Patrick Wolf

photography by Nick Thornton-Jones & Warren Du Preez

Patrick Wolf Bares His Teeth… and Feathers

The music industry’s fashion atmosphere can be one of stark contrasts, for it is one of insufferably style-less, beardy bores like Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses on the one hand, and gloriously ostentatious types like The Dresden Dolls and The Horrors on the other. In the midst of it all, the utterly resplendent Patrick Wolf has been like a shimmering beacon of iconoclastic magnificence.

With his dazzling locks, quasi-bondage gear, boun-dless layers of glitter, and penchant for nature-referencing kits (he showed up at this year’s NME Awards in a leather “fish-scaled” cape), he has captured the hearts of outré designers like Lagerfeld and Matthew Williamson, and was even shot by Mario Testino for a Burberry campaign.

Yet the striking depth of his music and songwriting easily eclipses his inimitable sartorial inclinations. His lavish, heartrending Anglophilic pop sources everything from ‘60s protest folk, to The Smiths, to The Pet Shop Boys. All the while, he invokes a cinematic, classical scope that is exquisitely intimate, yet unapologetically baroque and grandiose. It bears little surprise, then, that not everyone has embraced him, especially in America.

Wolf says, “Sometimes when you make brave gestures, you’re ridiculed for it. And with that ridicule…you become inspired. It makes you want to be even more extreme.”

His new collection, The Bachelor, is a feral, anthropological travelogue of sorts, taking the listener on a journey from Hellenistic Greece to the ideological battlegrounds of these unsettling modern times. It’s an album of staggering emotional weight, yet is never wanting for an enthralling hook or melody.

With every intention of chatting with Young Master Wolf about his glamorous travels, a Proust Questionnaire seemed a more fitting way to explore the visceral depths of The Bachelor, and, of course, to take a journey deep into his psyche.  “Is it going to get me sectioned?” he jokes. No promises were made.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Having a house, in the middle of nowhere, with a big forest around and a lake. I’ll sleep in a boat and have lots of music and peacocks around me.

What is your most treasured possession?
I have shamrock cushions that my grandma knitted that I love. My Irish side is a huge inspiration. Growing up in South London, I didn’t have much other inspiration, but I had this whole world of folklore.

What is your greatest fear?
To not have music would be equal to death.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I guess…extravagance is my greatest extravagance. If I earn any money, it’s gone within half an hour. I disrespect money so much, that the moment I have it, I have to get rid of it. I don’t want to be rich. I’ll give a 20 to the busker; I’ll give 50 quid to a tramp, and buy seven copies of the same Joni Mitchell record. It’s a spiritual thing—I don’t feel like I want money, I’d rather give it away.

What is your favorite journey?
My life’s journey, and everything that I’ve done. All the things that I guess I should regret but I don’t, all my failures, all my achievements; all the people I’ve been in love with…people that I’ve known that have died, people that are still here—that’s the journey. I read this amazing Joseph Campbell book (The Power of Myth). It was about how life should be like a hero’s path, like you would read about in mythology. People ask me who my heroes are, and I say myself. It’s not like I’m not inspired by or influenced by other people, but you have to be heroic yourself.

When and where were you happiest?
Nostalgia to me is quite a lazy thing. When I catch myself being nostalgic, I feel I’m not being forward-thinking enough. So, existentially, I would say, I will be happiest the day I die. I would like to think I will be looking back at a life that I’m deeply proud of.

How would you like to die?
I want to be eaten by a whale, Jonah-style. My friends know that the day I die, they’ve got to steal my body, and take out the heart, then throw it in this specific bay in Cornwall, from this specific cliff. And then I’m going to be swallowed by nature.

– Ken Scrudato