Within Temptation – Willing to ResistSunday, 17th February 2019
In an ever-changing music industry, some musicians choose to play the straight, safe and narrow path in hopes of sustaining what they’ve built – while others favor an ever-evolving approach to satisfy their own personal and creative desires. Within Temptation as one of the leaders in the symphonic metal movement rose to the top through sterling efforts like Mother Earth and The Heart of Everything – attaining headline status in mainland Europe as well as North America. Their last album Hydra in 2014 signaled some changes into modern pastures – including a special guest appearance from rapper Xzibit for “And We Run”. Five years have passed since that effort – as the latest record Resist sees the band infuse their sonic output with a sense of modern/alternative freedom, which showcases a vibrant sense of hooks and rhythms to push the Within Temptation sound into horizons unforeseen.
Reaching out to vocalist Sharon den Adel just as the album appears on the market, you’ll understand during our conversation how the band was able to break through a mental writer’s block to come to the output we have before us. We also talk about her time as a judge in the Eurovision contest, career highlights, and how the band will balance touring/recording/ family needs for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in the background information for Resist the fact that after Hydra, you didn’t feel as inspired anymore for Within Temptation – almost to the point of ending the band. What ended up fueling the creative push and fresh direction the material on Resist takes – and are you glad you pushed through these barriers instead of ending with Hydra?
Sharon den Adel: I’m really happy that we did push through, but it’s been a long journey. (It was) five years since we produced a new album, and the thing was after Hydra I was very burnt out, especially touring because I’ve been doing that my whole adult life. It was a moment where I really had to look back on my life, and think about the balance of what I wanted to do in the future and what are the things I have to make happen. My dad got really sick and that was one of the key moments where you really start to think about your own life. Am I still on the right track, and what do I want to do in life? One of the things I wanted to do was spend more time with my family, especially my dad. I’ve always been on the road and focused on my own little family and the band, and these things have absorbed all of my time. My parents have always been very supportive and there for us in the background, helping us out with stuff. I knew it was time for me to make time for them. So I did – and I was in that thinking stage about where I wanted my direction to go next. I didn’t feel the music at the time – and I didn’t know what direction to go into at the time.
I needed to get away from it for a little while, and that’s why I did the solo project for My Indigo. It was different music-wise, more singer/songwriter, alternative urban/pop- a mix of 80’s and what you hear now on the radio. I felt like doing this and pouring more of my emotions into that. And when it did happen, I learned a lot from that process. It was making music outside of my comfort zone and enjoying music again, different kinds of rhythms, different kinds of production, different ways of singing. What kind of things I was writing, how I was thinking about it- and all of these skills applied when I started writing for the Resist album. I could start that again- and the producer for the My Indigo album (Daniel Gibson) is also the producer for the Resist album. We both made this transition and learned a lot going into this album. When we started writing again, the band influences came in – certain elements came up with the production, how you produce the songs, certain rhythms. It made the album a step forward and very enjoyable again. It made things more modern in a way, and helped us getting into the direction we wanted to go anyway.
Dead Rhetoric: What elements do you believe makes Within Temptation’s songwriting unique and special now compared to the past? Do you believe the special guests offer those different shades of color that intrigue you today?
Den Adel: Mostly it has a big influence, especially on the timing, how you sing, how you play the guitar and drums. We were never a groovy band in the past, and for the first time on this album we have some groovy songs. And that makes the vibe so much cooler in my opinion, that’s something I’ve always wanted, and we were never able to write that typical kind of music. Now that we’ve found our way, hopefully we can improve this on the next album in a different way. It’s a learning process that I would like to go on with actually.
And the vocalists we are featuring on the album, those always give an extra color to the music. I always think this is a good idea – in the past we have gotten a lot of criticism for it, relying on these features when we are capable of doing this on our own. But we like this, it gives different colors to a song that I can’t bring. It’s nice to have a heaviness or crunchiness with a certain kind of voice. It’s nice especially to have a male vocalist because he can bring a different ambiance and color to a certain song. I’m really happy that the three gentlemen who are on this album participated – because all three of them bring something very unique to each song.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like the lyrical content for this album is quite relevant in today’s social/political climate, where we worry about being controlled and monitored as humans instead of breaking free and developing ourselves as individuals. Do you believe the acceleration of technology has been a see-saw in terms of convenience but also causing individuals to not think for themselves and limit critical thinking to form their own viewpoints?
Den Adel: Yes, totally. I think technology -everybody enjoys the good sides of it, but I think people don’t like standing still. There are downsides, and once technology is there you can’t really change that – especially with privacy laws that will protect people. The government is always late with these things – because it’s happening so fast. It’s not very clear sometimes what people sign themselves up for. It’s very blurry what’s happening on the other side of the computer and with contracts.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you believe your audience is taking to the changes in style and more modern touches? Does fear ever set in when you’ve established such a strong, fervent fanbase that such a left turn could be hard to recover from?
Den Adel: We feel like change is the only way to move forward. Otherwise things will end up sounding the same and there will be no progress. It was scary in a way the first time we’ve tried it, but we’ve been changing consistently. Sometimes we make a bigger development than others – on Hydra for example we made a big step forward, looking back on it, it was a good album but we didn’t make as much of a change as the previous albums before that one. We made a bigger change this time, and what makes us believe we are on the right track is when we listen to this ourselves and we are really happy that we made a step forward. We’ve learned a lot along the way, we have a good sense of what is a good song and what is not, of course people will outgrow you and new people will join you. Some people only like you for one type of album and they don’t want to hear anything else from you. What it seems so far, we are still here, we are able to play on tour and at festivals, and people are coming out to the shows at bigger and bigger venues. At the end of the day I think we are on the right track. This gives you the confidence and the energy to make these changes all the time.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the differences between the studio and the stage for Within Temptation now compared to the start of the group? Do you enjoy one more than the other- or are both equally satisfying at this point?
Den Adel: In the past we didn’t play with a click track, nowadays we have to play with a click track and that’s a big change because it makes it a little bit less easy to be spontaneous. I have to give signals to the side of the stage, as we have these walls of movies behind us when we play live, and it’s all on a click track. When I am going to talk to the audience longer than I usually do, I send signals. I do like it, the video and the presentation for the show is something that brings an extra dimension to the music. People want more because they are used to seeing more- they want to see fireworks, movies, things blowing up – more and more sometimes. We want to look for something different in that direction as well.
After a while being on tour, I’m really happy to go back to the studio. If I’m really honest, I like the creativity part of the studio a little bit better than being on the road. It’s nice to be with the guys in the band, and we have an amazing crew as well, a big group of people that enjoy each other’s company and we have a lot of fun on the road. In the studio, you can give something new that you haven’t created before from nothing. And that’s a magical process. A lot of work and frustration as well, but it’s really nice in the end.
Dead Rhetoric: When you look back at the career of the band, are there some specific benchmark moments that will stand out in your memories forever?
Den Adel: With us, from the moment we started, one of the first gigs we played at was the biggest metal festival in the Netherlands called Dynamo Open Air. We didn’t even know if the monitors were working, we were playing in a big tent and there was at least 10,000 people – the big stage was way bigger. It was our fourth gig ever, before that we had only played in small clubs. After that we toured through Europe with a lot of labelmates, we started going upward. Bigger festivals then started happening, we would play in Belgium, Germany, France – go to bigger countries. Every time there would be another country, the audience always grew.
One of the moments where I really realized things were happening for us is when we got played on the national radio with the Mother Earth album. We had the chance for our video to be voted on and selected by the audience, $1 per video. It happened in all the cities in the Netherlands, and we were the top one or two videos chosen in every city. It came to the radio stations, and they had to play us. It was an official list of everyone wanting to hear us. It was a big compliment for us, coming from the metal scene and making a breakthrough, the people wanted to hear the music so much.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance out your career with your family – as Robert isn’t on the road as much due to his fatherly duties? Are they starting to realize what Mom and Dad do for a living?
Den Adel: Yeah, they are getting to that age of course. We talk about music now. Family is always something you need to look at, your needs change as well as the family needs. In the past I would go on tour for six weeks in a row- now I prefer to go three and a half weeks, and then be at home for two and half weeks. I still tour as much as possible, it’s just more cut up and takes longer. Being at home and close by, birthdays, school plays- I want to plan the tour around it so I can be around for those important moments in the family life.
All three of my children are talented, but my son is the only one who is picking up an interest in music with the guitar and playing stuff like The Eagles. He started with Linkin Park, and he got into them because of the Marvel comics and the YouTube films, the unofficial stuff. They are growing up with more heavy music, they are exploring the scene.
Dead Rhetoric: You are also a jury representative for your homeland in the Eurovision Song Contest – tell us how this feels and what are your criteria for judging this material in this well-known competition?
Den Adel: At least for ten years they thought that Within Temptation should be joining this competition, because we have a big following. They thought we could win this contest if we would participate. Every time we said no, but I don’t think we would match up well because it’s like a game/competition. A lot of politics go along with this – but I think it’s a great opportunity especially for a more unknown musician or band. For us, we already have a following, so it’s not my priority within the music. You never know, it may come up with my solo project. They wanted me to look behind the scenes- and one of the guys I met is a metal producer, and I did music sessions with him at a radio station. He is writing music and participating in Eurovision.
The thing that I judge on is originality, good songs, and it’s strange because the music in the competition is a little bit behind what’s currently going on the radio. There are a few people who still surprise you and they end up in the top ten.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Within Temptation over the next twelve months following the release of Resist?
Den Adel: We are going to do a tour of North America and Canada, end of February through March. And then there are a lot of festivals, more then thirty festivals all over the place. It’s going to be hectic. After the summer, I don’t know quite yet. We have a lot of options to go to Australia, South America, another tour of Europe. Another thing we are thinking about is releasing more new music. The music industry has changed, we may just write new music, it’s strange to be doing something now and be away for two years, and then not do anything- so we might spread out the touring and release more new music in a very short time. Everything is changing so much, we have to keep people participating with the band. We are still focused on the band, you release an album, but then interest wanes. We may bring out a new album sooner and in between all of the touring we’ll be doing.