For more than a decade, musician Chelsea Wolfe has been carving her own path in the metal world with a number of albums that blend together black metal, folk, doom, and drone metal into entirely original endeavors, all of which defy distinction to one genre. Over the course of one record, Wolfe crafts experiences that are ethereal, evocative, and macabre, yet within this darkness also comes romance and hope. Not only has she earned hordes of passionate fans, but also collaborated with contemporary titans of metal, working with the likes of Converge, Russian Circles, and Deafheaven.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Wolfe was enlisted into a DC Comics project as ambitious as her own music, contributing not only music for but also voicing Wonder Woman in Dark Nights: Death Metal - Sonic Metalverse.
Running in conjunction with the DC Comics event Dark Nights: Death Metal, which unfolds across a number of titles, Sonic Metalverse is a series of shorts that bring the events from these various stories to life. Featuring music by Tyler Bates and the voices of members of Mastodon, Slayer, and Rise Against, the shorts unite the dark intensity of Dark Nights: Death Metal with prominent figures from the metal scene.
ComicBook.com caught up with Wolfe to discuss her approach to embodying Diana Prince both vocally and musically, her picks for the "Justice League of Metal," and how she can't stop listening to The Witcher soundtrack.
ComicBook.com: Both my wife and I are big fans of your music, so when we saw articles featuring phrases like "DC Comics," "Dark Nights," "Death Metal," "Sonic Metalverse," "Wonder Woman," and then your name, we had no idea what was happening and thought we had conjured something into existence. So, first off, how the hell did all of this happen?
Chelsea Wolfe: I was first asked as a musician to write a song as part of the soundtrack to this new series, which, of course, is my forte, the music aspect, so I did that. I worked on the song with Tyler Bates, who's soundtracking and music directing this project for the Sonic Metalverse. I ended up calling the song "Diana" in dedication because I was given a digital copy of the first issue and I got to this section where Wonder Woman meets Wally West and he's really tired from his travels. There's an intimate moment between them that almost felt romantic to me, but also just felt like two old friends who have this understanding between them that nobody else has in the universe, or I guess the multiverse, in their case, so I wrote the song based on that encounter. I'm not quite sure if there is a romantic connection between them, but I just picked up on something.
I worked on the phone with Tyler and turned it in. Then I was asked to do the voicing for Diana, or for Wonder Woman, for the episodes that highlight her issues of the comic, that's basically what [the shorts] are. I fully warned them that I had a pretty monotone delivery when speaking and I didn't think they were going to be into it, but I tried it out and they seemed to be into the way I was approaching it, so I got to keep going.
Writing a song in dedication to Wonder Woman, you clearly felt a connection to the character in Dark Nights, but prior to getting involved with this, did you have much of a connection to her or other DC Comics? Or just other comic books in general?
I've always been into the DC stuff, for sure. Honestly, when I was a kid, I never really had a cool influence on my life to introduce me to comic books, but I was always into comics and newspapers and magazines. I was definitely an avid reader as a kid and my grandma would always take me to the local library every week. I would just sort of run my hand along the spines until something stood out. One of the first graphic novels I read was [Art Spiegelman's] Maus, which is based on the author's conversations with his father and his father's experiences about the Holocaust, basically. I think I tried to find more graphic novels after that, because I was really into it, but I just couldn't find any. I didn't have anyone recommending anything to me.
More recently I've gotten into Katie Skelly's work. She makes graphic novels and oracle decks, like My Pretty Vampire and Maids. The artwork is very '60s, film noir and I really appreciate the artistic bent there. Once I was asked to be involved in the Dark Nights: Death Metal series, it made me feel I've really been missing out on some cool sh-t, honestly. It's really cool to be included in a project like this. I feel like the art is very high quality and the storyline by Greg [Capullo] and Scott [Snyder], respectively, it's just so good. It's really an honor to be this teeny, tiny part of the DC realm.
You mentioned you were a little nervous that your voice might not be the right fit for the character, and your voice is one of the instruments in your arsenal, but you're using it to perform in an entirely different way. Did you approach voicing the character as an acting performance, getting into the character's headspace, or did you stick specifically to the lines you were tasked with bringing to life?
I'm definitely, obviously, more of an audio person. Even when I'm writing my own music, I often have my eyes closed and I'm really just envisioning new shapes and new worlds all inside of my head. I'm very much in my head when I do musical work or artwork. I guess I took the same approach to this, very much just reading the lines, shutting my eyes, and trying to get into it. Just imagining in my head. I would play some of Tyler's soundtrack music in the background, so I can get into the energy of it, that's how I approached it.
After this role, do you think you'd be interested in more voiceover work, comic book or otherwise, or did you see it merely as a unique opportunity that you did once and now you'll move on?
Oh, 100% I would love to do more work like this. I've been asked to do different things. I've even been asked to do acting parts before, but unfortunately, the timing didn't work out or there was one time where I just really knew deep down that it wasn't for me. I don't know if I'm the kind of artist who could fully embody a different character, like as an actor or something that, but I think doing voice work is really interesting and I would like to do more. If there was an acting role that I felt like I could really do, that maybe I connected with personally or something, I would be into that. I'm definitely more focused on music, but always interested to see what opportunities come my way, for sure.
You shared earlier this year how you and bandmate Ben Chisholm have always dreamed of creating music for a movie or TV show, is that something you are actively pursuing to make happen or is it something where you're hoping the stars align for the right timing and specifics of the project?
I suppose I haven't been actively reaching out to anyone else, but I decided, basically the top of my goals list, I would love to halt my life for a year and just totally focus on soundtracking a film or TV show. But, also, I would love to just have the opportunity to write a theme song or just a special piece for a TV show or a movie. I've been really blessed to have a lot of songs that I've already written be included in shows or some trailers, but I would love the challenge of actually writing something specifically, like an original song for something new.
I guess I'm just opening myself up to it, but I'm waiting for the stars to align. Right now it's a little bit tough because I live in Northern California, out in the woods. Since COVID hit, I've been confined up here and not really been able to go down to L.A. or really talk to a lot of people in person about new opportunities. But hopefully, in the future, I'll be on someone's radar or meet the right person and get talking about doing some score work. That would be great. I would love that.
I know you're hoping that the stars align, but is there any movie or TV show or comic book you particularly love that, if you found out there would be a reboot or adaptation, you wouldn't care if the stars aligned and would do anything to make happen?
That's interesting. It's hard to think of that off the top of my head. I'm really into Haruki Murakami books and if something in that realm was made into a film, that magical realism, subtle sci-fi kind of energy, that's definitely my favorite type of book or movie or TV show. Right now I'm watching His Dark Materials and I really love that thematic aspect, like different worlds. Obviously, that connects to Dark Nights: Death Metal, as well. I love that concept, that, like I said, subtle sci-fi. While I can't think of the exact book or series I would love to see come to life, I think something like that would be great.
Personally, I know the recent The Crow reboot ended up falling apart, but I would have loved to see you involved with that.
You know what? I'm wondering if I should tell this story or not. But strangely, when I heard that they were going to be making a new The Crow, my band and I just basically started writing a song for it, just for fun. We were like, "Okay, if they ever find out who's going to be the musical director for this, we'll try to get in touch with them." That never panned out, I'm not sure what happened. So I took elements of that song that we had originally used for The Crow and we worked it into the song that ended up being for Dark Nights: Death Metal, the "Diana" song.
Yeah, it's kind of strange. Like, it doesn't sound like it would be the same vibe, I guess, but I ended up, I took it back down to its bones and then rebuilt it for this project.
That's pretty weird. I had no idea you were even interested in The Crow, let alone wrote a song for it for fun, which turned into the song you wrote for the project we're talking about. That feels like the stars aligning.
The Justice League obviously has some of the most iconic comic book characters in history, so I'll let you interpret this however you see fit, as far as personal legends or whatnot, but if you were to create a "Justice League of Metal," what bands or musicians do you think would be in it?
All right, I'm trying to think about these. I guess not all of my answers aren't metal, per se, but I was thinking Superman could be Chino from The Deftones. I think Dark Father could be Gaahl from Gorgoroth. I was thinking of Batman as Flying Lotus. He's not a metal musician, but he's an amazing musician. He's very mysterious and cool. Then I was thinking about The Cramps for Perpetua and Batman Who Laughs, Poison Ivy and Lux [Interior] could be them. Obviously, I would love to take Wonder Woman, but I also feel that role could go to my friend, Kris [Esfandiari] from King Woman. There's other projects that she has. I don't know, maybe The Flash could be my bandmate, Ben. He's always very quick to make cool music and disappear into it.
That's very impressive. I would have settled for, "I like this person so they're in it," but you went above and beyond by even picking the characters they would be. The farthest I got was wanting [Sleep/High on Fire frontman] Matt Pike to be in it, telling everyone he was changing into costume, only to come out with his shirt off, but it wouldn't matter because he was bulletproof.
I love that.
You explain how you were holed up in Northern California and you said you've been watching His Dark Materials, are there other albums or TV shows or movies you've been catching up with while in quarantine?
Well, I did the Spotify end-of-year wrap-up thing and overwhelmingly it was The Witcher soundtrack for the new show on Netflix, scored by the very talented Sonya Belousova. I think it's clear that I needed some fantastical theatrics to the monotony of everyday life during the quarantine. I really like to listen to music when I go out on walks in the local woods, so I think listening to The Witcher soundtrack made it feel very magical and just helped me think about new ideas and think about the future. I also listened to a ton of my favorite band Wardruna and also Grimes' newest album, Miss Anthropocene, which, I feel like her music always feels like a soundtrack to a video game or a comic book or something.
I feel like the stars have aligned again when you mention The Witcher, and I can't help but think of the comic book creator Becky Cloonan, I don't know if you're familiar with her work.
Not off the top of my head.
I ask because I often hear your music in my head when I read her work, since she does oracle decks and comics in the realm of fantasy and mysticism and just did a poster for The Witcher not too long ago.
Oh, that's so cool. I'll have to check it out for sure.
She's also in the metal world, as she did the poster for Northwest Terror Fest up here in Seattle, so your work and hers seem to cover the same realms.
Oh, cool. Awesome. I'm definitely going to look into her. I just did a quick Google search on my phone and it already looks very cool.
I know the world is in flux right now so there might not be any tours on the horizon, but do you have anything else coming up that fans can look out for?
I released a side project this year with my friend and drummer, Jess Gowrie. It's called "Mrs. Piss." I guess, in a way it's like its own comic book world in my head. Like, I express things there that are a bit more emotionally hyperactive or elevated from things that I might express in my normal music or in my everyday life. Maybe expressing my inner Scorpio a bit more. It's definitely talking a lot about our experiences as women in the world of being touring musicians. Just feeling still not welcome in a lot of spaces, whether it's inherent or not. Sometimes it's the physical environment or sometimes it's just some old-school British bus driver who's spitting in my face that he doesn't like it when women tell him what to do or something. But there's plenty of inspiration that we've taken over the years and just put into this project and just created this character that's called "Mrs. Piss."
We released an album this year and right now we're working on a live version of the album. We're just going to film it in our practice space and just try to make it into a weird artistic experience in our own DIY way. I'm not sure exactly when that will be out, but we're trying to finish it within the next couple of months.
New episodes of Death Metal: Dark Nights - Sonic Metalverse debut every other Thursday. You can learn more on its official website.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.0comments