Entertainment & Arts

Patrick Wolf: How to write a modern love song

Image caption Wolf self-released his last album before signing to Mercury for Lupercalia

British multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wolf is bucking the trend for break-up music with his fifth album Lupercalia.

The lavish, soulful record charts his relationship with his boyfriend William, to whom he became engaged last year.

On the latest single, he puts it simply: "I love this house, I love this house / Gives me the greatest peace I've ever known."

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter told the BBC about bearing his heart, and why he'd made a big budget studio album at a time of austerity.

Why is the album called Lupercalia?

It means "wolf festival" in Latin. The festival was a celebration of love and fertility, the origin of St Valentine's Day. It was meant to bring prosperity and happiness into an urban environment. So it really matched all my ideas for the album.

How have the songs been working on tour?

It's nice to have an album that has had a positive reaction. In the past my lyrics and production have been provocative, which I'm not ashamed of at all, but it's interesting to see how something that's about love and intimacy sits in people's lives a lot easier. I feel I've been leaving people with a better taste in their mouth than when they entered the venue.

Image caption Wolf taught himself several arcane and rare instruments for the new record

Is that a new feeling?

Oh yes. When I was touring my last album, The Bachelor, I was sinking into a petulant and aggressive spirit. I left people with too much bad adrenalin. Too much anger and misery.

What changed?

I fell in love in 2007. I found someone I could look after, and I allowed someone to look after me. It's something I've never really done in my life before. Then I took a year before writing this album to have psychotherapy, and to learn how to cook and clean the house. For once, I settled down and grew up.

On Slow Motion, you sing: "You saved me with a kiss of life".

The lyric describes the moment I met my partner, on a balcony at a gig in Camden. The first kiss in that relationship was the beginning of an awakening. I'd been sleep-walking through life for three or four years, and suddenly I could see the wonder of the world again.

If you've ever been in a depressive state, you often feel like you're wading through life when you want to be running. That's why the song's called Slow Motion.

There is a overwhelming sense of contentment and domesticity. Have you become a house husband?

I really enjoy things like loading the dishwasher and making a risotto! It's a new release of energy where in the past I would have gone out to a club and taken drugs and danced for two or three days. I've found a real sense of peace.

How difficult is it to put those sorts of feelings into lyrics without sounding trite?

I wasn't ashamed of writing love songs because I'd spent a lot of my life without it. So it's not like I was writing love songs to join in the party and get into the top 10. As long as you take love seriously, there's nothing cheesy about it. There's no cheese on this record. It's all prosciutto!

Image caption Wolf says pop music rarely explores the complexity of relationships

How did the lyrics dictate the instrumentation?

With every album, I try not to make a follow-up to the previous record. And so I really researched things like the duduk, which is an Armenian flute, the hammer dulcimer, the Celtic Harp and Arabic scales.

How expensive is it to make a record like that?

I'm naturally extravagant. If you give me £200,000, I'm going to spend every penny on the rarest or most luxurious thing I can find.

I had a big budget for this record and… well, a lot of expensive albums spend their money on a big-name producer, but I produced myself. All the money went to really amazing things. All the instruments and studios.

It's a very analogue sound when everything in pop has gone digital…

I feel this is a really human record - and I still feel that digital formats just sound cold. There's a fast food element to digital recording.

My rebellion against how robotic people's voices sound with auto-tune, was to use these big studios like Air Studios. Places that had the biggest sense of space and nature to them. I feel uneasy when I tune into the radio now, so my solution was to inject as much warmth and humanity into the recording as I could.

But the album's finished now, and I'm going to buy an iPad next week!

Lupercalia is out now on Mercury Records.

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