Patrick Wolf – Satan S&M and Tilda Swinton

Once upon a time Patrick Wolf was a sexually ambiguous minstrel boy with a lanky awkwardness and an endearing foppishness. These days Wolf is dabbling in Satanism and S&M while hanging out with Tilda Swinton and running his own record label. Pedestrian recently caught up with Wolf to discuss how his life has changed since he birthed The Magic Position and why boredom can lead to Satanic drug binges.

Good morning Patrick, how’s your day been so far? Well in a typical day I wake up very early, I usually have about 3 hours sleep every night. I have my record label to run, editing videos and rehearsing my band and doing international press which normally last until 4 o’clock in the morning. So I make the most of the 3 hours sleep I have and I guess that’s the life of an international musician. And running my own label gives me a lot of things to do.

Has running your own label given you any empathy for major labels? Yes definitely. I currently have a big day of people coming to my studio to listen to my new work. There’s a lot of offers being made at the moment. I’ve been major before, I’ve been a few years independent. I have no set way of how I particularly like to work.

Is that independence and inability to bow down necessary for you to work? Yeah I never have done, that’s the thing. In a lot of the struggles that came with working with Polydor and Universal records and the whole machine, I always got what I wanted, it just took a lot of foot stamping and saying I’m not putting up with this, this is not how I want it which drains your energy a lot because you have to constantly stick up for yourself.

Were you a bratty child? Um yeah, I think so. When I was eight and my mum tried to give me piano lessons I would hide in the loo because I wanted to play the violin. I went on strike until I got to play the violin, so I’m very good at getting what i want, but i suppose it takes a lot of arguing.

Can you describe your studio? It’s been different things over the years. It depends on the house I’m living in right now. Right now I’m running a record label form the house and that’s taking most of the space and I run the merch company from there. It’s half filled with boxes, I’ve got two filled with costumes. I’ve got my walk in wardrobe transformed into a studio. I kind of lock the door and I’ve got my instruments in there. I don’t have the space right now to bring out my harpsichords, they’re all underneath the bed so I don’t have the space I like but I make the most of what i have.

Have you collected any more instruments recently? I have more than enough, and probably more than I’ll need for a lifetime. So no, I try and stop myself. I was in Vienna the other day on tour and there was this amazing instrument, it was a huge harp with 12 different panels that was like a big sound tunnel. It was 3000
pounds so of course I would be homeless if I bought it. But those are the kind of things I want, but I’ve kind of got every instrument I’d need for the next five or ten years.

What’s your most treasured instrument? My violin. I never take it out of the case now because it’s so special to me. It was the first ever instrument I’ve ever owned and its stayed with me for 16 years now, so it’s my most precious precious thing, so I try not to take it out ever (laughs).

Let’s talk about the album. You recorded enough music for a double under the bachelor and the
conqueror…do they represent two sides of your psyche?
It’s about the past two years of experience with lessons in love and life. But I’m constantly developing as a person and I’d hate to define myself as a person in my record. I’m like everybody in the world, I’m quite complicated. I would say my biography when I’m like a hundred would define who I am, but for now my records are just defining who I am in that particular point in time.

You also collaborated with a lot of people on this album…was that refreshing considering you’re used to writing introspectively and on your own? Yeah I think I’m used to writing on my own I always will do, but I’m opening up more to working in the studio with other people. I was the executive producer, programmer and arranger for the last few records so this was the first time I thought “well I’ve done three records like
that, I don’t really feel I need to explore that way of working anymore, I want to work with other people”. Not all the way through the records, but just enough to feel like I’m progressing as a musician and a person instead of just making things on my own. I liked inviting people in to enjoy the experience with.

Who would be your dream collaborator? I’d really like to work with Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas. I think it’d be really fun. I think it would be very unexpected and no-one would think that of me. But I’d rather work with somebody that comes from a totally different way of working than somebody that’s very close to my way of working. If there’s something I feel I can do myself than I like to do it. But if i have the opportunity to work with someone who’s totally on the other side of the scale then I’m really, really gonna want to do that.

What was it like working with Tilda Swinton who comes from an acting background? And how did you guys meet? She was doing a performance, a kind of question and answer thing, at this ritzy cinema while I was in the studio just around the corner, so I had this wonderful opportunity to go meet her. I had already written a song for her, so I went to my engineer and got it mixed and just gave it to her on the night. So I was very lucky to work with her, it was wonderful. She came to the studio in London and stayed when she was meant to be going to Brazil or something, so I was extremely happy about that.

Patrick Wolf – Vulture

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Did you have to direct her much? Tilda’s worked with some of the greatest directors ever so I was extremely happy with that. I think people like to work with her because she has a sixth sense about what a character should be. You only need to mention a few kind of key phrases etc and she’s off on one. She totally follows the character. I could of sat there saying more of this or less of that, but I didn’t need to. It was a quite complicated character really because it’s an album basically about negativity and depression and when she was brought in I didn’t really need to describe much which was wonderful.

Would you ever consider flipping the script and going into acting or something like that? Yeah of course. I’ve been offered lots of film roles, even to make a book and to write for a Disney film. I only have so many hours in the day though. Even right now my life is just full of promotion and recording the next album. I’ve got lots of things on my plate and I’d like to think there’s down time in the future to explore these offers but I don’t like to do things halfheartedly if you understand. I like to make sure when I do things I can do them really well.

You funded your last album partly through Bandstocks…do you think your fan base is more fanatical than most musicians because they’re willing to invest in you and your art? I don’t know how it’s happened over the years but it’s just about people relating to me more as a musician and human being rather than me…How do I put it? I’m not interested in being a famous person I’m just in making sure my audience is always inspired and that they feel close to me and close to my music. I don’t want the feeling of alienation. That’s what made me feel uncomfortable about working with Universal because it was so much about “please give your email
and phone number and your date of birth and your credit card number” and I just don’t get that way of working. I like to get my music out to people. If they like to pay for it that’s wonderful because it means I get to eat. But it’s more about your stake in the hearts of people who like to listen to music. I’ve known lots of
musicians who have done the opposite thing wanting to be famous since day one, but people can smell that easily. And that’s when you don’t get an audience because at the end of the day people don’t like careerists.

Do you have weird fan moments as a result of that? (laughs) Yeah I do but I’ve been obsessed with musicians myself in the past, it’s a very human trait and i don’t really criticize people for being obsessed with me.

You’ve mentioned that your 2007 tour of America was like dodgy satanic sex games what was all that about? Yeah that’s why I don’t like having too much spare time, because potentially I get up to lots of naughty things. I was in Los Angeles and I had a week off, which is very rare for me, and I ended up in the company of a satanist. There are a lot of satanists in California anyway, it’s not that unusual. So yeah I ended up taking very bad drugs.