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.




On "Hard Times," you sing about not giving up in the face of prolonged ignorance, fear and oppression from society at large. Are you feeling more optimistic in 2009 -- did you get swept up in the whirlwind of hope that people have created around Obama? Yeah, it's fantastic for your country, for sure. I mean, I'm very interested in how England is right now, how there's no leader. There's no Obama right now in England, no one for the public to focus their positive energy on. It's just an absolute dog's dinner. It reminds me of when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the parliament, you know? Everyone is furious at our government about all the spending they did with all our tax money.

It's a real class war going on and I find it really exciting. It's a good time for England -- people seem to think it's a depression, but I always think out of these depressions and recessions, really fantastic things come, because it makes people reassess what they value, what the most important things in life are, and a lot of the time love comes out of that, and creativity and art and respect. Even when the world thinks it's in a really good place, socially and politically, I think you've always got to have that critical sensibility where you don't just say, "Everything's good," and get out a cocktail and relax. You've got to remember there's always something to achieve, always some boundary to be broken in the world.

You don't make your bisexuality an issue in your music, but you also seem very comfortable with it and you don't shy away from addressing the subject. Even though you were comfortable enough to be on stage with Minty at 14, was there ever a time when you struggled with your sexual identity? Yeah, I mean, when you're surrounded by drag queen chat at 12 or 13, everyone's fishing out for your sexuality and trying to be supportive. It's like going into a family, it's like a house, and you have all these people to speak to, these great performance artists. I got not only personal advice but performance advice, everything, so I was being nurtured to be as free and liberated as possible from a very early age. I was very comfortable with the idea of being transgender, bisexual, lesbian, everything -- it seemed so normal. It was only when, later on, I crossed over into the pop world and suddenly had publicists in my ear saying, "Well if you're going to say this, if you're going to be like you are right now, than don't expect to sell any records, don't expect to get publicity," that suddenly all these limitations were put on me.

I had so much to think about at the age of 18, I just decided to close off and be, like, Morrissey-style: totally nonchalant about sexuality and almost sexless. I think I was young enough and innocent enough to play the Britney card, where I would say, "Oh, I don't think about sex," you know? And then when I started to experience and witness rife homophobia in the entertainment industry, I thought, Well, if no one's going to be outspoken, then I am.

There are so many people that are still in the closet after six, seven years in the industry -- they're the total slags of London and then they go do interviews where they're talking about how they want to get married and they fancy this girl or that girl, and I just think it's so unfair, because then there become no role models for the younger generation. They're left with these canned representations on TV and not real people to be inspired by. I thought it'd be quite exciting to be -- not a role model, I'm more the opposite of a role model -- but to show that you can be strong, you can be successful, you can be supercreative, and you don't have to follow any rules. You can make yourself your own person, and I guess it's what I'm trying to do every day. I'm still exploring myself in terms of my level of confidence and my personal comfort level with privacy and public and all those things.

Putting this album out by myself is one of the best decisions I've ever made, because you have to understand -- at Universal they didn't want me to be known as a gay artist, because they thought it would cut out 50% of records sales or something like that.

Tags: Music