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Dark Mofo Is the Perfect Backdrop For Chelsea Wolfe’s Psychedelic Love Songs to Nature

Ahead of her performance at Hobart’s annual winter solstice celebration we talked to Chelsea about ceremony, festivals, and the relationship between music performance and public art.

Image courtesy of the artist and Dark Mofo

Melancholy electronic sorceress Chelsea Wolfe writes about feral love, widows, and cousins of the Antichrist. On “Hypnos”, her most recent release, she sings of waking in an evil dream and licking someone’s hatred. There’s a mention of boiling blood.

So the Los Angeles based songwriter seems the perfect fit for Dark Mofo, the annual midwinter pilgrimage to Hobart that celebrates all that is dark in art, film, music, and noise.

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The music line-up for this years annual twelve-day winter solstice celebration that runs from June 10-21, also features London post punkers Savages, ZHU, European metal gods Cult of Fire, Lubomyr Melnyk, Dead Congregation, Inverloch, Songs of the Black Arm Band, Jarboe, JG Thirlwell, Tribulation and Greece’s blasphemous death metal outfit Dead Congregation.

The mid-winter festival, that also includes, art, film, communal banquets and a nude solstice swim, will be the perfect backdrop for Chelsea's folk-spirited post-goth which she will perform at Hobart's Odeon Theatre June 17 in her only Australian appearance.

In anticipation of the darkest Dark Mofo yet, Noisey chatted with Chelsea about ceremony, festival crowds, and the relationship between music performance and public art.

Noisey: Have you been to the Tasmanian wilderness before? Your music is pretty perfectly suited to all those dark forests and lakes.
Chelsea Wolfe: This will be my first time to Tasmania. My friend Brody Dalle told me it’s incredible, so I can’t wait.

What’s the best Chelsea Wolfe song for a winter solstice celebration?
Probably “House of Metal”. It’s my psychedelic love song to nature.

You’ve been touring 2015’s Abyss for a while. Has your approach to the songs changed over time?
I think some of them have become gnarlier than they were on the recording. It’s been fun to translate some of the viola or vocal parts into guitar parts or weird samples.

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How does it compare to your previous albums?
This was the first album where I went into a studio for a month and recorded it all in one session. The songs were already written and demo’d out, but usually my albums are patchwork quilts of songs recorded in different studios and spaces. It was really great spending time in a new place for a month, letting the building and the city steep into the recordings. I wrote the album after moving out of Los Angeles into the mountains. It’s so quiet there compared to the city, I guess I had a lot of space to fill with sound.

A lot of the songs on Abyss have a ceremonial quality. Do you bring this ceremonial/ritualistic approach to your live performance?
There is a slight aspect of that, but not overly so. We keep things pretty stark and stripped down live. I’ve been tempted to go for projections or a big lighting setup at times, but at the end of the day my band and I are about the music, about the songs, so we’re keeping that our main focus for now. It’s what we think about night and day, so when we get our time to be onstage, we want it to be the best version every time.

How do you go playing to festival crowds - is it a different performance experience in terms of intimacy and connection?
The difference is that festivals are usually one-offs so you’re using rented or borrowed amps and drums and you don’t usually get a sound check, so depending on the festival. getting on and off stage can feel rushed and chaotic, but in that way you get a new kind of experience out of it because there are a lot of unknowns and unfamiliar sounds. Festival sets usually end up being pretty different than tour sets - looser.

Dark Mofo is presented by Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). Do you think there is a difference between live music performance and public art installation?
I know some musicians present their shows as installations, and that’s really cool. I think there is a difference though yes, at least for me. I feel more like I’m in the circus - we caravan from town to town, set up our gear, play, then pack it all up and move on. People from each town come in and join us in a certain space, knowing a little bit what to expect but also hoping to have a unique experience. And that’s what we want, too.

Chelsea Wolfe performs at Hobart's Odeon Theatre on Friday 17 June with Jarboe and JG Thirlwell.

The full Dark Mofo lineup can be found here.

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