Even after 24 years as a band, 2020 was shaping up to be a big year for Within Temptation, including a co-headlining tour of European arenas with Evanescence that was already halfway sold out, as well as a fully stacked summer festival run, bringing them neatly into their 25th anniversary year of 2021.
Of course, as with everything 2020, the best laid plans took a turn for the worst.
However, the band has still managed to have a very successful 2020 with a “Together At Home” live stream that racked up hundreds of thousands of views followed by the release of the first two singles from their still in-progress eighth album. First single Entertain You quickly racked up two million plays on YouTube, followed by the just released single “The Purge” which in just a few days already passed the half a million mark.
2021 looks even brighter for the band as the Evanescence tour has been mostly rescheduled, and plans for the band’s anniversary well under way.
We caught up with guitarists Stefan Helleblad and Robert Westerholt as well as singer Sharon den Adel to get the lowdown on the band’s gear in 2020 and how to keep songwriting fresh after seven albums and 24 years as a band.
You guys had a pretty busy 2020 lined up, what was the feeling in the Within Temptation camp as things got pushed back?
Sharon: We’ve got an unexpected break from everything, but luckily for us the tour with Evanescence and the festival shows were postponed and not cancelled. In the meantime, the positive outcome of the current situation is that we now have a lot of time to write and release new music.
“Entertain You” was a huge success for you this year, was it at all bittersweet to put the single out there and not be able to support it in person (with tours, promo appearances etc)?
Sharon: In one way of course, but on the other side it was also really nice to have something to look forward to during a time when everything was on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic – during a time that we couldn’t be on the road, be with fans. It’s good to have a purpose in life and this was a nice purpose to have at that time.
With seven albums in the Within Temptation catalog across 24 years, how do you approach writing new material without falling into the trap of resting on what has already worked for you? Do you ever catch yourself doing something predictable?
Sharon: I think that you always have a certain way of working and that makes you Within Temptation of course. But our aim is to always write our best song yet to come – in the hope that we’ll surprise ourselves and hopefully also eventually the people who like our music. Our inspiration is different every time. In the past it has been history, fantasy books or movie that inspired us. Nowadays we gain inspiration from our daily lives because there’s so much happening around the world on different levels!
I understand you already have a number of demos for your next record beyond the singles Entertain You and The Purge. What should people expect from the next Within Temptation record?
Sharon: It’s going to be different than the first two songs that we’ve released. But I can only tell you how it’s going to be when it’s finished, because demos can change a lot over time still!
You’ve used a lot of different gear over the years, tell me about the gear you used on the new singles? What is in the 2020 Within Temptation gear arsenal?
Stefan: Well, on the previous albums (before ”Resist”) we used amps and Marshall 4x12 jcm900 cabinets, mostly the Diezel VH4 but also Marshalls and Mesas – but on Resist we went from using amps to recording almost everything with a Kemper, something we did on ”Entertain you” as well.
On ”Entertain You” the main guitar sound was a Kemper profile that I made from my Diezel VH4 slightly blended with a UAD Marshall Plexi Plug-in. The guitars I used were mostly a Jackson 7-string B7 Deluxe with Bare Knuckle ‘Painkiller’ pickups and a Gibson SG for the other guitar parts, and Ruud (Jolie) uses Mayones with Bare Knuckles too and often a telecaster for those extra guitar parts.
This time around, with ”The Purge” we went even one step further and recorded everything with plugins only – the Neural DSP plugins to be specific. Robert and Daniel wanted a different sound than we had done previously and I wanted to see how far I could take it with the plugins only – if I could get all the way, so I went for that and everyone was happy, it really worked out great.
The main guitar sound was the Neural DSP Abasi fed into the Plini, to get a crushing sound. That’s a very nice thing about these plugins that you can combine them and use maybe the cabinet and microphones from one plugin and the amp n fx from another.
After that I think Daniel (Gibson – the producer) added a little Diezel emulation on my side and a little Marshall on Ruuds.
For the rest of the guitar parts, Neural DSP was used as well: Plini, Nolly and Abasi.
When it comes to guitars: for the main rhythms i used my Jackson 8-string with Bare Knuckle pickups in it (Ruud used his Mayones guitar 8-string), tuned as low as it goes, and for the verse riff and arpeggios in the second verse I used my 7-string Jackson b7 (fitted with true temperament system and Bare Knuckle ‘Black Hawk’) and a Jackson Kelly 6-string.
Sharon: I’ve found the best microphone ever. I used vintage Neumann microphones before, but this time around I’ve been using the WA47 from Warm Audio and it works so much better for my voice!
What is one piece of guitar gear you can’t do without, be it a specific amp, or pedal, or guitar?
Robert: I will forever keep my Gibson Flying V for life.
If someone that wasn’t super familiar with the entire Within Temptation discography wanted to learn one of your songs, what would you suggest they start with? Is there any one lick or passage that’s particularly fun or challenging to learn that you think might be fun for people?
Robert: I would start with either ‘Faster’ or the opening riff of ‘Entertain You’!
2021 is the 25th anniversary of the band – assuming the current talks of various vaccines come through, what do you have planned?
Sharon: Most of all we’ve got the whole festival season full and the tour with Evanescence coming up in September and October 2021. At this point everything is still insecure, but we sure will celebrate the first show we’re going to play again. Furthermore, we will continue to write and release new music.