“I think pedals in general helped me find my sound,” says Chelsea Wolfe.
When we visited Chelsea Wolfe at the Sargent House compound in Los Angeles last summer, we were awestruck by the striations of ugliness and beauty in her song “Survive.” And the volume. Lots and lots of volume. Each chord she plays and every note she sings hangs heavy and thick in the dry desert air like a cluster of tiny rainclouds gathering moisture, waiting to release thunder and lightning upon meeting a pocket of warm sky.
“Live, I use the Afterneath on my vocals . . . to get that like, really long sort of freeze reverb . . . for a heavier, more dramatic part,” she says. “And then on the guitar, I’m always using the Speaker Cranker . . . I’ll just go clean through my amp and turn the Speaker Cranker on, and it’s a perfect place to start for me, tonally.”
In this clip, Wolfe pairs the Speaker Cranker with the Talons for unrelenting heaviness, bringing in the Organizer for some girth-y suboctave; while guitarist Ben Chisholm leans on the Disaster Transport SR., Organizer, and Afterneath to snake his way through Chelsea’s massive rhythm playing with carefully crafted ambience.
Chelsea says, “I wrote [‘Survive’] a couple years ago actually for a soundtrack and it didn’t get used. I was glad because I wanted to put it on my record. I think I used the Organizer writing that one . . . [My manager] used to have a place in the high desert . . . where I wrote a lot of my last album, Abyss. There’s a big empty barn there and I set up a circle of EarthQuaker pedals and set up my gear in the middle of the circle and I felt really free, because there’s no one out there, just dogs and dust. I find inspiration in isolation. It’s nice to get away and focus on filling up the empty space with sound.”