award still really give you a thrill or, since it has been four years in a row, is becoming a bit of a routine?
Oh, it’s never routine! It’s more based on facts than something you really have to work very hard for or something like a public nomination or something by the fans. It’s actual figures that we got this award for and we are more people that really like awards which are voted for, because that’s more personal, in a way. Of course it’s an achievement and I think we should be proud of it, but it’s different than a nomination for something which was voted by a lot of people. It’s just, you know, figures.
COLLABORATIONS AND INFLUENCES
In the past, you’ve done some guest vocals with other bands like Ayreon, Orphanage, Paralysis and a few other groups. Since they’re all so musically diverse, has participating in any of those projects influenced your own singing or writing style?
Not really, no. It’s more for myself. It’s nice to step outside of Within Temptation now and then just for fun and do something with other people. It’s just nice to work with people who are making music and it’s nice to meet other people and to talk about music and inspire each other a little bit. But it hasn’t inspired me in a way that I could use it for Within Temptation. The bands are so different from Within Temptation but that’s why I like it so much. Although Within Temptation has a lot of different styles, we do a lot of things already, but these bands were something different—the kind of music I mean—than I could ever do in Within Temptation. I like a challenge.
On that same note, have you ever thought about doing a solo album? I know Liv Kristine does her pop music albums aside from Leaves’ Eyes and Theatre of Tragedy, but have you thought about doing that, as well?
Well, because we’re so busy with Within Temptation that at this moment, I don’t ever get around to write new songs but maybe if I get to put aside some songs that didn’t fit the Within Temptation album. Maybe one day in the future that will develop but it’s something that I’m not sure of. It’s looking too far in the future and at this moment I’m so busy with Within Temptation and I’m having so much fun with it that there’s hardly anytime left for any solo thing.
I mentioned Ayreon earlier and you had worked with him in the past [1998’s INTO THE ELECTRIC CASTLE]. Are you planning on working with him again?
No, not really, because we’re too busy with Within Temptation and I also like doing new things. I’ve worked with him once and it’s nice to collaborate with people I haven’t worked with before.
How about [Edguy frontman] Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia albums? You sang on both releases and I hear he’s got a third one that he’s working on right now. Are you going to turn up on that one, too?
Well, he hasn’t approached me yet but it was really nice working with him. It was also a totally different kind of music, which I also like but it’s more like a time thing again. It was also something that I did a little bit with Within Temptation. It’s very Celtic and, of course, the Celtic scene has always been in our music, as well, but I think he makes really nice music. It was nice working with him.
You mentioned Celtic music and the connection to Within Temptation’s music. What influence do you draw from Celtic music that you take to Within Temptation?
Well, we use Celtic sounds in our music, but even when we were starting Within Temptation, we used Dead Can Dance’s kind of music and also Clannad and Enya. It’s very atmospheric and it’s something that I felt was very easy to combine with music which is much heavier. Nobody was really doing that and I think it’s a nice combination. And we like very epic movies and there are a lot of Celtic scenes in there. I also like the movie BRAVEHEART. It inspires everyone, so it’s a combination of things and reasons why.
Is there a chance that Within Temptation might do a full-on traditional Celtic album? Maybe an acoustic album or something like that?
Well, I think that MOTHER EARTH was a very Celtic one already and also the fact that we used a lot of Celtic sounds before…but totally Celtic? Well, it would be nice but maybe it would be more like a solo thing that I would probably write. I like the heavy sound of the band as well and leaving that out…I’m not sure. Maybe when we do an acoustic album that will be a nice idea to do. We could do a lot of Celtic sounds like an orchestra with a lot of Celtic musicians, that one would maybe be nice and, of course, acoustic guitars. That would maybe be a good idea.
Thanks very much for taking the time for the interview today, Sharon. It was great to talk to you. I think it’s the first time Metal Rules has ever spoken to you.
Thank you so much as well for taking the time to have me as your guest (laughs).
Yes! It’s nice to finally have you in Canada and good luck with the tour. Too bad you can’t stay longer (laughs)!
(Laughs) Thank you very much. Maybe next time.
***Thanks to Dean at Roadrunner Records Canada for setting up the interview.
Within Temptation–Official Site