The album cover of Chelsea Wolfe’s Apokalypsis, like her voice, is somewhat haunting. However, Wolfe doesn’t want you to think it’s creepy. Her whited-out eyes are meant to reflect revelations and positivity. Wolfe has ultimately put her interest in the end times into making this album. She has found her voice within paralleling the likes of Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey, while making strides all on her own. She has put a wide array of influences into making this record and crosses genres with her music. Having previously been shy with her music, Wolfe has finally been able to find comfort in making and performing music.
Wolfe is embarking on her first ever CMJ performance and was sitting in an airport when we caught up with her on being photographed, her desire for a Black Sabbath reunion, and her dislike for the Zola Jesus comparisons.
ILANA KAPLAN: Are you looking forward to CMJ?
CHELSEA WOLFE: Yeah. I am. It should be fun. I’ve never played CMJ before.
KAPLAN: Your album cover art is pretty crazy. What’s the story behind it?
WOLFE: The title of the album, Apokalypsis, stands for revelations, the apocalypse, and lifting of the veil. That was kind of what the album represents for me. The word “epiphany” kind of stands out for me when I think about revelations, like a realization; that moment of realizing something that really makes sense. For me, that’s what the album cover represents—the whited-out eyes and the expression. It represents a sense of epiphany or revelations. Sort of like the moment right before the meteor hit.
KAPLAN: Did you mean for the album to be a little bit haunting? Was that your intention?
WOLFE: I think haunting in a non-creepy way. I think a lot of people read the album cover as something scary or creepy. I think it’s something positive…something lasting.
KAPLAN: What is this album about?
WOLFE: The things that the title stands for kind of sums up the album for me. There’s a theme throughout it. Especially, the end of things. The apocalypse means the end of an age, the end of an era. For me, it’s different ends of things and different types of epiphany. There’s a lot of idealism and grand visions in this album.
KAPLAN: What is your process for lyrics and songwriting?
WOLFE: Sometimes it comes to me all at once, really natural and instinctual. Then, sometimes I’ll start researching a topic. I think this album is a little bit of both. Some of the songs came to me naturally after seeing something or reading something. Once I started writing the songs for the album, I kind of wanted to research different scientific theories of the end times and different imagery. I started reading a lot of different things that had to deal with the end times. The songs kind of came together in that way. Sometimes it’s very primal. Sometimes it needs quite a bit of research.
KAPLAN: What were the coolest photography experiences that you’ve had? Lots of cool photos taken.
WOLFE: Recently we’ve been able to work with some really amazing designers, which has been a real treat. I got to wear some clothes from Iris van Herpen. Some stuff from this label called Mordechai I really like. There’s some really spiky and organic metal jewelry and pieces. I really love that. Being able to wear that stuff is really awesome. I also got to shoot with a photographer I really admire called Elliot Lee Hazel. He’s a really, really brilliant artist.
KAPLAN: Who would you like to play with in the future?
WOLFE: Ideally, I would love to open for someone like Queens of the Stone Age or any project that has Nick Cave in it.
KAPLAN: You have a Nick Cave cover, right?
WOLFE: Yeah. We cover him. Or, if Black Sabbath ever decides to do a reunion tour. I think we can play with a lot of different people in a lot of different genres. There’s a lot of good music out there right now.
KAPLAN: Who do you cite as some of your influences?
WOLFE: It’s really, really diverse. It ranges from people like Nick Cave and Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd and people like that to country, like Hank Williams to some obscure artists like, Vladimir Vysotsky, a really cool Soviet-Russian singer. He’s really intense and really passionate. That’s really what I want to do with music.
KAPLAN: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
WOLFE: Honestly, I’ve been making music since I was really young. My dad was in a country band and had a home studio. I started experimenting when I was pretty young: recording and writing. I didn’t really take it seriously until a few years ago. I always kept my songs to myself. Finally, my friends encouraged me to share. I moved forward in that way. It really took me a long time to become comfortable as a performer. I think I’m finally starting to enjoy playing live.
KAPLAN: Do you find yourself often put into the punk category a lot?
WOLFE: Not really. I’ve heard the word “punk” thrown around here and there. I think it’s cool because for me, being punk is someone that learns their instrument themselves and just follows music instinctually. So, I guess I could fall in that category. I don’t think I really subscribe to genres or categories anyway.
KAPLAN: Do you often hear yourself compared to someone like Zola Jesus or Sonic Youth?
WOLFE: I really don’t appreciate the comparison to Zola Jesus, mostly because we’re both contemporary, newer artists. I think the general public might read a comparison that maybe I was inspired by her, but I’m definitely not inspired by her at all. We’re doing two totally different things. We played a live show together at SXSW, and the live set should be enough to stop the comparisons really. It’s like a totally different feel. I definitely don’t appreciate the comparison to Zola Jesus, but I appreciate the comparison to a more classic band like Sonic Youth. I hear PJ Harvey a lot. I don’t mind them as much. I do actually get a lot of comparisons like that. It’s frustrating that every review seems to have some sort of comparison. I wish people would just listen to music without thinking about any other artist. When I make music, I’m not thinking about any other artist.
CHELSEA WOLFE WILL PLAY CMJ THIS WEEKEND AND CONTINUE TO TOUR THROUGHOUT THE FALL AND WINTER. HER ALBUM APOKALYPSIS IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HER WEBSITE.