March 25, 2019 Interview – Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation Talks Resist, Evolving, + More
The Netherlands’ Within Temptation are one of the brightest names in Symphonic Metal, as well as a well-known commodity to lovers of all things Rock and Metal. Formed in 1996, the ever-evolving band has seven stellar albums to their great name, ranging from their 1997 debut Enter, to 2007’s The Heart of Everything, 2014’s Hydra, and, most recently, 2019’s Resist. With a prominent name in Europe and a successful international career that is two decades strong and growing, Within Temptation continue to be a force to be reckoned with!
On their latest, the self-proclaimed “bombastic” Resist, Within Temptation incorporate a new set of muses, including Hip Hop, to explore new colors of their musical personality as a band. With so much to discuss about the release, recently we had the chance to sit down with the band’s exceptionally talented vocalist, Sharon den Adel, to discuss the evolution of Within Temptation, Resist‘s eclectic guest vocalists, touring, being a woman in Metal in 2019, and much, much more.
Cryptic Rock – As you know all too well, Within Temptation has been a band for over twenty years now. What lessons have you learned throughout that time — either about music or yourself?
Sharon den Adel – I think the most important thing, in life or in music, you have to stay close to who you are and what you find important. Sometimes you get lost along the way because things just take over; people tend to get involved and you lose track of what you wanted to do. Also, getting advice from people — “You should do this, you should do that,” “This is important,” “Go to this place.” “No, you can’t play live, you have to playback.” (Laughs)
There’s always borders you cross which you said to yourself you’re never going to cross, but that happens when you’re in a roller coaster. You learn from it and then you come back, and it’s like, “Okay, I’m never going to do that again!” Especially when you’ve grown as a band and as a person, you can learn to say no. It’s not always worth doing everything! If we’re not allowed to play live, then we’re not doing it. That’s fine with us.
We never planned to be in a band professionally ever! We were just a hobby band and everything that’s happened to us, especially in the beginning, we were overwhelmed by it. It scared us in the beginning when we’d just started. Our fourth gig or fifth gig that we ever played was a huge festival, and we didn’t even know how monitors worked — which gives you a sense of how we started. We were just a hobby band that got picked up, we got signed, we had places to go immediately.
We had to learn along the way a lot of things, and it was crazy in a good way, but also sometimes in a bad way. I wouldn’t do it any differently, because I learned from it and that’s the whole point; you learn from everything and you never get through anything without scars. On the other hand, it was also sometimes heavy.
Cryptic Rock – So, it has definitely been a trial by fire.
Sharon den Adel – (Laughs) Most definitely, yes. You do it or you don’t, and then you miss out on a lot of stuff, also. You have the choice to go for the adventure and see where it ends, and just hope for the best. It’s an adventure — that’s for sure! (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Well, it’s turned out really well. Let’s talk Resist, which has been out for just over a month now. There’s a kind of loose theme to the record, one of defying the status quo, educating yourself and opening your mind.
Sharon den Adel – For me, it’s fighting for what you believe in. In the past, we used to write about a lot of historical stuff — things that happened in the past like William Wallace, or wars in the past — what we learned from it or what we didn’t learn from it, especially. This album is really about the here and now. The world that we’re living in now is crazy enough that it gives a lot of inspiration, so that’s really what the album is about. Also, realizing that everybody has a voice.
When I grew up, I grew up with a Commodore 64 and I had floppy disks — that gives away how old I am. (Laughs) There was no internet or social media like today. Everybody likes new things, especially technology, but there’s also a downside to it. I think right now we’re at the border of this crossing over and going, almost like the Industrial Revolution. The consequence of being in such a big world that’s also a very small world at the same time is that you can buy anything from the other side of the globe and get it in a few days — for a certain price.
It has consequences for the environment, consequences for you as a user of the internet and giving away information about your privacy. Algorithms are working against you. Also when you’re looking at news sites, you don’t get the bigger picture — you have to go outside and find it, because algorithms have already decided what you are going to see or are not going to see. For me, that’s a big inspiration source for this album, actually. It feels like we’re living in the world upside down!
Cryptic Rock – It really does! That’s a great way of phrasing it, actually. Okay, to be entirely honest, nowadays so many bands have feature artists on their albums. However, often times that guest feels inserted into the mix and doesn’t entirely mesh with the song. On Resist, your guests (Jacoby Shaddix, Anders Fridén, Jasper Steverlinck) fit flawlessly with the band and actually sound like the seventh member. How did you go about selecting who you would work with and making it all mesh so flawlessly?
Sharon den Adel – Oh, thank you! Well, maybe the reason is because of the fact that we didn’t write a song for the artist that participated, we just wrote a song. We felt like, “Okay, who can we ask?” We had these names coming out that fit perfectly, and we were in luck that they all said yes. That’s also a nice thing! In the past, we had asked people but they couldn’t, because they were recording an album or they were on tour, and we had to go to Plan B. This time, everybody said ‘yes’ and it was amazing. Everybody really contributed something to the album that we could not do — for how they sing vocally and what kind of atmosphere they bring to the song. It’s really an extra addition to the song, they really give an extra color to it.
In this case, it worked really flawlessly and I’m really happy. With Jasper, most people in America don’t know who he is, but he’s an amazing vocalist. You should check out his music! I’ve been a fan of his forever, and I was really happy that he could sing on this song. He can sing on anything – he can sing Il Divo kind of stuff, but also really Metal. He’s a multi-talented guy, and he’s a really great vocalist.
Cryptic Rock – That actually segues perfectly into the next question, which is about “Firelight,” the track that Jasper Steverlinck guests on. This is the biggest departure from the traditional Within Temptation sound and, for this very reason, one of the highlights of the album. It’s a phenomenal song!
Sharon den Adel – It was a song that was supposed to be on my solo project, called My Indigo. The problem was, it was too heavy for the album because My Indigo is a bit lighter than Within Temptation and has no Metal at all. I felt like that song would be off somehow, although it did fit the atmosphere a little bit. We put it on the shelf, like, “Okay, maybe we will use it one day and we’ll see.”
Eventually, the new album for Within Temptation became a little bit more urban-influenced, so I was like, okay, maybe we can put this on the record. It’s a bit different from the previous ballads that we’ve had, but it’s also a nice, different thing. You don’t want to repeat yourself! So, in a way it’s a bit sticking out, but on the other hand it’s a nice change. I’m really happy it ended up on the Within Temptation album. We made it a bit darker than it would have been on the My Indigo album, but it fits.
Cryptic Rock – It fits wonderfully. Out of curiosity, has there been a good reception to it?
Sharon den Adel – Well, people respond to different songs. With this album, especially, they like certain songs but there’s a shift in songs. You have the more heavy songs, the typical Metal fans really love those songs. A big part also like the more “Holy Ground” type thing, but there’s also part who say, “What kind of music is this?” It’s too much in a direction that they don’t understand yet.
We made a big change with this album and people need time to adjust to it, to get used to it. We just try to explore every time, and I think this time we went a little bit further than we normally do. That’s also the reason that we’re still here: that’s what we love doing. If we would keep repeating ourselves, it gets so boring! You play songs over and over, you don’t want to have more songs alike — you want to have something new, something different. (Laughs) That’s how we flow, that’s how we’re still here and enjoying what we do!
Cryptic Rock – It feels like a natural evolution, it doesn’t feel like it came completely out of nowhere. Speaking of that evolution kind of feeds into the next question, which is that, with Resist, we are seeing Within Temptation step outside of the boundaries of Symphonic Metal to blend a zillion different influences — perhaps most shockingly Hip Hop. Do you think that’s likely to continue into the future or was that just something the band was exploring right now?
Sharon den Adel – I think it brings something more modern to Metal, because we like to make these crossovers. I don’t know yet what we’re going to do in the future, but we do intend to start writing very soon again — probably after the summer. We’ve been touring so much and we have a very hectic Summer festival season, so we’re thinking about starting to write already after the Summer — then start touring again next year.
Because we’re still in this flow, it probably will come back somehow. We find it more interesting than other things, because when you make crossovers you get really interesting things. We like the rhythms, it has some kind of coolness to it that we like and that we’ve never had. For us, it’s just another color that really inspires us at the moment. So, we’ll see! We’ll see what comes out. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) That makes perfect sense. You recently wrapped up a North American tour with In Flames, which is a huge bill. How did the shows go?
Sharon den Adel – The shows were really going great! It’s always a big question mark to see where we end up the next day. We’ve been to certain places before, but now we’re playing all these different venues because we have a bigger group of people with us. It’s been a great tour, so far. Also, there’s a really nice chemistry between the bands backstage, and that’s something that we really appreciate a lot. So, it’s going good! (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – That’s great! Are people in the crowd singing along to the new songs?
Sharon den Adel – Yeah, they are! We’ve been touring since October, before the album came out, so a lot of people have already checked out the songs; five songs of the ten are on the internet, and I think people checked them out before we came. The ones that were released as singles, they sing along or chant along most to because they’ve heard those more often.
Cryptic Rock – That makes sense and it’s great that they are embracing the new music. To rewind back, roughly a year ago, you released your solo debut as My Indigo. Recently, you’ve credited that album with, in a sense, saving your career with Within Temptation.
Sharon den Adel – That’s true. When we stopped touring for the Hydra tour, it was really — we’d had too much touring. Also, I’m in the point of my life that I’m looking back, like what have I done so far and did I like everything — just a reflection on those kind of things. Together with that, my dad got really sick. So all these things, I was really like, “Do I really still want to do this?” I’ve done this my whole adult life: I had only one serious job before this one. (Laughs) The band just immediately went off and got into this roller coaster.
I love what I do and I wouldn’t change anything, actually, but sometimes you just have to look back and make a balance. How long am I going to do this? Everybody’s got families nowadays, so which way do we want to tour? It’s a bit of a different thing happening, a bit of a burn out. I was thinking, okay, I’m just going to take my time, and eventually I found my inspiration again for Within Temptation. I didn’t feel, at the time that I was writing My Indigo, this powerful energy that you need for Within Temptation.
My Indigo worked for me and I released that for myself. I didn’t promote it very long or very well, because the album came out on the day that my dad got buried. It was a crazy point that all came together, and I had to arrange the funeral and stuff like that. For me, it was like, “Okay, I’m ready for Within Temptation now.” I did my promotion before everything happened, and it’s okay now. Maybe I’ll pick it up later when I have time for it — it would be fun seeing the boys from that band again. We’ll see where it goes!
I’m just going to do Within Temptation again because I feel like it again, and because I learned a lot from My Indigo. My Indigo gave me a direction, also where to take Within Temptation. It’s not just me: everybody in the band had the same kind of feeling — we didn’t know how to take Within Temptation to the next level. You know you want to make a certain sound, but sometimes you don’t know how to get there — that was the biggest struggle we had.
We never had a struggle before in the band; never with each other, more music-based. Every time we came back from a tour, it was like, “Oh, I want to do this with the band! I want to try this kind of song and I want to do this.” And now there was nothing! (Laughs) Which was probably the most frustrating period of everybody’s life; if you can’t make music, that’s really frustrating. So, My Indigo really gave us a way to learn from music that you have to get out from your comfort zone. My Indigo was a good excuse to do that, also.
Cryptic Rock – Well, our condolences regarding your dad. My Indigo was wonderful, it would be great to see you continue with it when you have some free time. That said, to begin to wind our take down, let’s shift to a different topic. In 2019, we finds ourselves in a time that is very focused on female empowerment. As a talented woman who has been paving the way in Metal for over twenty years now, what are your thoughts on the spotlight finally being placed onto deserving ladies and their achievements?
Sharon den Adel – I think it’s good because there are a lot of talented ladies out there. Especially in America, correct me if I’m wrong, there’s a feeling that we’re not played on radio because people more tend to listen to, in Metal, to men — they prefer men’s voices. Of course, you can’t change people’s taste, but I think it would be nice if people would promote the female singers, as well. I don’t like saying “female-fronted” because that’s such a — I hate that name, by the way! (Laughs) We’re just making the music we’re making, and it’s a girl fronting it but it’s still five other guys in the band. (Laughs)
It would be nice to be promoted a little bit more in a positive way. I think a lot of people from Europe felt like, “Oh my god, Evanescence broke through in America. Finally they’re starting to listen to female-fronted bands!” But that wasn’t the case. It’s still very hard to get on the radio, and get anyone to visit you or make a review. In Europe, it’s a little more accepted; there’s also more history there with female-fronted bands. Correct me if I’m wrong — I don’t know the American history that well concerning bands with ladies in them.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed. In America, Metal is very much viewed as a male-dominated genre. There’s still a stigma around bands fronted by or composed entirely of women.
Sharon den Adel – Yeah, exactly! People always ask me, “How do you combine this with your family?” It’s like, come on! You don’t ask Ozzy Osbourne that! You don’t ask any guy who’s on the road, “How do you manage?” It’s because they’re thinking you should be home with your family. (Laughs) It’s stupid! I have a very modern family, and it’s done differently.
I always have to make an excuse for the fact that I’m on the road — “Why are you on the road? How do you combine it? Do you feel guilty?” Come on! This is what I chose, it’s my passion! Of course I have a family, and I take great care of them. I’m trying to find the right balance between things. People always ask you, try to stereotype you. (Laughs) The fact that they’re surprised at how you do it is almost, for me, that’s not a question even, but for a lot of people it still is.
Cryptic Rock – Right. It’s like how dare you have a family and front a band!
Sharon den Adel – Exactly! “How can you leave them behind? They need you!” (Laughs) Of course they need me, but I’ll be back there. (Laughs)
I brought it up because we’re talking about female-fronted bands or females in Metal. This is something everybody asks always. I understand in a way, but I also find it very old-fashioned to ask that. It’s such a stereotyped way of thinking. I just happen to have the greatest dad in the world taking care of them while I’m gone, so that’s my answer. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) As long as it works, it’s nobody’s business but your family’s! Okay, so the last question. Last you spoke with Cryptic Rock, you had said that you were into big, epic stories, as well as Thrillers and Detective films. Although, it sounded like you were perhaps more into books than TV. Is that true?
Sharon den Adel – I like to read a lot, yes, but I do go to the movies. In America, I went to the movies because I find that is an extra experience somehow. (Laughs) It’s true, I like to read a lot, as well.
Cryptic Rock – Have you read anything recently that really impressed you?
Sharon den Adel – Well, I’m reading a book but I have to see where I have it, because I don’t know the name of the guy who wrote it — and I don’t think you can get it in America. It’s about Lebanon, actually. A family that came to Germany, and the father was a storyteller who told all these beautiful stories that have a lot of truth in them. His dad disappeared at a certain point from their lives, and he was a very responsible kind of person.
He’s wondering what happened to his dad, so he goes back to Lebanon after the war, and he figures out that all of these stories that he was told as a kid were actually very close to the truth. It’s such a beautiful book! It’s a very sad book in a way, but it’s very beautiful. It’s so well-written. It’s called The Storyteller [by Pierre Jarawan]. That’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve been reading lately. I’m still trying to finish it, but it’s very difficult — tour life has been hectic.
I’m also a big fan of Nicci French and the Freida Klein series. They’re from England. There’s a man and a woman, it’s a kind of detective series that I love. They have the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; they have books for the whole week. It’s a seven-part book series, but it continues and it’s lovely. It’s very well-written if you like detectives. (Laughs)