Hungry Like the Wolf

A master of viola, ukulele, piano, and harp, Patrick Wolf is a music prodigy -- one who, the night before this interview, spit on a cop and got himself arrested.

BY Graham Kolbeins

July 03 2009 12:00 AM ET

When Patrick Wolf arrives for our meeting -- in a parking lot on the Sunset Strip -- he's surprisingly tall, sporting a modest coat of stage makeup that nicely complements his bleached-blond hair, and exuding an air of gentility and good nature that's quietly contradicted by a mischievous grin. He's the type of character whose mind works so fast, his speech can hardly keep up. Throughout our conversation, his impulsive train of thought seems to compliment his savant-like grip on the art of music.

As a master of viola, ukulele, piano, and harp (to name a few) and wielder of an incomparable 15-megaton voice, it's no surprise that music has always been at the center of Wolf's life. He took to the stage at 14 to play theremin for Minty, an avant-garde performance art group founded by the late queer legend Leigh Bowery. By 16 he was busking the streets of London with a violin, leading to the release of his first couple albums and a healthy heaping of critical praise ( NME once compared him to Prince, David Bowie, and Björk all in one breath -- it doesn't get much better than that).

Initially, Wolf took a reserved, cautious approach to publicity, toning down his look to allow the music to speak for itself. But after being picked up by Universal for his third album, The Magic Position, Wolf surprised some fans by appearing with vividly red hair -- and matching short shorts -- clinging to a merry go-round on the album's cover, thereby introducing his playfully audacious and frequently evolving sense of style to a mass audience.

Unfortunately, some critics confuse the lighthearted eye candy of his personal aesthetic for the content of his music, eager to write off Wolf as silly and campy when his music is anything but. His new album, The Bachelor, is an epic and brooding affair that boasts collaborations with Atari Teenage Riot's Alec Empire and Oscar-winning thespian Tilda Swinton. Having parted ways with Universal, which, he says, wanted him to become "the male Kylie," the album was financed with small investments from fans through a site called BandStocks, enabling Wolf to have complete creative control.

Read on to uncover the scandal, the politics, the sexuality, and the artistic inspiration that fuels Patrick Wolf.

I'm a follower of your Twitter, so I have to ask: What happened last night? You got arrested after spitting in someone's face? Just a typical day in the life of Patrick Wolf! This bouncer was being a real asshole. We were going to a goth club, and he thought we didn't look "goth enough." I just wanted to take my friends out for a drink and it was the only place open after hours. It was one of those instances when you can tell someone just hates you and they don't even know you -- they just take one look at you. I always want to challenge people like that, because I hate ghettos -- people sticking to codes of conduct and rules of identity. So I was being really, really nice for about 15 minutes, just talking to him, but he wasn't having it, and he tried to punch me. The only way I could protect myself was to spit in his face, because I don't throw punches back.

I got chased down the street, got on the tour bus and we tried to drive away, but the police were called. This bouncer had tried to beat me up and the policeman just said, "Oh, you're gay, so your spit could have HIV in it, and you could kill that man!" He was being a total dickhead -- but when he realized what he'd said, he just knew he was in big shit and he had to let me off, because he'd decided to get really homophobic. He was rubbing his gun and yelling, "Shut the fuck up!" and pulling his gun out, stuff like that. I gave him the wrong passport by accident, because I have two passports, and it went on and on and on. It was just ridiculous. It made me quite excited, actually. I guess for some people that's a sexual fantasy.

Tags: Music

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