Chrysta Bell talks about her passion for live performances, how sympathetic she is towards a Russian audience, the illusion of time, an energy exchange, working with David Lynch and many other interesting things
As Chrysta Bell’s long-time artistic and life partner, and world-known film director David Lynch describes her: “Chrysta Bell looks like a dream and Chrysta Bell sings like a dream. And the dream is coming true.” And it is not just a pompous poetical metaphor, it is an objective impression that Chrysta Bell makes on people through her stunning and untypical beauty, her charming voice and breathtaking and infernal music.
Having been in the music since her teenage years, Chrysta Bell started her way in this industry at the age of 18 as a singer in the popular Texas bebop band, 8 ½ Souvenirs. At the age of 21 she had a memorable meeting with David Lynch, who as a sensitive person with a developed fantasy, remembers his first impression after meeting her this way: “The first time I saw Chrysta Bell perform, I thought she was like an alien. The most beautiful alien ever”. This meeting led to a fruitful artistic and romantic union, one of the first results of which was a song “Polish Poem” that Chrysta Bell made with David Lynch for his film “Inland Empire”. The further developing of this union led to two albums that they made together “This Train” and “Somewhere in The Nowhere”. Somehow, these two beings have excellently artistically supplemented each other and we can say that the music on these records, on one hand, showed to the world Chrysta Bell’s unique charisma, and on the other, deeply reflected the strange and trippy vibe of David Lynch’s movies.
Chrysta Bell’s latest musical affair covered the territories of different musical styles and concepts. She made an album “We Dissolved” with a well-known and respected producer, long time P.J. Harvey collaborator, John Parish, which had a bit more of a jazz, blues and rock sound compared to the works she did with David Lynch.
Chrysta Bell’s latest, 4th album “Feels Like Love”, which she has done with the co-author and producer Christopher Smart, has much more of an influence of dark disco, new wave and post-punk and in her description is “like everything culminating together in my spirit and my artistic expression, it’s like an explosion”.
Besides being a busy songwriter and performing artist, Chrysta Bell releases her powerful talent in other fields like modeling and being an actress. Her biggest acting achievement at the moment is as one of the leading roles in David Lynch’s series “Twin Peaks: The Return”.
We had a lucky chance to chat with Chrysta Bell about her latest album, passion for live performance and the level of energy she gets from different audiences, the philosophical concepts that keep her wondering, working with David Lynch and many other interesting things.
Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov
Hi Chrysta Bell! Thank you for finding time for us. It would be great to know what you have been up to recently in music. As I understand, not long ago, you released your new album “Feels Like Love” and your main activities are probably connected with this work?
Hi! Currently, my main focus is on a tour that will start just in a few days, which will be called Time Never Dies, which is also the name of one of my favorite tracks from “Feels Like Love”. Time Never Dies is a kind of expression that is particularly close to me and my personality, I am really intrigued by thoughts that go beyond the cosmic horizon and things like time and the illusion of time and cycles of our nature and humanity, these things keep me awake at night. Time Never Dies is like a romantic encapsulation of this vertical feeling of spinning in circles. I like to play with these kinds of concepts.
How can you describe the main vibe of your new album?
“Feels Like Love” is a very cinematic album for me which has a little bit of Hitchcock and Kubrick and other influences of the movies that are on one hand terrifying and spooky and on the other sexy and mysterious. In this line of a cinematographic approach, we have just made a new video for the song “Time Never Dies”. This video was made by the Polish director, Archon. This video will be made by the Polish director, Archon, with whom we already made a song for the title song for the album “Feels Like Love” and in this work we will have a deep dive into the world of the feedback loop of time and will explore how it relates to love by drifting through different time cycles.
I can say that this video and all the things that I’m focused on now are about this Time Never Dies idea. It can be brutal or transcendent as well, but we are in it and it’s a part of the nature of humanity. All these cycles of struggling for daily survival, moments of transcendent awareness, then being drawn into the oblivion and coming back again. These are the thing that I’m really into at the moment and the main theme of the “Feels Like Love” album which sounds really fresh and new for me.
How are you feeling about this coming new tour?
Right now I’m in Texas, at my mum’s place, in the middle of nowhere enjoying the beautiful nature, the sky, the trees and having a bit of rest and recovery before my tour will start in Russia just in a few days and I’m really excited about it.
I worked so long and hard on the record, and now I’m finally going on a tour with it. I really like songwriting and working in the studio as well, but being on stage and performing your music to a large audience is the best feeling for me, nothing is comparable to this literal exchange of the energy with the audience – when I can look into your eyes and if you are close enough I might sweat on you and we might exchange some DNA, this is what really turns me on and keeps me going. I really like to be on fire in front of a big audience. This is a very intimate experience for me and the highlight of my artistic activity. Really, everything that I am doing is to be able to get on stage.
I had a feeling after listening to “Feels Like Love” that you changed your musical direction, your sound became more electrical and electronic if you compare it to your other albums. Is one of the reasons for that, that your previous works were made in collaboration with David Lynch and “Feels Like Love” is more a kind of your personal, individual work?
Sure, there is some of that. Also, it is a process of discovery, like uncovering your own treasure when you are in the process of proactively making music and being an artist. But I actually made many albums before David was even in my life, I was a lead singer in many bands and had released a bunch of records.
When David came into my life, he helped me to make a debut with my first solo album ”This Train” and then with the second album “Somewhere in The Nowhere”.
My next musical venture was with a very well-known and respected producer, John Parish, which had more of a blues, rock and jazz sound.
In “Feels Like Love” I used everything that I’d learned from working with these masters, being on stage and on tour on the road to over 30 countries and 95 cities, working with different musicians, it’s like everything culminating together in my spirit and my artistic expression, it’s like an explosion. I guess I was ready for this take off into the stratosphere.
When I made this record I felt absolute liberation. During work on the album, nothing was off-limits. I never had a feeling that I’m doing something too extreme or too far away from the musical direction that I’m following.
Everything was available and the main idea was to make really strong music that I would like to sing in front of the audience that will make me feel sexy, powerful and ready to go and will give me a possibility to bring the audience together with me through this portal. To me, the main reason for going to see an artist is like going to another dimension and I think I have reached this goal.
But everything that I have done before “Feels Like Love” is still very precious to me. I’m still listening to “This Train” which is the first record that I made with David and I’m so grateful that I had a chance to make this music. I still perform songs from this album in my live shows, they are so good and so strong and they mix beautifully with the songs from “Feels Like Love”. So my live shows at the moment are a mixture of an ultra-deep dream pop, post-punk, psychedelic rock, dark disco. I am covering a lot of territories and you will really need a musical rocket to cover this ground. And it really works, I’m feeling so satisfied performing music on stage.
If to go back to the two albums that you made with David Lynch, it would be interesting to know how you spread your roles during the creative process – who came up with the ideas of the music, lyrics, video? Did you do it together or each of you was responsible for some parts?
Our creative dance was established on the day we met. And we never tried to change it because it developed in such a natural way. David heard me singing, invited me to his recording studio, and played me some music that he had already made. We were sitting, drinking coffee, listening to this music and David asked if I liked it and if I felt his music. I really liked it and he said that he was going to get some lyrics for it. And from this moment when we were doing something together, David was just writing the lyrics in the studio or was going down to his basement where he has a mysterious black box where he keeps his poetry, lyrics for the songs, bits of scripts and was bringing something from this box. When I was reading the words I was starting to hear the melodies for them in my mind.
After, in the sound booth, when I was singing these words we were communicating with David through my headphones. After I had sung the pieces a few times, David made playbacks of some moments that he really liked, some small 10-second fragments and asked me to give the song more feeling than he had heard in the fragments. Sometimes I could not figure it out, and sometimes the singing that was coming from me was the most beautiful kind of singing that I had ever performed.
David was always patient with me, as I was patient with him and we were always working till the moment we had the song finished. This was the dance. Sometimes it took two and half-hours, and sometimes it took seven years. But we always enjoyed this creative process and being around each other. We were making art which both of us live to do.
Besides touring with your new album, are you working on some interesting side projects or collaborations at the moment?
I have some other projects too. I’m making a track together with an amazing British band, White Horses, for their new album.
Also, I’m making a record with a French band, Nouvelle Vague. It will consist of very unusual interpretations of reimagined music by The Cure, which will be done in a very interesting way, that somehow reminds listeners of Danny Elfman’s soundtracks to Tim Burton’s films. This project will come out at some point next year. I still have to record a few more songs for it after the Time Never Dies tour.
And I am working on a 15-minute remix for one of the songs from the album called “Do You Think You Could Love Me” which will be like exploring a lot of new territories and giving the song a new life and new interpretations.
Also, I’m doing some photo shootings, which I really love to do, writing poetry and doing my blog, working on ideas for new music videos and administrating my record label. It all takes time and I’m trying to find a balance between these things.
As I know, you had two solo albums based on your covers of other people’s songs “Bitter Pills and Delicacies” and “Strange Darling” that were recorded but have never been released. Do you think you will ever share them with the world and give your fans a chance to listen to them?
I was just talking recently with David who was the executive producer of these albums about them. The reason why they never got released is that in my perception art has to be made but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be shared. There is a lot of art that is released but it shouldn’t be.
These records had their own strange destiny. I really love to sing these old songs that I sang on them, some of them are very near and dear to me, but it seems that these works have languished a bit. But making these records was a really nice experience, during the process I was exercising a lot of my technical abilities and learning phrasing. Some of the tracks from the album had advanced structures with 9 harmonies.
And I’m so glad that I did it and am really proud of this music and can say that everything I learned from making it is in my new album “Feels Like Love” in one way or another. “Feels Like Love” has my all entire education in life and music. It is like channeling everything you do into something bigger and brighter that seems to have what David calls “the support of nature”. And it seems that “Strange Darling” and “Bitter Pills and Delicacies” didn’t have this support and I just don’t know now if there will be a right moment to release them.
You are going on a tour in just a few days with a program that is mostly based on “Feels Like Love” – that must be really exciting. If we talk about your previous experiences of touring around the world – do you have some favourite cities or countries which you really fell in love with and are waiting for the moment to perform there again?
The greatest thing about touring for me is the possibility to feel the culture of the country through the way the audience interacts with you and the energy exchange that you get from it.
I can say that in Russia this energy exchange is different to any other country that I have been to. I would say that there you can feel a very high level of excitement and enthusiasm and the presence of a beautiful desire for art. I resonate with it very deeply and it almost scares me in the best possible way. Sometimes I have really to surrender myself to this level of enthusiasm because I want to fulfill my purpose so much during these moments that it almost gets to be too much. For whatever reasons in Russia, it is always like a rush of neutrinos and I’m super high from it when I’m there. It was intense just from the first time I did a public show in Moscow I felt that people are really close to me and trying to reach me and I felt like I needed to be able to hold on. Russia is particularly intense.
In Italy, things are quite exhilarating too, but they are in a way much more rounded. But people there really get my vibe, which is close to their culture as it is very feminine and super dramatic and they are really into it. I really resonate with the Italian audience too.
In Scandinavian countries like Norway or Finland, where I go often too, there is another vibe. The audience is much colder, and I really need to feel the heat from them to perform well so I generate this heat myself.
But all the places that I go to have their own personalities and I feel very fortunate for this chance to explore them.
Thank you very much for this interesting talk and I wish you a proper level of the energy exchange with the audience on your new tour.