Interview Patrick Wolf

”’Folktronica’ bugs me, it sounds like it’s used to describe some kind of ‘Best Of Lounge’ album, from, like 1997!”

Londoner Patrick Wolf has just released the title track from his recent third album ‘The Magic Position’, and - more visibly - appeared on The Charlotte Church Show. With newly shaved-and-dyed-black hair (apparently sick of being heckled on London Transport), DIY caught up with him at his record label HQ.

According to your adverts, ‘Everyone’s Talking About Patrick Wolf’. Are they?
Who is talking about me? Everybody?! I don’t know. I got on the bus the other day and was harrassed by a group of people shouting ‘Charlotte Church!’ at me from having been on The Charlotte Church Show. So maybe they are, I don’t know!

You’ve just toured with Arcade Fire, how was that?
It was really good. I didn’t get to meet them properly, because with support it’s like two different shows at the same time, you’ve got exactly the same duties, you’re on two separate tour buses. It was a kind of, ‘you do your thing, we’ll do our thing’ tour, y’know? It was great, the audience was amazing. I think because they’re maybe a lot more ‘open ears’ than those of other supports I’ve done before.

‘The Magic Position’ is largely viewed as being a ‘happy’ album. Is this because you’re happy?
I was happy, at the time.
Does that mean you’re not now?
I’m very happy at the moment, yeah. [laughs] I went through a period when I was actually making it where I had a break-up, the relationship that inspired the record ended while I was mixing and producing the record, and I kind of lost my fire for making it, and so I decided I didn’t want to make the album any more. I was going to throw it away. Instead I was going to do what is now going to be the next album, album four, a very dark, grotesque record. But then I’d come so far, like I’d been to Vienna and New York, and recorded with Marianne, and there were so many good things about the album that I couldn’t let it go, I had to continue. It’s so strange, y’know, like the song ‘Get Lost’ was written about five years ago, and a year and a half ago I started making it, and now I’m starting to promote it, I sort of need to enter the character of a relationship that happened three years ago. It’s like I’m time-travelling all the time.

What was it like working with Marianne Faithfull?
It was wonderful. It seems like a dream now. It was over two days, and I kinda had a premonition it would happen, and once I’d decided it would happen… It tends to happen quite a lot, if I decide I want something to happen, then it happens. And when it did, it just felt really natural, and when I listened to the recordings, I remember loading up the data, after the duet, and having her voice in with the cellos and the violins, and it seemed like it couldn’t be anything else.

Everyone seems to be ‘trying to break America’ - are you?
I’m not trying to ‘break’ anything! [laughs] That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Trying to ‘break’ something! I’d like to go to America again, I’ve been before, and done a small tour, me and my manager just sat, driving around America in a car, doing small shows, and it was really fun. I’m not much of a careerist, y’know, I’m not here to win any popularity contests. I know I’ve talked a lot, and joked a lot about being a ‘pop star’, but it’s not like I want to be Number One, it’s just in a fun way. I will always make the music I want to make, and whether it gets me in to playing small venues, or not… I’ve had such a funny five years, up until today, from playing to three people in Dresden, playing the Royal Theatre in Stockholm… everything has its ups and downs, and I enjoy all of them.

Do you not think you’re more a pop star in the ‘1980s Smash Hits’ sense?
[laughs] Yeah, I hope so. I’d like to think that my music means something to people, in the way that certain people meant to me when I was thirteen, fourteen.

Who were those people?
I guess, Kim Deal from The Breeders, the way she did that amps thing, Bjork, PJ Harvey, even Tori Amos for a little bit, during the ‘Boys For Pele’ period.

Do you see yourself getting the chance to work with any of them?
Well, yeah, in a dream factory, definitely, y’know! If it could happen, it could happen. I don’t sit down and do a masterplan.

You described yourself as ‘grown up’ before the release of ‘Lycanthropy’. Does that mean you’re now ancient?!
Did I say I was grown up then?! When I’m writing I feel quite ‘old’, but in everyday life, I feel very young, and… I don’t know. Writing, I tend to enter a very secluded part of myself, it doesn’t really have anything to do with what’s around me. I disconnect, and that can be a very solitary place, which I kind of equate with being a recluse. That’s not really a very frivolous place to be, but I have to go there sometimes to come out and live a fun life.

‘Folktronica’, ‘chamber lap-pop’, ‘space-folk’. Do these words actually mean anything to you?
[laughs before question is finished] Nothing at all! ‘Folktronica’ bugs me, it sounds like it’s used to describe some kind of ‘Best Of Lounge’ album, from, like 1997! The ‘folk’ thing as well - I see folk music aesthetically very much like pop music. Folk music is, if you think about the word, it’s for everybody, for the people. So folk and pop are essentially the same thing, it’s just about being for everybody. I’ve been with the classical people, I’ve been with the punk rock people, with digital hardcore, I’ve seen so many different ‘scenes’, and ghettoes of music and different ways of teaching and giving music, and I guess I’m just a mixture of all of these things, and the message that I want to take out of all the things I’ve seen is that there should be no limit on creativity. From day to day, hour to hour, you should never worry of what you think you can do, just do what it takes to expand, and do things.

Would you now swap your career as ‘pop star’ with being lead violinist?
I’d actually swap it not to lead violinist, but to be third row at the back in the viola section. Because the thing that I miss most about being in an orchestra is, there’s something about it that’s very spiritual, that you can play as loud as you want, but because everybody’s playing the same thing, you just get lost in this sound, and you forget yourself. It’s like being in water, being dropped in to the ocean, you get lost in this big, big sound. It’s almost the opposite of what I do right now, as the ‘front person’. I would swap it for a week to experience that again.

Finally, after appearing on The Charlotte Church Show, are you determined to become a housewives’ favourite?
I don’t want to be anyone’s favourite, really. I like to explore all the different mediums, so I’d like to be on the Jeremy Kyle show…
What would you go on there for?
Erm, I’d be a Jeremy Kyle obsessive. ‘Jeremy Kyle ruined my life!’ ‘Why are you so aggressive Jeremy Kyle?’, that would be it. I don’t know, I know with going on Charlotte Church a lot of people are going to be all ‘why did you do that?’, but it’s funny, it’s amazing. It’s a different medium to speak to people, to put a message across. Like, CocoRosie, they will pretty much do anything, like doing an interview in FHM, if you just get a little message across to change peoples’ minds in all these different places, it doesn’t matter about where you are, it’s about what you say, and what you do.
Is there anyone you’d say ‘no’ to, then?
I say no quite a lot to lots of things, yeah, and I’m very careful about what I say. It’s like, I’ve been asked to appear on Soccer AM and do a penalty shoot-out, and I thought first of all, no. But then I thought, ‘how about I go and do it in platform shoes?’ and knee-high socks!
Are you a football fan, then?
I have no idea what football is. [laughs] I was never allowed in the team at school. Obviously I take my work very seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously at all. I hope people understand that.

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