Find your magic position and get ready. Patrick Wolf is releasing his fourth concept album Battle; a double disc that has Oscar-winning actress and UK avant garde filmmaker muse, Tilda Swinton, as the "Voice of Hope" narrator throughout the record.
The method by which this album has come into existance is among the many unique things relevant to Patrick Wolf. Released on Patrick's own record label, Bloody Chamber Music, Battle is funded through Bandstocks.com; a revolutionary vehicle that allows music fans to buy stock in an album (thereby helping to finance the music's production and marketing efforts). For the first time, purchasing is now available for US fans.
LA.COM spoke to the twenty-five year old, Sussex musician from his studio, located across from the London Tate Modern, where Patrick was recently commissioned to perform a classical piece in celebration of Dutch artist, Daan van Golden's, exhibition. Today, Patrick was working on the artwork for the album cover, as well as the set design and choreography of his new video.
Reflecting Patrick's defining emotions about being alone and being in love, Battle offers two distinct takes on life.
The first album of the set, The Bachelor, is a loving celebration of absolute solitude -- to go anywhere, and be anyone, and to do anything.
Despite this love of solitude, Patrick admits to a melancholy that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with being alone:
"The first album is about loneliness. I would attend weddings in Spain and Ireland and I would always be the only bachelor. I was convinced I had the spinster gene. But I enjoyed being single. It was only at traditional get-togethers that I felt this loneliness because other couples would see my aloneness as a failure. I felt that this loneliness was definitely a positive thing for me. The record is also very much a masculine point of view of solitude."
The music reflects this melancholy. But Patrick fell in love after the first album and started writing the second on a totally different vibe:
"I fell in love and this reflects two sides of the coin. It's a happiness product of knowing your pain. The songs on the second album, The Conqueror, are definitely more upbeat... If the world ended today and I could be with only one person (that wasn't from my family) I would be with my boyfriend. We have a romantic love that is not defined or dictated by practical and financial matters."
Of those upbeat tracks, "Vulture," was born from a trip to Los Angeles (for an appearance on The Jimmy Kimmel Show), during which Patrick met and had sex with a Satanist. Channeling his voyeuristic tendencies, Wolf crafted a thrashing, California-industrial, techno hybrid with lyrics identifing strongly with Celtic and Pagan research he'd conducted for previous tracks.
So how did he come to work with Tilda Swinton:
"She is an icon in experimental art. America knows her as a Hollywood movie star but I haven't seen any of her Hollywood movies. In the UK she is known for her work with Derek Jarman and Sally Potter, in films like Orlando, as well as, her own experimental art. I went to see her during a Q&A for her film, "Julia," and I thought I'd just go for it and handed her a CD. Later she emailed me to say that she would love to act as a monologue performance artist with spoken word for my album."
Patrick's core band is described as "a solid family" of instruments, programming, violinists, bassists, and a drummer. Battle promisises an even larger, extended family of musicanship:
"I spent a year studying composition. This album has Brazilian rhythms, a big choir, and English marching drums... hence the name Battle. [Also, it] was recorded in the city of Battle in east Sussex."
After a public departure from record giant Universal, the artist is enjoying complete independence from major record labels:
"Large record companies have a lot to offer in terms of money and power but artists are confined and they ultimately lose their artistic freedom... Politics [were] pushing the boundaries of sound . My record company said they couldn't control me and they wanted to get rid of me because I wouldn't conform. Put it this way, how would you feel if you had a job where you weren't allowed to quit, yet your boss could fire you and treat you badly if you didn't conform. This is what happens to musicians all the time; look what happened with Prince."
Patrick was even less impressed with his record companies' marketing efforts to push him as a raver or the Village People:
"My roots are in Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I didn't want to be pigeon holed into being a gay performer just for gay audiences. I have a crossover audience. I sidestepped the stereotypical marketing. But then gay audiences were annoyed that my private life didn't crossover into the writing and in my public life. They were annoyed I wasn't Rufus Wainwright. Women love my show, so do straight boys. Gay musicians think they'll lose their demographic if they broaden their audience. This isn't so. The music transcends everything. Why should music be for one demographic? What if we found out today that Joni Mitchell was transgendered? Would that change her music? Would the words take on a different meaning and lose their power? What if Madonna didn't have her own identity or freedom to experiment and instead just kowtowed to win acceptance and more understanding. Buffy Saint Marie, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Cave are honest and raw songwriters. I'm a songwriter and producer with a confident sound and image who plays experimental noise music. We don't live in a utopia, but we can just be ourselves and be free."
Part of what makes Wolf's music is the clear and telling influence of his parents -- his mother, a Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Miles Davis-listening painter, and his father, a jazz musician with a punk band backstory as a member of The Sniveling Shits:
"My mother played "Ariel" by Kate Bush. I don't think [Bush] gets enough credit in the British music press. She's always misplaced as, 'that singer who dances and screams.' She was totally independent, universal, and creative. She has a specific sound and specific energy in her videos and in her live concert. I played "Hounds of Love" over and over. People say I sound like Kate or play the piano like Kate. It's a wonderful comparison."
At home he's just "Patrick," and the normalcy of that dynamic helps to keep him grounded. He was a teenage runaway and earned money from busking, but returned home when his father was diagnosed with cancer (he has since made a full recovery). During that time Patrick wrote songs to help to strengthen the paternal link -- he opened up about being gay, and confessed a desperate want to identity with his father.
Patrick's fashion style is as unique as his music:
"I wanted to wear Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen but I was poor so I bought fabric from thrift stores and got out my sewing machine. I want to inspire individuality; [I want] everyone to get out their sewing machines..."
H is lucky enough these days to commission new designers, and also to work with top graduates from Central Saint Martins in their annual fashion show.
Patrick also posed for world-renowned photographer Mario Testino, during a shoot for equally renowned fashion icon, Burberry:
"I loved working with Mario, he was hilarious. He was very sexual and was coming on to me for the shoot. He would say, 'I want to tie you up, you are very sexy.' He did this to make me feel as sexual as possible, instead of looking like Zoolander."
featuring a performance of "Who Will... "