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Interview with Sharon Den Adel @ (Paris, FR) - 07.02.2011 - version française

Today, we met with Sharon den Adel in Paris. Robert, Ruud and her were there to promote their soon to be released new album: The Unforgiving. We talked about the concept of the album, about the story of the comics its based upon and also about the movies that will revolve round it. Since we were given the chance to listen to the new songs, we were able to talk about the big step that the band is taking by bringing us an all new sound, very different from what theyve done until now, and yet, still perfectly true to what Within Temptation is.

Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation)
Metal-Ways: How did Steven O'Connell end up writing a comics for you?

Sharon: What happened was that we wanted to write lyrics for a movie. We were searching for a good movie with a good story and everybody had different release dates. If something goes wrong, a movie can very easily be postponed for a year, and we couldn't take the chance to have to wait for that, otherwise we would have had to postpone our album as well. So we decided to take the matter in our own hands.

We felt like we wanted to have a nice story, not a story that is very white and black, very easy, very superficial. We asked this comics writer that we met for The Heart of Everything. He was a writer for The Chronicles of Spellborn. He introduced us to Steven O'Connell. He is a very good writer for movies, for scripts, for comics, and he does the X-Men series in America also.

So we called him, and he had some ideas, but it wasn't the kind of ideas that we like: we don't like zombies, we don't like fantasy, we don't like blablabla... at least not for this story. We want something totally different, we want a thriller, we want a detective, we want something that has several layers, and, you know, what you see is not completely what you get. When you are reading a book, it's nice to be surprised, so that is what we wanted also.

So we told him what kind of movies we liked, what kind of books we read, and he thought about it and he came up with a basic idea, like 2 or 3 lines, the story is about people who have done bad things but not because they are bad, but because they made bad decisions. And they got a second life by Mother Maiden. They got recruited to find some redemption, but they have to pick up the bad guys. It sounds a little bit like a X-Men kind of story, but it is also a little bit like what you see is not always what you get. It is more a detective, a thriller, but that's something you will see when the comics comes in.

So we chose a comics to keep the matter in our own hands, but also because we love comics. We grew up with comics.

M-W: In which way do you think this comics connects to Within Temptation?

I think in a way that we, as writers, always are looking for something new. And this is also part of us I think, that's why it suits us. But I think that a lot of people will have to get used to the artwork and stuff like that. They are so different from what we did previously... But for us, it is really necessary to get inspired again.

And also because, in the past, when we were growing up as teenagers, in the 80's, when you bought an album, you were like: "Oooh, the album goes out!" and you looked at the artwork and wonder "Oh, what does this mean?" There were a lot of things to discover and people really were waiting until the album came out: "Only one week left!" and now everybody just download it, and it's just one song... We hope to bring a little bit the old magic back by bringing not just music but also a story behind it, and movies...

M-W: Did you choose the name of the characters?

Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't. Sinéad for instance, she was called Maya and was from South America, which was beautiful and everything but we felt like: "Ok, we have a song already called Sinead" and I said "I can't hear myself singing "Mayaaaa". It doesn't fit you know (laughs). So we asked Steven if we could change to Sinéad, because it's a beautiful name... and Steven said: "ok that's a good idea! Let's bring her back to Dublin!" (laughs)

M-W: Are there parts of the story or maybe some characters that have been inspired by some TV shows?

No, not that we know of.

M-W: At the end of the first short clip, Steven O'Connell and Tim Smit are credited for the script, and Joeri Holsheimer is named as the director. What part did you play in the creating process?

Well, it is like adding small ideas that you have... But it was really a creative team altogether, from the story to the movies, because Tim and Joeri had interesting ideas about the film, and it didn't always match the story... So we had to go back to Steven and say "Ok Steven, we have to integrate this and this because it is really nice what they want to do, it really makes the story much better". That was really good to do. That's all creative people, including us, everybody was just adding things and ideas for the movies and for the story.

M-W: Aesthetically, the first short movie is successfully studied and accomplished. The band parts of the video clip, on the other hand, are simple and sober. Was it a choice?

Yes, we wanted to put all the money into the movies. You have a budget and then you have to make choices and, to be honest, MTV and everything, it is not so big anymore. And when you make videos, they always say "you can't use blood, you can't use guns, you can't use..." and we wanted to use everything: blood, guns... everything! (laughs)
The special edition of the CD will have everything on it: the movies, and all three videos.

M-W: You shot the 3 video clips within the same week. Will they look alike?

No, there are really different things. One is in a club, and two of them were shot in an old factory. In one of them, you only see darkness, there's only black.

M-W: There are two ways of watching the videoclip: either short film + video clip with only the band images, or only the video clip with mixed images from both the movie and the band. Is there a way that feels more natural to you?

If I were a fan, I would watch the long version (first the movie and then the clip) otherwise you miss certain parts of course.

M-W: Who wrote the Mother Maiden's speech from the first movie?

That was Steven O'Connell.

M-W: In which way this concept gave you the inspiration to come up to a new approach of your sound?

Well, we have been writing this kind of music since late 80's, beginning 90's. It is a long time; it's more than ten years, and with The Heart of Everything, we felt like it was finalized. It was the best album we could have done.
We finalized our sound and everything, and we were always like this: "Ok, we have a goal and that is what we have to write", and, when you have done it, you feel like you've done everything, more or less, and probably, you can't do better. Then, it was like "Oh! What now?"

So we stopped with everything, just let all music boundaries go and see what comes. This was the only way to open up again to new ideas. We were a little bit afraid of that because you never know what will come up, and, at the beginning, we were like: "Ooh it's going to be an 80's album, only going to be 80's!" And in the end, it just became a little more old Within Temptation and very new things from the 80's, you know, when we were growing up.

So we went back to our roots, and also to bands we grew up with: Metallica, Iron Maiden, but also Sinéad O'Connor, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Chris Isaak (not that I was a huge fan of Chris Isaak, I liked him very much, but I appreciate him more now actually than I did when I was growing up, although I did love Wicked Games, Blue Hotel and similar kind of songs that he wrote...)

M-W: Actually, Faster sounds a bit like Wicked Games...

Yes, it has the same atmosphere. It has similar, almost the same, accords, but it is different... So, we've been going like: "Ooooh we have re-written Wicked Games" and then "No, the chords scheme is different, we don't have to worry. And it's a written song!" (laughs) "Yay!".

M-W: You said that the diversity of the songs comes from the concept itself. Can you explain that?

Well, not only from the concept, but also because every inspiration differs from one another, like Iron Maiden is totally different from Chris Isaak! So that made it very diverse. Fire and Ice was more Frankie goes to Hollywood inspired.

M-W: By getting your inspiration from metal, rock and also pop hits from the 80's, you don't have a lot of room for symphonic elements which have always been a big part of Within Temptation. So, you are taking a big step, and some people might even call it a big risk. Do you feel anxious, or does it just feel natural?

Yes, it feels natural, it feels liberating also, but I don't think we left the orchestra part that much behind. It's less present, it's a new kind of mix. I think this way it becomes heavier. Because it is very difficult to have your strings, you know, the orchestra over there, and also guitars. They are always in the same frequency. So you always have to choose orchestra or guitars. And in the past, we said: "ok, bye bye guitars!", and the orchestra was all "BOOOW" big and everything... But that's something we always missed and now we have guitars and a lot of solos!

M-W: On the whole album, your way of singing is almost never soprano but more rock like and more aggressive than before. Is it only because it fits the concept better, or have you reached a point where it's safer for your voice this way?

No, it's more because it's needed for the emotions that I want for certain songs.

M-W: Your voice is very soft in Sinéad because "for the first time, life is gonna turn around" whereas it's clearly darker in Murder (dark Ice Queen style). You've reached a point where you're able to perfectly inflect your voice in order to make the characters feelings come to life. Is it well-thought or did it just come naturally? M-W: Your voice is very soft in Sinéad because "for the first time, life is gonna turn around" whereas it's clearly darker in Murder (dark Ice Queen style). You've reached a point where you're able to perfectly inflect your voice in order to make the characters feelings come to life. Is it well-thought or did it just come naturally?

No, it just came naturally. I think that Murder is a little bit like a wacko kind of song. So I needed a wacko kind of voice, like if it was a crazy person singing. And I'm singing about a murderer. And Sinéad, it's lyric, it's a heavy song. In the beginning, it starts very soft and then it's like... party time! (laughs) ... which I also like, because it's nice to have uplifting songs! Usually, it's always dark...

M-W: Since we have time to talk about some of the songs, I'll ask bluntly: where the hell did In The Middle Of The Night come from?

In The Middle Of The Night... (starts singing it...) I love that song. It's one of my favourites. It just came up... we always had problems writing uptempo songs. Somehow it was always easier to write mid tempo songs and still make them heavy... I'm just trying, and trying, every time again, to have a heavy song... And then, I sat down with Daniel this time, and we were trying and trying, and it just happened! And I love it! I'm so proud of this song!

M-W: And I suppose your neck is definitely healed... because it's going to have to work perfectly!

Yeah! (laughs) I'll let everybody else headbang because I have to sing perfectly, and it's not a very easy song, breathing wise. There is not much time to breathe.

M-W: Another heavy song on the album is Iron. It's really power metal spirit. How did it come to that?

Well, that was more Robert and Daniel. Robert is really an Iron Maiden fan, Ruud also of course, and the guys have written a beautiful guitar solo for that. With this song, it's again the same thing: going back to our roots. It's very difficult to write a good song in that tempo but it works somehow.

M-W: And it's funny to hear your voice on this kind of music, because even at the beginning, when WT sounded more metal, it was gothic metal, kind of sweet, and sad...

And now it's more like : kick your balls! (laughs)

M-W: And it's nice!

I like it too because I like the new me! (laughs)

M-W: Since there's a large musical diversity within this album, are there one or two songs that you particularly enjoy?

I like everything. That's because I don't like only one kind of music. I like In The Middle Of The Night because it's so metal and it kicks ass! I like Fire and Ice because it's so beautiful and also very sad and pure emotion... But also other songs, they all have something special. I like Sinéad because it's so upper lifting... like: "no matter what happens to me, I'm gonna turn my life around", that kind of feeling.

M-W: How do you think you're going to tell the story of your album through live performances?

Well, the good thing is that I'm pregnant now (laughs) so we have more time to develop this. We're going to try to bring the story of the comics and the films on stage. I'm not sure yet how we're going to do it, maybe through projections or something. We just have to see what we're going to do.

M-W: And, in order to respect the story, do you plan on playing the songs in the same order as they are on the album?

No, because then it would be a very short show I think, because it's only a small hour... So we'll integrate some other songs as well... maybe just complete album and then old songs, or maybe integrate the old songs with the new ones. I'm not sure yet.

M-W: And since the concept idea is very important, do you plan to do special concerts where you'll perform the entire album in a row?

Maybe... It's maybe an idea, something we will be playing around with.

M-W: To conclude, there's an article on the website entitled "From now on, nothing will be the same". Was this only a teaser thing, or do you profoundly feel that way?

Well, we feel like we've made a major step in a different direction. We're not leaving everything behind but just adding a new flavour to our songs.

Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation)

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