Interview de Chad Bowar pour Heavy MetalA Conversation With Vocalist Sharon den Adel
The Dutch band Within Temptation has just released their fourth album The Heart Of Everything. The band was started in the mid ‘90s by guitarist Robert Westerholt and vocalist Sharon den Adel. They are hugely popular in their native Holland and all over Europe, but this is their first album to have wide release in the United States. The single “What Have You Done” has been getting a lot of video and radio airplay and features Keith Caputo from Life Of Agony. Within Tempation toured the U.S. for the first time earlier this year, and will return in September for their first headlining run. I spoke with singer Sharon den Adel about the new album, their experiences in the U.S., and what she thinks of being called one of the hottest chicks in metal.What has the response been in the United States to The Heart of Everything?
Sharon den Adel: We toured in the U.S.
a few months ago and we didn't know what to expect when we went over there. We were a support act for Lacuna Coil. A lot of people came to see us even though we only played for 45 minutes. People came from Atlanta to Louisville, which is a really long drive. I was really amazed that so many people came to see us and already knew the music. It was really cool. A lot of them got to know us through MySpace. I think in Europe we underestimate MySpace. It's a lot bigger in the U.S. than here. That's how a lot of people got in contact with us. We were very surprised.Every Within Temptation album has a different vibe and theme. How would you describe The Heart of Everything?
We have been inspired by movies and books and, of course, our personal lives. It's about what an individual finds important in life. You have to make choices. It's about the journey toward those choices. If you were to ask me what's important in my life, I would say family, my health, that type of thing. But this is not to tell people what is good in my life, but to ask questions and search for what is good in life. That's why Lady Justice is on the album cover, weighing choices and hopefully making the right choices. You signed with Roadrunner Records. Was the fact that your albums will now be released in the United States part of that decision?
We have been around for some time and have been doing quite well in Europe. That is why America started noticing us, and that's why we got the deal with Roadrunner. They noticed us and thought we might be a good band for them to release in America. That's the way it happened. It was nice coming to America. It's such a different culture. It's another exciting journey. Are there new plans of releasing some of your back catalogue in North America?
I hope so. They also put the song “Stand My Ground” on this album, maybe to get people interested in our previous albums. It was actually on the Silent Force album (2004). I think they are going to release the back catalogue as well. “Stand My Ground” was in the movie Blood and Chocolate. Another song was used in Grey’s Anatomy. You’ve been a fan of Keith Caputo from Life Of Agony for a while. How did his singing with you on “What Have You Done” come about?
He also lives part of the year in Holland and has a band here that he plays with as part of his solo project. We called him and said we really like your music and your voice and asked him to listen to our song and tell us what he thinks of it. He wanted to make sure it was something that fit his voice and fits him as a person and an artist. He called us right back and in two or three weeks we were recording the song. We recorded it at the beginning of 2006. You are donating the proceeds of the single “Frozen” to Child Helpline International. How did you select that organization?
We wrote a song about child abuse and when you make a video like that it is going to have a huge impact on people who are watching. So we thought that if you make a video, you have a responsibility to help people to get in contact with the right organization. We chose this organization because they are represented in 160 countries and it is very easy to get in contact with them. You can send them an e-mail or call. They are there not only to help, but also to just listen, and you can decide how much help you want. Over the years you've played pretty much all of the big European festivals. What have been your favorites?
We like the unusual ones, which aren't always festivals. We played once at a train station in Spain. I like the festivals, but it's fun to play the shows that are really weird. We also played in Germany near a lake which was a great atmosphere. There's another festival that's on a racing course where cars race. It's a combination of the atmosphere and the interaction with the fans. It all comes together and sometimes makes a very special one. The European festivals seem to have a lot of diversity in bands compared to some of the U.S. package tours.
We are very much a crossover band. You can put us on a bill with mainstream bands and metal bands. We played Earthshaker and Wacken, but also Graspop and other mainstream festivals. You can find us anywhere. We have so much diversity in our music. You’re coming back to the U.S. for a tour later this fall.
We wanted to come back to America to play a headline show. We had so many good reactions after we played there and were approached by the promoter to come back.Have you had any formal vocal training?
Sharon den Adel: No. But I think I did it the way people do when they are trained. I practiced every day. I was singing three or four hours every day. I grew up with parents who loved music and there was always music in our house. When I heard a song I liked I would rehearse until I could sing it the same way it was supposed to be. It was a challenge for me to be able to sing the songs I really liked. I trained myself that way.What kinds of bands were you in before Within Temptation?
What I was about 13 I met some guys who were in music school. They were about five years older than me. They were really into blues rock music. We did Van Halen songs and Journey songs and music like that. Then I met Robert (Westerholt) when I was really into grunge music.
I loved Nirvana.
He introduced me to the type of music he was playing and to groups like Paradise Lost. I was totally swept away by it and impressed with it and fell in love with it. I still love the bands that I knew before I started making this kind of music. Nirvana is still one of my favorite bands of all time, and I like listening to Bob Marley. We like all kinds of music, not just the music that we make. You and Robert started the band in college. You majored in fashion, right?
Yes. I have a bachelors degree in fashion management and Robert has a degree in human resource management. We actually met in high school. Music started as a hobby, and it became bigger and bigger. It is our passion and we put every minute we had outside of school into the music. It grew gradually over the years and became bigger and bigger, especially with the release of the Mother Earth album in 2000. After that we couldn't stop it any more. At the time we had jobs. Robert owned an Internet company together with some friends and I was working for a fashion company. We gave it up. We never thought we could do music professionally, because in Holland it is very difficult with this kind of music. But it just started happening. A music video channel called The Box played our video after people started requesting it and people started voting for it and new people heard our music. We became number 2 within a couple weeks. It stormed onto the charts. It happened because of our fans. Do you use your fashion expertise in designing things like stage costumes and merchandise?
I have always designed our merchandise. It was something I did for fun and because I have this background. I’ve also arranged the clothing for myself and the other band members. I work with a designer. I like to draw it myself, but don’t want to make the dress or the t-shirt. I have somebody else make it. I just draw it, and finish it up with a designer. I’ll ask the guys what they like for comfort, because comfort is very important when you are on stage. And I know what their tastes are. It’s very easy for me to buy stuff for them or design things myself for them. You were on the Hottest Chicks In Metal tour and are regularly featured whenever a magazine does a “hot chicks” feature. Do you find that sexist, or is it a good way to draw attention to your band and your music?
I don’t think it matters if you are a female or male. When you are a frontman or frontwoman you always get the most attention. If it’s not a hottest chicks list, there will be a list of the toughest guys in metal or some similar list. It’s not about women in metal, it’s that you are the frontperson in the band. It’s something that comes along with it. You just have to get used to it. How old were you when you started learning English?
I was 6 or 7 years old we started to learn it in school. We also have English television and it’s all in English with subtitles in Dutch. That’s a good way to learn English. For a big part of my youth I lived outside of Holland. My parents were expats and were always traveling around the world because of their jobs. As kids we went along with them so I had to speak English at a very early age. Had you been to the U.S. before the band came here earlier this year?
I had been there twice with my parents when I was younger. We toured the West Coast one time and the East Coast the other time. My parents loved traveling. Instead of staying home during holidays we always went to different countries. I had my birthday once in Ethiopia on a safari. It’s good in a way, because I got to see a lot of things around the world and different cultures. It’s very important for the upbringing of your children as well. It’s good to go to the different countries and learn from them. We saw a lot of poverty. It was good for me to see not as every country is as wealthy as Holland.