Chelsea Wolfe interview

Goth guitar queen Chelsea Wolfe on seeing the future and practising witchcraft for mental health

An interview with the California singer-songwriter and musician about the strange road to her latest, epic LP She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She.

We have all gone through moments, especially post-pandemic, when we have wanted to rewrite our own stories. Sometimes this process is coming to terms with who you were years earlier, or in the case of the dubbed “queen of gothic industrial guitar,” Chelsea Wolfe, who you will become.

Her latest, seventh album, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She feels very much like a murky and noisy celestial guide. The California-born and -raised musician and singer-songwriter communicates with past and future versions of herself, while sounds of twisting metal, heavy crashes and creaking floorboards, both literal and metaphorical, make their presence known as the songs consume and cannibalize themselves. The result is epic and gargantuan, sometimes terrifying yet cerebral and cleansing. 

“I’ve actually done guided meditations and hypnotizations where I saw a future version of myself and that definitely made it into the music and helped me finish this album,” Wolfe says over a spotty Google Meets line at a rest stop during the first leg of her Divide and Dissolve tour. 

As she was working on this new album during the pandemic, Wolfe went on an independent journey: deciding to get sober. She says the trance-like guided meditations she experienced during her throes of heavy drinking were definitely channeled into She Reaches Out To

“I knew that I could get sober because I saw this future version of myself as very powerful and alcohol-free,” Wolfe says. “It’s interesting, too, because after I got sober, this album became very prophetic for me.”

From She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She by Chelsea Wolfe

While she was writing these songs, they practically became real breathing entities; beings that demanded to be lived and experienced in Wolfe’s actual life. She would be writing about cutting the cord of a toxic relationship, or something in a song like “Whispers in the Echo Chamber,” and then would have to actually do it. 

“Healing is not something that’s linear, it’s something that we kind of go through in cycles and in spirals, and once we think we have healed, something pops back up again,” Wolfe says. “This album is very much within the in-between — when you are cutting ties with your old life and starting to let it go, but you haven’t quite stepped into your new one yet.”

Nothing Wolfe does is without purpose and her decision to make this album more electronic and almost trip hop-based (she references Depeche Mode’s Violator as a huge influence) was resolute. She has always been a musical shapeshifter, and the themes within the album all centre around transformation. So this musical shift to a more electro-focused sound makes sense. 

“The demos started off more rock-based, but when I gave them to Dave Sitek [TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs], they became more electronic and trip hop-focused, and it seems that was where these songs wanted to live, so that really resonated with me,” Wolfe says.

The album cover, featuring Wolfe holding a glass egg like a coveted crystal ball, has heavy symbolism as well. Eggs are, of course, the universal symbol of rebirth. After being recommended the film by a friend, Wolfe was inspired by the ’80s Mamoru Oshii [Ghost in the Shell] anime film Angel’s Egg.

“In the film, there is this girl protecting this egg and you don’t know what is inside, but it feels very much full of possibility. So I resonated hard with that and I wanted (the album cover) to feel like I am embracing and nurturing all of these mysteries waiting for me within this egg,” Wolfe says. 

In recent years, Wolfe has also become more and more open to talking about her spiritual paths — specifically witchcraft. While reporting on witchcraft is usually focused on a repossession of power with a feminist edge, for Wolfe, it’s more gentle.

“It’s a personal thing for me, and yes, I have become more open to talking about it, but I’m kind of protective of it still,” Wolfe says. “Before a show, I definitely need to take time to myself, to meditate or pull a Tarot card or just do certain rituals to get myself in a headspace of focusing on what I’m there to do.” 

For her — and she knows it sounds “cheesy” — the rituals are all about keeping love at her centre. 

“I haven’t played too many shows since the pandemic and since I got sober, so I need to be more centered and keep this idea of love within me, my singing and the people in the room with me. That’s become my ritual.” ■

For more on Chelsea Wolfe, please visit her website.

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of Cult MTL.

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