INTERVIEW

“Through his first two long players ‘Lycanthropy’ and ‘Wind in the Wires’, a juvenile Patrick Wolf channelled a sense of youthful angst and depression, expressed – with the aid of his obscene musical talent and lyrics worthy of TS Elliot or Grimm’s fairytales – far more poetically than those of us who spent the same […]

“Through his first two long players ‘Lycanthropy’ and ‘Wind in the Wires’, a juvenile Patrick Wolf channelled a sense of youthful angst and depression, expressed – with the aid of his obscene musical talent and lyrics worthy of TS Elliot or Grimm’s fairytales – far more poetically than those of us who spent the same period of our lives slamming doors, bunking school and escaping aimlessly to the sea. And, although Patrick probably did much the same, he also created two of the most respected albums of the last ten years.

Though before a vastly inaccurate portrait emerges of Wolf as this Millennia’s Morrissey, the now 24-year-old singer/songwriter has, with his latest album, tours and increasingly dramatic image, matured both musically and personally. Almost disappeared is the vaguely gothic, awkward figure wandering the sepia toned scenery of the ‘To the Lighthouse’ promo, replaced with the vividly orange haired individual, whose February release ‘The Magic Position’ is already expected to achieve widespread critical acclaim.

So while Morrissey (20 years on) is still wailing over his foxgloves, Patrick is eager to put his past behind him, and not least his musical history.

“Sometimes I wish the first album never happened,” sighs Patrick upon mention of his debut EP ‘Lycanthropy’, with a slight cringe that anyone who has lasting, publicly accessible evidence of being 18 can empathise with. “Unfortunately there’s this need I think sometimes, this mode in people that means they will take one record of a musician, or an artist’s first painting, or what they think is their greatest, and then use that as an icon to judge the rest of their work. And I’ve always found that very boring, and almost quite rude in terms of letting a musician explore new work and be creative for the rest of their life. To have one piece of work you did when you were 18 be the work that people say ‘that’s what Patrick Wolf was,’ you might as well tell me never to write another record in my life.”

Now signed to major alternative pop label Loog, home of the Horrors and (sadly) The Bravery, Patrick Wolf has been given the budget and creative freedom to make ‘The Magic Position,’ his third album release, the high-fidelity pop album he craved.

“I really wanted, as a producer, to suddenly work with string quartets and vibraphonists and double basses and two drummers and 12 microphones, and work with big sets for my photographs, and just do a really big production.” It was an opportunity that gave Wolf, who trained in composition at Trinity College, a much wider scope of expression. “It’s like learning a language and then suddenly being able to speak it fluently with people who speak it,” he enthuses.

As for any possibility of alienating his existing audience with the pop ethic that is becoming increasingly evident in his sound – the first single taken from ‘The Magic Position’, ‘Accident and Emergency,’ being a perfect example of this unique brand of eccentric pop – Patrick has no qualms.

“I’ve known since the beginning that I’m a musician that wants to look back when I’m 90 and have 200 albums that are very different from each other,” he says in defence of his forever-evolving sound. “I’ll be making records, hopefully, that lose half the audience with every release and find a new audience with every release, because I’ve always wanted to make…” he pauses “extremes!” Yet, from the glitter-strewn queues outside Brighton’s Concorde II when we catch up with Wolf suggests, it doesn’t look as though any of Patrick’s original fans are about to desert.

Besides, according to Patrick, “Lycanthropy and Wind in the Wires are as pop as this album, but in a different way.” He continues, “I’ve always been obsessed with pop communication, the great pop song. Writing that number that is 100% you but appreciated by all walks of life and inspiring to all walks of life. And with the latest album I had the finance in order to make a very high fidelity record. In a world where superficially we take everything on the surface, and first impressions count for a lot these days, I had the opportunity to make my communication with the best possible tools around me, which was very exciting. I don’t think I could do another record by asking loads of favours and scraping together enough money to get 2 hours in the studio with a piano.”

Yet it seems that with this latest album there is a definitive vibrant, pop edge that was absent in its more gothic predecessors. But then Wolf’s career has been one of constant change. Over the last ten years he has performed with pop art collective Minty; busked with a string quartet; formed the group Maison Crimineaux – which Wolf describes as “sonic terrorism – white noise and really harsh frequencies, but then with a humorous message; though very dark, dark humour”; and trained in composition at Trinity College. The 24 year old also boasts claim to being accomplished in an impressively extensive range of instruments, including violin, ukulele, organ and a homemade theremin, amongst others.

“I’ve never been interested in one type of music or giving the world one thing,” he explains, “even within one album I want there to be 10 different extreme emotions, or stories separate from each other.”

Taking his inspiration from life, whether “on top of a mountain or at the supermarket,” as he puts it, and claiming that “anything extreme that happens in my life becomes a song,” it is no wonder that his musical output is such a vast collection of extremes. Maison Crimineaux spawned in his early teens as a reaction against a boring period for London music – “the band was two people very bored of their surroundings, wanting to wake people up a little bit,” he says today – and both early album releases occurred at a turbulent and slightly melancholy time in his life.
So it seems that, if ‘The Magic Position’ is anything to go by, Patrick’s recent life has been going rather nicely. “This record came out of a period where I was very settled, I guess‚” maybe not to other people, but to me, emotionally. I was trusting somebody with my everyday life‚” just sharing a life with someone, and that led to writing quite confident songs, in the major key.”

But it is not only in musical terms that Wolf wishes to show people the opportunity for change. You only need glance at Andrew Kendall’s multi costumed, vibrant L&Q Wolf shoot to see how Patrick is a chameleon personally as well as musically. “I want to try to give the message to people that we’re a hundred different people with every second, that every human has the possibility of being many, many people. So I like to try and explore lots of different sound textures and instrumentations to represent all those parts of the personality‚” and that’s represented visually as well as musically.”

Patrick illustrated this perfectly during a performance at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre in March 2006, whilst in the process of writing and recording ‘The Magic Position’. During a ten-minute interval, the singer dyed his hair in time to perform new material in the second half. What better way – other than releasing a buoyant pop album – to demonstrate a new frame of mind?

New outlook on life or not, his attitude towards music hasn’t changed: “Since I was about 8 years old music has been my all-consuming passion, my food‚” whether I’m making happy music or sad music doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it any more or less.”

And, despite occasionally wishing the first album didn’t exist, he acknowledges that “there’s no way I could have written ‘Wind in the Wires’ without ‘Lycanthropy’, and ‘The Magic Position’ without getting out a lot of things and exploring the subjects I did in ‘Wind in the Wires’. And again,” he elaborates “I find with writing the fourth record [yes, Wolf has already started], there’s no way I could explore this territory without negotiating the subjects on ‘The Magic Position’.”

So, any idea what direction the fourth will take? “I’m not really talking about it at the moment‚”I have a habit of ruining surprises,” he smiles, “so I’m keeping it quiet for now.”

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »