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

That's appalling. It is appalling. But now in the gay media I find myself getting five-star reviews, and in the music media I'll get three and a half. There is great support within the gay media for queer artists to be successful and do good things ... but I'm sure some straight reviewers take on board the fact that I'm gay and remove a star or two on the review, prefixing everything with "he's camp, quirky, flamboyant, kooky." Why don't they just say gay? Spit it out, motherfucker! It's all so subversive, because political correctness has silenced a lot of people and forced them to be subtle with their insults. It's much more subliminal now, homophobia, but it's still there. I don't like to play the victim card, but when you work so hard your whole life to be successful and to get your work across to a mass audience, it's frustrating.

I want my music to be listened to by everyone from an American football player to a truck driver to a grandma to a 16-year-old kid to a drag queen. But what the media does is it compartmentalizes you and tries to place you in a niche. That's my battle, and it's a hard one to fight.

That leads me to something else I'm curious about: Who were your own queer heroes and role models, growing up and even now? Since I've become quite comfortable with everything in the last few years, I'm not as scared of things I once saw as camp, myself. I really appreciate Paris Is Burning and The Naked Civil Servant and things that when I was younger and a bit more punk, I would have been like, "Fuck that bullshit!" and gone back to listening to my punk music and industrial music.

Growing up, I guess my heroes were the people I got to know in London: the performance artists, the drag queens, the hard-core queers like Leigh Bowery who were breaking down the idea of ghettos and trying to bring more respect for sexuality to the public -- that was very exciting for me. John Waters was really exciting to me as a teenager too. I was more of a rebel punk. I belonged more to the queer youth than glow sticks and ecstasy and stuff like that.

I have a lot more respect and awareness now of how there was a time when it was illegal to kiss your boyfriend or to sleep with another man, and all the pressures that were put on people trying to stay free. Quentin Crisp was really brave to do what he did in the world he was living in.

Probably because of your frequent references to traveling and your history of busking the streets, I tend to picture you as a restless vagabond who's in a constant state of Rimbaudesque exploration -- do you really live a life of nomadic romance? You mention Rimbaud -- I mean yeah, for sure. I fell in love with Arthur Rimbaud about a year and a half ago. I think he was my long-lost lover I never got to meet. He wrote such beautiful, beautiful words. When I first discovered his work, my friend Edward and I, we thought we were Rimbaud and Verlaine, for a long time.

I do see myself as something of a wanderer. Travel is 85% of my life. I have no fixed abode, just various motels, hotels, and now living on a bus. I tell my band they're going to have to start getting into gypsy culture, because we live like gypsies on tour. The road is something I love. I just let go. If my phone doesn't work, I don't care. I'll just stare out the window and see where I end up. Making friends in different cities is hard -- you have to cram all your friendships into one day. I've met some wonderful people around the world and they're all in my heart.

I did get a chance to take some time off last year. I met William, my boyfriend, and we became really, really domestic. I never used to cook, and I would survive on soup for like a week, just continually reheating it -- I didn't know how to look after myself. But with William, I started making chicken, and we were acting like husband and wife, and it was really fun. And I was the wife, I guess.

On the title track, "The Bachelor," you sing about never marrying at all.

Well, it's more of a question than a statement. I can actually see how it could now be like, a Proposition 8 protest song. Because the bachelor's saying, "I'll never be married," and he obviously wants to get married, but he can't. So that either comes down to romantic failure or wanting to sleep around the rest of your life or not really committing to love -- or it could be that there's some general restriction in the fact that you want to get married. So it could easily be read on that level as well.

Tags: Music

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