Not only can Patrick Wolf successfully change musical directions but he can successfully change hair color and look just as good. His double-album release of this summer’s The Bachelor and part two, The Conqueror (due in 2010) is something of epic proportions, but after the wonderment of 2007’s The Magic Position, I would expect nothing more from Wolf. I chatted to him about the inspiration for this grandiose gesture of an album that focuses on his roots in English folklore yet takes a dark turn and ventures anywhere from Sussex to Los Angeles. The album provides an insight into growing up and changing while not ignoring the past and your roots, a subject Wolf lost himself in but returned conquering, defining himself as an artist who cannot be captured into one genre, and thank goodness for that.
I’m sure you’ve been going on and on about the new album, but after reading about it- it just seems like a little masterpiece.
I’m so proud of it and it’s getting to that point where it’s becoming not private and more public, and then it goes to the factory where the copies get printed up, and it gets to that point where it’s available to the world, and that’s the where I am, at the moment. So far people have been enjoying it and you put your heart into making the album and find out people like it, that’s the real bonus.
The way this album is described it seems more like a private memoir of yours, comparing that to The Magic Position, was that album just as personal or does this go a bit deeper?
The first record I had no audience, and was making an album for the sake of making an album, which was to document all the things I was going through and had been through, up to being 18, 19. I see this album as a return to that kind of personal songwriting where I forget about my audience, commercial and critical expectations. I had time in 2008 to disconnect from all kind of public way of thinking and I was forgotten in the public eye, and I could be anonymous in many ways. So I could focus on making the best album I could at the time. I went back to rediscover my English roots, where my father comes from in Sussex, in the country. I did a lot of walking in order to combat the lethargy I had from too much showbiz. I went back to human nature, folklore, orchestra and all the things that make us human beings.
It’s very ethereal. I like the fact that a lot of British artists go back to the countryside to get in touch with thoughts and artistic inspiration. It reminds me of the most recent Goldfrapp album. How she went from being very glam to simplistic and folky.
For me there are two things musically that nature has inspired in the last few years in British music. There is a real folk-music history, it’s somewhat innocent, like in the 70′s, when this return to nature happened, and Goldfrapp is part of that. Then you’ve got this other side that is more pagan, bloody, raw and very dark. I guess I was thinking more down that side. We have music from Cornwall and Dorset, that part of England, and I was more exploring this side. English jigs, English marching drums, English tribal music; it’s more battle music, which was a huge inspiration.
It reminds me of Morris dancers [English folk dancers].
I’ve taken inspirations from dancers that are more a witch version of Morris dancers, they have pentagrams on their sticks and clothes, they’re up in Northampton and the Midlands, and they’re hardcore; kind of scary! But the album starts off in America actually, in Los Angeles, about a soldier boy going off to war, a young man, who is going to Iraq perhaps, to fight and kill. I was exploring that side of America. I was touring at the time when I wrote this in LA. So it’s like if I stayed in Transylvania for two months I’d write about something there. It’s in the nature of being a songwriter. So it starts off in Los Angeles and there’s a lot of “disaster in the world” emphasis, it’s dark, but there is a lot of hope in it at the end.
That’s a lot! It’s interesting hearing you talk about it rather than reading about it. I was listening to The Magic Position, and it reminded me of when we first heard you. I remember thinking “we don’t have this over here!”
I get really excited by the reception. A lot of people in England are like, “oh he’s been around since 2001,” but in America, it’s like “I get this,” from journalists and get a lot of respect from my audience, with a lot of interest. What more could you want as a songwriter is people engaging and listening to your work. I’ve been very happy with every tour in America, from playing in Boston to the Troubador. I want to continue that adventure.
I remember being in London your music was such an inspiration to me, it even inspired me to dye my hair vibrant red like yours!
I just needed a break with the whole redhead experience. But I do think two redheads have more fun than blondes!
Yes I was going to say, I like the blonde hair, but where did the fiery red go?
Years of being red, I needed a new style. I’m in my Debbie Harry phase at the moment, I may return to my Kate Bush and Tori Amos phase one day.
Patrick Wolf will play an acoustic set at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge on May 6th, debuting some new material from The Bachelor.”