Shooting and Madonna. October 10, 2012: Patrick Wolf’s diary is suitably made up of firearms and showbiz, the lifeblood of Los Angeles. He can pretty much lick the Hollywood sign from Laurel Park’s Canyon Retreat, a pseudo rustic cabin on the hillside made for cowboys of the entertainment industry. This is Joni Mitchell country, where she lived and recorded two of Wolf’s favourite albums, 1970’s ‘Ladies of Canyon’ and 1974’s ‘Court And Spark’. “Liberace lived here too,” laughs Wolf. “He’s definitely one of my favourite performers of all time. Who else? Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix – the free love movement lived here. It’s not so much like that now, there’s just Rick Rubin and Ke$ha that live around here now. I’m trying to bring the other spirit back.”
Patrick Wolf loves a challenge. It’s been the one constant in a musical career that this month celebrates its tenth year with the release of ‘Sundark And Riverlight’ – a collection of reimagined Wolf tracks stripped to the bone and propped up by subtle, brooding strings.
Wolf is still just 29, a number that in itself makes hitting the ten-year mark all the more impressive, but one outdone by how he’s got here – his uncompromising nature, his rip-it-up-and-start-again approach, the level of commercial success that still alludes him, his refusal to fuck off. “I don’t see it as a career,” he says. “I didn’t go to the career advisor for it, do you know what I mean? It’s been a 10-year… adventure!
“I’ve definitely gone a bit mad, but I don’t think that’s been detrimental to continuing, and luckily with my writing I can use that insanity and all the tiredness and rejections from the industry to carry on. I think that’s why people relate to me as an outsider, and I have a lot of fans who are outsiders or loners.”
Wolf’s fans (The Wolf Pack) are as ardent as any; a loyal lot that gave us a taste of the things to come in 2008 when they helped their hero bypass the music industry altogether and deliver fourth album ‘The Bachelor’. Today, we’re well acquainted with PledgeMusic, but in ’08 the idea of fans investing in and bankrolling the making of an album was borderline obscene. For Wolf it was made possible by the launch of BandStocks.com (coincidently created by the singer’s lawyer), but it came at a strange time. Wolf was without a record label having released his third and most successful album still to this day, 2007’s ‘The Magic Position’, his first and last for Polydor subsidiary Loog Records.
“Loog dropped me because they were terrified of me,” he says. “You try and say to me, ‘Patrick, now that you’ve got a boyfriend we think you’d be more marketable if you made a record that sounds like Erasure’. What kind of reaction do you think you’d get from that? And do you think you’d be terrified of me after that or not?
“The BandStocks thing was amazing because I was already halfway through the album, and Loog had heard my demos I’d done with Alec Empire, and then Mark Ronson got involved, in a very friendly, sweet, lovely way, but they jumped on that and wanted me to pay for Mark Ronson’s production fees when I was already well into making an album with Alec. Mark had actually said that these demos don’t sound like demos, they’re perfect as they are and that he didn’t think he needed to work on them. The album was pretty much finished and it was on the day I was recording the string section and the gospel choir that they dropped me, which was nice because otherwise I would have had to pick up the fees, which I obviously couldn’t have afforded. They didn’t even want to hear what I’d done once they’d heard the demos for ‘Vulture’ and ‘Together’.”