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Things I Have Learned

Bachelor Boy Patrick Wolf On Sticking To His Guns
Luke Turner , June 2nd, 2009 06:36

He told Universal Records and Mark Ronson to get packing, and now he's the first artist to be a Bandstocks success. As he releases new album Bachelor, Patrick Wolf tells Luke Turner how he held onto his vision

Age breeds confidence

I'm a lot tougher than I was. But the way I got this way was to read everything, and know everything. You have to know about the public's opinion of yourself. When I started, I wanted to write from a place of voyeurism, and I wanted to get over myself, and write about the world around me. I wanted to get to the point where I could get over my emotional issues and do that, and I'll get there one day I think.

To be out of control is a very positive thing

When you're out of control of other people you're in control of yourself. As long as you're in control of yourself I think you're onto a winner.

The weaker other people are, the more they want to control you

Any time that you come across people, from being two years old to being 100, in any job you do or any relationship that you enter, is a battle over control, and lots of people trying to control you in their own ways.

I wouldn't be here now without rebelling

To be the person that I am, I had run away from a lot of things, from education, from family life. At the age of 12 I decided that A-levels and GCSEs and University and getting married in the traditional sense, all that was not for me and I had to find my own route. Spending more time writing songs, and getting dressed up in the morning to go to school, and then breaking all the rules at school, I suddenly realised that felt very natural to me, and I was probably going to be like that for the rest of my life.

Nobody but me could help me be myself

If you have a very specific idea of who you want to be and you know it's true to your identity, in the early stages you're the only one who can help you. You can't go to your careers advisor and say 'I want to play Benicassim when I'm 22'. They don't really know anything, they're not going to help you to become a performance artist.I knew that if I wanted to do the pop star thing I had to work out a way to bypass the whole education system, and the whole family 'you must do this, you must do that, I'm worried about you', so when I legally could I packed my bags and left school and left my family.

The idea of constructive criticism is an oxymoron

Other people's conservative values are the biggest barrier to creativity. The way in which people give you advice for your creativity doesn't help either, or the idea of a producer coming in and trying to tone down your work or your vision or your lyrics, or maybe somebody that you think is a friend who you trust is offended by what you're doing, so they try and give you 'constructive criticism', and it's actually their way of displaying their conservatism. It happened very early on with some of the lyrics on the first album, people were saying 'now Patrick, I think it would be better if you changed the word 'penis' for 'finger', or like take that song 'Childcatcher' off your album.

This has led me to create my own education system

I wanted to start a school called The School Of Non-Intellectual Thought. I wanted it to be a place where you'd give people a library of books and ask them which one they wanted to go to, give them two hours finding their favourite book in this library, and making their own education and making and breaking their own rules, but not following other people's. I remember telling Matthew Glamorre from Minty that I hated my violin teacher and I hated doing scales, and he said 'what's the point of learning other people's bad habits and rules, you should make your own up'.

Beware the people with dollars in their eyes

They're always thinking about they can take something that has maybe some commercial value, and making it more commercially successful. I think around album three when people decided I needed to work with a lifestyle producer, or someone who'd make my music acceptable to a Daily Mail reader, I was very confused. I said 'look at me, look where I come from and listen to my lyrics'. I think part of the trouble with Universal was that it confused them that a 40-year-old businessman would have every decision questioned by a 22-year-old. By ignoring the idea of commercial success, I feel wonderful after making an album. I don't sit there panicking going 'Oh my God, did I totally compromise everything?' because I don't compromise in the studio, and when I collaborated with Alec and Matthew Herbert and Tilda Swinton on this album, it wasn't a compromising situation.

I'd rather be homeless and have a great album

I have always made commerce work for me. But if I have to make my album and it costs £200,000 - we're talking very Apprentice here - and it loses £300,000, I don't worry about these things. Perhaps I'm different from the next person that releases an album. I don't have a good commercial instinct, but I have a good creative instinct and that's what counts.

Booze and drugs do affect your business judgement

There are times when I've been completely annihilated where I'd lock myself in a room and listen to The Dreaming by Kate Bush when actually I should be getting out of the house. I think it's self-destruction, if you have a self destructive streak then that mindset can maybe encourage you to be more obscure, and more scared of success. I think I'm somebody who has been to both places, I've been really ambitious and up at eight in the morning, having six cups of coffee and calling editors of magazines and trying to get things going, and calling the accountant, being 100% on top of things, almost like an entrepreneur. But then there are other days where you might just want oblivion, and to be free again, like a 16-year-old. I always find that when I reach that place I'm not as responsible as I should be, and it makes me less ambitious.

Making your own mistakes is exciting

You learn from mistakes, and it's a very obvious thing to say. I thought the only time I regretted not sticking to my guns was supporting that person, Mika, but I actually don't regret that experience. When you make your own mistakes, that learning is more exciting. When people make mistakes on your behalf you have to be sympathetic, but when you make your own, it's an adventure.

Take the piss out of me, I love it

My theory is when somebody winds down their window and shouts 'ginger' or shouts at a woman, they want to be that thing. So when I walk down the street in Hazlemere and they shout 'faggot', they actually might be gay and they want a bit of fucking. That's their way of communicating, and it's not going to stop me holding hands with my boyfriend. It's an insult, but I can see past that and see it as a way of them joining me.

But yes, I am growing old

I am more in control of my emotions. I went down to Cornwall recently. The first time I went down to Cornwall I was running across the sands going 'Waaaaah this is nature, waaaaaah seabirds, aahhhhhhh', like that, and then now five years later I went back and I relaxed. Went for walks, wrote something, went to bed on time, and went seal watching. Yeah, I'm growing old, and that's what I always wanted to do with my music, that's why I wanted to release my albums when I was younger, because I wanted people to have the joy of what I had with Joni Mitchell, being able to follow someone's life through their music. A biography, piece by piece.