It’s fair to state that Patrick Wolf is definitely one of the most interesting British independent acts of the last 10 years. With 6 universally acclaimed albums under his belt, Patrick’s music is a combination of folk, pop and electronica, while he utilizes a wide variety of instruments, most commonly the ukulele, piano and viola. His influences count Bowie and Bjork among the others and he has collaborated as an instrument player with the likes of Patti Smith and Arcade Fire. While he cannot be considered “mainstreamingly” popular – he’s remained firmly independent and now has his own record label – he has a strong fan base, the Wolfpack, and his works are constantly awarded high ratings by critics and reviewers.
He’s currently touring Europe and will be playing live at the Union Chappell in London on December 21.
He found the time to answer our questions in-between gigs, talking Bjork, London and the future. Enjoy. 🙂
Q: Love and complicated relationships seem to always have played an important role in your compositions. How does your personal life influence your works?
A: Well It depends on the album I guess I have had moments where I’ve wanted to create escapism and periods where i need to work out problems in my real life. I felt I was old enough to write about love when it came much later to me around my third album. I have never wanted to be some kind of mechanical song vending machine, I write about what moves me as i go about my life and I think everyone becomes less about themselves as they get older so I’m enjoying getting more outwards looking, but i think if I did this in novels in a bookshop I would have a hard time letting it be put under “fiction”. I am known to glaze over in the middle of conversations with my friends or when out in public as my brain just starts to record things and file them away for future songwriting, its almost first nature now.
Q: What inspired you to do a cover of Nico’s ‘Ari’s Song”?
A: I felt that it was a neglected song by Nico and I heard something in it that I wanted to record in my own voice and production, those John Cale and Nico albums are like really close old friends, I think during that recording period I was under so much pressure that during downtime I would play Nico and Joni Mitchell songs to myself at the piano, I was quite lonely there recording in Vienna in the middle of a long snowstorm producing my first big pressure major label album, I had a few coping mechanisms and recording that cover was one of the more healthy ones.
Q: Of all your albums which is the one you consider more complete and representative of who you are and why?
A: If I could choose an album that sums up the spirit of my 20’s I would probably choose The Bachelor,Lycanthropy is like 10-20, Lupercalia and The Magic Position my two great loves and Wind in the Wiresjust feels extremely private to me, I really had cut myself off from the world back then. The albums are in chronological order and I think I’m in constant transition and flux so its hard to pinpoint a definitive representative moment as I don’t believe it’s happened yet.
Q: How did artists like Bowie, Bjork and Depeche Mode influence or inspire you (if they ever did)?
A: If I start with Bjork, it was one of the first music that came on the radio when I was about 11 that completely blew my mind, hearing that bassline in Army Of Me on the way to school, I had never heard anything like that. My sister and I weren’t really let near the radio until we were 11, as an outcast violinist who was getting very bored of classical music there was something that just connected in a pop culture moment. When I hear other generations talk about seeing Bowie on TV and how it blew their mind, I would say Bjork owned that role in Britain when I was a teenager, me and most of my friends were pretty allergic to anything from the 80’s at that time, trying to reject the decade before us so I didn’t ever get intoDepeche Mode, it was kind of banned music back then Bjork was a great advocate for IDM music and Contemporary Classical music in the britpop era which was just you know from my point of view a bit conservative and retro. My dad was into bebop and jazz, my mum buffy st marie and folk music and my sister amazing electronic experimental music, so I felt like I totally understood this musical language and then as a popstar she represented strength and courage for anyone who was the odd one out, and I was having hell everyday at school, it was only X-Ray Spex, The Breeders, Minty and Bjork’s music that got me through it all. I didn’t make a connection with Bowie’s music until I was about 25 when I moved into a flat on my own up on a massive hill looking across London after my breakup with Ingrid who inspired The Magic Position album, “Sound and Vision” was the first song I played there in the empty flat and it kind of became a part of the furniture to me and so I’ve been playing catch up in the last 5 years.
Q: What does music mean to you?
A: A means of communication and expression that is more satisfying to me than speaking.
Q: In the past you wrote a lot about London, how did being born and raised in the capital influence the artist you are today?
A: While I was raised in the city I always dreamed of countryside, sea, forest, some escape and I always had the Irish side of the family to contrast the British, it wasn’t til I started spending 9 months away from it at a time on tour did I realise how funny it was to be born opposite Houses of Parliament and I think I soon accepted my roots a bit more and became a bit more accepting of being born in London; I used to wish I was born somewhere a bit more romantic. So I’ve been travelling/touring so much in the last ten years I don’t know if I’ve been close enough to be a part of any movements or scene to have London influence my actual music like it did when I was younger. I had a long spell in Bermondsey that inspired me so much to write Lupercalia, living in a last surviving pocket of eden before all the glass and chrome and corporations and supermarkets came in like a new plague. The build it up and knock it down spirit here makes it harder and harder for anyone to make a home out of London; I will definitely say I was raised by the nightlife, I had an early baptism of fire into the world of music and performance, I managed to get into clubs when I was 15 and was adopted by a family of performance artists in the wake of leigh bowery that raised me through my teens, teaching me to become free and fearless with my performance and outlook onstage and off. I wouldn’t say Lycanthropy would even ever have been released without those years of encouragement and nurturing, at the same time when I was 18, Mike Paradinas (m-ziq) and Capitol K at Planet Mu Records were championing and raising me too and I always think their sound is a great part of London’s electronic musical history. I don’t think I would have done all this. I guess having confidence with a city and that I’m not really in awe of the city or scared of any part of it at all definitely shapes who I am then as a performer, writer, even as a business person too so far for sure.
Q: What does touring the world represent to you?
A: I see it as a great lesson, time to dream with your eyes open and really ultimate freedom, as long as the relationship with myself or at least my touring crew is good then I really think there’s no greater joy for me.
Q: Any new album on the horizon following the beautiful audiobiographical “Sundark and Riverlight”?
A: Of course, I’ve been doing a lot of growing up behind the scenes, turning 30 somewhere between Laurel Canyon and Latvia I’ve a hell and heaven full of songs and stories to record now. So much change happened around me this 2013 and I’ve reached a certain clarity I’ve been searching for far too long, so after this tour it’s tour…. it’s time to dive.