I spoke to Within Temptation singer, Sharon Den Adel shortly before the band played their excellent gig at Birmingham Academy.
Your latest album, Hydra was released in February and has proved very successful. One song that has divided opinion though is “And we run” due to it’s inclusion of rapper Xzibit. Did you expect this sort of reaction?
People knew he was going to be on the album before it came out, and we had so many people having an extreme reaction even before they heard it which is a pity. In some ways it’s good because you then have a discussion with some people saying “I’ll judge it when I hear it and not before”, and I thought that was the wisest approach, because until you hear it you don’t know how it will be. Other people were “Oh my god, I’m going to hate this album”. We liked it and we stand by it. We won’t change it and we put it on the album and would never take it off the album because it’s one of the special ones
When you announced Howard Jones would be appearing on the album there were some people assuming it was the 80s pop star rather than the former Killswitch Engage singer so I think you surprised them.
That was a thing, I knew when journalists had listened to the album before they called me on the telephone for interviews. “How did you get Howard Jones” from the 80s?” So I asked “Do you have the album”, “Yes, I listened to it all day”, “Really well it’s not Howard Jones from the 80s, it’s Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage”. “Oh I thought he sounded strange”.
“Paradise (What about us)”, the duet with Tarja is one of the most popular song and was a popular choice of guest.
That was something that never happens, it was the perfect song, and the right timing to do something together.
How are the new songs going down with the fans in the live shows?
Really well. We play half new songs and half songs from other albums, which is the best way to do it I think because people need to recognise some things, but they do like the new songs.
The new album looks set to be your most successful yet, reaching the charts in several countries.
Well I was surprised. They say you’re only as good as your latest album, which is why we always try to make the very best album every time. We’ve had such a good response that I think it is probably one of the best responses we’ve had to any album.
A few days ago played your biggest UK headline show ever at Wembley. How did that go?
To be honest I’ve been looking forward to that show for such a long time, firstly because it was a new milestone for us, Wembley is like a holy grail for a lot of bands, us as well of course, so we were really so happy and proud to be there. Last time we played Brixton and it was also an amazing show, such a good reponse, and good vibe, but when you play Wembley it can’t compare, it’s like “Wow, we made this”
At Wembley you were also able to use your full stage set and pyro too.
We paid big time to use the fire. First of all we said we wanted to use Pyro and they said that’s no problem, you can use fire, then they said “Oh you’re going to use fire, that will cost you”. We got all the right papers done though in the end.
I always wonder how Rammstein cope with getting permission to use their pyro.
That’s probably a full time job on it’s own.
One of the song’s you’ve been playing live is the Lana Del Rey cover, Summertime Sadness. That came from the Q music sessions album you released. When you did those songs for Dutch radio, who chose what songs to do – yourselves or the radio station.
We chose them, but there were some criteria. It had to be a hit in either Belgium or Holland, because it’s a really big radio station that is in both countries, or maybe ten years ago should have been a hit. Imagine Dragons and Lana Del Rey were not that big in Holland or Belgium though, Imagine Dragons nobody had heard of before. The Lana Del Rey song wasn’t a hit so we had to really convince them to let us do it. “It’s going to be really big, she’s going to release it soon”. In the end they allowed us to do it, and also “Radioactive”. That song exploded months after, not because of us of course, but because it was such a beautiful song. I was looking at the Billboard charts in America and I saw it bubbling under, and that was the best song on the album for me, Radioactive, the Imagine Dragons song. Those were the only two exceptions we were allowed to make to the criteria.
It must be difficult to pick the songs when you’ve got a huge selection to choose from and with all the band members having their own tastes?
Yes, but it also has to be what I can sing, and what we can play. It was also a case of what can we make a heavier version of, and a cool version with guitar riffs and so on. We had Alien Ant Farm as an example. They did the Michael Jackson cover with the heavy guitars, and that was an eye-opener, that most pop songs can be turned into something heavier, or very cool. That’s not to say the pop songs aren’t cool – we chose the songs because we like them. I like the Enrique Iglesias one, “Dirty Dancer”, it was one of my personal favourites and I think it’s such a great song, but adding something to it makes it more Within Temptation of course, heavy guitars and a different way of singing it.
When you listen to the album they’ve all got that distinctive Within Temptation sound, even though the originals are all by different people, so it’s worked really well.
Wembley was your biggest UK headline show, but it’s not your biggest headline show ever – that was probably your 15th Anniversary show, Elements. That show was recorded and streamed over the internet. A lot of fans have asked if it will be released as a live album or DVD – are there any plans to do that?
I don’t think so, maybe parts of it. It takes a lot of time to make a really good DVD, and we have a really good one which is The Black Symphony. It eats away from the time you have to write new songs, so maybe we’ll do parts of it as an extra bonus thing. It’s nice to have some memory of it I can imagine. I was pretty nervous before that show, everybody was, because we had so many things to do on that show. It was like every song had a different dress change or different people on stage.
I’d imagine with an orchestra and all the microphones that involves, the sound engineer must have had a nightmare time setting it up.
Yes it’s a lot of work and we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time – we had less than for Black Symphony, so it was pretty difficult. We were in the middle of the production of the Night of the Proms, so the night before the venue had Night of the Proms, then our show the next night, then the night after was Night of the Proms again, so getting everything in and out again was crazy but we managed it.
It was so nice to hear you perform with an orchestra.
I like it also very much, I’m hoping we can do it more often. It’s one of our biggest dreams and I’m not sure if it’s going to come true but we’re going to work on it anyway – to do a Black Symphony tour.
Another special tour you’ve done was the Acoustic night at the theatre tour, which you only ever did in the Netherlands. Are there any plans to do something like that more widely?
We would love to, but we need the booking agencies to see a demand. Theatres in Holland are different to some other countries, it becomes more difficult to get the same show into other countries and becomes more expensive also. We’d love to of course. It doesn’t even have to be in a real theatre, we could also do it in an amphitheatre outside which would be lovely. We want to do it in a certain way and there’s no history of doing shows that way in other countries, maybe because venues are different. We’d love to – that’s the bottom line. We are planning to do one in Holland next year.
You’re currently on tour in Europe and the UK with Delain as support. Later this year you’re touring the US and Canada. Who are you taking as support for that tour?
That’s another nice lineup.
Yes I think so too.
With Delain it must make it easy touring with them as you’ve worked with them before and know them.
Of course, and Robert’s younger brother is in the band aslo so it’s a nice family on tour.
Last year you joined Delain on stage at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium. How did you enjoy that?
Very much. It was really nice to see the festival for once because we’ve never played there, and it was nice to see all the fans, because they’re all female fronted bands. It was really fun doing it. Backstage was a bit strange because they sell tickets to fans so when you’re trying to go to the restroom it takes about an hour because of all the fans with a VIP pass.
It’s slightly odd – from the backstage area you have to walk through the VIP area to get to the toilets. I hope most fans would wait till after you go to the toilet before asking for photos or autograph though.
It must have been a bit different for you as instead of being the star of the show you were just the guest for two songs.
Oh, I don’t mind that. I like the band so it’s fine, and it’s nice not always to be in the picture. I like that I can just go on and enjoy myself and look at other bands, it’s great fun for me as well.
Before the tour started you did a tryout show in Eindhoven. Was that fun to do or was it more stressful than a normal show?
It’s always stresful the first one. Especially because we didn’t have the space to do the whole shebang and you want to try out things. It was nice to play for people and get into the rhythm more or less before the show started in Helsinki.
Are you ever surprised how far some of the fans will travel to go to some of your shows?
Absolutely. At the Wembley show there was a guy who had come from Norway, but he was also going to a football game so combining it.
I know at the Elements show there were people from a lot of countries.
Yes there was someone there from Australia who was also at Black Symphony – all the big things she’s always there.
I think it doesn’t matter how many people there are, you always have to do your best, because people have paid for a ticket and are there for a good time, so it doesn’t matter how shitty you feel, you have to get yourself together and on stage to do your thing, and try to enjoy it. When you’re having a hard time there are things we say. Ruud said to me “Music is fun, you do know that. It’s all we wanted our whole lives so enjoy it” and that always cheers me up. We should enjoy what we’re doing because before you know it it’s gone and you’ve let something put a shadow over something you liked doing.
You’re playing Wembley and the large Academy venues on this tour, which is a big contrast to the special acoustic show you did a few months ago at HMV in London in front of 150 people.
I liked that. In America we didn’t have much promotion at all. We went into some local college radios and were happy to do so, but we never had any in-store things, so I’m really happy with this record company doing a different approach.
Everyone has their own way of promoting a band, but we always try and think along and help them. Sometimes they have suggestions that are more our line of work, that we are supposed to take care of, and everyone has to work together. Every record company has their own way of doing things. I had a lot of fun on Roadrunner, lovely people and very dedicated. I don’t have any bad things to say about them. Unfortunately the company doesn’t exist any more but I’m really happy with Dramatico who are not that experienced with this type of music but they have other ways of promoting us and that’s really cool as well. Also a really cool team of people.
As a band you’re very active on social media and have been uploading a video tour diary regularly on the tour. Is it important for you to stay in touch with the fans?
It’s something we’ve always done actually. We like the internet and were one of the first bands in Holland to have an internet site – a really big one because the guitar player at the time was a whizz-kid and he also did our first video, a crappy one but, he learnt how the equipment worked in one day. We had a company that made a video that was really crap so we said we’d do it ourselves, it was better straight away but very amateurish but it had a certain charm because we did everything ourselves. We were really happy that it turned out the way it did. With our website we had a forum and not just a basic one, one where you could put icons in – that’s very normal these days but 20 years ago that was like “Hey what a cool site they have”, and that was all down to our guitar player.
It does make a difference to the fans when a band gets involved on facebook and so on – it’s not a case of them just making music and being quite isolated.
That’s what I like to see from my favourite bands, to learn more about them, what kind of music do they listen to, or what hobbies do they have, get a behind the scenes peek.
Ok since you raised the subject, what kind of music do you listen to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Paradise Lost and Type O Negative again because those are the bands I grew up with. Paradise Lost are not much older than us but they were very young when they got big in the scene. I still like their albums and their latest album too.
Thank you very much for your time.
You’re most welcome