29 November 2009
Patrick Wolf is a pop star with a twist. His ever-growing fan base spans the globe, with typical tour stopovers including Prague, San Francisco and Tokyo, yet he remains largely unnoticed on the streets of his home in London. His life has been a roller coaster ride since we saw him plastered across the world’s billboards as the face of Burberry, but he’s forgone thoughts of pursuing a modeling career to focus on his true passion: pop music.
Zac Bayly caught up with the (currently) bleach-blonde glamazon after the release of his latest album, The Bachelor.
Truth really is stranger than fiction, at least as far as Patrick Wolf is concerned. From jet-setting around the globe to hearing Margaret Thatcher through his bathtub sinkhole, the last few years have been eventful, to say the least. In 2007, luminary photographer Mario Testino photographed the young singer in an iconic, black and white Burberry campaign alongside Agyness Deyn. While the well-paid shoot would have made the prospect of a career in modeling attractive to many, Wolf wouldn’t dream of abandoning his day job as the young prince of avant-garde, underground pop.
The star looks back on that shoot with Mario Testino with amusement. “He kept on telling me he wanted to take me to his private yacht,” Wolf tells me, “and he was like ‘Patrick, I’m going to tie you up! I’m going to whip you! Say that to the camera! Kiss the camera! Do this! Do that!’” Clearly amused by what he describes as his “high fashion moment”, he explains that the thought of being coined a ‘slashy’ for dabbling in modeling and music wasn’t something he deemed worthy of consideration. “It was just 30,000 pounds for six hours work, so I couldn’t turn it down. It was just a lot of money for very little effort,” he tells me, frankly.
Although the campaign was purely for the money, Wolf comes under fire regularly for the significant role that fashion plays in his performances. His outlandish costumes and ties with the London fashion scene mean that he has his share of critics ready to question the integrity of his music. “I’m a really glamorous person… but I’m not happy with it,” he explains. “I get a lot of shit. I know people don’t take me seriously because of my image… but it’s part of my being.” Like Marilyn Monroe, or Debbie Harry, there’s true talent underneath those dyed locks, and Patrick tells me that he’s always felt like the “crazy artistic” one. Those lavish stage costumes and all the makeup mean hours of preparation before each show, which he admits prepares him mentally for the larger-than-life stage presence that Wolf’s fans have come to expect. “It’s like a drag show in a way,” he muses. “There’s a certain transformation process that has to go on before I’m prepared to sing.” This transformation, he claims, wouldn’t be possible without the designs of his friend, Ada Zanditon, who’s been designing costumes for him since his last designer, Craig Laurence: “a real avant-garde visionary”, was picked up by none other than Lady Gaga.
Wolf’s on-stage theatrics and glamorous ensembles have earned him the title of the British Prince in U.S. Vogue recently, which Patrick admits is “very nice” to hear, though he doesn’t really listen to what the media has to say. Instead, he takes the advice of his closest confidantes: his support band of three. “When you think about it,” he explains, “I have probably one of the most international indie careers. I’m doing Japan one day, San Francisco the next, then Russia, then Prague and Spain… If you go all of those places with a set of three people you’re going to become a really tight group of friends.”
Despite the support of his band, Patrick admits to having felt immensely lonely during the recording of The Bachelor: a genre-spanning catharsis of depression and loneliness, recorded in a time where there was no love interest in this singer’s life (hence the album’s name). While he was celebrating the success of his previous album, The Magic Position, he admits there was “no romance, no intimacy and no one to share any of those moments with. It was very lonely. You share it with your audience, and that’s where you pour your love into, but then that becomes quite dangerous as well.” Things have brightened up though, and his next album will be something entirely different, like “if Joan Mitchell was able to write an album about civil partnership.” This “positive, uplifting celebration” in song will focus around themes of equality and how far society has come in accepting homosexuality. “It’s not gay music,” he explains, “but it’s music for my heart, and for my true love.”
Now with his share of love and money, we can’t help but think that Patrick Wolf has got it made. “I’ve kind of got a little bit of paradise away from the paparazzi,” the pop star tells Oyster. “I’m happy not to be too famous in England – it means I can come home from work, be alone and not be recognized on the street.” While he sounds balanced, Oyster couldn’t help asking about that Margaret Thatcher rumor. Patrick kindly explains to us that he lived in a luxurious penthouse apartment overlooking the Copenhagen in 2008, and found himself living above the ex-British Prime Minister’s daughter, Carol Thatcher. “I would hear every night what they were doing through the drainpipe,” he tells us. “Hearing the voice of Margaret Thatcher, I felt like I was having an acid flashback from when I was sixteen! It was really strange.” We ask if it was anything like Mariah Carey hearing the voice of Elvis through her grand piano. “No! It is really true!” he laughs. “Everyone thinks I make these stories up! I used to make stories up when I was eighteen or nineteen, but weird things do happen to me…”