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Alison Goldfrapp interview: “I feel good about this”

Goldfrapp are back! They are still very good which is a relief because sometimes people kind of chuck it all out of the window don’t they?

Three years on from ‘Tales Of Us’, ‘Silver Eye’ feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Supernature’: the songs are pulsing, atmospheric and very electronic, and they’re called things like ‘Tigerman’, ‘Beast That Never Was’ and ‘Zodiac Black’. There are ten of them. This time round Alison and Will have collaborated with producers like John Congleton and The Haxan Cloak but all in all the whole thing’s very Goldfrapp, which is absolutely ideal.

Here’s the first single ‘Anymore’ which, it’s fair to say, is not messing about.

Anyway last Friday afternoon a call came through to Popjustice HQ: Alison, it turned out, fancied doing an interview. She was so excited that she called 45 minutes early (“I’ve got to go out”) but it all went swimmingly.

The album campaign all kicks off in three days. How are you feeling — excited, sick, something else?
All of the above. I’m really excited actually – to be in the sound world again is exciting and I’m really enjoying it. And I’m still liking the album.

That sounds helpful. Have there been times in the past when you haven’t liked an album before it’s come out?
Er… Yes. I’m not going to say which one. You have such a particular relationship with music, and you’ve heard it so many times when you’ve been working on it, living it and breathing it, that sometimes it can feel a little daunting. But I feel good about this and I can’t wait to play it live. That’s the bit I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be fun to get up and play those kind of songs, especially alongside other songs from ‘Supernature’ and ‘Black Cherry’.

When you say ‘those kind of songs’, sonically ‘Silver Eye’ fits in alongside ‘Black Cherry’ and ‘Supernature’ but there are definite touches of the heart and warmth of your more folky moments. 
Yeah! You’re right, it’s a hybrid of a few things which is a nice feeling actually. It’s like: this is what we do. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that before actually, so that’s good.

Can you explain a bit more about ‘this is what we do’?
I don’t know. I never quite know when I’m doing. (Chortles) But I like that feeling and the spontaneity of that. But what you just said is what occurred to me — that it feels like a hybrid of lots of things — and that’s quite a reassuring feeling. I suppose that’s what I mean. I’m familiar with those things, and while this album’s different it contains themes, and there’s a soundworld there, that just feel like us.

What’s the significance of a silver eye?
It’s the moon! It’s a metaphor for the moon. What is ‘Silver Eye’? It’s a hybrid of things to do with antropomorphism, mysticism, the elemental – those are the themes of the album. Those are things that have been on ‘Supernature’, and they’ve been there throughout really. I suppose with this album we go further into the idea of the elemental – earth, fire, water – and mysticism, Paganism to a certain degree, and dreaming. They’ve been there on all the albums in varying degrees but it’s much more focused on this album.

The moon’s a funny old thing isn’t it?
I know, it’s amazing. I love it. I find it very comforting knowing it’s there.

10/10 for the moon.
Yes! 10/10 for that beautiful rock in the sky.

The moon, yesterday

The idea of themes being brought into focus, along with the sense of bringing together two styles of music that have sometimes seemed mutually exclusive, feels like a pulling together of a Goldfrapp drawstring. Capturing in one album so much of what you’ve done across the last six albums.
Yeah — that wasn’t a conscious thing though. I agree with you, but it was something that happened through the process and materialised as we went along.

The album’s quite high concept, but with some albums that means you don’t get a definable link to the artist. Are you in the album?
Oh gosh. Fuck knows. What do they say, that when people draw a picture of someone else it’s always really a picture of themselves? I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album – I think whenever anyone makes an album there are themes and narratives.

But it’s more fully-rounded than being just a load of songs about relationships chucked on an album.
I don’t know about fully rounded. I don’t feel particularly fully rounded, that’s for sure.

Was there a point at the very start of the process when you and Will sat down and said, “right, we’re going to make an electronic album this time”?
We didn’t have a plan. We kind of started a little bit where we left off, and then we thought, “no, no, NO”. (Laughs) But we know that we wanted it to be sparser than ‘Supernature’ was. It [‘Supernature’] feels very thick with lots of layers.

There’s a lot of space on this album, sonically.
Yes, exactly. I wanted there to be more space and for the album to feel more contemplative. It took quite a long time to get there: I wanted to use rhythm but I didn’t want to repeat the rhythms we’d done before, and that was a reason for wanting to get some other people in to work on the record.

Which isn’t something you’ve really done before, have you?
No. We’ve had musicians come in and play with us but we’ve never had anyone as involved as this with us, apart from Nick Batt on ‘Supernature’ who was really involved. But we had a few different people this time which was definitely a new thing for us and that was great. It was really nice to have someone else around and to have a different energy and someone to spar with. It was really great.

I always got the impression that yours and Will’s studio relationship was a fairly intimate one. Was it hard to let anyone in?
It was funny because we hadn’t worked together for a long time, so we were ready to let someone else in. It worked because we were quite specific about what we wanted their part to be, whereas in the past we haven’t quite known what someone else’s role is. Maybe it was just the right time to be more open about letting someone else contribute ideas. I actually found that really exciting. I’d love to do more of that, it’s just so nice. And these young people! They’re so fucking quick, technically! It’s insane!

Did they add new equipment to your setup?
We were in London as well as Bath, so we did half and half. They didn’t really bring in anything new — but The Haxan Cloak would bring in something more digital, which I really liked.

One of the songs, ‘Become The One’ was inspired by the documentary ‘My Transgender Summer Camp’. How did the song take shape?
A friend was involved in the documentary — she’s American and she’s staying here, but she was telling us about this thing she’d been involved with. I was so inspired by this girl in the movie. I was so impressed that someone was so articulate in expressing their emotions like that – it was astounding. That phrase [“I’m not changing who I am, I am becoming who I am”] really hit me. I found it really emotional. But also I’m always fascinated by the idea of transformation and gender, and the idea that nobody’s ever one thing, and that we’re always on a quest to find out who we are and what makes us feel comfortable with ourselves, and where we want to be, and how we visualise ourselves — all those things were floating around in my head already, and then seeing this really young person articulate that in a way I hadn’t heard before, it was really something. And it was also really uplifting: the idea of having an inner being, and becoming that being.

You’ve art directed the album. What was the reason for taking hold of it this time round?
There were lots of reasons for that – practical reasons, creative reasons… I particularly wanted to do the photographs this time and I was a bit nervous about it. I’m not a particularly confident person and I’m quite shy, but I really wanted to do this and I’m very pleased that I did. I’ve been doing a lot more photography in recent times, and I did a bit when I was at art school but I hadn’t done it for a long time. A couple of years ago I started doing it again and I just thought, well why not have a go? I tried to approach it like I did when I was at art school. I thought it would be fun, and that I could feel a little more connected to the whole thing in the way I don’t when someone else has taken a photo of me. I felt, actually, that I needed to take those photos myself. It felt very important. I don’t know why actually, but it felt like it was an important time to do it. And I’m sure Instagram, actually, has been a huge influence on wanting to do that.

How has it been an influence?
Well we’re all on Instagram, aren’t we? Well, most of us. It’s quite an amazing thing. There’s something that feels very nice about creating images yourself and taking control of your own image. I know people criticise it as well — “oh God, we’re so bombarded with imagery” — but I think there’s something quite amazing about people learning how to photograph themselves and putting them up there. It’s amazing!

It feels like something similar has happened on Twitter, in that it’s allowed people to develop their personalities, or ways of telling jokes, or styles of writing in a way that hasn’t happened before. Combined with Instagram it’s about everyone being able to create an image in the way popstars have always done.
Exactly, everybody can do that — which I think is kind of amazing actually. It’s a really positive thing. Also I’m just fascinated in other people’s images that they’re interested in. It’s opened up the world to a lot of people and it’s definitely had an influence.

I mean who knew, until a few years ago, just how many people ate brunch?
(Laughs) Photographing food is q uite funny. There’s all sorts out there.

What will you be wearing for this album campaign? ‘Supernature’ was very stylised — like that photo of you in a leotard holding a keyboard. 
I like to think of it as a jumpsuit. NOT A LEOTARD! 1

What will you be looking like for ‘Silver Eye’? 2
Well, I’ll be looking like a 51-year-old. (Laughs) That’s good, I’m proud of it. Actually have you seen any of the visuals? There’s one of me that just went up on my Instagram yesterday. I’m not dressed as a robot, if that’s what you’re thinking. Actually I don’t know what I’m going to wear, to be honest.

I’ve just found the image on your Instagram. There you are on beach!
That’s not a beach.

MONDAY #goldfrapp7 @goldfrappmusic #selfie

A photo posted by Alison Goldfrapp (@alison_goldfrapp) on

Is it volcanic?
It’s volcanic rock, yes.

I like how it’s tagged #selfie. Hang on, is that a selfie?
Yes! I’ve got a digital shutter release in my hand. It’s not a keyfob to my car.

Finally, you’ve talked about music making as being a constant quest. Has ‘Silver Eye’ brought you further along the path to where you need to get to?
Not really! (Guffaws) No. I just don’t think you ever do. And you always think you can do something better, or in a different way.You always want to know what the next thing is.

‘Silver Eye’ is out on March 31 through Mute and you can pre-order it here; there’s a show at London’s Roundhouse on March 27 — members of the Goldfrapp mailing list get access to some sort of fan pre-sale thing.

  1. Having revisited the image it was deffo not a leotard.

  2. Obviously at this point the amazing photo at the top of this page hadn’t yet popped into the Popjustice inbox

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