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Within Temptation Interview 2011

Within Temptation Interview
Performed in person on September 9th, 2011
The Palladium - Worcester, Massachusetts

Within Temptation

There’s something electric about the statement, "Within Temptation is coming to North America!" Most likely it’s because Within Temptation doesn’t come here that often, compared to other parts of the world. However, September 2011 marked the long-awaited return of Within Temptation to North America for a brief tour: Toronto and Montreal in Canada; and Worcester (Massachusetts), New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia in the United States. This tour was Within Temptation’s first chance on this side of the Atlantic to directly promote their latest album, The Unforgiving, as well as its corresponding comic book series.

Sonic Cathedral staff writer Sara Letourneau sat down with singer Sharon den Adel just hours before Within Temptation’s nearly sold-out show in Worcester. They talked about the tour, the band’s new musical direction, Sharon’s new onstage wardrobe, and the future of The Unforgiving. Yes, it seems the comic books and short films may be the start of something even bigger. Read on to learn more!

Sara:  Hello, Sharon! On behalf of Sonic Cathedral, welcome back to North America!

Sharon:  Well, thank you very much! We’re glad to be back. It’s been a long time, and a lot of things have happened in between.

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Sara:  You started the North American tour a couple nights ago in Canada. You were in Toronto and then Montreal. How did they go?

Sharon:  Amazing. I must say that the Canadian people have a really good reputation of being very enthusiastic and passionate people, but also they express things more directly. They’re more expressive than other countries are. I’m not saying that they like [the shows] better than people who don’t move as much or shout as much. It’s like people express themselves differently in every country. So, we had a blast. And, Montreal sold out.

Sara:  Montreal sold out?

Sharon:  Yeah! It did.

Sara:  I didn’t know about that!

Sharon:  Yeah, it was about 2200 people.

Sara:  Wow! That’s good!

Sharon:  Yeah. It was our second time there. The first time, we were with six other bands.

Sara:  For [the tour] with Lacuna Coil?

Sharon:  Yes! The Hottest Chicks of Metal Tour. (laughs) And now we came back. I think there was a lot of word of mouth, people telling about us. So, we saw a lot more people than we expected. It was very cool.

Sara:  Tonight, you play here in Worcester. And then you’ve got three other US shows. You’ve got New York tomorrow night, which is also sold out, and then Baltimore and Philadelphia. The New York show sold out well in advance. How do you feel about that?

Sharon:  It’s amazing, of course.

Sara:  And that will have about 3000 people?

Sharon:  Yes, I think so. We haven’t toured that much in America, actually. We did it two times, three weeks each, so six weeks total. But, I think with the Internet and everything, people are being enthusiastic [about us] on Facebook. And, people bring their friends [to our shows]. That’s how it went for us, I think. We became bigger and bigger without us knowing. And then you sell out certain shows, and you think, “Wow!” (laughs)

Sara:  And I know personally that people are flying from all across the country to these shows. They’re coming from Florida, the Midwest, and the West Coast just to see these shows on the East Coast. How does it feel to know that people are coming from all over to see you on this short tour?

Sharon:  Well, it’s a big compliment, of course. I must say that we were also totally surprised that so many people came. These shows were actually announced quite late. And if you see how well people are reacting, it’s like, “Wow!” Yeah, amazing. (laughs) We’re a little bit speechless, actually! (laughs)

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Sara:  (laughs) Your new album is The Unforgiving. Not that it’s new, since it’s been out for about six months. But when it came out here in the US, it debuted [on the album charts] a lot higher than The Heart of Everything did. It actually became a Top 50 album! How did that make you feel?

Sharon:  (laughs) Well, it was strange. Because it ended up at #1 on the Rock charts here as well, and also in England. To be honest, I was on a little bit of a rollercoaster. I was giving birth at the time I heard the news! Actually, I think I heard the news, and then a few hours later I went into labor. (laughs)

Sara:  (laughs) So [the news] brought [your labor] on?

Sharon:  Maybe! Maybe it had some effect on what happened the day after. (laughs) So, it’s something that you don’t expect. I’m just happy that people responded well on the album. And since it’s been six months that it was released, people have gotten used to the album. They can sing along at the shows now. (laughs) They know the lyrics by heart now. The first few shows that we did [in Europe to promote The Unforgiving], I could see that if I would ever forget my lyrics, I’d just have to look at the fans. I’d watch them and say, “Oh, yes! Thank you!” (laughs)

Sara:  (laughs) The Unforgiving has been a very unique undertaking, with the comic book series that accompanies the album and also the three mini-movies that have been coming out. How do you think it’s all come together? Has it met your expectations? Or exceeded them?

Sharon:  Well, we made those short movies in a very short time. And also, the story of the concept album was written in almost less than six months. So, everything went pretty rapidly, actually, and also because we had a good team of people working together. All creative people who are good in the field they work in. We had a good director, a good [special] effects guy, and also the person who wrote the story for The Unforgiving, and also the comic artist. Everyone was just an expert at their field. And, everyone was inspired by the story.

Also, although Steven O’Connell [the writer of The Unforgiving] came up with the basic concept for it, what happened was we had already approached Romano Molenaar, the comic artist. He works with the X-Men [comics] and those kinds of comics. We asked [Romano] if anyone could write a script for us, and he came up with Steven O’Connell. And since we didn’t have a script already lying around, we told Steven, “OK, we were thinking of this, this, and this. We’d like to have these kinds of influences. This is how it should be starting.” Those kinds of things. We gave him the ingredients, and he came back with a very cool three or four lines about what the story should be about. He just started throwing ideas around, and we threw ideas back. And eventually, that became the story of The Unforgiving. And he did a really good job, I think. He’s such a storyteller, so it comes so easily for him. And it was really great to work with him.

But also, the director and the [special] effects guy who worked on the movies had really great ideas for stories. So, they also came up with ideas that were eventually put into the story. And it became a better story in the end because everyone was so inspired. It just worked really well, and people thinking along with us. And, there were no egos, no one thinking, “Oh, it’s MY story.” (laughs) It becomes better [when you collaborate]. It just works better.

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Sara:  Speaking of being inspired, when I was listening to The Unforgiving, I thought that album has your best vocal performance out of all the Within Temptation albums. It sounds like something about [the story] unleashed the best of your voice. Is that how you felt when you were in the studio? How did you feel when you were working on these songs and singing them for the first time?

Sharon:  Thank you! And I must that it was a pleasure. (laughs) Because these songs came so naturally, and the vocal lines came very naturally. It was something that really suits me. I could really bring in much more emotion because… I don’t know. It just felt right. I was really loving the songs. Of course, I love our older songs, too, but sometimes certain songs appeal to you more than others. And [in our case,] it was especially because we felt like we had found a new Within Temptation again. It gave us a lot of inspiration and a lot of good vibes. And when we were in the studio and I was singing the songs, I felt that good vibe. And then, we feel really confident that this was the way to go. It’s such a joy to be in the studio.

And with The Heart of Everything, I enjoyed it, but we felt like we were doing the same thing again, more or less. We had been finalizing the sound for some years, and with The Heart of Everything we felt like we had done our best and couldn’t go beyond that. So, we had to make a direction to a new corner to renew ourselves and to reinvent ourselves. Because we felt like we were at a dead end. And also, after the last album, we were really at a point of whether we were going to break up or going to continue.

Sara:  Wow.

Sharon:  Yeah. So, we needed a little bit of time. And we had toured a lot.

Sara:  You did tour a lot for The Heart of Everything. You went everywhere.

Sharon:  Yeah, exactly. And every time, something was adding to it. For example, our first shows in America, we were here for three weeks. And then we got a request to come back for another three weeks. But, we still had to catch up a tour in Germany, which I think was another two or three weeks long. And at the end of the German tour, we really hated each other. We were not very happy people! (laughs) We needed a break from the music, a break from each other. You need to have certain breaks in between, and we didn’t have enough breaks. We were just tired, very tired.

And it was good to take some distance and also see where we were stood at a certain point. We also saw the things we did wrong. Now, we try to plan better and take the right times off. We’re not a band that can continuously tour and tour and tour. We need to have breaks in between. And, we have families as well. So, we need to touch base again and then come back with full energy and give the audience what they expect and what they should get. But when you’re tired, you can’t give the full of you. You can’t live up to the expectations. It begins to feel like a routine. And that’s something we really hate. It shouldn’t feel like a job in the end. (laughs) But we’re back, and we’re revitalized, and we’re really happy to be back again. We made the right decisions, and now we’re looking forward to the upcoming tours.

Sara:  The first two singles off The Unforgiving were “Faster” and “Sinead.” Other than the fact that they’re insanely catchy, why were those songs chosen to be singles?

Sharon:  Well, because we felt they brought across the new Within Temptation. We wanted to make a statement that we had gone a different corner a little bit, that we had made a change in our music. Because I think we have a little stigma that we’re a nu metal band, which we’re not.

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Sara:  (surprised) Some people call your music nu metal?

Sharon:  Yeah. They call us nu metal everywhere, because of Evanescence.

Sara:  But, you’re not! (laughs)

Sharon:  Yeah! We’re more symphonic rock or symphonic metal. We’re not nu metal, although I don’t hate [nu metal]. I like that kind of music. But, that’s who we are. We don’t identify ourselves with it that much. We have some influences in that area, of course, but it’s not completely that. It’s more than that, in my opinion. I understand why, because Evanescence is so big, and so they give that label to every band with a female vocal. (laughs) So, I think we really wanted to make a statement that we’ve really gone to a different corner.

Sara:  I saw on the DVD for The Unforgiving that you made a video for “Shot in the Dark.” Are you planning that to be the third single off the album?

Sharon:  Yes. Probably. We’re not sure yet, but it’s supposed to be like that. In some countries, it will be. And maybe other countries will get a different single.

Sara:  Any idea what that other single might be? Or, are you not sure yet?

Sharon:  No, we’re not sure yet. We haven’t discussed it yet.

Sara:  You started touring last month to promote the new album. You did some festival appearances in Europe. One of those shows you did was The First Challenge. It was a large-scale show, like the Java Eiland and Black Symphony shows. Could you tell us a little about that and how it went?

Sharon:  Well, it was one of our first shows after so many years, and with totally new music. We played the whole new album. When we do shows now, it’s more of a mixture of all kinds of things. And we played for two hours [at The First Challenge]. We’ve never played for two hours before. And, it’s also dangerous because it can get a bit boring. I can imagine that two hours is a long ride for anybody, for a band to play and for people to listen to it and stay focused and stay into it. You need to make a really good balance between things. But, it was a good experience. It was very heavy also, to play so many songs in your first show after a while. (imitates a sigh of relief, then laughs) We were so nervous! But, it went very well actually. It was also like a try-out show in a way. We got to try out what works for the audience, what doesn’t work, what kind of songs to play, what kind of order you need to play them in. But I think after the festivals, we know now what works and what doesn’t work. In the beginning, during the first few shows, you have to try out things.

Sara:  One thing that fans have noticed about the recent shows is that your wardrobe has changed. You’re not wearing the corsets and the skirts and the dresses so much. This time, you’re wearing slacks and some cool 80s-ish tops. How does it feel to perform in different clothes than you’ve worn before? Does it feel different at all?

Sharon:  It feels liberating, actually! (laughs) I’m still wearing the corsets. But, it’s more like corsets with leather pants and a beautiful or extravagant blouse or a jacket. It has a little more of an 80s feel to it. But, the music is different now. I can’t wear those dresses again with this kind of album. Of course, maybe at some shows, I will wear occasionally a dress, a special one that suits the older albums. But for this tour, I wanted to do something different also to break away from the standard image that everyone has of the band and of me, again underlining that we’ve gone in a different direction.

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Sara:  It has been four years since Sonic Cathedral first sat down with you and Robert. The band has reached a lot of milestones since then: the Black Symphony show, the DVD for that show, and then the acoustic tour and album. Both of those events and albums show different sides of the band musically. Black Symphony, for example, showed us what you can do –

Sharon:  Bombastically? (laughs)

Sara:  Yes. And then you toned it down for the acoustic versions, and it sounds just as good. Is it important for you to not only do different things with your music but also to offer something unique to your fans?

Sharon:  Exactly. That’s one of the reasons, to give unique things to our fans. But it’s also for ourselves, to keep ourselves inspired and also to show that we’re not always about doing things bigger and bigger and even bigger than big. It’s not about doing things over the top. It’s more about being both [over the top and more intimate], and we are both. We like to give a big show, but not always to try to do something more extreme than the last time. We just want to have a beautiful show, and we just want to give our all. And that’s what we try to do. And, I think it was nice for us to go from [Black Symphony], where it took everything that we had in us, to go to a really more pure side of ourselves. I think it could go even more pure, if we wanted it to. It was less showy. But, that’s what the band is normally. It was to show people that, if you strip down everything, there’s still a good song there. That’s how we build on the songs, always. When we start writing songs, it always starts with a guitar or the keyboards. It doesn’t start with a huge choir. (laughs) So, when you strip everything down, it gets to the core of Within Temptation, actually. To the base of which the songs were written.

Sara:  Recently, your video for “In and Out of Love” with [Dutch DJ] Armin van Buuren hit 100 million views on YouTube.

Sharon:  Yeah! (laughs)

Sara:  That’s a lot!

Sharon:  Yeah, it’s a lot! (laughs) It’s strange, actually, because I only performed [that song] with Armin two times. And, it never was a really big hit. Not on the radio, anyway. In Holland, they played it [on the radio], but only on the DJ kinds of stations, dance stations. But, underground and in all the clubs, it was being played. It’s still a huge hit there, apparently, if [the video] has gotten so many hits. It’s crazy. (laughs)

Sara:  After this North American tour, you have a very extensive tour in Europe coming up. And, I know you’ve already announced some Dutch dates for 2012. So, is there any chance at all, between all the places where you may be going next year, that you’ll come back to North America?

Sharon:  There are already talks about it, because so many more people came that we were expecting. So, there’s something going on. There’s something bubbling under. (laughs) We’ve had some requests already for next year. So, we’re going to see how we can fit it in. Maybe around this time next year, we might be back. We’ll have to see. It’s something still up for discussion. There’s a lot of things that we the band don’t see. All the requests are sent to our management, and they have to make the routine for where we’ll be next year and how we’ll fly and how to fit everything in. But with any luck, we’ll try to come back next fall. Hopefully. And, it would be a bigger tour than this one.

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Sara:  One last question for you, Sharon: What would you like to say to your fans and to our readers at Sonic Cathedral?

Sharon:  (pauses) Well, of course, that we hope to be back [in North America] soon. We’re happy to see that people really like our music. Because we were doubting if our music was meant for America, since it has so many European flavors. But, we’re confident now that, after seeing how many people came to the first two shows, maybe more Americans like our music than we thought. So, we’re really happy to see so many faces and seeing so many people bring their friends. Also, our comic [“The Unforgiving”] has been picked up by the biggest comic distributor in America, which will also distribute it worldwide. So, people might get in contact with our music through the comic now. That’s something we didn’t expect. But, it was picked up so nicely by a lot of people who didn’t know the band, and somehow it ended up with this distributor. So, we’re going to release it through them now as well.

Sara:  Cool!

Sharon:  So, maybe who knows? (laughs) And there’s always something to dream about. We have another dream now, and that is to make a full-length film out of the base of the comic. I’m not sure if it’s going to happen. It’s more like we’re working on it. It might take some years because it’s always a big project to make a movie. But, we did make those three short movies. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do it with the same team, or maybe with somebody else. We have some connections now in the movie industry. So, we’ll see what happens!

Sara:  Wow! We’ll hope for the best. Thank you very much for your time, Sharon!

Sharon:  You’re welcome!

Many thanks once again to Sharon for taking the time to talk to Sonic Cathedral again. We at Sonic Cathedral wish Within Temptation the best with the upcoming tours and all things related to The Unforgiving. And, we hope to see you in North America again next year! Also, thank you to Julie Lichtenstein at Roadrunner Records USA for helping us arrange the interview.

Within Temptation 

Check in on Within Temptation at the following websites:

Official Website
Roadrunner Records / Within Temptation