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A Second Youth: An Interview with Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel

61086vq4Since forming in 1996, Holland’s Within Temptation, led by the charismatic and gorgeous vocalist Sharon den Adel,has become one of metal’s most successful female-fronted acts. The band started garnering widespread acclaim with the 2000 album Mother Earth and built a strong following that allowed them to play some of the biggest festivals in Europe. The Silent Force, released in 2004,is their most successful album to date, combining their style of folk and symphonic rock with a somewhat updated, modern sound.

Within Temptation’s new release, The Heart of Everything, has already been released throughout Europe to great success through the videos/singles “What Have you Done,”  featuring guest vocals by Life of Agony’s Keith Caputo, and the mesmerizing power ballad “Frozen.” Further building on the strengths of The Silent Force, The Heart of Everything adds darker, heavier guitar riffs to the band’s epic, cinematic style and features den Adel’s most diversified and captivating performance to date. In 2007, the band was selected for the “Hottest Chicks in Metal” tour, along with In This Moment and Stolen Babies, supporting Lacuna Coil. It is the band’s first ever U.S. tour.

Jason Price and Jeff Maki of Live-Metal.net had the privilege to talk to Sharon aboard the band’s tour bus during their stop at Jaxx in Springfield, Va. She is just as, if not more, beautiful in person and one of the nicest artists we’ve had the chance to interview. Sharon talks about the Hottest Chicks in Metal Tour, The Heart of Everything and a new beginning for Within Temptation.

How have the first few shows gone on the Hottest Chicks of Metal tour?

Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel
Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel

Sharon den Adel: They’ve been going very well, I must say. I was really surprised so many people knew our music and were singing the lyrics sometimes and all. And we didn’t expect anything actually because we didn’t know that there were people here already that knew us. But MySpace is so big here in America, and, also, we have got a MySpace, so probably a lot of people got into contact with each other that already knew us. It was really nice to see them travel. A lot of people came from far to see us, of course, not only us but the other bands playing. But people also came especially for us, which is really nice.

Now this your first official U.S. tour?

Yeah. It’s more like an introduction tour, I think, because we are playing 40 minutes and our album is not released yet. It’s going to be released the 24th of July, so I think it’s more an introduction tour. That’s how I see it.

So how exactly did you get involved with the tour?

I know that Roadrunner wanted to send us on tour to America and Lacuna Coil was searching for support acts, and somewhere they met each other. I think it’s something that really fits together. And also all the bands are really nice, really good bands. It’s a really nice package, I think. All bands got really good reaction, so that’s a really good sign, I think.

Did you have any reservations in taking part in a tour promoting the hottest chicks in metal?

I didn’t know that it was called by that. We are on the plane over here and “By the way, what is the hottest chicks of metal tour?, That’s the tour we’re on. Uh …. OK.”  [laughter] They never told me what they called it, so it was a little like, “Umm … OK.” Whatever they want to call it.

Well, you’re touring the U.S. for the first time, so I guess that’s what’s important.

Yeah. We’ve been on the Chainsaw Massacre tour once through Germany, and it was like “Chainsaw Massacre tour?” [laughter] It was a thrash metal band as the main act and you had Orphanage, which was a Dutch band, which was more rhythmical and very heavy band but not close to thrash metal, very melodical. And us, and we’re like, “OK?” It was way back. It was like 10 years ago, our first tour we ever did. [laughter]

For people who aren’t familiar with you yet in the U.S., how would you describe your sound?

I think I would call it melodic, symphonic rock. And with a lot of film influences, some metal influences and folk influences. Different kinds of genres we put in one kind of style and just mixed it. It’s very cinematic I think … storytelling.

Your new album, The Heart of Everything, is out in July, but what can you tell us about the making of that album?

We started writing songs at the end of 2005. We just released the Silent Force DVD. We started next year, August or something ,and we started recording for a half year. That’s it, actually. And the making of, We wrote a lot of ideas and out of 200 ideas that we had, just small ideas, you know? Sometimes just a riff, sometimes just a vocal line. Then choosing from those ideas, the best ones we felt we could continue with. And that’s what became The Heart of Everything, at least the songs that ended up on it.

How do you think the material is being received so far with it being out in Europe already?

Yeah, it’s been out since March, and people reacted really well, I must say. We had sold out shows throughout Europe and quite big venues, not the biggest, but it’s getting bigger every time we go tour and people get more familiar. Or maybe it’s that or that they like the album better because we moved up to different venues because that venue was sold out, so then we went to a bigger venue. And it’s a lot of countries like that. So it’s really special for us to see everything growing. And also in England we did five shows which were all sold out and we’ve never toured there before. Also 1,500 people every night, 2000.

How did the collaboration come together with Keith Caputo of Life of Agony?

We saw him play many years ago at a festival in Holland with Life of Agony and it was raining. Yeah, it’s always raining, that’s how we feel. [laughter]

It’s always raining in Holland?

With springtime this time of year the weather is sorta fucked up. I can’t say it any [other] way. Like 30 degrees is a heat wave in springtime. It never is like this [here], but springtime is not normal for Holland. It’s just really rainy and like one third of [this] temperature.

But at that time, 11 years, 12 years ago, we saw them play on a festival and it was raining and we couldn’t get away because, sometimes you have these bands that totally, you stop and can’t walk away because they’re captivating, you know. That’s what happened with that when we heard his singing and we’re like, “My god, who is this?” You have that sometimes and we always remembered if we ever have a song that we have to call and maybe do something with him. Although our band was just starting up at the time, but you always have your wish list, of course and he was on our wish list for a long time. And we wrote the song and were just searching for someone who could sing it and he liked the song. Although it’s totally different from Life of Agony, of course. He could do very many things and that’s something he proves with this song.

You mentioned your wish list of people you’d like to work with?

Yeah, but there’s so many that aren’t around any more, so it’s like you always have people which you really, really admire and he’s one of them. But you know what else is that he [Caputo] is a really nice guy. I also worked with some people in the past on side projects who are really assholes. I can’t even listen to their music anymore because they’re not nice. So really, really [they] think they’re high and mighty. He was totally not. He was very cool.

Our Solemn Hour” rules on the new album, what is the meaning of Sanctus Espiritus?

It’s like a cry out, the holy spirit. And the song is about the fact that we haven’t learned from war. It sounds like [that] because it’s [Winston] Churchill talking [about] the second World War, of course, but we don’t want to refer to the second World War exactly, but more the feeling of war and how propaganda works. A lot of times when you look back on history a lot of times it was propaganda, but a lot of times you see it as truth because it’s somebody policing, sort of powers and stuff. But we haven’t learned from that. We haven’t learned from following people’s lives. So people get sacrificed also for war and we don’t learn from that. Here we are again in Iraq. A lot of things happen and again still a lot of stories are told that were not totally true and it’s terrible. I think that’s the feeling of a lot of people, so we just wrote a song about it.

Now that you’re coming over to the U.S., are you worried about inevitable Evanescence comparisons?

In every country we get comparisons. Not only with Evanescence, but with Lacuna Coil when we’re in Italy, Nightwish when we’re in Finland, and they get compared when they come to our side of Europe. It’s inevitable, although I think the bands are all very different. They sound all so different. That’s what I like about this genre of music. You can’t even call it a genre because the bands are so different from each other. It’s sort of like the time you had the grunge period, like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and they said it all sounds the same, but looking back on it they’re so different. They’re so special in their own way and that’s the same thing [here] I think. Although, of course, those are major bands, but it’s just a comparison.

What was your musical background before the band. You guys all met in high school, but did you have any formal training as a singer?

No, I trained myself. You train yourself in the way, if you always listen to music you always sing along and try to do something which is not really totally in your reach, but try over and over again, the same thing as practicing with a real teacher. I didn’t realize that I was practicing, and it’s just stretching out your vocal chords and you’re able to do more things. I started out with doing that when I was very young and I always played in a lot of bands even in prep school. I was in my first band when I was 12. It was a school band. Very … you know … it was 12 year olds. [laughter] But I was singing, so it just grew from that.

How are you treated by your male fans? Have you had any run-ins or stalkers or anything like that over the years?

Some people are a little bit weird you know, but 99 percent, are very respectful and very nice. Also, because maybe the band is quite relaxed with the fans. Also, fans keep an eye on each other because if something goes wrong the relaxed feeling of the band it’s going to be gone for everybody. And they respect our privacy and stuff like that. So no real encounters, no. It’s really nice that I can say [that] after so many years, that we never really had problems.

sharondenadel-3What are your expectations of the new album in the U.S.?

Well, we don’t have any expectations because it’s such a big country and you never know where people will like your music. It’s totally different tastes and we’re going to come over here and play and see if people will like it. You can’t change [it] if they don’t. And if they do, then it’s a another nice country we can go and play at and enjoy the culture. It’s a big country. You could play a long time here. So it’s just having fun for us, also. We also went last year to Japan for the first time. And it’s such a contrast from Japan to America to Europe. People are so different and that’s so nice when you get in a position [that] you get to play everywhere.

What are your plans immediately following this tour?

Well, I know because this is like an introductory tour, then a real tour for us. I think what’s happening now is Roadrunner is looking at what they can do, to do a follow-up tour. Probably in the fall or maybe next year.

OK, well is there anything else you want to say?

Well, just to the people who really drove … you know, a few people drove 12 hours to see us at one of the shows, and I just want to thank everyone who came from such far away to see us. It’s a small club, but I think it’s also nice in a way that they got to see us in a small club. It’s more intimate. You get to meet everybody, talk a little bit. We went out with one of the fans and he was a chef in a restaurant. And it was like, “Bring us food on the tables!” And they were totally pampering us. It was crazy. We met them before and actually him and his friends came to Holland, actually a few times to see us. And he brought all these friends and one of these friends was the chef. They all took us to the restaurant and it was really nice. Those things don’t happen in Europe anymore. It’s really nice that we can do that here again. It feels like we’re going back 12 years in time, starting from a very basic tour because it’s really basic but really nice, really nice. It’s also, it’s like starting again and we have good memories of the beginning period, also. A second youth. I’m not in a mid-life crisis, by the way. [laughter] It is nice to be here.