Patrick Wolf’s last release, 2009’s The Bachelor, was a dark, challenging look inside the mind of an artist battling his inner demons. Trouble was, by the time it came to promoting the album, Wolf had fallen in love and attained a more positive outlook on life, making touring the songs a daunting prospect.
“It’s a subconscious thing — if you spend an hour and a half singing songs in minor keys about topics like suicide, it does take its toll,” he told the Star Observer of the tour.
“I wondered, am I spreading negativity and pessimism in the world? I know that sometimes singing melancholy songs can help to nourish people’s pain, but if I’m being really honest I think The Bachelor went too far into wallowing and self-pity.
“I needed to get it out of my system, but I don’t know that it’s something I’m particularly proud of.”
It’s rather a harsh dismissal of an album one critic described as “a whispered breath away from sheer perfection”. Thankfully, both music and mood are in sync for the 27-year-old English singer-songwriter this time.
Wolf’s soon to be released fifth album, Lupercalia, bursts with the joy he’s experienced since settling down with his partner — and husband-to-be — William Pollock.
In keeping with this life-affirming theme, the album’s title takes its name from an ancient pastoral festival observed to banish evil spirits and purify a city.
“[The title] means so much, in terms of summing up my last few years and my experience of love. Bringing love to the city, to a recession — it’s a festival of love. But I like the idea of people not knowing the meaning of the word, and evoking their own meaning for it. I want the title to make people dream a bit.”
It would appear that the love of a good man has gone some way to calming Wolf. Gone is the performer of old, who’d storm off stage or break his instruments at the slightest crowd or band infraction. In his place is a far more placid creature.
“I’ve been seeking the love of my life since I was 11 years old. I’ve always wanted to be swept off my feet,” he admitted.
“I’ve always been seeking a little bit of stability in my life. Love has come to me to help me grow, mature and be a bit more stable. It hasn’t made me boring, it’s just made me a little bit more calm than before, which is a good thing.”
Wolf announced via Twitter at the beginning of the year that he was engaged, after Pollock proposed on New Year’s Eve. Despite once announcing that “sexually and romantically, I want to be free always,” he explained he was an enthusiastic proponent of gay marriage.
“We have this freedom [gay marriage] that’s come in the past few years, and it would feel like a waste not to use it, not to celebrate this amazing liberty we’ve been given. I couldn’t let that chance go — this is such an important thing to embrace and celebrate and promote in my life.”
The wedding won’t be held until next year, but preparations are already underway, with close friend (and punk-poet icon) Patti Smith recently shooting the photo for the couple’s wedding invite.
“She carries a Polaroid camera with her everywhere, and she took a really amazing black-and-white Polaroid of us. She’s said she’ll sing at the wedding, and we’ll have [German DJ] Alec Empire DJing, too. It should be an interesting wedding party, I think!”
Wolf has spent much of his career collaborating with alternative queer icons, from Smith to Tilda Swinton to Marianne Faithfull, something he insisted happens “completely by accident”.
“I bump into these people and end up having passionate artistic relationships with them. Patti has been one of the biggest reasons for me to want to continue in music — when I met her, my confidence was a bit low.
“As much as I feel appreciated by my fans, I’m one of those artists who’s equally loved and hated, so it can be easy to focus on that negative side. She shook me out of that. In the thank-you list for the album, the first two people I thank are my fiancé William and Patti.”
Confidence regained, fans can expect more inspiring, loved-up music from Wolf after Lupercalia. He’s sitting on a few choice Groove Armada dance tracks from a stage when the album was planned as his “Blackout or Confessions on a Dancefloor — no gaps, just beats”. They didn’t make the final cut, but he hopes they’ll eventually see the light of day.
And then there’s the small matter of a ready-made pop hit he wrote for Britney Spears, for inclusion on her recent Femme Fatale album.
“It got rejected by her management for being too psychotic and avant garde,” he laughed.
“It’s called Survival, and it had Tilda Swinton on it. Sometimes when I’m drunk I play Britney’s Stronger video on YouTube with the sound off and imagine that that’s the video for Survival — it matches perfectly!
“My friends have been encouraging me to release it. I’m sure there’s a home for it somewhere,” he teased.
info: Lupercalia (Inertia) released July 1.