I seem to remember it was originally written as press copy to go out with the album, but the DiS published it as an actual piece and the rest is history.
DiS hasn’t ever run an exclusive biog’ and then, like buses, two come racing toward you at once. DiS is very excited to share this piece from the legendary journalist Paul Morley about Patrick Wolf’s forthcoming album The Bachelor.
Things you can know about Patrick Wolf from reading about him on his giddy, moderately helpful Wikipedia site: his middle name is Dennis, his parents were artists and musicians, he’s 26 on June 30th 2009, he made a theremin when he was eleven, he was born in south London, he started recording songs when he was twelve, he plays a lot of instruments, he is classically trained, he’s modelled for Burberry, at 14 he joined the Leigh Bowery sourced inflammatory art pop unit Minty, at 16 he left home and school and formed a pop group dedicated to fusing white noise, dance rhythm and the pop song, he has written and performed pop music ever since, and his music is described in various ways as though it can be described by using a word, a classifying genre name, when in fact words used to name and represent his music do not need to end with “tronica” or anything like that. If there was a way to use the word “pop” and also communicate that within that word is the meaning transmitted by words like ‘dislocated’, ‘intense’, ‘convulsive’, ‘discreet’, ‘mesmeric’, ‘blow’. ‘delirium’, ‘questions’, ‘little by little suddenly’, ‘indiscreet’, ‘answers’ then he is a pop singer. He questions the relevance of traditional aesthetic categories. Watch as.
He falls in love with exactly who he wants to fall in love with.
He falls in love. With love, and then what happens, and then who knows.
He falls in.
Watch him work, play and etc in a video you might come across. He.
Permits you to watch. He. Studies himself. He. Is assembling himself right in front of you. He. Smashes his way through limited judgements of taste. He. Is detached from everything including detachment. He. Is in rude health. He. Is looking in a mirror. He. Is looking out of a mirror. He. Studies you. He. Is constantly touring. He. Screams lust and heartache into listeners ears. He. May yet shock the masses. He. Has not been brought to your attention by accident.
His tumultuous, eager, naïve, spunky, audacious, gifted, lustrous 2003 debut album was Lycanthropy. His angelic, devilish, deeply felt, defiantly different second album released in 2005 was Wind in the Wires. The third spirited, determined, sparky, album in 2007 was called The Magic Position. You might detect a trend and expect his fourth album to be released in 2009 – and The Bachelor is to be released in 2009, but the fifth album will be released in 2010, already planned, breaking the pattern, because one thing that is consistent in the way Wolf works, and the way he moves through himself to get to his destination, is that patterns are glorious, and patterns are there to be broken. He. Senses movement. He. Has toured the world more times than makes sense and felt himself spinning out of control/world weary/alarmed/sad/angry/determined/. He. Comes back to exotic English earth and makes sense of where he has been by looking for his home, his family, his music, himself, his friends, the history of everything that has made him who he is today. He. Turns this into a record, two records, and truth, beautifully, clashes with, fantastically, illusion, and he comes closer to finding the perfect savage/sensitive sonic method of announcing himself. He. Is sure of his purpose, and his fourth album is full of cosmically angled Anglo-centric purpose, and will appeal to those who love Purcell, Webern, Mingus, Joni, Barratt, Psychic TV, Morrissey, Robert Smith, Panda Bear and Mars Volta. He.
Pays microscopic attention to the texture of individual experience. He.
Has a feeling for the destroyed and for destruction itself, and in many ways such alliances, with forms of junk, and with various seductive drifters, are part of what it is he is and does, as he turns his sensitivity towards a desperate plight and transforms corrupted nature into song. He.
Has flirted with making provocative public gestures. He.
Has made a name for himself and a fool of himself and expressed concern about his usefulness and attracted enough fans to make him think its all worthwhile and decided he is serving a purpose and wandered around in a circle and worried that he was wasting his life and developed a strong will to put things right and is always anxious that the pride of improvement and liberation ends in waste and destruction.
Then has to restore his balance, return to art, or himself, or a combination of the two, something serious, less trashy, fleshy and flashy, so that his life becomes a story of survivals, a series of recoveries, the coming out of conflict, the search for some kind of dignity, for some sort of sense of who he is, not because he wants the whole world to know and care who he is, but because he must know for himself.
Think of that 11 year old building a theremin and that 12 year old writing songs, when he was good he was very good, and when he was bad he was horrid, already thinking about what he is going to do with his life, and home is so sad, the sources of evil are in the house and in the family, and he starts to take joyous shots at how things ought to be. He.
Is buying his first guitar from Argos and treating it as much a sacred object as a musical instrument. He. Works out the relationship between noise and consciousness. He. Estimates the relationship between singing songs and the secret chambers of his mind. He. Is precious to himself. He.
Is 11 years old in front of a mirror playing a moog with a table lamp as a spotlight, playing at fame, famous in his own mind before he is a teenager. He.
Is picked on for playing the violin and having red hair and a choir boy voice. He.
Finds what he is looking for and then loses what he is looking for. He.
Is 13 and miming to Yoko One songs on stage with Lady Bunny and making a fanzine writing about the Pixies, the Breeders and Wendy Carols, selling “about 3 copies” but finding a purpose. He.
Is disappointed, confused, over-excited, tirelessly eclectic, writing through music his autobiography, and he is not yet 17. He.
Is provoked by the response to his hair and songs and his resolve increases. The hair is white. The make up is loud. He hangs out with performance artists. They’re unlimited. They bend and stretch and turn themselves into other beings and life is to be faced and lived and they rename themselves they appear to disappear in front of your eyes they have a temper they’re gentle and depserate they find a new position and they want your attention. He. Notices this. He’s serious. He’s sombre. He’s having the time of his life. He. Wants more. He. Falls for the danger of rhythm’s enigma. He.
Needs to be driven into the margins where he thinks he will find what he wants, where he will find clues about his personality and its needs. He.
Becomes someone something else time and time again. He.
Swerves. He. Slips. Between. Gaps. In. The. Road.
Read between the Wikipedia lines. He has been the experimental child star, emotional runaway, self-centred tearaway, generous hedonist, extreme heartbreaker, regularly heartbroken, lost and found, stricken angel, dissenting romantic, damned son, dedicated worker, tearful dreamer, planning action, celebrated artist, necessarily abstract, lysergic sage, fierce thinker, lost little boy, this charming man, shamed deserter, restless traveller, inventive composer, endlessly stressed, shadow dancer, wounded loner, wise child, occasional hermit, the cause and subject of passion . He.
Is accompanying Nan Goldin’s savagely evocative visual diary slide show The Ballad of Sexual Dependency at the Tate Modern, and his ecstatic, mystical Englishness collided/connected with and regenerated her degenerate, exposed New York-ness, the abstract relationship between his tribe, and hers, between those travelling through a certain intense, occult Lower East Side and those finding themselves in a secret night time London as if the two nervy cities are next door to each other in time and space. He. Uses music to capture the density and flavour of life, the colour, smell, sound and physical presence, in the way she uses photography. He. Is as much a documentarian as a teller of fables. He. Sees finds the truth embedded in fiction. He. Is singing on his new album with Eliza Carthy. He. And she. Create a visceral anglo-ghostly version of the Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood boy girl pop couple. He. Loves the full moon. He.
Has so much he wants to say, about what happened because of who he was and why that turned into where he ended up, and he takes refuge in song, and joins his heroes in the company of music, where he wants to be adored, and understood, and understand how art rears its head, and speak its mind. He heads, frenetically, in the direction of love, and hate, and he sings about death, and mad saints, and he is not yet 18, and no one believe that he can do this. He.
Is on his own, and he loves and hates the feeling. He. Must not die in vain. He.
Knows that he needs a new name, because pop stars always have new names, as part of the way they invent themselves, and they leave behind a banal old life they eventually realise, to their horror and/or fascination, they can never really escape. He thinks about Madonna, one name, this is me, Patrick, and he realises it’s not a great pop star name, more David than Jobriath. He. chooses Wolf. He. Is given the name by a spirit medium. He. Reads Angela Carter and he was exploring English mythology because he wasn’t interested in becoming an American creature he was English born and bred and Carter and folklore was leading him to wolves. He. Finds the name in the air around him. The skinny 17 year old told his artist friends that he was now Patrick Wolf. They laughed, “You’re more Patrick Lamb,” they said. He. Puts on a continuous show. He.
Is actually very tall indeed, too tall to hide, to slip into the margins, too tall to be the shrinking violent, and it is easy to understand why his favourite animal is a giraffe. He.
Becomes Patrick Wolf, someone else, an other, two minds inside one body, two bodies inside one mind, doubled, douibleness, which makes sense to him, because when he was six, or twelve, he felt split, between one person and one other, or maybe a few others, and now, there’s one him that buys milk and speaks to the accountant, and then there’s Patrick Wolf, the singer with third person detachment on good terms with making noise and singing about, say, sin and disturbance. He. Was making his first album as this twisted, ambitious 18 year old representing his tender, candid innocence and changing points of view through the eyes of an older, stranger, wiser person. The star struck pop fan stepped back into diseased mythical thinking, so here is this fan of Britney, and yet also Kate Bush, who responds to the seething poetic power of mythology and who has studied the music of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Meredith Monk and loves mediaeval religious music. He.
Is a little bit Kylie and a little bit Throbbing Gristle, he’s dressed up in leather and glass, steel and membrane, skin and bone for furtive play, and thinking a little deeply about war and decay. He’s part simple glamour and meanwhile deranging his senses with the potential of sensation. He.
Loves the vivid embrace of pop stars but remembers his grandfather talking about ghouls and banshees and the grim reaper. He.
Remembers fighting, digging, yearning to find a stranger, odder, murkier Englishness that was beyond his aunties giving him tea and visiting the garden centre and watching Antiques Roadshow. That was outside Britpop and union jack guitars. Finding Thomas Hardy and Derek Jarman. He.
Stands out against the uniform grain of the Oasis age. He.
Wants to be a pop star but without losing his sense of outrage. A pop star that rattles the cage. He.
Is whether he knows it or not Adam Ant and John Donne at the same time, Madonna and Robert Louis Stevenson, MIA and Fairport Convention. Infernally fabricated Patrick in the charts and in wonderland, in tights and in ecstasy, chic and psychic, light and dark, oblique and fabulous. He.
Isn’t as careful as he might be in organising this marvellous collection of possibilities.
The pop world likes the make up and hair and glittery goggles but not the dangerous obsession with forbidden passions, savages and gunpowder, the songs that are as likely to confound through form and content as comfort and console. The indie side likes the debauched fascination with madness and rhythm but not his arrival at the edges of Heat magazine. He.
Signs a deal with Universal Records, the glamour and security he’s been craving since he was a young teenager. He.
Thinks it will be a great adventure. He.
Thinks it is a sign he has been accepted. He.
Thinks he’s making an album of demented Japanese Motown pop – from the fan of Suicide/Front 242 and Sugababes/Girls Aloud – but they think he’s this years/months/weeks new thing, packaged shock, diluted mischief, perfect for the Charlotte Church Show, perfectly glamorous, a pop star they can package. He. Is, to confirm, made up of carousing pop, and dance, and the attack of a spider from mars, or a slider, or a banshee, or a tricky character, but. He is also made up of the bloodthirsty, the blasphemous, the irrational, the diabolical. He. Is energetic show business. But he. Is not always wanting to jump for joy. He. Is a showman. But he. Is dedicated to the creation of a new beauty. He.
Ends up at loggerheads with his new label. He.
Wants to experiment, to produce himself, and stay in control of his destiny, and Universal want the conventional commercial producer makeover. He.
Loses heart. He.
Would rather be poor – he surprises himself with the intensity of his response to the stalemate between label looking for the commercial obviousness and artist wanting artistic control – and homeless than give up the one thing he has that in the end he can call his own. He.
Is horrified that they try and change him. He.
Is labelled a trouble maker by the label. He decides that he will take this as a compliment as the people who think he is impossible to work with and far too precious are the kind of people who get excited about the next Kate Mehlua album. He.
Accepts that he would rather make an album he is proud of that reaches a small audience that make a single he had little to do with that is a success. He.
Leaves, or is left in the cold, by Universal, and part of the relief he feels fuels the energy, range and content of his latest album, The Bachelor, the kind of intensely personal, abrasively intimate album he could not have made as a provisional pop star on a corporate label. He. Names the label where he will release The Bachelor – and it’s conceptual and sonic partner The Conqueror – Bloody Chambers after an Angela Carter story, a darkly erotic reworking of Bluebeards Castle. The Bachelor is an album about someone recovering from a dream that became a nightmare. Wolf, nothing to hide and everything to share, sings songs about the dark, dangerous adventures he has suffered and enjoyed and resigned himself to as he crawled closer to becoming a subversive pop star, and the dawning realisation that the risks he takes to become a pop star threaten to destroy the love he has for music, and family, and friends. He.
Hasn’t the discipline to become the obedient celebrity. He.
Is doomed to think and feel and confess too much. He.
Has lived to tell the tale, but only just. He.
Is master of his own destiny, for better or worse, once more. He.
Started making the album feeling miserable and exhausted, and Tilda Swinton, as the voice of hope, as his mother, as his conscience, as his creative spirit, scolds him for being so defeatist, and he ends up, perhaps, where he began. He.
Is setting out on a new journey, and everything is possible. He. Has been punished and driven to the edge of sanity, the star breakdown, the narcissistic anxiety, but has found ways to mend himself – through love and song and the love song. He.
Is once more the hyperactive 16 year old – feeling the strength and enthusiasm of when he was 16 going on 17, the tenderness and candour, brimming with wonder,the clamour inside , pleasing himself before he even thinks of an audience, distraction and stimulation closely linked in his nervous system - who writes songs to save his mortal soul and dreams of becoming a surreal pop star. The kind of gloriously persuasive surreal pop star packed with colourful complexity and musical ingenuity there isn’t much room, time or space for any more. He. Cannot stop. He.
Has no choice. He.
Has a future. He.
Will see you tomorrow. He.
Has never quite lost the feeling.
Is what he is.
Paul Morely, 2009.
Lost count of the number of music documentaries Paul Morley has ruined for me.
Would love it if he was related to Remi Wolf
Every time this comes up again I have somehow always forgotten that I ever knew about it, and also just how so incredibly much longer it is than you ever dare hope.
He. Cannot stop. He.
Has no choice. He.
Has a future. He.
Will see you tomorrow. He.
Has never quite lost the feeling.
Is what he is.
Paul Morely, 2009.
My favourite part has always been how, after all that, he’s (He.) only gone and misspelled his own bloody name at the end.