Welcome to the second part of our interview with Patrick Wolf. In this segment, Patrick talks to EQ about what inspires his work ethic, his favourite parts of London and what exactly happened during that scrap he had with the bouncers at Madonna's Sticky And Sweet show in London…
To read part 1 of our interview – click here.
EQ: A lot of my favorite artists are fed up with the whole major label dilemma and are starting their own labels like yourself…
Patrick Wolf: It's really hard nowadays. Before Napster and the whole free piracy thing. It was very easy in the beginning – I pressed up 1000 copies of the EP and then with the profit you take that money into recording another record. I'm starting again now and I'm interested in seeing how it works now. I wish I could awake more of respect towards independent music. Kids are starting to think "I can shoplift a CD from Tesco, but I can't shoplift from Rough Trade Records" – you know what I mean.
What's been the most challenging thing about starting your own label?
In terms of starting a label – you should only be releasing or making the art and music from the bottom of your soul and the need and absolute do or die of – "I have to make this work" and "I love the songs so much I want the world to hear it" – it should be from that side of things rather than "I want to bed 60 groupies" or "I think this will make me look really cool at school". It's a very simple thing. You have to balance your music and creative passion. All those late nights in front of the computer and wanting to be creative and outrageous – not having a watch or a diary. You have to balance that and be industrious and work hard. You don't want to look like a fool.
A friend of mine Aida who is making a lot of my outfits (we had some fittings today for my next tour). I rang her label and she spends half her day making sure her business runs properly, making sure her invoices are going through and people are being paid – everything is respectful. Then she spends the other half of the day, drawing and creating and making. She's very inspiring to me. You have to be creative and industrious and balance the two. You know I've been self-sufficient since I was 18 and one day I woke up saying "well I don't want to be homeless when I'm 24" and "I want to make music for the rest of my life". You gotta wake up, get out your diary and be self sufficient. It's strong and exciting and quite sexy as well – you know what I mean. Being powerful with your creativity is quite fun – it's good.
You know that movie "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead"…you know when the big sister has to go into a the city and pretend that she's a high-powered business woman. I always feel a bit like that when I go into business meetings, but the trick is not to tell anyone you feel like that you know! (laughs)
You're a regular Londoner about town – I always see you out and about.
Really? Oh no! (laughs)
What are some of your favourite London haunts – where do you go in London for inspiration?
I'm a river and a water person and I try to walk the length from my house down to Waterloo everyday. I always try to find a bit of nature in town and London is quite easy to do that but you have to look quite hard. I love walking down on the Thames when there's no tide and scavenging for old stones and old cutlery and stuff – finding a sense of history and roots here. Because I was born here, I'm quite happy on the South Bank. I was born at St. Thomas Hospital and I'm always researching medieval London and the Great Fire. I have about 60 ghost hunting books on London and finding old stories – that really inspires my work. It's a beautiful city full of layers and traditions.
I also saw you in the audience of Madonna's Sticky And Sweet Tour at Wembley Stadium…
Oh nooooo – no way! Oh no, at what point? Were you seated in the same bit?
No – I just saw you going in….
Oh it's so awful, you don't know the story do you?
Well I was gonna ask you what you thought of the show, but if you want to tell me a story, go on then…
Oh yeah…three songs in, me and my man were kissing and there were loads of conservative straight couples around us that complained. And then the bouncers came up to me and said "can you stop that, this is a family venue". No joke.
Are you serious?
Seriously! And then I said "for fuck's sake" and they said "oh you can't swear – this is a family venue" when there's Madonna on stage going "fuck you, motherfucker". I was like, this is a joke. And you know we were on the VIP list but you have to pay because Madonna doesn't give out free tickets etc. And then the bouncer said "you know we can do this the easy way or the violent way" and I said "I'm staying so you do whatever you want".
And then they just grabbed both of us. We were beaten up outside Wembley, handcuffed. These guys were like football bouncers. The police came and it just went on and on and on. My man's face covered in blood. I couldn't move for like a month. I had to lie in bed on painkillers for ages. They totally twisted my arm and my legs – it was just mad. They are currently researching the CCTV – it just really nuts. We basically got beaten up by the police. I found out that you could sing any Madonna lyric over any song – it just sounded all the same. It was a good spectacle for like ten minutes. I get a bit restless, I start singing other things over the top of other songs and I suppose that could have annoyed a few people around me, but it was so loud anyway. They just didn't like the fact that I was in hot pants and a sequined hoodie and having a good time, being in love and having a good time drinking cider. I looked too punk for them basically – so yeah, I got thrown out.
OMG – that's the worst story I ever heard about that show…
Yeah (both laugh). But you know it means I can't be bothered to listen to Madonna ever again which is good because it means I have more time for better music. You live and you learn. You get into scraps with bouncers the whole time, but that was one step up because there were like 7 of them and they just wanted to have a go because they were bored. There was a lot of quite homophobic shit going down which I was really pissed about seeing - it was a Madonna concert y'know!
After that show, I'll never go to Wembley Stadium ever again – for me the whole experience was just poor…and then to hear your story!
Me neither – and I'll never play there. I'll go straight to the O2 now…It's a place made for football, not for music. Why the fuck would I play at cricket grounds? I don't get it.
You have a ton of dedicated fans – What has been the most memorable thing a fan has done for you?
Some letters I've received and things where they have mentioned specific lyrics in songs. When I got to America and when we were playing Las Vegas and Detroit – there was people that traveled all around for that show. Obviously like underage and 17 and talked about all their troubles with school and their family etc and how much the music helped them. I just have to sit down for a second and go "wow" when you do something you don't realize….In Japan my work was translated over there and people picked up on lyrics. I can think of so many moments where things like that have happened over the years. It would be unfair to pull out one moment. I love that constant support system from my listeners. I really never expected it when I made the first album. It wasn't until I started traveling. People make me some great jewelery… people make me like these amazing really handcrafted stuff. Beautiful gold giraffe necklaces and really creative fans. I don't know what I encouraged but it's really super flattering.
Cool. That's it – thanks Patrick for your time. I hope to get to chat to you again once the album is out. Any parting words for the EQ readers?
I don't like parting words. I like hellos, not goodbyes. (laughs) Listen to the new album and I'll see you on the other side of Christmas when I'll be six stone heavier (laughs).