The London singer discusses his five-year absence and how he took the bullet for queer musicians who came after him
Flamboyant. Ridiculous. Over the top. When UK musician Patrick Wolf arrived on the scene in the mid-2000s, these were the words that greeted him. The classically trained wunderkind had joined Leigh Bowerys art collective Minty when he was just 13; he released his first album in 2003 at age 19 but it featured work he had been recording since he was 11.
His five subsequent albums pushed and melded genres, intertwining baroque pop with folk, disco synths with spoken word by Tilda Swinton. His wardrobe was just as unpredictable, from button-ups to leather harnesses to winter coats which, when shed, would reveal glittery wings.
Over the top? Maybe to people back then. But maybe not any more.
In 2012, after releasing Sundark & Riverlight, it seemed the curtains were closing on Wolf: what started as a sabbatical became a hiatus that showed few signs of ending.
I didnt know whether [that album] was the final chapter, really, he says.
It started with a general burn-out, ill-timed to coincide with a cluster-fuck of financial and legal problems regarding management. Wolf recuperated largely by writing alone in a makeshift studio, in a South London stable block. Then in August 2015 the same day Wolf tested the waters of a return, announcing pre-orders for his first poetry collection he was hit by a car while on holiday in Venice. Shortly after that, his mother fell ill.
It completely whacked me out for six, says Wolf. Everything seemed to be saying, Darkness is at your doorstep. Youve got to change your life or youre not going to be around for much longer. That was the message. I took it very much on board.
Ill get into the specifics one day, but Im very happy to be here right now. Ill leave it at that.
Now recovered and self-managed, Wolf is eager for a comeback. When we speak over the phone, hes on a mini-tour of Australia, and hopes to mix an album afterwards in the New South Wales pristine Blue Mountains. Hes also written the book that feverish fans put a down-payment on three years ago only a few have asked for refunds, he says and he hopes both projects will be released together. Theyre [based around] very similar ideas of recovery and a period of darkness. So theyre kind of twinning at the moment.
Wolf is reluctant to divulge details of that dark period, but not because he wants to keep it private. Ive made an album about that period and Im finishing it off, he says, pausing. Once that statements out there fully, Ill be able to discuss it further. Theres no point going through all that strife, that pain, without having something positive and beautiful in a work of art to give to the world.
Wolfs wariness is evident in each word, which carries the weight of its consideration. Its understandable given both his past few years, and his irksome history with the press in particular the way his clippings framed and centred his sexuality.
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