Patrick Wolf’s Favorite London Haunts

When he’s not playing sold-out shows on both sides of the pond, Patrick Wolf hangs his hat in London’s West End. Here, the avant-garde musician shows us where he lands when he’s feeling bookish, thirsty and, yes, hungry.

“All of my favorite places in London are within walking distance,” says British singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf, whose new album, Battle (featuring a spoken-word contribution by actress Tilda Swinton), is out this month. “I’m a big supporter of Soho. A lot of the focus in London today has moved to the East End, but I went to my first clubs in Soho when I was 13 and 14. I feel a real duty, anytime somebody asks me where to go, to say Soho because the artistic community used to be a Soho community. Now, because of rents rising, everyone thinks the cool place is the East End. But my heart is always in Soho.”

FIRST OUT CAFÉ BAR 52 St. Giles High Street If I’m ever stressed in Soho, and my BlackBerry is going crazy, and I just need to sit somewhere very quiet, and not be bothered at all, I go to First Out, which is the first ever gay and lesbian café. I’m a gin drinker, and so I’ll get a gin and lemonade and I just sit there, read a book and turn the BlackBerry off. It’s so quiet and peaceful. When it comes to cafés, I guess I have that Joni Mitchell streak, where I just want to observe and read, and just calm down for half an hour.

WATKINS BOOKS 19 Cecil Court

I left school when I was 16, so I never really got an education. I think that knowledge is power, so I started to go to bookstores to research folklore, mythology, religion and other alternative histories of England, like pagan history, the history of witches. It really fueled me a lot as a songwriter. I’ve spent a lot of time in there over the past six years, just zoning out looking at the books. The name of my first album, Lycanthropy, came from that shop. The word “lycanthropy” is the scientific term for someone with a psychological problem where they think they can transform into a wolf. The shop is on my favorite street in London. It’s a beautiful street that’s got tiny shop after tiny shop. I always had a dream that I’d live on this tiny street. Today, I found The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, which is about people who claim that they have gone from man to animal.

J P GUIVIER & CO. 99 Mortimer Street

This is the place where my dad bought me my first-ever violin, when I was about 7 years old. I think he saved up for a long, long time, because he knew that the only thing I really wanted to do with my life was play the violin. When I’m on tour, if my viola is broken, they always repair it. Over the years, they’ve been so kind and gentle to all my instruments; it’s like a hospital for them. The place smells of resin—what you put on the bow when you practice the violin. That, to me, is one of my favorite smells of all time. KOKON TO ZAI 57 Greek Street

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In England, there’s really only one place to find radical, avant-garde clothing, and this is it. When I was younger, I would save up just to buy one T-shirt from here, because it wasn’t just a T-shirt—it would have totally avant-garde threads hanging off of it, like mini-couture. Since then, if I need something special for a tour, or if I need something where there’s only one of in the world, I go here. A lot of the people who I really believe in as designers sell their work through this shop—it’s run by a designer called Marjan Pejoski, who made the Björk swan dress. The men’s basics there are always inventive, and with a twist. I went in there recently and bought a black shirt with sleeves around the waist, so you could tie it around your waist. I think it’s my job—the job of a pop star, or a rock star, in a way—to always be wearing things that aren’t readily available to people.

M. GOLDSTEIN 67 Hackney Road

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It’s my friend Piper and Nathaniel’s shop. Piper was in a group called Posh—she was my favorite pop star. Growing up, I read that she also owned a shop in Soho. I bunked off school, turned up one day and asked her to give me an autograph. I had a black eye and she asked me what was wrong and I broke down to her about school and she became like a godmother to me. M. Goldstein is a bric-a-brac shop—real, aristocratic bric-a-brac. I’ve bought an American musical sword from here, vintage, rare postcards and walking sticks. It’s a perfect, random shop of amazing things.

Photography By Hamish Brown.

The Monday Mix: Jay-Z, Patrick Wolf, Phoenix

We’re starting a new feature here on BBook.com: The Monday Mix. We’re going to be digging up songs from both around the internet and what’s being jammed at BlackBook HQ to get through the beginning of the week. This week: Jay-Z’s balloon issues, Patrick Wolf’s disco depression, and Karen O baring her bones.

1. Jay-Zeezer – 99 Luft Problems. Kind of an old track, but recently rediscovered. Mashup DJ Jay-Zeezer takes Jay-Z’s famously over-remixed The Black Album tracks, throws them in a blender with various Weezer songs, and hits frappe. Zeezer shot for the moon sans Weezer with this, though: Jay’s “99 Problems” remixed with the diabetic-level sweetness of 80’s pop megahit “99 Luftballoons.” It — against all odds — works to great gangster-pop effect. Sounds like: bringing your cool-in-any-situation best friend to an obnoxiously cheesy 80’s themed party, and watching them work the room like no one else could. Via Jay-Zeezer.

2. Patrick Wolf – Vulture. The new Patrick Wolf is finally around for download, and it’s the synth-heavy classic to-be we’ve come to expect from him. It’s also lyrically — in contrast with some of Wolf’s previous stuff — kind of a downer, however pop-driven the beat behind it is: “And the big wheels turn, turn/all your forest fires burn/and all my dead meat yearns/for the vulture’s return,” isn’t exactly a message of optimism, but more or less accurately reflects the rough-and-tumble hard-lessons-learned few years Wolf has discussed widely in the press. Sounds like: coming down from a bad ecstasy trip at a roller-rink. Via MusicFansMic.

3. Phoenix – 1901. From the soon-to-be-released Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May 25th), Thomas Mars and crew are coming off a strong few years after 2006’s every-track-is-a-hit It’s Never Been Like That. They don’t really show too many new tricks, preferring to default instead on the ones they’ve perfected. It works fine: “1901” has ringing guitar lines, serious synth-action, and a big, soaring chorus, involving hope, last call at a bar/in a breakup, and a desperate need to grab onto the present moment. Sounds like: counting down until summer, minute-by-minute. FYI: You can download the song for free via Phoenix’s website.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Skeletons. Not the lead single off of the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album It’s Blitz!, but it probably should be. Starting out with a lonely blip-ridden line of synth with Karen-O warbling free-association, asking of someone both to “Skeleton, me” and to stop crying, as it builds to a dense, drum-heavy, epic movie-moment climax. Sounds like: the opposite of “Maps.”

5. Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males – Nothing Compares 2 U. Multi-award-winning Aussie singer-songwriter Dan Kelly and his band don’t have a rabid American following like they do in their homeland, but American enthusiasts and music bloggers keep trying to convince the world of their talent. It’s probably not going to happen when posting their covers of others’ material, but their take on the classic Prince track is, as far as their extensive, incredible catalog of material in concerned, truly worth mentioning. It’s a subtle, understated, ukulele-lined affair, less love-song than lullaby. In their folksy white-boy conversion, they might strip the song of its beat, but they put something fairly substantial in its place: a closeness and intimacy that sometimes escapes both Prince’s original and the infamous Sinead O’Connor cover. We’re not saying it’s better, but it is worth a listen. Sounds like: Prince, as sung by a sensitive man-child.

Week in Divas: Oscars Edition

imageWith just over 48 hours to go, all our favorite leading ladies are frenetically booking last-minute lipos, emergency colonics, and marathon pilates classes — while simultaneously managing miracle master cleanses. All of this in order to assure that they’re able to squeeze into constrictive gowns while showing off a demure gait on the red carpet when Sunday rolls around. And while this year’s best ladies (and their supporting counterparts) effortlessly snag one headline after another, even past grande dames of Oscar prominence are enjoying an uptick of increased notoriety. Sure, we won’t care about more than three percent of all the winners come Monday morning (or today if you’re betting by this leaked list of winners), but we can revel in everyone’s temporary relevance anyway.

● Whoopi Goldberg makes Bill O’Reilly squirm. [Gawker]

● Win or lose, should Kate Winslet’s newfound Oscar glory up her quota and her ability to enforce non-nudity clauses in her contracts make her elusive to less powerful auteurs, she’s got a couple of sisters who also happen to be actors, but they “toil in obscurity.” [Daily Mail]

● Should Winslet win, she still wouldn’t dethrone Meryl Streep as the Oscar queen, who has 15 nominations to her name. [AFP]

● No one will ever one-up Björk’s avian attire from the 2001 Oscars. Ever. But that’s no reason to harp on her. [The Daily Sound]

Apparently unbankable Halle Berry’s next role: Portraying jewel thief Doris Payne, who’s responsible for some of the biggest Tiffany’s heists in history. Chances for another Oscar? Quite favorable. She’ll need to shave her head for the role. We all know how much those little gold men love a good make-over. [MTV]

The Wrestler star Marisa Tomei, like Charlize Theron, Elisabeth Shue, and Liz Taylor before her, appears to be part of a vast Hollywood conspiracy to honor women who have no qualms about zipping up a pair of thigh-highs to play hookers or strippers. [Jezebel]

● “On one of the songs, [Tilda Swinton] plays the part of my mum, who’s found me at the end of a self-destructive period of my life. She’s trying to tell me that I look like death, absolutely sick and disgusting, and to snap out of it. When I told my mum she called up her friends and was like, ‘Oh, an Oscar winner is playing me on this album!'” — Patrick Wolf [Pitchfork]

● And finally, if the excitement of the Oscars is far too much for your withered little heart to handle, just pretend like you didn’t catch wind of Reese Witherspoon possibly becoming engaged to Jake Gyllenhaal. [The Insider]

Is Patrick Wolf’s ‘Battle’ Finally Over?

“It’s just been one of those Patrick Wolf kind of days where I’ve got six things to do at once,” says the 25-year-old musician, as he breaks from moving into his new house in London’s South Bank, which happens to be just down the road from his old house. “But I enjoy every one of them very much.” Today’s trek couldn’t be more different from the journey that Wolf has embarked upon since releasing his third studio album, The Magic Position, in early 2007. For the past two years, while navigating the loneliness of heartbreak and the empty hedonism of recovery, Wolf has been at work on Battle, a two-disc album split by tenor: the first half, Bachelor, emanates from a place of anguish, loss and vice—it’s the Dorian Gray of the two. The Conqueror, which came into existence after Wolf fell in love with his current partner, introduces the world to a new, hopeful young man. He’s evolved into quite the entrepreneur, as well. With Bandstocks, fans can buy shares in the stock of the album, fueling its production through investment, and allowing Wolf to retain creative control over the final cut. Below, the animated lycanthrope discusses the music, the madness and the hunger that brought him back from bachelor purgatory.

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It seems like such a no-brainer to have you collaborate with Tilda Swinton on your new album. You’re both such fashion-forward— I love this phrase, “fashion-forward.” The only other person who has used it on me is Lady Gaga. She came up to me and said that one of my old videos had been very “fashion forward.” And it’s a phrase that’s been stuck in my head since.

Fashion aside, you and Swinton seem like kindred spirits. The relationship is still in its infancy. My history with Tilda Swinton began when I was 16. I had an older lover who was really into Derek Jarman [the English film director with whom Swinton often collaborated], and he told me that I had to see Orlando, that I reminded him of the character. I was a teenager who had run away from home and I had red hair with no eyebrows—well, I had bleached them. I was really lost and didn’t have much to identify with. I watched Orlando religiously for about a year, whenever some horrible thing had happened and, immediately, I’d feel like I had someone to identify with. Tilda was always the shining light in those films. To me, she’s much more than an actress; she’s like a great violinist playing a piece by Shostakovich, channeling her life experience through the song.

And the partnership was sort of happenstance, no? I was about 80 percent finished with the album, and I had done these spoken-word bits. Basically, it sounded like a bad rap. The album is based on this bachelor who is miserable and has given up on love. And the spoken word is meant to be the best friend or the mother who says, “Get a grip.” When I was asked who I’d like to say those words, I responded, Well, if anyone were going to do it, it’d be Tilda Swinton. There was laughter in the room, but I said, I’ve made magic happen on these albums before. Watch me do it again. And then, with only two days left of recording, my boyfriend and me went to a Q&A for Julia. I went up to Tilda and said, Hello, my name is Patrick. Here are a few songs that I’ve been finishing and I thought you’d be perfect to do the monologues. I have no boundaries. If I want to do something, I’ll do something. I did, however, look like an 11 year old at an Elvis concert.

Is love, or lack thereof, the guiding inspiration for your work? I’m an extreme romantic. I was extremely promiscuous as a teenager, and in desperate search of love. In my 20s, I became an extreme bachelor, waiting, waiting, waiting for my true love. I remember staring out in front of 2,000 people and singing these songs about past love, singing songs about myself. But when the curtain went down, it was just me and a bottle of gin. It was like a terrible Judy Garland nightmare.

Is it easier to listen to The Conqueror half of Battle, rather than Bachelor? I always identified with Joni Mitchell records when she wasn’t in a relationship or Björk when she was doing Homogenic, or P.J. Harvey. And that’s the kind of music that is lacking from the charts. They’re are still full of songs like, “I love you, baby,” or, “Let’s have fun tonight.” But life is a lot more miserable than the charts would have us believe. So I’m glad I’ve done an album like that. But I’ve tried to inject each miserable song on this album with hope—in the string arrangements, with the gospel choir and with Tilda. I play the miserable bachelor desperately thinking about love but ending up with bad sex. And then I bring in the voice of hope, which is Tilda.

Sex has come up a few times since we started talking. Mainstream media never seems to know what to do with someone who’d rather not be labeled by his sexuality. It must be frustrating to deal with that on a regular basis. Here’s the thing: Joni Mitchell could have been a lesbian or transgendered, or black or white. But is that why we listen to Joni Mitchell? No, we listen to her because she expresses life experiences that everybody can relate to. When I was younger, people always wrote about the “flamboyant musician Patrick Wolf.” And even though I dressed conservative for club-land Londoners, mainstream music people were like, “Who the fuck is this clown?” One newspaper asked me, “What’s your sexuality?” and I said, I don’t really have one. I am the biggest advocate for gay rights, for transgender rights, for lesbian rights, for women, for black people, for ethnic minorities. I will talk until the cows come home about equality for all people. But in doing so, I know I’m taking focus away from the fact that I am a musician, that I went to school for composition and that I produce my own albums. Now, everything I read about my new album is that it’s by “gay musician Patrick Wolf.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to call myself gay, I’m very proud of gay culture and I’m proud of everyone who fought to make it legal for two men to kiss in the street. But please don’t put that before my name. You wouldn’t write, “black musician Lauryn Hill,” would you?

Is there any specific nightlife scene that excites you at the moment? I don’t go out as much as I used to because I’m 25 now, and I went to my first nightclub at the age of 12. But it’s a funny time in London, because we’ve just come out of last year’s New Rave thing where there was a lot of music and fashion coming together. But whenever anything gets too fashion oriented, I’m out of the club, immediately. I care about music, I care about beats and I care about the sound system. What the tribe is expressing at the time is secondary to me.

But you have such a unique sense of style. I see it as part of my identity. I almost attach each of my looks to the anti-style of the time. For example, nowadays, everybody has to be very skinny. But when they get too skinny, everybody complains. I’ve spent the last year eating healthier than I have in my entire life. That doesn’t mean I’m overweight but I don’t show my bones anymore, which I’m happy about. I found out recently that some of my old music videos were being shown as Thinspiration videos for anorexic kids. I was so distraught when I found out, because that was never the point. I was just extremely thin. I had been working too much, not taking care of myself and it just wasn’t a happy time. For the first time in my career, I actually have some weight on me, and I’m proud of that.

It’s interesting to hear you say that your emphasis is on “anti-style,” because you modeled for Mario Testino in a Burberry campaign two years ago. That seems to me the pinnacle of style and high fashion. It was like going to a very expensive party. It reminded me of how, twice a year, I get an invitation from Vanity Fair or something. The invitation comes in a gold envelope that says, “Patrick Wolf, a carriage awaits you on Thursday evening. Please attend.” And I enjoy it, but it’s like going on a weird holiday for the evening, visiting a world with extreme amounts of money. I got paid really, really well and I was able to live in a nice flat for a couple of years because of it. And you can’t say no to Mario Testino, really.

Posing alongside Agyness Deyn isn’t so bad, either. Agyness became a good friend after that—there’s something special about that girl. We both ended up being invited to this Elton John AIDS Foundation ball. We were the youngest people there and caused absolute trouble nonstop. I was so drunk I fell asleep. They literally served cocktails from the moment I got there until five in the morning. Tom Jones was singing. And Fergie—like Fergie Ferg, not the Duchess—sat down next to me while I was asleep and was like, “This table is crazy. All you guys are amazing!” I missed that one due to heavy drinking. One thing’s for sure, though. I’m definitely not going to look back when I’m 50 years old and think, I turned down all these exciting opportunities.

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Tilda Swinton to Guest on New Patrick Wolf LP

Recent BlackBook cover girl Tilda Swinton is far too mythical and mystical to do something so transparent as record her own album (yeah, that’s right ScarJo, we see right through you). She’s always been more of a recite-spoken-word-on-a-similarly-androgynous-indie-folk-crooner’s-new-album type of gal. So in keeping with perceptions, Swinton will be guesting on Battle, the forthcoming album from newly christened Madonna hater Patrick Wolf.

If any musician out there is looking to seduce a particularly private celebrity to drop some lines over their beats, take a note from Wolf’s playbook. Approach them at a premiere for one of their films (in this case it was Julia), and slip them a CD and handwritten note. Then you wait for a phone number to appear on your Blackberry that you don’t recognize. Presto! Celebrity guest star! In a press release, Swinton said “My feeling is that we almost certainly come from the same planet: kith and kin. His music feels like the unexpressed soundtrack of a great film I want to see — and try to catch every night before I go to sleep. It’s a lovely thing to be a part of that magical landscape.” The reported double album will feature four Swinton-ized songs, including the track “Theseus.”

Madonna Throws Gay Bash, Injures Patrick Wolf

imageThe last place you’d expect a gang of boulder-sized bouncers to beat up on a fairly popular indie darling noted for his flamboyance is on the stands of a Madonna gig. The fact that Patrick Wolf and his boyfriend endured traumatic assaults at one of her Madgesty’s “Sticky & Sweet” shows from last fall is a horror that seems to upend the only logic that’s fueled her mojo in the pop pantheon. But in defense of the bouncers, they weren’t provoked. Squeamish conservative concertgoers (had they gotten lost on their way to a Nickelback show?) had complained that Wolf’s insistent liplocking with his boyfriend was unnerving them.

At this point, the bouncers collectively said to Wolf, “Yo, this is a family venue so you can’t do your sliz biz ’round these parts, dig?” Clearly they weren’t familiar with Madonna’s latest body of work. At this point, the mob from Footloose also turned up to scowl at Wolf, but he dismissed them all, continuing his love-in. This is around the part where the bouncers attacked, twisting their limbs and leaving them bloodied and immobile without painkillers. But apart from the endless supply of Vicodin, every life-altering tragedy has more enlightening upsides. For Wolf, at least this means freeing up some space on his iPod. “You know it means I can’t be bothered to listen to Madonna ever again,” he adds, “which is good because it means I have more time for better music. You live and you learn.”