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Outback with…Patrick Wolf

This was way back he was promoting The Bachelor so we’re looking at what - 2008? 2009? Hence The X Factor/Jedward reference further down the line. Anyway. Patrick was lovely. I met him before he performed at a Rankin exhibition opening. We chatted in the dressing room which he shared with other performers. It was quite chaotic but it all flowed quite naturally which was good. After the film of him throwing shit at the technicians in that venue in Cologne - you know the one I mean - I always thought he would be scary…haha.

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So, you’ve been out in Brazil…
Planeta de Terra. It’s really great because I know I’ve had a Brazilian audience for a while but it’s very difficult to get out there as I only like to take my full band out. It’s really amazing to discover you have an audience on the other side of the world. South America is obsessed with music. Morissey is huge in South America. A lot of misunderstood acts in the rest of the world are really loved in that country. I think Brazil is obsessed with different rhythms and that’s why Bjork for example is really big over there. The other people playing the festival were Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth. I think they have very good music taste so I feel very blessed that they wanted me over there. Iggy Pop came to my show.

You’re in the studio a lot too?
When I’m not travelling I’m in my home studio - which used to be my walk-in wardobe but I have now converted it. It’s a very glamorous location. There are no clothes. People think I’m obsessed with clothes but I decided to make the sacrifice, so i’ve got all my favourite microphones and synthesisers where my shoes should be. I’ve got my priorities right.

Are you half way though The Conqueror?
I would say it’s almost finished I just need more time to settle down. It’s an album about my current love affair and so it’s a very romantic record. I don’t think romance survives too well on the road, it’s a very domestic record.  As a songwriter I want to really concentrate on the domestic side of things like cooking, cleaning, learning how to make casseroles and stuff. I am craving to make a jigsaw with my boyfriend but I don’t have the time. With a picture of us on it? No, we’re not that bad yet. Give me till middle age. I’m in that nesting phase which is really inspiring as there are so many wonderful new topics to discover wheras before I just wrote about being alone, being misunderstood and being unlucky in love. So now it’s great to be discovering something more positive.

There aren’t many gay men discussing their relationships so openly.
It’s true. I mean if you look at Rufus Wainwright he is a pioneer for that. There are so many love songs about a man and a woman in the world, or a woman loving a man, that if you’re a gay man or woman you’re a bit like ‘Shit, what do I relate to?’ So we have to transform heterosexual stories into homoesexual stories. When my album comes out I would like to think it will do the same, where homosexual stories have been as taken heterosexual stories, I would like the heterosexual community to do the same. Love, at the end of the day, whether it’s a he and a she or a he and a he or a she and a she - it’s all an emotion that we share as human beings and i think this is one of the causes of homophobia that we think gay love and straight love are different things. It’s a different culture but it’s not a different emotion. We all share it as humans. That’s what I’m trying to communicate in the next record.

Do you watch X Factor together?
Yeah every week. (Points to peroxide blonde ‘big’ hair) Who am I tonight? John & Edward, exactly! I love them because I am an Irish boy. When they came on i was like ‘Shit are these my cousins?’ because John and Edward are like me and my sister having fun in my bedroom at that age so I feel like I’m related to them. If I could have cartwheeled at that age I would have been doing it all the time. They are exactly what that show needs.

What was this about you being beaten up for kssing at a Madonna gig?
The first journalist that wrote about it was at the concert and asked me what I thought of the concert. All I could think about was being beaten up by the security at Wembley, then arrested for disturbance of the peace. I’m 6” 4, with bleach blonde hair, a pair of hot pants and like a cider in my hand, singing an old Madonnna song from 1987 over the top of one from Hard Candy. That was my disturbance of the peace. I was trying to tell everyone ‘Oh isn’t it funny, she just writes the same lyrics.’ But I love her, it was just done in jest. I wasn’t being lary at all. Then I started kissing my boyfriend and it was just one of those things. It was a real wake up for me as Patrick. Not everything that I do is private anymore. If I do something like disturb the peace, I’m not just doing it as a mistake to the police but it gets picked up by the press. I thought it would just be water off a duck’s back in a way but it seems nothing that I have done since 2004 has been secret. It seems I’m a secret celebrity, no one really knows what I do but they know what I’ve done that’s bad. I’m kind of like the Jordan of the music world.
But the important thing I would like to say about the Madonna story is it’s nothing to do with Madonna because that’s what everyone thought. I’d have a Madonna tattoo tomorrow, I love my musicians and they have the right to be in a venue where they have no idea about security which I do. I have no idea who the security guards are here but one of my fans might turn up here tonight, spill a drink and get thrown out. Now that upsets me but it’s not my problem it’s the venue’s.

Did you go to the gay vigil at Trafalgar Sqaure?
Oh yes, I think it happened while I was away but it’s something I definitely want to become a lot more involved in. Especially after living in London for 26 years and going to places where the level of homophobia is really extreme. I always come back to London and think I’m lucky to live in such a safe place. Then I realise it’s really not. It’s a lot to do with the legacy of Section 28, sex education. I would like to just keep on discussing it. It’s been a huge part of my life. From the age of 8-14 my life was made absolute hell because I was bullied for being gay when I didn’t even know I was gay. I also know a couple of people who have taken their lives because of the homophobia they have had to grow up with. But this is all London based so this is something I would like to be involved in definitely. I think Equal Rights might be protected and established legally but they have to be protected by the upcoming generations. They have to be protected by everybody in the world. There are some laws in the er…English Law World, I don’t know the right term I’m not that clever, where there are weird things like you can’t take a horse down a certain street or you could end up with the death penalty. There are all these laws that were once established. You forget about them now and I wonder if, what was established in 1989 and 1991 still need to be updated and protected. Generations are brought up and have different ideas and different ways of thinking. But, yeah, I wish I was there. I was there in spirit.

I got the invite on Facebook and thought it looked too unofficial.
Yeah, I think it should have come through The Sun or The Mirror. That would have been more interesting for me.

You sold shares in your album so that you could make it without a label backing. Big success right?
It was really great. I love all those stories; like George Michael writing Fony instead of Sony in that video and Prince wrote Slave on his face. Luckily I was saved from that way of working because it happened very quickly. It was a phonecall saying, ‘Look we’ve heard your new stuff and it’s a little too bizarre/controversial for us.’ I was like, ‘Great, ok’ I wasn’t stuck in a contract. I’m very blessed that they just handed the work back over. I think those situations arise when record labels hold on to that work even though they don’t like it and then it gets buried. So  it was like a month of insanity. My manager came up with this bandstocks idea. My lawyer was getting me out of the contract with Universal and it seemed the most natural way to go. We had no idea we were going to raise £100, 000. All that money went straight back into paying the string section, the gospel choir, the studio fees, these are all costs, then there was a huge two day photo shoot, then the cost of manufacture on my own label…so the price of £100, 000 you can unfortunately use up in the music industry just by coughing in a day. It’s not a big amount of money, but it’s a big amount of money in my heart, knowing that people really wanted to hear my work. It’s like, not to be twee but in Peter Pan, when Tinkerbell is dying, he’s telling everyone to clap their hands and make a noise, it was like that. Everyone around the world was saying, ‘Yes, we want more Patrick Wolf’. It was my sing off for survival.

Patrick Wolf - Vulture from danny on Vimeo.

Then we had the racey video for Vulture.
Yeah, I wanted to give off a bit of flesh for the pound you know? I don’t regret that video at all, I’m very proud of it. I think it’s just the beginning as well really. I’m not worried about showing more flesh in the future. Maybe in a different way.

Talk to me about collaborating with Tilda Swinton. Were you actually in the studio together?
Yes, we were. It was really happenstance in a way because I had written in my production notes the year before a narration by Tilda Swinton, I had written down all the passages. I write all over the place, like, ‘string section here’, ‘viola here’. Then a year later we were finishing the album finally. There were about two weeks to go and there were these passages I’d recorded for the record and they just sounded stupid. I sounded like I was trying to be ‘Royal Shakespeare Company.’  But with Tilda, I was really excited, I went up to the Ritzy where she was doing a Q&A of one of her films. My question was ‘Would you be on my record?’ And Tilda, testament to her genius and how spontaneous she is, said yes. I think she knew of my work. He boyfriend had painted my portrait. We’ve just become really really close and I feel like she is one of a few people that really encourage me. They are like my mentors so maybe Tilda is like my Louis Walsh, or my Cheryl Cole, or all four. I have a few musicians or artists or actresses that I will write paragraphs and paragraphs about in my autobiography one day because they make me feel like I need to keep going.

I think she has had an interesting time in the press about her private life.
I get asked about this a lot. I mean I know a bit about her private life in the same way that everyone knows a bit about my private life, of course everyone wants you to talk about the work you make, but there’s a huge thing in the last ten years of the celebrity being the focus and it’s a game that Tilda plays very well. I play very well. It’s a way of just fending it off. You’re not a dog. But some journalists are dogs with rabies and you just have to feed them scraps of meat to keep them at bay. Then eventually they run away and you can get on with talking to the rest of the animal kingdom.

I like the analogies.
Thank you. It’s because I’m sober. When I’m drunk I just talk rubbish.

Do you see a comparison between yourself and Florence + the Machine?
I love what Florence is doing a lot. I think she is one of the greatest at the moment as a singer and as a performer. Again I think I’ve had a lot of influence on people that has gone unrecognised. But Florence is one of the great people that says, ‘Patrick has been an influence.’ I feel a real kindredship with her. That’s the thing there are some artists that have been very plagiristic of my work, specifically visually and through music and I have been not plagiristic but influenced by so many people and I have given so much credit to all those people who have inspired me. But there’s this new thing where all these new artists are just writing off the older artists. I mean, yeah, I’m 26, I’m on album Number 4, I started 7 or 8 years ago. It’s wonderful to see new talent rising up.

Lady Gaga always mentions her influences.
It’s very important and it’s what makes people trust an artist. They can see that Kate Bush, Madonna, Britney, Gaga, but she recognises that too and that just makes everyone fell like, ‘OK, she recognises that too, so she’s a real human being.’

You love Madonna, but she doesn’t do that.
No, but the whole genius behind Madonna is that she came from Planet Madonna and that’s quite fascinating. I like the dichotomy of people saying they’re infamous. If you read any interview with me, you will see I list all my biggest inspirations and Florence is like that too. I’m not saying I have influenced her heavily at all but I just feel like she is really great for bringing attention to other musicians. Like Bjork was great for introducing me to Aphex Twin and all the Warp and Reflex, Atari Teenage Riot stuff and that’s what musicians should really do. I feel there’s a slight arrogance amongst the younger musicians on their first record where they feel nothing has come before them.

I think some of them are going to really struggle come album Number Two.
(whispers) So do I. There’s going to be a lot of sinking ships. That certainly will not be Micachu (who was also performing that night). She is literally my favourite right now.

There seems to be a strong lesbian music music scene at the moment with Sia and JD Sampson from Le Tigre dating then there’s Tegan and Sara who all seem to tweet to each other. But I’m not sure the guys have that support as much.
The only gay musician I have any relationship with is Marc Almond. We’re very close. We write to each other and support each other. I was a bit fan of RrrriotGirl when I was younger and I used to go to Ladyfest. I was inspired by strong creative females. Let’s not think of it as a lesbian thing, or a feminist thing, or a woman thing, or a man thing. Music should be music. I hope people think the same of me. I’m a feminist, I’m also a lesbian, I’m also a tri-sexual. I am all of these things. That’s why I look out to my audience nd I get really emotional. I see myself mirrored across so many different types of people.

Let’s talk about being on stage. That famous moment.
That’s not my fault. That’s YouTube’s problem. It’s not my fault people are bored at home and have nothing else to watch. 

Do you stand by all that?
I had to apologise. Irony doesn’t work well in interviews but I really love apologising. Even right now I’ve not slept for 21 hours, I don’t do drugs anymore, I’m on Coca-Cola and I’m feeling a bit bonkers. Sometimes when you’re on that level, which I am a lot, where you get up at five, are on a flight for four hours, get all my equipment off, do soundcheck, do seven or eight interviews then go straight on stage - any human would go a bit bonkers. But I think I handle it well 99% of the time. But my name is Patrick Wolf, I am a monster sometimes. I don’t regret that behaviour. I don’t really feel like I should have been made to apologise, I feel I was made to by the rest of the world. But when Bjork hit the reporter, I didn’t shrug my shoulder because that’s a human having a 1% bad day. We de-humanise the people that we iconise. I think it’s dangerous because they do poo, they do drink, they are human. Like any of your friends there are things that you don’t like about them. We all forget that they are human. I’m not doing anything that anyone hasn’t done in real day life. But unfortunately for me, like Big Brother, it’s captured on YouTube and everyone gets to watch it. I’m happy to be the clown. I apologise to the people who were around. They thought I was throwing stuff at my violoinist! I was doing that thing where you’re a bit drunk and are shouting ‘Fuck You’ into thin air. I wans’t actually drunk though I was just really really tired. I work like a motherfucker. Sometimes this werewolf pops out of me.

Do you feel you have a diva-ish reputation?
Well, I’m very honest. If I don’t like you, why should I sit here and pretend? I don’t like those kind of popstars who are lying through their teeth just to protect their image. I don’t care about my demographic. I’m not a liar. I’m a human. I react to every journalist differently. 2% of the word’s journalists are idiots. A lot are lovely. But some are the type who, if they weren’t interviewing you would wind down their window and shout abuse at you and laugh at you. If people try and laugh at you through questions I just don’t bother playing that game. I know some people that do. Leona Lewis seems to be able to smile at everything. Throw a book at her and she’ll still smile. I’m not that kind of person. But I’m happier that way because then at least I know people will get something real. There’s no fakeness. So when you’re a nice person, you get a nice Patrick.

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