The cover of Chelsea Wolfe’s new album, “Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs,” is a Cindy Sherman-esque shot of the mysterious gothic-folk artist reclining on a rickety bed, her face hidden. The photograph, by her longtime associate Kristen Cofer, actually was taken in the Bay Area at an abandoned cliffside hotel and former brothel. Wolfe won’t specify its exact location. “But it was next to a legendary biker bar and is said to be haunted,” she says of the inn where she spent a night. “I didn’t write any songs there — just took a lot of photos and explored. It was a strange and desolate place.” It’s the kind of eerie setting where the singer, judging by her previous efforts “The Grime and the Glow” and “Apokalypsis,” seems to thrive.
Are you in touch with any otherworldly stuff?
I think it’s important to interact with the spiritual realm in some way, at least to recognize it. For me, it’s something that happens naturally, but I’m not so great at defining it. Maybe that’s why I write songs.
You are a self-proclaimed hermit, but you live in the bustling heart of Los Angeles.
I am a bit of a hermit, but I’m not a homebody. I am not very domestic — at least not yet. I like touring. I like being in a different city every day and experiencing new challenges and spaces and people every night. I’m feeling unsettled lately, so I need to keep moving to keep my mind off of dark things.
Your dad was in a country band and you had access to instruments, even a home studio, as a kid. Why did it take you a while to come around to music?
I started writing and recording songs really early — from around age 8 or 9. It’s just that it took me a while to come around to accepting myself as a musician. I never thought I deserved to be someone that others listen to or look to. I only knew I had my own way of understanding sadness and human nature, and that I could put it into words and songs. Eventually enough people convinced me to start doing it as a profession.
Kristen’s high-fashion photos of you are great. How do you feel about beauty, fashion?
I enjoy fashion and clothing, and the way it can be like armor or an expression of mood. It’s the cinematic, theatrical side of me. I don’t really like having my photo taken, but it’s important to present something to the world visually. But I always feel a little strange seeing myself. Like I’m an alien.