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Within Temptation Interview 2014

Within Temptation Interview 2014


Sonic Cathedral was lucky enough to catch up with Sharon den Adel in person, backstage before the band’s sold out concert in San Francisco (the first stop of their 2014 U.S. tour). Sharon took a break from signing 6,000 posters for fans (!) to tell us about reactions to Hydra, including the controversial “And We Run”; what the band learned from adapting Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”; how the upcoming Hydra DVD became an Elements DVD (a scoop we promised not to share until the band announced it); the inspiration for “Dangerous” and “Covered by Roses”; her favorite Game of Thrones character; and why WT’s tour doesn’t include as many states as she’d like. Read on!

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Sonic Cathedral:  Thank you for agreeing to another interview with Sonic Cathedral. Our staff and our readers are all big fans.

Sharon:  Cool.

Sonic Cathedral:  Welcome back to California too.

Sharon:  Yeah, I love it. It’s nice weather, better than Europe at the moment. It’s always a pleasure to play here, so looking forward to it tonight.

Sonic Cathedral:  Are you getting to do anything fun in San Francisco or just sign posters for the fans?

Sharon:  We were here on Tuesday, so we saw Fisherman’s Wharf. And we went to Haight-Ashbury. It was beautiful as well. I’ve been to both places many times before already, like the two times we were here. But I like it very much, and those areas are very appealing to us, being a tourist of course.

Sonic Cathedral:  So how many posters are you signing for the fans, do you know?

Sharon:  A couple of thousand, I think close to six thousand. It’s crazy. We never thought that there’d be so many people who would buy the tickets so early, because we said if you buy the ticket early you get a free poster. So somebody had that bright idea, I’m not sure if it was me or somebody else in the crew or something. But it backfired a bit (laughs).

Sonic Cathedral:  Yes, well I overheard that the show is sold out tonight.

Sharon:  Yeah, it is. But a lot of people are coming to pick up their poster as well.

Sonic Cathedral:  Well congrats on that, and congrats on the success of Hydra. It was your most successful album to date in the US right?

Sharon:  Yeah it is, yes. It’s very special. They like The Unforgiving, but especially hard rock has been very successful here. You never know how people will react to your new album, and I’m really happy to see that this album went down well.

Sonic Cathedral:  I think the best song for me is probably “And We Run” even though it’s the most unusual.

Sharon:  Really? The guys before you, they really hated it, so the opinions are very divided on that.

Sonic Cathedral:  It’s polarizing?

Sharon:  Yeah, yeah it is.

Sonic Cathedral:  I read an interview recently with Linkin Park, where they said when they introduced rap to nu metal, and they went on their first tour on Ozzfest, people were throwing things at them, they just hated it so much.

Sharon:  Really, ohhh.

Sonic Cathedral:  I think your fans have been a lot more accepting of new stuff right?

Sharon:  Yeah they are, because they also know that we’re always doing this kind of thing, always trying new things. For us it’s the reason that we’re still around. Otherwise we would be so bored, or have so much writer’s block. Now we still aim to do what we like, and this is the only way forward, actually.


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Sonic Cathedral:  You would think that symphonic metal fans in general would be more open to combining new things than maybe average metal fans?

Sharon:  Yeah. But maybe because this scene has already been around for such a long time, it has a certain history also, that it’s become a box of its own, you know, like how to fit in, and how to be, and how to play. Unfortunately. But yeah, it goes with everything.

Sonic Cathedral:  I also thought it was cool that you included as bonus tracks on Hydra some of the Q-Music sessions. Did you learn anything new from doing that kind of music that helped you write Hydra?

Sharon:  We were doing those covers at the moment that we also started writing new songs for Hydra, and it helped us a lot, actually. Especially the song of Lana Del Rey because we transposed her song from a mid-tempo kind of a song to a more up-tempo song, and we added guitars, and different tonalities and stuff, and we learned what you can do if you keep in mind what kind of rhythm you have in the beginning, what you choose for rhythm in the beginning. Like for instance, “Paradise,” which you hear in the background, was actually a ballad in the beginning, and we did that on purpose, because it’s easier to write a ballad. But if you write it in the right tempo you can transpose it to a heavier, up-tempo song in the end. And that’s what we did we with a lot of songs, like “Silver Moonlight,” and for us it’s an easier way to write up-tempo songs, because in the past somehow it was always a bit difficult for us. This is the most up-tempo album we’ve ever made. This was one of the keys to do it. That’s the writing process.

Sonic Cathedral:  That’s cool. I’ve also been hearing rumors on the Internet of a coming DVD, do you have any comments on that yet?

Sharon:  On Tuesday you’re gonna hear a lot more, but when is it going to be out, this interview (laughs)?

Sonic Cathedral:  The interview will not be published at least for two weeks.

Sharon:  Oh, yes (laughs). It’s going to be an Elements DVD, actually. It started out to be a Hydra DVD, and then on the final hour of the final day we decided not to go through with it, because we had put Elements as an extra on it, and we were watching it, and it was so beautiful. In our mind, when we did the show, we were never happy completely with it. But looking back on it, it was way better than we ever thought. Somehow it just turned really bad in our heads. Sometimes time does that to something. And we had to come back on our decision. (The soundcheck reaches a crescendo.) Let me see if I can close the doors, one second. (Sharon leaves and comes back after the music stops.) You always see that, he stops when you close the door.

Sonic Cathedral:  Well the show is more important than the interview (laughs)!

Sharon:  No, this is also important of course. So, at the final moment we decided to do the Elements show because it looked so great, and we flipped it around. Elements is the main thing, we added almost the whole show on it, and the Hydra is the extra. But you get both, because people also wanted to have Hydra. You can’t compare the two, because the Hydra show is like a regular show, and Elements is theater.

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Sonic Cathedral:  Yeah, I was there, so I know what you mean.

Sharon:  And people were also asking so many times about Elements, please make a DVD out of it. We always said we’re never going to do it. And that’s why we put some extras on it. But then working on it, we were like it’s actually really good, damn, we should turn it around. It cost us a lot of money to turn that around again, but we felt like we would never ever release it afterwards either, because after releasing a few songs it doesn’t make sense to do another DVD. It costs a lot of money. It did in the end still (laughs). It was a hard to make the DVD because so many things went wrong, but in the end now it’s perfect, the way it’s coming out, it just looks perfect, it sounds perfect. So I’m really happy about it.

Sonic Cathedral:  That’s really good news, because that’s a show worth sharing with the whole world.

Sharon:  Yeah, exactly. And I think it’s very important also to show. The other thing is we have Black Symphony as the last thing we released as a DVD. And you don’t want to do a normal show as a DVD as a follow up after Black Symphony. Black Symphony was over the top, you know how we did things. And Elements is the only thing you should bring out after something like that.

Sonic Cathedral:  Cool, I will look forward to that, and I won’t tell anyone before you make the announcement (laughs). (Brief break while Sharon talks to crew.) So it seems like sometimes that you write songs that are based on your personal experiences and sometimes they seem from your imagination. Is that right?

Sharon:  Yeah that’s true. Sometimes also it doesn’t always have to be about me, but it’s more like people around you. You gather ideas from everything in life of course. It can be personal, but also from people that you know and things you see on television or movies, and you get inspired.

Sonic Cathedral:  So which type of song is “Dangerous”?

Sharon:  “Dangerous” is more the type of song that we got inspired. I don’t know, the subject just came up, we were looking at some extreme sports on television, that’s how it got stuck in my mind when we started the recording of the song. “Dangerous” was already in the demo phase. It was like, you know what, let’s keep it because we have a cool theme there. There are some people who are crazy doing these crazy things. But I understand it because I like it, the adrenaline feeling. I get it from being on stage, I don’t need to jump from buildings. Luckily. I’m afraid of heights (laughs). We all find our own way. And some people just do it this way.

Sonic Cathedral:  You have done a little race car driving with Robert I think?

Sharon:  Yes. I tried it once, and well it wasn’t my kind of thing. But it was his thing, you know. I like other things.


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Sonic Cathedral:  That always made me smile, when being a rock star is not enough adrenaline you have to become a race car driver.

Sharon:  Yeah (laughs). Robert is a guy of extremes.

Sonic Cathedral:  So I’ve heard your explanation of Hydra as having lots of heads that represent different aspects of your music.

Sharon:  Yeah, exactly. We have many different influences. From the day we started, we started of course like a doom metal band, they called us. And it’s always what’s popular in the world apparently, what label they give us. Then suddenly we became symphonic metal, and then with some of the ads Silent Force became gothic metal. I always hated that name, by the way. Not because I don’t like gothic or don’t like metal. I hated the fact they always changed the labels for us. For us we were always symphonic metal or symphonic rock. And we also had the Celtic feel to our songs. We had so many different influences from different sides. Anyway, every head is for every aspect of our music. The hydra also means face your fears and embrace your demons. The hydra is also a demon in a way. Not musically, but more about the personal things in life. The lyrics are also about the bigger things in life that come back every time, but in a different way because you look at the same subjects, the big themes in life like death and happiness and love, and those kinds of things that everybody has to deal with in life. Twenty years ago I looked differently at those kinds of things than nowadays. I take it with a little bit more melancholy, but less heavy than I used to.

(The soundcheck becomes super loud, and Sharon steps away. In the meantime I ask Jeroen, who is busy signing posters, how’s your hand? “I won’t be able to play here tonight, sorry. Nah, it’s ok. Just sign here. Just sign here.” Quiet returns, and Sharon reappears.)

Sonic Cathedral:  You were saying how your perspective has changed over the years?

Sharon:  Yeah. Like for instance the song “Covered by Roses” really sums it up, the whole feeling lyrically, actually, because it’s about the passing of someone, and then somebody was afraid. Of course, things change and there’s one person who’s not there anymore, and you have a certain kind of relationship with each other. But it’s more like that I see you have to enjoy the moment now. Make those moments, and don’t wait until twenty years when you are going on your pension to take that big beautiful trip and then you die within a year. How many times do you hear that. So those kinds of things. Carpe diem. Really take your moment. I think that’s a positive way of seeing things, instead of being sad about the fact that things are going to pass. Things are going to pass. You knew that already, for many years. You better turn it into something positive. There’s always going to be this melancholy around it, of course. That’s the best way to deal with it. You live so many years in time.

Sonic Cathedral:  Are you also into dragons?

Sharon:  I love dragons (laughs).


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Sonic Cathedral:  Do you like Game of Thrones?

Sharon:  I love Game of Thrones. You know, I read those books at least ten, fifteen maybe twenty years ago, when they released them for the first time in Holland, when it was translated. I never read them in English, actually. But I was always waiting for the new episode to come out, and it always took years and years, like every album of ours as well (laughs). So to follow the story you have the read the first book again, because there are so many characters in this story. And I love that, I love it. I’m so happy now there’s this series out now. It’s the best, really the best. He’s really the best fantasy writer around, there’s no better. But the only thing is he takes too much time.

Sonic Cathedral:  Who is your favorite character?

Sharon:  Arya actually. In the book it was always Arya. In the movie it changed to someone else, the lady of the dragons, Khaleesi (laughs).

Sonic Cathedral:  So is your song “The Promise” at all related to Catelyn and the Red Wedding? I’m not sure which came out first, but they’ve always seemed similar to me.

Sharon:  Actually it was from a different fantasy book, that I was inspired about that. What was it called again? The Laws of Magic? First Law, Second Law? I don’t have the name of the writer. It was also good in the beginning, but then he was too much of a super hero and never died. And she was also like this (laughs). In fact getting boring at the end. But in the beginning it was good. It was also very heavy. It’s not as good as the George R.R. Martin books. It became you really knew he was never going to die, he would always end up with her again. It’s almost like this romantic book. It was a little bit too sweet. But the song was on a different fantasy, unfortunately.

Sonic Cathedral:  I think you could sort of reapply it. It almost applies to Catelyn.

Sharon:  Yeah, exactly.

Sonic Cathedral:  Well I’ve taken a lot of your time. Are there any last things you’d like to say to our readers, in America and elsewhere?

Sharon:  We are always happy to play America, it’s really nice to be here. Also we know we have a lot of fans out there, and unfortunately because we’re trying to combine two worlds together, we all have families, that’s why we can’t tour everywhere. That’s why we always do these states, actually. And I think it’s unfortunate, and we get a lot of complaints, and I’m sorry about that. People complain about the fact that we don’t play everywhere, but we have to make choices. But maybe it will be in the future that we’ll do the other states instead of these states and also visit those states. But they better be there, you know! Otherwise I’m going to kick your butt (laughs).

Sonic Cathedral:  We’re very spread out in this country. Thank you so much for your time. I’ll let you continue getting ready.

Sharon:  Yeah, I’m going to sign a few more, he’s catching up with me, I was actually ahead, by 1000.


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Sonic Cathedral:  I got you behind here, sorry.

Sharon:  No, I was already late when I came here because I got hardly any sleep, and so did he. Everybody has jet lag. I only had two hours sleep, I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I’m going to try to sleep an hour in the bus later on.

Sonic Cathedral:  Really looking forward to the show.

Sharon:  It’s good to be back again, and it’s great that you’re here again. Thank you.

* * *


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Postscript:  I also want to add a mini-review of Within Temptation’s San Francisco and LA shows, which I attended. They were fantastic! This was the ninth and tenth time I’ve seen Sharon sing (counting once with Delain at MFVF 2013), and she sounded the best ever. She handled all of her different styles perfectly, from delicate high notes to urgent anthems. The band also played to perfection, with lots of expression. The crowds were large, adoring, and energized! In LA, I was with a first-timer friend, and it was fun seeing how blown away he was. I also saw Facebook posts of other newcomers saying WT had become their new favorite band.

“Our Solemn Hour” remains my all-time favorite WT song, so I was excited to hear it again, with all its drama. It was also a treat to hear “The Cross,” which Sharon once said is her favorite song to sing. It really shows off her spectacular abilities. Among the new material, I especially enjoyed “Let Us Burn,” “Edge of the World,” and “Covered by Roses.” The latter has special meaning to Sharon, as she said, and it shows in her performance. I really like the message too. “Edge of the World” is also a vocal showcase for her.


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As a special treat, we got a beautiful acoustic version of “Sinead” and also (in LA) “Never-Ending Story.” As for other classics, WT played excellent renditions of “Stand My Ground,” “See Who I Am,” and of course “Mother Earth” and “Ice Queen.” Perhaps the setlist was a little light on older material -- I would have added “Restless” or “Candles” and “The Promise” or “Deceiver of Fools” -- but I love the newer songs, so I didn’t mind.

Staging was necessarily less elaborate than in Europe due to travel constraints, but the lights and video were very effective. Duets were handled with on-screen appearances by Tarja, Howard Jones, Xzibit, and Keith Caputo. Sharon was also great about talking to the crowd before key songs, giving them more meaning.

It was an amazing two evenings!


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Huge thanks to Amy Sciarretto of Atom Splitter PR and Jon Freeman of Freeman Promotions for helping to arrange the interview, and to Within Temptation's tour manager Piet!