Goldfrapp | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, January 27th, 2021  


The Full Interview

Mar 01, 2003 Spring 2003 - Elliott Smith Photography by Polly Borland Bookmark and Share


Alison Goldfrapp is a coy arctic fox of an interview subject. For instance, just check out her lackadaisical words regarding the video for “Train”. Not having seen the video prior to the interview, I had no idea what to expect. Having seen it, I’d like to go back and discuss the complete image reversal that would have placed the video on VH1 sexiest of all time list. Weird. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have expected anything else from the lead singer of Goldfrapp, whose new album Black Cherry is pulsing with a brighter color and life not found in her previous material.

Nick Hyman (N): Are you having a crazy day?

Alison Goldfrapp (A): I always seem to be having a crazy day

N: Doing a lot of press for the new album?

A: Yeah, we just started doing some gigs as well.

N: How are they going?

A: We've just done a couple of warm up dates, so it's sort of early days

N: Describe the different roles you and Will play in Goldfrapp?

A: Well, we just write everything together; the only thing we don’t do together is the lyrics, I do those on my own. Everything is a collaborate effort. We only write when we’re together really. I like to keep a notebook of ideas and words and stuff like that. The process really gets going when we’re in the studio together and quite often things will start out with us just jamming and it progresses from there really. It’s a kind of thing that evolves and takes shape from there really.

N: Are you and Will open to ideas from others?

A: We are but when we’re in the studio, it’s just us. It doesn’t really quite work like that. We might ask someone to do, we’ve written a bass part and we get someone to come in and play and that sound or that process will inspire us to take the track on further. Something like that really.

N: Is there another voice on “Tiptoe”?

A: No, that’s me. I’ve just got a low voice and a high voice. When we do it live it’s quite interesting because I can’t do that kind of vocal live. It’s really, really difficult. The lower it gets the less strength there is. The guys in the band do the low part of that but it’s me in the recording. Quite a few people have asked if it was processed by some kind of machine, but it’s actually me. As I get older my voice sort of lowers and gets higher as well. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a few years time.

N: Many were surprised that you could reproduce the high notes from Felt Mountain on tour. Black Cherry seems to meld the vocals and music together where one does not dominate the other. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

A: It’s funny, because I don’t get that, but others have said that to me. Maybe it’s because I’m so involved with it, but I can’t see that. I can’t answer that. But you’re not the first person to mention that, so there must be something in there.

N: Black Cherry sounds quite a bit different than Felt Mountain. What let to the change of direction?

A: It’s funny, because when we did that first album people would say to me ‘what are your influences’ and I’d always say Ennio Morricone and disco and they’d look at me and go ‘what’. This album isn’t a disco album but those records are my influences. What I loved about all of those old disco albums is that they were these big, opulent, fantastic string arrangements, fantasy and you could dance to them as well. When you are a musician, you take little things from lots of different things. What I find frustrating is that people are always trying to pigeonhole what Goldfrapp are about. But to me, this is only the beginning really of a whole load of things. We both have eclectic tastes, but also for me touring that album (Felt Mountain) and singing those songs over and over again as much as I love them I found the immaculateness, the perfectness and the tempo of it in particular I found really claustrophobic after a while. I longed to express something else. I wanted to give it an energy that wasn’t on the last album.

N: To open up the sound a bit

A: Yeah, also it was really great when we got back into the studio after Felt Mountain and touring a lot to start jamming and playing more stuff ourselves; having fun with it, turning things up and getting a bit more physical with it.

N: The recording of Felt Mountain and Black Cherry were vastly different

A: Yeah, but that was kind of more accident than a conscious decision really. We just needed somewhere to put our gear and we had this little studio. We kept having these fantasies that we would go somewhere a lot more elaborate or somewhere with a nice view. But once we got going on the album we got scared to up root ourselves because it might stop so we ended up staying there. It wasn’t really a conscious decision.

N: Do you think the sound of Black Cherry is informed by where you recorded it?

A: No, not really. Ultimately we’re the same two people and where ever we go it’s us. You can’t run away from yourself. Obviously your environment is important but I don’t think it’s that relevant although it can be an inspiration.

N: Your sound is very cinematic. How important is image in the overall scheme of Goldfrapp?

A: When I’m making music, the image, the place and where that is and what’s going on in a song runs parallel for me; there all part of the same thing. But then the image you present to the public, your self persona, is completely different which I find quite difficult. It’s not the same creative process as when your writing; making videos and photo shoots. I never look how I really want to look. I always think, ‘God I look crap in that’ or ‘shit, I wish I hadn’t done my hair like that’. You know that’s real whereas in your mind, the fantasy world in your head it all looks like the penultimate video epic film. Then the image is your perception of a personal situation so it’s really important to me but at the same time when your making videos and your doing press shots it’s kind of out of your control. It’s a bit of a weird contradiction, videos. I mean, making a video for a song is just kind of a crazy idea because the song already has a narrative and an image to it and then you make a video and your making another narrative and image and quite often the two don’t gel. You have agendas like what the record company wants, what MTV wants and all this other bullshit that goes into it, what the director wants so it’s very difficult where in your head it can all be much more exciting. But then accidents happen and you can never predict it when your compromising for other people. Sometimes you might not plan something and something fantastic happens. You can’t ever predict those things.

N: The singles off of Felt Mountain were remixed when released, do you plan to do the same with the singles on Black Cherry?

A: We’ve done our own little remix of “Train” and we’ll try to do that again, it’s just not always practical timing wise.

N: What’s the biggest misconception about you?

A: Loads. I had an answer for this the other day, now I’ve forgotten it. If I start worrying about that shit, then you’re in trouble. I hate being pigeonholed. If someone says I’m like one thing, then I’m like what about the other thing. Music is multifaceted and I hate being put into categories.

N: You’ve collaborated with several artists in the past (Tricky, Orbital), have you collaborated with anyone while in Goldfrapp?

A: No, I haven’t had the time or the inclination. I’m very pleased and involved with what I’m doing. I’m not very good at doing too many things at once. I’m so involved with every aspect of Goldfrapp; the writing, recording, producing, mixing, artwork that there isn’t a lot of head space to do anything else really.

N: What reaction would you like listeners to have while listening to Black Cherry?

A: I don’t know. Just to go on a bit of a journey. Have fun and enjoy it. When you listen to an album, it’s such a personal experience that you just do what you want with it and take what you want from it. It’s yours and can be very personal to you and I like that. If you think a lyric means something and it isn’t, that’s cool to make it your own. Once it’s out there, you give it away. It’s everyone else’s as much as it is yours.

N: Do you think that the Goldfrapp sound will constantly evolve?

A: I’d like it to. I don’t know if it will. When it doesn’t, I’ll be a bit disappointed. For me, as a person who makes things, I want to try to challenge myself and try out new things. That’s what being creative is about, being excited about something. Evolving is being excited and trying new things and enjoying it.

N: What can we expect from the live show this time around?

A: Well, we’ve got a bass player, Charlie who used to play with Robert Plant. He’s fantastic and adds a lot to it considering we didn’t have a bass player last time. With the new album being much more beat oriented, it seemed obvious to have a bass player. I think the bass is such a lovely physical instrument. We’ve got another keyboard player and the guys in the band doing backing vocals.

N: How did you choose “Train” as the first single?

A: It was a universal choice really. It’s funny, the first single always seems to just happen and be an instinctual thing. It wasn’t if it was the most commercial or anything like that, it just was.


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Mark Ewans
February 16th 2010

Great write up of this special read.  It is on my vacation reading list and I’ll probably situation the ordination on Virago when I return from Lake Tahoe this weekend

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