A fan blog written over the last few weeks, from an ESP/TW fan point of view.
I wasn’t expecting to hear The Bachelor so soon but it’s on his Myspace a few weeks before release (update: now just a few tracks but you can hear it on Spotify) Thomas plays on Hard Times and Oblivion.
Recently Hard Times appeared on the player sounding just as it did live on the last tour… I admit to listening again to Steve Lamacq’s Round Table just to see what they said about it. All I can remember is some uncomplimentary half heartedness and that it was very 80’s, but I don’t remember them noticing the wonderful guitar lines (which in my opinion make the song) But it’s better if they don’t notice really, they’ll do that in 10 years time I’m sure, once Patrick and Thomas are “elder statesmen” of the music industry. They should be appreciated in the here and the now.
Patrick Wolf will never be the same again after his musical metamorphosis. Patrick himself says: “We’ve gone quite hardcore, I’ve got Tom from the Brakes doing lots of like surf guitar… and I’ve thrown away my ukelele and I’m playing lots of hard Pixies style guitar, all really distorted. So I’ve kind of gone fully electric now which is good”
I have no idea how the album came together, so I need to read more about it all. And watch a tour’s worth of live video. After only half the Drowned In Sound interview I realise just how hard it’s been for him in days gone by. The day his label ditched him: “this album’s too weird; you’re too much of a troublemaker – you’re not conventional enough for Universal Records, etcetera” – I was like, thank you, thank you! – it was such a compliment. I put the phone down, was like, yes! But then I was like… I looked at my flat, looked at my boyfriend, looked at the kitchen cupboard, and was like, Oh shit. What am I going to do?”
You know ESP have been there too, then you realise just HOW much this album means, whether Thomas graced it with his presence or not. But the fact he did makes it more special to me. Second night of the tour (18th May) Onstage, explaining the meaning of a new song: “I wrote this one about 5 years ago but it just seemed so perfect for this record… It’s about someone on a bit of a mission to be a hero and somewhere along the line it all starts to go wrong, and what was once an exciting mission turned out to be a lonely one”
Someone interrupts and asks what he feels about the music industry. He replies: “I don’t feel anything about the music industry, I don’t know what it is anymore, I’m just here for you guys. When I was 18, I wanted to be a pop star, when you see the shit that actually sells… you just end up being yourself. And I found you guys and thankyou for coming. It means a lot. Thankyou for showing some respect and for coming”
Live Video: Theseus
Watching live footage of older song The Magic Position from the same show is life affirming, the lyrics ringing out with such poignancy.
Live Video: Magic Position
And what really stands out is the passion both Patrick and Thomas put into their respective music.
‘Cause out of all the people I’ve known, The places I’ve been, The songs that I have sung, The wonders I’ve seen, Now that the dreams are all coming true, Who is the one that leads me on through, It’s you, Who puts me in the magic position, darling now, You put me in the magic position, To live, to learn, to love in the major key… And I know how you’ve hurt, And been dragged through the dirt, But c’mon get back up, It’s the time to live
20th May: Turned on the computer to read another interview at CMU, which I have to quote from… I was already thinking the best way to experience music is when you’ve had something to drink but I can’t because I don’t anymore and what a waste of an amazing experience it is… then I read Patrick’s rules for enjoying his new album and I’ve broken each and every one.
What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Make sure you are not listening on MP3 format because it cuts half the bass out of a mix (me: in that case what on earth has Myspace done to it)
Be alone at first, somewhere comfortable, with a strong drink beside you and your phone turned off (me: no drink)
Headphones must be expensive and you should maybe be half undressed (me: no chance of either)
Be prepared to move and feel or be uncomfortable at first (me: I was like an excited child?!)
Be unprepared for what happens next. Don’t tell anyone the secrets you might have discovered over the last forty minutes about yourself or me (me: but I’ve already started writing this now)
What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Always the goal of my albums is to be make them with zero compromise to artistic integrity, and one thousand percent ambition, strength and success to deliver my music and messages across the world.
He also talks about starting off with a 4 track knowing The Beatles did and how he writes his songs alone and cut off from the world, so many similarities with ESP/TW’s way of working that he may be a spiritual twin.
The Guardian tell us: His latest album, The Bachelor, is the first where he’s allowed himself to collaborate, principally with Alec Empire, formerly of Atari Teenage Riot (on Vulture and Battle) and Fiona Brice, a string arranger. Folk musician Eliza Carthy is on there; Tilda Swinton has a speaking part on a couple of tracks. Patrick also went to Paris to work with Thomas Bloch, world expert on the cristal baschet, an amazing 1950s instrument made of glass.
Some quotes from the recent Guardian interview: “They (Universal) wanted me to have Mark Ronson as my producer. And I didn’t want to”
At one point Patrick pretends to be an out-of-control computer, over some beats he made on an Atari when he was 16. His latest single, Vulture is accompanied by an online video that sees Patrick roll around saucily in a buckle-me-up jock-strap. It’s a long way from the primary colours and school-boy shorts of the promo for 2007’s The Magic Position, his biggest hit. “My mum saw it and she was like, ‘Oh, Patrick, what are you doing?’ You know, I had my picture taken for the Burberry campaign, and I look like a gentleman, very classy. And then two months later I get my bum out for my video. She wasn’t happy”
To Patrick, however, the video is an artistic expression of where the track came from, which is a lost weekend that he spent in LA, “experimenting with certain practices”. “If a woman made a video like that it would be celebrated as sexy and artistic” he points out.
Me: That’s exactly what I thought when I first saw the video after the 9pm watershed on Myspace. Women have been portrayed in a similar vein in music for as long as I can remember; Madonna for example and that was aeons ago. We should have gone past that kind of censorship by now. Maybe things have to be done to death before they become publicly accepted, so let Patrick be the first as far as the boys go.
I think the problem is, the music industry is too used to everything becoming sterile and the same. Thank god for someone that dares to be different. That’s why I long since stopped watching music TV and reading NME, there was no point anymore. I remember when I still did read it every week, for fleeting mentions of Brakes and ESP, I saw a photo of Patrick… he didn’t look happy. Something didn’t seem right to me. I wondered if the person he was portraying was really him. That’s why his change of image comes as no suprise to me: At last!! Though I would never in a million years have expected Thomas to be involved too. It goes far past the realms of even the most far fetched fan fiction though maybe not mine…
If I was a teenager today I’d probably put Patrick on a pedestal but is that always such a bad thing when everything else in your life is rubbish. He can at least identify with the lives of many of his young fans.
The Guardian writes: His school life was terrible. When Patrick asked his supposed mentor for support, he was told, “Well, look at you, what do you expect?” “With gay or bi people, I think education still wonders if it’s a nature-versus-nurture thing. If you were black, they’d know they couldn’t change you, and racist bullying would never be condoned, but if someone is quite feminine or knows they might be gay at 13, they think they can change you with a bit of rugby”
Me: Reading Smash Hits with articles on all my heroes especially Boy George in his colourful outfits and makeup was probably the only reason I got though school every day, sitting in an empty classroom with the magazine at breaktime (and of course my Beatles tape) away from everybody else. It’s fair to say with their love of accepted 80’s bands like Duran Duran and Wham no-one else would have understood. I always dreamed of having an older brother just like George who’d let me into his magical world and teach me the things that really mattered. Instead I was the odd one out. I couldn’t relate to people my age and the things that interested them. Music was my only reason for living. These days, when I come across unexpected live footage of say Thomas White, I’m back in my bedroom again, playing the songs on repeat. Maybe this excitement is supposed to disappear when you’re older but it hasn’t yet or I wouldn’t be reading Patrick Wolf quotes.
Quotes like this…
He tells me about going to this year’s NME Awards, in his leather trousers and big vulture cape. The indie-boy crowd sang “YMCA” at him. “But look at the lead singer of the Killers [Brandon Flowers, who’s also wearing feathers at the moment]. He’s seen as rock’n’roll. It’s because I’ve got a boyfriend now. There was no comment when I was living with a woman, even when I was being extremely camp, in hot pants”
21st May: I wanted to know just how unhappy he was before, even though he was creating music his fans loved. Some quotes from Popjustice say it all.
Hello Patrick. Why is your new album the best thing you have ever recorded? PW: It’s not the best thing I’ve ever recorded.
You can’t say that. PW: I can! I keep all the really good stuff for my own secret time. I record music every day for myself.
Does your label know that you are keeping the really good stuff for yourself? PW: They probably wouldn’t think it was any good at all!
… Reminds me of so many quotes that don’t need repeating from ESP about BMG. A recent Blog writes of the true horror they were made to go through: fleeingfrompigeonsrecords.wordpress.com
“The American Adventure, which, following a £1,000 recording in a Brighton studio, was rejected by SonyBMG who quickly frogmarched the brothers White into Abbey Road and spent around £100,000 recording four tracks. Listen to that record now and tell me which tracks were in Abbey Road and which were in a studio in Brighton – tell me the difference, because I’ve forgotten which track was recorded where…”
There’s a similar story from Patrick’s career where his label wanted him to change some lyrics (from Drowned In Sound)
PW: Even on Lycanthropy there were people trying to get me to change the lyrics at the last minute on The Childcatcher and Lycanthropy about cutting your penis off. I remember a funny story where somebody at the record label was saying ‘I don’t think at 18 you should be singing a song about cutting your penis off.’ And I was saying it’s all about gender exploration… you know, that you should forget about gender – that it’s more important to be yourself and to be human. They were like, ‘could you change it to cut your finger off?’ And I remember trying to do a demo of it [sings], and thinking that this is why, in the future, I’m going to be really severe. And that’s why I’ve got a name as a difficult artist to work with, because I won’t compromise at the last minute… it means I’m one of the last few people that give a shit.
In Clash magazine he says of his former label: “They wanted me to get even more commercial, and I just didn’t have the stupidity in me to want to compromise that much”
He told the Burton Mail: “I think you will find a lot more bands trying to find other ways of funding their album. Really the music industry is dying. It’s an extinct species, collapsing around us”
Me: It makes you wonder where ESP could release their next album, could they do it through Bandstocks like Patrick has (where fans buy shares in it) Their cult following probably isn’t as large as Patricks – maybe in America but not the UK. Maybe another independent label (there’s no point wishing for a major label, they just don’t fit)
22nd May: My album is ordered. Next part of the Drowned In Sound interview has an interesting quote:
We’re planning to move to San Francisco soon, and get out… my thing with this album is: I’m going to try one more time with this English music industry thing, but it’s so much better for me in America.
DiS: It can be so gripey and short-sighted here…
PW: I’m starting to get quite tired of it, really. I think I’m misunderstood by a lot of journalists, by a lot of the English public, and I can’t be bothered with being misunderstood if there are places in the world where you are understood.
23rd May: There’s a video from Liverpool on youtube but he seemed somehow uncomfortable compared to his usual performances (some people in the audience pissed him off) Maybe Liverpool made him have a panic attack.
In 2003 ESP released The American Adventure and here’s Patrick from the same year playing an accordian at London Calling. I used to beg my Dad to play his when I was a child, I was fascinated by the sound it made. This is brilliant. Who would have imagined years later he’d be dressed as a Vulture with Thomas White onstage with him…
Live video: Paris
He must collaborate with ESP on their new album somehow. Maybe a vocal backed by their music. It would be inspiring. He could add some of his folk magic.
24th May: The first live video from this tour of Battle from the new album. I could watch it forever. This is from the 20th, before Patrick got upset in Liverpool, this is him at his best. It starts with Thomas in the background but then Patrick got in the audience. In all its gorgeousness…
Live video: Battle
And from The Great Escape (you can’t see TW but he’s there)
Live video: Tristan
If I was a kid I’d have played Battle in my parents front room at full blast just like I used to play Bronski Beat and Erasure (when I wasn’t playing Culture Club, David Bowie or Marc Bolan etc) It still feels as powerful and life affirming playing it in your flat in another small minded Northern town, like it’s just yours and no-one can take it away from you: “Since I was 12, it’s been me versus the world, got so sick, of being told my identity was in minority”.
Battle the patriarch, battle for equal rights
Battle, Battle, Battle
Battle back your liberty, battle the long night
Battle, Battle, Battle
It’s your time, to join the tribe
Yes it’s time, for some victory, your time
If you’re sick, of being a victim, of their ignorance
Battle the conservative
Battle for your
Battle, Battle, Battle, Battle
Battle the homophobe but battle without war
Come on battle
Battle, Battle, Battle
It’s your time, to join the tribe
Since I was 12, it’s been me, Vs the world
I got so sick, of being told, my identity, was in minority
But now we’ve got tribe, and we’ve got some battle
And yes it’s time, don’t you know it’s time
To get some victory
Yes it’s time for some victory
Your time, my time, this is our battle
Me: One of the heroes from my youth wrote a song called No Clause 28 when I was a teenager, back in the 80’s. That’s where my musical education came from; a song protesting about Thatcher’s law that banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. That’s the era I grew up in.
Video: No Clause 28
Why are songs like these so important for young people? Recently I saw a father being homophobic infront of his children. They were too young to even know what he meant but they will grow up with the message that gay/bisexual/transgendered people are inferior and second class. One day they will either agree or rebel against it and they’ll need heroes like Patrick Wolf and Boy George if they do. Back then it wasn’t just a personal struggle, it was a political struggle too. The over-riding message being; you must get married and have children, otherwise you are a meaningless nothing. I think Mr Wolf would disagree with a big smile on his face. No Clause 28 lyrics…
Won’t you be elated
To tamper with our pride
They say to celebrate it
Is social suicide
I’m not your average beat boy
I’m not your rebel guy
You want to make us hated
You want to make us so snide
No Clause 28
Brother you’re much too late
Don’t need this legislation
You don’t need this score
Don’t need this fascist groove
To show pornography the door
Don’t mean to be too precious
Don’t mean to be uptight
But tell me iron lady
Are we moving to the right?
25th May: Gorgeous version of Accident & Emergency, TW’s guitar is out of this world. He plays killer guitar lines with a capital K. He deserves to be known as a Guitar God. Just Listen + Watch this!! Mr Wolf as you’ve never heard him before. You’ll have to imagine Thomas just out of shot because the focus is on Patrick and rightly so…
Live video: Accident & Emergency
26th May: A whole page of videos at youtube today. The ones I chose just emit energy and excitement. 3 minute guitar intro?! I’ve never seen him play guitar like that before. Maybe he did on the last PW tour but because he’s mostly in the darkness, I might not have realised it was even a guitar. No words can express how brilliant it is and how much I enjoyed the videos tonight. So here’s my favourites from last night’s show. They will probably sound even better if you’re drunk but I went and stopped drinking… which annoys me as much as drinking a bottle of wine (because you feel like an idiot) I feel quite drunk now actually, just on the music.
Just Enjoy if you haven’t already seen these…
25 May: 02 Academy, Birmingham – Videos featuring Thomas…
Magic Position – Fabulous guitar throughout, Patrick introduces TW at the end.
Vulture – Starts with an out of this world 3 minute guitar intro.
The Messenger – From the new album with beautiful slide guitar.
27th May: I’ve watched his new video (inspiration Elvis) and read his twitter (inspiration Yoko)
PW: when i am walking on thin ice. i am liberated. danger thrills me. safety numbs my nerves. yoko. you are my greatest inspiration xp
The Bachelor is no longer on Myspace. I won’t listen to a bootleg, I’ll wait til I have my own copy. I haven’t come across a hero like Patrick for a long time.
28th May: Today I’m listening to the bsides and rarities the official PW website put up. Has the same calming feel as TW’s solo stuff. Patrick started off as a solo artist before he got his band. He has kaleidoscope images in his new video; TW did it first in The Runaround. New post on twitter:
PW: thank you for the amazing feedback for new video. most folk expect me to spend the rest of my life on a cliff with a ukulele in gingham x p
Listening to these tender bsides, I can imagine a duet between TW and PW with their beautiful vocals resonating.
The Enemy reviewed the album: “he asks for inspiration but most who hear his call will be dedicated devotees, who’ll offer less inspiration than quiet encouragement”.
I never understand what they’re talking about. He makes music for people to enjoy, simple as that. Live versions can also add another dimension (I especially noticed this on The Messenger, see above for video)
29th May: A lot of Patrick’s set last night seemed to be acoustic as he was ill and didn’t want to jump around. Watched a long video interview with him during which he explained the meaning behind Vulture. Someone put a curse on him and said the devil would follow him forever and re-enacting it onstage is his way of keeping it at bay (I think)
1st June: Album release day. It has the lyrics in. Thomas doesn’t play on the album version of Battle (that’s Alec Empire) just Hard Times and Oblivion. In this morning’s radio interview he said he didn’t have any friends at school and when he did a fanzine he sold 10 copies and it lasted for an issue and a half. I also read an interview where he said he used to drink a bottle of Baileys in his darker times… (reading that just made me want some)
When I played the album what I noticed was what’s missing on some songs; those delicate guitar lines live. Especially the slide guitar on The Messenger.
2nd June: Patrick Wolf has been to the extremes of depression and happiness; that’s human. His songs are the story of his lives so far. This album is the result of doing exactly what he wanted whilst also recalling the times he felt out of control. He is as talented as the Brothers White. I see so many similarities in their history and their belief in the music they make; they’re as inspirational as eachother. TW’s foray into working with Patrick is just another chapter of the larger story and after this things can only become stronger.
Patrick’s music is something positive in this negative world. I can’t put into words how much it means so I’ll leave the last word to Patrick himself. But I also want to thank Thomas for dedicating his life to music (which he’s said is the only thing he can do) I hope he realises that he’s a real genuine hero just like Patrick. I’ve watched the fan videos from this tour and I’m amazed as I’ve been countless times before. It’s a cliche but he never ceases to amaze me. So this is a fan letter to him too.
Patrick Wolf: “The act of making these records was the goal, just to finish the music in a way that satisfied me. Maybe only twenty people will hear it, but it doesn’t matter, because the music is what I want it to be, not what a record company, or a marketing man, wants it to be. When I made the last one it was like, I can’t wait to get a Mercury nomination, I can’t wait to shout about it, I can’t wait to be on the cover of magazines, and on Channel Four all the time… I realise now that I’m not meant for that world and it’s alright not to be part of the whole circus. It’s ok not to be in the media all of the time, and because this time it’s not on Universal and it’s not got a huge marketing budget, it’s actually more intimate, more real, and more about who I really am. I’m happier that it’s not going to be like Duffy where I’m rammed down people’s throats and on the side of every bus. I have Eliza Carthy and Tilda Swinton by my side. It feels stronger and healthier and what it should be. In the end it’s who I am”
June 3rd: I’m still watching videos and reading interviews but this has to stop somewhere or it will turn into a Patrick Wolf fan blog. There are lots of videos from the London show on 1st June, here’s some favourites…
Patrick Wolf on Hard Times: “This is for all of you who’ve been fired, this is for all of you who’ve been dumped, this is for all of you who’ve been debauched, this is for all of you with broken hearts, this is for all of you who want to do something that someone tells you no, this is for all of you, these are motherfucking hard times…”
Patrick Wolf: “It’s been a big adventure, quite a big struggle to get to this point, I had a bit of a moment today seeing the album finally up on the shelves in the record shop… This is the title track off the album, it’s called The Bachelor”