Latest release: Resist (Spinefarm)Website: www.within-temptation.com
Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation have been an influential act for many years. The husband and wife co-founding team of vocalist Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt have charted the musical direction of the band over the last couple of decades. They have achieved great heights of success but have also weathered moments of self-doubt and creative blocks by wisely stepping away from the industry pressures to re-assess their career trajectory. In doing so, they’ve successfully nurtured the band’s development, increased the maturity of their output and ensured their credibility remains intact. The machinations involved are widely known so without delving into the ultimately private details, fans can rest assured that the latest album Resist is both a return to form and sees the band reach a new level of musical craft by bringing in a range of musical styles without appeasing genre purists and effectively undergoing an internal reinvention.
Quite simply, Resist is an exceptional piece of work which overall works to convey their intent. The new material has been received by live audiences with enthusiasm, meshing nicely with classic songs within the set list and that has reinvigorated the Within Temptation camp, reinforcing their drive. The positive response, new label deal and sold out tours now finds them in a much better place than they were in a few years ago. Loud Online took the rare opportunity to chat to the friendly and astute Sharon den Adel about all things Within Temptation.
The new album must have taken a lot of work, all things considered. Would you say that it was an exhausting experience?
It has been a ride, I must say because when we started recording the album it was actually last summer and the last day was just before this past summer started. We have never written and recorded an album so fast as this time because we did in one year’s time, as in summer to summer. In that whole period we were writing for Resist. Prior to that I had a long break because of certain reasons but you can tell that we wrote and recorded the album in one year’s time. It is the fastest recording we have ever done yet also the most relaxed, somehow, probably because we had a lot of ideas and it just went very easily in the end. Also, we had a lot of time off beforehand but since the album was recorded we have done a lot of videos and promotion. I had hoped for a little bit better planning for that as it became a little bit stressful doing a lot of stuff. I was like, ‘okay, we’re on time’, so we gave the album to the record company in September but then we had to do interviews and videos which always takes more time than you think it will in the beginning.
You’ve got lots of layered vocals parts on the album. How did you perform some of that on your recent sold out UK tour?
Well, I sing all the backing vocals myself but what we do is have a small layer on the backing tracks and a small layer behind my own live vocals to thicken them out. That is something that just about every band does nowadays. It does work to make it sound bigger, in a way. Of course. The lead vocal is always leading the whole thing. The backing tracks for the vocals are always harmonies only, not the lead vocals at all.
Do the orchestral arrangements change much in the live setting?
Sometimes we might change the arrangements but we try to keep it as close to the album but that of course takes a lot of effort. In the beginning we didn’t have the same sounds when we started our tour in Russia. So, we had different sounds in the beginning with ‘The Reckoning’ but now we have [the sounds] and it takes a lot of time in reproducing those in the live setting so that you can implement them into your keyboard.
You have some guest vocalists on the album’s bigger tracks or singles. Going back to arrangements, how do you make that work playing those songs live?
On the song ‘The Reckoning’, on the chorus we have or you’ll hear Jacoby [Shaddix – Papa Roach] singing along but for the rest of the song, our guitar player is singing along with Jacobi’s parts live. So it is a combination of his voice on the chorus where you can hear him on the backing track. We’ve also done that with Keith Caputo who is now Mina Caputo and we also have visuals so you can see still then Keith in the visuals and he is on the backing tracks and I am singing the duet [on the song ‘What Have You Done’ from The Heart of Everything] with him like that and it is all fine. It works for us like that and when they are playing with us live then of course they are playing live but you want to play the same kind of song in the same way, more or less. For instance, with ‘The Reckoning’, normally Jacoby would sing that as well but there I just sing his part as well so you can’t hear him on the backing tracks.
The album has a lot of good spatial dynamics within the sonic spectrum. Did your producer, Daniel Gibson, contribute to lyrics in this instance?
He doesn’t. Sometimes when we write demos he might but most of the time with the lyrics it will only be a little bit because sometimes when you write demos he might also say something about a topic and so you just keep moving along with those kinds of things but most of the time he is not involved with the lyrics.
Looking back at your recent solo album, My Indigo, I believe that there was a track on this latest Within Temptation album that you felt was a bit too dark for your solo album.
Yeah, it was only one song and that was ‘Firelight’. It was a personal song.
It has a very sparse feel to it before the band comes in which then gives it a very solid sound.
Well, having a Texan kind of feel to it is what inspired us at the time, when we wrote it. The song contains a combination of a lot of things in how you get to that point but we were very much inspired by both urban music and Americana type music so you can really hear a Texas kind of feel to the song. Sometimes songs just happen in a certain way being inspired by different music. This song almost has a hypnotic kind of beat or rhythm to it.
It certainly has a different guitar tone at the end of it which is very different to a song like ‘Raise Your Banner’ which has pretty much got a metal song structure and approach to it.
Yeah, that’s true. I think it is also fair to say it has the American way of sounding with a more blues kind of atmosphere which I don’t think you can really hear on the other songs of Within Temptation. I think that because that the song was not first written with guitar but it basically started with rhythm for the first time ever and also just singing on the rhythm. That gave it a hypnotic kind of feel to it and having choir parts already before any guitar parts were added so we started playing more with an acoustic kind of thing and then everything changed afterwards. We always start with piano or guitar in the beginning and a certain rhythm but then things change because you want to have a different kind of feel to the song. Then you replace those certain things with other instruments but everything can still be played on a guitar or a piano in the end. I think that the guitar was not very much represented in the beginning but was in the end because it a certain conclusion to the storyline being told.
A song like ‘In Vain’ is good example of changing song structures within the song – after the chorus and so on there’s the bridge bringing it back to the chorus but with different instrumentation.
Yeah, exactly. Otherwise, for us, it gets to be, ‘ah, that’s boring, let’s do something else.’ So, yeah, the changes completely how we play the song.
If you look over your back catalogue, you must be especially proud of this latest album.
I am proud of it for different reasons. First of all because I didn’t know that we would ever be able to make a new album or that we would ever be able to be writing for Within Temptation again, well, me especially. At a certain point I didn’t really want to continue with Within Temptation and that is why I made my solo album, My Indigo. It was also to figure out what I wanted and see in which musical direction I’d go because we didn’t know in which musical direction to go in Within Temptation. We were actually a bit lost. To eventually write an album like this one is, I am really proud of this because it made a change that we needed to continue, I think musically. A lot of times you’ll hear it in writing some stuff and those things are important at the time but you know, you want to have something to say. When you’re onstage, you want to do something with it, you don’t just want to tell stories. You want to tell something that also means something to yourself. So with this album, for the first time, I really feel that we stand for something again and that is also important for me as both a musician and as an artist; is to represent something that I really feel strongly about. I think that is also because it is a more political album. A lot of people don’t read the lyrics but through interviews we try to bring across what our album is about more or less and not to tell people what to think or what to say but more to well, we just want to express ourselves and what worries us, how we see the world and how the changes are and those kind of things. It is not like it is all about that as some things are more personal songs but there are political songs on there as well. It is more like an awareness of certain subjects.
Were the band members supportive of you taking a hiatus of sorts from Within Temptation?
Yeah they were. A lot of my band mates all have their side projects besides Within Temptation and some are more serious and others, some are a little less serious. Everybody has their private or personal band that they also do stuff with and tour with and we’ve always let each other that. Ruud Jolie [guitars] said to me that we expected you to do this much earlier than you did so they saw that coming for some time, I guess. I never saw it but it sort of hit me by surprise. They were very supportive and I think that is the only way to get through something like this because if you are not supportive then I don’t think that you are really a friend. It was a hard time going through what I went through and I was really happy to see them at my side instead of not.
When you did the recent live shows, do you think that the audience appreciated your artistic release or new sense of focus with the new material?
Well, the audience didn’t know what we were going to do, of course because we only had just one song out so they didn’t really know what to expect. But even though, these were sold out shows. From the moment that we started playing in Russia and we started in Siberia for the first show. It was involved to get into the shows too because they were back to back shows and with fly-in shows, there is not a lot of production around so it is really about playing live, doing your thing and getting news songs in there as well. We played five new songs already from day one when we started this tour and of course those songs were immediately on the Internet which is okay with us as they were live tracks, not recorded ones. So people could get a sneak peak of what is coming with the new album. It was really nice that people were there even though they didn’t know what to expect. They were still supportive of the band so that is really cool.
Some of the material on the album could compete well on mainstream radio even though it won’t get played on mainstream radio.
Ha, I don’t know what you play on radio in Australia but in Europe, it won’t be on the radio because it is too heavy, it is too metal, it is too rock. Anything with guitar on it is banned these days. It is an album that we never made for radio and it will never be played on radio. That’s fine, we don’t mind because we are not making it for radio. Of course there are specialised radio stations that do play it.
It is an interesting change but as I understand it, regardless of radio, metal is still big in Europe?
No, metal is not huge in Europe, it is not huge at all. Hip hop is huge. Ha ha.
If there is ever a chance of Within Temptation touring Australia, playing the Sydney Opera House with an orchestra would be pretty special.
Oh, well, that’s a big one. Ha ha. I visited Australia once as a kid but maybe after a few years of tours there then maybe. It would be lovely to play in Australia of course but we would be starting with something smaller for venues I would think, probably much smaller. If we are coming to Australia, it is something that is still in discussion. We always want to come to Australia but tours are usually focused on Europe, America and South America. Touring takes a lot of time. We are a band that has been around for such a long time and every time when you’ve done a lot of touring, you are just longing to get into the studio to write new ideas and to write new music. That is mainly the reason that we haven’t been down under with you guys and we didn’t get further than Japan because at the time that we played Japan, there was no interest from Australia at the time but now there is and of course we’ve had some requests in the past but we always have to combine it with other countries otherwise it is too expensive to come over. We have a show with a lot of people and we have a lot of people that work for us plus we want to give a good show so it not just a basic show. We always try to do something extra. So it is then very difficult and at the end of the leg of all the touring that we’ve done, we ask if we are going to do more touring because it then takes more time for the albums to be released and those are the things that we are looking at such as how time do we have to tour. But somebody at home here really wants to go to Australia so the chances are getting better with the day. Ha ha.
Finally, do you prefer playing rock venues or playing with orchestras?
Oh, rock venues. I like orchestras but we only use that for the special shows that we do like anniversary shows. We did that with the Black Symphony show that we did, which is on DVD and also with the Elements show [Let Us Burn – Elements & Hydra Live in Concert], we played with a big orchestra. It is always great to do that but there is a lot of work involved and we always have to do it because we have some theatre on stage and those kind of things. I don’t know if you know the DVDs but you should check them out. It is really a nice way to present your music because of course then you play everything live but that is very expensive and not for every country. Bringing the orchestra show to several countries is something that we might look at but you have to take in accounting to not get into debt. You have to have something left over at the end of it to pay your bills. It is very expensive to do.