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Thursday, December 18, 2008

EQ Interview With Patrick Wolf - Part One: "I just go home and watch America's Next Top Model."


Patrick Wolf is back and is set to amaze again with a double disc project next year entitled "Battle" following up his brilliant last album "The Magic Position".  In this exclusive early interview with Patrick Wolf about "Battle", I caught up with him at the pub to discuss how the new album was conceived, supporting independent music, working with Tilda Swanson and why he would love to have his boyfriend's baby...

EQ: Hello Patrick - how are you today?
Patrick Wolf: I'm ok.  Having some busy days at the moment, like doing twelve things in one a day but I'm taking a couple hours out now to do some Christmas shopping!

Trying to squeeze it all in then...
Yeah, I can't find anything I like in London - it's no good.  Nothing fits me and nothing is good enough for anyone! (Laughs)

So you've just announced the release of your new album "Battle" to the world - tell me a little bit about the new album and what we can expect...
It's a return to the form I was looking to create when I was 18.  I'm returning to the vision I had when I was younger.  Now I've realized after 5 years of music that it's a retrospective of the stories of my life so far.  In a way, that's what the first album for me was, telling the 15 most important emotional experiences I've had so far. 

And I hear it's going to be a double-album too...
I wrote about 30 or more songs that were very very important that I couldn't let go of.  I couldn't let them go to b-sides, so I really had to record them.  I spent all this year in various studios and long weeks of recording in different types of ensembles.  I ended up with 32 songs that I'm very very happy with.  I don't like to make my albums more than 13 or 14 songs because I find it's like asking a bit too much from the audience.  So I decided to split the two works.  During the recording process it was quite obvious thematically that there were twodifferent stories going on but they were connected by the musical arrangement and the musical texture, using a lot of marching drums and military sounds, and lots of "battle" sounds.  I recorded it down where the big battle of Hastings was in 1066 and I just then realized I was making a "battle" album.  I've decided to make two CDs and they'll be released six months apart and then brought back together at the end - because again I don't want to exhaust people.  Each album is full of big songs. 

What are the themes on the album...
The first theme is "pre love" and the second one is "post love".  You know when you're single and all your friends say "oh don't worry, you'll find someone soon - there's someone out there for you" and you're like "fuck all of you, your horrible couples - look at you and how happy you are" and everything that's happened you hate and you go through that long miserable single mindedness.  I was writing a lot during that period when I was alone on tour.  I'm not one to like go out after a show and try to sleep with 30 fans.  I just go home and write and raid the mini-bar and watch America's Next Top Model.

Tell me about the writing process a bit...
I was writing a lot during that period and right at the end of the tour, I put down a deposit on a flat and wanted to move to Brighton to live by the sea and was almost ready to retire at 24!  I was going to bring my piano and sell all my possessions and write and learn how to cook and look after myself.  I think I was on a bit of a self-destructive path and I thought, well I'll get down to Brigthton and then the day that I put the deposit down and hired my moving van, I then ran into the love of my life - a boy called William, and I just had to cancel all my plans and stay with him in London and start a life with him.  So suddenly all these songs that I was ready to record that were all about "hating love" and being "self destructive" - I just found that I was the opposite person in a matter of a few days.  I had something to live for and something to love and someone to love me and then I realized that I had to document those feelings as well.  So when it got to June of this year, I had two different stories going on that I couldn't really fit on one record. 

Wow - love comes quickly they say....
Well, never for me in the past...I was starting to believe that it didn't exist and I was going to grow a beard, get a dog and live by the sea.  I was kinda rescued from that.  True love proper takes time to develop and you have to go through a lot of questioning yourself and the other person so it's not instant like that.  But sometimes you have this really invisible instinct about something within two minutes y'know...

You're also making the album a public commodity by offering it via Bandstocks.com.  How did you learn about Bandstocks and why are they the Patrick Wolf choice for releasing the album?
Well actually I was all set to go with Universal again like I did with "The Magic Position".  Everything was going ahead and it came time for them to listen to the record and it was just very obvious that they didn't understand the work that I was making.  And I didn't understand the way that they were speaking to me and it was just obvious that if they were going to be releasing this album, it wouldn't have been pleasant for anyone.  Basically we parted ways and I had this album on my hands and I didn't have the finances to fund an international release like I would have with another label. But the problem is record deals have become very difficult, it's getting harder and harder to keep creative control and it's getting worse with each year.  (Bandstocks.com link - buy a share in the album now!)

I can't imagine you'd be one to give up creative control...
When I signed my first deal I was 18 and everything was, "Yeah sure, you can do the artwork, you can direct the videos" and now it only seems Prince and Kate Bush are allowed that now.  It's just not a given at all anymore.  I've made 3 albums under that way of working with total creative control, making exactly the album I want, and not having to censor myself and look the way that I want.  Now, if I went into a deal with this finished album which I'm mixing now, then it would have gone through a huge translation process, been made middle of the road and very conservative, and it wouldn't have been my album.  I thought well I'm gonna stick to my own label.  I'm going to be the boss of this album.  I needed a way to finance it though.  A lot of people if they choose that creative control route over themselves then they look for an investment.  A lot of people can only find investments through big firms and sponsored companies and they are the ones that are almost as bad as the record labels because they want creative control too.  So basically the guy with the money who is not a musician, but played guitar when he was 16 wants to live out his fantasy through your work and I thought, you know, I'm not having any of this.  I'd rather be poor and busking and have the albums out that I want to make and release. 

My lawyer had suggested Bandstock - it's setup in a way that's a really fair in which you go back to the old independent way of working where you get 50/50 split.  One percentage goes to the fan-base, the supporters of the album, so it's like the first year when I signed.  It's just a really fair, non-hierarchal, and people who invest also trust my work.  I really think it's gonna work.  The more people invest, the better the packaging, the more international and bigger the release will be.  If you see my career as well, every album has been on a different label and each label has been a very different experience each time. I'm constantly experimenting with music and experimenting with business each time.  The industry just seems much more swayed to businessman and us paying their mortgages rather than the artist having a long career and being able to make the music they want.  It's time we really thought about different ways of working.  I really feel sorry for bands that are blindly walking into quite dangerous and non-financially beneficial deals for them. You tour the world for years and then you come home and can't feed your son or start a family - but the person who is one place above you on the record label has just bought two houses in Barbados.  It's nuts.  I literally won't stick for it anymore and I don't want other artists falling into that trap.  I'd rather find another way.

Have you had a chance to preview any of the new material yet?  I saw a YouTube clip of you doing some songs called "Treasure Trail" and "Vulture"...
I decided to take a year off from doing shows that were advertised and to spend a year not thinking about publicity or a public persona.  I wanted to do the opposite.  A friend of mine's club was closing down because of Crossrail and I wanted to celebrate all those nights that I had there when I was 19 so I did a 4 song set and that was at Nag Nag Nag in London.  I did a little bit of busking too down where I live by the river.  I also did the Dylon Thomas festival which was in Wales and that was celebrating the work of Dylon Thomas in a village hall that had people who had absolutely no idea of my work or who I was.  That made me realise exactly why I sing and why I perform.  When you get a 90 old granny liking your songs -  it means the world to me and that's why I do this.  At the end of the day, it's just for the music and that instant when the song hits somebody's ear, y'know without any pre-conception.  I also ended up doing Patti Smith's return - I got to improvise on two of her shows.  I also did a national rally in Victoria Park called "Love Music/Hate Racism" which was important to me.  So I did a lot of personal projects this year that got rid of a lot of pomp and circumstance around big shows and big tours and all the rest - it was like going back to school a bit.

I read that you're even working with Tilda Swinton on some tracks....
Yes - on four songs actually.  Whenever I was writing and finishing a song I would be doing little spoken word bits to myself.  And when I thought about it, I really wanted a narrator on the records - another voice telling me these messages through a song.  Seeing that a lot of the lyrics are quite negative and can be a little bit "hopeless" in a way or a bit too dark.  There is song where I'm talking about about a wonderful friend of mine named Steven who committed suicide and I wrote a song to him and at the end it almost sounded like I was celebrating suicide.  When you start to explore dark subjects you don't want to get to a point where you're celebrating darkness, you're just exploring it.  I got to a point where I didn't want to actually release it as I didn't want to encourage these feelings in people and if they had them they can find some sanctuary in other people exploring those emotions.  So Tilda ended up being the "voice of hope" so she did these narrations of hopeful messages throughout the album.  It was wonderful.  I originally thought about her from the beginning as the voice seeing that I'm such a huge fan of hers.  "Orlando" changed my life when I was 16 years old and I thought she would be so perfect.  I went to the premiere of "Julia"and I went up to her with a CD of one of the songs and we were wearing the same outfit and had the same haircut and we hit it off.  I got an email a few days later in the morning and within a day we were in the studio. It was pretty exciting definitely. 


You said in a blog recently that you wanted "to write about giving birth to your boyfriend's baby and that you'd make a good mother if you had the right organs".  Very interesting statement- care to elaborate on that?.... 
Yeah!  I think there are a lot of people before they come out to their family or they accept their sexuality, a lot of people maybe first struggle with the fact that there is an expectation on you like the father's son or the mother's son - or an expectation to carry on the family.  When you say you're gay, you almost rule that out for your family and you have to overcome that shame a little bit y'know and say "it's fine - this is my body and this is my natural position of love - I love another man or I love another woman and I don't know, I really overcame that when my father and mother accepted my sexuality.  I joke with my boyfriend about adopting a Chinese baby, but there's that thing around Christmas where you think "I could have an immaculate conception" and I love this person so much and I'd love to make another creature with him.  I think the basis on a lot of love when you meet someone is that you want to create a life with them, create a home.  The one thing that is denied with gay love is that you can't make a baby.  I don't know, it's just an honest feeling I've had recently.  Marriage is denied for a lot of us as well which is more shocking.  I think it should be a basic right and I talk about my husband all the time.  I mean, if he proposed to me we could only be civil partners which is like for me, I'm a very uncivilized person (laughs) so I couldn't have a civil partnership?  I don't really get that at all.  I want to have a husband.  I'd love to have a baby, but you gotta work through so much shit to accept and be happy with yourself despite everything. 

You're very passionate about independent music.  What did you learn by being on a major with "The Magic Position".  Do you regret going down the major label route at all?
I don't regret it at all.  It was very interesting seeing a lot of the behind the scenes behavior and the conservatism of major label behavior.  What I learned positively is that if you want to make an impact on the world you need to work very very very hard and I respect all those people who sacrifice their families, their internal emotions, sacrifice their private life.  You know I tried it for a bit and you know what, I'd love to have a successful record and to do well, but if it means I have to smile for 364 days a year and be a "family" artist and not be a trouble-maker.  All these things I'm not.  I'm not for playing that game because it's all a bit of fake politics.  Politicians smiling while the world is blowing up - I can't really do that.  It's an amazing and interesting world.

I think one of the good things about you being on the majors for your last album is that you picked up a lot of new fans, myself included...
Exactly!  That was really impressive all the touring - it was mental.  A lot of the work was to do with the most fantastic team around me.  I don't know if I was really understood at the end of the day.  I really can't talk about that that much right now, but wait for the biography!

Continue to Part 2...


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Thank you very much!! AHH PATRIQUE! Cannot wait for part 2 mister man... x

Good article.

But it's Tilda SWINTON, not Swanson.. just saying!

Good article.

But it's DYLAN Thomas, not Dylon.. just saying!

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