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.




Being assaulted by the police? Yeah. But I just can't believe the police would talk to anyone like that in public. It's shocking.

In San Francisco of all places … Right. The police are often the same people who bullied you in school, who can't find a job, so they decide they're going to bully the public. It's fine. I've had my run-ins with the police before. I'm a tough boy.

That's not a bad quality to have. So how exactly did you get to work with Tilda Swinton on the album, and what was it like working with Derek Jarman's muse? Well, that was one of the most exciting things -- the Derek Jarman connection. I've always wanted to connect on an artistic level with Derek. His books were one of the most inspirational things for me as a teenager dealing with my sexuality, and he had such a strong artistic voice. You can take away all the scandal that went on in his life, and his work is the testament to a true artist, a beautiful, beautiful soul.

With Tilda, I wanted to make quite an English album, you know, return to my English and Irish roots and pay tribute to my island musically. So it couldn't really have been anyone else. It was just total circumstance and serendipity that brought us together. A year before recording, I'd written in my production book that for the monologues I'd very much like to have Tilda Swinton. When I was finally finishing up the vocals, Tilda happened to be doing a Q&A for Julia next door at the cinema. I had no hopes, really; I just thought I would go to Q&A and give her a CD of the songs. Extremely successful people can be very guarded, and there are many layers you have to break through in order to get to ask someone a question a lot of the time. But amazingly, the next day I woke up and she'd written me an e-mail saying, "I loved the song, let's do it. Let's go to the studio and be spontaneous." So we extended the studio for one more day, and she came in and gave me so much hope, really. I think I was quite worn out by that time, because it'd been a long record to make. I was losing focus. So to have her come in was just so unexpected and so easy and inspiring. I wish all collaborations could be like that.

As an artist whose work feels very personal, do you ever get self-conscious about writing so autobiographically? How does it feel when you meet people who think they already know you through your music? I think I found it very strange with the first album -- when you release an album, it's easy to forget that people are going to listen to it in the same way that you've listened to your favorite albums; it was a very hard thing to grasp. It's something that I've accepted now. It's one of the major parts of doing what I do, and I really appreciate it when I find people have sort of analyzed the lyrics and made their own interpretations ... because quite often people just look at the front cover and go, you know, "Fucking freak!" and throw the CD away. So when people actually engage with the whole piece of work, I like that. It's a real honor.

Tags: Music