Patrick Wolf is due to return with his 5th studio album ‘Lupercalia’ on June 20th. The album, named after a celebratory Roman festival, will feature the songs ‘Time of My Life’ and the recent release ‘The City’, a triumphant piece of pop perfection. Impact’s James Smyllie caught up with the man himself when he came to play at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms.
Q: The album is titled ‘Lupercalia’. The name would suggest that it’s going to be a bit of a party.
A: No not really, I think that’s what people have been focusing on. The songs that stand out are instantly more upbeat. I guess there is a big idea of the celebration of love, but it’s more like an exploration. There’s also a break-up period of the album so there’s a lot of sadness in there too. It’s good to match the thrill with the depression a little bit. But in general, I think people are quite excited that I’m not a hundred percent depressing.
Q: Why the departure from ‘The Bachelor’, which was quite a dark and melancholic affair?
A: It was quite unapproachable as a record and as a character, and I think I really wanted to do that. I felt that in my private life I was a bit closed off from the world in a way and I needed to represent that on the record so a lot of the themes on the record are very much like a front. This bachelor character just doesn’t want to get into romance or love or share emotion so yeah, it’s a real change this album. It’s really wonderful to perform live as well. It feels like I’ve enriched people’s lives at the end of the night rather than made them want to commit suicide.
Q: What are your favourite tracks to perform off the new album?
A: We’re doing it only little by little as I don’t want to preview all the songs before the album’s out. So far, ‘The City’ because everybody knows that now; it’s almost up there with ‘The Magic Position’ with how people respond to it. Sometimes it’s scary to play a new song but you’ve just got to hope that you’ve got a patient set of ears.
Q: So what’s ‘The City’ about then?
A: ‘The City’ can be about any city and the things that test you in a way that you don’t get tested when you live in the countryside. So everything from financial problems to getting home at the end of the night, social situations, the modern pressures that we are subjected to, and the speed of the world in the city. All these things can affect your romance and affect your innocence sometimes and I think this song is saying that I won’t let the city destroy our love, destroy our friendship, and destroy my passion for life.
Q: The Video for ‘The City’ looked really fun. Wasn’t it filmed at Santa Monica Beach?
A: Yeah it was; it was wonderful; I really enjoyed it. It was important because a year before when I went to finish the album I did a lot of writing down by the peer and it’s in the calmest place in L.A. And historically it’s attached to Chet Baker, Brian Wilson, and Burt Bacharach; music of love and romance. It was great.
Q: You said that you did some writing in L.A. Where else did you record and write the album?
A: After L.A, it was Spain, and then back from Spain to New York. Spain was really important because I’d done a lot of recording in London and I needed somewhere away from, well, anybody really, and it was up in the mountains in a studio called El Cortijo and we just got out all the hard-drives and spent a couple of weeks going through all the work we had just done and it was great. Me and my engineer just up there in the mountains overlooking paradise really. I think it was important to go to places that reminded me of paradise because I really wanted that to start to rub off on the album.
Q: I’ve heard that you’ve picked up the Celtic Harp for the new album. Will you be playing that tonight?
A: Yeah, but I didn’t actually play it on the album. It was played by someone called Serafina Steer, who’s a great singer-song writer. It was actually my work with her that suddenly made me realise that I used to play the harp when I was younger. It’s something that I tried to forget because it was quite traumatic when I left home and left the harp there. I had to finish my harp career because you can’t really run off with a concert harp. It was seeing Coco Rosie play the Celtic harp, which they just carried around with them like a guitar, and then working with Serafina again. I thought it was time to learn in between finishing the album and the live shows, so yeah, it’s here tonight: my amateur playing of the Celtic harp.
Q: Did you work with Tilda Swinton again for this album, because obviously you worked with her on the last album?
A: No not this album. There were some recordings with her but they were more part of the album when it was gonna be ‘The Conqueror’. There were interesting phrases that I felt were the voice of hope, which was her character on ‘The Bachelor’. The whole point was that I felt after ‘The Bachelor’, after I finished writing it, there wasn’t enough hope there so I wrote this character for Tilda. But now I feel, lyrically, it’s more optimistic.
Q: ‘The Conqueror’ was going to be the sequel to ‘The Bachelor’. Are you still going to make that album or has ‘Lupercalia’ replaced it?
A: Yeah, it’s taken over as album five. In the numerology of albums, number five should be a really important album for you as a songwriter saying ‘I’m gonna be around for a long time’, ‘I’m gonna be releasing albums for a long time’. Album five is that moment when people start to realise you’re not going anywhere, so I wanted to make sure it was exactly what I wanted to represent for me at this period in time.
Q: I read that you met Lady Gaga. How was that? What’s your opinion of her?
A: I think she’s a great pop star, really great. I wish she was around when I was a teenager. She’s very brave with her messages and is saying some very important things. She uses her fame, her voice, and her talent very wisely. I feel very excited to be around in a time where she is around; it’s exciting. I was always jealous of what it must have been like to be around when Elvis Presley was everywhere, and what it must have been like to be a teenager in the Bowie era when people were waiting at airports for him to get off the plane. It’s only very rarely, every ten or fifteen years, that a pop star comes along that is a phenomenon and I think that’s exciting to see.
Q: What do you think of the current pop-music climate with more artists being more eccentric?
A: I think a lot of it is very fake. It was very obvious that before Gaga became successful people were just going about business as they used to, and then suddenly somebody comes in with a unique style as well as commercial, very driven, pop music, and everyone wants to be in on that party and everybody will suddenly hire a stylist. The thing is with real freaks in the world, you’re not styled that way. You go to school and you’re always the outsider, you’re not the popular kid. It’s not about being popular all of the time; you’re making a visual statement about your identity. The imagery of the outsider has become a commercial goldmine in a way; that’s why I decided on this album to be very sophisticated and just wear suits. I don’t really want to be a part of that world.
Q: Are there any artists that you particularly admire at the moment?
A: I really like the band Sky Larkin, they’re really great. I got Katie to work with me on some backing vocals, and I think we’re doing a duet this year. Marina & the Diamonds is an amazing British pop star and again is totally unique and doesn’t tend to give a sh*t about fitting in and just wants be herself and that’s exciting to see. Zola Jesus is great, I love her album. And Rowdy Superstar, my support tonight, is really for me a real new breed of pop star. It’s great to see the reaction to his work.
Q: Finally, What was the last song you listened to?
A: I was just in the hotel room listening to that Ark (Ark Music Factory) music, like that Rebecca Black thing. I don’t like that song, but I like CJ Fam, Ordinary pop star. It’s only had like 500 00 views but I think it should have like three billion. That should be the new phenomenon. It’s great.